Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
My recent trip to Boston for the 42nd annual national conference of the Popular Culture Association was not only successful, but also quite revealing. Driving long distances is always educational, but more so this time given the region my family and I were visiting; our travels took us through parts of the Northeast and New England – areas familiar to me from growing up around there, but seen from a different perspective as both 1) the father of a four-year old and 2) someone who is constantly connected to NASCAR Nation. Racing was a significant part of my conference trip, but exactly in the manner you’d likely expect.
The trip to Boston meant driving roughly 2,200 miles round-trip over the course of six days. We split our drives to-and-fro with layovers in upstate New York (going east) and northwestern Pennsylvania (heading west), taking advantage of our New York stop to visit briefly with my father and stepmom. That much-needed-but-all-too-short detour (we hadn’t seen my folks over 18 months!) simply added to the overall nostalgia of what was already a trip down memory lane for me.
Our drive across upstate New York had us passing relevant racing landmarks from my youth like the village of Bath, where “Dutch” and Dean Hoag – the father-and-son pair of Northeast Modified drivers – were located so many years ago. My mom and dad used to take me to Shangri-La Speedway in Owego, where the Hoags were always two of the toughest hot shoes to beat on any Saturday night. Shangri-La has since become Tioga Speedway, but back in the late-1970s and early-1980s, it was the place where I planned to begin my illustrious NASCAR driving career.
My biography for the NASCAR Hall of Fame would explain it all in greater detail, but I would drive Street Stocks and Modifieds at Shangri-La for a few years before making the move (with full funding from my core of wildly-loyal and insanely-devoted sponsors) to what was then the Sportsman division. From there, it would be a quick leap to the Winston Cup Series and all of the success that would shortly follow. I laughed about that naïve plan as we passed highway signs marking the exit for Owego; someday I’ll share that story with my son, especially if he’s having youthful, delusions of grandeur about a racing career of his own.
We also got to drive through the village of Chemung, the hometown of Geoffrey, Brett, and Todd Bodine. Their father, Eli, and their uncles, Maynard and Earl, all devoted their lives to automobile racing in the Southern Tier region. Eli Bodine owned and operated the Chemung Speedrome (the track where a young Geoffrey, Brett, and Todd all worked and started their careers as drivers), and Maynard joined forces with Earl to campaign race cars all throughout the area. Earl was a top-notch driver, and Maynard – right up until his death a few years ago – was considered one the finest mechanics in the business (tune-ups were his specialty, but he could sure build one tough racing motor). My last visit to the Speedrome was with the Bodine family back in 2001. It was the weekend of Watkins Glen, and Chemung was honoring their native sons and their race teams with an evening of Modified events. I added this to my list of good racing memories to share with my son.
We met my folks for brunch near Elmira, not far from one of the exits for Watkins Glen. My stepmom got to visiting with the manager of the place where we stopped to eat and made mention of NASCAR; before I knew it, I was learning about all the attributes of the road course and how much it meant to the region, not just from an economic perspective, but from a cultural one – Watkins Glen International was a point of civic pride, local history, and long-standing tradition. This information wasn’t new to me – I’d grown up near the track, gone to races there, worked with race teams there, and even gave a conference lecture there one time – but I listened closely because it sounded as though people living here felt slightly afraid for the track’s NASCAR future. Watkins Glen seems to have a home on the Sprint Cup schedule, but didn’t places like Rockingham and North Wilkesboro used to have a home there, too? NASCAR Nation knows all-too-well that there’s no such thing as a sure thing.
Our drive to-and-from Boston (by way of Ohio and New York) took us within very-loud-shouting distance of several legendary motorsports facilities, including Michigan International Speedway, Toledo Speedway, Sandusky Speedway, Lake Erie Speedway, the town of Unadilla (the epicenter of motocross), the town of Oswego (home of Oswego Speedway), and the town of Canandaigua (home of Canandaigua Motorsports Park). Our trip along I-90 West also took us past the town of Rome, New York – the home of Modified legend (and NASCAR Hall of Famer) Richie Evans. Such landmarks had me in the right frame-of-mind for this trip to the PCA conference, even if the conference focused its energies on a variety of other topics.
It used to be that the national PCA conference would feature multiple presentations about topics in motorsports. The lectures might cover issues in open-wheel racing, the history of a track like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, biographical studies of relevant drivers and/or owners, or treatments of motorsports on television and/or film. My contributions usually centered on NASCAR, and I was typically one speaker out of six-or-seven others who made up two (or more) panels regarding a particular subject. Long story short: motorsports have enjoyed many years of rich and diverse attention at the PCA national conference.
Not so much however for 2012. Research interests often evolve over time alongside the culture-at-large. A subject generates advanced study if it’s already present within the society in question. If people aren’t consuming/enjoying/participating in a topic, there’s little reason for a scholar to devote time to the topic’s development or influence. For a subject to be part of our popular culture, it must be considered both “popular” and “cultural”.
Take the subject of vampires in popular culture, as an example. An old friend and former colleague of mine is area chair for panels regarding topics in gothic film and literature. That means he asks for possible lecture/research topics, collects the submissions sent to him, and selects the ones that will be presented at the national conference. Of the papers selected, my friend will sort them by subject, arrange them into thematic groupings, and schedule panels of three-or-four presentations per theme. For this year’s conference in Boston, my friend explained, one area chair received enough scholarship-quality papers about vampires in popular culture that he was able to organize nineteen panels of presentations. That’s almost eighty lectures on just that one topic alone!
NASCAR (and motorsports, in general) fell a tad short. My panel about racing was comprised of two presentations: a social historian from New Jersey who spoke about how the popularity of the Indianapolis 500 between 1911 and 1916 usurped traditional celebrations of Memorial Day (back when the Grand Army of the Republic lobbied hard to keep what-was-then-called-Decoration Day focused on fostering respect for citizenship through remembrance of the war dead), and my lecture about NASCAR’s efforts to embrace a more ecologically-friendly approach to stock car racing in hopes of attracting younger fans. Out of thousands of papers about thousands of topics, these two were it regarding the cultural significance of automobile racing.
Not that this panel – small as it was – didn’t delve into aspects of racing and its ability to influence policies and behaviors. Audience members raised questions and voiced comments about how recognition of traditional, more patriotic holidays has always been easily co-opted by the NASCAR schedule – it’s okay to race on Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day, but don’t even think about having an event on Easter Sunday or Mothers Day! Questions also revolved around NASCAR’s “green” influence on other sanctioning bodies – did the actions of Brian France and company encourage other divisions to follow suit and consider new ways to save the environment? Given this past weekend’s running of the NHRA’s Four-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway in Concord – an event that doubles the fun of a typical NHRA weekend by utilizing a pair of dragstrips at a time – our collective guess was that NASCAR’s thinking was not actively shared by others in the racing business.
The racing on everyone’s mind in Boston this past weekend however was the 116th running of the Boston Marathon. Just as the PCA conference was starting to wind down at the Copley Place Marriott, the high-rise hotel became a focal point for runners, sponsors, and officials getting ready for Monday’s event. People from all over the world were in town to challenge the terrain (and themselves) in what was predicted to be unseasonably warm conditions. The nearly 23,000 runners who ran the race were warned to mind the heat, and about 4000 competitors decided to waive their entrance this year to wait and try again in 2013.
To us NASCAR types, such actions seemed unusual. To anyone who’s ever been to Daytona in July, or to Talladega in August, dealing with higher-than-normal temperatures is just what you do. Not to take anything away from the talented folks who assembled in Boston for the marathon, but shouldn’t competing in shorts and tank tops for three-to-five hours be enough to justify lining up, squaring up, and taking their version of the green flag? Four hours at better than 180 MPH in a 130-degree stock car while wearing a full-face helmet, gloves, and a fireproof driving suit seems just a bit more taxing than what runners were panicked about in Massachusetts.
Granted, I’m absolutely the last one who should talk about such things; to paraphrase a comedian I once heard, “I can’t drive 26.2 miles without stopping for a sandwich and a pee break”. It just seems to me that such physically-fit people (and Boston was crawling with them) got that way because their dedication to running long distances involved overcoming the challenges of adverse weather and the discomfort it often brings. Just because the thermometer at Dover or Pocono or New Hampshire or Kentucky or Indianapolis pushes triple-digits, does that mean drivers, crews, and fans opt out for another day when temperatures are cooler and more to their liking? Having been hot and uncomfortable at many tracks over the years, I can say – from lots of personal experience – no.
Regardless of the above-normal temperatures and my skeptical/critical nature, the majority of runners in Boston on Monday made their trek without incident. Even the 2000-or-so who suffered from the heat received the help they needed while accomplishing something that very few of us will ever do. It was good for my son to see runners going about their training throughout the city. Being around such devoted athletes was, I hope, educational in some way.
I also hope being around so many racing-related locations was educational, as well. Not only did it allow me to share some of my past with my son, but it allowed him to see just how vast and diverse the sport of automobile racing really is. From the towns and tracks we saw in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, to the presentation he knew I was making at the PCA conference in Boston, my four-year old got to see what built and shaped his dad’s life, and he got to see that this sport we call “racing” involves so much more than engines, tires, sheet metal, and helmets – it also involves valuable traits like determination, desire, and endurance.
Of course, he’ll learn all that when he starts building his first street stock or late model. Now he knows where to race them and how to get there…
©2000 - 2008 Mark Howell and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Hi Mark, nice picture painted with words.
One more thing, we need much better TV coverage and less commercials.