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
Monday March 3, 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.
Mark Howell · Thursday May 3, 2012
It’s been said that “It’s good to be the king.” Nowhere is that adage more appropriate than within the world of big-time stock car racing, where Brian France and family govern NASCAR with an iron fist wrapped snuggly inside a velvet (and likely fireproof) driving glove. By being “the king”, I don’t mean as in seven-time Winston Cup champion Richard Petty; by being “the king”, I mean it’s good to possess the power to create, administer, and police the laws that govern the folks beneath you.
It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.
Part of this tough job involves addressing public criticism and the blame that often goes with it. If the criticism gets harsh enough, or loud enough, those in power are able to make necessary changes… if they, in fact, care about the demands or the concerns of the people. If those in power don’t care about the concerns of the people, any criticism will fall on deaf ears, no matter how vocal the complaining may get.
Did I mention it’s good to be the king? You bet it is!
Hence the release, on April 19th (just in time for Earth Day), of an official white paper citing developments and advances made by NASCAR to promote a more sustainable and green environment. The document – loaded with big colorful pictures and filled with interesting statistics – addressed various projects aimed at turning NASCAR into an ecologically-minded sport/business. While the heads of state in Daytona Beach saw the paper as a timely opportunity to align the sport of stock car racing with socially-popular attitudes, I can’t help but think that the paper was meant to address increasingly-vocal criticism of NASCAR’s wanton abuse of natural resources.
The public has always placed heavy demands on the sport, but the eco-issue is sliding Brian France & Company under a mainstream microscope.
Some demands require a more rapid response from those in power than others. Concerns left ignored can become a launch pad for revolution (anybody remember “taxation without representation” or last year’s Arab Spring?), so it’s best to not meddle with the masses. When in doubt, give ‘em what they want. For added marketing oomph, say it was your intention to follow the people’s wishes all along; being the king means you’re always right, right?
NASCAR has been mired in these public relations quagmires for years, as we’ve seen with such hot button topics as the use of restrictor plates, the Chase/post-season format, the new points system of the month, the incorporation of electronic fuel injection, and – most recently – the supposed lack of cautions that are believed to dull the racing action. Perhaps no issue over the years has raised more eyebrows and ire than NASCAR’s abuse of natural resources. As fossil fuels follow the way of the dinosaurs that created them in the first place, NASCAR continues to sanction competitive consumption – going fast and turning left has been scarred by the general observation that race cars burn fuel, use oil, and spew exhaust while never really going anywhere.
This might, in reality, be the case, but it’s presumptuous to assume that NASCAR has turned a blind eye toward its use of natural resources. Despite its appearance, NASCAR has generally tried to act responsibly – whenever need be – regarding its attitude toward the conservation of our fragile environment. Here’s where being the king is helpful because you can make the rules, enforce them as you see fit, and change them to suit your personal preferences. “Big Bill” France saw saving fuel as part of NASCAR’s patriotic duty to a struggling nation during the oil crisis of the early-1970s; Grandson Brian, consequently, is encouraging similar measures, albeit while allowing the burden (and the cost) to be shifted onto tracks, sponsors, and race teams.
I’m sensitive to NASCAR’s new-and-improved approach to “green” issues as part of research I’ve been conducting that centers on how stock car racing might build its fan base by adopting more progressive attitudes. NASCAR has a long history of addressing technological, competitive, and socio-economic changes, but much of that history reflects an effort to maintain the status quo – “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix with it” has been NASCAR’s de facto motto for over sixty years, even as fans and the media criticized the sport for often being more show than business (rumblings we’re hearing yet again as fans debate the supposed use of “phantom cautions” intended to affect race outcomes).
NASCAR’s off-track appearance, of late, has had a significant public relations feel (more so than in other years) given society’s concerns about the environment. Nowhere was this more evident than in last month’s white paper, titled “NASCAR: The Sports Leader in Sustainability”. To most observers, the words “NASCAR” and “sustainability” go together like oil and water. How can a motorsport where the cars get between two and five miles per gallon under green flag conditions be considered environmentally-conscious? Is it a matter of “too little, too late” as evidence in support of global warming grows and oil reserves dwindle? Why should a major player in motorsports even care about the health of the planet? It’s all about the racing, isn’t it?
Well…. it IS all about the racing, but it’s also about showing some kind of sincere concern for a serious international condition. Why should NASCAR get off free-and-clear as race teams burn through as much as two million gallons of gasoline in competition each year, yet I’m supposed to recycle all my cans, bottles, paper, and plastic? By going green with the full (and very public) support of Brian France, NASCAR demonstrates that it’s more than just a resource-guzzling, corporately-driven money machine…. it’s a resource-guzzling, corporately-driven money machine that truly cares about Mother Earth.
And how do we know this? We know this because it says so in the white paper. The first sentence states that, “In just under four years, NASCAR and its stakeholders have made substantial environmental improvements and technological advancements and continue to set new benchmarks.” Never mind that I, for one – an automobile historian who tracks trends and developments related to the sport – can’t recall ever hearing about the “NASCAR Green” initiative prior to the 2011 season. No matter; Brian France has taken steps to try and resurrect lagging fan numbers through the advent of ecological awareness. It’s like having a weight-loss center owned-and-operated by Dunkin’ Donuts….
Not that NASCAR was ever totally ignorant of prevailing attitudes and changing conditions. Nearly forty years ago, when America was in the throes of an energy crisis, it was NASCAR that took matters into its own hands to stave-off public criticism and present itself as being sympathetic to the plight of fuel shortages. In 1974, NASCAR organized efforts to reduce its fuel consumption by 25% to exceed requests made by the newly-formed Federal Energy Office, which was created to monitor national fuel use. This initiative stemmed from a joint meeting held in November of 1973 by officials representing the major auto racing sanctioning bodies in operation at that time: USAC, SCCA, IMCA, NHRA, and NASCAR. The National Motorsports Committee grew out of this joint meeting. About two weeks later – on November 25th, 1973 – President Richard Nixon announced that gas stations would be closed between 9:00 p.m. on Saturdays through midnight on Sundays until further notice was given. Fuel consumption in America had become a federal issue.
NASCAR scrambled to comply with growing national concerns about excessive fuel use. The National Motorsports Committee conducted its own detailed study of annual “petroleum consumption by various sporting associations and leisure time activities” (quoted from Greg Fielden’s “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing”, v. 4, p. 82). Automobile racing finished seventh in the NMC’s final report, coming in behind “vacation travel” (which ranked first), horse racing, football, and movie attendance. On January 3rd, 1974, the Federal Energy Office praised the NMC for “’having the foresight to complete figures on energy consumption in the sports and leisure time areas’” (Fielden, v. 4, p. 83).
Big Bill France served as a liaison between the National Motorsports Committee and the Federal Energy Office. France declared that, “While auto racing uses only a minimal amount of fuel in contrast to other leisure time activities, we are anxious to cooperate in the overall curtailment in the use of fuel…. Auto racing is a highly visible sport and it has a public relations problem inasmuch as we are very vulnerable. We feel it is important to cooperate with the government’s request to exceed the 25% overall cut if possible. I am sure the quality of NASCAR racing for our fans and competitors will be unaffected” (quoted in Fielden, v. 4, p. 83).
Race track operators were asked to submit proposed fuel reduction measures to NMC Executive Director John Cooper (formerly of Ontario Motor Speedway in California). In addition, Big Bill announced that the 1974 Daytona 500 would be shortened by 50 miles (or 10%), and that drivers would be limited to 30 gallons of gasoline for practice sessions. Other track owners were encouraged to reduce race distances and fuel use at their upcoming events, as well. France’s measures at Daytona cut fuel consumption during Speedweeks in 1974 by over 30% from the previous year. Similar gas-saving initiatives were used by other tracks during the NASCAR season, including the reduction of starting fields for most Winston Cup events.
This direct approach seems to be the most obvious: cut overall fuel consumption by reducing starting fields and shortening races. There was a time, believe it or not, when it was okay to have fewer than 43 cars start a NASCAR event; a few weeks ago I wrote about attending the 1992 Hanes 500 at Martinsville Speedway, a race where 32 cars were on the grid. Given the number of start-and-park cars we see in the Sprint Cup Series, doesn’t it make ecological sense to reduce the fields and reduce the consumption?
Cutting race distances is another option we’re seeing put into use, albeit for non-green purposes; the two Cup events at Pocono Raceway have been reduced by 100 miles each, but that was to keep fans (and teams) from getting bored during the races’ often-dull middle-third of merely clocking laps. Tony Stewart, at one point last season, said that most races could have laps dropped since much of an event is spent trying to conserve your car for a final segment sprint to the finish; perhaps taking a Saturday night trophy dash approach to Cup races would save fuel and reduce the supposedly-tedious nature of long, green flag runs.
And while we’re talking about shortening races, why doesn’t NASCAR save resources and build fan interest by cutting events from its annual schedules? It makes sense that audiences would be more interested in races if they didn’t occur so often. Add a handful of open weekends to the lineups, and not only will fans be more inclined to watch the races when held, but a reduction of events will enable both teams and spectators to reduce their fuel usage.
The central problem I have with NASCAR’s recent sustainability report is that the sanctioning body expects too many developments and changes from its partners, tracks, and teams – developments and changes that should originate, by example, from the top (as in from NASCAR) down. It’s ironic that the sport responsible for the environmental damage in question expects other participants to pursue costly and time-consuming advances to turn the ecological tide.
As NASCAR celebrates its recent construction of two LEED-certified structures (NASCAR Plaza in uptown Charlotte and the ISC/NASCAR offices in Daytona Beach) on page two of the eight-page document, the report devotes multiple pages to efforts made by corporations and race tracks feeling the need (or the pressure?) to go green. Companies such as Sprint, Coca-Cola, Coors Light, Safety-Kleen Systems, and Goodyear have all developed avenues for collecting and recycling materials at events, done in part – one might guess – to stay in NASCAR’s good (and Earth-friendly) graces.
Additional eco-friendly projects undertaken by several race tracks are also cited in the report, including Pocono Raceway’s famous 25-acre solar farm, Darlington Raceway’s 25-acre switch grass patch, and Infineon/Sonoma Raceway’s use of sheep (!) to clear grassy areas and fire lanes. Next up: Bruton Smith will use mine mules to haul away the graduated banking removed from Bristol Motor Speedway. So… does going green before throwing the green mean earning more green?
In 2011, NASCAR implemented its use of “American-made” E15 ethanol in all of its national touring series events – a very public effort to try and reduce the sport’s consumption of foreign oil. This season has marked the introduction of electronic fuel injection, which gives teams an opportunity to custom-tune their injectors and set the precise amount of fuel sprayed into each cylinder. The use of EFI should cut fuel consumption a bit by reducing the fire often seen blazing from exhaust headers when drivers work the throttle. Despite the reaction of hardcore fans to these recent developments, NASCAR believes they’ll help make the sport more eco-friendly.
Another eco-friendly campaign tied to NASCAR’s “penance” for decades of environmental “sin” is the “NASCAR Green Clean Air” program – a form of outreach that plants ten trees for each green flag dropped during NASCAR Sprint Cup and Whelen All-American Series races at 26 tracks across the country. The idea is for the trees to capture all of the carbon produced by the cars competing at the events. While well-intended and clearly visible from a public relations angle, planting trees incurs much less expense than restructuring an entire race shop, yet some teams feel this kind of change is worth the effort and cost – especially if it accommodates the new clean, green attitude within NASCAR.
Kyle Busch Motorsports built a new facility that’s currently seeking to earn LEED certification, and Earnhardt Ganassi Racing has implemented modifications to save on its overall energy usage. Roush Fenway Racing has added green technologies to its operation, as well, by putting environmentally-friendly fire suppression systems onto its stable of Fords (a system created, oddly enough, by RFR-sponsor 3M). According to the white paper, Roush Fenway Racing recycles 96% of each car, has saved 372,960 kilowatts of energy over the past two years (enough to power ten homes for a year), and has installed a “Hanger Photovoltaic System” that offsets 17,500 pounds of carbon dioxide (about as much as 250 trees). I guess the days of burying wrecked cars behind the shop are gone for good – in hopes of doing good. All of this may seem pretty elementary, but it marks the beginning of what will become standard operating procedure for race teams. Going “green” will continue to be encouraged by NASCAR brass, especially once it starts to quell public criticism and negative feelings about the sport.
At the center of “NASCAR Green” are Brian France and all of the sanctioning body’s administration, the executives who hope this initiative continues “growing faster than ever … constantly creating new programs, identifying potential partners and setting new benchmarks that allow it to take positive steps toward reducing the sport’s impact on the environment.”
As Kermit the Frog says, “It’s not easy being green”. For Brian France and all the folks running NASCAR, being “green” is a lot easier if you’re the king. As for me, I just hope they recycled that Coors Light can that supposedly was tossed onto the backstretch at Richmond late Saturday night. If I have to recycle my cans, NASCAR should do the same…
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And yet, there’s still plenty of low-hanging fruit to pick…
A couple of years back, I mentioned that while the Atlanta race couldn’t sell out even with $19 student ticket deals, they should make better use of mass transportation. As a poor college student living on campus at the time without a car, I’d have absolutely bought a ticket… if I could have only gotten to the track. Park-and-ride programs would be great for those of us who want to see a race but aren’t planning on tailgating once we get there. It would ease traffic, reduce congestion, and cut the amount of fuel wasted and emissions produced just idling in the parking lots. Charge everyone something like 5 or 10 bucks to ride a charter bus round trip from some parking lot at a shopping center half an hour away and you bring back the fans who can’t stand the traffic or the walking but still want to see the race. Heck, make the bus free. The track would probably make up for it in selling seats and concessions anyway.
This gets back to an earlier column of yours on folks my age (20’s) who aren’t becoming race fans in large numbers. It seems we like smaller cars for whatever reason (no kids to drive around and no money for big cars or gas). Since most of the manufacturers don’t make V8 RWD cars for the two top series anyway, why not keep the top series in Chargers/Challengers, Mustangs, etc. and give the next series down a new identity entirely. Race Darts, Cruzes, Focuses (Foci?), etc. and limit the amount of fuel allowed to the teams over the course of the weekend. Make Detroit (and Seoul and Tokyo) actively involved in building cars that go fast with less gas. I’d guess winning on Sunday only sells more on Monday if the car in the showroom has anything in common with the car on the track.
It’s going to take big ideas instead of marginal changes to bring in new fans, bring back old fans, and recapture the excitement! And the sanctioning body has plenty of capital to invest in new ideas (and not just new points systems)… so let’s try something!
White paper should be used in the bathroom not as a NASCAR promotion.