NASCAR Changes Qualifying Format
posted by Summer Bedgood
Tuesday March 11, 2014
Following safety concerns regarding NASCAR’s new qualifying format, the sanctioning body is introducing some changes in preparation for this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. According to the Associated Press, NASCAR is banning teams from cool-down laps after their qualifying attempts, but will instead be allowed to hook up cool-down units to the engine through hood flaps.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a release from NASCAR fully detailed the changes. Teams will be allowed a single cool down unit to be connected through the right or left side hood flap, however the hood must remain closed. Additionally, two crew members will be allowed over the wall while cooling down.
“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”
The move comes after three weeks of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying system, where multiple cars are allowed to make qualifying attempts at the same time instead of the traditional one-car-at-a-time procedure. Drivers and teams had complained that the new rules didn’t allow them to cool their engines down on pit road, and the cool-down laps caused a dangerous situation with slower cars staying on the track at the same time that other cars were running by them at much higher speeds.
The rule will begin this weekend in Bristol, a track that has a much narrower racing surface than Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
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!
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Last weekend’s running of the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway was, for the most part, pretty typical as Sprint Cup events on the Alabama high banks go.
Drafting in various forms gave way to passing and wrecking in various forms, yet the race did manage to exhibit some unique traits by the time the checkered flag flew. Not only did Brad Keselowski and his No. 2 Blue Deuce lead the entire final lap and win (a most uncommon occurrence at Talladega), but his victory put Dodge back in the winners’ circle after an absence of over 35 years. Not since journeyman driver Dave Marcis piloted his No. 71 K&K Insurance entry to a 29.5 second victory over the No. 15 Norris Industries Ford of Buddy Baker had the legendary marque celebrated a win at the 2.66-mile track. For all things appearing to be the same, NASCAR Nation was treated to something rather unique.
The same will be said once NASCAR’s traveling circus stops in Delaware early next month. While the June race at Dover International Speedway is most often recognized for the physical and emotional toll it takes on drivers and crews, this year’s running will be recognized for something else – a development that aligns the speedway with a practice that seems to be emerging all across the nation. This emerging trend is tied to emerging data regarding the condition known as autism, and a need for new approaches to better serve this all-too-ignored audience.
Recent statistics regarding autism are staggering. According to findings compiled by the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one of every 88 children in America falls on the autism spectrum. This number marks a ten-fold increase over the past 40 years. Autism is more common in boys, with about one in every 54 being diagnosed as on the spectrum. In comparison, data shows that one in every 252 American girls receive a similar diagnosis.
While the specific causes of autism are not readily known (although early brain development seems to be a crucial component), it has long been believed that basic childhood immunizations might be a contributing factor (although research shows no relevant or direct relationship). According to Autism Speaks (where the afore-mentioned information was found), more than two million Americans have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), with tens of millions more people affected across the globe. Even though levels of ASD severity vary greatly, the spectrum shows that roughly 40% of autistic children possess average to above-average intellectual skills, while around 25% are non-verbal but able to learn how to communicate.
Autism has emerged as a more-recognized topic in our popular culture through an eclectic collection of motion pictures such as “Rain Man” (1988), “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” (1993), “Mozart and the Whale” (2005), “Adam” (2009), and “Dear John” (2010). A more mainstream depiction of autism (and its effect on family relationships) can be found on the NBC television series “Parenthood”, which features an eleven-year old boy (the character of Max Braverman, as played by Max Burkholder) who’s been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. According to an article about the series by Emily Nussbaum in the January 2nd, 2012 issue of “The New Yorker”, the program’s creator – Jason Katims – has a son with the same, high-functioning condition. As such, the popular television series clearly depicts the struggles and triumphs of an extended family living with autism.
While this column is not intended to be a primer in the complex disorders known as autism, it IS meant to demonstrate how prevalent the condition truly is. Given my wife’s occupation – she co-teaches in an early childhood classroom – we are acutely aware of autism and its attributes. Not only does she deal every day with students who are on the spectrum, but we know people whose children are autistic. We get to see these families away from the confines of a classroom, such as in the middle of a store or in a restaurant, which gives us a different appreciation for what Dover International Speedway does each June.
Dover International Speedway has been involved with autism awareness and fund-raising for the past six years, cultivating a relationship with Autism Speaks, which is regarded as “the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization.” As such, the stage is set once again for the second-annual running of the “FedEx 400 benefitting Autism Speaks”. A variety of events are on the docket for the weekend of June 1st through the 3rd, including an opportunity that will enable children with autism to experience big-time stock car racing in an atmosphere best suited to their individual needs. While being the first of its kind in NASCAR, a similar concept has been developed for other, very public events that tend to prove difficult for an autistic audience.
Recognizing a change in socio-cultural attitude was, for me, rather simple – albeit unusual. It came in the form of a small news item published in “The New Yorker” about seven months ago. The bulletin announced that several hit Broadway shows were going to stage “autism-friendly” performances for children. These special performances were being organized (and sponsored) by the Theatre Development Fund, an organization that seeks to make live theater accessible to all. The first such experiment was a special showing of “The Lion King” last October, which was followed less than two weeks ago by a performance of “Mary Poppins”.
Autism-friendly Broadway means changing lighting, dance numbers, and music to be softer and less jarring for children who are sensitive to such sensory conditions as light and sound. Theater decorum was “modified” so that children could move about and make noise, and autism specialists were present to help the audience prepare for sudden changes, such as applause after a song or loud noises onstage. By making the performance better suited to the needs of children with autism, the children and their caregivers were able to enjoy a beloved story through the magic of musical theater. Based on the success of these two experimental performances, more autism-friendly shows are being planned. Perhaps more importantly, theaters from around the nation are asking about how they might offer similar experiences.
It may not be the musical theater of Broadway, but next month’s Sprint Cup race at Dover plans to adopt similar measures in hopes of reaching a similar audience. In the words of the speedway’s official press release:
The all-inclusive event [the “FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks”] marks the first-ever autism friendly NASCAR race, and gives families an opportunity to experience a NASCAR race in an environment specifically designed for the enjoyment of children with autism. Autism Speaks Day at the Races will be held in Dover’s air-conditioned grandstand, offering a great view of the Monster Mile from the backstretch, and will feature brief presentations by educational speakers in the morning, special appearances by NASCAR personalities, food and drink, and much more.
In addition, the area will offer a dedicated quiet zone, set inside special rooms within the air-conditioned grandstands, where parents can bring their kids to get away from the crowd if necessary. The quiet zone will be sensory friendly, with muted lighting in a calmer environment, while also featuring video screens to keep up with the action on the track. (published 4/23/2012)
Not only does this effort by Dover International Speedway and NASCAR (who’s playing an active role in fund-raising events that weekend through the auspices of its charitable foundation) mark a significant development in attitudes regarding audience and access, but it’s actually another step along what has become a very wide path across NASCAR Nation.
My question is, everything happens for a reason, so what does the sanctioning body hope to achieve?
It wasn’t all-that-long ago when attending a NASCAR race meant taking a walk on the very wild side. As the sport’s target audience experienced a “baby boom” of sorts, race fans became frustrated when they tried to take their children to an event. I remember being surprised by the announcement that Charlotte Motor Speedway was converting a section of its grandstands into a “family-friendly” seating area.
The idea of a grandstand being turned into a no smoking/no drinking zone seemed like the antithesis of what made NASCAR the sporting experience it so infamously was; spending Sunday afternoon among folks who had no intention of smoking, drinking, or even using profanity seemed too much like being in church – the place fans purposely avoided in favor of enjoying a day at the races. We’re coming off a weekend at Talladega, a track where the action in the infield sometimes outshines the action on the banking.
Back in the day, as they say, it wasn’t an official race weekend in Alabama until a car was set ablaze in the infield.
Now…. consider “off-track” events we’re seeing in 2012 – a year when Daytona International Speedway proclaims itself to be a smoke-free facility and NASCAR boasts openly in the national media about its dedication to recycling bottles and planting trees. More importantly, there are families in need of financial, medical, and emotional assistance. NASCAR’s own promotional materials state that:
The NASCAR Foundation embodies the compassion of the NASCAR Family and our commitment to serving communities. The Foundation supports a wide range of charitable initiatives that reflect the core values of the entire NASCAR Family. The NASCAR Foundation will use the strength of the sport and its people to make a difference in the lives of people who need it most.
That said – is it any wonder the NASCAR Foundation is playing a significant (and very public) role in the events benefiting Autism Speaks and the Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway next month?
I know competition has been tweaked dramatically over the years, but is it possible that attractions surrounding the races need to be tweaked dramatically, too? Has the rough-and-tumble NASCAR of yesterday evolved into a kinder-and-gentler NASCAR more in touch with the needs and demands of today’s fan base?
I’d say the answer to that question – quite emphatically, based on the all-inclusive event we’ll see at Dover in a few weeks – is a rousing and enthusiastic “yes!” The work being done by speedway administration and staff, in cooperation with the efforts of a respected organization like Autism Speaks, just may redefine how families affected by autism participate in professional sports. If the “first-ever autism friendly NASCAR race” experiment is successful, any major sporting event will become fair game.
Actually, NASCAR’s direct involvement makes perfect sense. While efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and reduce landfill waste sound all well and good, these initiatives do little more than pander to current popular attitudes and values. As I alluded to in my column last week, it’s difficult to earn huge annual profits through the consumption of limited natural resources and not at least try to look concerned about the environment. The whole “fiddling while Rome burns” approach won’t sell tickets to your next race. A better bet is to become affiliated with a more benevolent cause – to become associated with a charity that provides tangible benefits right now.
The NASCAR Foundation supports wonderful and necessary charities and civic causes, but maybe the sport should strive to do more in that regard. Saving the environment might have long term, “big picture” potential for success, but it’s often the smaller, more-immediate initiatives that provide concrete results – a perfect (and appropriate) goal to accomplish at Dover International Speedway.
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The irony of it all. NASCAR and all the sponsors which are famous for the constant barrage of commercials self promotion and grandiloquent BS should make things quieter and more relaxed for those kids. We adults could use some relief from the constant assault of restrictions, sponsors and mountains of BS too.