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.
By now, we’ve all seen, heard, read, celebrated, contemplated, and analyzed the relevance of last weekend’s Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway. Having Dale Earnhardt, Jr. break his four-year winless streak with a victory in the Quicken Loans 400 – and on Father’s Day, no less – brought balance, goodness, and honor back to the universe. While men wept, women swooned, and children danced in the streets, NASCAR Nation could catch its collective deep breath and rest easy in the fact that all was once again right in our troubled world. After four years of frustration, Earnhardt’s 5.393-second victory over reigning Cup champion Tony Stewart turned muttered rumbles of “You’ll see…” into shouts of “Told you so!”
This past weekend’s Cup race at MIS offered a unique opportunity for NASCAR fans: the chance to watch teams test their cars on the newly-repaved surface of a favorite track among drivers and teams. When I traveled with NASCAR oh-so-many years ago, I’d often hear drivers say that they looked forward to racing at Michigan because the speedway was long, wide, and unrestricted by those pesky plates sometimes handed out by officials on the opening day of practice. Michigan International Speedway was a fast and competitive facility where drivers and crews could truly do what they were paid to do: race.
As the father of a four-and-a-half year old boy who’s wild about race cars (wonder where he gets THAT from?), I’d been looking for a chance to take him to a track to see cars at speed. We’ve been to various race shops and to the NASCAR Hall of Fame to see cars up close, but I wanted him to hear the sounds, smell the smells, and feel the rush that comes from cars blasting past him in all their power and glory. Television can only do so much, and he’s not quite able to fully appreciate the descriptive magic of radio broadcasts, so getting him to a racetrack has been on my radar for quite some time (since before his birth, in fact).
Receiving the press release about last week’s open test/practice day at MIS could not have come at a better time. My son seemed old enough to appreciate such an adventure, and the practice day meant being able to see a full field of cars without the constraints and complications of an actual race day. The crowds would be smaller, the traffic less hectic, and the atmosphere better suited for observation and learning; the teams would be trying different set-up combinations, so cars would come-and-go in manageable packs throughout the day. True… there’s nothing quite like seeing a bunched field of 43 stock cars roaring up to take the green flag, but my son has the rest of his life to experience such sensory overload (hopefully from either behind the wheel of one of those 43 cars, or from atop a pit box calling the shots for opening lap strategies – a father can dream, can’t he?)
Given that there were two practice sessions scheduled for Thursday – one in the morning and one in the afternoon – and given that we live more than 250 miles north of the speedway, my wife and I had to work around keeping the trip down to a one-day event, and the idea (tragic, though it was) that we’d have to skip the morning session. We opted to leave early on Thursday, get to MIS by lunchtime, see the afternoon session, and be home – and son in bed – by that evening. With the weather forecast looking good and the speedway promising convenient parking and decent seating, we loaded up the car and headed south to begin a new chapter in our son’s life journey.
During the drive, I couldn’t help but wonder about how my son would take to the sights and sounds of Sprint Cup racing. Part of me thought we should have begun with a few trips to the little dirt track not too far from our home. Starting out small might have been a more logical way to go. I also wondered about my wife. This was going to be her first day around moving NASCAR machines. Suddenly I felt a near state of panic set in as I envisioned her totally hating the experience and vowing to never step foot inside a race track ever again.
I love my wife dearly, but I have to admit that she often finds fault with a business (not a sport) that sells its loyalties to huge corporate sponsors and seems to celebrate its openly-wasteful consumption of limited natural resources over eleven months each year. She sees the thrill and the interest in NASCAR, but she sometimes wrestles with the “pros” of the sport versus the “cons”. As for me, NASCAR is a major part of my life and my career – I guess it’s true that opposites attract.
During the drive, my wife and I kept suggesting to our boy that he take a nap, since peace and quiet would be in short supply that afternoon. He kept refusing us (now there’s a surprise!), explaining that he was just too excited to sleep. I knew how he felt; just the idea of going to MIS had me tossing and turning most of the night.
So there we were, pulling into Michigan International Speedway in search of our specific, test day parking location. The first thing my son noticed was the size of the grandstands and the pedestrian bridges that crossed access roads. My wife was curious about the old school buses that we kept passing en route to the speedway; she noticed that they all had railings around their roofs and that these colorfully-painted vehicles had followed us to the track. She had never seen infield buses like these (although I did point one out to her once when we ate supper at Lancaster’s Barbeque in Mooresville, North Carolina – they have one such bus as a seating area inside the restaurant).
The vibe, so far, seemed positive.
Parking our car and catching the tram that carried spectators to the grandstands in turn three kept the positive energy going. My son thought the Chevrolet Silverado pickup trucks pulling the trams were cool, and that the tram-cars themselves were even cooler. No sooner had we boarded a tram, then people all around us began to visit. I was familiar with such gregariousness after decades around NASCAR fans, but I think my wife was a bit surprised by the friendly nature of people joined by a common interest.
Folks teased each other gently about loyalties to manufacturers and drivers, and several on our tram joked about the recent trials and tribulations of Kurt Busch – my column about Busch had been published on Frontstretch that very morning, but I felt that mentioning it might lead to an afternoon of debate about the issue. My son marveled at the sheer size of everything, especially as we passed a parcel of port-a-potties that numbered in the hundreds; I had to remember that his world – at the age of four – is much larger and more mysterious than the places that are so familiar to me.
As our tram slowed to a stop near turn three, the roar of an engine could be heard from across the infield. The hostess on our tram glanced at her wristwatch and said with a smile, “It’s one o’clock. Enjoy your afternoon!” My son was ready for the day’s activities, asking his mom for his “earmuffs” – the hearing protection that he’d been wearing around the house (so he could “practice” for this trip) earlier in the week. With that, we climbed into the grandstands and found good seats under the bright midday sun.
Despite attending many events at Michigan International Speedway, that was my first time to ever sit in the grandstands. Prior trips always found me on pit road or in the garage area. I was amazed by several things. First of all, MIS personnel were present to answer questions and offer assistance (including the distribution of earplugs). Befitting our current culture of social media and cellular technology, it was curious to see Emergency Text Numbers posted along the front rail of the grandstands. Having never seen such signage, it struck me as a most-effective way to insure safety and satisfaction.
I don’t know if MIS has family-friendly seating options, but a watchful neighbor armed with a Smartphone could be the next best thing.
Secondly, the view from the turn three grandstands was very good; we could see almost all of turn one, all of turn two, the entire backstretch, turns three and four of course, and a decent chunk of the front straight. It’s always odd how being close to the action along pit road is actually too close; you don’t get to fully enjoy the race. I totally understand the seat-in-the-stands idea.
The third thing I noticed was how fans supported their favorite drivers and teams – despite this only being a glorified test session. Many people wore the ubiquitous hats and T-shirts of Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Carl Edwards (I even saw a middle-aged man with a Danica Patrick/Go Daddy T-shirt), but vastly more fans of various ages stood and cheered wildly whenever the No. 88 Chevrolet passed by.
Junior’s fans were by far the most vocal, and they greeted their hero with raised cell phones, soda cans, seat cushions, or whatever else they could grab, hold over their heads, and wave. Dale Jr. returned their greetings by posting several laps in excess of 200 MPH. He’d go on to supply even more gratitude come Sunday afternoon from Victory Lane.
My son interacted with the cars and drivers in his own, four-year-old way. At one point, during a lengthy stretch of laps by the No. 14 Office Depot Chevrolet, I noticed my son waving toward the track, but at no one in particular. When I asked him at whom he was waving, he casually replied “Tony Stewart”. While doubtful that Smoke could see a child waving at him from the vantage point of his 201 MPH driver’s seat and the boy’s location about twenty rows up in the turn three stands, let it be known that the little kid smiling and waving at him was my son.
My son’s afternoon at MIS was a huge success. Not only did he get to see race cars in motion, but he got to experience the warmth and kindness of NASCAR Nation. He thrilled to dozens of drivers running record-shattering laps on one of the fastest tracks on the circuit, and he agonized as engines broke under the strain of finding speed (Stacy Compton blew a motor right in front of us, which brought out track cleaners, a jet-dryer, and a lengthy caution period late in the day).
As we walked back to our car, my son looked up at me and asked “So when can we come back and do this again?”
Once the cars fell silent, we began our five-hour drive home. My son fell asleep no sooner than we left the track, and his mother followed him shortly thereafter. As I turned our car northward toward home, and as the noise of the speedway gave way to the silence of rural Michigan, a feeling of déjà-vu suddenly stuck me. The afternoon I had just shared with my wife and son at MIS was eerily similar to an afternoon I shared with MY dad and mom more than 40 years ago.
In the summer of 1971, my parents took ME to watch practice and qualifying for the Pennsylvania 500, a USAC stock car race at Pocono Raceway (an experience I’ve written about previously on this very website). We also sat in the turn three grandstands that day, where we watched the big names of that era (USAC stars like Butch Hartman, Wally Dallenbach, A.J. Foyt, Don White, and Jack Bowsher) take on the challenging triangle in Long Pond. My father explained all the nuances of stock car racing to me that day, and he made the sights and sounds and people real to me – the combination of these elements evolving into the fascination with stock car racing that’s shaped my life. I was five-years-old when my parents took me to Pocono, not much older than the little boy who was asleep in the back seat.
The following day, I called my father – who recently celebrated his 82nd birthday – and told him about our trip to MIS. My son got on the telephone and explained that we went to watch “a test day, some practice, but not the race”, and I could hear my dad chuckle at the news.
“That’s how you got your start,” my dad said to me. “Looks like someone else is hooked…”
It looks like my father is right. Unbeknownst to me, my trip to MIS with my wife and son was the best Father’s Day present I could hope for. Our boy is already talking about next year’s race. I guess we’ve got plans for Father’s Day…
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I really enjoyed reading this article. It reminded me of a day my then-girlfriend, now-wife spent at Fontana during preseason testing. Since we had already bought our tickets to the spring race, we were allowed to park in the infield (otherwise it was a ten dollar donation to charity). We got there early enough that as we were eating our breakfast in the front seats of my car, we could hear the roar of the first car on the track – Denny Hamlin – as he ran the first lap of the day. We had a great time watching from the infield that day. Auto Club Speedway is a facility with great infrastructure, with infield suites and seats behind pit road from where we could observe all the goings-on of the day, and we could watch the cars come and go from the garage area to the tracks and get great shots of the cars as the cruised by. We had a great time.
If you’re a Nascar fan and have the opportunity to attend a test day, I highly recommend it. And hopefully you’ll get to Crew Chief for your son one day as he tears around a track or two turning left.
Many thanks for sharing your memories of a test day in CA. Auto Club is a duplicate of MIS in size and infrastructure; I’ve heard good things about racing there. Many thanks for your kind words….
You’re welcome Mark!