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.
The beginning of this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup championship has some fans in NASCAR Nation already pondering the promise and potential of 2013.
As Brad Keselowski wheeled his Miller Lite Dodge into Victory Lane at Joliet last weekend to celebrate his fourth win of the year, it’s very likely that several car owners, crew chiefs, drivers, and fans already looking forward to next season. Such is the plight of the underdog/also-ran – the team (and its fan base) whose mantra is, “Wait until next year!” This kind of hopeful thinking goes for Brian France, too.
Poor Brian must toss and turn each night worrying about the sluggish state of his sport. Race attendance is down, as are television ratings, for the most part. Teams are watching in frustration as corporate sponsors close up their money bags and run for cover, pretty much what race fans have done in recent years as their paychecks get smaller while gasoline and hotel bills grow. Money is the dwindling fuel that makes NASCAR move, and – as the Great Recession of 2008-2011 demonstrated – there’s a lot less of that to go around.
Now this isn’t intended to be a political essay, nor is it meant to be a primer about all things gloomily financial. This isn’t about a struggling industrial sector, big government bailouts or unemployment numbers, but…. then again…. maybe it is. I’m little more than a casual observer regarding such things, but because I live in Michigan and work around motorsports as an automobile historian, any significant moving or shaking in either of these two areas typically reaches my desk at some point.
Hence the attention given to an announcement made last week by the Ford Motor Company. The headlines had nothing to do with NASCAR per say, but the news was directly connected to the upcoming 2013 racing season. As reported by Tyrel Linkhorn, business writer for the Toledo Blade, on September 10th: “Ford to add 1200 jobs at Flat Rock plant”.
The Flat Rock Assembly Plant used to be called AutoAlliance International during the days when Mazdas were built there as part of the company’s affiliation with Ford. When Mazda Motor Corporation moved Mazda 6 production back to Japan last month, Ford assumed managerial control of the facility. The automaker also announced that all workers with AutoAlliance would become Ford employees by the start of 2013.
In addition to the 1200 new hires, Ford officials said that second shift workers laid off at a plant near Kansas City would be transferred to Flat Rock to accommodate increased production. As the Flat Rock Assembly Plant ramps up to now produce both Mustangs and Fusions, Ford is investing $555 million into an upgraded paint and body shop. According to Linkhorn’s story in the Toledo Blade, the mid-sized Fusions – the “highly-anticipated model that competes in one of the auto industry’s most important segments” – will begin rolling out of Flat Rock next year.
The announcement out of Flat Rock last week celebrated all sorts of positive news. New jobs in automobile manufacturing were coming to Michigan, including spots destined for workers previously laid off through production shifts and cut. Ford’s big announcement also came with a not-so-subtle reminder that the auto maker was the only one of the “Big Three” to not require a government bailout. That message was just a small part of a larger discussion.
As Mark Fields, Ford America’s president put it: “It’s an all-out battle for the American garage and, I can tell you, Ford is in it to fight to win.”
Ford’s financial and emotional investment in the 2013 Fusion seems echoed by the folks at NASCAR. The sanctioning body was nothing less than thrilled when the new-and-improved model was introduced to the media back in June. Introducing a new car is always good for grabbing the media’s attention (at least for a few days), but the 2013 Fusion’s debut was like having a front-row seat to the second coming. Even the most jaded journalists and racers spoke positively about the re-design and its “car-on-the-street” appearance. For a while, it felt as though the Hudson Hornet had suddenly been returned to mass-production.
And is that sense of similarity not what NASCAR has been craving over the past, oh, say, fifty years?
If there’s one universal complaint about NASCAR’s use of the designation “stock car”, it’s that there’s a huge disconnect between what you see on the street and what you see on the race track. I know the demands of racing would all but vaporize a “production-model” automobile if NASCAR still adhered to its original “Strictly Stock” guidelines, but all the same old arguments still ring true. As many in NASCAR Nation – regardless of their manufacturer preference – are wont to say: “When was the last time you saw a normally-aspirated, rear-wheel drive, two-door, American-made automobile?”
The debate got even more out-of-hand once NASCAR introduced the “Car of Tomorrow” configuration. Safety concerns took precedence over the criteria of how one defined a “stock car”, but still the NASCAR faithful grumbled about the future of their sport. It didn’t take very long for the term “spec racer” to find its way into the blogosphere. By the time Kyle Busch entered Victory Lane at Bristol in 2007 after winning the CoT’s first competitive outing, he pretty much spoke for a large percentage of NASCAR Nation when he said, “I can’t stand to drive them, they suck.”
But here we are – the ever-loyal – watching 2012 wind down, with nine Cup races to go and a title to award in November, and now our attentions turn to 2013 and the introduction of new models all-around come February. After Ford fired the first volley last June and cornered the media’s attention, other manufacturers rolled out their latest-and-greatest developments. The hoopla surrounding Dodge’s entry for 2013, however, fizzled like a damp sparkler once Penske Racing announced that the team was signing with the Blue Oval bunch.
With all the attention leaning toward the promise of a competitive and marketable NASCAR season next year, it’s no surprise that we’ll be seeing the new cars being tested at Chase tracks during the next several weeks (what a coincidence!). Oddly enough, according to several Sprint Cup crew chiefs, race team insiders, and writer Mike Mulhern, these tests will be moot since automakers are way behind schedule in the production of sheet metal body pieces. The cars tested in the coming weeks at places like Talladega, Texas, and Phoenix will look like the 2013 models, but the data they produce will be relatively useless because the cars will utilize plastic fenders and hoods. Even the new stock cars won’t be “stock”. How appropriate!
What’s appropriate is the attention being paid to the idea of new cars racing next year in NASCAR. New car sales are at record highs in 2012. Just last month, for example, retail consumer demand for new vehicles in America rose by 28%. The combined brands of Toyota Motor Corporation saw a 46% increase in sales while General Motors saw its sales climb by more than ten percent. Ford experienced an increase, as well, with sales rising by thirteen percent during the month of August. Granted, these higher sales figures fail to consider new approaches to automobile financing (some dealers are offering loans over seven years!), but the end result is that more people are buying more cars. There’s no better time for NASCAR to show off its new models.
There’s also no better time for NASCAR to try and recover some of its frustrated fan base. With race attendance and television ratings looking more down than up, maybe it’s an ideal opportunity for the sport to lure in both former and future fans. NASCAR has a way of reinventing itself whenever times look bleak. Ending 2012 with on-track looks at 2013’s cars may be just the tonic our ailing sport needs.
The recent announcement at Flat Rock was the first step toward such medication. Revitalizing a struggling industry by creating brand new jobs in an economically-depressed region signals a move toward recovery. This kind of recovery brings an atmosphere of hope – the hope (in Michigan, at least) for a more stable, more productive, and more positive future.
NASCAR’s looking to reclaim an atmosphere of hope, as well. The introduction of new cars that more closely resemble their grocery-getter counterparts seems to be the sanctioning body’s attempt at attracting a loyal cadre of fans, sponsors, and media support. NASCAR Nation seems all a-twitter (even on Twitter) about the promise of 2013, even as the 2012 Cup season grinds to its eventual conclusion at Homestead.
With Dodge leaving NASCAR after Homestead, and with Penske Racing making the move to Ford for 2013, might we see an all-Michigan trifecta at Daytona next February? After last week’s announcement about Ford Fusions coming to the Flat Rock Assembly Plant, how appropriate it will be to have a Michigander (Brad Keselowski) behind the wheel of a “Michigan-built” car (the Fusion). Toss in a Michigan-based sponsor, and it’d be a marketing campaign like no other (are you reading this, all you “Pure Michigan” promotional planners?). A little loyalty can result in big headlines.
So I’m skimming through the newspaper over breakfast this morning when a story near the end of the sports section catches my eye. The headline reads “High Hopes for Ford Fusion”. In the piece, it’s reported that “Ford hopes the redesigned Fusion will finally trounce the [Toyota] Camry”. The story also states that the new model will be officially introduced next week at events held in New York City, Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Dearborn, Michigan. These public events are meant to coincide with the Fusion’s official roll-out “to U.S. dealerships later this month”.
Such “high hopes” for the Ford Fusion are perhaps indicative of the high hopes NASCAR has for the car, as well. Never has “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” carried such broad importance. Michiganders are used to keeping faith alive; the Detroit Tigers and the Detroit Lions have taught us well.
And so has NASCAR. One thing the sanctioning body has taught me during my career is that “There’s always next year….”
My response to that is “We’ll see….”
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If a “ production car” would vaporize in racing why did the ones that the King and Fast Freddie drove not melt down in the World 600? About the new Fords. I own three Fords, 2003,2007, and 20010. What I have seen of all the new models, none are attractive. The new Fusion and most the others have a front end that looks like a whale shark. Plus Ford won’t even sell us a Ranger anymore.
Anyone who is optomistic about the future of Nascar because of the redesigned Ford Fusion is truly living in la-la land. And yes, the addition of 1,200 jobs is certainly welcome news, but I have virtually zero confidence in the Brian France regime to salvage this sport even if the economic recovery is strong. The current problems facing Nascar began well before September 2008.
Mark – When was the last year that a Nascar racecar was actually a ‘stock car’? I don’t remember many kidney-bean shaped production cars being produced in Detroit prior to the COT.
I’m just bummed that the Dodge won’t be running because, although the Ford looks pretty good, it was EASILY the best looking of the new cars.
NASCAR could certainly benefit from cars that looked like stock cars, with the smaller engines that are found in them. It hasn’t been 50 years since cars were “stock”, but it’s been awhile. I was just reading an article yesterday about someone’s restoration of a 1972 Petty Dodge.
It had been reskinned to a later model in the ensuing years, so they bought a Charger street car for body panels. Front fenders bolted right on, and all of the other panels matched up also. Try doing that with even an ’80s aero Monte Carlo!
NASCAR is getting some excitement from the Fusion because the street car’s design is going over well with the general public. Few even noticed the bland 2013 Toyota, and I don’t think Chevy has revealed what their car looks like under the camouflage (I’ve seen it and I’m not excited).
A Ranger? The load rating on those is so low that you can’t carry much more than your purse in it.
More jobs is great news, as are more auto sales. Of course, the two go hand in hand.
Some man on here must carry a very heavy purse or he has never put a Ranger to the test!