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.
Boy howdy! Last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway was one that fans won’t likely forget very soon. Both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races kicked it old school as the 2012 season wound down to its final events. Nothing like some blown tires and bent sheet metal to grab headlines. Fussing and fighting and whining and fining always put NASCAR squarely back on America’s sports pages.
That is, unless you’re the parent of a child in elementary school. If you’re dealing with backpacks and lunch sacks every weekday, your radar screen has likely been preoccupied with the motion picture Wreck-It Ralph, the latest release from Walt Disney Animation Studios.
It’s an understatement of epic proportions to say that the Walt Disney Company is pretty much the lifeblood of global popular culture. From the big screen debut of Mickey Mouse in the cartoon short “Steamboat Willie” back in 1928 to the tourism and entertainment juggernaut we recognize today, one can argue that the Disney “brand” affects nearly every facet of everyday life. And it’s not just entertainment for children. Recent acquisitions by Disney have included such revered properties as Marvel Studios (think The Avengers) and – as of two weeks ago –Lucasfilm Ltd. (think Star Wars).
So is all this media movement important to NASCAR Nation? I’d say it’s plenty important.
Forget about the one-mile speedway that Disney built near its theme park/resort complex outside Orlando; that facility – to me, at least – will be remembered for only one thing: it was where (back in 1998) I took my first ride in a Sprint Cup car (the subject, perhaps, of a future essay).
As long as NASCAR has a contract with ABC and/or ESPN – both networks are owned by the Walt Disney Company – the sport will be tightly tied to Mickey.
And Mickey’s gloved grasp goes far beyond just network television, theme parks, and motion pictures; The Walt Disney Company has long been considered one of the “Big Six” worldwide multi-media conglomerates. As of 2010, according to data compiled on www.freepress.net, Disney ranked second in the organization’s “Stop Big Media” standings, coming in just behind General Electric, yet ahead of Fox/News Corp.
These companies own, operate, and control virtually all forms of media, including web content, radio networks, and publishing houses. When you consider the scope of these massive corporations and all of their access to global audiences, you see just how essential it is for NASCAR Nation to be recognized (and loved) by these multinational firms.
So there I was this last weekend – sitting in a crowded theatre at our local shopping mall with my wife and our almost-five-year old son. The lights dimmed and the three of us settled in to enjoy (hopefully) Disney’s latest masterpiece. I’m not a movie critic, so I’ll spare you my overall assessment of the film, but I can say that a fun afternoon was had by all.
For those who won’t have an opportunity to see Wreck-It Ralph, let me provide a brief summation. The story revolves around Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly), an evil character in a popular video game called “Fix-It Felix, Jr.” For thirty years, Ralph’s “job” has been to wreak havoc on a high-rise apartment building. To repair the damage done by Ralph, players control “Felix, Jr.”, a handyman with a magical golden hammer who goes around fixing Ralph’s destruction while earning points. Winning the game means that Felix, Jr. earns a gold medal, while Ralph is tossed from the building’s roof. This pattern of activity frustrates Ralph to no end.
Ralph, we learn, is actually a pretty gentle soul who’s tired of always being the bad guy (he even attends group therapy sessions with other video game villains), so he sets out to become a better character. Since Felix’s gold medal represents victory, Ralph equates earning such an award with being good. He leaves the safety of his own game (arcade games connect to each other by a series of subway-like tunnels through electrical cords) to try and win a medal in another video game. As we’ve seen in countless other popular narratives, Ralph embarks on what the late cultural anthropologist Joseph Campbell would call “the hero’s journey” – a tale of growth and personal discovery similar to what George Lucas created for Luke Skywalker in Star Wars (the newest Disney property).
Very long story short: Ralph finds/”wins” a medal while taking part in a violent first-person shooter game and – during a hectic escape from huge cyber-bugs – winds up stuck in an Anime-inspired game called “Sugar Rush” where little girls race go-karts through a confection-coated landscape of candy and frosting. It’s here where Ralph meets Danica Patrick….
Well, not really. Who Ralph meets is a “Sugar Rush” character named Vanellope von Schweetz. Vanellope (voiced by Sarah Silverman) is a petite girl with long dark hair and hazel eyes who wears green clothing and craves the opportunity to prove herself as a racer. She’s been altered within the game’s computer code – through no fault of her own – to be little more than a technical “glitch”. Vanellope is too inconsistent to be treated as a valid character by others in the “Sugar Rush” game; her image breaks up and flickers occasionally, so she’s too dangerous to compete in the kart races that make up the game’s action. She means well, and has great ambition and self-confidence, but she’s unable to get the driving opportunity she needs.
Ralph uses his good nature and strong muscles to help Vanellope build a kart so she can compete against the other racers who laugh at her. After overcoming many obstacles (including having to learn how to drive – she “knows” she’d be a good racer – and an invasion by the aforementioned cyber-bugs), Vanellope goes on to indeed win the big race she enters in the kart she built with Ralph’s help. It turns out that Vanellope has actually been a central character in “Sugar Rush” all along (she’d been made into a glitch by another character who was jealous of her driving skills). Ralph is then celebrated for his helpful (and not destructive) talents.
By the film’s end, we learn that Vanellope was originally intended to be a princess in “Sugar Rush”. Her eventual race win causes the game to “reboot” itself, which returns von Schweetz to her rightful position as an avatar that’s popular with the young girls who play “Sugar Rush” at the video arcade. Ralph returns to “Fix-It Felix, Jr.” and continues to play “the bad guy”, but everyone understands that it’s simply the role he was intended to play…. it’s not who Ralph really is deep down inside.
While watching Wreck-It Ralph, I couldn’t help but discover a direct connection between Vanellope von Schweetz and Danica Patrick. Vanellope von Schweetz’s almost-desperate need to prove her worth as a driver echoed Patrick’s own desire over the years, especially as Danica tried to make a name in Indy Car competition.
Patrick’s mere presence affected her relationships with other drivers, much in the same way that Vanellope’s presence affected her connection to her fellow racers. I was reminded of the T-shirts that Patrick’s open-wheel teammates wore following her rookie run at Indianapolis in 2005. Buddy Rice wore one that read “Danica’s teammate”, while Vitor Meira’s was emblazoned with “Danica’s other teammate”. The attention given to Danica Patrick at Indy that year prompted the late Dan Wheldon to wear a T-shirt that read “Actually won the Indy 500”. Vanellope was similarly treated (by the other drivers in “Sugar Rush”) as a source of derision, but also – to some extent – by their inherent fears that she might actually be a serious competitor.
As Danica Patrick’s stock car fortunes continue to climb (10th in NNS and 17th in NSCS races at Phoenix last weekend), so will the media surge her presence gives to NASCAR. We saw this happen in open-wheel competition, so why won’t such recognition and devoted page space occur again once Patrick runs a full-time Cup schedule with Stewart-Haas Racing come Daytona in 2013? Her improvement in NASCAR seems to be more than good luck; it appears as though getting seat time has led to better slightly performances this season.
The learning curve in motorsports is steep and difficult, and perhaps nowhere else is it as harsh as the weekly grind of NASCAR. If Patrick continues to struggle and learn – as all new drivers and teams are wont to do – why can’t she return some of the favor and bring in new fans, new media coverage, and new enthusiasm?
Like Vanellope von Schweetz, Danica Patrick capitalized on her innate desire to climb behind the wheel and compete. At the age of ten, Patrick drove in her first kart race at Sugar River Raceway (I’m not kidding) near the town of Brodhead, Wisconsin. Not to say that Vanellope and Danica were separated at birth, but they share some very unique qualities that speak clearly to the notion that motorsports are an essential part of popular culture.
This connection grew even more tangled when it was announced that Patrick will be featured as a “playable guest character” in the new “Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed” video game that’s scheduled for release early next week (just in time for holiday shopping!). Danica will drive a “Danicar” designed for her by Mattel (the makers of “Hot Wheels”), and her avatar will be able to compete against – of all possible characters – Ralph from Wreck-It Ralph.
I guess such a tie-in is only fair since the video game character Sonic appears in Wreck-It Ralph (he appears in a public service announcement warning video game characters that they will die for real if they get killed in a game other than their own – a dire warning to Ralph!). Given the popularity of 2010’s “Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing”, launching a sequel so quickly – and so laden with crossover character connections – makes perfect corporate sense. It’s like a page was stolen from the Walt Disney Company’s playbook….
Rule number one for understanding popular culture: pay attention to artifacts that encourage the largest audience possible to consume the largest amount as possible. Economic forecast notwithstanding – people will spend money on what they want (not need, but want).
So I left the theater feeling pretty good. Wreck-It Ralph was fun to watch, my wife and son enjoyed it, and I had made a discovery that felt original in its perspective on the character of Vanellope – not always easy to do when you work in the area of popular culture. As I began to write my column, I thought I’d check to see if my reasoning was, in some sense, relevant.
That’s when I stumbled across a movie review from November 1st written by Fiore Mastracci, a self-proclaimed “conservative film critic” who seeks to “cut through the Looney Liberal Left agenda in Hollywood.” Part of his negative response to Wreck-It Ralph, as published in the Pittsburgh Film Industry Examiner, included the following:
Disney is not content with simple tales and creative scripts. The agenda must be followed! Wreck It Ralph soon turns from a character’s trek of self-discovery to an affirmation of woman power and the age old Disney postulation that a princess hides inside every girl. Ralph becomes secondary to instilling in the children’s audience the superiority, physically and intellectually, of women. The thrust of the film shifts from Ralph to Vanellope and her quest to prove she is a premiere race car driver. Must be the delusional representation of the fantastical life of Danica Patrick.
I immediately thought my observations had been “pre-made” by another writer, but then I considered the focus of Mastracci’s critical comments; his concern was more about the pro-female/”girl power” perspective of the film’s plot, not any specific metaphorical connection between Vanellope von Schweetz and Danica Patrick.
The tie to Patrick, it appeared, stemmed from her everyday recognition as a female race car driver. It was a reference made in the same way that someone might refer to a fast-driving man as “Mario Andretti” – it’s not who they are, it’s simply how they act.
So, will Vanellope von Schweetz be on the starting grid for next year’s Daytona 500? Maybe it’ll depend on when Disney decides to release Wreck-It Ralph on DVD. Look at how profitable the film was at the box office last weekend.
Maybe the sequel will be titled Wreck-It Jeff….
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We saw this happen in open-wheel competition, so why won’t such recognition and devoted page space occur again
I would hope that it’s because we already played this game and the outcome is known.
She was a reliable 5th through 10th place finisher. She’s good but not great. She didn’t have the best equipment, but couldn’t use all that she had. She was lousy at set-up. She hadn’t won anything for 12 years before her Indycar win in Japan.
She deserves Ryan Newman level attention, not Junior level. If she becomes great, then have at it. But don’t burn us out on her now so that we’re tired of the story when she arrives.
I’m (cautiously) optimistic that broadcasts will eventually stop having “Danica Watch” moments throughout all the races. To be fair, the Cup guys don’t spend a ton of time paying attention to her, it’s mostly on the Nationwide side. That’s not Danica’s fault, that’s ESPN’s (or whoever.) It died down for Dale Jr when everyone realized he wasn’t winning 10 races a year too.
I have zero problem with Patrick; I’m not even a huge fan of hers, but I’ll defend her every single time I see stupid, illogical, childish hatred toward her. She’s no different than any number of drivers in top tier series: good but not great talent, and the marketing and/or backing to have the money to get a good ride.
She’s a microcosm of what women have had to go through for decades all the way down to the short track level—I know, I’ve raced against plenty of them. Most of the racers don’t treat them any differently, but many do: they’re girls, and girls need to get out of the way, and there’s no way they’re losing to a girl. It doesn’t matter how fast they are, they’re going to run them harder, they’re going to wreck them, they’re not going to help them out in the pits, nothing. I’ve witnessed a dozen women with the talent to win races give up in frustration when they run out of money after being wrecked every Saturday night. And if they try to fight back on the track? They get labeled as a wrecker. They don’t have TIME to learn the craft or find that little bit of extra speed to outrun the people wrecking them, before it gets to be too much.
The number of times she’s been taken out this season in Nationwide borders on the ridiculous. Certainly a few wrecks have been her fault, but the majority were not.
She’s proven she has the speed, especially on the 1.5 milers and the road courses. She’s had several (SEVERAL) top 10s and, in the case of Road America and Montreal, possible wins taken away by guys behind her refusing to lose to a woman.
Off the top of my head, Villeneuve wrecked her out of a likely 4th place finish at Road America; James Beuscher wrecked her on the STRAIGHTAWAY at California, and last week Burton wrecked her with two laps to go when she was on her way to a career best in Cup.
She also had a win, if not at least a podium finish, go away while leading comfortably at Montreal after halfway, with a broken track bar.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying she would have set the world on fire; that sort of season could happen to anyone. How often have we heard “he’s got the speed, but always has bad racing luck?” The difference is most of hers has been at the hands of someone blatantly wrecking her.
And everyone seems oblivious to that, ignoring her good finishes, ignoring the laps she’s lead, ignoring the time she’s spent in the top 10, and all the good hard passing she’s done. She’s improved leaps and bounds from last year.
I’d argue she’s improved more in two seasons than Dario Franchitti ever did, and is a better oval racer than Juan Montoya. And the improvement that’s taken her two seasons took Sam Hornish five or six, and being demoted to Nationwide in the process.
And the argument that “she should be winning races because she’s in top equipment” is ridiculous. JR Motorsports hasn’t been top equipment in years. Cole Whitt has better finishes, but he’s not exactly raking in the wins either, and has simply been wrecked less often. In case no one’s been watching, the only driver to get ANYWHERE with JR Motorsports equipment was Brad Keselowski. Before and after that the cars haven’t won anything other than Plate races.
And “driving for Hendrick” in Cup? She drives a car built by Hendrick. It’s still run out of a sorta-part-time team. PLUS she’s only run like 10 races, was she expected to win already?
And as for her Indycar career? Anyone who thinks she “accomplished nothing” in Indycar doesn’t watch Indycar. NO ONE accomplished anything for the past 8 years or so (prior to this past season) if they weren’t in Penske or Ganassi cars. Tony Kanaan was the only other driver in the field who get anywhere with wins, driving a non-Penske/Ganassi car. In fact, in two separate seasons, Patrick was the best of the AGR cars, AND the highest finisher in points NOT driving for Penske or Ganassi in one. The fact she even got that ONE win is a bit of a miracle, just like anyone else getting a win was a miracle.
Complaining about Danica not winning a lot in Indycar is like complaining that someone in a Sauber in F1 in 2002 couldn’t beat the Ferraris and McLarens.
And if that’s “making excuses for her”, then that’s also making excuses for Ed Carpenter, Tomas Scheckter, Townsend Bell, Roberto Moreno, Sarah Fisher, Al Unser Jr, Scott Sharp, Jaques Lazier, Buddy Rice, etc etc etc etc etc…
Anyway, off my soapbox.
As I’ve said before, and agreeing with Andy, the #1 problem isn’t her, it’s the attention given her. And there’s nothing she can do about that. If the TV networks would just calm down, I don’t think we’d be hearing so much hate for her.
First of all, there is no princess living inside of Danica Patrick. Her claim to fame doesn’t come from her skill on the track. It comes from her soft-porn poses for money. I’d seen her photos in a bathing suit and just overlooked them. The one of her spread-eagle in front of the grill of a car was one I imagine you’d see in any porn shop magazine. It reminded me of a frat boy’s phrase as he was licking his lips, rubbing his hands together and uttering, “fresh meat in town”. As a female, it is embarrassing to see her being promoted as just a female driver trying to make her way in a male dominant sport.
When she came into the sport three years ago, I think most women wanted to give her a chance…even support her. Then we discovered her copperhead disposition came with her. The past year her treatment of her teammate has been offensive and unacceptable. She has intentionally wrecked other drivers for perceived offenses, and intentionally cut Hornish’s tire down at Phoenix before that 17th place finish.
The media reminds me of the aforementioned frat boy in their glorification of this driver. Their speil and her attitude has turned off most of those who wanted to give her a chance. She’s made her bed. and she will most assuredly have to sleep in it. Frankly, I do not see an upside for NASCAR promoting her.
Fail. She did not get her drives by posing in a bikini. She was hired to race in Formula Atlantic, and then by Rahal-Letterman in the IRL, before she posed for anything. The offers came after.
No one has hired Danica Patrick for her looks. They hire her because she has talent and because sponsors love her and bring lots of money.
She’s no different than any number of other drivers who are good, but not great, and bring sponsorship dollars. If you want to whine about THAT happening in NASCAR, do so.
Two of her wrecks were intentional, in retaliation for perceived slights against her. That doesn’t count the dozen or so times SHE was wrecked intentionally. God forbid she fight back.
Her attitude is the same as any other stockcar driver who keeps getting run into.
Also, nothing she has done is porn. Not even remotely close. You sound like a 90 year old conservative religious woman who’s afraid of boobies.
And if your next complaint is that “sponsors shouldn’t hire a driver for their looks” then it’s time fire Kasey Khane, because they’ve been marketing him to desperate middle-aged housewives exactly the same way for a decade.
Also: Carl Edwards posed for ESPN Magazine with less clothing on than Danica Patrick ever did.