NASCAR Changes Qualifying Format
posted by Summer Bedgood
Tuesday March 11, 2014
Following safety concerns regarding NASCAR’s new qualifying format, the sanctioning body is introducing some changes in preparation for this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. According to the Associated Press, NASCAR is banning teams from cool-down laps after their qualifying attempts, but will instead be allowed to hook up cool-down units to the engine through hood flaps.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a release from NASCAR fully detailed the changes. Teams will be allowed a single cool down unit to be connected through the right or left side hood flap, however the hood must remain closed. Additionally, two crew members will be allowed over the wall while cooling down.
“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”
The move comes after three weeks of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying system, where multiple cars are allowed to make qualifying attempts at the same time instead of the traditional one-car-at-a-time procedure. Drivers and teams had complained that the new rules didn’t allow them to cool their engines down on pit road, and the cool-down laps caused a dangerous situation with slower cars staying on the track at the same time that other cars were running by them at much higher speeds.
The rule will begin this weekend in Bristol, a track that has a much narrower racing surface than Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Matt McLaughlin · Thursday March 6, 2008
More than occasionally, I am chided by readers for being too negative about the sport I cover. I am labeled a prophet of gloom and doom; though all too often, my predictions have borne out. That raises a question in some reader’s minds as to why I continue covering a sport that gets me so angry sometimes rather than spending Sunday afternoons on the lake, in the saddle, or cruising in my old Pontiac. To be truthful, I've asked myself the same question many times; and I did, in fact, take a summer off once. But time after time, I come back to the same answer — I watch stock car racing and I write about the sport because I love it. Perhaps I'm not infatuated with today's NASCAR "product,” but I know just how good it once was — and more importantly, how good it still could be. Over the years, stock car racing has provided me with a ton of thrills, joy, friends and yes, a way to make a living without having to get out of bed early on a Monday morning. So in answer to a challenge posted this week by a reader, here's my account of what's right with stock car racing — even in the form in which it exists today.
Safety : There's one thing I want to see more each week than a three-wide drag race off turn four to the checkers, and that's all 43 drivers returning alive and unharmed to the families that love them. Newer fans may not realize just how barbaric auto racing was in its infancy. Death used to be a routine and accepted part of the sport, and sometimes the grim reaper reached beyond the track and into the grandstands. At LeMans in 1955, for example, parts of a wrecked Mercedes sports car killed 82 spectators.
1964 was a grim year in particular for NASCAR racing. Defending series champion Joe Weatherly was killed in the season opening Riverside event; then, Fireball Roberts was horrifically burned in a wreck during that year's World 600, and passed away on July 4th of those injuries. Jimmy Pardue was killed in a testing crash at Charlotte; then, early in 1965, 1963 Rookie of the Year Billy Wade also died in a practice crash. The horrific carnage led NASCAR to help develop and mandate the tire inner-liners and fuel cells we see today.
Modern times have led to fewer incidents; however, newer fans almost certainly recall the carnage of 2000-01. During 2000, both Kenny Irwin and Adam Petty were killed in practice crashes at NHIS, while Tony Roper was killed during a Truck Series wreck at Texas. When Dale Earnhardt, Sr., seven-time Cup champion, was killed on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, the sport was set on its ear. If Earnhardt was mortal, what hope did the rest of the field have? That Fall, Blaise Alexander would die during a final lap crash in an ARCA race at Charlotte. In addition to the fatalities, several other drivers — including Jerry Nadeau, Ernie Irvan, Steve Park and Greg Sacks — suffered head injuries that postponed or ended their careers in the same era.
NASCAR might have been a bit more proactive in addressing the danger, but when they finally did react, they did so decisively. Head restraint devices were mandated for all drivers in the wake of the Alexander tragedy. Today, a HANS device is just an accepted part of someone’s safety gear during a race. Protests that the devices would lead to more wrecks because a driver’s vision would be limited, or that they would keep him / her from escaping a burning car have not been borne out. Even Tony Stewart, the most vocal surviving opponent of the HANS device, has since admitted it has probably spared him catastrophic injury — or worse.
In addition, the walls of tracks on today's Cup series now feature the SAFER barrier, an energy absorption system that limits the force of the impact passed onto the driver in a severe wreck. Such devices, once said to be economically unfeasible, are now standard issue at the tracks, and the threatened race stoppages to repair the SAFER barriers have been minimal.
Over the last few years, I have seen numerous accidents that would most likely have had tragic outcomes were it not for the HANS devices and the SAFER barriers; and in that way, at least the sport is better than the "good ol’ days."
And no discussion of safety at the race track should omit the roof flaps added to cars to help keep them from going airborne. Developed by Jack Roush, I think too often these simple but effective devices are overlooked, despite the carnage on both sides of the catchfence they have spared.
The bottom line is that auto racing is an inherently dangerous sport, and always will be. Eventually, and sadly, we will lose another driver; maybe this year, and maybe not for another decade — but it’ll happen. In the meantime, it behooves NASCAR to continue to do all they can to improve safety. A good first step might be introducing a traveling medical team and trauma surgery units to all tracks on the circuit. With closed head wounds the signature injury of the War in Iraq, NASCAR needs to keep track of the strategies the military is using to treat soldiers with that sort of physical problem, both to speed the healing process for drivers with similar injuries and to sit out those who haven't had time to properly heal.
Television : Television coverage of our sport, be it on FOX or ESPN, is almost universally panned by the fans that I speak to. Yes, it's too gimmicky, there's too many commercials, and there are some egotistical blowhards that are counted on as "talent" too in love with the sound of their own voices. But just about everybody has a mute button on their remote and access to the MRN race broadcasts. The fact remains that every Cup, Nationwide, and Truck race is now shown on TV, with 99% of those races shown live. A generation ago, that sort of blanket coverage was beyond the realm of race fans’ wildest dreams.
In its infancy, stock car racing was most often shown as part of ABC's Wide World of Sports. Snippets of the race were broadcast amidst other things, like lumberjack's log rolling competitions. Yes, in those days stock car racing was on the same level as what ESPN now calls "Lumbersports" — just a regional curiosity. Most often, they'd cut to the race late in the event, show some highlights of what had happened earlier, then broadcast the finish and quickly go on to more mainstream programming. As most of you know, it took until the 1979 Daytona 500 for the first major NASCAR race to be shown flag-to-flag on TV.
The birth of the cable TV industry led to networks like ESPN — then in its infancy — looking for cheap programming to fill their 24-hour schedule. The resulting match wound up being a marriage made in heaven; ESPN helped boost NASCAR's popularity, while NASCAR racing helped put ESPN on the map. But even a decade ago, ESPN used to tape delay the Martinsville race to show the NFL football draft live.
No longer is that the case today; and in addition to seeing all the races, fans have their choice of countless programs devoted to the sport, ones which range from the sublime to the downright silly.
But television isn’t the only outlet. Satellite radio now devotes an entire station to NASCAR racing available coast-to-coast, with news and opinion about the sport available 24/7. Speaking of news, the Internet has revolutionized how race fans gets their information. Jayski's popular Silly Season site provides fans with the inside scoop that was once exclusive to only the garage area. The sports pages of the Southern papers that devote countless columns to NASCAR are now available online, and sites like this one give readers not just news, but a variety of commentary and forums to exchange information and opinions with other fans in real time.
Honestly, back when I was a kid, reading tiny two paragraph articles in Monday's sports pages to see who won that weekend's race was a big thing. I never dreamed fans would have this sort of access to the sport, or that the technology to allow as much would even be possible. But these are heady times we live in — as long as you keep your thumb on that mute button.
The Drivers : While lately, some younger drivers have had scrapes with the law or gotten busted for using drugs, by and large NASCAR to date has escaped the scourge of bad behavior epidemic to the stick and ball sports. Yes, it's troubling that Shane Hmiel has gotten himself banned for life; but compared to the unending litany of drug use, spousal abuse, gunfights, and even murders for hire in other professional sports, that's small potatoes. To date, there hasn’t been any evidence of drivers using performance enhancing drugs like the steroid crises in Major League ball, and the majority of NASCAR athletes have a squeaky clean record with police.
How? For better or worse, sponsors drive racing these days. That makes a difference, because even if NASCAR would allow such conduct, sponsors would not tolerate it. After all, in addition to driving their multi-colored high speed bulletin boards, drivers are expected to promote the sponsor's product; and how can they promote when they’re busy creating a negative image? Case in point: do you recall Kurt Busch's minor run in with the sheriff's office in Phoenix? That was enough to cost a former champion his ride that same weekend. While that same sort of conduct no longer raises eyebrows in other sports, in the NASCAR world, even a divorce — routine in today's society— makes sponsors uneasy.
But even with drivers’ squeaky clean images, I reject the idea of athletes — even our athletes — as role models for kids. I feel parents should be role models for their offspring; and if kids must look outside the home, well, there was an itinerant preacher who walked this earth approximately 2,000 years ago who’s a solid choice. He wasn't much of an athlete — though perhaps he would have done well in a bass fishing tournament.
But by and large, if kids are going to look up to NASCAR drivers, other than some anger management issues from time to time, we've got a fairly respectable set of athletes competing in our sport. And that’s a good thing.
Drivers to Watch at Atlanta
Jimmie Johnson: Johnson won both Cup races at Atlanta last year, and also won here in the Fall of 2004. He has Top 10 finishes in eight of the last nine Atlanta Cup events; but then again, he had three straight wins at Las Vegas prior to falling flat on his face last weekend. Will the real Jimmie Johnson please stand up?
Carl Edwards: Having won the last two Cup races, the spotlight will be on Edwards this weekend. Are Edwards, Roush, and Ford really ready to contend for a title, or are his two victories the result of stronger competition suffering bad luck the last two weekends? Also, how will the team rebound from their 100-point penalty for an oil tank cover violation assessed Wednesday night?
Jeff Gordon : Gordon has won four Cup races at Atlanta; and after a disastrous start to the season, the No. 24 team really needs to put some points on the board. But when the chips are down, Gordon has traditionally risen to the occasion. Yes, three races into the season is far too early to send up the white flag; but the fact remains that Gordon already has suffered more DNFs in 2008 than he did in the entire 2007 season.
Looking for all the latest information on the Carl Edwards penalty and Robby Gordon appeal? You would have it in your inbox this morning … if you got the Frontstretch Newsletter. Still haven’t signed up? Click here to open your eyes to all the breaking news written by the FS faithful you read on the web every day!
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
“Would have done well in a bass fishing tournament”…Matt, only you could put Biblical humor in a NASCAR column. Classic.
Just an aside, I live in the Philadelphia area, and if you yearn for some element of the old days of NASCAR, you can open the Philadelphia Inquirer and check out their NASCAR coverage. They devote about 100 words to each race, and it’s never on the front page, not even when a championship is won. High school basketball gets higher priority.
Where is Matt McLaughlin and what have you done with him sir?
I’ve known Matt McLaughlin since RacingOne
I’ve read Matt McLaughlin’s columns on three different sites
You sir are NO Matt McLaughlin! You’re too positive and upbeat.
(The key slip was the line about the Pontiac. The Matt McLaughlin I’ve read has a Harley and a Ford 4X4, but NO Ponchos in his garage.)
Matt, it’s good to see that you aren’t always what some readers think you are: so blinded by hate or completely disillusioned by the changes in your favorite sport that you couldn’t list off the good things about it. I must admit I clicked on this link expecting something like “Um, I’m thinking . . . “ posted right after the leading paragraphs on the home page.
Keep up the good work and infuriate us readers from time to time.
Thank you. As one of the most outspoken of the people who object to negativity I’m very glad to see this column.
I don’t know if you’re a parent or not, but as a mother of 4, ages 16 down to 2, I have to say that you can’t downplay the importance of the influence that celebrities can have on kids.
We parents are the kids’ first role models and, God willing, we will always have a lot of influence, but there comes a time in the natural course of their maturing that they look outward. They may find additional role models at church, at school, and in the community. This is desirable.
But they WILL find prominent figures in the various venues of public life who WILL exert considerable influence on the kids’ attitudes and behavior. Its only natural that kids equate prominence with importance and that they think that imitating the prominent will lead them to the same importance. As parents we guide kids through this stage and past it into a more mature look at the world, but its a stage that can’t be bypassed.
The privileges of being a celebrity come with responsibilities. Nascar racers seem to universally understand this and there isn’t one of the regular drivers, especially at the Cup level, who doesn’t have some trait I’d be happy to see my kids copy. :-)
And for the kids who’ve been dealt a raw deal by life, who live without good parents and who live in communities where good role models are few and far between the influence of sports figures can, literally, be lifesaving.
Matt, I think I’d gladly deal with a tape-delayed Martinsville once a year if I didn’t have to ever hear DW on another broadcast or see another silly Fox gadget or gimmick! :-)
As you no doubt are aware , NASCAR is still likened to Lumbersports in many parts of the US
As a parent , i really have to take exception to the “ role model “ idea – that race drivers or athletes in general are supposed to be role models for our children . Of a list of the 1000 most important people
If everyone sang the praises of Nascar all the time change would never happen and the Brain Frances of the sport would take that as cart blanch to do whatever they wanted any time they wanted. Look what happened with Robby Gordon this week after the public outcry. It sometimes takes a jaded and public view to get favorable changes made in Nascar.
I think Matt needs a new tagline for his columns; “I Complain Because I Care”.