Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Matt McLaughlin · Thursday May 8, 2008
The Cup event at Richmond almost didn’t sell out last weekend, and that worries me. I know firsthand from my time as a fan in the stands how tough it used to be to get a ticket to that race; back then, once the renewals got sent out, the limited amount of seats remaining were offered to the general public. Getting some of those coveted tickets often involved a day off of work, along with chicanery like climbing fences and other desperate measures.
I guess those days are behind us.
I’ve rattled off my reasons why I feel longtime fans are growing alienated from the sport in numerous columns, and I won’t repeat myself here. That disenfranchisement may have a lot to do with empty seats at traditionally sold out venues; but right now, I think the biggest challenge facing promoters is the high cost of gas, and that’s a factor completely out of their control.
I’m well aware that despite the stereotype of race fans as rednecks, there are a lot of NASCAR fans with enviable incomes. Some of them still think nothing of towing a 40-foot Campground Caddy behind the Hummer to a distant locale, or loading up the F-350 for a cross country jaunt to their favorite track. God bless ‘em all; but there just aren’t enough of those fans to fill the grandstands anymore.
Thus, if I were a track promoter, I’d concentrate my efforts on luring in fans, new and old, to a demographic I’ll call the “One Tank” consumer; a fellow or lady who can reach the track and get back home on a single tank of gas.
How big a radius does that encompass? Having recently put some miles on my beloved ’88 Lincoln Town car, I’ll use that as my gauge. Yes, the big Lincoln is pretty atypical of what folks drive these days, which is why fine examples of mechanically solid low mile land yachts can still be had for a song. But in my recent travels, that old boat averaged 22 MPG — occasionally higher — with the cruise control set at a resolute 75 MPH and a tailwind at my back. In my experience, that’s about the same as a half-ton pickup or a mid-sized SUV, typical of what I see in the parking lot at some tracks.
Let’s do the math; the Missing Linc averages 22 MPG, and I was able to stuff about 18 gallons of distillate of dinosaur in the steerage section during each sphincter-tightening $75 fill-up at the local Exxon. That works out to approximately 400 miles per round trip on a tank of gas.
Well, there are two Cup tracks within that distance of stately Eyesore Acres where I reside: Dover and Pocono. Of course, that 200-mile radius also contains a lot of fans and potential fans, and that’s who I think those two tracks ought to be marketing to. The question is, at what price point they need to market their product?
I’ll select 150 dollars as the target price. That’s not an inconsiderable sum in this troubled economy, but it’s realistic for a lot of people not as a weekly expense, but as a biannual treat and a break from the ordinary. Naturally, that price wouldn’t include overnight lodging or a seat in the suites; what it should include is the price of gas to attend the race, a ticket to the Cup event with decent sightlines, two burgers, three cups of cold domestic beer, and maybe a ball cap as a keepsake of sorts. (As an aside, I still ascribe to the McLaughlin Law of Ball Caps: There is no ball cap ever made worth more than $9.95. Given the fact I have three large boxes of ball caps given to me for free by folks promoting everything from tractors to casinos, I have never and will never spend more than 10 bucks on one.)
Given my $150 target budget and a $75 tank of gas, that leaves only $80 for my ticket and other targeted items. That’s going to dent the promoter’s bottom line some; but given the fact you can’t control the cost of gas, he’s going to have to absorb some of the pain.
Then again, there’s also the beauty of the economy of scale. If I can convince one buddy to attend the race with me (and he doesn’t stiff me at the pump) my fuel cost is down to $35; plus, I have someone to bitch at while caught in post-race traffic. If, in fact, I were able to convince three friends to go on the adventure (and the Lincoln will transport the four of us in decadent luxury), my fuel cost is down to $17.50. That would be a major adjustment on our part from the old days. But with the usual debates about smoking in the car, what radio station to listen to, and when bathroom breaks should be taken, carpooling isn’t always ideal. In the old days, ten of us would show up at the rented cabin near Pocono — each one at the wheel of his own ride, usually towing or hauling some manner of off road conveyance. So, in order to entice old schoolers like us to come together, track management could offer some incentives: a quick exit lane from the parking lot for high-occupancy vehicles, one that allows four folks in a car or three across in a regular cab pickup. Not only does that encourage carpooling, it reduces traffic, and allows promoters to keep more of the targeted $150 per fan.
Simply reaching the target price isn’t enough for a promoter, though. After all, there are several intriguing ways of spending $150 of my shrinking discretionary income in this area. For example, I could haul the dirt bike up to the Poconos and ride the tracks and trails at Camelback, go boating for the afternoon on the Chesapeake, take the Harley for an overnight jaunt to New England, or hit the casinos for the weekend, given my tolerance of seedy motels and habit of limiting my gambling to a single roll of quarters pumped into the slots daily. So why should I spend my dough going to the races? While there is no way a track promoter can assure me that I’m going to see a great race, every effort should be made to see to it that I do. That means track promoters are going to have to get on NASCAR’s back and ride them like rodeo ponies to fix the problems with the new cars that have turned races on the midsize tracks into snore-fests. If the track itself is at fault (think Califorinia) the track’s owners have to bite the bullet and invest the funds to make the racing better. After all, there’s a lot of competition for that $150 in my wallet.
In addition to providing a more palatable product, track promoters have to eliminate those irritants that spoil a fan’s race day experience. The biggest complaint I hear from fans who attend races is the post-race traffic. Naturally, when you’re trying to move somewhere between 60 and 200,000 folks out of the same area at once, there’s going to be congestion; but the traffic at some tracks on the circuit is simply soul-sapping enough too many people have decided it’s not worth it. Working with local and state governments, track promoters need to coordinate ways to move the traffic more efficiently… even if it means adding slip ramps to highways and forgoing some tolls. (Are you listening down there in Dover?) Politicians need to be reminded of all the money fans pump into the local economy on race weekends. Empty seats don’t spend money, and traffic is limiting attendance. Before his untimely death, T. Wayne Roberts — Winston’s marketing guru — had identified traffic as the single biggest threat to the sport’s continued growth. Unfortunately, not enough folks took that message seriously.
Another hot button topic with fans at some tracks is the new “no smoking” policies some have instituted. Yeah, a lot of fans smoke, and it’s simply not reasonable to tell a pack a day smoker that he’s going to have to go four to six hours without lighting up; or, at best, seeking out some small sanctuary where smokers are herded, even while the action on the track continues. Yes, I am aware that a lot of non-smokers don’t like being around cigarette smoke. I’m all for non-smoking and family sections; we all need to get along. But the irony is Bristol was the first smoke free track; and that’s a track where I routinely got sick to the stomach from breathing in carbon monoxide on race weekends, an illness that had no relationship to the pack of smokes in my pocket. If the Feds were ever to measure the levels of exhaust in the stands at Bristol, the place would be shuttered up overnight. To sum up, if you’re truly worried about keeping Junior’s lungs healthy and pink, take him or her to an Earth Day hootenanny… not a race track.
As noted above, both the prices and the quality of the fare offered at concession stands is another major irritant to fans, particularly at tracks that ban or limit coolers. I am convinced that consumption of warm beer is a telling factor in the demise of the English Empire; and I’m not about to lay out six bucks for a cup of it.
Given the costs and inconveniences of attending a race live nowadays, the track promoters’ biggest allies in selling race tickets is the TV networks that provide the natural alternative to seeing a race live. In fact, if I were trying to sell tickets to One Tank fans, my marketing commercials would involve 45 seconds of ears-splitting bombast spewing from the mouth of Darrell Waltrip, followed by the tagline, “You can see the race live, or listen to this jabbering jackass tell you about it!” As a side note to the promoters at Dover and Pocono trying to lure One Tank fans: if you’re running ads to sell race tickets, you’re not running them during the shows I watch, on the radio stations I listen to, on the websites I visit, or at the places where I hang out with like-minded people.
Yeah, there’s still fans out there who’d like to go back to the races despite this perilous economy. Even with rising mortgage payments, rising prices at the pump and the supermarket, and uncertainty about jobs, everyone still needs and wants an occasional break from the ordinary. But the old mindset at the tracks and at NASCAR’s top level was if old time fans wanted to walk away, they were welcome to; after all, there were waiting lists of new fans eager to grab up those tickets. But that’s not the case anymore… obviously. With that said, it remains to be seen if the stewards of the sport can adjust quickly enough to the new economic realities — realities that will include four dollar a gallon gas — to survive.
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Great article, Matt – it’s definitely an interesting look at a big issue.
One other thing I would like to add is comfort: I’m a pretty average sized guy – 6’ tall, 200 pounds, with wide shoulders. For $80+ I rent a 12” wide piece of real estate that kills my back and is sandwiched in between two other 12” pieces of real estate with 20” wide asses in them. Because I only spent $80 and not $200, I’m positioned where I can’t see 90% of the track. I’ve got my knees in the back of the person in front of me, who farts a lot in retaliation for the discomfort I’m causing them.
The person in the row ahead of them worked very hard to build their 4’x8’x3/4” plywood “Go <insert their favorite driver here>! Boogity Boogity Boogity!” sign that they hold up every time the cars go by. The person behind me is mad at the guy with the sign, and insists on spraying beer at them every chance they get. Of course, somewhere in my row there is a woman with two kids that need to potty every 4 laps, so the whole row gets to do the wave as they try to squeak by.
I actually like the traffic on the way back from the track – all that extra family time gives me some time to try to explain to my kids why people get so drunk that security shows up, why people swear so much when their driver isn’t winning, why people swear so much when their driver is winning, and the science of the chemical reaction of body odor, beer, and sunblock.
I’m exaggerating (a little), but my point is pretty simple – the tracks could do something to make me feel a little bit better about spending money – give me a little room, maybe throw in a free seat pad, etc. I can spend $80 to be smashed into the stands, or I can spend about 15 to 20 cents on electricity to watch it on TV at home, lounging comfortably on my couch, going potty during the commercials, and taking a nap if it gets boring.
Once again, great analysis. I quit going to races several years ago for all of the reasons you stated. Now, it would be even worse. No way would I pay the high price of gas, tickets, food/drink and on top of that have to endure the often obnoxious fans. The track owners are going to lose money with empty seats, so they might as well make some cuts and come up with specials to draw fans. Otherwise, as the year goes on it will be worse. I would bet that the drivers are losing a bit of money on their over priced souvenirs as well. I have always wondered why NASCAR fans continue pay those outrageous prices, passing their hard earned money on to already rich drivers.
Matt and Travis, you both make good points. I think NASCAR is doing well to put as many butts in the seats as they have this year, though, considering the high price of tickets, the high price of gas, of everything at the store now that shipping costs are going up, mortgage issues, etc, etc… a time where race teams are themselves having issues finding sponsorship.
Maybe all of this is why the TV ratings are up – they’re watching from home because it’s cheaper.
With regard to getting the politicians to pony up for access improvements around the tracks – good luck! The price of highway projects has tripled since 2000 and most states are in fact cutting back on everything but maintenance at this point; getting them to put in more access for one or two weekends worth of traffic isn’t going to happen. If the track owners want to overcome the stigma of traffic in and out of their (privately owned) tracks, they should split the cost for these improvements, at least, and that’s only because I’m aware of the economic impact of these races. Or come up with solutions like at NHMS, where they reverse the flow of the nearby interstate highway’s northbound lanes to southbound when race traffic is getting out (I know that’s not possible everywhere though).
Travis! You named about 75% of the reason why I gave up 12 sets up tickets like by little (including great seats at Ricmond and much-coveted camping spot)! I got so sick of not only the crowded stands, but the rude people surrounding me at ALL venues.
Matt! As always, you hit the nail on the head. Love the “avoid DW” motivation! I know that was a major side-benefit when I was still attending races in person prior to 2005 when I “voted my my dollars” in protest of the Chase, Lucky Dog, obnoxious Junior fans, cooler rules, etc.
Mike in NH: “Maybe all of this is why the TV ratings are up – they’re watching from home because it’s cheaper.”
when i’ve gone to races, i’ve tried to save to be able to buy the $120 seats. but travis, you still get 12-18” of space to park your body. last i checked the average race fan, male or female, didn’t have 12” rear end and the guys have shoulders share your space with. you still have the feet in your back and beer and peanut shells showering down on you all day long. i use to buy an extra seat so i could have some room just so i wasn’t getting to know my seat neighbor in an almost intimate nature. you also don’t want to sit at the end of the row cause people will climb over you and on you going up and down the stairs. we won’t even mention heat. years ago, when i lived in mid-atlantic area, i was at dover for qualifying on a typical june friday (hot & humid) and some man had a heart attack in the top row. I swear it took 10 minutes for medics to climb up to get him and then the fans passed down the guy on the body board. now that i live in georgia, for the life of me i cannot figure out how at talladega i’m only allowed to take in a cooler the size of my lunch box and a clear tote, and then when i’m in the stands there goes someone with a backpack on wheels the size of a medium piece of luggage. you still have to shove this stuff between your feet and hope you con’t smash your snacks and lunch before halfway. at ams, a few years ago the track did get with the governor and get an extension built onto a highway to help ease traffic. well the brain trust now makes people, like myself, who can take back roads to the track, get on the highways just to get into the track. i had one too many people tell me in 2007 i couldn’t enter the track the way i came (which is the way i had been going for 10 years), turn around and get on 19/41 and get in 2 hrs of traffic. they also make fans park in the south forty (as i call it), and before, if you got to track at 7 am, you could park and not have to walk 5 miles to get to souviner area. older fans, like myself, have joint problems, but not severe enough for the handicapped permit. us older fans are the ones who supported the series. souviners?? i gave up buying them years ago, even when they hawk the stuff on qvc on friday nights. nothing is limited edition now, so that diecast isn’t worth the cost you pay. i also grew tired of seeing dale sr souviner riggs at the track, making more money for tei. still see rusty wallace riggs there too. i always would go to a race where i could get home and sleep in my bed. i’ve been to darlington, rockingham, ams, dega and charlotte. won’t pay for motel room. i’ll take a nap before leaving after race if i’m more than an hour from home to make sure i don’t fall asleep on the road. i use to justify the expense that i’d get 12 hrs of things to do and see, but now…i’m loosing enough money in my 401(k) that i can’t justify the expense of a race. couch at home with a/c any my own food and beer without having to haul it up stairs is fine with me. don’t have to worry about weather or sunblock either. good article matt.
We had renewable tickets at Dover for years. When Dover started building more seats but ignoring the parking and traffic issues, we gave them to our kids. They used them for a few years before they, too, couldn’t take it anymore. These were good seats in Row 10 of Turn 2. You could see the entire track and the faces of the drivers. Awesome! I miss the live racing, but after all this time I still can’t get over the negative traffic and parking issues enough to want to go back. Having said that, we also had tickets for the Southern 500 at Darlington. Now that city/town/burb knows what they’re doing!! The parking was incredible and they had the traffic feeder pattern down to a science. We never slowed down on the way to the track and we were back at our hotel 20 minutes after the race ended. Sure, let’s move THAT race. We can’t have a track owner who knows what he’s doing calling all the shots. Na$car = A$$hole$
Matt, That was one of the best articles I have seen on this website since I started reading it last year. I am a huge open wheel fan, but I like all motorsports and have been to tracks all over the world. My family has own Indianapolis 500 tickets since the 30s (I have attended the last 29 years)and I have also attended many F1 races overseas. I share everyone’s pain in what it is like to go to race in person (but like everyone who goes, TV just doesn’t do it for me). But if you think it is bad here trying going to an F1 race in Europe, most Sunday only tickets are close to $300 US and you don’t the have sightlines that you do at Richmond (which by the way is one of the nicest tracks I have every been to, from the facility to the people that work there everything is first class and I will be attending my second indycar race there next month)or any other US venue. The fans in Europe are even more into thier favorite drivers than they are over here, obnoxious on a scale you couldn’t comprehend. Expensive food? (try $12 for a 12 ounce coke with no ice and that was in 1987 at Monaco). I guess what I am saying is it could be worse than it is and I would rather spend 4 hours watching a race with a bunch of obnoxious fans that 30 seconds of golf!!
We started attending races in 2000. At that time we could Fly, rent a car, get our hotel and tickets to the races for $1,000.00. A few times that even included bus transfers to and from the track. We would attend 2 to 3 a year trying to make it to all the tracks on the circuit. No way can we do that anymore. Ohh the good old days. I know that is not that long ago.
All airlines know how popular Nascar is and they up the fees. Hotels rooms that any other weekend would be 49.00 a nite will run you 125.00 a nite some even require a 3 nite stay. Then last but not least throw in your tickets and food, water, snacks and anything else you might enjoy at the track is priced crazy. They are hitting us from ALL angles with these prices.
The last 2 to 3 years we have been driving to the races because of the outrageous airline tix’s. Even though I drive a smaller SUV (that I owe to much to get out of) it cost us $350 to get to Richmond last weekend in gas alone and then throw on the hotel and race tix’s we were WAY over $1000. Chicago will be our last for this year. It’s only 2 hours away but most likely will be the last one we will go to there. Being forced to buy season tix’s is to expensive and we can’t even give away the Sept race tix’s much less sell them. Danica is from our area and we might have a slight chance to sell the IRL this year.
Todays costs of going to any event on any level is out of the reach of most of us. I remember the days of going on thursday thru sunday for a race, 4or 5 times a year. pocono, richmond, daytona, watkins glen or dover. those days are gone forever. things for me changed after that dopey days of thunder movie. thats when things began to change for the so-called race fan. its never been the same since.
Oh geez, how did I miss this one? Even an article NOT about California gets the required slam against California in it. Give it a rest. You can pick on California twice a year: In February and on Labor Day weekend. “roll eyes”
Considering the attendence or lack thereof at Fontana how could the comment not be germane.
I’d also point out that folks in LaLa land tend to pay some of the highest gas prices in the country and have a huge amount of options of what to do with thier 150 bucks. There’s not many places you can go skiing and tan on the beach on the same day
Wow…$125 for a room? You haven’t been to Bristol yet, have you? hehe We so enjoy our 3 night minimum @ $230/night…and I’ve heard of much worse in the area.
Fontana isnt the only track having attendance issues, so dont just pick on them. The track was built by Roger Penske for both stock cars and indy cars. Its wide with lots of room, but its low banking, too.
Gasoline starts at $3.90 a gallon and goes up from there around here.
Yes we have been to Bristol. We were there the spring race when it snowed. We had hooked up with a bus company out of Long Island. We did the meet us there package. This package was hotel and transfers to and from for both races. We were about an hour away from the track. I did hear the front desk tell someone on the phone they had rooms for 110.00 available.
Fontana ought to have more vacant seats than any track, since it didn’t sell out during good times.
Fontana DID sell out prior to 2004 when they got the Labor Day date, and the curse of the lady in black began.
While Matt loathes the road courses, Infineon (in recent years) is an awesome venue to watch a Cup race live. Bruton has done wonders with that track. Everything from seating (terrace seating is wonderful), mobility around the track, flow of traffic in and out of the facility and sightlines anywhere around the track have improved tremendously. Gone are the rickety wooden bridges that would sway and groan when loaded down with several hundred race fans and replaced with a couple spacious tunnels that are big enough to drive a semi through. Golf carts, trams and busses are buzzing around the facility throughout the entire day shuttling fans to any part of the track within minutes.
Obviously Infineon is not immune to high ticket and food prices, but you are still allowed to bring coolers filled with food and drinks into the track with you. The terrace seating has spoiled me forever. I can never sit in cramped grandstand seating again. Each seat is more than adequate to accommodate large adults without having to analyze how many hours it’s been since your neighbor last applied deodorant. But here’s the real selling point. You can walk the span of any row and not have to ask a single person to scoot their legs in or kick the row in front of you in the back as you pass by. Each row is remarkably wide.
I know some people that have never been to a road course like to complain about them. One major complaint is that you can’t see the entire track. Somehow I doubt you can see Pocono in its entirety. When I order my tickets I simply asked to be seated across from one of the many giant screens playing the race live. I can watch all the action that isn’t directly in front of me, watch replays and pit stops. It’s a pretty simple fix.
Back in the pre-Bruton Smith days, once the race was over, the track workers and parking lot navigators just abandoned ship and it was every man for himself getting out of the track. 5 to 6 hours was not uncommon to even hit the road to start your journey home. Last year I was out of the parking lot and on my way home in under an hour. Getting 100,000 people funneled out of there in that amount of time is phenominal.