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 June 5, 2008
As I noted last week in this space, the second third of the Cup season kicked off Sunday at Dover. And while officially, summer is still a few weeks off, the de facto summer is now officially in session. What do fans have to look forward to in this next string of 12 races? Sadly, not a whole lot. A combination of the new cars, the points system, and tracks that usually offer less than scintillating action might just form the perfect storm to make this a tedious few months for even devoted fans to endure. And for the growing number of fans who are on the fence about sticking with the sport, these next 12 races might just be enough to make them decide their valuable spare time is better devoted to other activities — like watching the paint dry on the corner fire hydrant.
Looking at the next 12 races on the schedule while trying to muster some enthusiasm, one needs to look on the bright side. The Bristol night race is one of the most anticipated races of the season for most fans, but that event isn’t until August 23rd, which seems an eternity away right now. I might be in the minority, but I actually enjoy the racing at Dover and the two Pocono races on the schedule. Of course, in that respect, I can be accused of geographical bias, as those tracks are the two closest to my rural Chester County home. I won’t argue with those who accuse me of bias in that regard—I’ve had a lot of fun at both tracks and seen some great races, though truthfully, it’s been awhile.
Some other “highlights” of the summer stretch include both of NASCAR’s Cup Series road races. I’ll have to admit, I just can’t muster any enthusiasm for Cup cars taking to the road courses. I have nothing against road course racing per se, even in full-fendered cars; in fact, the Trans Am series of the late ’60s and early ’70s provided some of the most intense racing action I’ve ever witnessed. But those cars were specially designed for road course racing (while keeping some semblance of their street counterparts) and the heroes who drove them like they hated them were accomplished road course aces. There’s a few NASCAR drivers who are quite good on the road courses, but there’s also a great many who just go out there and make themselves look silly at the helm of cars that were, by and large, designed to go fast and turn left. Passing is at a premium and side by side action is rare. All too often these races are decided on fuel mileage, too; a pet peeve of mine. Yes, I am aware there are fans out there who really love the road course races. I hear from them every time I call for the road course races to be eliminated. Their opinion is no less valid than mine; but the fairest of those fans will admit they are in the minority. Traditionally, the road course races draw some of the worst ratings of the season. In the good old days, NASCAR actually had to pair TV rights for the road course races with more popular events just to get them televised.
There are also fans that seem to think that the Brickyard 400 is as big a deal as NASCAR officials try to pretend it is. To me, the Brickyard is all sizzle and no steak — a case of worshiping in somebody else’s church. I am well aware of the rich heritage and lofty position the Brickyard holds in the pantheon of auto racing circuits, but Cup cars are too large and ill-handling to race very well around the relatively flat and sharp corners at Indy. Add in the new car factor, and my guess is this year’s Brickyard 400 will provide the SAFER barriers with their most severe test yet.
As for New Hampshire, the less said, the better. The track has provided some of the worst races in recent memory. Even the new owner, who shelled out a ton of change for the joint, is ready to level the place and start from scratch. Yes, I think fans in New England deserve a race; it’s just that they’ve been shelling out money for tickets to NHIS for over a decade, and they still haven’t gotten to see a good one. If I were Bruton Smith, I know where I’d get my new dates for Las Vegas and Kentucky.
It pains me to see the quality of racing at Michigan today because in the ’80s the track used to host some of the most exciting races on the schedule – thundering side-by-side packs of cars drafting and sling-shotting on the final lap looking for the checkers. But nowadays, Michigan is about MPG, not MPH, and there’s something Shakespearian about the Mid-Summer’s Dream that fans in attendance catch during their naps. The fact this track will host two dates this summer makes me consider the second race, “This – Again?” Note to Brian France: One of these dates could be moved to Rockingham to general fanfare.
Some fans really seem to like the plate races, but there are others like me who considered them dangerously contrived excitement. I’ve never warmed to the idea of moving the race from an early Saturday start to beat the thunderstorms to a night race.
That leaves a place called Joliet, the insipid little asterisk on the schedule at a venue reputed to be somewhere in the vicinity of Chicago. This joint was doomed from the start, designed as a dual use stock car/open wheel race track in an era where folks in the region felt open wheel racing was great even while the rest of the country lost interest in the whole soap opera of CART and the IRL. I know of one lone false prophet who routinely writes Joliet deserves a second race, and he has to — he works for the owners. I know of many more fans from the area who used to attend the Joliet races, but tell me they wouldn’t go back even if track management agreed to have Heather Locklear chaperone them there in a limo and then sit in their laps in a luxury suite during the race.
Yes, this is stock car racing, and you just never know what’s next. Any one of the tracks not noted for great racing could serve up an instant classic this summer… and I truly hope they do. If writing something interesting about a good race is difficult, there’s nothing worse than trying to write something interesting about a really terrible race once you get beyond the purple-faced histrionics in the first sentence. Experience tells me that the ratio of classics to clinkers this summer will be such it will drive more fans from the sport rather than swell our ranks. I understand why some will find other pursuits to fill their Sunday afternoons this summer; I once took a summer off from writing about racing and I may do so again next year. There’s too many country roads to be ridden, old cars that need fixing, and young ladies that need wooing to spend Labor Day weekend looking back at a summer spent dog-earing the Thesaurus on the pages that notes synonyms for “tedious” and “disappointing.” So, why don’t I take this summer off? Quite frankly, I need the coin. Willy G ain’t giving his scoots away, you know?
Adding to the malaise this summer is the Car of Horror, the Winged Blunder that nobody in NASCAR officialdom will admit yet is the biggest design blunder since the Pontiac Aztek. It’s turned even once competitive race tracks into no passing zones, so one can only imagine how bad those cars will be at tracks where passing was already at a premium. Post-race quotes by drivers, public and private, after the recent Pocono test aren’t encouraging. Eventually, someone in Daytona Beach is going to have the gumption to admit this new dog won’t hunt, but I doubt it will be this summer.
Then, of course, there is the upcoming Chase. As the summer wears on, drivers who are already in the Top 12 are going to adopt increasingly conservative strategies to maintain those positions. That keeps them from going all out to put on a show for the fans — and we’re discussing a group of drivers many fans consider their favorites. You can’t blame those drivers, though. Their sponsors want to see their boys in the Chase, and they aren’t going to be appeased if their driver led the most laps at Bristol, but wrecked out gunning for a win on the last lap. It’s a harsh truth… but it’s reality.
Hey, maybe I’m wrong. I hope I’m wrong. I hope that come Labor Day weekend, I’m sitting here at this same keyboard banging out a column that compares this summer’s events favorably to racing in the good old days. I’ll gladly eat crow if that’s the case as, at heart, I remain an optimist. You have to be an optimist to ride a motorcycle here in Chester County with our booming populations of suicidal white tail deer and brain dead yuppies yapping on the cell phone at the wheel of their oversized leased luxury SUVs. (Truth be told, I’d prefer the deer drive the trucks and yuppies try to dash across the street in front of me).
So, let’s all hope together that this is finally the year the summer races shine and Santa finally brings up that pony — even if it does make us look a little foolish now that we’re wearing relaxed fit jeans rather than Dr. Denton’s. But meanwhile, if you see a guy who you think might be me aboard a black Harley stuck in pre-race traffic at Indy or Joliet… that’ll be somebody else.
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
No Matt, I don’t think you are wrong at all. It will be a long hot summer until Bristol. Even there, I don’t expect too much. At least it’s summer, so there are plenty of things to do on Sunday afternoon. If I’m home, I can check in now and then, and, maybe, catch the last few laps to see who is getting good mpg, who hasn’t wrecked yet, and who is running away with the race.
NA$CAR admit they are wrong? Never happen. Smokey came up with the fuel cell after Fireball died. That big asshole Bill France still would not allow the fuel cell in NA$CAR.
Smokey pateneted a soft wall in the sixties. France would not allow it.
With Brain Dead France at the helm nothing is gonna change. For all NA$CAR faithfull that love NA$CAR and FOX, well, just keeping drinking the NA$CAR Kool Aid and keep eating those Mickey Waltrip Poopcycles.
Could not agree more with your Brickyard assessment – can’t stand the place. 3400lb cars have no business there. 5 laps in, and they are all single file after that. In 13 years, I’ve seen only two full flag to flag races. The other 11 I’ve napped.
Man, you really have bone to pick with Joliet. I guess I’m missing something there.
I am afrid Mikey you are spot on with your summer assessment. I enjoy the road courses so those will give a couple of weeks of interest. The others on the schedule will be good nap material.
Bristol will be a snoozer as well, since they went to this totally stupid Chase format the fall Bristol race has been boring. No one will race with the Chase contenders and the Chase contenders are content to just hold thier positions.
Lastly, the other thing I see the coming from the Chase. I predict that drivers are going to start missing some races. Jeff Gordon for instance, last year held such a large point lead that this time last summer he could have missed a race and still had a one race cushion. I look for some guys to start looking at this as an option in the next couple of years. Why run all these races if you can get yourself a week off and it does not hurt you.
Really a damned shame that Joilet was ever built. This race should be on the historic Milwaukee mile. I have to disagree about the road courses, but you are spot on with the rest. Especially Indy. If the suits really want to return to their roots.(what a crock!) Then I can tell them how. Move this Joilet mess, about 150 miles southwest. If you think the Prelude to the Dream, was big Think about 300 laps on the dirt,Springfield Mile. That would the most talked about, & anticipated race since Indy. This would be so BIG that Big BS,(Bruton Smith) would be trying to buy the Ill. State Fairgrounds! PLEASE Suits from Daytona, give us something besides more Pablum!
That’s an interesting point you bring up about Chase teams skipping races, but I personally don’t think we’ll see it happen. First off, the sponsors probably wouldn’t like it.
It might be an interesting strategy for short-term savings, but I think it would be costly in the long run. If a 2008 chase team struggles a bit in 2009, a good run at one of the later regular season races based on setup data from this year could be what gets them in the chase next year. There’s a lot to be learned by actually running.
Actually, as a NH race fan, I can say I have seen some good racing at NHIS – er, NHMS. Having been closely monitoring the situation, Bruton Smith hasn’t said anything about levelling and starting over. He wants to make improvements, by that I guess more seats and amenities. Though it wouldn’t be the first track he’s bought that he’s changed the configuration of. Still, it beats the hell out of the cookie cutter tri-ovals. Anyone who is a Pocono regular should definitely not be throwing stones about how dull racing is elsewhere.
As for our races, if they want to be stupid and lose money – NHIS has sold out two 90,000 seat races every year since it opened, something you can’t say about many other tracks like Pocono, Dover, and Rockingham before they closed it – then go ahead and piss off the fans in one of the markets that NASCAR values heavily. Of course, saying we deserve a race then saying they should both be yanked is contradictory anyway. Just because we don’t constantly blow our horn about how great a tradition for local racing of all types there is up here doesn’t mean there isn’t any – I have three local tracks within an hour or two, and several other two or three hours away. It’s fertile racing ground NASCAR wants to keep happy. That means we won’t be losing both races. We may lose one – though I can’t see how losing 90,000 seats at one track to put them at another makes Smith’s company any more money, and it could wind up losing money – Kentucky would have to expand to get to 90k, not to mention cannibalizing fans from other nearby tracks, and adding another race to Vegas would probably result in smaller crowds at the other LV race (like what happened in Atlanta) or at least an even greater impact on struggling California Speedway (or whatever it’s called now).
I have a question about the COT to which I am hoping someone might have an answer.
Joliet is only 2 hours away for us and we have been attending the races there since they started. This year will be our last. We used to drive it back and forth. No over priced hotel, airfares, rental cars and most important no vacation days used. Now with night races we will have to take off Friday to get to the track. We really don’t follow Arca at all. We follow a little of IRL only because Danica is from our area, but we don’t sit and watch a whole race. Joliet makes you buy season tickets which is really a rip off when we don’t care for the Arca/IRL races. We have tried to sell those tickets and only once have been able to get any thing back for them. We have even tried to give them away and can’t.
Last but not least the races there have just not been all that great and last year was the worst.
Regarding cars skipping a race before the Chase…the Happy Hour column before Richmond will discuss that very topic…stay tuned.
Sorry for the shameless plug…back to you Matt.
I happen to be one who enjoys road racing because it goes back to the roots of bootleggers running moonshine on country roads. That aside, the biggest mistake that NA$CAR has made in recent years, beside Brain Dead Brian taking the helm, has been the Box on Wheels. When you take great races, like Bristol, and turn them into an afternoon nap from the boredom, that alone should tell you something is majorly wrong.
Maybe with Bruton buying up all these tracks he’s getting prepared to start the much speculated about racing series he’s been rumored to have been wanting to start for many a year. If he puts the “stock” back in stock car racing and makes it more about racing than sponsors, he could get a big draw from all the disillusioned NA$CAR fans.
The triangle of boredom is a rotten place to see a race. I have been there 3 years and will never go back. There is hardly a good seat in the house.
People go to races to see a race. Not 15% of a track and then some sort of movement off in the distance. Of course if you are in the few sections where you can see the giant screen you can see more but I would rather be home if I am going to watch TV than on those back breaking benches. Even while sitting on the top row at Pocono the view blows.
I will say that Joliet was built so that from every seat you can see all around the track. But watching cars play follow the leader is a snoozer.
I for the life of me can not understand how Indy gets the crowds it does to the races. Of all the tracks we have been to it has the worst view of the track. We were 3 rows from top in the shade. Tickets were 150.00 each. All you can see is the cars coming out of 4 then into turn 1 you get a peek around the museum and then you set and watch the monitors until they come back out of 4 because of a stupid golf course and woods. The day was hotter than all get out and we could have watched TV at home in our recliners with the air on. Indy is our 2nd closest track but we wouldn’t go again if someone gave us tickets.
For some reason Darlington (even over Bristol) has been my favorite track. Maybe because I felt like we were going back in time and the race was great. We need more tracks like these
Mike in Nh even with your sellouts in Nh we still had more people in Dover than you ever had up there for any race. There are 140,000 seats at Dover and only 107,000 in Nh even with our 10,000 empty seats we still had 25,000 more than you if you don’t belive me look at jayski track facts and I would not take a free ticket to Nh.
Matt!! Your the best!
Simply the best writer one could read, and this column has all the eamarks of being one of your greatest yet!
HEY!! Do I have your undivided attention???
I happen to love road racing!
Go stand on the back stretch at Watkins Glen while 43 cars come at you at speed! All trying to make the bus stop at the same time!
Too bad Brian took that excitement away with the CoT! I will not go this year for sure! And that equates six (6) unsold tickets!
What a shame!
I agree with you on probably 99% of your points (the Chase, the COT, plate racing, etc.), but I enjoy NASCAR road racing if for no other reason that it lends some much needed variety in a sea of anonymous tracks. And as a self-proclaimed traditionalist you have to admit that road racing is at least as much a part of NASCAR as (dare I say?) the Southern 500 at Darlington. And sweet Jesus would you please stop about the whole Chicago / Joliet thing. Yeah, the track may stink and yes it is in Joliet and not Chicago, but every time you mention it you insist on emphasizing the Joliet thing (why they call it ChicagoLAND Speedway maybe) like NASCAR is trying to perpetrate this insidious fraud on race fans but you’re having none of it. As you well know there’s way more wrong in racing these days than the names of the tracks.
Otherwise, keep on keeping it real!
As a 40 year follower of Nascar — the biggest problem Brian France has is my DVR — I now use it every weekend to zoom thru the race and commercials, then watch the last 30 laps