Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Matt McLaughlin · Thursday August 21, 2008
I don’t know if it’s the passing of the years or the consuming of beers, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how different it is to be a NASCAR fan than it was decades ago when I first became interested in the sport. For instance, a couple of weeks ago, personal obligations forced me to miss most of the Nationwide race from Watkins Glen. But once I finished up doing what needed doing, I wanted to find out who had won the race — and if the carnage that marked the opening laps had continued all afternoon.
Well, all it took was a few brief key strokes and I was able to find out Marcos Ambrose had won, watched a brief video of his post-race comments, checked out the final finishing order, and reviewed a near lap by lap recount of the race. Had the incidents involving “Vile Kyle” and Jeff Burton incensed me enough (they didn’t — I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused) I could have jumped on a message board and discussed the incidents with other fans not only across the country, but from around the globe (at least to the extent anyone outside the United States really gives a fig about NASCAR’s “B” series — the Toyota Invitational — this year). While I endure a love/hate relationship with this computer — it is part of my job, but I am far from the most technically savvy individual dragging his knuckles across the face of the Earth — the fact that even I could gather all that information in a few short moments at virtually no expense is rather neat.
Still wondering why I reminisce all the time about the old days? All right, kids — pull up a seat and get ready to listen to Gramps in his loud Hawaiian shirt fill you in on how things worked for a racing fan only a few decades ago.
Back then, not only was there no Internet, there was damn little NASCAR racing on TV; only brief, tape delayed segments. Living here in the Northeast, I was lucky if there was a single paragraph account of that Sunday’s Cup race on the final page of the sports section, listed under the odds on the horses at local tracks that day. Normally, there wasn’t — unless it was a big race, like the Southern 500 or the World 600. So, if I couldn’t find the information, I’d call my cousin or uncle in North Carolina to get the scoop. Back then, there were no free weekend or evening minutes — you picked up the receiver of a phone mounted on the wall, used a rotary dial to place the call, and paid through the nose for it. My Uncle would clip the articles about the races from the local paper and mail them to me every few weeks, since he knew I loved racing. Actually, those articles helped me learn to read when I was five.
ABC’s Wide World of Sports occasionally did do some NASCAR coverage. Most typically they’d join a race in progress, review what had happened earlier in the event, and then intersperse the rest of the race with stuff like lumber sports and javelin throwing. As a young man, I lived for whatever racing ABC would offer me. I simply never would have believed that one day every Truck, Nationwide, and Cup race would be broadcast live in its entirety. For all the faults of contemporary race broadcasts (and there are myriad) if the guys in the FOX booth finally wear your nerves thin, you can mute the audio and watch the action. I’m not one of those guys who’s going to tell you to quit complaining about what you don’t like about today’s TV coverage… I agree with you. It’s not all that much harder to do things well rather than do them poorly, and since the cameras and satellite trucks are already there, the networks should improve their product. But don’t forget, any coverage today beats what us longtime fans used to get as little as 30 years ago.
In addition to live broadcasts of the races themselves, NASCAR fans enjoy a lot of other benefits today. There are numerous cable channels broadcasting shows related to NASCAR racing on an almost nightly basis, and I doubt it would be possible to watch them all even if you wanted to — because many of them overlap. There are shows devoted to pre-race coverage, followed by the race itself… which is then followed by shows devoted to post-race analysis. During the week, there are numerous discussion programs that analyze the previous week’s race and preview upcoming events. Then, you can jump on the Internet and read discussions about the discussion shows and watch video clips of them.
Obviously, the only reason you are reading this right now is because of the Internet. I don’t have a journalism degree. I am not a reporter. I’m a guy with a point of view that some people enjoy who managed to find homes to keep doing this for a long while now. How long? Hell if I remember. Let’s put it this way: When I met Jayski, he was living in his folks’ place in Cape May, New Jersey, driving a maroon T-Bird with like 2 gazillion miles on it. He was working a 9-5 job back then, and he considered his site an interesting hobby that was getting a little out of hand as far as how much time it consumed. The first time we met for a few beers down the shore, he had an Ernie Irvan sticker in the window of his Ford and I was wearing a Bill Elliott No. 94 T-Shirt and Dick Trickle ball cap. Even the Charlotte Observer didn’t have their website, That’s Racin’, up yet, and Mark Martin hadn’t even retired for the first time. Yeah, kids… that was a real long time ago.
Not long after Jay and I got acquainted, he started posting links to articles on other sites “in the interest of giving readers a variety of points of views and some enjoyment” — as he still puts it today. In doing so, the inestimable Mr. J started a cottage industry, a rapid proliferation of independent NASCAR websites and folks who wrote articles to provide content for them, followed by more professionally produced sites, many of them related to newspapers or TV channels. Many, if not most, of those old websites have fallen by the wayside; but some have flourished, and many more are added almost daily. For some fans, they might be reaching the saturation point. One day last year when I was home with the flu, I decided I was going to read every single article posted on Jay’s link page that day. Well I sure ain’t ever going to do that again — while there’s some very good writers out there, many of them lonely pamphleteers who run small websites, there’s also some real drek. But on a personal level, links to the website of the small racing newspaper I used to write for launched my musings onto a larger stage. During the Dot.com boom, it was almost an embarrassment of riches for a few years; but since it kept me in bikes, beer, and blue jeans, I rolled with it.
There was an era of my life when I was old enough to drive but before the advent of cable TV and ESPN, when the only programming that might offer an insight on life as a NASCAR fan North of the Mason Dixon line was MRN. I live in the Philly market and it has been my home since Springsteen was staging shows at the Main Point in front of a couple hundred fans — or back when no radio stations carried racing coverage. The closest station that carried MRN on Sunday afternoons was in Dover, Delaware, and the closest place to my home that reliably got the Dover signal was an odd little spit of land in extreme southern New Jersey that the locals called “the Baja.” I never have figured out how, but legally that acreage belongs to Delaware, not New Jersey — though it is across the Delaware Bay from the First State’s mainland. The Jersey cops had no jurisdiction there, and the Delaware cops never patrolled it. It was a fine place to run wild down the sandy trails in your four-by or on your dirt bike, or to stage keg parties that sometimes raged on for the entire weekend. While four wheeling down there one day, I found that Delaware station on the radio by chance; and after that, most weeks a buddy and I would jump in my truck and head down to the Baja to catch the race. We’d park the truck on the beach by the water, positioning it for the best reception we could by little more than trial and error.
I’ve always had a thing for black Ford trucks with big engines, big tires, and big pipes. That’s all well and good for trail riding, but in the dog days of summer a black truck heats up inside even with the windows down. My buddy and I would take turns running down to the water for a dip during commercials; a blast of the horns would let the other know that the racing had resumed. We’d sit there baking like clams, downing beers and listening to the coverage from such exotic locales as Martinsville, North Wilkesboro, and Bristol, places I dreamed of seeing one day and places I have been to since. No, AM radio wasn’t in high def, and there were days the signal faded in and out all day; but back then, if you were a hardcore fan, those were the extremes you’d go to just to catch the race.
While in college I worked, sometimes several jobs, and earned some money — the kind you didn’t report on your 1040 — by racing in the streets. For a college kid, I usually had a fair amount of cash in my pocket — a settlement from a bike wreck didn’t hurt any, though the wreck itself hurt a good deal. A young man’s dreams often turn to road trips, and back then we would use the cash to go off skiing for the weekend or crashing at a place down the Jersey shore with 40 or 50 friends stuffed in a rental property. That was, of course, until that fateful phone call from my cousin down in North Carolina telling me he had a couple spare tickets for the 1979 Southern 500 — and asking if I was interested in driving down and going to the race. With my Sophomore year of college about ready to commence, the idea of the biggest road trip of my life had instant appeal. That call came in around 10 on Friday morning, and by noon, a buddy and I were southbound on 195 with him unfolding an Exxon road map trying to figure out where South Carolina was — South, I reckoned. We’d hit North Carolina and go South from there, then ask for directions when we found South Carolina. No, kids, there were no Garmins back then.
We took that trip in a black 70 SS big block four speed El Camino.. It wasn’t Barrett-Jackson bait back then, it was just transportation…fast, loud transportation. That old Elky might not have been the greatest choice for a road trip car, but the bed held more coolers than my Buick GS or Boss 302, though in retrospect the GS did have AC. If I recall correctly, the truck had 3.42 rear gears, but they might have been 3.73s. Either way, that big engine was screaming as we roared South with the speedometer hovering around 85, my naïve trust placed in a Fuzzbuster radar detector the size of a shoebox hanging from the passenger side visor. The truck was “between carpets” that weekend, so the headers heated the floorpans to the point the heel of the sneaker on my right foot was melting. I put on cowboy boots instead. The gas tank had a leak at the seam, so I couldn’t put more than 10 gallons in it without leakage; thus, gas stops were frequent. I’d put seven bucks in the tank while my buddy ran to find munchies. (Gas stations didn’t have convenience stores back then, they had service bays). Then it was back off down the highway — warp factor five.
As we got farther South, we received increasing attention and ever some hostile glances. First off, I was driving like an idiot while drinking beer in plain view. (Terrible idea, kids, never ever do this!) The exhaust fumes coming in through the rust on the toeboard had me a little woozy and, to be honest, those fumes weren’t the only things I was inhaling that had me a little off my game. At gas stops, even if the Pennsylvania tag didn’t give me away, I only had to open my mouth long enough to say hi for people to note, “you’re not from around here, are ya boy?” But when the discussion turned to where we were headed and I said we were heading to the Southern 500, the tension broke. We’d talk about racing, bonding as fans with an interest in common trying to simply figure out what each other was saying.
Reflecting back, I can’t believe we completed the trip without an arrest. If they’d made us empty our pockets or looked in the glovebox, I’d probably still be working on a chain gang scything the grass along North Carolina highways to this day. Keep in mind, we were a pair of Yankee kids with long hair (mine Bruce, Born to Run length… his full Greg Allman length), wearing earrings when earrings weren’t cool, running 30 over the limit, drinking, smoking, and carrying on with that cowl induction flapper wide open most of the run.
It turned out to be both a great weekend and a great race. The three of us stayed at the King’s Inn and met Bill Elliott, a then-virtual unknown. Elliott was sponsored by King’s Inn that weekend, so his team was staying there. (Drivers didn’t have motor coaches back then). David Pearson, filling in for an injured Dale Earnhardt in the No. 2 car, won the race but our boy Bill finished second, albeit two laps behind Pearson. Pearson had been the master of Darlington — Elliott was to become one. We partied most of the night, grabbed a few hours sleep, then headed back North to start the school year. That trip, the first great road trip, altered my life. I became a huge fan of Darlington and Bill Elliott, and it was the first of many impromptu road trips South to catch the races. No tickets? We’d find ‘em. No place to sleep? Either we’d find a room or we’d blow up air mattresses and sleep in the bed of the El Camino there in the lot. The romance of travel, the roar of the stock cars, and getting to meet other fans was the lure — and there was no cure. Gas was cheaper back then, but travel by car was a lot more exciting. Even a trip to the shore involved a very real possibility of a flat tire, busted radiator hose, or simple overheating issues in cars of that era — especially the sort I drove and the way I drove them. But if it broke, you hitchhiked to NAPA, got your part, and fixed it right there. Cars today are much more reliable — flats and thrown belts are rare. It makes for a less stressful trip, but I pity the young man who never got to take a road trip South in a car that could make groves of palmetto pines look like a picket fence catching rubber into fourth gear. Back then, you just carried tools and hoped for the best. To give you an idea, a day or two before I got back from Darlington on that first trip, the water pump on that black Chevy broke and put the fan through the radiator.
Like taking road trips, being a NASCAR fan is a lot easier in this day and age. With the advent of High Def cable TVs, DVRs, satellite radio, the Internet and cell phones that mimic all of the above, it’s easy to stay on top of the action. As a fan, you can get glimpses behind the curtain and the latest rumors once reserved only for those in the garage. Easier is better, I suppose; that’s how I’ve always conducted my social life. But there was a certain charm to those days when you had to work hard to be a NASCAR fan anywhere outside the Deep South and took a lot of grief in polite society for doing so. So, next time some of you newer fans take exception to something I’ve written and want to tell me if I’m going to be so negative, that I should find a new sport, I respectfully ask you to remember I was a NASCAR fan back when being a fan wasn’t cool — and back when it was a whole lot harder than it is today.
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
I almost cried- that brought back so many memories of a time when to be a NASCAR fan involved sacrifice and personal involvement. Those days are long gone. (Yes, I know this sounds like the old “when I was your age I had to walk ten miles through the snow and strangle grizzly bears just to get to school” stories, but that’s the way it really was, kids!)
The other thing that was fun about being a fan ‘back in the day’ (especially if you weren’t from the South) was the feeling that you knew about this exciting sport called stock car racing, and most people had no idea what they were missing! If you started talking about racing, people’s eyes glazed over and they wandered away mumbling under their breath. It was as if you had this wonderful secret that most people were too ignorant to understand. The people that did know about it really KNEW about it…not just a driver or two and a T shirt with a number on it. I sorta miss that.
Matt, thanks for sharing your experience.
Matt, that was a great article, brought back g ood memories for me also.You alluded to the fact that you didnt have a degree in journalism, you dont need one, you are much better at writing than those that have more letters after their names than in their names.BTW, MRN radio still has better broadcasting than the so-called elite(ESPN, FOX,etc).Next race find a MRN station and mute your TV. Keep up the “top-knoch” writing!
Great article. I am from the South and as a 13 year old (1963) became a NASCAR fan after seeing a movie called “Thunder in Carolina.” I could only get two races on the radio, the Atlanta 500 and the Dixie 400, both from Atlanta. I would listen to Al Ciraldo (Ga Tech football broadcaster) do the race and talk about all of the races coming up. I wanted so bad to get them on the radio, never even dreaming about live TV. He would bring the action to life talking about Banjo Mathews and Fastback Freddie Lorenzen dualing “side by side, bumper to bumper” for lap after lap. I could only imagine what that looked and sounded like. Now that I have too much info, I could almost care less. Times change.
I was raised and spent most of my adult life in Maryland. I loved racing, and people thought I was nuts in the 70’s. Especially when they found out I actually raced. Women didn’t do that back then. I think what helped launch NASCAR to the world north of Virginia was 1979 Daytona 500 and the blizzard in the northeast. People thought I was nuts to drive to Dover, Pocono, Watkins Glen or Richmond to see a race. Got some great memories of steaming Chesapeake Bay blue crabs in the infield at Dover and Dave Marcus and his team joining us. Those were good times. Remember going to Richmond in the snow and after a hurricane. Remember the track setting up generators to pump out the garages and to get power for scoring and lights. I remember Dover before you could fit 90,000 in the grandstands and the only way to Dover was on US 13 and parking at the Blue Hen Mall.
I moved to Atlanta 10 yrs ago. I loved the fall race at Atlanta as that was where the champion was crowned. Winston was great. Saw some great champions and fans in the stands were part of the celebration. Drivers were still fairly approachable even 10 yrs ago. I always was able to spend time with Dale Earnhardt. It didn’t cost an arm and leg to go to race, and you could get pit access without having to pay $$ for pit passes. Now, small loans are needed and you are herded by the rent-a-cops, and only the up and coming or fill in drivers walk to their cars on qualifying day.
Ya know, the only thing that hasn’t changed over the years in racing is that sound of the engines when they start up. The sound and smell. Hearing those engines roar to life sends goose bumps up and down arms. There’s not much “stock” in racing today, but those engines remain.
I used to wait anxiously for my monthly issue of Speed Age Magazine for results and photos of my NASCAR heros!
Matt: Wow! I’m completely bowled over after reading your article – what memories it brings back! Thank you SO MUCH!
Also living up here in Pa. for most of the 49 years of my life this was a great article to read. Watching old races on the Wide World of Sports on a black and white tv, listening to MRN and having the signal fade out in the early evening. The only reason for all the effort was it was a different sport then. Na$car has been turned into a generation x,y,z or whatever joke. I used to get a copy of the Grand National schedule usually from Stock Car Racing or Hot Rod magazine, (before the Winston Cup schedule) every year and write down the winning driver and make of car. If it wasn’t for National Speed Sport News some years the schedule would be incomplete. Going to the Trenton 300 or out to Islip, NY was a thrill. This year i don’t even have a copy of the schedule. This isn’t due to the easy access but the sad state of the sport. ESPN has an archive section of races all the way back to 40 and 50 years ago. It’s still cool to look at race results from 30 or so years ago. A lot of driver names come right back. It was nice to see car makes also, Plymouth, Mercury, Oldsmobile, AMC, instead of Camry. Things don’t always get better with age.
Good work Matt. Just when I write you off you put that out there. Your article reminds me of my first trip to Daytona in 1994 with 7 buddies from the Navy. Singed the side of the RV cooking hot dogs. Last time I went was 2002 and the change in those 8 years was monumental and not for the good.
I will agree with you, if you “don’t look the part” you won’t get any respect from NASCAR fans until you prove you know something pre-FOX like that DW was a damn good driver before he became a cartoon. Hell, just by mentioning terry Labonte, Billy Hagan, Corpus Christi and Piedmont Airlines I graduated to the head table at our local watering hole/wing bar in Jacksonville, FL. Place still has an awesome mural of Dale Earnhardt on the wall.
As always, a good article, Mike. I go back a bit farther than you and your piece brought back some fond (and not so fond) memories. As far as being a fan goes, speaking for myself, I think that I actually enjoyed NASCAR then more than I do now. The 24/7 availability of information has changed me, and I believe a lot of others, from being a fan to a critic. I find myself finding fault more often simply because I have more information to draw from. For all its shortcomings I personally believe I liked the “old days” better.
Been a fan since ’78 so I know exactly what you’re saying in the article.
As a fan, my personal heyday was the ’90’s. I can’t imagine how it would have been if I’d had Sirius radio and the internet. For one thing I watch less racing on TV because of it.
Another example: I’ll never watch racing at california but I’ll listen to it on Sirius and watch highlights on the net.
Articles like this are why I’m a Matt McLaughlin fan and have been since the days of SpeedFx. Other favorite articles include his tribute to his father (usually run every Father’s day) and 1313 Turket Court. (See if you all can’t dig that one up too while you’re at it).
Articles like this are why I’m a Matt McLaughlin fan and have been since the days of SpeedFx. Other favorite articles include his tribute to his father (usually run every Father’s day) and 1313 Turkey Court. (See if you all can’t dig that one up too while you’re at it).
For me it was a 72 Chevy Impala wagon with the back filled with coolers of food and beer (lots of beer) and headed to Pocono or Watkins Glen for the Sports car racing and F1 in the late 70s. Two of us once went to Pocono in that old Chevy for a total of $78, including parking in the infield, food, tickets, and each bought a t-shirt, mine Waltrip (Darrell), and his a Cale Yarborough T. We slept in the car and watched the race standing on the roof!
One of my fondest memories was watching Alan Kulwicki run his #97 Camaro at the Milwaukee Mile back in the early 80’s. Not sure what division it was.
I like what janice mentioned about the sounds AND smells. There’s nothing like a day of burning rubber, spent fuel, burgers and popcorn.
EXCELLENT article matt !! Im glad you are able to share your memories from back in the day !! I especially liked the part about how much easier it is to be a fan nowadays but for a different reason …BACK in the day i took quite alot of abuse about my nascar addiction from folks who were too cool to spend sundays watching a bunch of rednecks drive in circles for 4 hrs ( their words) BUT now suddenly its the COOL thing to do and some of these same folks travel to 2 races a year PLUS sit n watch every saturday AND sunday !! I’d love to think these folks are FINALLY as cool as me , but more likely i believe they are part of the new legion . THE BANDWAGON fans !! NASCAR is cool now so EVERYONE wants to be a part of it.. which would be fine if nascar hadnt forgot their beginings and changed everything to what the “people “ wanted ! ONCE again …THANXS for the great memories
I also am in the Northeast where the press never mentioned racing. I had to struggle to find excuses to get the family car to sneak down to Norwood arena to watch Bugsy Stevens and Pete Hamilton. Back then drivers knew everything about the car and had to accomplish something to get a quality ride. There were a lot of real personalities like Lenny Boehler and Deke Astle. Drivers like George Summers were magical to watch. At the Winston Cup level there was still room for guys like Dave Marcis and J.D. McDuffy (RIP). If you had the mechanical skills and some brass in the sack, you could could show up and try to run. I remember Ken Bouchard towing in a low buck car to the first cup race at NHIS on an open trailer behind a pickup truck. He made the field and had a decent finish. There are very few drivers at the cup level who have any personality. Where is Jimmy Spencer when we need him? I miss the days when racing was more than a business.
You’re talking my language. Sunday rides to get close enough for the radio. Wide World broadcasts and Motor Trend 2 months after the race. I was 14 when Fireball died. One of the saddest days of my life to that point. I quit going to Nascar races after the first Daytona night race. Too many people who don’t know racing but think it’s the place to be. The racing was more fun when there was a 20 MPH or more difference in the field. At least there was passing. I grew up watching Trickle and the other legends of Wis. It’s just not as fun anymore.
Love you, Love Bill Elliott, keep writing babe.
“…they didn’t — I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused”
And the least you could do is acknowledge Elvis Costello with that quote. “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes” from My Aim is True – 1977
Certainly no slight was intended towards Costello who I met at the record store I worked at in college. He was originally classified as Punk rock in that era if you can beleive it. (So was Tom Petty because of the smirk and leather jacket on the cover of his first album.) I consider a line like “I used to be disgusted…” as so commonly abscribed to its author it would be like noting who wrote, “Tramps like us, baby we born to run”, a long and winding road, get back truckin’ on, Even the losers get lucky sometimes, to thier respective authors. Perhaps I err in that regard considering those songs form the sound track of my life, and for any implied slight to Costello I apologize.
To the rest of you, thanks for all the kind words. To all of you long time fans join with me in raising your favorite libation to our old battle cry of “What a long strange trip it’s been! (J. Garcia, R. Hunter, oh about a zillion years ago)
And to our old time friends at NASCAR one more verse from our budd Tom P…
“It was almost summer,
Actually, I miss the old days of NASCAR, back when Bobby Issacs ran only a dozen races, when Bobby Allison was the face of independents (people forget how great he really was and what a independent-minded spirit he was), when Cale and Lee Roy (what a sad life he had) were confused by those folks who didn’t know the sport. Or that Wendell Scott was a real race driver and not a figment of our imagination—where <i>are</i> the black drivers? Or GW Bailey and Coo-Coo Marlin could’ve been front runners if the actually ever got a factory ride. Or that David Pearson was the smoothest, smartest, coolest-headed driver ever—who can ever forget his duel (spin out, dump the clutch, and win) with King Richard at Daytona? Or that Buddy Baker and Chargin’ Charlie Glotzbach (in the purple 99) had right feet made of iron? Or that DW was aptly nicknamed “Jaws” and was the biggest jerk I ever worked for?
Awww…the list is endless. I miss the old days, too.
Very good read. My 1st race was the Firecracker 400 in ’74. My….how things have changed; and not for the better. NA$CAR is, unfortunately, circling the drain. If Baby Brian keeps getting his way, I give it maybe 8 or 10 years. My God, man…..The Rock, North Wilksboro, no more Darlington on Labors Day weekend. Where are we going & what are we doing in this handbasket?!?!
Smoke-(I had the name before Stewart & probably for a different reason)
Oh yeah! Hey, you were lucky to get radio at all. Where I lived back in those days, I had to wait MONTHS for SCR magazine to see results at certain tracks!
Yeah…this one ranks right up there with your Dad.
A very good read for someone who found this sport by accident only a short 10yrs ago…(in the Matchbox car aisle at Target – with a 2 year old boy on my hand – whose favorite color and number were yellow and 17).
I would always look forward to the weekly copy of GATER racing news to come in the mail. Not only CUP results, but lots of photos and stories from the local tracks, too. I always enjoyed following the exploits of Reutimann – Buzzie that is!
Thanks for the remembories!
My first race was at the July Pocono race in 88. Alan Kulwicki’s autograph, met Ned Jarrett, within 10 feet of Dale Earnhardt as he pushed his car into the garage area, almost got run down by Rusty as he pulled into the garage with his engine shut off! Interviews with every driver after qualifying runs. Second round qualifying! promoter’s provisionals! Good times!!
I couldn’t believe magazines like ‘Winston Cup Scene’ and ‘Grand National Illustrated’ even existed! I was definitely with people who were as rabid for the sport as I was.
My favorite souvenir is still my dealership plaque from ‘Bill Elliot Ford in Dahlonega’. That was from a time before Action Performance totally sterilized that business. Nowadays, its same crap, different trailer.
FWIW, Autoweek magazine has always had decent race recaps and coverage – and always timely. That’s how I stayed up to date, pre-internet, in the Northeast.
That was the best road trip I ever took! It wasn’t an El Camino big block; but, a Buick GN. The sights, sounds, atmosphere.