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 September 11, 2008
After all the hoopla and hype, the combatants for this year’s 10-race Chase, the fifth iteration of this championship format, are finally decided. Undoubtedly, some fans of these 12 drivers are charged up and anxious to see how their boys will do in the next 10 races, or if anyone can knock Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards from the lofty summit perches they have enjoyed to date this season. For loyal stock car fans, this is the championship format we have, for better or worse, and we’re stuck with it — even if a lot of us don’t like it.
I’ve written pages upon pages of prose dealing with my dislike of the artificially contrived championship Chase format, and I won’t repeat myself here. (Yeah, yeah, I probably will next week.) But ultimately, the primary goal of the Chase — to lure casual fans of stock car racing formats and even non-racing fans to the sport for the 10 final races, using a post-season style championship style format — has failed. Unlike the World Series, which annually draws casual fans and non-fans who might not have watched a regular season MLB game all year, the Chase just hasn’t caught the public at large’s imagination. Brian France and his minions will do everything in their power to parade the 12 Chasers in major media outlets this week, but by and large, the American public will give out a collective yawn and surf over to Sportscenter to see who won this week’s NFL games.
Why? Admittedly this is a tough time of year to draw attention in the sport’s arena. The juggernaut of the NFL has resumed play, the college football season began weeks ago, and series of games that will decide this year’s World Series is in progress. With all that going on, your typical sportscaster has about four and a half minutes to fill on the six and eleven o’clock news before cutting to commercial, or to the weatherman getting frantic about the latest tropical storm. If they show highlights of the local football team, a local baseball team that has some outside chance at entering post-season play, and a couple of local college football highlights here in the Northeast, there might be a few dead seconds left to announce that Kyle Busch won a stock car race at some far flung hamlet that few folks could locate on a map for a cash prize named Loudon.
The Chase was intended to muscle its way into the Fall parade of sports highlights but, by and large, it has failed. That might not be fair. Even in an era of declining attendance, more fans muscle into some stock car races than attend even the Super Bowl. Down in the Southeast, things are notably better — stock car racing is given some serious airtime and attention — but NASCAR has made it no secret that they don’t want to be seen as a “regional Bubba” sport. Rather than being a big fish in a small pond, they’ve let themselves become a small fish in a big pond. Stock car racing is a tough sell in some markets where the leading newspapers’ arrivals predated the invention of the automobile, and some of those papers’ editors seem unconvinced this automobile fad is going to amount to much more than a source of global warming.
Other challenges face NASCAR as they try to draw casual and non-fans to their ranks. First and foremost is the racing this season in general has been substandard (I’m being kind) thanks in large parts to the Car of Horror. Yeah, there have been some good races this year, as there are every year, but if a casual fan tuned into Fontana a few weeks ago because nothing else was on that night, after 50 laps they were channel surfing away seeking a more palatable fare. If you do indeed lure those casual and non-fans to the table, you need to grab them by the throat with the action and convert them to the fold. In today’s MTV and text message-driven society, folks have short attention spans. NASCAR might have five minutes to get a thumbs up or a thumbs down from those folks, and with most drivers just cruising until the last handful of laps, we have a serious problem on our hands.
Another challenge facing NASCAR is the difficulty of casual fans to understand what’s going on. Our sport is somewhat unique in that two teams don’t pair off against one another. All 43 teams compete against each other weekly. One driver wins; 42 lose. Leaving Richmond, there are five drivers going for a Championship that have yet to win a race. That’s not possible in most sports… and it shouldn’t be in ours. Winning a points-paying race should be a prerequisite for Chase contention, period. Etch it in granite. Book ‘em Dano.
Then, there’s the regular season points system that confuses even some fairly loyal fans. A driver gets 185 points for winning. Huh? Why 185? The guy who finishes second gets five points less. Wow, that’s not much of a bonus for winning. At the end of the season, the NFL looks at how many wins and losses a team has. They don’t add up the points scored by a team, including points scored in losses, to decide which teams make the playoffs. If you won 12 games and lost six by a close margin, the other team that won 13 games and lost five by huge margins gets in. Our points system needs to be overhauled — and the change is long overdue. There needs to be a huge points award for winning and Top 5 finishing… not consistent cruising.
The schedule is another handicap NASCAR faces. With the Chase about to begin, you’d think NASCAR would want to put their best foot forward. Instead, the Chase begins at Loudon, a race track that has consistently proven to provide substandard racing since it became a blot on our schedule. Any fan drawn to checkout the start of the Chase by Jeff Gordon appearing on Regis and Kelly this week is going to be lapsing into a coma 20 minutes into a race.
It’s too bad the powers that be won’t kick off the Chase in Darlington. Darlington is a track with unmatched tradition and a habit of producing great racing. It’s a testament to who we are as NASCAR fans; proudly unashamed of our Southeastern roots and our hardscrabble nature. We’re different than stick and ball sports, and we like it that way. Yes, a race at Darlington could turn into a real snoozer too, but if I’m betting my paycheck on Darlington or Loudon producing an exciting race, I’ve got my money on the Lady in Black and her nearly 60-year history.
Another thing non-fans (and I’ve reached a point in my life most of my fans are either non-fans or ex-fans) simply can’t get their minds around is how a winning driver in NASCAR can be caught cheating and still be allowed to keep the win. It’s a black eye for our sport, and I’ve grown tired of trying to defend the principle. Likewise, I can understand how some of these mystery debris cautions thrown when a race gets too boring have convinced some non-fans that NASCAR racing is “pro-wrassling on wheels.”
But the most frequent complaint I get from newer or non-fans is that the races are simply too long. I’m an old-timer — 500-mile races are fine by me, as long as they take place at venues like Darlington. 400 miles at Fontana is way too long, even for me. I think I could endure a 40 lap race there without having to use a tongue depressor to prop open my mouth so I don’t drown in my own saliva. So, maybe it’s time that NASCAR follow the Formula 1 folks’ lead and simply decide each race will be three hours long. If circumstances dictate that the full race length is unattainable, then a caution will be thrown, the pits opened and the cars lined back up for a 10 lap shootout at any track other than the road courses.
My final bit of advice for my buddies at NASCAR (who are constantly calling me asking for my input, of course) to attract newer fans to our playoffs is to institute an “elimination” rule. The Super Bowl is obviously the Granddaddy of the championship deciding events based on TV ratings. The NFL playoff games draw big numbers and fan interest as well, because after each game, one team will be eliminated from competition. It doesn’t matter if that team wins by a little or wins by a lot — if they lose, they’re done. That adds an element of suspense. So here’s how I see it. 10 drivers make the Chase. They all get to warm up in the first race to get over the jitters. After that each week the lowest finishing title contender is eliminated. Drivers who win a race in the Chase are exempt from being eliminated during the Chase afterwards. At the final race of the season the two remaining drivers who haven’t been the low finisher and any driver who won a race prior to being eliminated start the season finale… and the highest finishing driver among them is the new champion. Is it fair? Not completely. Was it fair when the New England Patriots lost the Super Bowl despite an unbeaten regular season? But it is high drama, and starting from week one, every title contender is going to be going Hell’s bells trying to win races to stave off the possibility of elimination after a wreck or a blown engine.
Meanwhile, to build interest in the Chase, I’d use the off week between the regular season and the Chase to highlight the 10 unique drivers in different media outlets. For instance, given his love of rock and roll and his lifestyle, have Dale Earnhardt, Jr. do a week of appearances on MTV and VH1. A driver who is an avid hunter or fisherman might do programs with the Outdoor Network. A driver who collects and restores old cars might show up on SPEED. A driver like Jeff Gordon with more upscale tastes might be on the Fine Living or Gourmet Channel. And of course, Tony Stewart could be on the Beer-Swilling, Doughnut Munching, Neanderthal Network — I think it goes by the name of Spike. Or perhaps he could do a voice appearance on South Park as Cartman’s long lost twin brother. The goal is to have people who might not have an interest in racing decide, “Hey, I like this guy. He and I have a lot in common. I’m going to watch this NASCAR post-season and pull for him.” Whatever works.
Obviously, I am not a fan of the Chase. I am proud to be the first writer (at least that I am aware of) that condemned it as ludicrous and borderline blasphemous. I like the old points system, and if NASCAR were to show the wisdom to readopt it, I’m be euphoric. From where I sit, the majority of traditional fans still despise the system, and the majority of casual or non-fans could care less about the Chase. If there must be a “post-season” in NASCAR… do it right.
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
A pretty good indicator of how much interest the crapshoot has generated would be to look at track attendance and TV ratings. Since both tend to go down as the season progresses, it doesn’t seem that the ‘chase’ has really attracted anyone. Or anything. As I haven’t noted a marked jump in either stat during the final 10 races, Nascar needs a reality check.
If you ask me the single biggest thing that NASCAR could do to compete with the NFL during the chase is to have all ten races on Saturday night. You aren’t going to beat the NFL in a head to head battle so try to be where ever they are not.
WOW! You covered a lot of bases, (err, I mean miles) with this column!
The “CHASE” has never been a good idea, never will be a good idea, and
In my case, even though my interest in NA$CAR has flown out the window many years ago, gee, just about the time dear Brian took control, when the “CHASE” starts, I don’t even turn the TV on to see even one lap of ANY CHASE RACE!
I don’t like “phony”!
There is so little that can be done to make the “chase” interesting. There is also no need to try to compete with the NFL or anyone else. The two are apples and oranges. Bottom line? NASCAR is going to go back where it once was: with the hard core and a few casuals. It stood alone fine when it was pretty much a regional sport with the few tracks out side the SE. The venues were usually well filled, but greed took over and it is going into the toilet.
No No No , we do NOT need to put the Chase races on tv on Saturday nights . Local race tracks are having a tough enough time as it is without encouraging their few remaining spectators to stay home and watch NASCAR on tv .
I agree on most of what you have to say Matt, with the exception that I think road courses are great and we should have more, if anything.
But I disagree that you should have to win to get into the Chase—that would simply further validate it!! I want SO bad for Jeff Gordon or Tony Stewart to win this bullshit playoff without winning a race—maybe that would finally convince “Brain” France to end this farce.
On the subject of race lengths, I couldn’t agree more and have said this for years—NASCAR should take a page from the Australian V8 Supercar series, and have three or four marquee “endurance” events—the Daytona 500, the Coke 600, the Southern 500, and I guess the Brickyard 400. That would make them seem more special, beyond the obvious reasons. Then have every other race finish within a 3-hour time frame, give or take.
The best stockcar racing in the world right now isn’t even with cars—it’s the Craftsman Truck Series. Why? On top of having no bullshit playoffs, they have less bitchy whiney boygirls driving, they race on a lot more short tracks (I wish they’d do a road course again though), and most importantly the races are a reasonable length to sit down with a few beer and enjoy on a Friday evening.
I had the pleasure of attending the race this past weeekend in Richmond. And for a change, we got to see a great race there. One observation…. the stand were sparse to say the least. And I’m guessing it had to do with the NFL. It wasn’t the weather, it was beatiful there. It wasn’t the time – I love 1 PM races. Face it – when the NFL circus rolls into town, a lot of fans tune out. The Chase was not the way to fix that little problem. And to be honest, I don’t know what is. But I too am beginning to loose interest in NA$CAR. I’m just shy of 50 years old, have been watching NA$CAR since the good ole days of the Wide World of Sports. I have been to well over 200 races. But, to tell you the truth, NA$CAR is wearing thin om me right now….. thye really need to figure out where to turn this thing around…. while they still can.
I guess I must be a real outsider. Went to the race at Darlington this spring and didn’t like anything about it. went to the race at Richland last week and loved every second of it and can’t wait to go back. Have tickets to Martinsville and we’ll see how that goes. I could go to Richmond to a race every week. First class facility and the people are great. I would like to see that track as the final chase race. My husband, who likes very little about Nascar couldn’t wait to get out of
Sadly Brian France has never gotten past the fact that he’s not running a stick and ball sport although I’m sure he would love to. Instead of refining what was already a good product and one that was knocking on the doors of all but one of the big three he decides to contrive this farcical Chase. The thing that I will be interested in seeing is if the networks stick to never showing the non Chase drivers like in the past which I’m sure is an ever popular idea with their sponsors. Maybe next year he can really open it up and make it like the NCAA basketball tourney starting maybe at the Brickyard or before paring the field down until it truly does become a go or go home situation, leaving Homestead the site of final race the longest drag racing in history between the final two cars……What ya think Bri I think think the idea has legs and we know what an idea guy you are?
Yeah, everyone hates the Chase, but look, this website has a “Chase Challenge” Fanstasy game and they want us all to get involved. Talk about hypocrisy!
Yeah, you hate Fontana, we all know it. I hate your negativity about all of NASCAR. I hope you’re mailing your columns to NASCAR’s office in Florida, too. You dont know if they read this website to hear all your great opinions on the ways to change their sport and make it better, like it once was.
In order to get into the “Chase”, a driver should have to have at least one win, Even if you have the most points, if you don’t have a win, you don’t get in. Imagine how that could change the viewpoint of a driver throughout the year! NA$CAR says they want drivers to focus on winning, yet they allow almost half of the Chase field to be made up of non-winners?!?!? Yes, I know the drivers who don’t have wins, yet still made the chase this year used the current format to their advantage…as well they should. But make it mandatory that you have the points AND a win and you will see drivers running all out to get a win (at least until they have that win anyway, and even then they might go for more wins to keep someone else from getting them). In my fantasy (because you know that the powers that be would never actually listen to the fans…), increase the points differential between 1st and 2nd to 50 points, between 2nd and 3rd 35 points, between 3rd and 4th and 4th and 5th 20 points and then have a 50 point drop to 6th with a 5 point difference down from there– i.e 1st – 400 points, 2nd – 350, 3rd – 315, 4th – 295, 5th – 275, 6th – 225, 7th – 220, etc. Cutting points off at say 30th place would keep wrecked cars from having to drive around at reduced speeds, but again, the Frances don’t seem to want to think about that one unfortunately. Then for the championship – since it is obvious that the Frances will never go back to the original system – use a format similar to the one that golf is using currently. After 26 races, allow the top 10 in points who have race wins to be in the ‘Chase’. In order to keep the first 26 races important to the overall championship, divide the point total of each driver in the chase in half and then add 5000. That way, a driver who has worked to build up a lead in points over the first 26 would still get some benefit from that and the guy in 10th might still have a shot at winning if he has a stellar last 10 races. Eliminate the 3 with the lowest point totals after 3 races and eliminate 3 more after 6 races, leaving the top 4 points totals to race for the championship over the last 4 races. It is not perfect, but it does at least insure that the champion has won at least one race and that they have had a reasonably consistent year as well. And it seems to me that the changed point system would force drivers to shoot for top fives at a minimum….after they have that required win at least. Better racing and a champion who has shown over the course of the year that they deserved to win. What am I thinking??!!??
I always figure to hell with the casual fan. Racing is an all or nothing sport, and people that are attracted to that aspect of it are likely to be all or nothing people. Hardcore fans, or, well…not fans.
I was only 17 when Brian destroyed the 36 week slugfest we usually used to crown our champion, but I was shocked and pissed off when it happened. I’ve been watching NASCAR since I was 5 and loved it dearly. But now when I look at everything going amiss, if I really think about it all and what it once was, I feel physically ill. It hurts.
I loved racing more than anything, and I want it back.
RIGHT ON! WAKE UP NASCAR!
It is now football season and racing has ended for me even though I have season tickets for Richmond and Joliet. The chase does nothing for the sport. The same cars will be upfront as usual because if one of the “chasers” get wrecked someone will get called to the trailer. The new car also leads to boring races.
Hey, Cartman doesn’t deserve that kind of abuse. Seriously.
John said: have three or four marquee “endurance” events—the Daytona 500, the Coke 600, the Southern 500, and I guess the Brickyard 400.
The traditionalist in me says it should be the DieHard 500 at Talladega, instead of the Brickyard – like it was back in the ‘Winston Million’ days… When a million dollars was a lot of money to these teams!
I have an idea for the Chase, and of course it fits in with the MLB and NFL playoff system. Lets force the drivers to be in the top ten in the points, but 11th and 12th in the Chase are reserved for “wild cards” that won during the year but arent in the top ten. This way Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne would be 11th and 12th, but Matt Kenseth would not have made it. The 11th and 12th place drivers would not be seeded by wins, but remain at the bottom with no bonus points for wins.
Kevin, with common since like that, I am proud to call you Hermano! That’s the best idea I’ve heard yet for the Chase.
California Speedway still bites though. Sorry.