NASCAR Changes Qualifying Format
posted by Summer Bedgood
Tuesday March 11, 2014
Following safety concerns regarding NASCAR’s new qualifying format, the sanctioning body is introducing some changes in preparation for this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. According to the Associated Press, NASCAR is banning teams from cool-down laps after their qualifying attempts, but will instead be allowed to hook up cool-down units to the engine through hood flaps.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a release from NASCAR fully detailed the changes. Teams will be allowed a single cool down unit to be connected through the right or left side hood flap, however the hood must remain closed. Additionally, two crew members will be allowed over the wall while cooling down.
“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”
The move comes after three weeks of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying system, where multiple cars are allowed to make qualifying attempts at the same time instead of the traditional one-car-at-a-time procedure. Drivers and teams had complained that the new rules didn’t allow them to cool their engines down on pit road, and the cool-down laps caused a dangerous situation with slower cars staying on the track at the same time that other cars were running by them at much higher speeds.
The rule will begin this weekend in Bristol, a track that has a much narrower racing surface than Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Matt McLaughlin · Thursday September 25, 2008
A lot of people have taken me to task lately — either by email or in the comments section below my articles — claiming I’m too negative. They feel I am lost in rose-colored remembrances of times gone by, referencing races that weren’t really all that great after all. Some go as far as to claim that the racing this year is better than it ever has been, thanks to the “excitement” of the Chase.
Well, a couple of quick points. First, most of those who say today’s racing with the new car and the Chase are better than years gone by weren’t around in the glory days of this sport or, if they were, they were sucking at their mama’s teat — not watching races. Secondly, if the Chase and the new car appeal to you, that’s fine. Your opinion is valid, and I respect your right to feel that way. But I feel differently. And these columns are my opinions, no more or less valid than your own. If you really can’t stand reading what I say, feel free to stop and use the time you are no longer wasting reading this aging hippie’s opinions to write some columns of your own. If you have a way with words and a little luck, maybe one day you’ll be published, too, and then people can comment on your opinions.
Hey, I’m not going to be doing this forever. I could walk away tomorrow with no regrets. It’s been a blast. The competition to take over the Monday Race Recaps and Thursday morning Mouthing Off (a title I’ve never been fond of by the way) columns starts here. All you’ve got to do is write those columns, and convince the editors and readers of this site you’re better at it than me. Go on and give it a shot, Cowgirl. This ain’t my first rodeo, but eventually somebody’s going to get the draw on me. Bring it on.
I’ll forewarn those of you determined to put a positive spin on the ghastly state of stock car racing today, you’re going to draw some fire, too. In a recent column, respected, longtime NASCAR journalist Ed Hinton asked for readers’ opinions on the state of the sport. In his unscientific poll, 96% of his readers expressed great dissatisfaction with the state of the sport today. I don’t own a business yet, but if I did and 96% of my customers were dissatisfied, I’d be losing a lot of sleep. If my longtime customers stopped showing up, I’d be even more anxious. The number of empty seats last week at NHMS last week was troubling. That’s not to single out NHMS; a lot of tracks have seen bad ticket sales this year.
But some of you feel that this old hippie and the 96 percenters are impossible to please. Some folks even felt that last week’s race at New Hampshire was good — or even outstanding. That explains a lot about how Miller Lite still sells, Chevy keeps selling Cobalts, Britney Spears has had a career, and ugly nasty chicks end up married. Some consumers have very low expectations, and will settle for crap if someone spins it well enough. It might also help explain a lot about politics — but I’m not going there.
So what is it I want to see that makes me decide a race was good or even great? For one thing, there’s a sense of anticipation leading up to the event. Admittedly, that’s partially biased on my part. When I look at the Cup schedule, there are certain events I genuinely look forward to for weeks in advance of the race. Some tracks that come to mind include Darlington, Richmond, Martinsville, and Bristol. On the flip side, some of the cookie cutter tracks drop me into a funk for a week beforehand, dreading a wasted afternoon.
If you’re fair though, you’ll give me this much. If a race at Darlington is lousy, I’ll say so. I have about zero affection for the Kansas track, but the 2004 race there featuring the final lap battle between Joe Nemechek and Ricky Rudd was a classic, and that’s what I wrote at the time. It surprised some of my longtime readers who were waiting for me to tee off on Kansas as usual — but it was a good race, and that’s what I wrote.
As most of you know, I (and a lot of folks like me) like to see lots of green flag passing for the lead. No, I don’t count it as a lead change when the leader pits and the second place car peels off a lap later, handing the lead to the driver who had been running behind him and so on. That’s not a lot of fun to watch. What’s fun to watch is one driver take a bead on a driver ahead of him and employ varied strategies to get by before finally finding one that works. In a perfect world, the former leader who slipped up and fell to second will then begin working the new leader’s rear bumper like a chew toy trying to find a way back around him. When two or more drivers are passing and repassing each other for dozens of laps at a time, I’m grinning ear to ear. When one driver lets another driver pass him because in the “big picture” it’s better to finish second rather than risking a wreck to save a few points, I am sick to my stomach. There’s a reason they call these events “races” not “strategies.”
What might even be better than passes for the lead is side by side racing. There’s nothing as exciting in sports as watching two or three drivers going at it lap by lap and side by side, with fenders rubbing, tires smoking, irritation growing, but each of them unable to shake the other as they race through a shroud of tire smoke into the autumn sun setting over Turn 1. My biggest beef with the Car of Horror is that it has all but eliminated side by side racing (with last weekend’s Dover race a notable exception). Drivers can’t afford to bend up fenders, and the cars get so loose beside one another that most drivers will bail out on any actual side by side racing. And lately, with points more important than race wins, drivers spend the first 9/10ths of a race cruising before finally getting after it in the final 10 laps or so. That’s just not much fun to watch, and that’s why I hate the Chase. It rewards such behavior, not actual racing and winning.
Another thing that makes racing interesting to watch is rivalries, and there haven’t been many good ones over the last few years. Back in the day, you had drivers like Bobby Allison and Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip, or Dale Earnhardt and Bill Elliott who genuinely seemed to dislike each other, at least on the track. Week in and week out, you knew those guys were going to be running up front and, whenever they were running in close quarters, things were bound to get interesting. Allison and Petty seemed intent on killing one another for a few seasons, and fans stood in line to get tickets to watch the next bout. Nowadays though, if a driver bumps another driver on the cool down lap or calls him a “dirty rotten so and so, son of Budgie” after a race, NASCAR will probably fine him 100 points and his corporate sponsors will go into cardiac arrest. For awhile there, it seemed Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart were going to develop a genuine rivalry, but then I guess Gordon’s handlers told him that all that nastiness was having an adverse effect on the pre-teen female, private school, horseback lessons and tennis demographics.
Nothing makes a race more interesting than a little suspense. To knowledgeable fans at the Atlanta season finale in 1992 (the greatest race ever, by the way), it became clear that the title bout between Alan Kulwicki and Bill Elliott would likely be decided by which driver led the most laps. Lap after lap, Elliott and Kulwicki ran side by side for the lead. On one lap, Elliott would be inches ahead of Kulwicki, and on the next, the 7 Underbird had the lead. It was gripping stuff to behold. Adding yet more suspense was the fact Kulwicki’s team wasn’t sure they had gotten enough fuel in the car on the final stop to make the distance. Had he run out of gas, Kulwicki surely would have lost the title. More recently, Jeff Gordon was leading at Darlington, but his car was clearly overheating, and fans were on the edge of their seats waiting to see if the engine would expire before the end of the race. Suspense has kept Gil Grissom and company in business on Thurday nights for over a decade now, and we could use a little more of it most Sunday afternoons. But lately, any suspense NASCAR has managed seems to be as part of the artificial excitement of the Chase. Oh, no! Kasey has the sniffles! Can he still make the Chase? Hand me that barf bag, all right?
Closely related to the above, in a good race there are a few surprises. OK, so Driver X has dominated the race but, late in the going, Team B gambles on a fuel only pit stop to take the lead. Team B’s driver has never won a race before (first time winners are always good for an extra point in my ratings) and the team hasn’t won a race in six years. Driver X is buried back in traffic because most drivers took two tires and we’ve got eight laps to go. Team B’s driver is all over the track on badly worn tires trying to keep his opponents behind him. Driver X is taking no prisoners roughing his way back towards the front? Who’s going to win? I don’t know. I like surprises. Surprise me. The new car’s aero push problems in traffic have all but eliminated this sort of scenario.
What some folks have accused me of wanting in a race is a lot of wrecks. Sorry, but you’re shopping at the wrong five and dime. Wrecks don’t make for a good race. Nothing is worse than watching the field parade under caution lap after lap as the track crew cleans up rather than racing. I’ve never been a wreck fan. I want to see the athletes walk the tight rope, not fall off. I want to see them catch a badly out of control car and not lose a spot. I don’t want to see anyone hit the wall. Wrecks still scare me because you never know. Geoff Bodine had his horrible Craftsman Truck Series wreck into the catchfence at Daytona with his car reduced to scrap, fire all over the place and the engine 300 yards down the track, and when all the smoke cleared, he wasn’t badly hurt. Dale Earnhardt’s wreck on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 looked like a fender bender by comparison, but he was killed. That gutted me. I spent the next three days doing radio shows and banging out columns, but I remember little of it other than putting my fist through the wall when I first got the official news, A framed picture of the 3 car hung over that hole until I moved. No, I don’t like wrecks at all.
What I like best of all is last lap drama and passes for the lead. Let’s face it, as years go by and memories fade, the last lap is what everyone remembers — just as you might not recall a single other scene in the movie The Sixth Sense, but you remember how it ended because it knocked you speechless. Let’s recall the 1976 and 1979 Daytona 500s, Bobby Labonte and Dale Earnhardt or Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick at Atlanta, Gordon and Jimmie Johnson at Martinsville, or, perhaps best of all, Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch at Darlington and March of 2003 with Craven prevailing by .002 seconds. I was at that race. I don’t recall a whole lot about the other 3 hours, 10 minutes and 15.998 seconds of the race other than it wasn’t up to Darlington’s standards. Only 10 drivers finished on the lead lap. But if someone were to come over tonight and try to tell me stock car racing is boring, I’d whip out that tape and make him watch it with me because I never get bored of watching it myself.
No, not all races can be classics. Sometimes one driver is going to dominate. Sometimes the field will get strung out. You’ll have occasional travesties like this year’s Brickyard, and it’s going to rain on race day from time to time. But the last few years, and this year in particular, the ratio of clinkers to classics is unacceptably high. That needs changing; and until the ratio is restored to an acceptable level, you can expect me to be occasionally negative or sarcastic.
I’d like to conclude with a Youtube video by another fellow with fairly negative opinions about modern NASCAR racing. It would be interesting to hear what he might have to say about this season; but unfortunately, we can’t ask him because a year to the day later, he wasn’t around the sport anymore.
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Mr. Earnhardt sure knew how to put things in perspective . And that interview could just as easily have taken place yesterday considering how relevant it is . I’ll bet he wasn’t called to the NASCAR hauler either , like a driver would be today for saying that .
AMEN! Thank you for putting into words what makes a good race. The drivers today may be as intense as the ‘old days’, but it doesn’t come across when watching a race. Of course, most of those drivers were racing to put food on the table, which tends to make for more intensity. I remember when Bobby LaBonte and Dale Sr. spent the last several laps at Rockingham running side by side…maybe ’99 or ’00. When the interviewed Bobby after the race he said he had looked across at Earnhardt after 4 laps of running side by side, and all he could see whas the huge grin on Earnhardt’s face. Maybe that’s why the Rouschketeers were smiling so much after the race this weekend. Running hard side by side like that is almost a lost art these days.
WOW…. these last few years I thought I was just a pi$$off race fan…. today I found out I’m an Aging Hippie” ….who would have thunk that!
Great article…thanks man…be cool dude……
matt- great article. another classic comes to mind…the down to the line finish of the late great davey allison and mark martin at bristol…the old bristol. i unlatched from my moma’s teat just in time to see that one! lol
If Dale Earnhardt were still with us would we have the Car of Horror or the Chase? I seriously doubt it. He would call a spade a spade and we need drivers to step foreward and do so today.
Amen, Matt. I’ve lost my sense of anticipation, too, and I really, really miss it.
amen matt! i’ve felt this way a long while.
watched some of the dale sr footage at youtube. Man I miss him!
A great big thanks for putting it into words!
Where my “negativity” comes from, at least in part anyway, is I remember being at races, at too many tracks to list here, but starting with Talladega, Daytona, and yes, even the Michigan, and barely being able to sit down during the event because of the “ACTION ON THE TRACK”!
Lap, after lap, after lap, of the most intense racing, take no prisoners
No politics, no politeness, no racing for the points, just flat out racing for the win or clawing your way forward, no matter where you placed!
And then along came Brian!
And if one was out of town, or driving on a trip, playing the radio like a piano to try and pick up a radio station that carried the race, goosebumps trying to find out who was leading!
Gues you can call me the “core fan”!
Not anymore, read the paper on Monday morning is now good enough!
Great article Matt.
I think the days of lasting rivalries are over. It’s hard to stay pissed off when you are making millions of dollars. The old rivalries you speak of existed in a time where when you wrecked a guy you were taking food from their children. It’s hard to stay mad when you go home to a mansion. Now you get rivalry “lite” at best.
I think NASCAR has gotten a lot more spin happy with their PR. That may add to fans’ anger – they no longer listen to the fans they tell us what we’re supposed to think. When I first started watching, NASCAR, the fans and the teams seemed more like partners. Now NASCAR is a dictator and has become “the evil empire” to many fans.
Good Budgie reference. In The Grip Of A Tyrefitter’s Hand you freakin hippy.
You are the man! That column brought back some fond memories and some not so good ones, but it states my feelings exactly. When NASCAR started trying to appeal to more fans and trying to compete with other sports, the house started to crumble. Now with the big money and sponsor influence it is in a free fall.
Matt – thanks so much – incredible column! Had tears in my eyes watching and listening to Sr. and the poster above said it best: if he were alive today and said the same exact words there would be changes made and so fast you couldn’t even blink your eyes! Too bad King Brian can’t seem to get out of whatever slump he lives in and do the right thing – oh well, I’ll continue to watch and hope like most of us!
Good call Matt. There was a time when I never made any plans for Sundays, told everyone I was busy. Now? If it suits me, I will tape a race and fast forward to watch it. Since the new COT, the racing has sucked. Who can forget the Dale and Dale shows in Charlotte? Or the Intimidator taking out the Ice Man at Bristol? Or Allison and Yarborough at Daytona. But, I think you’re missing another vital point as to why the stands are not being filled. Money!!! Fans can no longer pay the exorbitant prices for tickets, lodging, food and transportation. A weekend can cost over $3,000. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I can no longer afford that. Up until this year, for my grandson’s birthday, I would take him to the Atlanta race. Last year, it cost me over $500 dollars for 4 tickets. Can’t do it this year and I know my grandson is going to be very disappointed. So am I.
Another excellent article, clear and concise. I’m thinking your job is safe.
pretty much agreed on everything as usual matt, and for the record, I’m 27 years old and “the good old days” of NASCAR for me were 92ish to around 2001, so “the good old days” are not always as far back as some people think they are.
Gordon/Harvick in 2001, Busch/Craven at Darlington, Dale Sr’s “rattling” Terry’s cage at Bristol, that’s some real racing, and it just doesn’t happen with the Car of Tomorrow, and it just doesn’t happen at the MAJORITY of cookie cutter tracks the MAJORITY of the time.
Absolutely. I had the shit-eating grin on my face during the Dover race last weekend for just the same reason. If I want to watch “strategy” I’ll watch Formula 1.
“or, perhaps best of all, Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch at Darlington and March of 2003 with Craven prevailing by .002 seconds.”
Sadly, Craven’s team no longer exists, and his owner now is with a ricer team. GM shafted Pontiac out of NASCAR. Craven got injured, and he now is a sports writer/commentator. The car he was driving has been replaced by the COT package.
Wish there was a good update to this story….
you know matt- to paraphrase Sr. ..” if they aren’t cheering OR booing you are in trouble.” keep doing what you are doing….at least they are reading your column!!
Matt … I used to be one of your “detractors” as I only agreed with you 99% of the time! I think it is now 100%!
Two of what I have always considered “among the greatest finishes” that have seemingly been over looked or forgotten are the 1974 and 1978 Firecracker 400s — two more races that goes to prove David Pearson was and still is the Greatest of All Time!
Matt, Great column as always. Your the only writer I look forward to reading after a race, since you go back to the time when race winnings were important to their livelyhood. Somehow being a competative 35th place and a millionaire were not synonomous with WINSTON CUP racing. If they still had the Winston Million I don’t think the competitors would have the “win at any cost” desire they had in the past. Thanks again and don’t stop writing. TOG
Reading this reminds me of the times my father complains about how expensive things are today and how great it was back in “the good old days.”
First of all, I will start off by saying that over the years, we tend to forget the bad times and only remember the good.
This does not apply for the most part to Nascar.
There is no question that the reality that the drivers lived in, the sponsors lived in, and Big Bill and Little Bill lived in back in the day was vastly different to what we all are dealing with now.
On a larger scale, we are watching the inevitable deterioration of the American way of life.
On the smaller scale, we are seeing in Nascar what happens when you put a boy in a man’s shoes.
He has neither the foresight or experience to successfully make the proper decisions that are in the best interests of the sport.
He is a product of the MTV generation he grew up in. Where tradition means nothing and creating and promoting the next hot new fad is what sells.
Expect more of the same.
Matt, you can write this stuff until your fingers fall off.
I can sit here and agree with everything you and Ironhead say, nothing is going change until something happens to Brian France. He has got to go, one way or another for anything to change.
Of course, he does have some nasty little habits that could come back to bite him….