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 November 6, 2008
Like most of you, I’m sure, I’m tired of hearing about the economy. I know the American economy is a mess right now and a lot of people are hurting. I ain’t smart enough to know what to do to fix it; but hopefully, our President-Elect is smart enough to sort it out. For right now, I’m just along for the ride. After years of reliable and sometimes even spectacular growth, my 401K plan is in shambles. I don’t even open the statements anymore; I burn ‘em in the wood pellet stove. Hopefully, in a year or two, I’ll open one and the news will be better — because I’ve lost too much to bail out now.
Things have gotten grim enough that the economy is beginning to have severe effects on NASCAR racing, the once self-proclaimed “fastest growing sport in America.” The veracity of that boast can be debated, but things were indeed looking pretty good there for awhile. Every year seemed to bring new teams and sponsors into all of the three top touring series, and car manufacturers were spending more and more on their NASCAR racing programs. New tracks were being built, and new dates were added to the schedule. Folks like me who noted a lot of longtime sponsors were heading for the door were simply labeled alarmists. But the ante was up at the table, and those with smaller pockets were being displaced by those with deeper pockets. They said it was the same with the race dates. Older, rural tracks with less amenities were being replaced by palaces of speed as NASCAR tried to appeal to better healed fans rather than its longtime fans. Judging by the number of empty seats and declining TV ratings, my guess is NASCAR would dearly love to have some of those lost longtime fans back, even if they do still express their incomes in “dollars per hour.” As most of us learned at our mama’s knees, “What goes up must come down” and “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” The NASCAR behemoth has stumbled badly this year “on account o’ the economy,” to borrow a phase from the Boss. And I don’t think the tumble is going to get any prettier anytime soon. When the working men and women of this country are struggling to stay current on their mortgages and not allow their cars to be repossessed while being drowned in a tsunami of credit card debt, they’re not exactly hoping to upgrade their seats for next year’s Daytona 500. In fact, such luxury and entertainment spending is often the first thing chopped from a family’s budget. And since track owners force fans to send in the funds right now if they want to attend races next year, it makes me feel that there’s going to be a lot of empty seats in the grandstands in ’09, even if Divine Intervention were to fix the economy overnight.
With the credit crunch and even companies that are on relatively solid footing financially reacting warily to spending increases, sponsorship is tough enough to get in the Cup garage. Several notable Cup teams including DEI, Yates Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, and the Wood Brothers are in trouble, desperately seeking sponsors for next year late in the game. I mean, come on! The Wood Brothers? They were racing back before there was a NASCAR. Even some of the stronger teams that had been planning to add new teams next year have scaled back their plans.
Some insiders claim that only 35 teams might show up for some Cup races next year; others argue that it could be as few as 30 full-time teams. The notion of less than full fields in the Cup series when routinely five to 10 teams were sent home after qualifying a few years back is worrisome.
If things are grim in the Cup garage, things in the Nationwide garage border on apocalyptic. The litany of bad news arriving from that side of the fence makes recent issues of the Wall Street Journal look like Mad magazine. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is cutting back from two cars to one full-time effort and a part time team due to lack of sponsorship. His driver, Brad Keselowski, is currently highest in the Nationwide Series among full-time competitors. If the biggest name in NASCAR can’t secure sponsorship, that doesn’t leave a lot of hope for the smaller teams.
Bobby Hamilton, Jr. recently spent $380,000 of his own money to keep Team Rensi afloat for the final three races of the season in an effort to save the team. If they are not successful, with a couple of good results, he has a chance to earn a ride somewhere else next season. Roush Racing was unable to find sponsorship to run a full-time Nationwide series effort with current CTS pilot Erik Darnell, so Darnell and David Ragan will each run part-time for a Roush Nationwide team next year. Rusty Wallace, Inc. will cut back from two teams to one next year. Ford has already announced they’ll cut back their involvement with the Nationwide series next year. GM, faced with a 45% fall in sales last month (45%! It wasn’t that many years ago a Harvard Business School student writing that in their opinion GM could lose 45% in monthly sales in a year wouldn’t have just failed, he’d have been expelled!) will likely do the same soon. Fitz Motorsports has been sued this year by a couple former drivers who say they are owed back wages. Their hauler was seized as an asset towards those lawsuits. The news is so relentlessly terrible and downbeat from that side of the garage area one has to wonder if the Nationwide Series can run as a viable entity next year, or whether it will be on life support as a Saturday hobby for the Cup drivers and team owners.
Well, NASCAR needs the Nationwide Series not only to survive, but to flourish as a developmental stepping stone for talented new drivers not yet ready to break into the Cup Series. Over recent years, the Busch / Nationwide Series might have become a Saturday playground for Cup drivers looking to earn some spare coin, but in its heyday, it fostered and developed drivers like Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, and Jimmie Johnson.
This year, the crowds at some Nationwide races have been downright pathetic, smaller than the crowds that used to attend some Cup qualifying sessions before the Top 35 rule rendered qualifying to a footnote. I can understand this trend. There are still some diehard NASCAR fans (God bless you all… seriously… your loyalty is keeping the lights on in NASCAR’s Daytona Beach headquarters), but even the diehards have to make some tough financial calls. A long race weekend with expensive hotel rooms, gas prices and restaurant meals has inflated beyond the budgets of a lot of fans. The true diehards may have decided they’re still going to attend a race or two but, rather than making a full weekend of it, they’ll only do the Cup race at the nearest local track. They’ll be up before dawn, stop for breakfast at Burger King, then head to the track with their lunches and beverages in a cooler. They’ll sit in less expensive seats and drive straight on home after the race to make work on Monday morning. My niece, working to pay for college as a waitress at a nice diner not far from the Pocono track, tells me that the diner’s race weekend traffic is less than half of what it used to be, but the line at the eat it and beat it drive-thru across the street often stretches around the block. Those who do have a sitdown meal are tipping markedly less.
If ratings and attendance continue to decline for the Nationwide Series, sponsorship will become still harder to find for the Saturday Series. That will lead to even less competitive teams and lighter fields which continues the downward spiral. While this year’s Nationwide Series fields are seemingly full, there a lot of drivers and teams who start the races and park after a few laps claiming that they’re having handling or ignition problems. Those teams have found they can haul an uncompetitive car to the track, be guaranteed a spot in the field due to lack of entrants, run a few laps then park and make more in purse money than they spent to be there. Some of those teams don’t even bring a pit crew to the races, knowing they’ll never run long enough to pit. That, dear readers, is not a good sign for the future of the series.
If there is a bright note it is even the dimbulbs at NASCAR still have enough left on the ball they’ve realized this is not the time to introduce the new “Car of Sorrow – The Nationwide Edition” to the sport. If they were to try, they’d be lucky to have a dozen teams shows up at the races next year.
There are positive changes NASCAR could make to the Nationwide Series to help it endure tough times. Race purses in the series need to be increased dramatically so a successful team wouldn’t be as dependent on a big corporate sponsor. The schedule needs to be shortened, and the plate races need to be dropped — the cost of a separate plate program and the likelihood of having all their “one trick pony” plate cars destroyed in a wreck are far too high. And more races need to be scheduled nearer to the team’s Southeastern homebase. If long distance travel is required to a track like California or Las Vegas, the race purse has to be increased to cover those travel expenses. Teams fielding Cup drivers currently in the Top 25 on the Cup side should not be awarded points or purse money to benefit the true full-time teams.
Finally, and most importantly, it’s time for NASCAR to stop competing with the teams for corporate backing. We don’t need an official corn dog of NASCAR. Hell, we don’t even need an official beer of NASCAR. If those sponsors want to be involved with the sport, they can sponsor a race car rather than lining NASCAR’s corporate pockets. And as for these “exclusivity” deal with series sponsors (Sprint, Nationwide, and Camping World starting next year), as we say here in Philly, “Fogeddaboudit.” It’s painful to see sponsors like AT&T, Alltel, and GEICO forced out of the sport despite their willingness to back teams just because NASCAR signed some deal to their own benefit.
I truly feel the Nationwide Series is worth saving. Every race isn’t a classic, but the ratio of classics to clinkers is better in the Saturday series than in the Cup Series, most likely because the Saturday cars are the spiritual heirs of the “Car of Yesterday.” But if the series is survive the current economy, it’s time for NASCAR to pull its corporate head out of the sand and adjust to the new realities that challenge it.
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“…the sand…” is not where NA$CARs corporate head is stuck right now… we all have known that for a while. Their head is in a much worst place!
And, at my mamas knee I learned that “pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered” NA$CAR (and more precisely Brian France) has so totally screwed this sport up that I wonder what if anything can save it form it’s ultimate demise. France has gotten richer than even he thought, so why would he care about the future. He has his wealth, one hell of a hog I would say. I almost think he has the “well, we gave it a shot, lets just let it die on the vine” attitude going right now.
What a shame. Last man out, turn off the lights and bring the flag.
Let it die. Then replace it with real stock car racing without the COT, big money sponsors and the Frances. Bring back Darlington on labor day, the Rock, North Wilksboro, etc.
Look, I loved the Busch series in the late 90’s when the stars of today were cutting their teeth in the series. Yes there were some full time Cup drivers in the races, but it was truly a development series. Now it is basically a Cup test event with a few full time teams (most of whom have no budget) thrown in.
Honestly if NASCAR has to cut a series, I would rather save the Truck Series and let the Nationwide series go. The few teams left could merge in with some of the Cup teams. At least this way there will be more than 35 teams on Sunday (and if the DEI/Ganassi rumor is true, then expect even fewer cars next year).
On the plus side, if Nationwide does die, it means more teams, sponsors and talent for the Camping World Truck Series, and ARCA/ ReMax, both of which are better series than NWS or Cup.
Well, the heck with NA$CRAP anyway, they could not make a good decision on anything anyway!
They do not have a clue.
I am totally changing focus next year, see you at the 24 hours in 2009, and simliar races, including the IRL!
NA$CAR? What is that?
I have to agree with Kevin… Let the Nationwide Series die.
There was a time when the up and comers made their name in the (then) Busch series. Bobby Labonte, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth just to name three. Personally, watching Edwards, Harvick, and Boyer beat up on the Nationwide-only drivers week after week is alike watching the school bully beat up the little kids for their lunch money every day. I know the Nationwide drivers claim they like the Cup drivers racing in the Nationwide series. Hey, Patty Hearst supported her own kidnappers when it was in her best interest as well (for those under 45, Google it).
I’ve attended many a race weekend where the Busch race was way better than the Cup race, but until the brass at Nascar wises up and does something to limit the Busch-whackers (term used because “Nationwide-whacker” just sounds plain stupid), I say let the Nationwide series die.
It’s not Brian’s father’s Nascar anymore.
Yet another reason I’d like to see Bruton Smith buy NASCAR. He’d make radical changes most of us would like to see happen rather than just ignore the problems.
Two very good thoughts and ideas from Ed and MilChad.
“It’s painful to see sponsors like AT&T, Alltel, and GEICO forced out of the sport despite their willingness to back teams just because NASCAR signed some deal to their own benefit”
You know what? I’m getting tired of hearing about the economy in regards to nascar. The economy is a factor but it’s not the only reason.
“It’s the racing, stupid!”
Frankly, I’d tear up every damn 1.5 mile track plus california. And I’d drop Indy. That would be a start.
I can’t believe nobody mentioned trimming Mexico from the schedule. I know a couple of crew guys and they loathe going down there. Something NASCAR doesn’t want you to know.
MilChad…No need to mention Mexico…it’s been dropped already. They were dropped from the 09 schedule and replaced with an Iowa race later in the year.