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 February 26, 2009
Welcome to my nightmare
- Alice Cooper
I’ve long been ridiculed as a prophet of doom. Since Brian France took over as CEO of NASCAR, I’ve been saying that this sport’s best days are behind it and the end is nigh. I’ve also put forth the proposition that the “realignment” of the schedule, the Chase, and the Car of Tomorrow have been the three heralds of NASCAR’s impending apocalypse.
All along, I’ve been ridiculed for my gloomy take on things. Even when TV ratings were down, we were told that was an inevitable consequence of the Information Explosion that has left us with 300 channels of TV and the Internet, now competing with the traditional media outlets as a source of information. (I’ve never doubted the latter. The Internet is the cradle that bore me and invited me as a sometimes unwelcome guest into your homes). TV ratings for the stick and ball sports were down even more than NASCAR broadcasts. When the first large blocks of empty seats began appearing in the grandstands, I was told it was just a temporary aberration, a mild failure of the sport’s marketing… and a sign it was time to expand the sport’s all-inclusive fan base to reach out to newer fans, replacing the old school ones who were expendable troglodytes. All was well, I heard over and over again from NASCAR officials and their mouthpieces who constitute the lap dog elements of the mainstream NASCAR media. NASCAR, like the Titanic before it, was unsinkable… and the end was unthinkable. After all, if a global giant like Toyota was willing to plunge headfirst into the pool, it could only be seen as a sign that NASCAR was escaping the stifling constraints of its regional popularity and exploding into the global market. One only remember the huge crowds (well, maybe they weren’t so huge) that crashed the gates to attend the postseason NASCAR events in Japan to see the degree of affection and fascination folks in the Land of the Rising Sun felt towards stock car racing.
Welcome to Fontana, 2009. Welcome to my nightmare. Yes, I am sure that many of you feel I want to see NASCAR fail, if for no other reason than to vindicate the death of Dale Earnhardt and prove true my predictions. That’s far from the case. Stock car racing is a passion of mine that dates back 44 years. This is what I do on Sunday afternoons… this is a major part of my life. God willing, the last Sunday afternoon of my mortal life, I’ll be standing, cheering a last lap pass in the final stock race I will see from this mortal plain. And if there is truly a paradise beyond life here on earth, it won’t be the last race I plan to watch. I truly believe that a better life awaits us beyond this one; I’m just not so sure I’ll get to cross that river. Like the Boss, I’ve done my best to live the right way — I get out of bed every morning and go to work every day. But your eyes go blind, and your blood grows cold, sometimes I feel so weak I just want to explode…
Meanwhile, I’ve got three words for those who thought adding Fontana to the schedule was a good idea: “Ontario Motor Speedway”. For newer fans, I might add, Ontario wasn’t in Canada. It was built at great expense just outside of L.A. and it, too, failed miserably. Whether things get better or they get worse, this weekend at Fontana was a bloody black eye for the sport. Attendance at the three top touring division races was nothing short of embarrassing. Who could have predicted such a disaster? I’ve got a better question: Who outside NASCAR officialdom didn’t see it coming like a runaway freight train, with sparks flying off its steel wheels as it prepared to jump the tracks?
I admit a degree of loathing for the track in Fontana, one that surpasses even most of the contempt showered upon this joint by other hidebound traditionalists. After all, Fontana cost us the Spring Rockingham race and the Southern “By Gawd” 500 on Labor Day weekend. The loss of those two cherished dates, we were told, was inevitable due to declining attendance. Well, even on their worst dates the Rock and Darlington never featured a disaster like this weekend in Fontana. Had either race ever been this poorly attended, not only would the tracks have been closed, they’d have been razed and plowed under — after which the land that once held them would have been salted.
It’s the economy, I’m told. On a personal level, I am all too familiar with the current state of the U.S. economy. To be blunt, it sucks. Fontana is a newer track, and these might be the most challenging times track management has ever had to face. But the Rock and Darlington were elder statesmen of the sport. They’d endured countless economic downturns previous to this one. They’d survived the manufacturer boycotts by Chrysler and Ford in the sixties, ones that sidelined countless numbers of the sport’s biggest names. Yet every year, on Sunday mornings when the gates opened, real fans returned to the seats they’d held dear for decades.
The rural Southeastern United States where the Rock and Darlington are located has perhaps cruelly always been the canary in the coal mine of the U.S. economy. Folks in these parts were enduring the closure of textile mills, tobacco farms, and furniture factories even back when Wall Street was soaring and GM had to work three shifts to churn out enough crappy unreliable cars and trucks that began rusting on the transporters on the way to dealerships to meet demand. After all, Cale, Darrell, and Dale drove Chevys; and what Dale drove to Victory Lane on Sunday, Southerners proudly drove to work on Monday. The Deep South has endured many indignities and challenges, from Union occupation and the carpetbaggers, to the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, to the original advent of outsourcing good-paying jobs overseas. Yet, in the modern era on four cherished weekends a month, they flocked to the Rock and Darlington. They sat in the same seats their granddaddies did in starched white shirts and skinny ties. They sat in the same seats their dads sat in to cheer on Cale and Dale, two true-born sons of the South. And they continued to buy those tickets in an area where stock car racing is a religion second only to Christianity in the Heart of the Bible Belt. They weren’t always the most affluent of fans, the best educated, or the most photogenic — but they were loyal in an area where the word “loyalty” still means something beyond a Hallmark greeting card. Southern fans were as loyal to the sport as a well-fed hound dog is to its lifelong master.
But their hard-earned greenbacks and generations of loyalty weren’t enough for the poltroons of NASCAR and its new TV network partners, one of which is trying to recreate the sport as a freak show and the other of which treats it like one — already bouncing the end of Chase races to tertiary outlets so America’s Funniest Home Videos can air without delay. There’s nothing amusing about that.
Once upon a time, NASCAR and TV envisioned a brave new world where stock car racing was transported from the fertile soil of the South to the seismically unstable dirt of the Left Coast. They lusted after a new sort of fan: wealthier, hipper, better-looking, and freer spending. But in doing so, they well and truly screwed the pooch, fathering a generation of puppies that is even now chewing up the corporate couch. The thing about the newer fans is that they just don’t have a sense of loyalty. They latched onto NASCAR back when it was the next big thing, the same way they became devotees of Pilates exercise equipment, Lexus’s, and David Madoff-backed investments. When times got tough, as they have now, they moved on to the next big thing — investing their dwindling expendable income elsewhere.
There must be some reason AMA Supercross, a bastardization of the purer sort of that sport, can sell out three nights in L.A. while NASCAR can’t. Longtime fans were a different sort of human being; and even in the worst of times, folks always need some entertainment in their lives. For example, the Depression and the dark days of World War II spawned some movies we still consider classics… even if they were filmed in black and white. And those longtime fans didn’t cash in a hot stock to get money to attend a race weekend. They carefully stashed away their ones and fives in the cookie jar to make sure they could make it. They’d forego dinners out, family vacations, and a new car to make sure they were there for the Southern 500. Maybe they’d curtail their white-tail hunting trips from a week to a long weekend just to make the show. There was an attitude that the sacrifices were worth it to be there for something special, the only big thing that rolled through the area annually worth attending.
Sadly, those days might be gone. The powers-that-be tried to turn NASCAR racing from a sport to entertainment. The problem is what they call “the product” lately isn’t very entertaining. The drivers are increasingly hard to embrace. They’ve become carefully spun marketing automons, with all the personality of a mayo on white bread sandwich. It’s hard to imagine a rabid army of fans clinging to them as a member of the extended family, the way countless contingents of folks in black number 3 T-Shirts once embraced Dale. It’s hard to imagine any of them having the rocks to stand up and call NASCAR officials out onto the carpet, the way Earnhardt once did when he had his backup. “This ain’t real racing,” Earnhardt once said of restrictor plates. Sadly, in the end it was plate track racing that cost him his life. He lost. They won. But the victory now seems shallow and short-lived. When Dale left us, a sizable contingent of his fans left the sport. And they ain’t coming back…
At this point, a lot of longtime fans have left the sport once and for all. They were slapped in the face, taken for granted, and belittled too often. NASCAR’s mindset once seemed to be, “If you want to leave, go and don’t let the door hit you in the ass. There’s hundreds more folks who will pay better money to take your place.” Well, judging by Fontana, that once ravenous demand is a thing of the past.
No, this isn’t the end of the world as we know it… at least not yet. My guess is the crowds at Las Vegas next week will be much better. After all, the folks from Bruton Smith’s SMI have always treated fans as an audience that needed to be courted and catered — and it’s time for the folks at NASCAR and the ISC to adopt that same attitude. A good start is to admit that Fontana was a well-intended experiment that failed miserably… and it’s hard to argue with this weekend’s empirical evidence.
It’s a hard thing for a proud man — and an even harder thing for a bloated corporation — to swallow its pride and admit they’ve screwed up mightily and need to make amends. But NASCAR could start by returning the Rock’s date as the second race of the season, as well as moving the Southern 500 at Darlington to its place of prominence — on the Sunday afternoon of Labor Day Weekend. And let the networks bitch. Their solutions to the problems that face the sport today seem to be an animated gopher and his buddies… and that ain’t going to work. Remember, it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond than find oneself at the bottom of the food chain in a larger body of water.
Meanwhile, gentle readers, please keep your hands and feet inside the car. This is going to be a dark ride.
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Just remember, it was not the track’s fault. NASCAR did this. I dont remember the track crying for a second date the way Las Vegas and Kansas are. And yes I’d gladly give up one date as long as Fontana keeps one date. As crappy as you think the track is, the track sold out every year when it had one date.
I still don’t understand how some folks think that Rockingham pulled better attendance. It’s last 2 Spring races had worse attendance than any of California’s Spring attendance, except the Monday-rain mess in 2008. Even then, they sold more tickets than the Rock did.
True, Rockingham had less empty seats, but they still had empty seats. They just had less seats total. So they put too many seats in Fontana.
Not to say I wouldn’t rather see racing at Rockingham- I would. But California deserves one date. But not just California… ALL the 1.5-2.0 mile tracks deserve ONE date. Not 2.
Funny how folks always blame California for the loss of Darlington’s second date. You’d think the name “Ferko” would come to mind. Texas is another track that doesn’t deserve 2 dates, but you can thank lawyers for that one.
How true…At this point, a lot of longtime fans have left the sport once and for all. They were slapped in the face, taken for granted, and belittled too often. NASCAR’s mindset once seemed to be, “If you want to leave, go and don’t let the door hit you in the ass. There’s hundreds more folks who will pay better money to take your place.” Well, judging by Fontana, that once ravenous demand is a thing of the past.
No Kevin , i don’t really think anyone blames the track or the tracks’ management for this mess . The track itself is no better or worse than any of the 1.5 mile tracks . And Ms. Zucker has certainly done everything that could possibly be asked of a track manager / promoter .
Kevin, the reason Fontana didn’t cry for it is because I$C and NA$CAR are the same damn thing. Its in NA$CARS interest to give more races to I$C tracks, because they get more money. Fontana flat out sucks, and now they get a Chase date. Just when you think dumb@ss Brian and the tools can’t do anything else as stupid as the previous stupid move, they give California a Chase date. The racing and finishes at Atlanta were consistently better, but Bruton Smith owns Atlanta, not FRANCECAR.
I am too the point where all I’d like to hear is NASCAR say that MAYBE they were wrong with some of the changes they have made in the last 5 years. Even if they don’t change anything, I’d just liket an admission of error.
Boys, now let’s not get all waded up here and forget what’s truly at the focal point of this mess. My Daddy always told me “desperate men do desperate things.” When you break that down it truly describes Brian France to a T. He has found himself in one hell of a mess (because of greed and power no doubt) and now he must find his way out. Yes, you can manufacture excitement – they do it in the movies all the time. But you can’t manufacture a true fan. Those you have to come by honestly. The have to be culled and catered to, they have to be respected. Many of us “true” fans can stand up and say that hasn’t been the case as of late. I truly believe that France has tried to grow this sport. He didn’t need to; it would have grown itself all on its own. It didn’t need all the gimmicks and gadgets. Now he is in a real pickle of a mess and his pig-headed ego won’t allow him to admit it. He hears what the fans have to say through venues like the FS and he sees how the fans are reacting through the ratings and attendance figures. Many of his recent decisions did not work out too well and I’m guessing they won’t get much better. It’s real damn hard to shovel sand against the tide. But now he is a desperate man doing desperate things….see how that comes around again?
well labor day weekend race is getting closer to darlington this year…it’s here at atlanta. i’m still on the fence about going…more like holding onto my money as long as possible and knowing i’ll have a job in september to spend the money for tickets, gas and food.
2008 was the first season in 25 years that i did not attend at least one cup race. follow the leader, blown right side tires, constant aero push complaints and passing in the pits isn’t worth the time and money it costs. i’ve been listening to radio to try to win tickets to the race here in a week. that’s the only way i’d go. besides i have a feeling weather will be an issue for ams. the track’s website posted photos of people who camped and stood in line for 1000 tickets at $17 a pop (2nd year they did number who won the daytona 500, certain tickets would sell for that amount of money). the folks in the pics look like na$car’s non-demographic fan…..working guy and gal who have supported the sport for years. they sold the 1000 tickets in 15 min.
there are a lot of fans, albeit middle age fans, who still proudly wear the black 3 shirts. every weekend i’ll see gear still being worn someone in a store. i still do. maybe i do it to cling to the memory of days gone by. what incredible times i had at races.
i wonder of na$car is starting to get nervous with jr’s performance and points standing. can you imagine the blacklash if he falls out of the top 35 in points and isn’t “guaranteed” a starting spot in a couple weeks when the 2009 points standings are used?? if that happens, we’ll probably see a rule change.
This was my first year not going to Ontario. I didn’t miss it; having wasted enough driving time between Phx and LA to see the most boring races ever. This year’s finish was marginally better than usual but in the end, I keep in mind the rest of the race. No I won’t be back next year either.
I wonder if the fact that Nascar has become so ensconced in and dependent on the sponsorship deals has anything to do with their inability to unravel the mistakes they must know they’ve made. Or it could be they just don’t want to give up the almight dollar. I just can’t get Kyle Busch’s interview out of my head. Just hearing him say that he heard ‘something’ about the economy being bad but he has a good job and he isn’t affected drives me crazy. Have some compassion for the fans who pay for the tickets and buy your souveniers, for pete’s sake! I have to believe that the France family is living in the same bubble, so they don’t have a clue. It might be nice if you heard from the family once in a while. Heard them acknowledge the hardships their fans are facing and say how much they appreciate those who are still buying track tickets and sponsor products. Perhaps bankruptcy will wake them up. I doubt there will be a government bailout for Nascar.
Matt, thanks for putting it all together. At least for this Old Time Fan, you hit the nail on the head.
How soon until *oyota’s contract is torched, and we contract back to the Southeast only? Maybe then NASCAR can get its soul back.
I have no clue as to how much the procedes from tickets sales at the various tracks affect Nascar’s bottom line, but I’m willing to bet that sponsorship dollars are where the real bucks come from.
Don’t know about you guys but because of late starts and boring races at the cookie cutter tracks I tevo most races. I’ll watch the race and zip through cautions, commercials and anything connescted with that idiotic gopher.
Therefor, I miss the commercials that these sponsors are paying for.Wonder if any of the sponsors have people paid to monitor things like this. If many of you have the same routine the sponsors are wasting money. I wonder if TV ratings are affected by people who record?
The point is until the consequences seriously affect Nascar’s bottom line I doubt we’ll see any change in Nascar policy. Lousy tracks, plate racing, Goodyears, etc.
What will get their attention? Lower attendance, lower ratings, equaling less income.
Maybe then they will start catering to the serious fan’s wishes-or not
At a time when nas$car needs to re-connect with it’s fan, I fear that they will do nothing. They can’t. Sadly they don’t even control their own product. I say product because that’s what it is treated like. Just another generic product from an assembly line. Vanila drivers, vanila cars, and vanilla tracks. When we want action what do we get? An idiotic rodent that’s God awful at it’s best. Sadly the sport I’ve watched for 25+ years is getting more unwatchable with each passing year. I hope nas$car will wake up and realize they’re headed down a one-way dead-end road. I wouldn’t hold my breath though.
Matt, I will simply say this is the best and most honest article I’ve read regarding Nascar. You have put words to my thoughts. Thank you.
It’s funny how you knock the drivers for being a little to PC but yet you are the first person to knock on Tony Stewart for speaking his mind.
L Taylor said: “I wonder if TV ratings are affected by people who record?”
Only the households with a Nielson box affect the ratings. Nielson doesnt use the statistics from people who use DVR’s or TiVo’s. You can look up Nielson Ratings on Wikipedia for more info.
And what’s the big deal with California having a Chase race? Its the same as Charlotte, Texas, Kansas, Atlanta, or Homestead having a Chase race, they’re all speedways. And they’ve all been known to have bad races, even Atlanta.
A reasonable and thinking person would realize that at one point in our country’s history horse racing and boxing were the biggest sports. I would love to know what happened to them. But something went wrong and now both are niche sports (horse racing still makes headlines – but only for a few races.)
Of course NASCAR isn’t run by anyone who is reasonable or thinking. And those who ignore history…
So PontiacGuy – get ready as I really believe there will be a day when Brian pulls his million dollar golden parachute. NASCAR will shrink back to the South as a niche sport and will only make national news for the Daytona 500.
NA$CAR is following the path of a thousand failed business models that went on before them. NA$CAR has it’s niche, but they want to expand. But the mistake they are making is in expanding outside that niche. Like Dunkin’ Donuts selling Pizza, or Indian Motocycles trying to make boat motors and washing machines in the 30’s and 40’s. Trying to expand out of what you do best can kill you. NA$CARs recent success was not from going head to head with NFL, but filling the void to it. Early Sunday starts gave new fans something to see before the late Sunday games, and us loyal fans the rest of our Sunday with family (or in daylight traffic from the track). When the cars were closer to the stickers they wore, and the competition was all but manufactured, the sport we loved could be nothing but successful. But now NA$CAR is refusing to dance with the ones that brung’em. The TV coverage sucks, and the racing sucks, and they can’t figure out why the Ratings suck! Week after week we see 300 to 500 miles of fuel saving, by a bunch of less than talented but more photogenic drivers who ride around in cookie cutter cars that can pass a kidney stone easier than another car. All waiting for the only race there is (the one off pit road) to be first in clean air. Any given Sunday it’s the same thing, baring a storm or an idiot move, one of less than the same 10 cars will ride around out front all day then take the checkers. Well that is till August when it seems to be just one car. All this, so obvious, so sad.
I have been to a few races at Michigan and they were uniformly boring. Track is too flat for good NASCAR racing. I was amazed when Roger Penske (one of the sharpest and shrewdest people around) announced that he was going to build a duplicate of in at Fontana, but with less banking!
atlanta has endured some bad races, just not as consistently mediocre as the “racing” at fontana. All the passing is either done in the pits or in the first 2-3 laps after restarts. Kevin, I respect your opinion on NASCAR events in SoCal, you guys deserve one, just at a different track that actually justifies having it. You need a better track so that fans will actually show up, and the racing will not be mediocre at best. It would be nice if they built something from .5-.75 miles in length out there that could run 2 grooves in. Larger tracks provide boring racing.
Ontario failed because it was a replica of Indy, which is a horrible place to see a race.
Fontana sells out? Who says, NA$CAR? 3 years ago when we lived in Palmdale they were giving tickets away.
California has a lot of race fans. Just not a lot of NA$CAR fans.
Last I knew they had more short tracks than any other state.
Thanks ! What’s odd is that I’ve seen similar actions by other types of business’s where they alienate their base to try and draw a larger audience only to see the whole thing fail. The problem with Nascar is that it’s not just boring but it’s actually becoming annoying.
bold wonder of na$car is starting to get nervous with jr’s performance and points standing. can you imagine the blacklash if he falls out of the top 35 in points and isn’t “guaranteed” a starting spot in a couple weeks when the 2009 points standings are used?? if that happens, we’ll probably see a rule change.bold
Janice, should Jr. have to qualify with the Go/Go home crowd and not make the race, I can almost assure you that he will receive a ‘Promoters exemption’ which will make for a 44 car field.
We are, after all, talking about Jr. an underachieving, less than average driver, who has a blind following
Matt, best article yet. I’ve said recently on another article regarding California that people should really look at all the 1.5 cookie-cutters as just about all of them are pretty boring unless you consider “pit-strategy” a form of racing. Lets face it, NASCAR has even found a way to suck the life out of Bristol. Thanks to the COT and the Chase we now have everyone driving Bristol like they are doing 55 on the highway..may as well install turn signals on the car. I’m not looking to watch a wreckfest but really, lets face it, most of us grew up watching local short track racing where guys were leaning on one another and not exactly being the most polite to one another which is what Bristol used to be…not the Ms. Manners event that we see now. NASCAR has really lost sight of how they got here and has been mentioned already they aren’t much different than companies we’ve seen recently on Wall St.
As another old time fan, thanks Matt. My sentiments exactly. I hardly notice the races anymore. I watch a few laps now and then, but my passion is gone. The tickets are too expensive, the drivers too boring, and the TV coverage too terrible to describe. I yearn for the Rock, North Wilksboro, and Darlington on Labor Day. Real men, who knew which end of a wrench to use, and who were able to race the big time until they wanted to quit, not when the sponsor said so, drove the cars. It didn’t matter if they didn’t have a generic accent or their hair wasn’t perfect or they were over 40. They lived to race and didn’t worry about the money. Money is at the root of most of NASCAR’s evils and it will bring it to it’s knees sooner than later. Hopefully, this economic downturn will bring NASCAR back to its roots and take down the new cookie cutter, boring tracks. Time will tell.
great column matt.