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.
Geographically, Los Angeles and Las Vegas are about 270 miles apart. Yahoo! Maps says the drive should take about four hours on average — unless you’re Sam Kinison, or the nice folks at Shelby Motors lend you one of those Super Snake Mustangs. In this great big country of ours, the two cities are virtual next door neighbors. Hell, it can take four hours to get from Philly to Dover on race weekends… trust me, it’s been tested.
But it was very apparent over the last two weekends that the tracks at Fontana and Las Vegas had very different levels of success in selling tickets this year. Vegas drew more fans for Saturday’s Nationwide race than Fontana managed to peddle for the all-singing, all-dancing Cup event the previous Sunday. In fact, Vegas sold out the Sunday show, while the “crowds” for Saturday’s doubleheader Truck/Nationwide event at Fontana were nothing less than an embarrassment to the sport. In fact, the Calaveres Fair and Frog Jumping Contest draws more spectators than wandered into Fontana for Saturday races.
I mentioned this issue in Sunday night’s column, and some people immediately chimed in that Vegas has a natural advantage. With the casinos, the night life, the shows, and everything else going on in Vegas, it’s a vacation destination, they say. I can’t argue that point. Vegas appeals to a lot of people. To be frank, I’m not one of them. I’m not much of a gambler; if I blow 20 bucks at a casino annually, that’s an oddity. So in my opinion, I find Vegas crass, phony, tacky, and over-hyped. Yeah, there’s nothing like a pair of drunks getting married by an 80-year-old Elvis impersonator at a Drive Thru chapel to scream “class!” I think everyone should go to Vegas once… and only once. But if that city is your cup of tea, well, hey, to each their own poison.
So — while some of you who have decided that I hate the left coast because of my loathing for Fontana may be surprised to hear it — I actually prefer L.A. There’s something to be said for a town where you can go skiing in the morning, hit the beaches in the afternoon, and enjoy some of the best clubs in the country at night… if you can avoid the latest starlets achieving terminal meltdown. L.A. is America’s car town, the place where hot-rodding as we know it was born, and I’ve enjoyed every trip I’ve ever taken to Los Angeles. From personal experience, I can’t subscribe to the notion there’s nothing to do in L.A. other than going to the Fontana race. I guess the track promoters just need to do a little better job selling the city as a cool vacation for everyone, from folks who are obsessed with Hollywood types to sun worshipers needing a little quality preseason beach time in between 500 miles of cars going ‘round in circles.
Others have told me that Fontana’s chances at a sellout are doomed because their races and the Vegas events fall on subsequent weekends. That begs the question, why doesn’t Vegas suffer the same fate? L.A. has a bigger population base to draw from, and they ought to be able to sell out their races — even if fans don’t fly in from out of town.
So, then… why the disparity in ticket sales? For one thing, there’s a very major difference between Fontana and Vegas. Fontana is one of the tracks in the France family portfolio, while Vegas is one of Bruton Smith’s tracks. For all his faults, and they are myriad, Smith is a natural born promoter. I think the man could sell tickets to watch paint dry. The general managers he has hired to run his tracks, starting with the inestimable Humpy Wheeler, tend to be among the best promoters in the business. They’ll hustle to sell tickets in any circumstance, and they have no problem staging outlandish promotions. In Eddie Gossage of TMS’s case, he wasn’t above calling season ticket holders to listen to their thoughts on the cooler issue. It’s clear to me the SMI promoters have a better finger on the pulse of the fans, coming across to those fans as much more appreciative of their patronage as a result. Meanwhile, the France family’s typical arrogance has always been summed up as, “We’re offering a great product, and if you don’t want to buy tickets, there’s a line of eager fans behind you eager to grab up your seat.”
Yeah, these are tough times to sell tickets. The economy is well and truly in the tank. A lot of race fans are either unemployed, or fearful that they might soon be unemployed. A lot of folks are struggling to hang onto their homes. Retirement savings that once seemed rock solid have been decimated. I don’t have to tell you this stuff — you know it as well as I do. Back in the days when it seemed our 401Ks swelled a thousand dollars every month as if by magic, it was a lot easier to justify the not insubstantial cost of taking the family out for a race weekend. These days, that expense is a lot harder to justify for many of us, and completely unrealistic for many more. (Which seems to indicate TV ratings for the races should be soaring… but they’re not. That’s a topic for another column.)
It would seem that the folks at Vegas and other SMI tracks got the memo on the economy. In the months leading up to the Vegas race, I saw numerous press releases touting lower priced hotel rooms and discount flights to Vegas in various media outlets. Discounted race tickets were also available, perhaps not to prime seats but to ones that offered a decent view of the track. If fans needed more information on a budget race weekend at Vegas, they could find it on the track’s website. Let’s face it; even in these grim economic times, we still all need a break from the usual routine, a chance to have a little fun and make a change from the 9 to 5 Monday to Friday workweek. Through its various promotions, Vegas made a case that a race weekend was more affordable than ever — and a lot of people apparently bit.
I’ll admit that the way the so called “hospitality” industry gouges race fans has always been a pet peeve of mine, even back when I was traveling on somebody’s else’s dime chasing the circus. Hotels and motels are notorious for jacking rates for rooms during race weekends, doubling and even tripling their prices while imposing burdensome and expensive minimum stays. For whatever reason, Daytona has earned a reputation as the worst track on the circuit in that regard. Triple rate rooms with five night minimum stays were typical of the way local businesses tried to fleece the race fans there. To the best of my recollection, Humpy Wheeler was the first promoter to try to restore some sanity to the situation at Charlotte, working with the hospitality industry to offer fans affordable lodging in the area of the track. He was also the first promoter to offer reduced price tickets to the races. That was back when the economy was still good. My guess is that the folks in Vegas twisted some arms at the local Chamber of Commerce, pointing out that casino and hotel revenues were down — but that a big event like the races could bump up everyone’s bottom line. If the folks at Fontana tried a similar strategy, I never heard about the initiative — and I spend a whole lot of time keeping up on current happenings in the sport.
Just for a moment, though, let’s put aside the economy. After all, this sport has survived tough economic times before over its 60-year history. There will always be a need most folks feel for a little entertainment, even when things aren’t going well. The key word here is “entertainment.” Given this sport’s history, both Vegas and Fontana are relatively new tracks on the circuit. Both of them were designed as dual use tracks, and were designed to host both stock and open wheel cars. Tracks designed for dual use tended to be wider and have lower banking, while a track designed specifically for stock cars tended to be unsuitable for open wheel racing due to the higher speeds the open wheel cars ran. Texas and the IRL cars were a notable exception to that; when CART tried running at Texas, the speeds were so high that drivers claimed they were blacking out in the corners, to the point the race actually had to be canceled the day of.
But thanks to the fratricidal battle between CART and the IRL, open wheel racing has been reduced to a minor asterisk in the sports world, with the exception of Memorial Day weekend at Indy. Meanwhile, the tracks that hosted both series tended to put on some of the most boring events on the stock car racing schedule: Michigan, KC, L.A., New Hampshire, Joliet, and others. From the day they opened, fans have been complaining about the relative dearth of excitement at both Fontana and Vegas. The difference is the folks at Vegas actually did something about it. They dug up the track. They added more banking. They made a good faith effort to make the races there more exciting. To an extent, it has worked, at least in the Busch/Nationwide series over the last few years.
No race track design — not Richmond, not Martinsville, not even my beloved Darlington — is so perfect that every race held there is going to be a classic. Ned Jarrett once won a race at Darlington by a mere 16 laps. No, you don’t have to remind me. I was already following the sport back then. But it behooves the management at any track to put their best foot forward, attempting to make sure that the ratio of clinkers to classics remains acceptably low. It’s essential to try to host the sort of races that leave fans breathless, feeling the monies they spent to attend the race were well worth it. You want those fans to leave your track so excited that when it comes time to renew their tickets, even in tough economic times, they don’t want to miss out on a chance to see another classic race live and in person. It also behooves those track managers to see to it the irritants that turn a race weekend sour— traffic, high concession prices, long lines at the restrooms, etc. — don’t make the fans at this year’s event not want to come back next year. Here’s a hint: if folks are leaving the track with 100 laps left in the race to try to beat traffic, you’ve got a major league problem on your hands.
Vegas isn’t the only SMI track to get a major face lift. For better or worse, Atlanta was totally redone in 1997. The levigating experiment at Charlotte was a failure, but they kept right on digging the place up until they got it right. Texas has been dug up and reconfigured three or four times.
In comparison, the France family seems reluctant to lay out that sort of dough. Daytona is a stone cold embarrassment to the sport. Highways in Third World nations are smoother and have less cracking. Both that track and Talladega are way overdue for a major rewrite to eliminate the dreaded restrictor plates. Out in L.A., there have been calls to reconfigure Fontana almost since it opened. (A fuel mileage race, as I recall, dominated that first event… yawn.) Yet nothing has ever been done.
In the meantime, Fontana track management is long on excuses for the recent slowdown in ticket sales. It’s the economy. It’s the track’s date on the schedule. It’s the addition of the second date. (Funny, that didn’t seem to hurt Texas.) Well, here’s a hint for Gillian Zucker: the track sucks. Fix it. Fix it now, or don’t expect fans to lay out their hard-earned dollars to watch another parade. And if you think an improving economy, a different race date, or a Chase event is going to put butts in your seats, take a drive down the road to Ontario — to the remnants of a track that couldn’t sell out even when that race decided championships.
Some of you have apparently decided that I dislike (OK, loathe) Fontana because it’s a continent away from the Philly area I proudly call home. Quite frankly, if Fontana was across the street from my house, I got my tickets free, and they flew me over there in a helicopter to my own private suite, I wouldn’t waste four hours of my time to attend the race. And regardless of what I think, a lot of folks in So-Cal have already come to the same conclusion.
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Scads of words to say what we already knew? Another example of complaining about NASCAR.
I love the Fontana race; it takes the best engine, the best handling package, and the best driver to put together a victory there. It’s the kind of place Buddy Baker became a legend at.
Here’s a simple solution; stop watching it, stop griping about it, and take up a new sport to follow… curling, perhaps?
Take a prozac and lose the misery, Matt.
Bobb apparently has a vested interest the left coast and Fontana…He seems unnecessarily upset…maybe he needs the Prozac! Left coasters have big egos but this one is wrong!!
Matt, you could not be more right, Bobb , you could not be more wrong.
Crass, tacky, phony, & over-hyped! Sounds to me like you just nailed Brian France’s NA$CAR!
I can’t be right about what I like? Now I know I’ve read something laughable.
Tracks like Fontana, Pocono, Michigan, and Darlington, present the toughest challenges.
I watched many races in the 70’s and 80’s that were exactly as Fontana was two weekends ago.
I think it’s a Frontstretch habit to whine and complain without detailing how races aren’t comparable or lesser than what made NASCAR strong and popular throughout 6 decades.
Don’t tell me what I like and don’t like, don’t guess I have an investment in the “left coast” when I don’t… I like tough racing and what I’ve seen this season, last season, and many seasons before still has the attributes I described.
You are so right Matt. Las Vegas is hurting economically, so they will work with the track to bring people in. They also have a better “product” to attract fans in the form of a better track. I don’t think Fontana could do much of anything to attract fans to the poor racing there, the few apologetic Fontana fans not withstanding.
Anyone who thinks that there is something shocking and unprecedented about hotels raising their prices when something popular draws crowds to the area has never been to the beach in July, to New England during leaf season, or skiing between Christmas and New Years.
Its called supply and demand. The supply of hotel rooms in a given area is fixed at a level that the regular demand, spread through the year can support. When a big event arises the hotel owners can’t take a thousand extra rooms out of storage and add on a few spare floors then fold them up for next year after the crowds are gone.
Rather, they raise prices — ensuring that the maximum number of people can be accommodated as people who would have bought individual rooms at the regular rate share a room at the increased rate and free up that other room for someone else.
In addition, if the event is regular and predictable and the profits to be gained by renting rooms at the increased rate are reliable the hotel owners will build a little extra capacity to take advantage of it — extra rooms that they have no hope of selling during the rest of the year even though they still have to pay taxes and maintenance on them. Making those extra rooms available at all depends on being able to charge enough during the big event to cover the whole year’s costs.
There is no arbitrary “fair” price for anything. There is only the floor price, below which the seller cannot make any profit at all, and the highest price anyone is willing to pay.
If you want a cheap hotel room go to a place during its off-season. If you want to go somewhere to do something that a lot of other people also want to do then expect to have to compete with them for your hotel room and pay the price set by that demand.
As I’ve said before, supply and demand isn’t even Economics 101; its economics kindergarten.
There is no free lunch and there are no cheap hotel rooms when several hundred thousand people all arrive at once for a big event.
Matt said: “From personal experience, I can’t subscribe to the notion there’s nothing to do in L.A. other than going to the Fontana race.”
I never said there’s nothing to do in L.A., I said there’s nothing to do in FONTANA but go to the racetrack. L.A. is 50 miles or so west of the track. About an hour on a good day, two hours or more in traffic. Las Vegas Strip is what, 5 miles south of the race track? Fontana and Los Angeles are about as far apart on the map realistically as Las Vegas and Los Angeles are. So if you go to Las Vegas, there is tons to do within 10 minutes. If you go to Fontana, you’re looking at a 2 hour drive to find something better to do. That’s why Las Vegas is a better draw than Fontana. (other than the racing being boring)
Bobb has a right to “like” any track he wants. The remainder of what he had to say is just his opinion. You know what thay say about opinions…
I happen to agree that his opinion on this one is incorrect.
I too went to many races during the 70’s and 80’s. I also have been to a Fontana race. It is the worst racing I have EVER seen in person.
greg… I’ll say what I will… but I’d appreciate some specific reasonings rather than an outburst I last heard in high school. This is a forum with dialogue! Counter what I say specifically and I’ll respect your reasoning, otherwise… you’ll have to be dismissed without respect.(“piehole”… that is extremely clever!)
MB V You hit the nail right on the head… both the hotel operator and the room renter are equally part of the bargain agreed to at three times the normal rates… (unless the renter likes to whine and gripe as if he was forced at gunpoint to rent the room).
JeffG. You’re telling me it’s my opinion that I enjoyed the recent Fontana race and I’m incorrect? WOW! Tell me something else!
California and specifically L.A are famous for having the most of everything and the best of nothing .
You hit the nail on the head…SMI tracks and their employees are heads and shoulders above ISC tracks…the only ISC track I still go to is Darlington and I refuse to give her up no matter who owns her.
I agree with Matt. After going to the Feb races for many years and watching the same boring races, I stopped going this year. Watched it on TV, no regrets not being there even though the race was marginally better than normal. It really is a stinker of a race…give the dates back to Rockingham and get some interest and diverse layouts back into the sport.
Bobb is right that this is yet another FS article bitching about something that been bitched about a million times before.
Though Matt is has hit the nail on the head with why Vegas succeeds where Fontana does not, I’m pretty sure he wrote the same article last year. And a paragraph or two in every article he writes.
The negativity is whats getting old. Life isn’t going going back to the “good-ol-days” no matter how much you pine for it. So can FS have a no-negative-articles week? Would that be too much to ask?
Can we find one reason to like Nascar instead of one hundred not to?