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 April 2, 2009
Here are some brief thoughts on a variety of NASCAR topics while waiting for fickle Spring to make its long overdue arrival…
Qualifying When the Rain is Flying – The record books will show that Jeff Gordon earned the pole at Martinsville this weekend. But he did so without having to turn a lap in anger, instead relying solely on his point lead when arriving at the track to get the spot. With rain washing out the chance to qualify, some folks will say that Gordon earned the pole based on his performance this season to date. In all honesty, Gordon hasn’t qualified outside the top 10 at Martinsville since 2002, and he’s won four pole positions in that period — so it’s likely the No. 24 car would have been starting at or near the front, anyway.
Starting up front at Martinsville is a huge advantage, but the ability to pick a pit stall first is an even bigger one on its notoriously treacherous pit road. Thus, Gordon was handed a two-fer advantage on a track where he’s already a favorite.
Now, it wasn’t that long ago that the reigning (no pun intended) Cup champion got to select his pit stall first at every race. That didn’t guarantee Dale Earnhardt seven titles — but it didn’t hurt him any, either. Earnhardt was a notably lackadaisical qualifier whose average starting spot in his final three full seasons was around 24th. Earlier this decade, NASCAR finally decided to take that advantage away from reigning Cup champions to the general approval of those in the garage area.
Much like the State of the Union Address, FOX television’s primetime lineup, and the presence of your uncouth uncle who starts drinking at 10 in the morning at family gatherings and hasn’t been able to hold a job for more than a month, rain at race tracks has been, is, and always will be one of those unpleasant, unfortunate, but unavoidable circumstances we must endure. As long as races are held outdoors, it’s going to rain during race weekends. (Though sometimes during seasons like last year’s weather-plagued schedule, it seemed the Higher Power was getting in on the act to hand down his views on the unholy abomination that is the Car of Sorrow.)
I know Jeff Gordon didn’t make it rain, and Jeff Gordon couldn’t stop it from raining. But I’d like to see a different set of rules devised for use in the event of inclement weather. First and foremost, if there’s a window of opportunity for additional track time, I’d like to see qualifying rescheduled prior to the race itself. If they have to run it Saturday morning prior to the Nationwide or Truck Series event, that’s fine. With a dreary and damp Saturday at Martinsville, that wouldn’t have worked this weekend, though.
Another idea is to use practice speeds from the last session that was run on a race weekend to set the field. A rainy forecast for the qualifying spot would certainly spice up those practice sessions. If the weather is so bad there’s no on-track activity prior to the race, I’d suggest NASCAR go to a random draw to set the race lineup and pit road selection. That would be equally fair to all drivers and might add a little excitement to the early stages of the race. A random draw is already used to select the qualifying order of the top 35 teams, which often gives an advantage to drivers who run during climactic conditions more favorable to speed during those sessions.
A demented part of me wants to suggest that NASCAR actually invert the field if qualifying is rained out, with the points leader starting dead last. That would make for some excitement for the first hundred laps or so of a race and give the backmarkers and their sponsors some much needed airtime. My guess is the cream would still rise to the top, but there’d be some bent fenders and frayed tempers as things sorted themselves out.
Heck, I’d be open to having the drivers run their qualifying laps using a video game console in the press box in the event of rain. For if history has taught us nothing else, we’ve learned that if there’s anything more dangerous than a toddler with a full loaded assault rifle it’s FOX or SPEED having to fill air time during a rain delay.
Ratings and Racing — Nielsen ratings for this season’s races are down significantly… to a point all the usual “top rated sports event of the weekend” spin can’t hide the bleeding. I’m not a TV guy, but it seems obvious to me whether you’re talking primetime sitcoms, late night talk shows, reality shows, stick and ball sport broadcasts, or racing, ratings are a reflection of how people feel about the “product” being presented to them on the TV screen. If they like the product, they watch it. If they don’t, they channel surf away.
Obviously, some percentage of race fans don’t like the product that is being presented to them this year — they’re not watching. Still, there’s a valid question to be asked as to what exactly those folks voting “no” with their remotes don’t like. Is it the racing itself — an increasingly homogenized and bland form of motorsport with the new cars and venues, less green flag passes for the lead, less displays of genuine human emotion from the drivers, and some venues that have provided less than stellar racing to date replacing longtime fan favorites like Darlington and Rockingham? Or is it the gimmicky, rodent-infested, ego-driven pabulum that FOX tries force-feeding fans?
The answer seems obvious: it is a combination of the two. For better or worse, a whole lot more fans will see racing on TV than will watch it from the stands, and even the best network with a stellar broadcast team can’t make a boring race fun to watch. Likewise, even the greatest race the sport can produce is doomed if the TV coverage is poor and even downright annoying. The cold, hard truth is that both NASCAR and its “broadcast partners” aren’t in this game to please the fans. They’re in it to make money… and lower TV ratings mean all entities make less money. It behooves NASCAR, FOX, and ABC/ESPN to take a long, hard look at what they’re doing wrong and make some rapid corrections — even if they’re painful up front. Both sides of the equation need to work together. A good start would be to dump the Hollywood Hotel and Digger, start races at one o’clock EST, and get rid of Fontana, New Hampshire, and Joliet.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and the Media — Even though I am little league media, I realize that the media needs Dale Earnhardt, Jr. more than Dale Earnhardt, Jr. needs the media. That having been said, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. does need us to keep his sponsors happy, and the coverage he receives is all out of whack to what he’s accomplished as of late.
Junior went on record recently telling the media to back off his crew chief Tony Eury, Jr. and the jungle drum beat that Eury has to go if Earnhardt is ever going to win more than an occasional race. Earnhardt even cowboyed up a bit and said if anyone has to be blamed for his recent lack of success at Hendrick, he’ll gladly take the blame himself. (Larry McReynolds never got that sort of backing from Junior’s old man when they hit a slump. Ponder that for a minute to decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.) Certainly, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is a lot closer to the situation than anyone in the media. But with that closeness there lies a danger — he can’t see the forest for the trees.
When Dale Earnhardt, Jr. failed to live up to the hype at DEI, everyone was ready to pile on Teresa Earnhardt as an absentee owner who was destroying the team that was her husband’s legacy by refusing to spend the money to give the No. 8 team the tools it needed to win races and contend for titles. While tactfully defending his stepmother, Junior acknowledged he wanted more control at DEI, which at least implies there were things he wanted to change within the organization. When he didn’t get a stake in ownership, Earnhardt moved on to what was perceived as greener pastures at HMS. On paper, he’s right: Rick Hendrick’s organization has won oodles of titles and over a hundred races in its 25-year tenure.
Yet somehow, the problems that plagued Junior at DEI continue at HMS. It’s kind of hard to blame Teresa Earnhardt for that. Rabid Earnhardt fans are already blaming Rick Hendrick for Junior’s lack of success, claiming that Gordon and Johnson get all the good stuff while Junior gets junk.
I don’t buy it. Like Kyle Busch might say, “Negatory, Night-Rider.” At least in the current climate, Hendrick’s decision to replace Busch with Earnhardt might seem like the most foolhardy deal since the French signed off on the Louisiana Purchase.
Nobody is saying Tony Eury, Jr. is a bad guy. I don’t know the man, so I’m not going to shovel dirt into his grave while he tries to dig himself out. Given another driver, he might be an outstanding crew chief. But sometimes, the chemistry just doesn’t work between a good driver and a good crew chief. What he brings to the table as a broadcaster is a matter of opinion, but Larry McReynolds was a brilliant crew chief in his day. He enjoyed a ton of success with many different drivers, and his pairing with Davey Allison was pure magic. Richard Childress saw hiring McReynolds away from Robert Yates Racing to call the shots for the No. 3 team as a strategic move to help his old buddy Dale Earnhardt out of a slump. Now, no sane man can doubt the elder Earnhardt’s talents as a race car driver. Larry McReynolds did, in fact, play a key role in finally getting Dale that elusive Daytona 500 victory and, for that weekend at least, all was sweetness and light. But the honeymoon didn’t last very long, and eventually Childress had to move McReynolds over to the No. 31 team at Earnhardt’s behest.
When a driver-crew chief combination isn’t working, there’s some who will say that given a little time, the pair still might gel. Eventually, though, changes have to be made — even if its temporary — to eliminate that issue as the source of the problem. In the Earnhardt-Eury relationship, there’s no doubt who’s the Alpha Dog. Sometimes, a crew chief needs to have the gumption to tell his driver to quit bellyaching and tell him what the car is doing so he can make improvements on the next stop. Sometimes, a driver is going to want changes that a good crew chief knows won’t work, and that crew chief is going to have to convince his driver to trust him. But when you hear Earnhardt tell Eury, “I’m pitting this time by whether you want me to or not…” that suggests theirs is a lopsided relationship that’s going nowhere.
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I’m going out on a limb here, but I think the saying is “he can’t see the forest for the trees.”
And on rained out qualifying: Do everything possible to get it in; Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon or even Sunday morning… what ever it takes. And if that doesn’t work, take the top 43 in drivers’ points and let them draw a starting spot with the ping pong balls and call it a day
On Ratings and racing; and I quote “they’re in it to make money….” You’re damn right they are. NA$CAR and what it really stands for:
Why is it that so many NASCAR fans like to see things decided by random crapshoots than by accomplishments or some kind of quantifiable methodology?
Inverting the field based on points??? Doesn’t that wreak of fixing the competition to manufacture excitement? Isn’t this why debris cautions are prevalent and the chase was conceived? I thought you hated rules that were designed to fix the field to be most entertaining. Make up your mind dude.
You’re right … Matt had the forest phrase right and we actually screwed it up in editing. The correct phrase is back up there for your viewing pleasure.
Thanks for writing in and reading FS!
McReynolds’ problem with senior was that he wasn’t Kirk Shelmerdine. Maybe they didn’t win a ton of races; but, I recall Mike Skinner saying that if Larry Mac told him he’d win the race by turning the car around on the track and running against traffic, he’d simply say ‘where do you want me to turn around?’. I’m sure Davey felt the same way.
As far as qualifying order for rained out sessions… If you can’t get a session in before the race (best solution), why not take the average of the last 5 qualifying efforts for the driver? I’ve always thought that points from race results shouldn’t play into the qualifying order – where one or two hot laps are the objective.
Matt, your prejudice is showing in the tracks you mentioned. Not a one is in the south. Are you saying that Atlanta is better racing than New Hampshire? Why is Chicago worse than Charlotte? And, if the extreme racing at Martinsville is OK, why isn’t a race at the other extreme at California?
Oh, ‘cause they ain’t in the South? don’t you have enuf tracks down there already? Leave some for us ‘regular’ folks, too.
The tracks down south just seem to have the quirks that give it better racing to watch. The “cookie cutters” are just an enlarged version of the slot car tracks we used to race on the living room floor as a kid. They are just so unimaginative and plain and crappy!If you have to choose between “The Rock” and Chicago…come on…it’s simply no contest!
My thought when Qualifying is canceled was give the point leader the choice of pole postion or pit selection not both and the go down the line that way.Also yes the racing is better in Charlotte than Chicago and Atlanta is better than New Hampshire. Mik you picked two bad examples.
Junior isn’t his father and never will be. Senior forgot more about racing than Junior or Larry Mac, will ever know or care to know.
Junior has made his money. What does he care ??? $36M a year and he wants a championship ?? What for ?? He know’s his abilities are “limited” at best. He does the best he can with what he has and that’s it. His abilities just aren’t good enough to ever win a championship.
That is the cold, hard facts.
I need to remind people time to time that I was indeed born in the South, South Jersey that is. The Philadelphia metro area has been my home most of these almost 50 years. My home tracks are Pocono and Dover not the Rock and Darlington.
Again, the vast majority of fans, even in the local area, are going to see the race on TV not in person. I could care less if the race is held across the street from my house or on the moon as long as there’s good action.
There’s a reason that tracks like Darlington, Martinsville and such survived for decades while others like Ontario, Texas World Speedway and others fell by the wayside…historically the storied tracks of the South provided the best action. If you feel the trade off of the Rock for Fontana was a fair one, I’d like to take a moment to welcome you to the sport as a newer fan and offer my sincere condolences you never got to see races at the Rock.
Larry Mac has lived off of his accomplishments with Davey and Dale for years , but believe me , he had very little to do with either drivers success .
Wrong, Matt. I’m not a newer fan, but I’ve only been able to watch NASCAR on TV, ‘cause I’m up here in the PacNW. So, I don’t have a ‘Home Track’ in Cup racing (though, South Sound is the best one to get your jones massaged around here).
Sayin’ that a track should be eliminated is sayin’ that the racing is not worthy of watching. I’m saying that ALL racing is worth watching. Racing at Martinsville is as relevant as the racing at California …different as hell, but still 43 guys tryin’ to get to the front.
And that’s racing! You can deny it all you want, but California, New Hampshire, and Joliet have just as much to do with racing as those ‘storied’ tracks you are bally-hooing. The Rock is not on the schedule because those who don’t race are hoping for more attendance than the stories can draw, not because it didn’t have the best action.
I disagree 110% with the idea of using practice speeds to set the qualifying results. There are some drivers who are great in practice, but can’t “bring it” when the pressure of qualifying is on. There are others who consistently qualify better than they practice. I would rather go for a Saturday qualifying run or leave it as it is. Practice doesn’t count! (And shouldn’t count.)
The mile-and-a-half tri-oval or D-shaped oval tracks used to be great places for racing. Charlotte, Atlanta and Texas were fast tracks with good competition. The advent of Joliet, Vegas and Kansas which were patterned after the original 1.5 mile tracks, yet somewhat homogenized, marked the advent of the cookie cutter era. I’d take The Rock over any of the three, and throw in California, Michigan and New Hampshire to boot. The best thing to happen in track construction, IMHO, was the reconfiguration of Homestead to a true mile and a half OVAL, which was something the circuit lost when Atlanta was rebuilt in the late 90’s. I don’t care where you build the tracks, just give us something with decent racing on it. And if anyone thinks what we’re seeing today is really worth following, I’d have to disagree. OUT with Myers, Hammond, Waltrip and Digger. Amen! Let’s go racing on some more mile and under tracks.
You aren’t going to get a Matt McLaughlin article without him crying about Darlington. I think it’s in his contract. He either gets to cry about Darlington or bust out his Tim Richmond shrine every week. His local law enforcement is going to have to do 15 minute welfare checks on him when Darlington loses their only race.