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.
As some of you may know, after the Pocono wrap-up I’m heading off for the annual family Jersey shore vacation. Fewer of you realize that while I’m taking this time off, I will hit a dubious milestone and turn 50 years of age. Normally, I loathe to discuss my personal life because, frankly, I know most of you could give a damn. I respect that you’re here to read about Dale, Jeff, Jimmie, Carl and the rest… not me. But as I look down the barrels of 50, it’s hard not to reflect a little on a half-century journey here on this grand blue marble we all call home.
I’ve been a stock car racing fan for most of my life, getting addicted in 1964. A Southern Cousin turned me onto the sport, and it’s become a lifetime obsession. Back then, I was still five years away from my first motorcycle ride (another lifelong obsession), seven years from my first beer (ditto), and was still mastering the alphabet that would later become an odd way to make a living.
Like most newly minted fans in 1964, I started my fandom as a Richard Petty backer. The lanky, always grinning North Carolina native in his brilliant blue Hemi Plymouth Furies was the perfect sports hero. That Fury, though a bit brighter in hue than most suburban dads in the era would choose for their daily driver, looked exactly like any number of similar Plymouths I’d see motoring down Boxwood Lane as I walked to Lincoln Elementary School with the neighborhood kids for morning kindergarten classes.
Mopar enthusiasts might correct me, but as best I can recall, there were no Hemi Furies on the street in 1964. The first Hemi car I had personal experience with belonged to an older neighbor. In 1968, he showed up with a brand new Hemi Road Runner in a curiously sedate color that I can only call Elementary school cinderblock wall pale yellow. (It was soon wearing red primer down the right side after a mishap at the track.) It was a relative stripper with the big engine, a bench seat, and a four speed tranny, but word was soon out along the beach road where they raced in my hometown that the Road Runner was the car to beat. Curious to see what all the fuss was about, securing my first ride in the car did more to convince me of the existence of a kind and benevolent God than all the preaching of the good Sisters at Saint Charles Boromeo combined. Somehow, I managed to survive the experience. To this day, the recollection of that Hemi’s primal roar blasting through a pair of Hooker Headers and Thrush glass packs still makes what hair I have left on my scalp stand up straight. After that ride, I was a car guy for life. (Though I’d later come to prefer my next door neighbor’s 1970 Mach One to the Road Runner.)
Anyways, 1964 was a good year to be a Richard Petty fan… especially for a kid. Petty would win nine of that season’s 62 (I’m not making this up, nor is my brain completely mush yet… yes, 62 races!) en route to his first of seven titles. After the two boycott seasons which tried even a kid’s soul, 1967 was an even better year to be a Richard Petty fan. That year, Petty would win 27 of 48 races… 10 of them in a row. Obviously, he won another title. For Christmas that year, I got a Petty Blue windbreaker with The Plymouth Rapid Transit System patch on its breast. I think I wore it every day until I finally outgrew it…
As I grew up, being a race fan in the Northeast wasn’t easy back in the day. There was little to no TV coverage of the sport. The local sports pages would occasionally devote two inches of column space to Grand National Racing — usually below the horse racing odds on the back page. My Uncle would have to send me columns clipped from the Charlotte Observer, and that’s how I kept up with the sport for much of my childhood.
Eventually, I attended my first Cup race in February of 1973, the Daytona 500 won by none other than Richard Petty. I wrote a story about that experience that’s now older than some Cup drivers. It’s out there somewhere. After that, occasionally Dad would take me to races at Dover or Pocono.
My next major milestone occurred in September of 1979. It was the first great road trip of my life — a spontaneous last-minute trip taken in a black big block El Camino with a leaking gas tank. (If I could somehow round up my neighbors’ Road Runner and Mach One and that old black El Camino, I could probably take them to Barrett-Jackson and retire comfortably on the proceeds.) Somehow, the truck survived the ride, and I avoided arrest despite my long hair and our “Trail Mix” of Budweiser and Panama Gold. Yeah, I was young, stupid, and irresponsible back then. But now that I’m older, stupid, and irresponsible, I miss those road trip adventures. Taking the trip from Philly to North Wilkes in a 70 Boss 302 with 4.10 gears? No problem. Philly to Rockingham in a 70 GS455 Stage One? I seem to recall the A/C in that car won the battle with the Southern heat rather handily, even loafing along at triple digit speeds. Nowadays, though, I devote more pre-planning to the 90-minute ride to the Shore. This year, I might need some drugs to make the trip; not dope but Flo-Max to limit the bathroom breaks, along with Prozac to help me deal with morons in BMWs chatting on the cell phone and changing lanes without use of their mirrors.
Over the years, I’ve watched several crops of rookies come up to challenge the drivers of my youth. First, there was Darrell Waltrip, then Dale Earnhardt the original, Bill Elliott, Rusty Wallace, Jeff Gordon, and others. It makes me think that maybe there is hope for Kyle Busch after all. Back in the day, Darrell and Dale were punks, and the more they won, the more the fans hated them. Yet both drivers would go on to be elder statesmen of the sport, with legions of fans who couldn’t stand drivers that began to beat them. I’ve watched the circle of life so many times, I’m equally wondering how the current crop of drivers will mature and I’m curious as to who the next batch of rookies might be.
It’s gotten a lot easier to be a race fan. The first NASCAR races I saw on TV were broadcast in short segments on Wide World of Sports. I watched them on a black and white console TV that two strong men would struggle to lift. Color TV, cable, cell phones, remotes, VCRs, and DVRs were all decades away.
But although the coverage was small in scale, the pictures it gave us had a large impact. For all my affection for Darlington these days — it’s my favorite race track, as you might have guessed — originally I hated the track. Why? Because moments after Wide World of Sports joined the Darlington race, Richard Petty got sideways and hit the pit wall, sending the No. 43 car tumbling violently. Even in black and white, that wreck was terrifying to watch, with Petty’s arm and head dangling out the window as his Road Runner rolled. The road to seven titles was not without its potholes. Another memorable moment occurred live on CBS in 1976, when the network joined the race live at the midway point. Petty and Pearson wrecked on the final lap, with Pearson able to drive his damaged Mercury across the finish line to take the win. Things worked out better for the King at Daytona in 1979, when CBS offered the first flag-to-flag coverage of a major NASCAR race. With a lot of the country homebound courtesy of a major winter storm, the nation got its first real glimpse at stock car racing. The sport was still a little rough around the edges, with Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison engaging in a fistfight after wrecking on the final lap while Petty sped on to an unexpected victory. Still, it was one of those defining moments for (ahem) more mature fans. If you recall where you were when you heard RFK and Martin Luther King were shot, you also recall where you were when you watched that race. For me, I was comfortably ensconced on a truly horrid plaid couch in the living room of 649 Lakeview Circle, Newtown Square, PA, watching the race with my dad at the age of 18. He was allowing me to have a couple beers out of his stash of Schlitz in the lime green refrigerator, perhaps knowing I’d been sneaking a few anyway as of late. Do they even make Schlitz anymore?
As time went by, color TV got to be commonplace, along with a new, expanding lineup of channels. Fledgling sport’s programming cable TV network ESPN took a big gamble in 1981 and started broadcasting races live. Dale and Darrell became the first made-for-cable TV stars of the sport… sort of like Duran Duran became the first stars of MTV. Fortunately, Darrell and Dale had a bit more staying power. ESPN and NASCAR quickly became partners in success, and what was good for one was good for the other. (That is, until NASCAR became big enough they spurned the one that brought them to the dance and put TV rights up for bid to those willing to pay the highest price.) Now, ESPN and ABC are back… I just wish the broadcast style they popularized in the ’80s had returned as well. Or maybe that’s just me being a cranky old man. Yeah, in retrospect, fans today have it pretty good compared to the “Good Old Days.”
With the advent of the Internet, race fans got another unique outlet for information. Fueled by the evergreen Jayski’s Silly Season site, a cottage industry began of Internet racing writers. The same tidal wave that lifted guys like Monte Dutton and Mike Mulhern from Southern paper sportswriters and brought them from the edge of the world to your town also brought along a new crowd of hopefuls looking to ride the bandwidth wave into your home PC.
Folks have asked me how I got started doing this, and I guess its time to ‘fess up. Like most good things in my life, it just sort of fell into my lap — a sign (I hope) that a provident Savior is more amused than annoyed by my antics. At that point in life, I was 30-something and out of work. I’d been managing a tire store until a nasty fall off a 20-foot high pallet almost left me crippled. Yet after countless years of working 50-hour weeks to rise through the ranks, I found myself getting paid to sit at home and do nothing while I healed. The highlight of my week was waiting for the next NASCAR race on TV. Ask anyone unfortunate enough to have encountered me face-to-face; I’ve been doing this laid back hippie thing for three decades but when it comes to racing, I am one opinionated son of a bitch.
Thus, I fired off an angry and sarcastic letter to the Winston Cup Scene, one of several they ended up publishing. A fellow by the name of Mike Calinoff, who was spotting for Brett Bodine (he now spots for Matt Kenseth) and running a small giveaway newspaper at the time read one of those letters and decided maybe I was worth giving a shot. He called directory assistance looking for a Matt McLaughlin in Broomall, PA and got my number.
When the call came in, I was just getting out of the shower. Thus that afternoon, I was standing naked, dripping all over the carpet, drinking a Coors Light (and showing the neighbors in my apartment complex why there are damn few male Irish porn stars) when Calinoff asked me if I’d like to write for a racing newspaper. Would I? That was the dream. It was like asking me if I’d like to do the horizontal hula with Heather Locklear.
He invited me to come South to talk about the job. Less than 12 hours later, I was at the wheel of John Henry, my lifted Ford pickup truck, heading south. However, my so-called career didn’t get off to a great start. Whatever guardian angel used to protect me on road trips south during my dazed and confused period had apparently decided that “aw the heck with it, that’s what purgatory is for if Hell don‘t have room for him” and I blew a left-rear tire while passing an 18-wheeler at 80. Campers, that’s how close it came to you never having to endure a word I’ve written. John Henry got up on two wheels and almost rolled, with two well-skilled semi-drivers deftly avoiding me while I slid across three lanes of traffic to the breakdown lane. With 35-inch tires, you can’t carry a spare… so I was out of luck. I didn’t have a cell phone then — hell, I don’t have one now and never will — so I had no choice but to jump a fence, then run up and down a steep embankment to go find help. Thus I found myself in Level Cross, North Carolina. (How’s that for ironic for a Richard Petty fan.) I was not sure what to do next, and was panicked that I was supposed to meet my potential boss for a job interview in less than four hours. As it turned out, the police department was right there, so I walked inside and asked the female dispatcher who they used for wrecker service in those parts. Learning of my predicament, she broke out the local phone book (which was the size of a notebook I’d used in college) and began calling tire dealers. She found one that had a 35-inch BFG All Terrain in stock. A local cop removed the wheel and mangled tire from my truck (while we dodged semis roaring by inches behind us), took it to the tire store and got it replaced. The tire store took my credit card number over the phone and, an hour later, I was on the road again. Thanks to all involved for your Southern hospitality.
Once I arrived, I figured Calinoff was going to put me up in a hotel room. As it turned out, I was to stay with him in a small apartment that technically belonged to his girlfriend… and she didn’t like me much. I have that effect on women, it seems. The apartment also was overrun with cats. I’m highly allergic to cats, so I’d spend every night throwing cats off of the pullout couch that was my sleeping area while sneezing my brains out. During those days, I’d bang out columns while Mike worked the phones trying to convince the printer to run a new edition of the paper even though he hadn’t been paid for the last press run. On one side of our office was a Holy Roller church where they handled snakes and spoke in tongues. On the other side was a business called Incarce-Ride that shuttled family members without cars to prisons to visit their loved ones. They both looked at Race City News as a shady operation, and we had to duck out quite frequently to avoid a landlord looking for rent. But despite sleeping on the couch and having to sneak out of the building, Mike got me my first access to the garage area — and that made up for all the cats, all the meals I had to buy us both, and for having to hide under a table at a restaurant as a twister passed by.
I finally convinced Mike our shoestring operation needed a website. He was reluctant at first; but since the printer wasn’t going to print our next edition, he finally gave it a shot. To his credit, when Calinoff finally decided the web was the way to go, he dove in headfirst. He learned to do all that HTML stuff that is still foreign to me and got the site live. Meanwhile, I was still banging out columns and hoping one day to get paid. One of those columns I wrote was on NASCAR and the Internet. Jayski linked to our website for that article, at which point it was off to the races, so to speak.
Another fan of that column was Derek, who ran what was then the Speedworld.com site. He invited me to start writing for him. The salary was precisely zero dollars a week at the time. Speedworld in that era consisted of Derek, who ran the site, some old guy named Mike who hated me, and me writing under three different pen names. Mike quit because he hated me, so that left Derek and I. He was a college student, while I was on workman’s comp and talking my way into garage areas by convincing rent-a-cops that, as a writer for Speedworld, I was associated with ESPN. Eventually, I started getting paid and so the long, strange trip began. There’s been some potholes, but it’s been a Hell of a ride. If I have to walk away from it tomorrow, I’ve got no regrets. It’s been fun, and some of you folks have gone from fans to friends.
I envision doing this at least a few more years. NASCAR racing has indeed been a lifetime obsession of mine since I was too young to spell “lifetime.” There may be a day in the future that I finally decide that the Chase and Car of Tomorrow make this sport a burden I no longer wish to endure; but in the meantime, if I can prove both ideas show that Brian France is a congenital idiot, I’ll keep on dusting off this dusty QWERTY one more time. When it comes time to leave this mortal coil and I am closer to death than birth, if I leave folks saying “I didn’t always agree with him but he was honest and made me laugh a few times,” that’s about the legacy I hope to leave behind as a Pirate looks at 50. Onwards and upwards, my friends and foes. Getting old is Hell… but it sure beats the alternative.
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Matt, you have 8 years on me, and are indeed an opinionated SOB, but fun as heck to read even if I don’t happen to share your opinion du jure.
Have a happy birthday and keep on truckin’!
Happy birthday, Matt! Oh, and try not to think of it as fifty years…look at it as one-twentieth of a MILLENIUM. That should put things in perspective. I always enjoy your columns, perhaps due to being a fellow Pennsylvanian. I, too, recall those days as I was “growing up” (?) that it was next to impossible to get information on race results. In Allegheny County, neither of the the three major TV networks’ local affiliates gave a rat’s patoot about racing, so I’d tune in to a fuzzy, barely audible Johnstown station to get their sports report from Bill Wilson – the ONLY sports reporter who gave race results. My, how times have changed. I, for one, really enjoyed this column – it really brings back some old cobweb-covered memories of my own. I, too, had once considered the life of a wordsmith. Alas, Corporate America beckoned, and now that I have passed by both the half-century mark and also – this year – the double-nickel, I kinda think it’s just not gonna happen. Ah, but I’ve still got the antique cars, the BSA’s, and the quarterly jaunt to Shangey’s in Emmaus for the quality brews to keep the basement fridge well stocked. Ah, life IS good!
I always like your writing Matt. You know what most have forgotten. I know you give credit to Calinoff (whom i cant stand)for getting you in but you would have made it without him. Thanks for the great reading over the past years. You’re the best.
Glad you made it to fifty with all of us reading along. I got my start as a stock car racing fan a year earlier than you, when I saw a movie called “Thunder in Carolina.” I became a “Fastback” Freddie Lorenzen fan, because he drove a Ford, a 1963 1/2 Ford Fastback to be exact. Like you I have problems maintaining my interest these days. I mainly keep up with it reading your columns and watching a bit of a race now and then. Keep it up. I’ve followed you on your journey across the web for a while now.
Congrats on the big 5 Oh Matt. I passed that a few years ago. Keep hanging in there. The Idiot Savant from Daytona won’t be ruining, I mean running the sport forever and we need to be around to see it. BTW, The King is the first driver I ever met. That was in 1964.
Congratulations on making 50, Matt. I have a few years on you & believe me, life just keeps getting better. Now we don’t want you relaxing with your writing, just keep telling it like it is! You are only one of a handful of writers who ‘tell it like it is’ and we (your readers) truly appreciate that. So many of the writers? tend to sugar coat everything. Cheers!
First off, enjoy your vacation. We all need a break to recharge our batteries from time to time.
I suspected we were close in age, but I beat you to 50 last December. My first race was at the old Columbia Speedway, but truth be told, I was so little back then I was more concerned about falling through the wooden grandstands than I was about the actual race. Since I grew up in S.C., I didn’t have to worry about getting racing news or having plenty of friends to go to the races with, and I commend your perserverance as a Nascar fan in yankee-land.
Charlotte and Darlington are less than two hours away and I still pay for my infield space in turn 2 at CMS so I don’t lose it, but I haven’t actually attended a points race at CMS since the year they kept rain delaying the 600 until the Lowes car got the lead, then they promptly called the race. A few bad experiences with arrogant security guards at Darlington in the past have kept me from that track as well, although I admit that was some years ago.
Obviously, we both still love the sport and hate the sorry condtion it has been allowed to deteriorate into. Let’s hope for some needed changes and better racing down the road.
Finally… Happy Birthday you old geezer! Whistle through your teeth and spit ‘cause it’s all right.
Happy Birthday Matt! I’ve been reading your articles since Speedworld.com. In that time your column has gone from supplement to substitute, as I rarely catch the races anymore. So please keep writing at least until the racing is back up to snuff. Thanks!
I hit that 1/2 century mark before you. I was thinking (yeah difficult to do sometimes) just when did I encounter you. I think it was when you were with Calinoff (i too can’t stand him and you know why).
i remember when i lived in maryland i’d tell people i loved stockcar racing and they’d look at me like i had 3 heads. now if they see my car and see my earnhardt licentag holder (earnhardt sr that is), or his hats in the rear window, they ask me do i still follow the sport. i just nod and shrug my shoulders, then of course i get the jr questions.
enjoy the beach. i miss the beach since i moved to atlanta 11 yrs ago. too far and the sun is deadly to this former red head without sun screen.
Good stuff, Matt!
Happy Birthday Matt.
I too have been reading your articles since Speedworld.com. Of all the NASCAR journalists yours is the opinion that I trust most. You tell it like it really is. Keep it up.
By the way, I always looked forward to your year-end “Good, Bad, and Ugly” and “Couchie Awards” articles. Why did you stop? They were always a welcome way to get a little entertainment during the off-season.
I had my first Schlitz in 1970 at 13 years old. They still make it but I think they have changed the formula, doesn’t taste the same. Here’s hoping we see fifty more years. Happy Birthday Matt!
Great job Matt! I remember reading a lot of your reminisces in stories read in the past. Of all of those stories, the dune buggy ride with your Dad on the way to Daytona is one of the most touching and funniest you have ever written. It makes me laugh out loud and tear up every time I read it. Keep up the good work and we will keep faithfully reading.
My Dad was one of the all-time Richard Petty fans and when he came to our little hometown of Griffin, GA for one of the ’67 Atlanta races, I got his autograph on a sales brochure at the local Plymouth dealership. As the church treasurer, he wasn’t gonna miss Sunday services for anything, but he did take his pesky youngest son to qualifying or “time trials” as it was called in those days, on a Saturday or two.
Congrats on the big day, Matt, and just keep on adding on.
HAPPY belated BIRTHDAY, Matt. Like some of the others, I’ve got a few years on you. I have enjoyed your writing since I first found you a number of years ago. My interests parallel yours to some extent. I got my first new car — a 1968 SS396 Chevelle — when I signed my first teaching contract. I plan to get another muscle car someday but right now my wife and I are riding a Harley and an American IronHorse. I was digging through some old stuff and found my rain check ticket for the 1970 Daytona 500. Unfortunately, I was not in Florida but rather in a seat in the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Minneapolis. My $6 ticket got me a seat in Section 2, Row H, Seat 12. The closed-circuit TV broadcast on the movie screen was watchable but quite grainy. Like you and others, I watched the short segments on Wide World of Sports but was glad when CBS and later ESPN started showing live coverage. I seem to remember one live Wide World of Sports coverage of a short track NASCAR race but I may be mistaken. I don’t watch a great deal of the live broadcasts anymore but still follow the postrace reports in forums like Frontstretch. Keep up the great work.
Happy Birthday Matt!
Happy Birthday, the age is the same but the trip to Nascar was quite different even if I grew up not to far away in Northeast Philly. Glad to hear your a down the shore kind of guy. We all get to Nascar in different ways and different times but we all get there.
Happy B-day Matt… here’s to 50 more!
Happy Birthday Matt! &