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.
You know what? This weekend, I played hooky. Few of you are going to be surprised to learn I really don’t care for the Cup racing at Fontana. As that date approached on the calendar, I grew more and more restless. Another date rapidly approaching on that same calendar — October 25th, the night we set our clocks back an hour, another concept I am not fond of — is the unofficial end of motorcycling season here in the Northeast. With less daylight, there’s no more evening rides; even now, the temperatures are already unseasonably chilly. But that’s not the only reason riding gets rough. As the whitetail deer enter their rut, they make traveling in a car, much less a Harley, extraordinarily dangerous, especially out here in Chester County (the deer/vehicle collision capital of the universe). Oh sure, there might be one or two nice Saturdays to get the bike out this year… but they will be rare and cherished.
The forecast for Sunday was brisk but sunny. (I believe they used the term “abundant sunshine;” there’s a poetry major who became a meteorologist to pay the rent.) As the day wore on, two things became clearer and clearer to me: I really wanted to ride my motorcycle, and I really didn’t want to watch Fontana at all. So I burned my scheduled sixth weekend of the season off on Sunday.
How’d it work out? Splendidly, thank you for asking. The day was crisp enough that full leathers were in order, but the sunshine on my back kept things tolerable. I rode past Amish and Mennonite farms where they’re beginning to gather in the harvest, backdropped by acres of trees in their autumnal multi-hued finery. Overhead, huge V-shaped flocks of Canada geese headed south, while along the roadside small wooden stands offered fresh produce and pumpkins. The cooler air seemed to suit the Harley, which had an extra rush to its step… or maybe I was just enjoying it more, knowing time is fleeting. At traffic lights, I’d warm my hands by that big old V-twin engine, then set out in search of new, blue highways yet unexplored. An early dinner consisting of a prime rib sandwich and a Corona capped off the day at the local tavern before the brief jaunt home.
The whole ride was, for the want of a better word, magic. It was as if the Norman Rockwell channel was being broadcast across my visor. Afternoons like Sunday are going to provide the memories that get me through to Spring, all while I load another bag of wood pellets in the stove and stare restlessly out the window at drifting snow and the plunging mercury, waiting…
Despite myself, I caught the end of the race upon my return. I’ve got three words to offer here — “Stink, stank, and stunk.” In the end, NASCAR had to play that magic “invisible debris” card a few times to try to add a little spice to the proceedings, and that stinks as well. Ask Kasey Kahne… from a safe distance. Is this what it’s come to? Our sport has become so lame that NASCAR officials must orchestrate a race rather than officiate it to add even a modicum of interest to get the fans to tune in again next week? Where’s the consistency? One week, a stricken race car sideways across the racing groove on the last lap draws no caution; next time, a piece of rubber I’d gladly stuff in my ear on a dollar bet brings out the yellow hanky. Is there any more question why the Lebanese Vegetarian Cooking Channel is drawing better ratings than NASCAR racing these days?
Well, they’ve lost me on this track. After the race, I didn’t feel elated — I felt irritated. Life’s too short to spend on things that annoy you, unless they happen to be really good-looking. I’m 50 now. I have no hours to waste watching a Fontana race, and I’m not going to do so anymore. I’m going riding. And if it rains, I’ll go work in the garage rather than wasting four hours on Fontana. Some folks are saying the last little bit of the race was actually pretty good. I guess that’s like getting beat over the head with a hammer for three and a half hours. If the beating stops for a half-hour, it feels pretty good…in a twisted sort of way.
This genuinely wasn’t an easy call for me. For over 25 years, I missed only one race, and that was the 1989 Daytona 500 held the day my best friend died in a car wreck — and I taped that one and watched it later that evening. I’ve been a hardcore fan of this sport for over 42 years, and this is what I do. But I just can’t cover Fontana anymore; and if the hardcore types like me are looking at our watches and edging towards the exit, NASCAR is in big trouble.
Moving on to some “Water Cooler” topics of the week…
Saturday I watched the Nationwide race from Fontana. (It was raining.) Two things are inarguable: It was a damn fine race, one of the best of the season, but the crowd on hand to see it was pathetic enough to embarrass a small town high school football team with an 0-10 record.
The 89% Solution Jezum Crow, Batman! The International Speedway Corporation (sister company to NASCAR and the owner of tracks like Daytona and Fontana, amongst many others) saw their profits shrink 89% in the third quarter over the same period last year (and 2008 was hardly a banner year for them, either.) 89%? Even General Motors and Chrysler aren’t bleeding away profits like that. That which Brian France has sown with the Chase, the CoT, and the proliferation of McTracks, he has now begun to harvest — and a bitter harvest it appears it will be. To repeat that old business axiom, the first generation creates, the second generation perfects, and the third generation destroys.
As it stands written in the Book of Bob: “Once upon a time you dressed so fine, threw the bums a dime in your prime, dinchu? People called, said hey beware, you’re bound to fall, you thought they were all kiddingju!”
You have to wonder now if the ISC officials now regret the money they pissed away in their salad days on stuff like cookie-cutter tracks… and, oh, um, I can’t remember the name of that other website in the rear-view mirror.
Racing in the Streets Speaking of the third generation of the France family, two members of that clan had an even worse week than Brian and Lesa studying the ISC balance sheets. J.C. France and his half-brother (sons of Jim France… Bill Junior’s brother) were arrested for street racing, one of them in a Lamborghini and the other in a vehicle I have seen alternatively described as a Porsche Cayenne (a largish ugly version of a VW Toureg, for people who have more money than sense) or a Porsche Cayman (a high-priced sports car for those with the money to buy one, but lacking the balls to drive a Shelby.) Either/or, I suppose. (Back in my tire-selling days, we used to say, “Every rose has its thorns, every thorn has its prick, and every prick has a Porsche.” Oh, calm down. I had a brief dalliance with a 356.)
Worse yet, both men were found to be drunk and in possession of cocaine at the time of their arrest. France is a driver in his dad’s Grand-Am series, but was immediately suspended just like any other driver would be under the drug policy.
I’m not going to make jokes about substance abuse problems, and I’m not going to throw stones. I’ve street-raced myself on occasions too numerous to recall, though too long ago to put a date to. Drunken driving is one of the pressing social problems of our age, but I’m not going to say I’ve never done it. I just don’t do it anymore. And next to meth, I’ve watched cocaine destroy more good people’s lives than any other candy from the devil’s apothecary. I did that dance myself, and quit cold turkey while not necessarily in a tailspin, but with the altimeter shedding numbers at an alarming rate equal to my bank account. That’s some seriously vile crap, and it owns you before you know what hit you. I hope both gentlemen get the help they need.
But here’s what I found galling reading the story: the way the other fellow (not J.C.) jumped down the throat of the arresting female police officer. He demanded to speak to her superior, asking her, “Do you know who I am? We own this town!” referring to the France family, otherwise known as the Daytona Beach Mafia. The clear implication was her career was in danger because she was doing her job.
C’mon, guys. If you get busted street racing, drunk, and holding coke at all hours of the night, I’m thinking a little repentance and remorse is going to serve you better than arrogance and hostility directed at a duly sworn officer of the law.
Now sports car racing has a dark history involving users and purveyors of illicit narcotics, from team owners to drivers. (Remember John Paul, Sr. and Jr.?) Young people, fast cars, fast times, and big bucks don’t always add up too well. But the other part of this story I find irksome is that while Brian France has all but crucified Jeremy Mayfield’s alleged drug usage, the IMSA website was rapidly deleting posts noting, commenting on, and asking about J.C.’s arrest. Double standard?
Well, it’s a Start Perhaps realizing that the problems with TV ratings and declining attendance are real at last, NASCAR made a move this week to standardize race starting times beginning next year. East Coast daylight events will start at 1:00, with cars racing by 1:15. West Coast daylight events will start at 3:00, with genuine racing or some facsimile thereof going by 3:15. Night race start times will also be standardized, with the sole exception of the World 600 due to its extraordinary length. Great idea. I wish I’d thought of it, like, maybe three years ago.
As the fire department sifts through the flames of the wreckage of what was to be the 2009 Cup season, two gems they will be able to salvage for next year are the standardized starting times and the side-by-side restart rules, a glimmer of proof that NASCAR, in the face of rising catastrophe, is finally willing to listen to the fans that keep it in business.
So while we’re at it, let’s schedule Fontana’s races for April 31st and September 31st next year, all while moving Darlington back to Labor Day weekend where it belongs.
Divorce, NASCAR Style Certainly, it hasn’t been an easy year for the RCR teams and drivers, but Kevin Harvick has apparently had enough. In a media interview over the weekend, he at least strongly hinted he tried to get out of his contract for next year and, since he could not, all but said he’ll definitely be moving on after 2010. He used an interesting book analogy to indicate the final chapter is upon him and Childress, claiming it’s better for both parties to finish up and start a new one. Of course, I’d be interested to see Harvick reading a book to see if his lips move to the point they go numb while he does so. But Harvick has made this sort of noise before, back when there were prevalent rumors Toyota was courting him as one of their lead drivers once the Japanese automaker prepared to enter the Cup Series. Harvick leveraged that rumor to get a nice pay increase at RCR.
This time, though, it looks like the departure’s for real … with some real-life consequences. There’s nothing more toxic to a team than having a driver announce he’s jumping ship, and the 29 bunch now have to deal with that scenario for the rest of 2009 and all of 2010. So I feel it would be in RCR’s best interest to tell Harvick if he doesn’t want to come back, hit the highway…as a matter of fact, starting this weekend. That’s how Junior Johnson tended to handle things, anyway. My guess is that RCR has a commitment to Shell that Harvick will remain in the car, and they want another year to find a new sponsor, knowing Shell is probably going to follow Harvick out the door to his new team — which I’d guess would be a third Stewart-Haas entry for 2011.
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Welcome to my world Matt. I stopped watching the Nascar races a couple of years ago and stopped going to Indy, Kansas and Vegas. I still surf over to see what’s going on but that’s about it. Last week every time I checked the race all I saw was Jimmy Johnson all by himself with a strung out parade behind him.
I did catch Brad Dourety responding to the interview of Kasey Kahne. Brad claimed that up in the booth they could see the water bottles thrown on the track that Kasey could not. How does that work? Kasey is on the track and would see anything of importance that was in the groove. Brad was also full of crap as Nascar claimed it was a piece of rubber and not a water bottle. Brad was busted trying for a save of Nascars’ bogus cautions. Real objective bunch of guys in the booth.
Matt said: “Another date rapidly approaching on that same calendar — October 25th, the night we set our clocks back an hour,“
Update your calendar, Matt. We’ve been setting our clocks back an hour in the fall on the first Saturday in November for about two years now. Its no longer the last Saturday in October.
Any race where one guy leads almost all of the laps will stink up the show, no matter which track its at.
I agree with you about the California race Matt. What I don’t understand is why you single that track out. There are at least a few other tracks the same could be said of. In my opinion the Michigan race is often just as boring as the California race. So, what is it about California specifically that makes it stand out from the other lame ass tracks on the schedule?. (Is it just because of the Darlington angle?).
I agree about RCR. I wonder if Harvick will suffer the same fate as Junior when he was all but gone from DEI, and be mysteriously given some not so durable engines.
matt – time changes in november, not october.
be interseting to see who childress puts in harvick’s ride. his grandson won’t have enough experience to fill that seat, with the history of the ride. i know harvick hasn’t enjoyed living in the shadow of dale. i think there’s always been a bit of friction between harvick and richard. harvick is not the outdoorsman that dale was nor what richard is. yes, harvick did get rcr busch championship. just have to wait and see what happens. interview would have been better if harvick had taken off his shades. personally, i don’t like not being able to see someone’s eyes.
I post this with total sincerity , if Fontana really wants to straighten out the mess that is the California Cup races , they need to hire Kevin in SoCal . He is the one consistent cheerleader for NASCAR in Southern California . And i know his ideas would be better than anyone’s currently in charge of putting on racing at Fontana .
Can I get an article from Matt about NASCAR instead of motorcycle rides?
Or maybe an Article about NASCAR in general instead of how PMSing he is that particular weekend. If you hate NASCAR so much, find a new job. I’m not ready to give up on NASCAR but I’m ready to give up on everything McLaughlin
Mark, that would be a great idea if Kevin in SoCal actually thought the racing in Fontana needed changing. Apparently from his point of view, everything is peachie keen. At least California can count on Kevin buying tickets every year.
I do agree there are tracks just as boring as CA, but it’s the Darlington thing that stays in my crawl. We loved that race weekend, we planned for that race weekend, and they stole that race weekend.
Dan’s Mom….you’re the kind of person who, when presented with something nauseatingly rank and asked to smell it, you gladly put it to your nose to confirm that point. I mean, why else would you read a column you so obviously dislike and then take the time to comment and tell us how bad it stinks?
oh what to do….can get tickets to great seats at ‘dega…go or no go, spend money or save it. oh the decision!
No wonder you’re so bitter. 356’s like Harley’s are meant to be lifelong obsessions, not brief dalliances. I may be stuck in the ’60’s with my Panhead, & my 356B Roadster, but there are worse places to be. Fontana on race day for one.
Hey Matt, you can’t! You just cannot, print pictures of empty seats at Fontana!
Kevin in SoCal is not going to take kindly to that! He claims the stands were FILLED!
Oh, sorry, all these “people” were shopping at the trailers!
Well, my/our bikes, my wife and I both ride, are in the garage, but ready to go as I am sure we will have another day or two of nice weather to ride, albeit snowing right now here (for real). (West Michigan)
And the trailer is ready to haul them to warmer weather for sure.
But, let me count the empty seats! Nah, can’t count that high!
Thank you, Mark.
Ann, I know things are NOT peachy-keen. However, contrary to most fans opinion around here, I know that Fontana is also NOT guaranteed to be a snore-fest every year. I watch the race with an open mind and look for the lemonade out of the lemons strewn about the track. (Watch out, they’ll cause a debris caution). But some fans are so closed minded and biased, they’ll never admit that Fontana is anything but a dull parade, even if there happens to be a 3-wide race to finish line one year. The February race was actually pretty good this year. The fall race was decent for the first hundred laps, but then once Johnson got hooked up and ran away with it, the excitement level dropped until NASCAR decided to step in.
Douglas, I never claimed the seats were filled. I simply disagreed with the people saying the stands were 50% full, or 45,000 people. I said I estimated there to be about 65,000 or so, and guess what, the “estimated” attendance was 70,000.
Well, Kevin in Socal, I no longer go to NA$CRAP at MIS any longer, and it would not disappoint me in any way shape or form if MIS lost a date, or even two! (just a pipe dream),
The “downside” of that to me personally? well, on occasion I go fishin’ with some of the drivers/crews on a Saturday evening after things are done, (mmm, come to thnk of it, didn’t even bother with that this year), and MIS and I have a LONG history together, (was involved on a design review committee as it was being built, yes, I am that old), so while I truly do love MIS, the total NA$CRAP thingy could disappear from MIS in total, it simply ain’t racin anyway)!
And, again 65,000? 70,000? Are you for real? And I kinda think I remember you saying something like “from where I was sitting the stands looked full”!
BUT! Please keep in mind I just like raggin’ on yah! Particularly when I see 50% empty seats (as many other do), and you see “almost” a full house! (ok, my words and interpretation anyway).
Besides, it’s cold, rainy, a light snow at times here, what else do I have to do today?
Keep me in line!
Dang, I forgot, this is the classic case of is the glass:
of course, I am the half empty kinda guy!
Remember John Paul, Sr. and Jr.?
Didn’t they pay for their team of Porsche 935s with twenties?
Ya know, folks, there’s drag racing and monster trucks, you don’t have to denigrate NASCAR. The racing is fine. All your whining brought us those 1.5 milers. Enjoi.
I would hope Harvick brings KHI to Cup in a couple of years; although he’d be a good fit with Stewart, I’d hate to see Harvick driving a Hendrick car.
Not sure why Richard doesn’t have Leicht driving that #29 in the Nationwide more often; even if Harvick was going to stay there forever, I can’t help but wonder how much longer Burton will stick around… I don’t think he’ll want to be driving into his 50’s.
Hey, a brilliant idea from you know who!
I “counted”, as best I could anyway, the section of stands shown in the picture, I count 64 EMPTY SEATS, 60 OCCUPIED!
ALMOST A 50/50 SPLIT!
Is this representative of the attendance at the track? Statistically, YES it is!
A statistical sampling?
Just a thought!
I’m sure there are pictures floating out there that show full grandstands with 99/100 seats taken, too. But in Fontana’s case, the glass is always half-empty, and only the bad pictures are shown.
Excellent article! The only thing that I wonder about is “what were the previous years’ profits?” And thanks for the Bob Dylan lyrics, very cool. Another thanks for not mentioning Danica Busbee.
Kevin: Hang in there. I was at Fontana and agree with you. The track needs to be changed. It’s too flat and too wide and the COT is a POS. Matt should at least take in a race in person before the negative report every race. I’m a Ford guy and I do think if the Hendrick driver fans stayed home their wouldn’t be enough people to fill one restroom.
Kevin, I’m curious…have you ever attended a Cup race in person other than Fontana? I’m just curious since the closest thing to CA is Las Vegas if you ever get an opportunity to visit any tracks on the east coast.
Amen! Even my 7 year old son likes to watch the old races better. When he was 3, he could tell you who Richard, Cale, and Bill were (I kinda brain-washed him that way LOL).
I miss Winston Cup. Labor Day at Darlington. Atlanta before the McRemodel. North Wilkesboro.
The only track in California that was half-way interesting was Riverside, and they bulldozed it. Kinda like the rest of the good things in NASCAR.
I have been to a few races at Michigan and they usually turned into fuel mileage races. So when Penske announced the plans for Calif. as Mich., only with less banking, I knew how it would turn out. I have always said that if CART/IRL can run on a track, then NASCAR should not. Other than a road-course, it will not work out well.
Matt. Long time, had your old e-mail address, till the company computer put me on the inactive list….used to have a job….i’ll let you in on a dirty little secret….Maybe its the pink Elephant in the room, you and I keep seeing…..hendrick has to go. the na$car mouse trap has been sprung….figured out….. Got to believe that Harley is more fun than any recent race…..such excitment…….Oh,…. their taking the cars to Charlotte….slap on the wirst…….dey, ja vu?
i.e I’ve become really bored with na$car……20+ years of not missing a race at Michigan (in person….and atleast one other race every year or so) & hardly a week end not missed on tv…….Its all gone now…….