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
Monday March 3, 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 March 25, 2010
The two Cup dates at tiny Martinsville are circled on my calendar as “must see” events. The racing there isn’t always spectacular, but the ratio of classics to clunkers is about as good as it gets anywhere on the circuit. And as two of just six short track races left on a schedule once dominated by dates on the bullrings, racing at Martinsville is a welcome throwback to the good ol’ days. In fact, this oval is the only one that’s held Cup races since the inaugural 1949 Strictly Stock season – and that alone awards it legendary status.
Yet this Spring, there are ugly rumors Martinsville might lose one if not both dates in the interest of expediency and larger markets on next year’s schedule. Such a move would have once been thought unthinkable, but given the fate of North Wilkesboro, Rockingham, and the Labor Day event at Darlington it’s not unprecedented. Let’s put it this way: I don’t trust the black-hearted bastards that are the barons of our sport today to keep their greedy little fingers off tradition, no matter how cherished or important it might be.
On a purely practical and soulless level of thinking, it’s easy to see why Martinsville is on the Endangered Species list. The neighboring town the track is named for (population: 15,416) is one of the smallest that still hosts a Cup date. To the marketers behind the sponsors who splatter their colors across today’s Cup clown cars, rural, western Virginia is barely a blip on the radar. Grandstand capacity is also amongst the smallest on the circuit (around 67,000), though in fact track management has managed to post a pretty good ratio of butts to seats compared to some of the grand palaces of speed added to the circuit in the last decade. Others argue that in this era of 900 horsepower funny cars posing as “stock” cars, the equipment has simply outgrown the tiny little half-mile track.
Balderdash. (And that’s not my first choice of words.)
A valid argument could be made that racing at Martinsville and reining in those 900 horsepower monsters on the relatively narrow tires our series features takes more driver talent than just about any race left on the circuit. Horsepower is great on the straightaways, but the two at Martinsville pass in little more than the blink of an eye. That makes managing the brakes and tire wear the keys to winning there. For even if a driver has the fastest car that particular Sunday afternoon, he is quickly faced with the challenge of lapping slower cars shortly after each restart. With this paperclip largely a one-groove track, passing opportunities come few and far between – even for someone that is markedly faster than his intended victims. Patience is at a premium, too, and sometimes it quickly erodes away. With no place for slow cars to turn, the easiest way to pass at Martinsville is to lay a front bumper to the rear of the car that’s holding a driver up and move him out of the way.
The “bump and run” is part and parcel of racing at Martinsville. As the pay window begins to open towards the end of a race, those competing for the lead often suffer severe lapses in manners. Some newer fans find this sort of racing barbaric, but for old school purists the bent fenders, smoking tires, and frayed tempers are racing the way it ought to be done.
That contact isn’t always unintentional, either. For decades, drivers have used this place as a means of revenge, paying back others for incidents where they were the innocent victim on one of the series’ faster circuits. Turning the tables is easy to do here; and with beating and banging so much a part of racing at Martinsville, it’s difficult to determine whether contact was intentional or inadvertent. As an added bonus, speeds are low enough it’s possible to send a clear message to another driver off your front bumper without risking crippling him, like Carl Edwards’ moment of indiscretion at Atlanta did with Brad Keselowski. No less a driver than Bobby Allison, one of the sport’s iron men, purportedly used to tape a note with the car numbers of his intended victims on the dash prior to each Martinsville race.
Worn tires, a soft brake pedal, vengeful competitors, paperclip corners, and engine abuse can make for a long afternoon out on this half-mile. And it is in the blast furnace of short track racing that legends are forged forever. Richard Petty won a record 15 times at Martinsville, Darrell Waltrip won eleven times, and Jeff Gordon has won here seven times. Cale Yarborough won half-a-dozen, and most recently, Jimmie Johnson won five of six consecutive Martinsville Cup races between the fall of 2006 and last spring’s event. Just how good is Johnson at Martinsville? He hasn’t missed the top 10 there since the spring race of 2002. He caps a list of drivers that have won a ton of championships and races, but my guess is that they look at the Grandfather clocks — the coolest trophy on the circuit — they earned at Martinsville with special affection and pride.
Lately, NASCAR has been talking a good game about winning back disenchanted, longtime fans who have been leaving the sport in droves over the last five seasons. Well, taking a Martinsville race date away would prove that talk has been nothing but lip service. Fans come from near and wide to attend Martinsville Cup races, but the locals are particularly loyal to the track. There are third and fourth generation fans who sit in the same seats their grandfathers did back when the race cars had tailfins.
The pundits would have you believe that the current economic downturn is the first and worst such event in recorded U.S. history, but we’ve been through lean times before. And every year, those same loyal fans kept flocking back to Martinsville, managing to scrape together the money for their tickets. I recall in days of yore, the backstretch seats used to go on sale early Sunday morning at reasonable prices for blue collar fans, and the dash to get in resembled the Oklahoma Land Rush. Fans might head to Daytona or Charlotte like sheep following the herd, but for truly devoted and knowledgeable race fans, the trip to Martinsville was like a pilgrimage to see “real” stock car racing – not high speed acrobatics.
Martinsville’s founder, the late H. Clay Earles, was always appreciative and accommodating towards his fans. In 1955, Mr. Earles decided to pave his then-dirt track. He’d found that fans like to make a family event of the races at Martinsville, but the ladyfolk weren’t fond of going home with their hair and clothes coated in dust. A lot of drivers of that era felt Earles was ruining a perfectly good race track by paving it, but the intervening 55 years’ worth of races have shown that daring experiment has worked out pretty well.
The magic of Martinsville is that it is the land time has forgotten. Improvements have been made to accommodate the fans, but the track surface itself looks a lot like it did five decades ago. Messing with tradition there is dangerous business. When ISC took over the track, they tried altering the Martinsville hot dog, perhaps the circuit’s greatest (questionable) cuisine — and even that simple move caused more outrage than the Edwards/Keselowski incident at Atlanta. ISC wisely backed down almost immediately, returning those beloved dogs to the original recipe enjoyed by traditionalists with cast iron stomachs.
Finally, sponsors had better wise up. It doesn’t matter if the races are held in sunny and populated Los Angeles or bucolic and southern Martinsville, the majority of fans taking in the event, watching the rolling billboards that are today’s race cars and watching the commercials during a Cup broadcast are scattered coast-to-coast. The true NASCAR loyalists, the ones who make purchasing decisions based largely on brands affiliated with racing, remain centered in the small towns of the Southeast. They’ve been washing with Tide, drinking Bud and Pepsi, and dining at McDonald’s for decades. For all NASCAR’s attempts to take on the Bright Lights and Big Cities, this sport remains a product of small town America. Sitting in the stands are the guys and gals that ride out on the pumpers with volunteer fire departments when the sirens sound late at night, who get misty-eyed during the playing of taps after the Memorial Day parade, and who wrench on their own American-made cars in the driveway most Saturday mornings.
Despite the hype of the ads of late, those people are the heart and soul of NASCAR, the blue collar folks who lace up their boots and head to work at a different kind of “office” Monday morning. They head to the bank to cash their paychecks on Friday afternoon, and spend Saturdays fishing or working on a buddy’s local dirt track car. When focusing on other major markets, sponsors risk alienating these folks who spend their hard-earned dollars, often still earned in what they term “dollars per hour,” at their own risk. Sure, a race at Vegas or L.A. might be more appealing to the corporate clients they can get into a luxury suite at the track, but those aren’t the folks who make up the backbone of the economy unless we’re talking about imported luxury cars, high-end speedboats, and sand castles along the coast.
So Martinsville not only deserves its two race dates annually, but it probably deserves a third. And while that’s never going to happen, it’s time to declare “hands off” when it comes to the oval’s two existing dates. As the sole remaining track left that held an event in NASCAR’s inaugural season — and given the loyalty of the Earles family towards Bill France, Jr. — the original Martinsville has got to be grandfathered against future schedule shifts.
Now, more than ever, it’s important for NASCAR officials, fans, drivers, team owners, and crew members to take these two journeys a year back to Martinsville to remember where this sport was born – in the hard scrabble, rocky soil of the Southeast beating and banging on short tracks on a Sunday afternoon.
From small things, Mama, big things sometimes come. But even the mightiest Hickory tree is doomed if it loses hold of its roots, and for Cup racing, Martinsville remains the taproot.
Take a date from Martinsville? Brother, you might as well bury a dagger in the heart of stock car racing.
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Wow, NA$CAR seems to be going out of its way to shoot itself in the foot… over and over.
They killed Bristol with the combo of the CoT and the variable banking. Which in turn, caused Martinsville to become the new Bristol IMO. And now they are thinking of taking a race away from it?
I guess we’ll have to wait until Sunday to see how much the Economy was a factor to Bristol not selling out for the first time in over 25 years. If Martinsville’s numbers are just as bad, then maybe you can put most of the blame on lack of extra cash. But I am betting that it will be close to being sold out.
I think Bristol now ranks up there with Fontana… a boring track and when times are tough, you don’t buy a ticket.
Bristol has lost the “hold me up for 2-3 laps and you get the chrome horn”, Martinsville still lives up to that… and is what makes racing there exciting to watch.
And I still say take a race away from Fontana and give it to Vegas. Vegas may not be the best track, but it is located just a few miles from a million or so hotel rooms. Also, plenty to do when there isn’t anything happening at the track. And keep in mind, I live 30 miles from Fontana… and still am 60 miles from L.A. Fontana is 2 counties over from Los Angeles… no one ever seems to mention that fact. It isn’t an L.A. race. So basically, if you stay in a hotel near the track, you are pretty much in the middle of no where. Which pretty much sounds the same as you just said about Martinsville… except I bet they don’t have stop and go traffic during the weekends when there isn’t a race there, as Fontana does.
Martinsville can’t handle another date, they can’t sell out the two dates they have.
Martinsville dropped the ball by not moving the railroad track and adding more seats. Sure they have a high “butts to seats” ratio, but they’d still lose in that category Fontana if SoCal only had 67,000 seats.
Martinsville is comparable to the old Yankee Stadium. The house that Ruth built was lush of tradition, memories, and die hard fans. But still… a face-lift was needed.
The only “lifts” that have occured at Martinsville in the past few years are the cost of camping (in a camper… forget camping in a tent, you’ll end up in quarentined areas like a second class citizen). Then, once you’re in the track you get to pee on the walls… but with the quality of the martinsville hot dog, you think an updated restroom facility could be provided.
Die Hards may attend Martinsville races, but the casual fan isn’t going to “make a weekend out of it” in Martinsville. Yee-haw! Let’s go to the Wal-Mart and Taco Bell! So what do we do with the other 71.5 hours of the weekend?
Don’t even waste your time at that Taco Bell. I SWEAR they have the LOWEST order accuracy rating in AMERICA!
… like playing the lotto.
The bulk of the money is made from television, not so much from fans attending the events. The racing at Martinsville is like nowhere else, and if it is replaced by Kansas, people watching on TV will be saying “hey, weren’t they just at this track two weeks ago”?
NASCAR would effectively kill any goodwill they’ve gained with the hardcore fan by taking a race away from Martinsville.
NASCAR isn’t trying to appease the hardcore fan. NASCAR is attempting to recruit new casual fans.
Casual fans lead to the ratings increase in the early 2000’s. Casual fans have driven up ratings and revenue in Football.
The NHL appeases hardcore fans and die hards. But how does that work-out for the NHL?
I completely agree with you! While Martinsville may not need a 3rd race, don’t take away the two that it has. I have been a NASCAR fan for a long time, since I was little and always loved the racing that I watched on TV and in the stands at Bristol, Talladega, Chicago, and for the first time this weekend; Martinsville. But as of late I have found myself watching fewer and fewer races on TV because they are just not exciting. Places like New Hampshire, Michigan, California, are just flat out, single file, no passing, boring! How does NASCAR take care of this? By shutting out new tracks like Kentucky and Iowa to make sure that the goofballs at ISC are making their money and then they only continue to take away dates or sometimes complete tracks from the circuit that provide great racing to give worthless tracks like California second dates. I will refuse to watch that stupid race both times this season because I actually fall asleep. There are enough tracks in this country that we shouldn’t be visiting a track twice in the same season short of the superspeedways and that would make racing interesting again, a different track every weekend. That would sure help out the Chase too, if the last 10 races included Road America, Kentucky, Iowa, Rockingham, and others! Just my two cents.
Great article! We love Martinsville and have tickets to both races and we drive from NJ to go to this track. NASCAR/ISC keeps trying to kill it off though – the spring race used to be the weekend after Easter and the weather was always beautiful, sunny and enjoyable. The last few years with the move of the date into March, it’s been rainy and cold. I really hate it when NASCAR does stupid stuff like this. If they take Martinsville off the schedule, well, they may not think 67,000 seats are a lot, but the fans who made up that group at this track ARE the fan base. Every time they take a track with real racing off in favor of a “big market” or another cookie cutter, pounds another nail in the coffin of the sport. I don’t even bother to watch the Kansas race or Chicago or heaven forbid Caliboring on TV any more. That’s not racing, it’s a high speed parade. Give me a short track any day.
Short track racing used to be the majority of the schedule. The uniqueness of each track provided excitment each week leading up to the race. The races themselves were entertaining because the drivers actually had to drive the car, they could care less about points racing, and winning was the most important thing. A champion was determined by points awarded for all 36 races and no 10 races were any more or less important than the others. The races were so entertaining, I would watch the race not ever missing a lap and if I couldn’t watch it live, I would record it and watch every lap later.
Boy do I long for those days again.
I bet TV ratings are down this week.
“From small things, Mama, big things sometimes come. But even the mightiest Hickory tree is doomed if it loses hold of its roots, and for Cup racing, Martinsville remains the taproot.
I hear the Martinsville taco bell ranks last in the nation in order accuracy. Just what I heard.
I… am… glad… I… don’t… go… to… the… Martinsville… race.
I… Don’t… like… jeff… gordon.
You just can’t beat good short track racing like at Martinsville. Both my trips to the track have been enjoyable and the racing has been great. I still refuse to eat one of those scarlet hotdogs, though.
I can’t make it to Martinsville this year, but I will be at Greenville-Pickens Speedway Saturday for the K&N Pro East Series kickoff. Ive never been to G-P, but I hear the track is similar to Martinsville… half-mile paved oval with little banking. I can’t wait. The race will be telecast on Speed on April 1st.
Just when some fans are getting (a little) interested again, I hear this. The new rule changes have perked my interest somewhat, but nas$car seems to have this built in self-destruct switch within easy reaching distance. nas$car needs to change it’s logo the a huge dollar sign with the words “GREED ABOVE ALL” imbossed in the middle. Like other long time fans, I love the few short tracks that are left on the schedule. To put it bluntly, if Martinsville goes, I go. Take this seriously, nas$car.
I do not like Martinsville. Been there twice and hated it, especially that gross so called hot dog. I do not like a track were the only way to pass the guy in front of you is to knock him out of the way.
It would also be nice if they could pave the place. Slipping around on wet grass is not fun.
For those of you who do go and need a room we always stayed in Greenville N.C. It is a half hour drive to the track from there.
Martinsville to me is a toilet and I would not go back even if the tickets were free.
Interesting and Informative article. I totally agree with the sentiment.
I also agree with Gordon82Wins. This taking away dates from legendary tracks is pretty awful. That is the problem with NASCAR. It always wants to compare itself to other sports. Why not be its own different thing? Why does it have to conform? Why does it have to have events at only strategically located places? This cold, hard, greedy obsession with Money that the Powers that be have will eventually kill big time stock car racing.
@Mike, yea, ain’t it a bitch when you break a heel on that God awful grass. Good grief dude, what do you expect, a martini and cigar bar? I ain’t there to be catered to, I’m there for the racin’ and these days you’re not going to find much better. It’s a shame NA$CAR has stripped most of the real racetracks from the series. They may have actually had a chance at recruiting long term fans instead of all the newbies that drive the “market”.
Good article matt. I LOVE Marty and went after they killed the Rock…until ISC bought it. I am giving up the OVERPRICED Bristol tickets and returing to Marty next spring. So much for my boycott I guess.
Sadly, I think they will lose a date NOT THAT I WANT OR THINK THEY SHOULD BUT I think they will lose the chase date. NASCAR doesn’t want to be in martinsville va during the playoffs. My prediction is Atlanta and Marty lose a date and Kansas and Vegas get one…somehow I think kentucky is getting one too but I don’t know from where.
“Balderdash”, Do you really mean “Bovine Scattotomy” to quote Gen STORMIN’ Norman Schwartzkopf?