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.
Welcome back, gentle readers. After a brief vacation, I’m back in the saddle again. I hope you all had a spiritual and joyous Easter or Passover, as I did. What did I do? (For the benefit of those of you who care — and despite many of you that don’t give a damn — bear with me.)
I was blessed to go on an extended motorcycle ride with my good friend and brother-in-law Kenny and my eldest nephew Shane, a young man who has crawled through Hell and back after battling substance abuse, fighting for his life and his ability to walk again after a terrible crotch rocket wreck less than two years ago. Shane, now clean and sober for an extended period of time, has apparently given up on the lay-down style bikes in favor of his new (to him, anyway) 2002 Sportster. It might be an old-school Harley, solid-mounted engine, buckhorn bars and all, and at six foot four, he might look like a monkey trying to hump a football on the thing, even with extended controls. But to ride with him at or near the speed limit on an 80 degree Sunday down the back roads of Chester County under clear blue skies in light traffic along with his dad, my dear buddy (and the most recent of my family members to kick nicotine addiction) was a sheer joy I will not soon forget.
I’ll savor every second of that ride as long as I live, even if it wasn’t a conventional Easter celebration.
If only every Sunday Kenny, Shane and I could repeat that ride. But for me, it’s time to get back to bidness. After two weekends off interspersed amidst the first six races, the Cup schedule now features 14 consecutive weeks of competition. The next time there’s a week off is July 17, the weekend between Joliet and the Brickyard 400.
I’m here to tell you, brothers and sisters… that’s ridiculous.
The NFL’s entire regular season — the Holy Grail NASCAR is said to be chasing — is 17 weeks long, and that includes a bye week. That 17-week stretch will determine the playoff contenders and this year’s pretenders. If it’s true that absence makes the hard grow fonder, it can be argued that the wealth of dates on the Cup schedule in the next 14 weeks makes each individual race less significant — especially if you consider only the last ten races (way too many) will determine a champion.
A more manageable and arguably exciting Cup schedule might extend as long as 26 weeks, with an occasional weekend off for fans to visit with families, do a little boating or riding during the sweet, sweet, summer time … or just recharge their batteries anticipating the next race.
This 14-week schedule will be grueling for the teams. They will globetrot the country, traveling from Charlotte to Phoenix this weekend and the road course in San Francisco on June 20, out to Michigan and Joliet in the heartland, up north to Dover, Pocono, and New Hampshire, and back to the heartland of the sport in Charlotte for the homestand and Darlington. Unfortunately, in the brave new world of NASCAR, only one of these 13 races (Richmond, May 1st), will be contested on a short track, the sort of circuit that was once the meat and potatoes of the sport. You know, the sort of place that produced that thrilling finish at Martinsville a couple weeks back.
The upcoming schedule will surely throw some curveballs at the teams, too. Chase contenders (and I loathe the very term) will have to deal with the road course at Sonoma. (And I’m sensing a weekend off June 20th, because, to be completely politically incorrect as I am wont to do, watching Cup cars race on road courses is like watching The Fat Chicks Ice Capades.)
The trickiest race of the upcoming stretch is likely Talladega, where the new (old?) style blade spoilers will replace the wings, and general mayhem may ensue as NASCAR makes mid-weekend adjustments to the rules to try and control speeds. As such, I dread the unholy circus that will be Talladega. After all, the last big experiment with aerodynamics at a plate track, the 2001 Daytona 500 and its taxicab strips, caused the death of Dale Earnhardt. (Blood on your hands, you bastards, need I repeat myself yet again? Who are you going to let die this April in pursuit of better ratings?) We’ll have to pray for better weather (across the Rio Grande-o, across that lonesome river…) to keep the circuit’s longest race, the World 600, from becoming a 24-hour event.
We’ll have to put up with the silliness that has become the All-Star Race since Humpy Wheeler signed off as General Manager at Charlotte. We’ll have to endure the likely mundanity of Joliet and New Hampshire that will try a good fan’s soul unless fuel mileage or bad weather intervene. We’ll have to sit through what will likely be another snoozer at Michigan, since points expediency and fuel mileage racing have replaced the teams’ need to score a big one in the birthplace of the American auto industry.
Yeah, I can’t say I’m truly looking forward to any of the upcoming 14 races other than Richmond and Darlington — and that might be why interest in NASCAR racing starts out tepid and dies out all together before the start of the All-Singing, All-Dancing Chase.
For some drivers, the following 14 weeks are crucial if they want to be considered a legitimate, if not mathematical, championship contender. Jeff Gordon hasn’t won a points-paying race since Texas nearly a year ago. Prior to that, he hadn’t won since the fall Charlotte event in 2007. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. hasn’t won a Cup race since Michigan in 2008 and he’s won just three Cup events since 2005, a half-decade ago, despite now having some of the best equipment on the grid.
Former Cup champion and Roush flag-bearer, Matt Kenseth, hasn’t won a race since Fontana last year. His rotundness, Tony Stewart, hasn’t won a race since Kansas last fall and he’s scored just one top 5 finish since … that’s one Whopper of a slump.
Ryan Newman hasn’t won a race since the 2008 Daytona 500 over two years ago. Even America’s least favorite boy-bitch, Kyle Busch, hasn’t won a Cup event since the Bristol night race in August of last year. Yeah, with Jimmie Johnson winning almost half of this year’s races, wins are hard to come by, and I sense that if he wins many more, even hardcore race fans are going to need new Duracell AAA batteries for their remotes after switching off Cup events when they’re halfway over. Unfortunately, about the only thing that seems to stand between Johnson and more wins is alien abduction.
There was a time, not even that long ago, when I loved this part of the season, as the Cup teams got settled in and the legitimate title contenders began showing muscle as the rust of the offseason wore off their brake rotors. I used to debate endlessly with friends which driver was the favorite at each weekend’s event, who was living up to expectations, who was exceeding them, and who was falling short. Pooling our information, expectations, and favoritism, we’d debate who would be Winston Cup champion that year. Countless mugs of beer were consumed, cross words were exchanged, and wagers were made. If you were a diehard Dale Earnhardt fan like many of my buddies were, the thought that the punk in the No. 24 car would win (another) championship was both infuriating and nauseating.
Yeah, racing was a passion for us back then. Now, it’s more like a high speed version of Dancing With the Stars. (Or in this case, Dancing With the Cars.) It’s so contrived and phony with this Chase mess we’re still enduring that it just doesn’t matter as much anymore. The lure of Route 23 between 322 and Valley Forge Park is getting so alluring, I’ll probably be taping some races and working even later on Sundays to get the job done.
Here’s the deal: 14 races is a long time to hold the fans’ interest. It’s like a local diner. If people think your prices are too high and dinner is usually soggy mashed potatoes and mystery meat purloined from high school cafeterias, they’re not going to keep showing up every week. (Witness all those empty seats in the grandstands this year.) Even if every five or six weeks, you serve them up a fantastic meal like Martinsville’s race, you’re going to lose your clientele. And eventually, your diner is going to wind up shuttered, with grass growing in the parking lot and a fading “commercial real estate for sale” sign out front.
This is a crucial season in Cup history. Somehow, we’re going to need to improve the ratio of classics to clunkers if NASCAR is to maintain or somehow grow its fan base. People are not going to continue to spend their hard-earned dollars or devote four hours of a sunny summer Sunday to watch an experiment in progress … and you can’t count on Carl Edwards to put someone on their lid to give us something to talk about. Quick, who won that Atlanta race, and how did they do it? A lot of you don’t even remember, do you? And that was just over a month ago — not 14 weeks. (For the record, Kurt Busch won by prevailing over Matt Kenseth and Juan Pablo Montoya on a final restart which was a lot more sizzle than steak.)
Stay tuned if you’re of the mind to. But please keep your hands inside the car because, given recent history, these 14 weeks will likely be a dark ride. And 14 weeks from now, I’ll be here to follow up on this column. We’ll have plenty to talk about here besides the rising tide I am certain, for better or worse.
From that mid-July perspective, I’m sure I’ll have some predictions as to my take on the future of NASCAR racing, the networks’ involvement with it, and my own future in the sport. Me and my buddies had one hell of a ride on Easter Sunday. I’m beginning to think I like riding a whole hell of a lot better than stock car racing.
Fourteen weeks, huh? We shall see what we shall see.
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
I’m not really one of those guys who thinks the season is too long. Cup drivers spend 36 weekends doing what they love and are paid handsomely for it. I know they spend time in the shop, dealing with sponsor obligations, etc., but hey…. I put in some overtime too.
Looking at the next 14 races, you have quite an assortment of tracks… milers, superspeedways, a 3/4 mile short track, a road race, and the Lady in Black. I could do without Joliet and Michigan, but Texas and even New Hampshire have put on a couple of decent races in recent years. So I’m hopeful if not exactly optomistic.
As for the #48 team, I’m sick of them winning races too, but that’s for the other 42 drivers to deal with.
Yea, what Matt said!!!!!
Matt, Maybe you should spend more time riding and less time writing about stock car racing! You have the worst column on Frontstretch, and the passion and drive are no longer there.
I think Matt has been reading my mind! We agree on almost everything except the road courses. While I would probably never want to witness one in person, I do enjoy the road races. Its a nice break from the 1.5 mile cookie cutters! Its also more of a drivers race than the 1.5 cookie cutters.
Here’s to hoping many will have at it, at the 48’s rear bumper!
We can dream right?
p.s. Can we please kill the chase? DW had an article yesterday titled “It’s All About the Chase” only 6 races in to the season…. sigh.
His attitude is in a linear relation with the racing. How can you fault him for that? Let me add I am not one of those people that get on the boards every week claiming “ I dont even watch it anymore” I do still watch it, but with each passing year, I seriously question the fact of whether its worth it to waste an entire Sunday sitting in front of the TV to watch these boring ass races.
Worse column on Frontstretch? That’s your opinion. For years Matt has had a loyal fan following that has followed him from site to site. His columns are among the most commented on, and his knowledge of the sport is extensive. I think Matt’s passion still shows, despite the fact that the sport is a floundering mess that has abandoned it’s roots and sold it’s soul. Still, if Matt decides to call it a career, it’s nice to know it’s because he has found a better way to spend Sundays than sitting on his ass watching what passes for top-level stock car racing these days.
I have to agree, NASCAR isn’t very compelling this year, or really since they’ve gone COT. Look, as someone who enjoys NASCAR, Indycar, ALMS, sometimes F1, MotoGP, World Superbike, ect. I have to say, NASCAR isn’t any better than the f1 parades, at least they’re not 4+ hours long! NASCAR has just become too contrived and predictable AT THE SAME TIME! Yeah, there was more passing at fontana than Barhain, but still about equally predictable. As for the critisim of Matt, well that’s what always happens when your not 100% on board with a sport, the fanboy/fangirls attack you. Happens with any series.
Completely agree with you Matt!!
Sorry kids but when your season is LONGER THAN HOCKEY – you have a problem.
A shorter schedule would give each race more meaning (so would removing the Chase, but that is another story). It would also present the option of starting later and finishing earlier. That alone would open a lot of tracks to be scheduled in a better order than they are currently.
I have been saying for years that except maybe for a few key places, NASCAR only visits each track once – and then throws in a few random tracks that appear on a 2 – 3 year schedule (yeah, I know – the ISC owns a lot of these tracks…)
The typical US TV viewer is used to watching about 20 episodes of TV in a year; about 20 football games a year (w/ play offs); etc. Having a shorter schedule can only help in reviving the general public’s attention in NASCAR.
And for the people that want to watch racing from Feb to Nov: Please visit your short track or the numerous other racing leagues.
Hahahahahaha… Really? Really?
Carl – “His columns are among the most commented on, and his knowledge of the sport is extensive.”
His comments are the most commented on because he has the prime location of top billing on Monday morning.
Let’s recap the facts here, #of comments per race-recap:
Average: 30 comments per race.
And Vito’s 1 race recap this year: 35 (also Vito’s article after the Atlanta race pulled in 33.)
So I dare not claim that Matt is the most commented writer based upon talent. More so on product placement.
Also, I’ll decline to comment Monday and that will cut-down 10 posts from people who think everything I write is a result of a France-laced Kool-aid hangover.
As for THIS articles content. Matt, if the passion is gone, it’s time to move on. If a driver went in front of a microphone, tweeted, or blogged what you have written today, sponsors would have his head. Owners would fire him, and fans would boo him if he ever attempted to race “competitively” again.
Me – I’ll just “boo-cott” your stuff for a while.
Damn I’m gonna miss her…
When I think back to the times nascar for me was at it’s best, I remember not really caring as much about who won the championship as who won what race, who made what pass on somebody and who was feuding with whom. The championship.. meh… I think the championship pays too much these days. Put the money into the race purses and make wins more important and valuable. Even if they keep the crappy cookie cutters, the sponsor protecting top 35 (franchise rule) and the inane “chase,” racing will be better. Instantly. The fans will come back and ratings will improve and our sport will be saved. Thus says the babydufus. I’m afraid of motorcycles, if you want to find me, I’ll be at Thompson Speedway watching some real racing at this weekend’s Icebreaker.
The chase is an illusion anyway…It ws pointed out when they started the silly thing, that no one had ever won the championship who wasn’t in the top 12 at that time of the season anyway, so why the fuss? The chase is the kind of idea that will get you in the hall Of Fame….dontchano ?