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.
After ten long days, extensive preseason testing, and preparations for the Daytona 500 that began back before last season, Speedweeks is finally over. Like every year, pundits are rushing to draw conclusions after the big race. I think he was joking, but a FOX commentator went so far as to say Trevor Bayne is now the favorite to displace Jimmie Johnson as Cup champion this year. Highly unlikely. First Bayne has signed on to run for the Nationwide title this year, and even if he makes the switch points he earned at Daytona would not be awarded retroactively. Secondly, at Daytona with the new surface everyone was a “rookie” making their first start on the new surface. Now we move on to other tracks where the other drivers have run numerous events, some of which Bayne is going to need a GPS just to find.
So what did we learn at Daytona?
The answer is basically the same as it is every year, but perhaps even more so this year. We basically learned nothing. The Daytona 500 is a unique race, the sport’s biggest, most high profile event and the best paying race. Teams had prepared for months for Daytona. Now they have a week to get to Phoenix. The Daytona 500 is one of four plate races to be run this season. With the grippier surface the Daytona races might more closely parallel what to expect at Talladega, but minus the grip of brand new asphalt I doubt we’ll see the two by two tandem racing at Talladega. I doubt we’ll even see it again back at Daytona in July where a night race and hotter temperatures tend to make the track greasier.
The true start of the Cup season is this week at Phoenix, a much lower profile race, but one that ultimately pays the same points as the big show and the other 34 points races this year. The real proof of the pudding will be once the series reaches the 1.5-mile to two mile moderately banked cookie-cutter tracks where a majority of this season’s races will be contested. Daytona and Talladega are so unique that DEI, RCR and Andy Petree Racing used to have a separate research and development program just for those two tracks. And that program yielded them a lot of success.
This year’s Daytona 500 was a near comedy based on the law of unintended consequences. The new track surface led to speeds higher than expected and the two car drafts. That led to a nearly daily change of restrictor plate sizes and aerodynamic rules as well as novel new rule changes, like the rule mandating lower cooling system pressures. As with any surprise and not entirely positive experience, people find a need to draw some lesson from it. Like my granddaddy told me, if you throw rocks at a hornet’s nest you’re bound to get stung. Of course shortly before that lesson I’d thrown rocks at a hornet’s nest and gotten stung, a mistake I have not since repeated. One gets the feeling sometimes that Brian France spends his mornings gathering up rocks and afternoons out searching for new hornet’s nests to throw them at.
So what small lessons can we glean from Daytona? Well, everyone who watched Sunday now knows who Trevor Bayne is. Those who followed the extensive coverage of companion events in the week leading up to the big race already knew the then 20-year-old had a lot of talent. No less a driver than Jeff Gordon selected Bayne as his running mate on several occasions, thus conferring an official blessing from the “old guard” on the kid. Of course Gordon might have been recalling the 1993 Speedweeks when Dale Earnhardt saw something special in Gordon and took him under his wing. So Trevor Bayne is the next Jeff Gordon, right? Maybe. Or maybe he’s the next Jamie McMurray, another likable young man who won in only his second Cup start as well, driving for a team that was contending for an owner’s title. Success was not quick in coming, and half a decade later McMurray found himself struggling just to find a seat to stay in the big leagues, though he did indeed have a great season last year.
If fans and the media seem in general pleased that Bayne won the race I have yet to hear from anybody who isn’t simply delighted the Wood Brothers, the second oldest team in the sport, got back to victory lane at Daytona. Their return was made that much more poignant by the fact the No. 21 car bore familiar livery that nearly mirrored that of David Pearson’s 1976 Daytona winning car for the same team. That same car and Pearson would go on to win 10 of the 30 races they ran that season, dominating the superspeedways like nobody would again until Bill Elliott in 1985.
What we can certainly surmise after Daytona is NASCAR got an unexpected home run hit out of the park. While final ratings aren’t in yet as this is written, the overnight ratings look very positive especially when highlighted against the declining ratings of the last few years. An unpredictable race, a surprise winner, and the return of a legendary racing team to success were all feel good stories. Sunday night I saw Bayne’s victory as one of the lead stories on several non-racing media outfits that in general have ignored the sport for years. Come on, a 20-year-old kid who prayed with his team prior to the big race and couldn’t even find his way to victory lane after the race…well you need something to offset all the gloomy stories about the economy and unrest in the Middle East which is already threatening to propel gas prices back up to four bucks. (By July, my friends. You read it here first.) And of course for non-fans who really do live out the stereotype of watching for the wrecks, with sixteen caution flags they didn’t have to wait long for their fix of mayhem.
It’ll be interesting to see if the ratings spike is a blip on the screen or sustainable. Next week the series moves onto Phoenix and from there to Las Vegas, two tracks not known for scintillating action. Then the series takes a week off. That ought to be enough to kill the buzz and good vibrations left after Daytona. Certainly any newly minted fans added to the sport on Sunday are going to be watching Phoenix wondering why there aren’t two car tandems and why nobody seems to be passing. There were a Daytona 500 record number of passes for the lead Sunday. Bloody hell, of course their were, stupid! When’s the last time leaders not only allowed themselves to be passed, but actually radioed the guy behind them that they were going to slow down to make it easier out of concern for the following driver’s water temperature! For the record there were 67 passes for the lead at Talladega in 1978 in the era before plates and cooling restrictions, and Lennie Pond was the improbable winner that day.
One possible lesson we can take from Daytona involves the Fords and the new FR9 engine that debuted mid-season last year. Ford is said to have spent considerable development time on the new engine to ensure cooling system efficiency. As the weather gets hotter and the series returns to high speed moderately banked tracks where downforce is all important, the Ford teams ability to run more tape on the nose of the car could shift the balance of power. That would offer some solace to long suffering Ford fans who saw their favorite brand pretty much reduced to an asterisk much of last season….and to fans in general who don’t care who wins this year’s title as long as it’s not Jimmie Johnson again.
One troubling footnote impossible to overlook last week is the number of Nationwide and Truck Series vehicles racing sans any sort of sponsorship decals. Daytona pays well, but one has to wonder how long some of those teams can continue competing without financial backing and if we’re going to see short fields at some of the support races this season.
Almost as universal of fans’ praise for Bayne’s victory was how much they once again despised FOX’s gimmicky and pre-scripted coverage. While Hammond and DW (and that intensely annoying BBB call to the flag) continue to draw the majority of the ire, some new high tech toys the producers have to play with, like the thermal image camera, failed to impress as well. The amount of commercial breaks still makes it hard for fans to follow the flow of the race and, to add insult to injury when they come back from break, we’re still forced to watch the Little Digger graphics and a corporate logo superimposed over a still photo, not racing. The favoritism some members of the broadcast team show to some drivers, and the cameramen show to cars running logos of race advertisers is another source of contention. I mean damn, I think every FOX broadcast member short of the rental car wrangler felt it necessary to completely exonerate Michael Waltrip for once again wrecking a bunch of cars. FOX has been demanding a lot of changes from NASCAR after much hand-wringing over declining ratings. It’s time for somebody from FOX to figure out, “We have met the enemy and they is us.”
Yes, this season’s Cup appetizer offered up decidedly tastier fare than some years. But now it’s on to the meat and potatoes of the season.
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Hey Matt, I need some of what you were smoking Sunday. I thought the smaller grill openings, 35lb pop off and smaller restrictor plates made the race even more phony and manipulated. The 16 cautions also hurt the flow of the race and made me rank it about the same as the 2008 Brickyard when the threw a competition caution every 10 laps.
Wasn’t this the first 500 in the last few years not to have rain, track issues, or long red flags? That may be a factor in the better ratings.
Matt, your best point was the record lead changes in the 500, with the drivers allowing the changes to keep the engine cool. That was the 800 pound gorilla in the room that I had not noticed. That is just one of the reasons I read your stuff. Thanks
Something to ponder also Matt. If NA$CAR has 75 million fans, and only 30 million watched the race, where were the other 45 million fans? And even with 75 million fans, NA$CAR still couldn’t beat the 111 million viewers that watched the Super Bowl.
I echo Mr. Bill’s comment. I never considered that most of the lead changes were deliberate in order to keep the engines cool. There’s a quote about “lies, damned lies, and statistics” that probably applies here.
All restrictor-plate races are a joke. What we learned at Daytona was a big NOTHING.
In fact, we won’t “learn” much of anything until two or three races have been run.
I have been truly shocked that those who find the two-by-two racing abhorrent (me) are in the minority. People I know that aren’t even “casual fans” but merely curious were asking me to explain what they were seeing; quote: “WTH?” Everyone is entitled to their opinion about it, but it sounded to me that NASCAR & Fox were trying a tad too hard to convince us that what we were witnessing was positive evolution in the sport. It just makes Daytona and Talledega a bigger farce, in my opinion, than they already are. Thankfully, 4 races don’t make an entire season…Matt: Thanks for the Lennie Pond reference!
With regard to the preshow, I refuse to watch it.
By comparison of this years “product” to last, i must say that generally I rather enjoyed this years Daytona 500. I’d have much rather seen more wide angle shots that could have caught the start of the 2 car runs and more action than the amount of scripted shots (but what else is new?)
The whole points deal is a complete mess and I’m not even going to pay attention to it. What does a modern cup champion need to do to win it? They need to run well and just as importantly manipulate around the rules that are in place. Did the best driver/team win the championship last year? Maybe, but we’ll never know. We do know the best points racers did. So frankly, I don’t care. I may be in the minority but I’d rather see good hard racing every week than a year long points gathering process.
What did I learn from Daytona? That NASCAR leadership still doesn’t get it, I should set the bar pretty low for the coming year and pray that the B series survives.
What we learned: that broadcast partners think that more of what they do is what will bring ratings back up.
What we learned: that NASCAR thinks that manipulating the specifications of the cars up until the eve of the race will provide competitive ‘product’.
What we learned: that plate tracks still yield the most field decimating wrecks to the largest numbers of cars.
What we learned: that this is still primarily a business proposition, and the purpose of the racing is to make a select number of people rich. No different than it is in MLB or the NBA.
In spite of all that, though, we learned that a “feel good story” still has legs in the media and we will continue watching to hopefully catch the next one.
Matt said: “Bloody hell, of course their were, stupid!”
Speaking of stupid, its there, not their.
What would we do without you Kevin?
We learned it’s all about DW all the time. Thank God for the mute button.
Excellent point Old Gal From SoCal.
First, I made the point in a posting several days ago that the constant prattle from Waltrip about all the passing was a farce, given the need to swap spots to keep temperatures under control. Secondly, Im not going to list what I learned from Daytona, because MIracefan and Mike just did it all for me.
Gollee Kevin, we is (sic) sorry weze (sic) forgot whats we did learned(sic) while gittin (sic) ourowns (sic) degree in English Lit at Oxferd..(sic). Speaking of stupid..(sic)…:)
I’ve been to Oxford… well, thru it, actually. And did you know that if you leave Oxford and cross the bridge over I-20, you’re in Covington, GA., home of the annual Dukes of Hazzard festival?
good post, MIracefan!
Yep, Daytona and Talladega are both anomalies and always wind up a wasteland of wrecked race cars.
Look a that picture you posted…we l;earned that AJ Allmendinger CAN miss a big wreck at a plate track…lol
“We learned that the broadcasters still think the show is about them.”
Amen, MIRacefan. If Fox is so upset over losing viewers, maybe they should examine their own abhorrent broadcasts for clues to the fan exodus.
I sure did Carl! Hell, I was a guest lecturer last year on the right way to slide on dirt!!!
“We learned that the broadcasters still think the show is about them.”
Buzz pretty much nailed it.