NASCAR Changes Qualifying Format
posted by Summer Bedgood
Tuesday March 11, 2014
Following safety concerns regarding NASCAR’s new qualifying format, the sanctioning body is introducing some changes in preparation for this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. According to the Associated Press, NASCAR is banning teams from cool-down laps after their qualifying attempts, but will instead be allowed to hook up cool-down units to the engine through hood flaps.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a release from NASCAR fully detailed the changes. Teams will be allowed a single cool down unit to be connected through the right or left side hood flap, however the hood must remain closed. Additionally, two crew members will be allowed over the wall while cooling down.
“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”
The move comes after three weeks of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying system, where multiple cars are allowed to make qualifying attempts at the same time instead of the traditional one-car-at-a-time procedure. Drivers and teams had complained that the new rules didn’t allow them to cool their engines down on pit road, and the cool-down laps caused a dangerous situation with slower cars staying on the track at the same time that other cars were running by them at much higher speeds.
The rule will begin this weekend in Bristol, a track that has a much narrower racing surface than Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
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!
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Hey, wow, man, where did everybody go? Think what you might about the quality of Sunday’s Bristol Cup race, but one thing that stood out was the stunning amount of empty seats in the grandstands and empty parking spaces in the RV lot. What made the empty seats that much more remarkable is the fact tickets to either of the Cup races at Bristol were once described, by a stick-and-ball publication no less, as the toughest seats to get in all of sports. They tended to be handed down through families and I know of several ugly divorces where the disposition of renewable tickets to the Bristol were one of the main arguing points. Remember, this track is one where Cup events officially sold out 55 consecutive times up until three races ago. (Though to be honest, there have been smatterings of empty seats as far back as three years ago). During this period, the track frantically tried to keep up with demand by adding seats, sometimes thousands of them at a time – but it was never enough.
Spin control is already trying to paint a happy face on Sunday’s crowd size. They point out, and rightly so, even a crowd that local police estimated at between 75 and 80 thousand souls is a whole bunch of people for any sort of sporting or entertainment event. ( I think that when NASCAR and the track owners estimate crowd size they count “soles” not “souls” thus roughly doubling the actual attendance as most people have two feet).
Then, of course there’s NASCAR’s standby excuse since 2007, the economy. It’s been a tough month for consumers as gasoline prices soared sixty cents and more in some areas. With fans averaging a six-hour ride to the track than back home again the price of go-juice probably kept some folks who were on the fence about going to the event as potential race-day walkup ticket purchasers home on the couch. It’s bad enough that gas is approaching four bucks per gallon again if you drive a Focus, but it’s doubly bad if you drive a V10 crew cab dually or a Class A Holiday Rambler Road Rancher Supreme Jumbo motorcoach. And unlike, say, Dover or Fontana, Bristol is in a very rural area. They don’t have a huge pool of potential fans within an hour’s drive they can appeal to with race week advertising. But the “high price of gas” explanation has its problems. Typically, fans buy their race tickets months in advance and a few months ago gas prices were stable and fairly friendly by today’s standards. And at least locally I haven’t seen the same rush of consumers trying to trade in big SUVs for a Yaris, Prius, or Smart Car like there was last time gas prices inched up towards four bucks.
Others want to blame the shift of the first Bristol Cup race from April to March. I’m not sure what they’re basing that assumption on. In factm the last time the Cup cars ran in April rather than March was back in 1999 and that was because of the odd date Easter occurred that year. The perception is an April date would be better for the track because the weather is typically warmer and drier. Odd thing is that in August Bristol tends to be stormy and stinking hot but it never kept the crowds at home.
Track management even tried claiming that the lower attendance was a product of their own earlier success. They feel race fans haven’t gotten the message yet that yes, at long last you CAN get tickets to Bristol perhaps even as late as race day morning. Well if that was the case, August’s Bristol crowd ought to be huge again because it should have been obvious to anyone who saw last Sunday’s event on TV they could have showed up with a platoon of friends on race morning and all sat together in prime seats with plenty of elbow room for all.
My own offbeat theory on declining attendance has to do with the graying of the NASCAR nation’s fans. While FOX and the other networks are desperately courting those “coveted” 18-34 year old demographics the most loyal fans, those who watch and attend races routinely, get older every year. (Yes, NASCAR tried to get rid of that graying population of older fans over the last five or six years, setting them afloat on the ice-flo of expediency while searching for a younger, hipper, more affluent fan base, but a lot of them still remain). Anyone who has ever attended a race at Bristol can attest just getting to your seat is quite a workout. I call the area where the track is located “the Tennessee Alps.” Fans often have to park a good distance from the track entrance and walk over hilly terrain to get there, sweating their butts off as they lug their coolers. Even once they reach the track, many fans stand stunned looking at the aluminum mountain of steps that lead to their seats.
One Bristol race day prior to the event I went up into the grandstands to visit with some of my readers who had become friends over the years. When I arrived at their seats they were trying to help a guy in his 50s, who was gray in the face, struggling to breathe and complaining of chest pains. I went to find a track worker and told him I felt this fellow was in imminent danger of a cardiac event. I was told to relay to him to sit there awhile, relax and if he didn’t feel better in a half hour to seek help. Yikes! I don’t know whatever became of him because I had to get back to the garage area. That particular day I had to park in the lot of a gas station nearly two hilly miles from the track. (And it still cost me ten bucks to park). On the hot and laborious walk back to my rental car I joined dozens of others on the same trek who stopped by a creek that ran behind a campground along that back road to relax and dangle my feet in the water or even take a dip or wade to cool off. “Never again,” I heard more than a few of them groan. Of course a lot of them were sunburned, bathed in sweat, intoxicated and out of shape, but then the NASCAR nation has never had an official fitness regimen.
And a lot of race fans still smoke. A few years back Bristol decided that there would be no smoking in the grandstands, anywhere. (Isn’t it ironic that the sport used to be “Winston Cup”?) I have heard from more than a few fans who smoke they aren’t going to be able to or even try to go six hours without a smoke even as they inhale the potentially lethal levels of carbon monoxide a race at Bristol generates since they surrounded the track with sky-high grandstands.
Then, of course there’s that 800-pound gorilla in the room officialdom seems not to want to address. Since Bristol was reconfigured with multi-angle banking some (and more than a few) fans well that racing at Bristol has become too tame and orderly. They claim in fact that the new configuration has “ruined” racing at Bristol. They long for the old slam bang days of one groove racing with everyone running at the bottom and the only way to pass rooting and gouging the fellow ahead of you out of the way. They miss guys punching ambulances, tossing their crash helmets at another driver and in general letting their tempers hit the boiling point. They want to see the car that won the race slamming the wall just past the start finish-line and oh, Lord, yeah, they want to see cages rattled. And rattled hard.
Most all of you remember that little bit of cage rattling Earnhardt did to Labonte and the stunned silence in the broadcast booth afterwards until Ned Jarrett managed to choke out, “He hit him. That’s the dirtiest bit of driving I’ve ever seen.” Most of you recall even Saint Dale was loudly and profanely booed by the crowd after the win, quite a turn of affairs. (And as he responded grinning coyly, “If they ain’t cheering, they better be booing.”) Fewer of you will recall on that final lap out of the fourth corner Jimmy Spencer was up on Earnhardt and doing his damnedest to wreck him to avenge Labonte. Earnhardt had defined the rules of the game that night and Spencer was willing to play. Had Spencer knocked Dale into the wall and won my guess from being on hand that evening there would have been rioting in the grandstands. It was close enough anyway.
No, Bristol is no longer a haven of barbarianship on track, but even as a hidebound traditionalist I was satisfied with Sunday’s race. If Johnson and Edwards had been a little faster and Busch a little slower we might have been treated to a battle between the reigning five-time champion, a driver going for his fifth win in a row at Bristol and the driver who has won three of the last six races, each of them in a different make of car. The ingredients were all there… the cake just never baked. Meanwhile, I saw plenty of contact, fenders bent, rear bumpers slammed to the point supports were hanging outside the bodywork, tire marks left and tempers clearly on edge. I was cool with it, but then again I don’t pay for tickets so the masses must prevail. I have heard from countless numbers of fans who think Bristol is now too tame and they either haven’t gone back or aren’t going to in the future.
There’s some validity to that point of view in that the TV ratings were also down for the event. Bristol used to be “must see TV” for fans. To a degree, the night race in August still is. Seeing the sparks shooting off of and from under the cars adds to the drama even when nobody is wrecking anyone else. The way the flash paint looks under the lights and the flames out the tailpipes ratchets it up another notch. It doesn’t cost you anything in gas to watch a race on TV even if you happen to be unemployed and looking to cut expenditures, but a bunch of folks decided not to watch the race. How come? Well maybe it was because a lot of the nation was enjoying the first nice weekend of spring. On my Sunday morning ride I saw a lot of folks doing yard work, washing their cars, or riding their motorcycles. Lately NASCAR has become a sport where you only have to tune in for the last twenty laps to see the good stuff.
It seems to me that the reconfiguration of Bristol isn’t solely to blame for the lost ticket sales. It’s the perfect storm of less rowdy racing, the new cars, which fans still by and large hate, and the new points system which places even more of an emphasis on not having a bad day rather than having a great one. If there were another 250 points on the line between first and second do you really believe Carl Edwards wouldn’t have sent Kyle Busch into the wall to get by when he was alongside him? Would Jimmie Johnson have been contentedly riding in third to rise a bunch of places in the points if he wasn’t thinking, “For the first 26 races all you have to do is get into the Chase. Then we race”? This is the new NASCAR, not leaner and meaner, but more sedate and second rate.
My guess is what’s killing Bristol is actually greed. One fellow who wrote me this week decrying the new style Bristol racing said he had decided that with the tamer action spending $1,400 on four seats is no longer worth it. Let’s see: $1,400 divided by four is 350 dollars a seat. Jiminy. For that much money I want to either flag the race from the crow’s tower or get strapped in the passenger side of one of the leading cars. I would pay 350 bucks a seat to see Martina McBride and REM open for Springsteen in Honolulu…
As it became apparent that ticket sales were going to be a disaster track management arrogantly announced they weren’t going to lower ticket prices so supply met demand. Their reasoning was it wouldn’t be fair to the fans who paid full price months ago. Hmmm. Have they ever flown on a commercial airliner? You might have paid double what the guy sitting beside you did for the seat because he gambled and bought at the last moment. I don’t care. Just get this big old bird off the ground on time, arrive on schedule, don’t lose my baggage and please don’t auger nose first into an Iowa cornfield at 500 MPH en-route. Maybe the trick would have been to upgrade the fans who paid full boat into the best open seats and sell the rest of them at what the market dictated. (At least one reader commented on Sunday’s article he was able to get a Nationwide ticket at 10 bucks and a Cup ticket for 40, so either the track relented or scalpers were desperate with unsold inventory prior to the race).
After I commented on it, many readers wrote me they’d been quoted the same $385 a night price for a hotel room near the track with “near” being a relative term. Curious, I went to one of those online travel sites and looked. If I wanted to go to Bristol this weekend (presumably to participate in a witness protection program because there ain’t no other reason) traveling as a single fellow who wanted a private room I could book that room at a place I have stayed at Bristol, a normally moderate chain I’ve used frequently, I could check in at 105 dollars a night from Friday to Sunday. Now if I try to go to that same chain hotel (which I won’t name for fear of being sued) for the same nights on the weekend of Bristol night weekend in August they’d like 699 to 708 dollars a night! Not unless the company of Heather Locklear, three prime rib dinners and a full keg of beer are included in that price, my friends.
Another reader commented he paid 400 for a three day parking pass in the RV lot at Bristol. That price didn’t include a blackwater hookup. Yeah, that’s a lot more reasonable than the hotel, but then you laid out the big bucks for that RV and all you’re asking for is a slab of level ground big enough to accommodate your vehicle, not a view of the race itself.
When it comes down to it, a stock car race is a three to four hour entertainment event that caters to folks who like their action fast and loud. So let’s see. Ma and Pa Fritter decide to take their kids Junior and Tawny to see the Bristol night race this August. That’ll be $2100 for a single room, presumably with one bed. $1400 bucks for four prime tickets. Say five hundred miles of driving each way in a 20 MPG car at 3.50 a gallon is another is about another $200 bucks. We’re looking at over $3,700 bucks and we still haven’t paid for parking, meals, hot dogs, brews and sodas at the track, a few forty dollar driver T-shirts, and other such foo-foo-raw. I’ve paid half that for cars and trucks I’ve driven for years, including the gray GMC four by half ton that’s sitting outside my office window right now.
Or you could buy a decent used lake boat and use it for a few years worth of happy weekends fishing when the weather is nice. Or cover your cable/phone/internet bill for over three years. Or in my case I could choose to pay the rent on this elderly farmhouse and the acreage it sits on for four months. Or you could spend the same money on the Bristol night race weekend even knowing if the race is rained out Saturday night Pa Fritters and clan are going to have to miss the race on Sunday so they can head home and Pa can be at work Monday morning when the whistle blows.
The interesting thing is when I was looking at that travel site it seemed the vast majority of hotels in the area are already sold out for the August race weekend. God bless NASCAR fans. But if you’re one of them, when you look at that guy in the seat next to you.. that won’t be me.
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Bristol used to be THE race of the year, a throwback to the old days and the weekend bash in front of the TV was planned about a year ahead of time. Now the August race is an afterthought, no bash has been planned for the last 3 years and I might catch a few laps if I’m not too busy while at the local campground.
Thanks Nascar. I have a lot more time on my hands now.
One thing I have noticed with my Dover tickets is that the track owners don’t seem to want to acknowledge the economic laws of supply and demand. They won’t significantly cut ticket prices to the point where supply and demand come into equilibrium. Those ticket prices should continue to drop as long as 20% of the seats are empty (the last couple of races at Dover may have been 40-50% unsold).
Before the chase and the COT and the grand rebuild of the track, my brother and I made the pilgrimage to Bristol because we really wanted to see the night race in August. Glad we went then, I wouldn’t even consider it now because although the racing may be fine (the drivers sure like it), I don’t think it would be worth it the time and $ for the trip.
I know what you mean about Dover. We have good seats which I renew every year and it ticks me off when they run “fire sales” or just plain give tickets away when I’ve paid full price. How about rewarding repeat customers?
The race broadcast was pretty poorly done – too many toys for the boys in the production truck, not enough concentration on actually showing the race. Which I also think plays into why people think the racing is boring — if you are trying to attract new fans or get the current ones to spend money on tickets – you have to show them the race on TV first. I’m not sure why Fox and ESPN think that this is a good way to tell the story of the race. I hear that ESPN is still wanting some sort of “elimination format” for the chase. Oh boy, I can’t wait! Do they not understand that race fans don’t change who they are cheering for from race to race?
Also you are right about only needing to tune in for the last 20 laps to find out what you need. I’m not an ADD fan, but there’s only so much nattering noise and silliness that I can take in my race broadcast, so I watch the first 10 laps, check in every half hour (since they seem to only show the action in replays anyway) and come back near the end of the race. Brian France was successful — he made a casual fan out of a hardcore one.
Nice column, Matt. I’ve stopped going to almost all of the Nascar races, and I used to attend 2-3 per year. I’ve gotten too old to sleep in a tent on the ground, and my Powerball Megamillions Retirement Plan hasn’t yet produced the required results and I just refuse to spend $350 on a $75 dollar motel room even if they do leave the light on for me. I guess I’m evedence of what you call the “graying of the Nascar nation’s fans”.
I no longer find Nascar entertaining. Coverage?? what coverage. When the cameras are so far away you can not read numbers and the leaderboard is so smeared up with colors, I have no idea where the drivers are on the track. Ho Hum. I can do without another race with the winner pre-determined.
Same here,casual fan out of a hardcore fan,sums it up.Brainfart has proved the third generation rule.
“Brian France was successful — he made a casual fan out of a hardcore one.” – Great way to sum up the Brian France legacy GinaV24.
i particularly enjoyed reading this column and think that you’ve hit on some very good points. shame is not many other people see it that way. this week i recorded the race which used to be one of the races i would not miss. i used to dream of scoring bristol tickets, not so much anymore. i used to watch religiously every weekend and i’d go to dover every year then added nhis when it came online. i was a “top row” regular for several years at both tracks. today i can’t think of a race that i’d consider laying out the kind of time and money that it takes and i can afford it. additionally, in my opinion (apparently i’m not the only one) i can’t think of a race that i would watch start to finish live on tv. the traveling to a track thing is because the races just aren’t that great (despite what the nascar tells its media to tell me.) i get a much better experience at my local track. the tv thing is because of poor production and the assault of advertising and jackassery (you call them production toys) which just might be chargeable as a misdemeanor in several states.
i want my nascar back.
and also, thank you to the talkback contributors who thus far have kept this weeks comment section enjoyable and poignant.
You hit the nail on the head Matt, When my buddies & I quit going a few years back, we spent about $900 per guy for a 4 day trip to Bristol, & I don’t believe we payed more then 75% of face value for a ticket to Busch or WC-Nextel-Sprint cup & it still cost us big time, but, back then every race was good & every year we were happy to spend it because it was THE Bristol Night Race!!!..Now its just another race with a way over priced tag on it.
again, you journalist like to sensationalize and never do any real investigation. you quote anecdotal numbers like $400 for a RV spot?? nope, i had the best spot in the house for less than half that. 80K fans in the stands? nope! I was there and it was waaaay over 50% full. But then you need something to write about and getting a bunch of 25 year olds to whine about how things were “back in the day” seems fashionable lately so have at it. I’ll be back next fall, and after a race at Cali these same people will beg for some Bristol action.
Another great article Matt. I agree with all of your reasons for the decline in attendance.
There are many reasons for the decline in NA$CAR popularity, but I think the main reasons are arrogance and greed.
As for the Fox tv production of the Bristol race, only one word comes to mind….assclowns!
Like GinaV, I’ve gone from being a hardcore fan (since 1965) to a casual fan. Thanks BZF!
There seems to be a common thread here – count me in – Once a hardcore fan now a casual fan. No longer go to the races, barely watch on TV and don’t buy any merchandise anymore. Bristol was once absolute must see TV. Invited over all my racing friends and we sat glued to the TV and loved that Bristol race. Now, no party, maybe DVR it and watch the last 50 laps.
Since the new TV deal was signed and the clowns started televising the races, the cliff-diving segments on Wide World Of Sports don’t look so bad.
Good article, glad to see that someone recognized that the issue isn’t just one simple thing.
But hey, F1 will start up again this weekend. While it will have the same amount of passing as the cookie cutter tracks in Nascar – at least its got technology and style.
Ditto MIracefan, the “product” has made me a casual fan too.
One item I want to dispute in your article is in regards to ticket prices and the cost of attending the race. Bristol is by far my favorite track. I have been attending races at Bristol since 1997 and have been a season ticket holder since 2000. I also regularly attend Michigan and Dover which when all things are considered cost just as much if not more to attend. The article incorrectly states that Bristol management did not lower ticket prices. My tickets in the front row of the Wallace Tower were reduced from $92 to $55. Additionally, we were given a $5 coupon for the concession stand and a coupon for the souvenir store. For me, this was totally unexpected and a pleasant surprise as I would have attended anyway. The information regarding the price decrease was sent in email blasts as well as in information mailed out.
As far as Bristol lodging, since 1999, we have been renting a two bedroom cabin with a bathroom, living room, kitchen and wi-fi that comfortably sleeps six for $500 for three nights that is about 30 miles from the track.
Last year my Michigan tickets which are comparable to the Bristol tickets as far as sight lines were $99 each and my Dover tickets which are not nearly as good as my Michigan or Bristol tickets were $96 each.
Long time Nascar and Matt fan here. I must say that when I replayed my DVR recording of the race I missed the start because the first thing that caught my eye was the empty stands. I couldn’t believe there were that many empty seats at Brstol. I watched about the first hour, was bored and skipped to the last 25-30 laps. I couldn’t believe I did this on a Bristol race, but I did, just like all the races the past year or so. I’m a long time fan, and started DVRing the races about 2 years ago to skip the comercials, slowly found myself skipping sections of the race, and this year I think I’ll find myself skipping entire races. I doubt I’ll watch California at all. I have hung in the last few years because I remember how fun NASCAR was, and as the fun ran out, I just kept hoping that it would come back. I just knew that the first race I skiped would be that 6 full Beer can “Classic” and I didn’t want to miss it. I think I realize now that those days are gone and ain’t coming back. Farewell NASCAR I knew you well!!!!
In a similar vein of dropping interest in the old ways of racing I was very sad to learn that the March 23 issue of NSSN (National Speed Sport News)will be it’s last after 76 years of covering all phases of the racing scene. I first started reading Walter Bull’s Illustrated Speedway News in the 1950’s then switched to Val LeSieur’s Speedway Scene while often picking up a copy of NSSN at the track. I feel so bad for 90 year old Chris Economaki for living too long so as to see the demise of a paper he was associated with since the very first issue in 1934.
A little late but I just thought of another reason why the racing at Bristol has gotten less intense. Given the wave around and lucky dog rules and the prevalence of several late race cautions, guy may not fight AS hard as they used to to stay on the lead lap. It has never been easier in the history of NASCAR to get a lap back.
Been going to Bristol for nearly 15 years with season tickets for the last decade or so. I did miss both races last year due to some family health issues, but my Dad and I were back this year…and we were shocked to see how far down the crowd was. Also strange was how many fewer vendors were on hand. Several large areas that used to have vendors were less than half full compared to the past.
I’m guessing the scalpers had a rough weekend too. On the way up to the track on Sunday, maybe 45 minutes before the race, I noticed one guy had a stack of tickets left on his table that was over 1” thick…and it that close to race time. If that held true other places, thats why the stands looked even worse than the quoted attendance.
Rooms in/near Bristol have always been ridiculous. We always have a room at a plain-jane Sleep Inn in Johnson City (20 minutes drive). It is a nice, clean place, with friendly folks, but still painful to lay out $230/night (3 night minimum) per non-refundable contract that has to be signed and paid-in-full several weeks before the race weekend.
But…it’s still Bristol. We’ve given up all our other tickets. Heck, we live in Charlotte, and havent been to CMS in probably 4 years now. Their tickets rose like crazy the last few years we went, and the racing wasnt nearly as good. Decided to save all that money to pay for the Bristol rooms. LOL
Matt, Great Article.
“Also you are right about only needing to tune in for the last 20 laps to find out what you need. I’m not an ADD fan, but there’s only so much nattering noise and silliness that I can take in my race broadcast, so I watch the first 10 laps, check in every half hour (since they seem to only show the action in replays anyway) and come back near the end of the race. Brian France was successful — he made a casual fan out of a hardcore one.”