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.
Editor’s Note: Matt’s two-part retrospective on Davey Allison also ends today. To read about NASCAR’s lost legend, click here.
A majority of the articles focused on NASCAR this week will deal with the traffic situation prior to and after Kentucky’s inaugural Cup event and well they should. It was an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions. I wrote about it in my race recap at length and doubtless other Frontrstretch staffers will take up the topic this week. (I’m writing this Sunday night…it’ll be a few days before you see it.) We are after all a fan based Web site rather than a corporate based or sponsor based website like so many others. If it’s a bad deal for the fans that’s what we cover.
Without belaboring the point, Saturday night was a pure disaster. But let me say this. For all the feeble apologies offered by track management, NASCAR, and even some drivers if you didn’t see this coming, I advise you to have a passenger in your car check both ways before entering a railroad crossing. You’re just as likely to miss the Great Northern out of Cheyenne (from sea to shining sea) bearing down on you. If you nearly double seating capacity and have no plan in place to accommodate all those additional guests well to be frank, you’re retarded. I feel genuinely bad for those reputed 20,000 fans who endured the hours of traffic only to be turned away at the gate. But what nobody else seems willing to say is I think you were played like pawns and nickel dockside hookers. Track owner Bruton Smith had the Governor of Kentucky there as a guest. He got to see the logistical nightmare. Now that you’ve suffered Smith gets to strong arm the Governor into making and paying for highway improvements for an event that pumps a lot into the local economy.
The Governor’s inbox is going to be filled Monday morning with notes from angry constituents who endured this mess. Think Smith doesn’t know how to play politics? Look at the government largesse he received when he threatened to move the Charlotte Motor Speedway. He got a four lane highway built outside his Atlanta track to help move fans in and out of the track on the “gummint” dime then took a race date from the track anyway. If you were one of those 20,000 fans who paid for a ticket but missed the race, I’m sorry you missed it, but you didn’t miss much. And I’m not surprised you missed it either in light of stats made public by Kentucky Monday. The state says there are parking spaces for 33,000 cars at the track. For 106,000 fans? Way too few I’d say.
It was a huge embarrassment for NASCAR. They finally got the national news wire coverage they crave but it was only to say that the traffic mess was a bigger story than who won the race. That’s not a powerful incentive to go to a race to fans who are still on the fence about attending a race live.
In a sad way the traffic stories are almost a blessing for track management and NASCAR in general. Had it not been for the traffic the big NASCAR story of the night would have been “the racing sucked.” Even when I started writing about this sport “sucks” was an off limit term. So for those of you with more delicate sensibilities let me offer some alternatives. “The racing”: bit the big one, was less than compelling, stinked, stank and stunk, was rather mundane, was perhaps less than expected, stunk to high heavens, sucked eggs, and was completely and unrevealingly without social value or interest.
I’ve been following racing for over four decades and I realize that not every race is going to be a classic. I recall the days when either Richard Petty or David Pearson would win every big track event. I was watching back when Cale Yarborough used to routinely lap the field in his Junior Johnson prepared Chevy on his way to victory and another title. I have watched Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon and others win three and four races in a row. I was there in the stands chowing down on my lukewarm KFC back when Bill Elliott seemed destined to win every race on a track a mile or more in length. But seldom have I seen a race so totally and utterly devoid of interest as Saturday night’s mess at Kentucky. At least in those old blowouts there’d be a portion of the race, maybe at the beginning, maybe at the midpoint where two drivers actually seemed to be racing for the lead. In those days mechanical misfortunes or a wreck for one driver sometimes handed the win to his closest competitor. The Cup drivers raced each other all day. They didn’t cruise for points contentedly riding ten car lengths behind the guy in front of them. When things went badly they displayed genuine emotion not a pushing and shoving match worthy of two three year old girls bickering over whose teddy bear got the last cup of tea at the party.
“A bad race” is a subjective thing. Obviously if you are a Kyle Busch fan (have you tried Prozac?) and somehow made it to the track on Saturday night you were thrilled with the result. I am often asked how I define “a bad race.” I have been accused of liking some tracks and hating others and letting my opinion of the facility bias my opinion. What’s a bad race? I’ll have to defer to Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart. It’s like pornography. I know it when I see it.
One of the keys I look at is the intervals between drivers. When it gets to be a ten second gap between the leader and the tenth place driver it’s a bad race. In fact its become a processional parade that doesn’t deserve being called a “race” anymore. When the only lead changes going on during a fifty lap segment are caused by the former leader ducking into the pits for a stop, well that’s a bad race. It may seem counterintuitive but the races with the most lead changes tend to be the most sedate ones. During long green flag stretchs of racing one after another the leaders must pit. The new leader in turn pits handing the front spot to another driver, and that driver to another after him. Don’t let NASCAR and the networks dazzle you with statistics. A real lead change occurs when the driver in second stalks, runs down and passes the fellow ahead of him through strength or cunning, even while the leader does his best to keep his competitor behind him. We don’t see much of that anymore.
Sadly, Kentucky is unlikely to ever produce a truly classic race. It’s just another 1.5-mile race track with too little banking for stock car racing. Hey they’re only eight of them currently polluting the schedule. Track owner Bruton Smith says he’d like to reconfigure Kentucky to make it more like Texas especially in the corners. I’m sorry…no sale. Texas has hosted a few good races,m but the track’s ratio of clinkers to classics remains unacceptably high.
You can’t blame the track completely for a boring race. Such is the nature of NASCAR racing under the new points system. Why would second place Jimmie Johnson make an all out effort to win the race (or even keep then third place David Reutimann at bay) in the final two laps. Johnson is one of the anointed ones, the top six in points all of whom are virtually locked in place for the Chase. Johnson knows he’s not going to be battling Reutimann for a Chase slot. A conservative strategy shall prevail until the kickoff of those ten races that really matter at the end of the year. Meanwhile it’s worth experimenting with the car to be ready for the final ten races even at the possible expense of a bad afternoon. Thank you Brian France for reducing the middle section of the season to near meaninglessness.
There are other factors at play as well that are diluting Cup racing to the point of no relevance. Goodyear has taken a well deserved shellacking over the years for providing tires that failed at race tracks sometimes in spectacular fashion as witnessed that one awful Brickyard 400 in 2008. “Fall off” with the tires (the difference between the speeds of drivers with four fresh tires as opposed to the ones on older tires) has become a non-issue too many weekends. It used to be four new tires were worth seconds per lap. A driver and team that were eight seconds behind the leader (as was the case with Kyle Busch and the field last Saturday night) would short pit and try make up the advantage before the leader pitted even knowing an untimely caution could doom the strategy or at the end of the race the faster fellow might have the better rubber and a decided advantage. That actually made things interesting in a way a fuel mileage contest never will be.
Then there’s our old friend “aero push” which has ruined racing since the mid 1990s. Even a driver in a faster car with fresher tires is at the mercy of the drivers ahead of him with track position. Sure the faster driver can get up to a few yards of the bumper of the driver he is trying to pass, but at that point he loses the air off the nose of race car and the resultant front down force that allows him to steer into the corners. That was clearly evident on Saturday night when Kyle Busch in a clearly superior car could run down Brad Keselowski (who elected not to pit) but couldn’t get by him. When “clean air” and “track position” triumph over a more powerful, better handling car with a better driver, well, Houston, we have a problem. Maybe the new car design in 2013 will fix that issue. And maybe Britney Spears will win a Nobel Peace prize for Literature that same year. I’m not betting the rent money on either happenstance.
So there you have it. A track nobody can get to featuring the sort of racing nobody wants to see anyway. The perfect storm. But if that’s a sound business model I really don’t see it.
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Poor Kyle Busch. He went out and put an old-fashioned butt-whippin’ on the field, and all anybody wants to talk about is how badly the fans were treated and how bad the racing was. Don’t you just feel for the guy? Pass the prozac, please.
The Governor of Kentucky ought to call Smith’s bluff. He should tell Bruton that if he doesn’t provide ample parking and get the traffic situation under control for next year’s race, the place will be shut down as a nuisance. Then he should back up the threat if he has to. Smith would then have to make the required changes, or sell the track to someone who will.
As for the racing, all I will say is that I feel sorry for the fans who live within the Kentucky-Indy-Kansas triangle. Three tracks to chose from, and not a single good race between them.
Actually, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart was referring to OBSCENITY, not pornography, when he made the “I know it when I see it” statement.
thank you, Matt, for calling a spade a spade. I watched the race on TV – which was ever so much better than being stuck in a traffic jam. At least I could lay on the couch watching the high speed parade.
I’m in agreement with all your points on what makes a race interesting or not and the ugly car, bad tires, aero push, the config of the track and the dreaded chase have all got a role in the mess that NASCAR has made for itself. I no longer need to watch an entire race, the last 20 laps are enough and I can get things done around the house and yard.
I sincerely hope that the governor and residents of KY don’t fold to Bruton’s strong arm tactics. As you said, he knew it would happen and allowed it to take place. The taxpayers should not have to fund new roads for SMI at this time – esp since it sounds as if the majority of the issue was parking on the property. That’s an SMI problem, not the states.
Re-read some info regarding Justice Potter Stewart, and upon further review, I’d like to withdraw my previous statement. I learned something today. That makes today a good day.
I didn’t watch the race. The race watched me. zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
There is a company here in Ontario, (a province) in the Great White North. It is Have Bus Racing Tours. Their news letter of today mentions the traffic chaos of St. Lew. They had their customers from hotel to track in 3 hours. Post race, 1.5 hours back to the hotel. The actual travel time when there is no race is 45 minutes. I will never personally drive to a Winston NASCAR race (sorry Sprint, Nextel or whoever is the next sponsor in line)I will always travel with these folks, or another professional tour operator. Tour operators seem to have the fast track.
It does seem that at some tracks (I personally know Vegas is like that) the busses have the preferred method in and out of the track, but bussing it in does not make for good pre-race tailgating.
Don M, the buses do seem to have a way of skirting traffic. We were at Kentucky, but I wasn’t with Have Bus. But we were parked beside the Have Bus on Friday. Unfortunately, the tour company I travelled with had planned shopping excursions for both mornings. Firday was ok. Saturday wasn’t. We left our hotel about 12:30 and hit I-71 at about 1:15. By then, it was too late. We got into the track at 7:00, and I got to my seat half-way through the driver intros. I travel to Bristol with another tour company and the guy who runs that trip know’s when to get going. We stay in Sieverville (Sp?), Tennessee, and leave at 7:00 in the morning, and by 8:30, we’re not only in the track but we’ve left the bus and are out walking around and doing our souvenir shopping (at least I am anyway) on both days! And when leaving, Bristol closes the bus lot for 30 minutes after the race. This is to get the people to their parking lots/camp grounds after the race. Even then, we are back in Sieverville by 7:00 on Saturday and 8:00 on Sunday. As far as I’m concerned, the bus is the way to go. As for my personal Kentucky experience, despite the fact that we left the track at 11:00 and made it back to our hotel by 1:00AM, I will never go back there! Yes, out tour guide could have cancelled the Saturday morning shopping excursion and left earlier for the track, but the situation at the track made the whole experience horrible! No traffic direction at the Interstate exits and total confusion in the parking lot, plus a stupid cooler policy makes this the one track to never go to again.