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
Tuesday March 4, 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.
Come autumn when it’s occasionally too cold or wet to go riding I’ll sometimes succumb to channel surfing around the TV to see if anything interesting is on just to pass the time. It’s a habit I despise, there’s always something better I could be doing out in the garage, but as I grow older it’s a harder habit to resist.
Last week I stumbled onto the opening moments of a show called “The Day” on SPEED. There must be more than one installment of the program because I’d seen another episode dealing with Richard Petty’s win at Daytona in 1984, his 200th career victory a feat the King accomplished in front of then U.S. president Ronald Reagan. The episode I saw last week dealt with the 1992 Cup series finale, a race many longtime fans still recall as the greatest moment in the sport’s history.
I’ve written about the race itself before and don’t want to belabor the play-by-play because if you saw the race you recall it. Vividly. If you’re newer to the sport let me add a brief background. The Hooters 500 was to be the last race for seven time Cup champion, Richard Petty. (It severely irks me when I here Petty referred to as a seven time Sprint Cup champion. Petty never even started a Sprint Cup race so spare me your historical revisionism in the interest of commerce.) By chance, and if you watched that day you recall this only in hindsight it was also the first Cup race of Jeff Gordon. Gordon didn’t make too big a splash that day. He looked too young to have a learner’s permit despite a truly cheesy mustache he sported at the time, and I though that his rainbow colored car was purple-ass baboon ugly. The original Dupont paint scheme turned out to be hugely successful in that it was instantly recognizable but it never grew on me aesthetically. Then again I thought there was no way Rick Hendrick could successfully field a three-car team back in an era when single car teams were still the norm so what do I know?
But the big story, especially for a hardcore Bill Elliott fan like me, was the battle for that year’s championship. Three very different drivers driving for three very different teams whose only commonality was they all campaigned Fords entered that race with a good chance at the title, and three other drivers had an outside shot at the big prize. (How long ago was this? Kyle Petty was competing for that year’s title, even if more of the focus was on his father that day. 1992 doesn’t seem that long ago to me, but I guess it’s been almost two decades. Under Pennsylvania registration laws next year a 1992 Mustang LX 5.0 will qualify for antique plates.)
Davey Allison, driving for Robert Yates, a team coming into its own that year, entered Atlanta leading the points. Bill Elliott, in his first year driving for Junior Johnson, was third in the standings despite having started the previous race as points leader. But Elliott was the 1988 Cup champion (nope still no phone company Cup in ’88) and Atlanta was his best (and home) track. Junior’s teams had dominated the championship chases in the ’80s and the combination of Elliott and Johnson had them dubbed “The Super Team.”
The real surprise was Alan Kulwicki who entered Atlanta second in the points. Kulwicki was a Yankee in a sport still dominated by Southerners. He had a college degree in engineering in an era a few drivers still couldn’t read or write at a middle school level. And he was an owner-driver who’d started the 1991 season without a sponsor.
Enough background. Back to the TV show I watched last week. The program consisted of a lot of ESPN’s original race footage shot at that race interspersed with interviews of some of the key participants in the race many of whom are still part of the racing community though tragically Allison and Kulwicki perished in separate aircraft accidents the next year.
The first thing that jumped out at me watching that old footage was the cars themselves. You could tell which ones were Thunderbirds, which were Chevys, which were Pontiacs at a glance. Heck if you looked at a car coming out of the fourth corner from a distance you could tell instantly which make you were seeing. The second thing that stood out was the simplicity of most of the paint schemes, single color layouts in most cases, with the appropriate numbers and sponsorship decals added. Today’s cars look like circus wagons by comparison and you need to read the decals on the front cowcatchers to figure out which model car it is. I was also amazed how many big name sponsors on those cars (Havoline, Maxwell House, etc.) have left the sport or become associate sponsors.
Also of note was the size of the crowd on hand to watch the event. Every seat was full. In fact throughout the 1992 season almost all the tracks had added substantial amounts of seats. Even casual race fans who’d never been to a race wanted to see Richard Petty’s last ride at their local track. Even with all those added seats tickets to most Cup races were damn near impossible to get at least at face value. As for Atlanta that November day they could have built grandstands to the clouds and still never the demand to see the King’s last race and the 1992 championship settled. Ironically Atlanta would go on to lose its fall race date due to poor attendance. My how things have changed. I don’t guess there was a single track this year where you couldn’t have walked up to the ticket window five minutes before the race and gotten a good seat (to a bad race).
Speaking of racing, watching the footage of that 1992 race is a clear reminder of what the term used to mean. The drivers didn’t hold back until the last twenty laps before they started racing with intensity. Kulwicki and Elliott had to make up points so they had no choice but to go wide open. The duo swapped the lead countless times in addition to those official lead changes at the start finish line. Even Allison who had what had been considered a fairly comfortable points lead entering the race wasn’t cruising. He was running as hard as his Ford would go. The other drivers weren’t going to roll over and hand the win to one of the trio either. They were racing as well. The drivers not in title contention had been told to be careful when racing around one of the championship hopefuls. Of course Gordon was starting his first race so maybe he actually listened to the admonition. Unfortunately Ernie Irvan did not. Around lap 251 Irvan lost it in turn four and the incident collected Davey Allison’s black Ford.
Allison was clearly dejected knowing his title hopes were gone but still managed that famous smile during his interview. No, Davey didn’t run off to his trailer to pout about the unfairness of it all declining media interviews. Even in defeat he was more gracious than some drivers are today in victory. It’s not just the cars that were different back then, so were the drivers. I was dating a Davey Allison fan back then and she called me absolutely hysterical in tears after the wreck. Back then fans were so much more emotionally invested in the sport than most “fans” seem to be today. But we had our reasons. Meanwhile in the garage area Robert Yates team was patching the No. 28 car back together well enough Allison would at least finish the race. It was a matter of pride. And Allison clambered back aboard that car eagerly even knowing there was nothing to be gained by doing so. This from a driver who had lost his brother Clifford earlier that season to a Busch series practice wreck, and who had been hospitalized three times I can recall after wrecks of his own including one sickening series of flips at Pocono that almost cost him his life.
But I think the most notable difference I saw watching that old footage was the actual TV coverage that fans were presented that day. There were no flashy graphics, no gopher cartoons, and no football scores at the bottom of the screen. That day’s ESPN broadcast crew: Bob Jenkins, Ned Jarrett and Benny Parsons was inarguably the best booth crew ever assembled. The three of them had a lot of years together to hone their craft.
Jarrett and Parsons were both former champions. Jarrett had an uncanny ability to watch a race developing and predict what was about to happen based on his immense knowledge of the sport. Parsons was particularly adept at expressing exactly what the fans at home were feeling and reacting just as they did. His trademark “Oh, no……” was enough to have most of us leaping up off our couches waiting for the cameras to catch up to what had happened. Jenkins was the consummate play-by-play man relating what was going on in the race without insulting fans, but pointing out what they could see for themselves on the screen. It was developing stories like the fact Kulwicki’s team wasn’t sure they’d gotten enough gas into the car to finish the race Jenkins relayed clearly and calmly usually followed up by a report from the pits with interviews of those involved. Jenkins, Parsons and Jarrett talked about the race letting it develop along the lines it would develop, not sticking to a script decided on in a production meeting prior to the race.
They had a lot less cameras back then and the pictures weren’t in high-def, but rarely did ESPN miss a key incident. That network used to be able to catch the high speed action, the pageantry and occasionally the savagery that was NASCAR racing in that era in a way that those hyper tight shots of a single car on the same network rarely do today. Whichever producer is so enamored of in-car camera shots these days hadn’t joined the broadcast team yet. It’s funny that all this new high technology ESPN (and FOX) have at their disposal these days only tends to distract from the race coverage rather than enhancing it.
As for the King, his day didn’t go any better than Allison’s. He was also caught up in a wreck not of his own making and ended up with a merry little fire burning under the hood of the famous No. 43 car. Petty had the presence of mind to continue driving his Pontiac (remember Pontiac?) to the nearest fire engine but as he put it, “Those cats seemed more interested in getting an autograph than putting out the fire.” The seven time champion used a few choice words to encourage the firefighters to get down to business.
Though the No. 43 car was torn to pieces the STP team was determined Richard was going to finish his last race. The end result wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t fast so Petty didn’t want to take it out there and get it in the way. Instead on the final lap of the race he emerged from the garage to take a final slow lap in front of his army of fans, waving to them while flashing that trademark smile. It was hard not to get a little choked up watching the end of an era. Little did any of us know how much things were going to change in the near future, often not for the better.
In a final thought, six drivers entered that day with a chance at winning the championship. At the end of the day the points differential between Kulwicki and Elliott was just five points. Had Elliott led just one more lap there’d have been a tie and he’d have won the championship. There were several laps where Kulwicki led Elliott across the line by a matter of inches. It was that close. And it was that close without a Chase. It was that close without resetting the points with ten races left to go. The Chase was (ill) conceived to try to repeat the magic of that crisp autumn after in November of 1992 but it will never be able to do so. If the results are just as close or even closer, this year’s title and all titles decided under the Chase will me manipulated and artificial pretense. The points would have been close because the points system was jury-rigged to produce a close finish, but by God, some NASCAR fans out there will buy into the lie and celebrate it. But sometimes the magic was real and for three hours, fourty-four minutes and twenty seconds on November 15th, 1992 it took our collective breath away. Comparing it to today’s racing is like comparing the best prime rib you ever had to the grotesquity that is the quarter pound of slop the local eat it and beat it calls a hamburger.
Not many of the fans who do so will have watched the 1992 season finale at Atlanta live. Some of them will never even have heard of that wondrous day in November. If you didn’t see the 1992 Hooters 500, search the SPEED listings. They rerun all their original programming constantly. Watch it once to see what happened and then watch it again to see what we’ve lost.
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
i watched the same show and felt so depressed, cause of what stockcar racing has become. i loved the show… i so miss benny parsons. seeing those drivers that are no longer with us made me very sad. even this anti-gordon fan became nostalgic when i realized just whom he had spent the afternoon racing against.
i smiled the biggest smile when alan took off his hemlet and combed his hair before he climbed out of the car. it was not a staged exit, drivers got out of the car and celebrated, they weren’t told to wait until the respective tv crew were there.
i know we can’t go back, but that is what us old time fans loved about the sport. yeah life was different back but for the afternoon last weekend when i watched the show, i actually enjoyed watching the race footage they showed. those races were the ones that i would arrange my sunday afternoons around, and don’t anyone bother to call as i would not answer the phone. i wouldn’t watch first 30 or 45 minutes, casually turn back to it and then watch end. nope watched the entire race.
and what we lost a few short months after the checkered flag of that race.
“…The first thing that jumped out at me watching that old footage was the cars themselves. You could tell which ones were Thunderbirds, which were Chevys, which were Pontiacs at a glance. Heck if you looked at a car coming out of the fourth corner from a distance you could tell instantly which make you were seeing….”
You could tell which ones were Thunderbirds, which were Chevys, which were Pontiacs at a glance.
And Buicks and Oldsmobiles!
That was a great race – offering a half dozen great story lines in addition to a great race and finish. NASCAR can never re-capture that kind of lightning in a bottle ever again.
In retrospect, I think that was the last gasp of old NASCAR – and the start of what we see now.
I watched that show fondly, I hope SPEED makes more “The Day” shows, maybe even branch off into important F1 or Indycar races too. Suzuka 1990 anyone?
I was lucky enough to be INTRODUCED to NASCAR as an 11 year old right around this time period, and got hooked following Mark Martin. Mid 80s to the late 90s were really the best for NASCAR, at least for me.
this is one of your best Matt. well framed, written and thought out. It’s a great counterpoint to the buffoons who tell us how great things are with today’s nascar racing or as mr france refers to it… “the product.”
it’s really hard to compare today’s racing with the racing of that era and what i mean is that it hurts when i do that…
First point: although it was not the “phone company Cup,” it was still commercialized into being the Winston Cup.
Second, Ernie Irvan cut a tire as I remember it. Still very sad for Davey, but I don’t think it was really “Swervin’ Irvan’s” mistake that day; it was just bad luck – which, both then and now is, IMHO, one of the main determinants of race wins and championships.
Third, the thing I found very odd about the race was that Alan, who rarely won at all and Bill, who hadn’t won since March, SUDDENLY found all that speed to battle for the lead all day. I am not generally into conspiracy theories, but the “why” of that has always bothered me. It certainly would not surprise me to learn that all three of the leading contenders got a fairly lenient inspection from NASCAR before that race.
And Richard Petty – the less said the better. Kinda like Brett Favre ending his career with an interception. You just knew it was coming.
Finally, as to fans being more invested then, I am not sure that’s entirely true. The difference is that in those days they were invested in “loving” their favorite drivers. Now they are invested in hating just about everybody. I don’t know whether to blame society or the media or the Earnhardt family for that, but the hatred is palpable today. And unlike Matt, I don’t blame the drivers. One commentator in 1992, surveying the top contenders, labeled Alan as “aloof” and Bill as “surly.” Yet the fans didn’t seem to mind. They cheered Alan as an underdog and they voted for Surly Bill as MPD year in and year out. Maybe that was just a kinder, gentler world where personality quirks were not automatic reasons for hatred.
I remember being glued to the tube watching that race. The broadcast crew was the best ever assembled and they had no problem doing the math and telling us which combination of finishes or most laps led, would result in this or that champion. It was good stuff and unfortunately it’s a painful reminder of just how far the sport has slipped in the past few years. Brian took over in 2003…maybe there is something there ya think?
The other kind of “phony drama” that race engendered was the idea that Alan leading one more lap than Bill decided the championship. In those pre-Chase days, all the races counted toward the championship. In the first race of 1992 at Daytona, Bill, Ernie Irvan (again), and Sterling Marlin wrecked battling for the lead at the midpoint of the race. Davey Allison went on to win. Bill lost far more points that day than he did on November 15 when he had nearly a maximum points day.
So, in reality, you could accurately say that the championship was decided in the first race of the season, not the last.
And obviously, the major factor lacking in racing today is the absence of Ernie Irvan, who played such a pivotal role in deciding racing history!
Plus one positive thing NASCAR has done during the Brian France era has been to award bonus points for winning. That, too, would have rendered the “laps led” contest completely moot since Bill had three more wins than Alan.
But of course, it makes a better story the way Matt tells it, and isn’t that what really matters? THE STORY!?
You just had to throw that last jab at the Chase in there. I just have to ask, how many times from 1993 to 2003 was the championship battle that close? You talk about the magic of the 1992 season finale as if it happened every year. Most year’s championship battles are just like most races: 1 car gets a huge lead and is able to maintain it until the end.
I attended that race in person. One of several I used to attend every year. Last race I attended was Daytona in 2003. As a Brett Bodine fan from Mass. I was thrilled when he started outside pole and devastated when he and pole setter, Rick Mast crashed at end of first lap. I couldn’t believe how exciting it was watching the rest of the race unfold, especially when Davey went out.
That was a very good read. You should have mentioned that Davey’s wreck at Pocono was caused by DW.
How many Stupor Bowls from 1993 to 2003 were decided by five points or less? How many World Series titles were decided in the bottom of the ninth of game seven?
While reading this, it occurred to me why there aren’t any of the wide angles used anymore. Back then you could tell each car apart from afar, be it, sponsor or make. Now they have to zoom in just to be able to tell which car it is, and half the time I still can’t identify it with all the sponsor swapping, different paint jobs, all the cars look the same, etc.
You know who else I miss? Eli Gold and Buddy Baker covering the races for TNN. Good combo too.
Great story Matt. I love this race and long for those days again. That was the second or third race I watched and I have been a fan since then.
Nineteen years as a fan and I will never forget that day or that race. They need three hours to go over all the stories that went on that day.
As a Davey fan, I will always feel terrible about how he went out, but considering all he went through that year, the fact he was in it at all showed how good he was and the team. It also showed that Larry Mac actually had a clue, unlike his TV persona.
Those cars were cool and looked like the cars, unlike today. They also were more personable and cared about building the sport, just like the King did.
We will never get back to those days, with six manufacturers, lots of sponsors and the focus being on racing, instead of a circus sideshow.
That ESPN crew was and always will be the best crew to televise motorsports in my opinion. They did the job that was necessary, without bias or intent to shill something. Thanks for the article again.