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.
The debate has been raging since Speedway Motorsports tore up the “old” Bristol and added the graduated banking for the 2007 Cup races: which is better, the old Bristol or the new layout?
I’ll be honest. I’ve preferred the new layout. I thought last Sunday’s race was simply outstanding with two and three-wide racing throughout the field. I loved the strategy, the setups, the passing and the thwarted attempts at doing so. For me, last Sunday’s Bristol race was easily the best race of the season.
But others (and there’s apparently a lot more of them than there are those who side with me) miss the “old” Bristol. What’s the difference? The “old” Bristol was a single-lane race track with all the fast cars running around the bottom (and the laps down cars trying like hell to stay out of the way so they could stay out of the wall.) “Finesse” and “strategy” weren’t part of the equation. To make a pass, either a driver moved the other driver he wanted to pass out of his way or he just flat out wrecked him to get by.
As the late Dale Earnhardt once opined, “Knock once to let ‘em know you want by, then kick in the door.”
It was that Bristol night race in 1999 that defined racing at the .533-mile oval. Terry Labonte had made a surgically clean (by Bristol standards) pass on the late Dale Earnhardt on the penultimate lap; Earnhardt wanted by Labonte on the final one. Labonte wasn’t of the mind to open the door when Earnhardt came knocking. So the Intimidator went ahead and kicked the door down… or, as he termed it, “rattled his cage.”
It wasn’t pretty. It sure wasn’t surgically clean. In fact Ned Jarrett, calling that race for ESPN in the booth, termed it, “the dirtiest thing I’ve ever seen on the race track” – a rare bit of hyperbole by the consummate master of race broadcasts.
After the race, Bristol was in bedlam. Some folks were cheering. Others were booing just as loud but there was no one sitting down. There were no penalties, no fines handed down that night. It was just racing at Bristol. Whether you liked or loathed what Earnhardt did that night, if you were watching you sure as hell remember it. Even with all his victories and titles, the three races most fans recall Earnhardt winning are his 1998 Daytona 500 triumph, the Talladega race he won in 2000 coming from seventeenth to the lead on the last lap and the “Rattle His Cage” incident on that hot August night in 1999.
Many fans will also recall another memorable race at the “old Bristol” in April of 1997. Rusty Wallace led from lap 415 on, but late in the event Jeff Gordon mounted a serious challenge on Wallace. Coming to the final lap, Gordon put a bumper to Wallace’s Ford and moved him up a lane. Wallace didn’t wreck but he couldn’t catch the No. 24 to return the favor, either. Gordon went on to win by about a half a second. After the race Wallace seemed angry with himself, saying words to the effect of “I can’t believe I let that little son of a b*tch pass me on the last lap at Bristol.”
Wallace apparently still had issues with the move, though. A few months later, he got his revenge on Gordon, flat out parking the No. 24 car early in the race at Richmond.
That’s the way racing at Bristol used to be. Fenders and tempers flat got worn out. Helmets got thrown, competitors got cussed, and carnage reigned. Ward Burton once famously tossed his protective heels at Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and said if he had a gun, he’d have shot him. Elliott Sadler once punched an ambulance.
And apparently, there’s a lot of people who miss that sort of action. Of note is the fact some of them, former season ticket holders, voted with their wallets, deciding not to attend races at BMS any longer. In fact, they did so in sufficient numbers to catch the attention of one Bruton Smith, the head of Speedway Motorsports, the track’s owner.
While he painted a brave face on it over the weekend, Smith was apparently a bit stung by the size of the crowd that attended Sunday’s race. 102,000 folks, and that’s a generous estimate, showed up at a track that seats 160,000. Certainly the price of gas, the economy and the lousy weather overnight Saturday into Sunday morning in Bristol didn’t help much with attendance, but the writing was already on the wall.
Tickets to the Bristol Cup races, particularly the August Night race were once amongst the most difficult sporting event seats to get; there was a waiting list several years long for the night spectacle. But since the reconfiguration, Bristol has become like most Cup races of the last few years: You can walk up to the ticket office a half hour before the race and still buy good seats.
Facing the declining attendance, Mr. Smith did something unique. He invited fans to email him to let them know if they preferred the old track layout or the new one. He pledged that if the fans voted in favor of the old version, he’d spend a million dollars of his own money to “restore” the track to its previous configuration. (Before we go any further, let’s look at the history of the track at Bristol. Constructed in 1961, it was originally a half-mile, low-banked asphalt track. The 36-degree banking was added in 1969, but the track was still asphalt. No less an authority than Richard Petty opined at the time that, “They done gone and ruined a perfectly good race track.” When the asphalt surface proved problematic, the track was switched to concrete in 1992.)
Well, Mr. Smith apparently got an earful from the fans and in a hurry. In addition to those million dollars he’d pledged once the fans voted, he’d have to make up his mind quickly whether to lay out that money by August in order to get the renovations done in time. And he will. Yesterday, Smith announced that by an overwhelming margin of 3-1, fans voted for the “old” Bristol; as a result, the track will be reconfigured (unconfigured?) in time for the August Night race on August 25th.
Is that even possible? To quote Mr. Smith, “You have a good contractor, your plans, your blueprints and a million dollars, and you just go ahead and do it. I’ve got engineers working on this as we speak. I have not taken this up with NASCAR yet, but that’s what we will do. Once we’re ready, we’ll do it.”
And I have no doubt he will. What I find stunning about this unexpected turn of events is that one of the big-wigs in this sport actually gives a damn about what the fans think and he’s willing to spend a million bucks to give them what they asked for.
Smith’s Speedway Motorsports is obviously one of two major track-owning entities left on the Cup circuit. The other is International Speedway Corporation, run by the France family and famous for ignoring problems. As an example, ISC owns Talladega and Daytona, the two restrictor plate tracks on the circuit. But despite the problems plate racing has caused (and the deaths attributed to it) have they ever asked the fans to vote whether major changes should be made to the tracks to get rid of the plates?
No, they have not. Even at a track like Fontana, one of the most boring on the circuit since it opened after Roger Penske built it as a dual-use stock car/open-wheel facility, they’ve never made changes to the track – despite plummeting ticket sales that have become an embarrassment to the sport. It would seem that the majority of fans would like to see the Southern 500 returned to Labor Day weekend at Darlington, too, but has the ISC ever offered to let the fans vote on a return to that tradition?
For that matter, has Brian France ever asked the fans to vote on how they felt about the Chase, the Car of Sorrow, or the rule that allows the top 35 cars in owner points an automatic spot in a race? They certainly haven’t or our sport (note I said “our” and not “their”) would look very different today. Meanwhile, Smith has torn up practically new tracks at Las Vegas and Texas and reconfigured them to better suit the fans.
The France family and the ISC have a paternalistic outlook towards all us dumb little Bubbas that make up the fan base of stock car racing. They know what’s good for us and we’re damn well going to get it. Smith’s outlook seems a lot more forward-thinking, considering he’s competing for the same hard-earned dollars fans are going to dig out of their wallets to go to the races.
Unfortunately, I’m a member of the minority that would have preferred to see the current track at Bristol remain as it exists today. But not only am I in the minority, I’m also one of those folks who is going to leech my way onto track premises with a press pass if I go, rather than paying my hard-earned (and rapidly dwindling) dollars to buy a seat. I accept the change. I wrote Mr. Smith and suggested that if the fans want the “old” Bristol back in the southeast, maybe he could tear up the track in New Hampshire (one of the worst on the circuit as far as excitement) and replace it with an exact replica of the one they raced on last Sunday at Bristol. I am certain fans here in the Northeast would be extremely receptive to two and three-wide racing throughout the field rather than the typical processional parade at NHMS.
So now it’s up to the fans who voted for returning the track at Bristol to the old layout, and those of you who wished you had. Your wishes have been granted to the tune of a million bucks to make you happy. So order your tickets now for the August Night race because, if you don’t, you might just find yourself having to wait several years to see the spectacle again.
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
It’s not the track…it’s the Top 35 and The Chase that’s made the racing at Bristol boring. Even Richmond is not the same.
Drivers play it too safe because of points. Bristol was like another cookie cutter race and even fuel millage came into play.
Drivers like Jeff Burton may love it but the fans are speaking by not filling the seats. This past Sunday looked like a test session on TV.
I never thought I’d see so many empty seats at Bristol.
Whether nascar asks the fans or not, the thousands of empty seats at Bristol give our answer.
Maybe ISC/NASCAR doesn’t ask the fans what they think because they aren’t dependent solely on ticket sales to turn a profit. They have several other streams of revenue coming in because NASCAR is ISC and ISC is NASCAR.
I am in the Minority with you, like new Bristol better. I still think it is the cost not the racing, let’s see if the people who voted open their wallets. As I noted after your TOL article I gave up my season tickets due to cost. Also, it would be nice to see them redo NH or Pocono to make the racing at those tracks as “bad” as the new Bristol.
While I was an Earnhardt fan, I never knew he had so many fans. I was there in 1999 when he Rattled Terry’s cage and was one of very few that was cheering. Yet now it seems everyone wants to return to that style of racing.
I believe there are many reasons for the decline in fan interest.
Many of the fans at the Tracks in the Southeast had their tickets for many years and voiced their concerns/dislikes in the direction nascar was going for years and after nothing happened they started voting with their wallets. It would interesting to see how many of the ticket holder’s that have left these tracks in last 4-5 years were long term (10+) ticket holders.
They can pave the tracks in gold but will not produce the level of excitement that the NFL or the NCAA Basketball Tournament does. Many of us have decided that watching over regulated boxes go around in circles in no fun.
Well I guess the “fans” have spoken and prefer drunken wreckfests to good racing. Ridiculous.
Well I am in the majority. I loved the old Bristol and the type of racing it produced. I myself dont care for sitting and watching 150 laps under caution either, but I would rather sit through all those cautions, than have to sit through another “NEW” Bristol race!
I am also in what I believe is another majority. The Chase, the common car and the Top 35 all need to be trashed, oh and lets throw out Goodyear, or at least their current breed of tires. Get rid of all these things and I think you will see better racing on EVERY track on the circuit, sans Daytona and Tallagega.
While we are “fixing” things, please return the Southern 500 run on Labor Day Weekend to Darlington SC! Please and Thank you!
Well hell while we are wishing for fixes, how about we take those God Forsaken restrictor plates off and let em go! Hey there are plenty of empty seats now to move the fans back several rows. What’s the problem?
I am glad these drivers can make millions of dollars a year, but they sure were more down to earth and more approachable when they didnt make SO MUCH money. That too has hurt the over all feel of the sport. Sure some of them interact daily with fans on twitter, but that aint the same as getting to pass one and say hello, or get an autograph or an up close picture.
When you start weighing everything about a race weekend, lodging, traffic, parking, food, racing and over all fan experience vs money spent, you cant ignore the actual RACING on the track. When all is said and done, if the racing is good people will find a way to go. They did for 55 straight Bristol races, even as they added seats, they just kept filling seats. Speaking of seats, I have read where a few “talking heads” said Bristol should just remove some seats, because it now has about 60,000 to many. Those kind of remarks insult we the fan’s intelligence! That is some of the worst logic I think I have ever heard. That doesnt fix anything!
I wonder how many of those people crying they like the “New” Bristol better have ever actually paid for a ticket or attended a race on both configurations?
First Bristol race was April 1995,(yes, the spring race used to be run in APRIL) 18 in a row!
Reconfiguring the track is only half the problem. The other half is the non-handling Car of Travesty. I saw how ill handling it was at the last race before the current reconfiguration. No passing on the track. Just a long line of vehicles in an endless loop circling the track. So if Bruton really wants to solve the problems of Bristol, he needs to find a way to bring a race vehicle to the track that can actually handle and turn in addition to re-reconfiguring the track.
Our apologies this morning for the messed up picture and caption in this article. We have a new editor just learning the craft and it was his first week on his own, so to speak. The error has been fixed… we apologize for the inconvenience!
There’s nothing wrong with New Hampshire! Now that they’ve reconfigured Phoenix, NHIS is the only flat mile left on the circuit! If you want a “new Bristol” in the series, try Kansas or some other interchangeable 1.5 to reconfigure!
I thought Matt was going to talk about Matt Kenseth’s pass on BK before hitting the start/finish line?
If Bruton changes Bristol back to its old configuration its not necessarily out of the goodness of his heart to help the fans get what they want. He mentions spending a million dollars to change it back. Well if you conservatively figure 60,000 in lost ticket sales for this one race only, at a low estimate of $50/ticket, that comes out to a cool 3 million dollars. And that’s just in ticket sales. Bruton is a shrewd businessman and that is why he will change Bristol back.
I’m one of the people who did love watching the “old” Bristol, but even with the repave I don’t think you’ll see the same kind of action – the chase for the chumps, the COT and bad goodyear tires has also impacted the race we now see at Bristol.
I don’t always like Bruton but I do have to hand it to him for at least listening to the fans unlike the dictators in Daytona. BZF and his cohorts have done more to take the fun out of the sport and therefore at least on my part, I am far less interested in watching every week than I once was. Don’t get me wrong, I still watch, but I no longer spend hrs in front of the TV – of course Fox with it’s plethora of Waltrips and ESPN with the Brad and Wallace show have also made it less appealing to spend many hrs in front of the tv set on a nice sunday.
Old Bristol, New Bristol, they’d both be on my bucket list. So okay the brash old man is going to take the track back to the past. What happens when the same seats are empty? What happens when the hotels he can’t get under control now, raise their price to see the new old Bristol? I’ll bet even more empty seats. And then everyone will get what they want, A sold out race at Bristol. Because there will only be one race. And everyone will ask why. Simple SMI is drooling to move a race to Vegas. What better way that to bait the fans of Bristol by changing and still not selling out. Then we’ll only have one race to cry about, good or bad. Fans and their opinions are setting themselves on a path to lose a great venue to another cookie cutter.
Remember folks we are talking about 2 races a year out of 36. I resent being called out as a fan that only watches for the wrecks because I preferred the old Bristol. If that were the case I wouldn’t watch the other 34 races but I do, live, every lap and no dvr-ing. As I said yesterday, the old Bristol was “full contact” racing. I’ve only been a fan for about 17 years so I don’t know what things were like in the 50’s and 60’s but I’ve heard beating and banging was the norm. If YOU don’t like the old Bristol maybe you aren’t as much of an “old school” NASCAR fan as you think you are.
I guess I’m in the minority too. I do not care to sit through a five hour race with 25 cautions and 150 laps of caution. I also prefer the 2 car tandems at Daytona and Talledega as opposed to the wreckfests we must endure now. But, that is what the majority wants and I will respect that, however, I will not be watching in the future, and I have been watching for 25 yrs. Another fan gone from NASCAR…
If Bruton really wants to fix Bristol.
Matt, I saw the updates about your restart column after I posted, sorry about that.
Ithink it might have to do that we see side by side non beating and banging for 29 or so races(non short track and Sonoma) so we need a change of pace every now and then.
I wonder what Earnhardt fans thought when Jeremy Mayfield “rattled his cage” and punted Earnhardt in the last corner of the last lap at Pocono to win the race. Earnhardt gave him the universal one finger salute (not exactly “You’re number one”) but to me it was poetic justice.
I can’t speak for all Earnhardt fans but I was with three of them that Monday at Pocono. (The race got rained out on Sunday.) When Mayfield moved the 3 aside to take the win on that last lap they were shocked and bewildered a few seconds. That sort of stuff wasn’t suppose to happen. But Brent finally chimed in “Only Earnhardt could have kept from wrecking that car and held on to scoond.” The other two agreed. Along the way home we heard Dale’s infamous “shouldn’t crow about it” comment and that became thier new mantra.
The old Bristol sucked, period. Having attended races there, it was 40 laps of single file followed by 10 laps of caution. The new Bristol has side-by-side racing and passing, those rare phenomenon in NA$CAR. Those two things were what made Rockingham so great, and are what make 95% or NA$CAR races, especially Fontana, Pocono, and Indy, so bad.
Basically, the email response just goes to show that the old saying “None of us is as dumb as all of us…” applies to more than political voting.
Looks like the whiney crybabies will have two more weekends open per year to get out and enjoy some other activity.
We get back 2 old school full contact short track races a year and all I hear is whining and crying with hyperbole of bloodlust. Get over it and don’t watch.
All Bruton needs to do is get rid of the top 1/3 of the banking, i.e., lose a groove.
When you screw something up—-you can’t unscrew it. The damage is done and it won’t ever go back to the way it was. And they have screwed up just about everything.
What I’m seeing here is that folks seem to think this change is an “all or nothing” kind of thing. I believe there were cars that came out of the “old” Bristol races without many marks on them – and ended up in victory lane too!
Just because the groove is narrower, doesn’t mean you can’t pass. We’ve all seen folks come forward at Bristol without a bump and run on every pass. Clean racing will give the competitor a better chance of winning, so those who know, take care of their equipment. Those who want to take short cuts end up in the wall.
Let’s be realistic people. They aren’t all bumping passes and I for one would rather see some finesse involved in racing. Why is it wrong to enjoy watching someone have to work at passing? It’s not like we’re talking about aero push being a factor that doesn’t allow for the pass!
It’s not all or nothing. It’s just more difficult racing and I think the best guys in the sport are up to the challenge, after all they had been doing it for years before.