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.
There’s a tremendous amount of buzz in Hollywood right now about director Ron Howard’s film on Formula One racing slated to be released next year. If you haven’t heard about it, Rush will tell the story of the 1976 Formula One campaign and the spirited title bout between McLaren’s James Hunt and Ferrari’s Niki Lauda.
This is a big budget film and Howard has surrounded himself with talented personnel, many of whom have won Oscars for previous films. Race cars from the era that have survived have been pressed into service (including a still bizarre looking six-wheeled Tyrell P34) and replicas of other cars were carefully reproduced right down to the correctly placed decals. When possible, filming took place at the same tracks where races were held in 1976.
I eagerly anticipate seeing Rush and I wish Howard well with his project. I’m a bit worried about how the film will play here in the U.S., though where interest in Formula One rivals curling and cricket. It’s also going to be interesting to see how Howard makes James Hunt out to be a sympathetic character. While Hunt was a tremendously talented driver, his life offtrack was even more reckless than his racing. A notorious womanizer back in that era, before AIDS forced people to reconsider casual sex, Hunt was also known to drink, smoke pot, and even snort cocaine in the hours leading up to a race. I don’t think that sort of behavior is going to be very well received.
Making things that much more complex is Hunt’s chief rival is going to an infinitely more sympathetic character. For those who don’t know the story, Lauda crashed and received severe burns at the 1976 German Grand Prix. Despite having been given Last Rites and having been horribly disfigured by those burns, Lauda returned to the cockpit of his Ferrari weeks later to continue his quest for a title — but it wasn’t to be. In the season-ending Japanese Grand Prix, monsoon-like rains hit the track during the race. Lauda felt track conditions were so dangerous that he pulled off the track and retired from the event. My guess is most moviegoers will be left wishing Lauda had won.
Maybe I’m wrong. Scarface did well at the box office and our boy Tony wasn’t the most sympathetic of characters, either.
NASCAR hasn’t fared so well in Hollywood, as they continually struggle to put out a decent racing film. The last compelling film centered on the sport I recall was The Last American Hero, loosely based on the life of Junior Johnson. Talladega Nights was a comedy from the outset, and more of a parody of the sport and its fans than a movie about the sport. The most notorious NASCAR film remains Daze of Blunders, er, um, Days of Thunder released back in 1990. Despite the talents of Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, and Robert Duvall, the film was panned by both critics and NASCAR fans alike.
Perhaps Days was doomed from the outset. It was originally supposed to be an adaptation of Tim Richmond’s life — then Tim got sick (it is widely rumored he contracted AIDS while out in L.A. working on the project) and they had to scrap that idea. Somebody decided if they had a lot of huge smoky pig piles of car crashes, that would put butts in movie theater seats. Characters were never fully developed and came off as cartoonish. I’m told that the film did OK in terms of box office numbers but my guess is those greenbacks were spent by fans of Kidman and Cruise wanting to see him reprise his role in Top Gun, only driving race cars rather than piloting jets.
To a person, every race fan I know who has seen Days hated it.
NASCAR racing in general hasn’t fared very well in popular culture. When it’s mentioned during TV, shows it’s usually in a negative connotation, just cars driving around in circles being cheered on by toothless, drunken Bubbas there to see wrecks. South Park and King of The Hill both have run episodes that basically savaged our sport. It’s rather curious given the number of Americans who claim to be NASCAR fans (though you wouldn’t know it by current TV ratings and race attendance) we’re barely a cultural blip on Hollywood’s radar or in the publishing industry for that matter. Could that one day change?
Maybe if Rush is a big success for Howard, he might consider a docu-drama of Winston Cup’s 1992 season. Most of you know what happened that year so I will describe it only briefly. There was a tight championship battle between Davey Allison in a Robert Yates Ford and a surprising independent owner-driver by the name of Alan Kulwicki. Most, however favored the newly formed superteam of Bill Elliott, the sport’s Most Popular Driver, paired with Junior Johnson, the sport’s most successful team owner of the era. Allison suffered through some hard wrecks that left him injured as well as the death of his brother Clifford that year. Then, it appeared Kulwicki’s chance at a title was done-in at Dover that Fall, when he wrecked three cars during the weekend. Like the ‘76 F-1 season, though, the championship would be decided in the final race of the year at Atlanta, on the same day King Richard Petty retired.
I think such a movie, if done well would be very successful especially since a lot of movie-goers like to see the underdog (Or Underbird in this case) win.
Even if Days of Thunder had been a good movie (and let me reiterate, it wasn’t) it would be badly dated by now, 22 years after its release. Those were kinder, simpler days and though we all thought there was big money in the sport back then, these days those sums would be considered laughable.
So how would one go about making a good stock car racing movie? Way back when as I started my NASCAR novel, I solicited advice from the published authors I knew. What they told me was to not to write a book about stock car racing. They weren’t trying to discourage me, they told me instead to write a book about compelling characters who happened to part of NASCAR’s traveling circus. Write about the racers, not the racing, though of course there’d be racing in the book as well. Thus were born Wild Bill, Jennifer, Wyatt, and Dusty, their adventures and misadventures chronicled in an epic 800-plus pages. (Yeah, way too long… thanks to all of you who soldiered through it.)
Well even Wild Bill’s story would need updating for accuracy these days. There’s no getting around the fact even moderately successful drivers are pretty wealthy now; they tend to have nice homes and some expensive toys. They live under a microscope 38 weekends a year, traveling coast to coast, where even the slightest off-track comment can make high-dollar sponsors skittish. But almost to a person everyone I know involved in the sport is pretty down to earth. They lead interesting lives and face some unique challenges. Yeah, a driver may have his own private jet but a lot of them are constantly leaving wives and kids at home traveling off to a race, where there’s at least some possibility they might not survive.
We all like to think it could never happen again and the sport is safer than its ever been but someday it will.
Yes, in any racing movie there’s going to be some wrecks. Usually we see drivers climb out of their cars — even after the bad ones. But do you ever wonder how a driver who took a hard hit on Sunday feels waking up bruised and battered on Monday? Do you ever consider how a driver in a long winless streak has to worry about keeping his ride even as rumors begin swirling he’s going to be replaced? How hard is it to walk up to another driver rumored to be your replacement, smile and shake his hand before driver intros? How do a driver and team that know they won’t be together again the following season interact for the last few races of a year?
Do personal grievances and hurt feelings ever boil over? When a driver reads the grim statistics about cumulative concussive syndrome in sports, does retirement ever cross his mind knowing he’s likely taken some good licks to the head? There are a lot of young millionaires driving Cup cars these days; they could easily walk away and live comfortably. What is so compelling, maybe even addictive, about driving a race car that the drivers keep doing it even knowing they’re taking harder licks than an NFL player. How does a single driver manage to forge a relationship with someone, despite being on the road constantly with the attendant temptations and weekdays chock full of sponsor obligations?
Like I was told, tell a story about people. Not everyone who reads your book (or goes to see your movie) is going to be a stock car fan, but everyone who reads it will be a person, a person with dreams, challenges, and aspirations of their own. And occasionally life needs a happy ending even if it’s only at the end of a two-hour film.
Since Hollywood is actually in the business of making money, not art, a NASCAR-themed movie presents a unique opportunity. We all know what product placement is in films and TV shows. The characters drink a certain brand beer or soft drink (label always carefully towards the camera) or drive a certain make of car. Well in contemporary NASCAR racing, product placement is king.
Think what Ford might pay to have the movie’s star character race a Fusion. What company might be interested in signing on as that driver’s title sponsor, knowing they get their logo on the hood and quarterpanels of the car, as well as on the driver’s clown suit, once he mentions them over and over just like the real drivers mention their sponsors? What company might be interested on being on the TV panel at the rear of the car? Hey, there’s still room on the C-pillar, sign up now! Might such a project one day lead to new companies not currently involved with NASCAR deciding to sign on for the real deal?
Lord knows with the exodus of long-term sponsors leaving the sport we could use some new ones.
OK, we have our concept, a movie about people involved in NASCAR racing, not a movie about NASCAR racing. What’s the story? Is there a writer in the house? Oh, yeah, that would be me. We have a once-competitive two-car team that’s fallen upon hard times and is in danger of losing both sponsors. One of their drivers starts suffering ill effects of too many concussions and has to take time off. (We’re thinking Ricky Craven.) A mid-season replacement has to be found for an unknown period of time, while the team owner’s daughter who is taking more responsibilities with her father’s team, wants to rehire a driver who had almost won the team a title before retiring young after a nasty accident.
Said driver agrees to run a test for the team but isn’t sure he wants to leave his life of leisure on his farm. Driving in the test session reignites his desire to race and win but as a non-high school graduate known for his brawling, cussing, and drinking, he’s not an easy sell to the sponsor. Nor is he sure he even wants to attempt to pretend to be politically correct. Eventually a deal is struck and he’s back in the car on a trial basis, but even after just a few years away he’s amazed by how demanding the sponsors and their commitments have become, and how they expect him to act polished and squeaky clean at all times.
Meanwhile, the team owner’s daughter who bought him back into the sport begins to admit she wasn’t just interested in getting him back in the car. When he was driving for the family team before the accident, she was a teenager with a crush on him. Now she’s all grown up and seriously interested in a relationship with her driver, a notion that would most likely not only get him fired but shot by her daddy. We’ll take it from there, though a SWAT team worth of script doctors needs to be on high alert.
Done properly a stock car racing movie could be appealing to hard-core race fans but still intriguing to non-fans — or perhaps I should label them “potential” fans. Keep the racing action itself real enough not to be insulting to fans and give them a glimpse of what goes on out of sight in the garage area. Teach the potential fans that’s it’s not just a bunch of guys driving in circles and tell them a nice story without hammering them over the head with compression ratios, spring rates, and camshaft lift specs.
Ron Howard, have your people call my people. We’ll do lunch.
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
It’s already been done Matt, “Talladega Nights” LOL.
Also, given your past references using classic rock lyrics, I’ll assume it wasn’t an accident and give you a thumbs up for the Rush “Moving Pictures” reference. (BTW their latest cd, released last week, is pretty damn good).
why does the daughter have to have a crush on the driver?? sounds like typical crap. almost sounds like the sister of a well known driver.
nascar in mainstream will never sell. i DESPISE talladega nights. i remember being at ‘dega when they were filming race scenes for that race and seeing the merchandise hauler selling ricky bobby crap.
now just who would you get to play the head of the sanctioning body that is about as clueless and brainless as a gnat?
Bill B… I completely missed the Moving Pictures connection. BTW, I’ve never listened to a Rush album that I didn’t like.
For some reason, the best sports movies always tend to be comedies. I’ll take Slap-Shot, The Longest Yard, and Talledega Nights over Days of Thunder, For the Love of the Game, and any Rocky movie. The best non-comedy sports movies tend to be documentaries about athletes who beat the odds or who must deal with tragedies. Brian’s Song, We are Marshall, Rudy, and The Blind Side come to mind. My favorite fictional sports drama is probably Million Dollar Baby. Anyone who makes a sports movie should aspire to that level of artistic achievement.
I will definitely take Talladega Nights over Days of Thunder as well… At least there’s the odd funny bit. Days of Thunder was just an insult.
I really, really look forward to Rush. I can’t see it being bad. But I highly doubt it’ll do anything at theatres in America.
Go Ricky Bobbie…Go Ricky Bobbie.
If they make a movie about Dale, Jr. it will be sure to sell tickets.
Sounds like a great movie Matt. Hopefully the right people to make such a movie actually happen read this article.
now just who would you get to play the head of the sanctioning body that is about as clueless and brainless as a gnat?
Well I hear Charlie Sheen is available.
Steve Carell could do justice to the Brian France role.
Ditto Bill B. from a serious Rush fan.
Matt should write another book and see if some studio will bite.
How about “Danica” starring Kim Kardashian.
I’d heard about the Rush movie somewhere else, but I can’t remember where. I would like to see it.
I am NOT a fan of Talladega Nights. I was at Charlotte where they also filmed some footage and I thought the concept was embarrassing and I have refused to watch it. Unfortunately that has not kept others from referencing it often and therefore I have absorbed some of it in spite of my self.
It would be nice if they would make a movie about the 92 season. Heck NASCAR Images (oh wait, they’ve been disbanded) had some really nice footage they used when they produced The Day series. I enjoyed those programs and certainly having Underbird win was an amazing story.
Dammitall anyway, now I have to see the effin’ Kardashian name on this website too?
step away from the danica and kardashian names….hurl!!!!!!!
now i did go to the movie theatre when Dale was released. At least I wasn’t the only one crying during the movie. and it was only playing in movie theatre the weekend they were running the spring race at ams that year.
however, i will not purchase it cause $$ goes to the widow earnhardt. and i also don’t have a dvd player.
now i do have an offically authentic autographed copy of Eights and Aces. Read it from cover to cover in about 2 days.
Cast Liam Neeson as the head of Nascar who retired and left the reigns to his son Adam Sandler.
John Frankenheimer’s “Grand Prix” from 1966. Still is the best auto-racing movie ever. He laid the groundwork and sadly it was never continued.
The worst part about racing movies is the lack on continuity between scenes. Then need to know that fans of the sport being depicted are going to be eagle-eyed on inconsistencies. I could spend hours pointing out when cars and tracks magically change during a race sequence. When you show a wide angle of the start of the Daytona 500, I can see that it’s Dale Earnhardt and Derrick Cope on the front row, not Rowdy Burns and Cole Trickle. Sure, the paint schemes are very similar, but race fans are going to notice. Also there’s a scene when they pass the Hardee’s #18 on the track before it even exists in the story. Or Brett Bodine’s #26 getting spun and suddenly becomes Harry Gant’s #33. They say they are racing at Daytona, but the track scenes are very clearly Phoenix.
But the absolute worse (and Days of Thunder wasn’t guilty of this) is when the wide angle shots are of actual race cars, but then the close up shots are some Chevy Caprises with skinny street tires driving around in a parking lot at 15 mph. Like I’m not going to notice the car changed to a local bullring Street Stock in the close up shots?
Hey Matt – have you guys watched Senna yet? Okay it’s a documentary of sorts and flawed, but it’s one hell of a watch. As your local F1 fan I can see how Hunt might be badly received in the US, but in the UK (and much of Europe) he’s seen as something of a folk hero, and I’m guessing that area (along with S America) is where the target audience for Rush will be. Lauda although perhaps more traditionally honourable, as a man was (and is to this day) actually rather harder to like – cold and stern as opposed to Hunt’s open “fun loving” nature…..will be an interesting watch for certain.