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.
2007 may well be a pivotal year in the sport of NASCAR racing. It might takes a few more years down the road and the retrospect it will offer to see how things play out. But clearly, this is a year of big changes, and for a jaded cynic like myself, the whole shooting match that is the sport I've loved for decades hangs in the balance.
Here's some stories I'll be watching this year, and stories I'm guessing many of you will focus on as well:
The Invasion of the Barbarians: OK, Toyota isn't really run by barbarians, it's just their business practices (like those of their fellow Japanese auto manufacturing rivals) would make Genghis Kahn grab for a handful of antacids. Unlike the last time the Japanese invaded our turf back on a certain date that will live in infamy, at least this time we've had plenty of notice in the racing world. Just ask fans of the open wheel series how warm and fuzzy they feel about Toyota’s "We came, we saw, we kicked butt, we blew out of Dodge" tactics that have now sauntered their way over into the world of stock cars.
Toyota says they're in NASCAR for the long haul, which isn't exactly great news to me and many of you who feel like I do that our sport (well, we thought it was our sport before Brian France started throwing his weight around like an out of control Lexusâ€¦made by Toyota by the way) should be limited to the home teams. Yes, Toyota points out they make cars here in the States. Bully for them. But saying they are an American car maker is like saying because Rotolo di Cappone is prepared in a bistro in Brooklyn, it is American food.
It's likely to be tough sledding for Toyota at first. Many of their teams have to race their way into the first five races of this season because they have no owner points from 2006 to fall back on. (Or, in the case of the 55 car and Michael Waltrip, they finished so low in 2006 owner points they don't have an automatic bye into the field…so they'll probably have to buy into the field). And if the Toyota teams struggle, it will likely delight many fans. But don't count on that being a long-term problem. Toyota struggled when they first entered the Truck Series, too; they've now won the last two manufacturer's titles over there while claiming the Top 6 spots in the final driver standings in 2006. While money can't buy you love, it sure can buy series domination as long as you carefully line the corporate pockets, too. If there's a bright side to Toyota's domination of the truck series, it’s that their full size truck remains a mere blip on the sales radar in a sea awash with F-150s, Rams, and Silverados. So much for win on Sunday (or Saturday) and sell on Monday.
With Ford and GM on the ropes right now, it seems a bad time to be introducing foreign brands to NASCAR racing. It seems, dare I say it, almost unpatriotic. Sometime this year Toyota should surpass GM as the largest automobile manufacturer in the world. And sometime this year, a Toyota will probably win a Cup race, at which point I predict that a lot of fans will have their interest in the sport fade to black. If you're old enough to recall the glory days of the SCCA Trans Am Series, Mustangs, Camaros, Cudas, Cougars and Challengers used to duke it out for the checkered flag every weekend. Once they allowed foreign makes in and started adding all those ridiculous spoilers (like the Car of Tomorrow), interest quickly headed southâ€¦.to NASCAR racing, ironically enough.
The Car of Tomorrow: After the Car of Tomorrow debuts in Bristol this March, most fans won't be able to tell a Ford from a Chevy from a Dodge from a Camry anymore. What they are able to tell is that this new car design is about as ugly as the day is long on the Fourth of July. It's hard to find anyone not on the payroll at NASCAR corporate headquarters with much nice to say about the COT. (Unfortunate acronym, no?) With its Pep Boys ricer rear spoiler and its locomotive cattle catcher front end, about the nicest thing I can say is if these new cars were puppies, breeders would take ‘em behind the barn and dispatch ‘em with a single bullet between the eyes. Folks in general don't like watching ugly cars race.
Beyond aesthetics, my main concern is the racing itself. Those new noses with the splitters look fragile. My guess is that out of aerodynamic concerns, drivers will be loathe to engage in any rooting and gouging to make a pass if it might bend up their little play-pretties. Surely, it will signal the end of bumpdrafting at the plate tracks for better or worse. Several drivers who have tested the new cars claim that they are all but impossible to race side-by-side and that is, after all, the hallmark of stock car racing from its glory days, days which are fading into the rearview mirror faster every year. Originally conceived as a way to make stock cars safer, the inevitably awkward product of committee thinking (recall a camel is a horse designed by committee), the CoT now appears to be the answer to a question nobody is asking. Then, there’s the fan reaction; they’ve taken to these new cars like Hindus to hamburgers. Hey, maybe I'm wrong and this will be the greatest thing ever to happen to racing. And maybe I'll find a barn full of low mileage ’70s Plymouth Hemis owned by a farmer eager to get rid of "‘em old cars" after running out of gas on a rural country road.
TV Ratings: NASCAR officials tried a hundred ways to Sunday to put a positive spin on it, but there's no discounting the fact TV ratings were down for all but two races run in 2006. In some cases, they were down significantly, and the much ballyhooed Chase didn't spark a ratings bonanza, either. The official party line is now the disappointing ratings were a result of NBC's lame duck status as a "network partner" and their lack of promotion for the races. To paraphrase old Tricky Dick, NASCAR isn't going to have NBC to kick around anymore this season. (And the huddled crowd let out an exultant Hallelujah.)
Like most fans, I am eagerly looking forward to the return of ESPN/ABC to stock car broadcasts. It was the then fledgling sports network's attempt to find original low cost sports programming back in the early ’80s that by and large put stock car racing on the map, at least as far as television. The arrangement helped both partners. ESPN and NASCAR both soared in popularity, and the ESPN broadcast crew became like family members you invited into your home on Sunday afternoon and greeted warmly as opposed to the FOX crew who seem to kick down your front door, raid the fridge, rape the dog, and hold you hostage. I still have countless videotapes of races broadcast on ESPN back in the day, and if the production quality and high zoot graphics look a little dated these days, I still hold that any one of those broadcasts was far suprerior to the inane DW/Hammond/Myers/McReynolds Hee-Haw comedy hours that FOX presents in place of race coverage.
But with all due apologies to Mr. Jonathon Bon Jovi of North Jersey, I still ain't convinced you can go home. Certainly ESPN/ABC made an excellent move in rehiring Neil Goldberg, who was the behind the scenes magician in the truck who added that special magic to ESPN races. But to what degree Mr. Goldberg is going to be allowed to practice his delightful craft is open to question. There's several rungs up the food chain from Neil that will be weighing in on what we'll see as well. Let's face it, ABC is a corporation, not a charity. They've committed to spending the big bucks to reacquire the rights to NASCAR race broadcasts even knowing NBC had found such an endeavor a money-losing proposition. If you're thinking ESPN is going to broadcast the second half of the races commercial-free to delight the fans, you've got another thing coming. And if you think high dollar advertisers don't have some sway as to what you see as far as the race broadcast itself, you must never have contemplated why the UPS Ford got so much camera time even while DJ was running in 30 somethingth place all race long.
Well, maybe old Jon (who I've always considered sort of B grade Boss with better hair but lamer tunes) is right and you CAN go home. 46 years roaming this earth, a majority of them as a fan of stock car racing, have taught me to hope for the best and expect the worst. If you don't expect much, you can't help but be impressed. But if you're expecting ESPN broadcasts to resemble the glory days, I'll meet you on your front porch in that lonely cool before dawnâ€¦
Either way, there's no guarantee that the new broadcast partner will be the magic bullet that fixes ratings. It didn't happen with ice hockey or basketball. What can fix the ratings is the product itself, not how the product is broadcast. Lacking compelling races week in and week out that leave fans gasping on the couch trying to assimilate those final few laps is a far cry from a side-by-side race to the finish that leaves them eager to tell co-workers on Monday morning, "You don't know what you're missingâ€¦" Unfortunately, I predict NASCAR will continue down that steep downhill slope to the artic cold of the "last hot thing."
A Thinning of the Herd: As noted above, its going to be tough for many teams to make the races this year. With the possibility of 55 cars showing up to compete for 43 spots, you're going to have a lot of unhappy team owners watching their crews pack up the equipment prior to the big show. And if the team owners are going to be unhappy, one can only imagine how big-buck sponsors whose rolling billboards and poster boys aren't in the race are going to feel. (Well, the bad news is Mikey missed the race, but the good news is that the ratings were down 20% over last year, so less people didn't see him race. Oh and we could use another multi-million dollar check post-haste Mr. NAPA, sir.) With the current cost of racing (and I fail to see how the CoT will lower that cost) a team without a sponsor isn't just endangered, it’s as good as extinct. With the current high dollar contracts, any driver with a pulse or a good PR person will look for a way out if they start missing races; obviously, some teams aren't going to make it, either. With some high profile organizations like Robert Yates Racing already reeling on the ropes, time is short for those teams to turn things around. Who will fall by the wayside? Stay tuned.
Editor’s Note : Look For Part II of Matt McLaughlin’s Season Preview to be posted on Tuesday, right here at FS.
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
If Nascar is so abhominable why are you putting so much effort into it instead of following and reporting on a sport that is run the way you want it to be?
In fact, if your way is so vastly superior to Nascar’s way why haven’t you found eager investors and sponsors ready to back your efforts as you start up a racing series that will blow Nascar out of the water?
so negative, come on Matt, i used to enjoy your work. it is ok to have an opionon but you have to get your little digs in on most every story? lighten up a little, please !
I think Matt has some good points. Spec racing series’ don’t play well in America, nor does the incessant promotion of one or two mediocre drivers (read big money sponsors) among the 43 that race each week. SCCA and ASA are proof positive of these opinions.
As a 30 year Nascar fan, I can tell you that the commercialization and exploitation of the sport has driven us conventional fans to the point of utter frustration. Perhaps a new breed of fan will be born in this era of racing as “entertainment”, but I don’t believe the newer fans will stick around like us die-hards have. It’s a pity really, seeing an American icon driven to the same level as the WWE and NBA.
This year will make or break many of us. If I see Nascar attempt to alter the outcome of another race (insert debris caution here), I’ll surely be gone.
Right on, Matt!
I’ve been following Matt since I started following NASCAR in the latter part of the 90’s. I can’t say I agree with all of Matt’s opinions but he’s usually on the mark. I will say that I could care less what the COT looks like or where the manufacture’s live. I just want to see some good racing every Sunday and want to follow drivers and teams that are easy to care about – regular folk like you and me.
I do hope that ESPN brings back a bit of the magic they brought to the track on Sunday’s. I’ve always felt that their final broadcast represented the highpoint of NASCAR for me. Their expose’ at the end of their final broadcast (to the tune of Kenny Rankin’s rendition of “Groovin’”) brought tears to my eyes. And, if you recall, the very next NASCAR race – broadcast by the infamous FOX team – feature the demise of the driver of the 3-car. It’s been all downhill from there for me. Like I said, maybe ESPN can help return NASCAR to the glory days. But with the current mindset of the top dogs, where they take away races from two of the absolute best stock car race tracks in the country (Darlington & “the Rock”), I don’t hold out much hope. But I’ll try to keep hope alive – like Matt, I’m not ready to give up quite yet. I keep watchin’ cause, someday, I’ll see a Ricky Craven slippin’ and slidin’ all over the outside of turns three and four on the final lap to stick his nose just past a “Young Gun” for the win! Wow!
Yes, I tend to be pretty acidic at times but the venom is born of passion and four decades following the sport. Brian France is trying to hand me (and you) a turd and call it a Babe Ruth bar. I ain’t biting. As another poster responded above I too believe that this is a pivotal year in stock car history, a year that will make or break the sport. With Toyota,the CoT and too many boring races I fear the worst but hope for the best.
To my newest fan MB I guess I should point out my six main pet peeves in life.
1) Folks who use cell phones while driving.
I have a lot of hours, a lot of tears and a lot of bucks (paid out of my own pocket, not freebies in the day) invested in this sport and I hold that I have the same right to express an opinion as any other fan.
But perhaps someday you’ll get your wish. I gotta say since I moved to the farm out here there’s a lot of days racing just doesn’t mean as much anymore. I’d rather be working on an old Chevy in the garage even while the clunking heater struggles to keep up. Some spring and summer evenings I just sit on the porch and watch the fireflies. Late last night I took a walk out to the back of the property though it was 18 degrees and I could see every breath but I just stood there amazed looking up at the vast sea of stars above me, a sight you never see properly until you move to the country.
If I’m acidic you should read some of my mail. Compared to some former fans who have left the sport I am polly-frickin-Anna and I’m talking long time fans who have attended tens if not hundreds of races. And if I’m considering retiring to the farm after a life that has revolved around stock car racing since I was 5 NASCAR has a real problem with a lot of long time fans with me who are still keeping the faith but filling the bucket to douse the fire and whistling to bring in the dogs.
>>theyâ€™ve taken to these new cars like Hindus to hamburgers.<<
Matthew, Matthew, Matthew. “Carma” is gonna get ya for sayin’ stuff like that!
Thanks for your article. I’ve followed NASCAR since the mid 50’s and I’m very disappointed with the changes taking place the last few years. We never needed a “chase” to make racing exciting. The Championship was exciting, but racing was the primary excitement.