NASCAR Changes Qualifying Format
posted by Summer Bedgood
Tuesday March 11, 2014
Following safety concerns regarding NASCAR’s new qualifying format, the sanctioning body is introducing some changes in preparation for this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. According to the Associated Press, NASCAR is banning teams from cool-down laps after their qualifying attempts, but will instead be allowed to hook up cool-down units to the engine through hood flaps.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a release from NASCAR fully detailed the changes. Teams will be allowed a single cool down unit to be connected through the right or left side hood flap, however the hood must remain closed. Additionally, two crew members will be allowed over the wall while cooling down.
“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”
The move comes after three weeks of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying system, where multiple cars are allowed to make qualifying attempts at the same time instead of the traditional one-car-at-a-time procedure. Drivers and teams had complained that the new rules didn’t allow them to cool their engines down on pit road, and the cool-down laps caused a dangerous situation with slower cars staying on the track at the same time that other cars were running by them at much higher speeds.
The rule will begin this weekend in Bristol, a track that has a much narrower racing surface than Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Phil Allaway · Tuesday March 24, 2009
Hello, race fans. After a week off, both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series were back in action this past weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway in the mountains of Eastern Tennessee for both the Food City 500 and Scotts Turf Builder 300. In addition, a special “Saturday Night Special” charity event featuring legends of the past and celebrities in late model stock cars was held after the Nationwide race on Saturday. How did all these broadcasts stack up? Let’s find out.
To start with, let’s take a look at an issue that continues to bug me for practice and qualifying. As you may remember, I’ve talked about SPEED’s inability to get the on-screen scroll right in past critiques. This past weekend, I did not notice any number issues like they had at Atlanta. However, they did have some issues with letters bunching together in the space where driver names are typed in. The result was an illegible mash of black, with no clear lettering of who or what they were trying to display. I’d attribute this to the production crew rushing to make changes on the fly — but it’s still a careless mistake. This happened multiple times during the Sprint Cup Pole Qualifying session on Friday, and continues to be a major irritant for a fan flipping the channels and hoping to take a quick look at posted speeds.
Saturday brought ESPN’s coverage of both the Scotts Turf Builder 300 (aired on ABC) and the Scotts Saturday Night Special, which aired on ESPN2. Generally, I didn’t have any issues with the telecast of the Nationwide Series race this week. From what I’ve seen this season, the ABC/ESPN crew of Dale Jarrett, Dr. Jerry Punch, and Andy Petree have done a relatively good job in the booth covering NASCAR’s No. 2 series, with many of the criticisms surrounding these announcers (in particular, Punch was under fire last year) not resurfacing over the first few races of 2009. Technically, the ESPN2 race had few mistakes or major concerns to speak of.
However, the standalone races at Nashville and Kentucky are not too far away. There’s always a change in quality at these events, mainly because the normal on-air talent may not make the trip. In addition, the normal cameramen and women are at the Sprint Cup venue for the week — or in Nashville’s case, taking the week off to enjoy the Easter holiday with family and friends. So, we’ll have to see if the broadcasts stay strong for ESPN as we head towards split race weekends in April, May, and June.
As for the Saturday Night Special, the event itself was fun to watch on television. ESPN2 did pay proper homage to the accomplishments of the legends in the field. Maybe they could have touched a little more on the accomplishments of drivers like Jack Ingram and L.D. Ottinger; but unfortunately, a good chunk of those two drivers’ careers occurred before the creation of the present-day Nationwide Series in 1982. NASCAR consciously made the decision to wipe the results clean before that year, claiming inaccuracies in the record keeping of local short tracks in the 1960s and 1970s. For example, Jack Ingram is officially credited with 31 victories in the Nationwide Series. The last of those wins came in 1987. However, there are far more victories in Ingram’s resume that came in the predecessor to the Nationwide Series, the Late Model Sportsman Division. Second to None, a 2001 book by Rick Houston that covers the history of the then-NASCAR Busch Series, claims that Ingram had approximately 250 victories wiped off his slate. Ottinger and Sam Ard were in this same category. In Ottinger’s case, his post-1982 work makes him look like the odd man out in the Legends race — like he didn’t belong. Then again, his resume was probably better than Phil Parsons was to begin with…
Anyways, the field was set by qualifying races run by celebrities. These preliminary events were won by David Akers (kicker for the Philadelphia Eagles) and Andy Petree. However, these races took place before the TV coverage started on ESPN2. Highlights of these races were shown during the coverage of the event (before the race started), but I think these 15-lap qualifying heats should have been televised live as well. It’s not like they were racing the sun or anything like that. Considering these heats were being publicized as part of the draw for the main event, I found it surprising that they didn’t get live TV coverage. For example, Brad Daugherty, who finished second in his heat, was driving a car No. 34 in homage to the late Wendell Scott. However, most people likely didn’t even see the car at all.
For the legends race itself, ESPN2 chose to take a more old school approach to covering the event, one that spread to all areas within their television production. Cutting back, they had just one in-car camera during the race, mounted inside the No. 2 Miller Lite Chevrolet driven by network colleague Rusty Wallace. Wallace also served as an In-Race Reporter during the event. On screen overlays were kept to a minimum, and there was no running order scroll at the top of the screen like normal.
Since Andy Petree, who is usually the third man in the booth, was working as a teammate to Harry Gant in the race, ESPN2 invited former commentator Ned Jarrett to come out of retirement and replace him. This is the second time in the last year Ned’s made a guest appearance; he also joined his son Dale, Dr. Punch, and Andy in the booth during the May Nationwide race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. It was nice that he was there at Lowe’s; however, since Ned was the fourth guy in the booth, I noticed he couldn’t get a word in edgewise. On Saturday, there may have been one less analyst, but it was still much of the same for Ned. He was generally happy to be there; otherwise, he didn’t really contribute all that much to the overall discussion of the race.
Not that there was all that much to discuss.
Sterling Marlin opened up a can of whoopin’ on the other legends, leading flag to flag in what generally became a single file race to cover. Gant would have challenged Marlin for the victory had his hood not bowed up within the first five laps, necessitating a pit stop to fix it. L.D. Ottinger, who finished third, simply started too far back (tenth) to be able to give Marlin a run for his money.
Overall, the Saturday Night Special showed that racing skills are much like the skill of riding a bike. I once went three years without saddling up on a road bike, but I got back on, did very little practice, then did a 51.5-mile charity ride along the Hudson River on some quite difficult (at times) terrain. In stock cars, it’s pretty much the same thing; even if you don’t do it for a long time (Ottinger, who is 70, claimed that it was the first time he’d been in a race car in at least ten years), you never forget how to do it.
But while the legends adapted well, their level of competitiveness was probably lower than expected by the fans. ESPN2 did their best to show actual racing out there on the track, but with only 12 cars in the field — and only nine of them really being competitive — there sadly wasn’t much to be found. ESPN2 also made only a passing reference to the massive winner’s trophy that Sterling Marlin got to take home. That trophy looked like it was legitimately four feet tall and required two people in order to hold it up, an exciting storyline in a night devoid of them which the network could have easily expanded upon.
Sunday’s telecast of the Food City 500 on FOX brought some changes to the overall broadcast. It seems that FOX used the first four races of the season as a trial period to try out new features. Evidently, those changes didn’t go over very well, because this race looked a little different than the rest of the 2009 ones they’ve covered to date.
Digger still has a role on the broadcast, but he’s not quite as visible now. Indeed, animated in-race Digger sightings were down significantly from Atlanta, and most of them were of Digger in his little convertible car when FOX was coming back from commercial. However, there remained 28 still graphics of Digger that were shown throughout the event — so it’s not like he disappeared altogether.
Most importantly, though, the animated Digger cartoon that’s been the source of frustration amongst so many fans, viewers, and insiders within the sport did not air during the pre-race show for the first time in 2009. I don’t remember hearing the Adventures of Digger and Friends theme at any point, either. This is a definite plus, and I know many of you out there agree. If you’ve been reading this critique this season, you’ve probably noticed how much I’ve ranted about how airing those cartoons hurt the integrity of FOX while minimizing NASCAR and the Sprint Cup Series.
On the other hand, a rather negative thing I noticed was that the news and notes were tucked deep into the pre-race show again (approximately 22 minutes in). FOX needs to realize that not everyone has cable, satellite, or “Telco” television these days (“Telco” meaning television programming provided through a telecommunications company, like Verizon). Especially in this economy, many people have switched to effectively over-the-air programming through their new digital converter boxes. As you might expect, those people don’t have access to NASCAR’s magazine shows (NASCAR Now, NASCAR in a Hurry) or the pre-pre race show (NASCAR RaceDay) before the race telecast begins. That means there are millions of fans out there who aren’t that informed when they turn the broadcast on, but would like to know what the heck is going on in the world of NASCAR before the drop of the green. In my opinion, I believe that the News and Notes should start off the broadcast, similar to what the weekday editions of RPM2Nite would do back when John Kernan hosted the show in the 1990s. Kernan would welcome viewers to the broadcast, tell them what was coming up on that episode, and then would immediately go into the news of the day. I think that would be a good approach for FOX (and TNT and ESPN, for that matter) to take for their pre-race shows as well.
However, this was not the only alteration that I noticed. With the starting lineup graphics, yes, they still scroll the drivers in reverse (which, while I understand why they chose to do it that way, I still find to be weird on television). However, instead of using the graphics that were used for the Daytona 500 grid from last season, FOX now features the scroll that was used in the other ten races they did last year. This is a step back, in my opinion. I’m not really sure why they did it, either. Personally, I think the best starting lineup graphic FOX could use is the one they used for the first four races, only starting with row one instead of whoever’s starting along on row 22.
The issues on the scroll from SPEED qualifying refrained from popping up on the FOX side during the race. However, the top 10 only scroll also returned during Sunday’s latter stages, which I’ve always found to be a little annoying. It typically comes up whenever I want to see where someone outside of the top 10 is running, and yesterday was no exception.
I also had a slight picture issue around lap 270. For about two laps, the screen turned a translucent light blue except for a small strip below the scroll, but towards the top of the screen. That one horizontal strip was normal. I could still watch the race during that time… but it was weird. There was no reference to this technical issue during the broadcast, and although it was fixed quickly, it would have been nice to know what the heck was going on. Sources tell me it was a quick, technical crash within the production compound… did anyone else see the light blue screen during the race, or was I the only one?
One of the side effects of the reconfiguration of Bristol Motor Speedway is that there aren’t as many wrecks during the races as there once was. As a result, the actual event goes by much quicker. Sunday’s Food City 500, despite being extended to 503 laps as a result of a Green-White-Checker, lasted only two hours and 54 minutes. But FOX’s timeslot for the race ran through 6:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time. This left the network having to fill roughly 45 minutes of time after the race ended, causing the post-race show to run several more interviews than they normally do. Eight of the top 10 finishers were interviewed on air, as the only ones who escaped the cameras were Kasey Kahne and Juan Pablo Montoya. Winning car owner Joe Gibbs, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kurt Busch, and David Reutimann were also put in front of the mic.
The increased length of the post-race also led to long discussions of Sunday’s actions between the booth commentators (Darrell Waltrip, Mike Joy, and Larry McReynolds) as well as Chris Myers and Jeff Hammond in the “Hollywood Hotel.” One of the topics briefly discussed was how NASCAR determines which cars have to go through the vigorous post-race inspection. The winner is a given, since they won. But after that, it seems to be a bit of a random draw with everyone else. On Sunday, it appears that the No. 9 of Kasey Kahne was the lucky dog, as FOX cameras caught his Budweiser Dodge getting the once over by inspectors. The whole thing was a nice touch by the network, as well as an explanation of a procedure most fans never get to see firsthand.
Well, that’s it for this week. Next Sunday brings on Martinsville for the Cup Series, while the Nationwide Series takes yet another week off (their third in four weeks, something I really can’t understand for a series that has a 35-race schedule). After two weeks off of its own, the Truck Series will also return to the fold with a 250-lapper at Martinsville as well. I will be here to critique the coverage of those two races, as well as whatever else piques my interest.
If you have a gripe with me, or just want to say something about my critique, feel free to post in the comments below, or contact me through the e-mail address provided on the website in my bio.
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The light blue screen showed up for me too, so it was a broadcast issue, not a personal one.
I was at the Saturday night special and the Celebrity portion did not have much to show since most of them stayed away from each other (except Evernham and Petree), but some still wrecked. As for the final I think it would have been better if they kept it to the over 60 crowd. Keeping the real old timers together. Seeing the cars painted up in the classic colors of the drivers would have been cool as well. Over all it was pretty neat seeing Cale, the real Junior, et al on the track together. Handsome Harry came to win that rascal too bad about the hood.
At some point in the broadcast DW made a comment to the effect that “we’ve lost Digger.” I immediately volunteered to get my .22 & help look for him.
Amen to dawg re. looking for Digger.
One thing the networks could do is put the “time behind the leader” stat up on the scroll during the entire race. There’s enough room for it, and it lets you know what the entire field is doing, even when the announcers don’t tell you.