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.
Race fans, the title says it all for me. However, for those of you who may not be familiar with the term… let me explain. The term “Jump the Shark” was created by Jon Hein and a group of his buddies at the University of Michigan in 1987. Apparently, they spent a Saturday night watching Nick at Nite and thinking about television shows and when they peaked. One guy, named Sean Connolly, claimed that the TV show Happy Days essentially went in the toilet when they had Fonzie jump over a shark on water skis. The term stuck from there. In the late 1990’s, Hein started jumptheshark.com, a website devoted to, well, allowing fans to post their input on when their favorite shows peaked. It eventually became very popular on the internet, and its eventual sale to TV Guide netted Hein millions.
Jump the Shark doesn’t just apply to TV shows, though; it can apply to anything. Hein’s 2002 book Jump the Shark: When Good Things Go Bad, covered TV shows, politicians, bands, celebrities, athletes, and sports teams. It has become a term used to describe anything that has peaked and is on the downturn.
At the heart of this explanation is how NASCAR television may have hit a new low this weekend at Phoenix. It could be argued that the first TV deal that started in 2001 was the actual shark jump for the sport — but right now, this is the low of the low.
Friday night brought the Nationwide Series’ Bashas’ Supermarkets 200. I’ve basically already missed the party on bashing Friday’s coverage. Our own Bryan Davis Keith and Mike Lovecchio have already voiced their opinions on the subject. So, without further ado, let’s get to it.
Like almost everyone else that watched Saturday night’s race, I felt that there was far too much emphasis on Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch. It was insane — to the point it definitely didn’t feel like the seventh race out of 35 on the schedule, for sure. It’s almost like the production crew thought that the Bashas’ Supermarkets 200 was the November daytime race at Phoenix instead of the April night race. Viewers were treated to constant reminders about the points, along with constant updates on where Edwards and Kyle Busch were running at the expense of covering the rest of the race. I know that the director and camera crews have to pick and choose what to cover on the track with 43 cars starting each event — but this was a travesty.
Kyle Busch’s tire woes were overcovered by the on-air crew, but blowing up the storyline was simply consistent with Friday’s overexposure of Busch and Edwards. They just went on and on about it. It made me wonder if there was anything else that they could have focused on — maybe some good old fashioned action on the track, perhaps?
But, it gets worse. When Carl Edwards, who was leading at that point, started to have problems on his No. 60 Aflac Ford, ESPN played audio during the green flag (I guess it was live audio) of Edwards talking about his issues. This was ignored the first time. I was thinking at the time, “Wait a minute, was that Edwards talking there? And if it was, why isn’t the Punchmeister mentioning it?” What was the reasoning for ignoring this info? I have no clue. Maybe they thought they were simply hearing random things in their heads. Then, live radio chatter on the broadcast had Edwards reading off his gauges and commenting on the issue with his crew. What was ESPN doing at that point? Dr. Punch was essentially hyping Edwards and going on about how we could see another one of Edwards’ back flips if he wins — as if we didn’t already know that would happen if he won. Then, they went to commercial. Right after the commercial break, they come back, replay the same audio the viewing audience had just heard four minutes earlier, and start panicking like it came out of nowhere. Good cripes. Those guys in the booth have ears … use them.
Then, there was the rough interview of Edwards in the garage area by Mike Massaro while Edwards was still wearing his helmet. This might have worked in 1986 or so — but not today. I don’t know if that was Mike’s idea, or the director’s, or what, but don’t do that again. It was brutal. Viewers couldn’t understand what Carl was saying. In addition, the interview took up the full screen, prohibiting viewers from seeing on track action (this was under green, mind you).
With the focus so clearly being on Edwards and Busch, there was virtually no mention of the driver who ended up winning the race, Greg Biffle, until about 50 laps remained in the event. Yet even while they showed Biffle leading and battling with Kevin Harvick, the on-air crew was not really covering it. Kinda mentioning it because they have to — but their minds were elsewhere.
As for the non-Sprint Cup drivers in the race, they got very little coverage. The only Nationwide-only drivers to seemingly get any reference at all were Justin Allgaier and Steven Wallace, who wrecked in qualifying and rushed up through the field in their backup cars. Which reminds me… it was mentioned during the broadcast that eight cars (including Allgaier and Steven Wallace) had to go to the back of the grid for the start of the race. But I had to look online after the race ended to figure out who the other six were. At least FOX puts a graphic up to show who had to go to the back and why. ESPN should follow FOX’s cue here for their Nationwide and Sprint Cup coverage in the future.
Anyways, drivers like Scott Lagasse, Jr. ran very well yet got almost no mention on air (of course, Lagasse finally got airtime when he crashed late in the going). Kenny Wallace, who was in the top 15 in points coming into the event, also was in the garage within ten laps of the start of the race for repairs — yet ESPN never so much as mentioned it on air.
There was also no mention of wrecked cars that re-entered the race, which often gets on my nerves. Friday’s example of this happening was the No. 09 of John Wes Townley. Townley had crashed on lap 155 after contact with the No. 15 of Michael Annett. The team had made repairs to the Zaxby’s Ford and put Townley back on the track, but he then wrecked again to cause the last caution of the race on lap 196. No one watching the race would have known that Townley was back on the track before his second crash.
As for post-race coverage, it was very brief. There were interviews with the top two finishers, Greg Biffle and Jason Leffler, along with an interview with Biffle’s car owner, Jack Roush. After that, there was a quick look at the point standings that ESPN2 had talked about the entire race — then they left the air. I know that the network was kind of tight on time, but that’s very frugal coverage.
Unfortunately, coverage of the Cup race on FOX wasn’t much better the following night — but for different reasons.
First off, there is the fact that the pertinent news and notes were once again tucked 22 minutes into the pre-race show. And since we’re on the subject, it was 26 minutes into the pre-race show on Friday night before they were mentioned in the Nationwide Series race. I’ve ranted about this before this season, and still don’t understand why it’s done this way. Maybe they put the news and notes there in order to get more people to sit through the rest of the pre-race show, which is more or less a take it or leave it-type affair. I don’t claim to know why this is so, but this is just a guess on my part.
As for Digger, maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned the idea of FOX showing reruns of previous Digger cartoons during the pre-race show awhile back. Because, yes, they showed a rerun Saturday night (it was the first one they showed back at Daytona). Crikey. It’s completely out of place and has no real place in the broadcast. The sooner Digger’s gone, the better we’ll all be. As for overall appearances of the gopher during the broadcast, I pegged it at 39 times. Most of the appearances are of the still variety — but 13 of them were animated.
Since the Subway Fresh Fit 500k is one of the shorter races on the Sprint Cup calendar (only the two road races and the six short track events are shorter), it could be assumed that FOX was going to have to cram more commercial breaks into the smaller time slot so that they could get the normal ad revenue. What we got Saturday night, though, was ridiculous. There were three commercial breaks taken in the first 41 laps on Saturday. All those laps were under green, mind you. Assuming a 30 second lap time, those laps were run in approximately 20 minutes and 30 seconds. This means that in that time, at least one third of it if not more was devoted to commercials. That’s insane. Unfortunately, as the TV critic I cannot do anything about it… just make you aware. Also, there were the same amount of branded on screen items during the race as in a regular race (Ex: Random questions that fans can pose to Ask.com). It got to the point where a basic flow could not be established for the broadcast. I don’t think this can be blamed on the FOX on-air broadcast team, but on FOX’s advertising department and NASCAR’s ever-present desire for more money.
In addition, there was a very heavy emphasis on the front-running cars on the track. In my opinion, it was especially too high an emphasis for a race in which the leader, regardless of who it was, would run away from the field. Many fans and writers have noted the fact that FOX does not do a field run-through, like TNT’s Through the Field or ESPN’s Up to Speed. This often seems to be the only way that teams that are outside of the top 10 get any airtime for their car and sponsors during an event. These features are nice for race fans to have during telecasts, but it often seems like a way for TNT and ESPN to not cover the racing, and thus, the teams further back in the field. On a subject like this one, I wouldn’t mind getting the input of someone who has been in the booth before — since I cannot directly relate.
Anyways, since FOX doesn’t have this feature (likely by choice), the teams that are lower down in the standings basically get ignored. The problem is when they do that, they are doing a disservice to their viewers. The network needs to remember that race fans are a hungry lot, and they like to have as much information about the teams out there on the track as possible. Also, not everyone has NASCAR’s TrackPass service, which allows access to the radio feeds for all the teams during the race for a hefty fee. As a result, they need to give proper attention to all 43 teams in the race … not just four.
Technically, the telecast wasn’t the greatest either. The FOX production crew is seemingly in love with the quad pits graphic package that seemingly everyone hates. I’ve mentioned the malfunctions that the setup has previously, but there are other issues that were caused by it. First of all, it basically allows for laziness on the part of the cameramen. On the last pit stop sequence, the quad pit graphic package was used, then FOX cut away from it and almost missed the race off pit road. It was disorienting for viewers.
Also, in regards to pit road, it was unclear (to me, at least) which line determined the order leaving the pits. Apparently, it was the line just after pole sitter Mark Martin’s pit stall. Mind you that that line does not officially end the pit road speed requirement — there is actually another line further up the road where the pit road limit ended. But this was never clarified during the race telecast, and left me a little confused as to exactly which line was the one to watch for pit out.
As for post-race coverage, there were interviews with Mark Martin, Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, and Jimmie Johnson. There was a quick check of the points and some wrap-up commentary at the end before the signoff. OK… but not overly gracious.
In closing, I offer this to NASCAR’s broadcast partners. Like it or not, for the vast majority of fans the TV coverage is the main outlet that people have to see races. Not everyone can afford to go to the event, and many people live too far away from a track to go. FOX (and ESPN, for that matter) need to show a more comprehensive telecast of the race, rather than the overhyped, one-sided telecast that we got this weekend. Ratings for the Nationwide Series race, as of press time, are unavailable. However, the overnights for Saturday night’s Subway Fresh Fit 500k are in, and they’re not pretty. The overnight rating is a 3.3/6, described by Jayski as a “record low.” What that means, I’m not sure, but it is definitely the lowest rating so far this season. The fans are definitely showing their disapproval of the coverage with their remote controls. Overall ratings are down for the Cup Series by 14 percent for the season, despite almost all other sports posting rating increases.
It’s almost sad that perhaps the best stock car telecast of the weekend was SPEED’s coverage of the ARCA Re/MAX Series Carolina 200 on Sunday afternoon from Rockingham Speedway. The race was done in a professional manner with much less in the way of interruptions and a bigger focus on the race itself. Yes, there was a lot of talk about the frontrunners, but it was not treated like they were the only cars on the track. Commentators Rick Allen and Phil Parsons talked about other drivers besides those that were in the top 5 (Ex: the No. 8 of Brian Ickler, who ran most of the race a couple of laps down before finishing 20th). SPEED also had a coup with the inclusion of Kevin Harvick in the booth for the race. Unlike Michael Waltrip during the truck race at Martinsville, he didn’t spend any time talking about the previous day’s Sprint Cup race (which, if you watched on Saturday, you would know that it was a struggle for him). Instead, he stayed on topic for the whole time and actually covered what he was watching. Also, Harvick had a vested interest in the race (Ricky Carmichael was driving a Charter-sponsored No. 33 for him), but he didn’t play favorites towards Carmichael (at least not on air).
The main thing that needed to be improved for SPEED was audio. During a yellow flag pit stop sequence, they showed replays of a stop where Patrick Sheltra got a five second penalty for his crew being over the wall too early. During the replay, you could hear Ray Dunlap’s commentary from the original stop over the audio being added in from Rick Allen. It produced a jumbled mess. Also, when Harvick attempted to talk to Ricky Carmichael on the radio under the yellow, Carmichael’s radio was too quiet, so the audience could barely hear him.
But despite the technical gaffes, SPEED also managed to fit in more interviews in post-race coverage than either FOX or ESPN2 did in Phoenix. SPEED was even able to get some comments from Ken Schrader (from what appeared to be just outside of his motorcoach) after he ran out of gas with just a little more than two laps to go.
That’s all the ranting I have for this week. The shark has officially been jumped. However, shark jumps are not permanent by any means. Just like a sitcom can “Reverse Jump the Shark” by making a good change, a NASCAR broadcast can do the same. And, this weekend is a great time for the network partners to redeem themselves. This weekend is the infamous “White Knuckle Weekend” (Now known as Aaron’s Dream Weekend) at Talladega Superspeedway. This includes live coverage of the Sprint Cup Series Aaron’s 499 and the Nationwide Series Aaron’s 312. Also, a new wrinkle has the ARCA Re/MAX Series racing in the Spring at Talladega for the first time since 1996. They’ll be running the ARCA Re/MAX 250 on Friday afternoon at 5:00 PM. Live coverage will be provided by the SPEED Channel. Previously, the ARCA event was held the Friday before the Fall race. I’ll be watching and critiquing all three events for next week. In addition, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series comes off their long break with the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 at Kansas Speedway. This is a support race for the IndyCar Series event that will be held on Sunday, and I will critique it as well.
As for the critique of NASCAR Now that I promised for this week, well, sometimes, space becomes an issue. This column is just at 3,000 words, so I’ll have to hold off on it until at least the Richmond weekend in two weeks.
As for the future, I’ll say this right now: FOX and ABC had better buck up for this week, or else the vitriol that has been vented this week about the coverage at Phoenix (not just by me, but by many other fans and online commenters) will be much worse next week. Talladega, since it is a restrictor plate race, often attracts many more casual fans than the typical Sprint Cup race. As a result, FOX especially — but ESPN and SPEED as well — need to deliver a great broadcast, if not to appease the longtime fans but to help bring new ones into the sport.
FOX has already announced that they will have a one-hour pre-race show starting at 1 p.m. ET for the Cup race. Of course, I’m not a fan of this, but they want to hype the action that much more. Meanwhile, the Nationwide Series’ Aaron’s 312 will be on ABC instead of ESPN2, also a sign of its importance to the network.
OK, that’s it for now. 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.
If you would like to contact FOX, ESPN, or the SPEED Channel personally with an issue regarding their TV coverage of NASCAR, please use the following e-mail addresses below.
As always, if you choose to contact the networks by e-mail, do so in a courteous manner. Network representatives are far more likely to respond to e-mails that ask questions in a courteous manner than e-mails full of rants and vitriol. Thank you, and have a great week.
©2000 - 2008 Phil Allaway and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
The phrase “ what can you expect , its FOX “ certainly comes to mind .
I read articles like this and thank God every Sunday that the shark bit, swallowed and excreted NBC.
Phil said: “only the two road races and the six short track events are shorter”
And the two 300 mile events at New Hampshire.
When television history looks back at what happened to NASCAR, they’ll point to Digger and say that was the “jump the shark” moment.
Memo to all; “Jump The Shark” has been replaced by “Fallen Down The Gopher Hole”, as in “Fox’s coverage of Nascar has officially fallen down the gopher hole”.
Thank you and remember this when writing about future events that have peaked and are now out of vouge.
I was distressed after the NW race but absolutely livid after the Cup fiasco. I utilized John Daly’s Blog to post over the weekend so I can keep my tirad brief here, since my anger has cooled somewhat. ESPN needs to stop determining the story line before the green flag flies and follow the racing where ever and with who ever. Fox needs to go back to how they use to call races, give us through the fields so we know what happens to everyone, show the racing where ever it happens and stop trying to put 10lbs of commercials in a 5lb race. Most importantly cut back on the sponsor bites, video clips and all over baggage and show the darn race.
To Kevin in Socal
“And the two 300 mile events at New Hampshire.”
One of them is now 301 miles.. for the added drama of one extra lap! Plus that track doesn’t count anyways. Those aren’t really races.