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.
Phil Allaway · Tuesday June 2, 2009
Greetings, readers. The three races held at Dover International Speedway were quite interesting in their own ways. I enjoyed them all, though — especially that race to the finish between Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart on Sunday. Sunday also marked the 13th and final points race on FOX’s schedule for the season, a milestone that comes as a sigh of relief to more than a few of you out there. Since Sunday was FOX’s last NASCAR go-around for the season, I’d figure that I would give them a grade for the season after I finish the Sprint Cup race telecast critique.
Now, as many of you have come accustomed to since I took over this critique full-time from Doug Turnbull at the beginning of the season, I like to keep the critique in chronological order. I just find it easier that way. This would have meant that the Camping World Truck Series race would be first today; however, since the Truck race was postponed to Saturday evening due to rain, it will come after the Nationwide race critique.
However, this week, I’d like to start with some thoughts from Sprint Cup pole qualifying on Friday. While the broadcast itself was rather run-of-the-mill, my issue is that I shouldn’t be seeing issues with the scroll within a minute of turning the TV on.
This is something that really plagued the entire weekend, not just on SPEED. During the session, Robby Gordon’s No. 7 was listed in both 31st and 32nd position, while Martin Truex Jr.’s No. 1 was listed in 17th and 34th. In addition with Truex, both entries showed no speed (when lap speeds were shown on the scroll). Technical issues also plagued the lap timing graphic during Joe Nemechek’s qualifying run. Larry McReynolds didn’t notice this at first, but Mike Joy realized what was up after the graphic was removed and notified the viewers of the issue in an honest matter. I’m happy with that treatment of the issue, but this really shouldn’t be happening after these crews have been following the series for nearly four months.
By the way, look for SPEED to continue to provide coverage of qualifying and practices for the Cup Series during the TNT portion of the schedule.
Saturday’s Nationwide Series race, the Heluva Good! 200, was one of the approximately five Nationwide events that will air on ABC this season. As a result, there was slightly more commercial interruption than normal events on ESPN2.
As for the race itself, I’m still not satisfied with the relaying of some information to the viewing audience. In the past, I’ve gone on about how the networks need to tell the viewers certain things that they really haven’t done a good job of so far this year. Notifying viewers of why teams go to the garage is one of them. It’s one thing to give a somewhat passive mention of when a car like the No. 90 of Johnny Chapman goes to the garage (and really, the truck) nine laps into the race. It is quite another thing that there is little or no mention at all of teams like the No. 28 Border Patrol Chevrolet (driven by our own Kenny Wallace for Jay Robinson Racing) going behind the wall because of various issues (according to the results, it was a blown engine, which was never mentioned on air).
Now, we know the No. 28 team is not an S&P team. No one has ever tried to make that argument. And, in all honesty, if anyone tries to, they’re insane. But, this team, and many other full-time Nationwide only teams are treated like they’re nothing, and this needs to stop. Kenny Wallace is currently 14th in points in the Nationwide Series… yet toils in near complete anonymity. Out of the non-Cup affiliated teams (this excludes JR Motorsports), it seems that the only ones that get any real exposure on the broadcasts are Braun Racing, Baker-Curb Racing to a point, and RWI (because Rusty Wallace owns it). R3 Motorsports (No. 23) and RAB Racing (No. 09) might get in-car cameras because of their sponsors (Aaron’s and Zaxby’s, respectively) every now and then, but they’re rarely used. All the teams that run full-time deserve to get their air time. The lack of air time for some teams, like the Davis Motorsports No. 01, Specialty Racing No. 61, and other smaller teams is debatably hurting those teams’ chances of increasing their competitiveness. By that, I mean that the lack of exposure for those teams in particular hurts their chances of attracting more sponsorship.
The other thing that continues to bug me is the failure to notify viewers of who is the recipient of the “Free Pass” or “Lucky Dog,” or whatever they want to call it this week. In ESPN’s case, I guess they want to keep the mentions of it to a minimum since they decided to go and get Aaron’s to sponsor it on air. FOX also has problems with notifying viewers of the Free Pass recipient this season. I made reference to this in the critique after Richmond. Historically, SPEED has been the best at actually doing this during their Truck Series broadcasts. I don’t know if it’s just because they actually care about it, or if it’s just because Michael Waltrip is typically in the booth for the truck races (and we know how much he likes to plug sponsors of his, or his race teams’).
As for post-race coverage on ABC, there basically wasn’t any. Reasoning? Since the race was on ABC, and it ran long because of all of the cautions, ABC had to quickly do the post-race so that they could get off the air. To that end, ABC provided interviews with only the top two finishers (Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano), Carl Edwards (who finished fifth), and Keselowski’s car owner, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., ABC was obviously dying to interview Kyle Busch after his latest last minute snatching of defeat from the jaws of victory, but Busch obviously was not going to grant them that opportunity. Heck, there wasn’t even a look at the point standings before ABC left the air Saturday. They simply mentioned that Edwards was 40 points behind Kyle Busch after Busch finished 17th. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if Busch’s tire was flat on that restart, or if it went down when he hit the wall coming off of Turn 2. ABC never showed that part of the replay on air. I just happened to catch it on SportsCenter after the race and had one of those “A-ha!” moments (not the ‘80s group).
After the Nationwide telecast ended around 5:10 p.m., the grandstands were emptied out to make way for the crowd for the rescheduled Truck Series’ AAA Insurance 200. The thoughts about clearing everyone out like that are for another article, to be honest. Granted, the official attendance for the Nationwide race was about 35,000, but the track seats at least 140,000. Truck attendance was 28,000 and I’m sure that there were some people that had tickets to both races.
This season, the SPEED broadcasts of the Truck Series have been the best of the three major NASCAR series, despite having a situation where some races do not have full fields, and up to six or seven trucks every week S&P. They are the only one of the three major series to post ratings gains this year as compared to 2008. In regards to the Nationwide and Cup Series, the Nationwide Series is roughly flat, ratings-wise, while the Sprint Cup Series is down 13 percent.
Why is this so? My best guess is that there aren’t as many gimmicks in a Truck broadcast as in the other two series, the commentators (including Michael Waltrip) seem to pay more attention to the on track action, and actually act professional most of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I want the booth commentators to have fun and enjoy themselves up there, but they have a job to do.
Also, SPEED does have some production cards up their sleeves as well. On Saturday, they stuck a camera in the undercarriage of Mike Skinner’s No. 5 Toyota (it appeared to be right about in the middle of the car, looking back towards the rear end). The idea behind this was to show the stress that the trucks are under at the concrete one mile oval. First, they showed it during a caution to provide a baseline under relatively “tranquil” conditions. As far as I’m concerned, 50 mph behind the Pace Car under yellow is about as tranquil as NASCAR gets during a race. Even then, you could feel some of the bumps on the track. Later, they returned to the view under green to show what kind of stress the truck was under during regular racing conditions. Viewers could see the right rear spring in action, doing its job. The only thing I wish could have been there was a shot of the No. 5 running on the track in a small inset picture in the lower right corner of the screen. That would have been perfect.
The only other thing that I wished that SPEED showed more of were the tires that came off of trucks that had not blown tires. Reasoning for this? I wanted to see what these tires looked like before they blew out. ABC showed one of these during their broadcast, and it looks like cords were showing on the outside shoulder of the tire. I don’t know if this was repeated during the Truck race, however, because they only showed tires that had either blown out or been cut down.
Despite the fact that the race ran long (due to ten cautions and countless blown tires), SPEED managed to give the fans comprehensive post-race coverage, unlike ABC. I think it says something about some of the TV coverage that the SPEED crew almost managed to fit in as many interviews in their post-race coverage as FOX and ESPN/ABC did combined.
And, now, for the Cup Series’ Autism Speaks 400, presented by Heluva Good Sour Cream Dips and Cheeses.
As many of us are well aware, FOX likes to play some stuff up and essentially create something out of nothing. The whole argument between David Reutimann and Tony Stewart, which was really basically nothing at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, got kicked up a notch when Tony Stewart called Dwayne Bigger, David Reutimann’s crewmember, the now-infamous “Billy Bad Butt” name. Now, “Billy Bad Butt” is famous, since he got a bunch of media attention over the past week, and FOX felt the need to run a feature on him during the pre-race show.
Pre-race also saw the introduction of the FOX Cup, a small trophy given to the driver who is leading the points at the end of FOX’s slate. Krista Voda showed off the trophy to Jeff Gordon during an interview. Gordon didn’t seem all that enthused about it, to be honest. And Tony Stewart, who actually received the trophy at the end of the race? He made it sound like he was happy to get it, but watching that telecast made me think he probably chucked it in the trash as soon as he got back to his motorcoach. Yes, Tony was happy that he took the points lead, but was probably also bummed out that Johnson got him for the victory.
The Gas-n-Go segment, usually a highlight of FOX’s pre-race show, was given the weird treatment Sunday. Instead, the Hollywood Hotel was transported to Homestead the day after the Ford 400. That was weird enough…. the clothing made it weirder. Jeff Hammond was dressed up like Don Johnson on Miami Vice in the mid-1980’s, while Darrell was dressed up like someone looking to go fishing. The topics discussed were mainly potential occurrences in the past tense. I’m fine with discussing the future, but it needs to be discussed in the present tense. Discussing things that have not happened yet as if they already did just looks weird. I would not recommend that FOX do that again.
As for Digger, Sunday will be the last time that most race fans will see him this season. And that’s good. Yes, that means I have one less thing to go on about in these critiques, but getting material to write about should not be a problem for me.
Meanwhile, the scroll issues that started on SPEED on Friday continued on Sunday. This started almost immediately at the beginning of the race, where when the scroll first came up, it showed Joe Nemechek, who started 38th, as the leader of the race, followed by Dave Blaney. This was quickly taken care of. What wasn’t quickly fixed was the scroll after the final caution. The result was that the final 25 laps ran scroll-less. FOX inserted a “Laps to go” graphic, ala ESPN in early 1995 to replace the scroll. I think that’s the second time that I can remember FOX doing that since they started covering NASCAR in 2001. The other time was during the Busch Series’ Aaron’s 312 at Talladega in 2002. Of course, that was in the middle of a race where most of the contenders were taken out in a gigantic crash on lap 15. It was fixed by the end of the day.
I remember discussing the scroll with my dad last year during the Aaron’s 499. He thought it was unwieldy, and that it shouldn’t be used all the time. He continued to say that it made the screen too busy. What did he suggest to replace it? Essentially, the pylon that ESPN and ABC used from late 1995 to Las Vegas in 1998, with periodic full field summaries. I’d like to get some feedback about what you think about that. Should FOX (and for that matter, the other broadcast partners) simplify their on-screen graphics, making it less claustrophobic, or keep it the same as it is now?
In addition, FOX also inserted intervals between the top 5 cars. Kinda made for an old school feel, albeit unintentionally. Mike Joy apologized to the viewers multiple times for this issue. Personally, I didn’t mind, but I’m sure that some viewers that are used to the scroll might have been thrown for a loop.
There was also a slight sound issue (at least on my end) early on when FOX was going to commercial. As you may remember, FOX often plays these little pointless skits on the way to commercials. Never really understood the point of them, to be honest, but it’s not like they’re going away anytime soon. Here, the sound cut out at the beginning of the little vignette, so I couldn’t hear anything until the commercials started. Annoying.
FOX did focus quite a bit of their coverage on Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his adjustment to new crew chief Lance McGrew. I think they might have devoted a little too much coverage to Earnhardt Jr. on Sunday, but FOX would try to explain it by mentioning how popular Junior is to the general public. Hooray.
There was some coverage of racing back in the field during the race on Sunday, but simply not enough. The only time that this action seems to get coverage is either if it looks like there’s about to be a big ‘ol wreck or the Lucky Dog is involved.
The post-race coverage was really thin, to be honest. FOX had interviews with only four drivers (the top three finishers, and Earnhardt Jr.), showed the final rundown, a pre-recorded clip where the on-air crew thanked the fans for watching NASCAR on FOX this year, the point standings, then ended their coverage. I would have liked a little more coverage, to be honest, but due to what is now a traditional event on the day of the Spring race at Dover, I wouldn’t know if they were over their slot or not. Here in the Albany, NY market, our FOX affiliate (WXXA) pre-empted the race in favor of a telethon to benefit the Children’s Miracle Network (a charity). This is the third consecutive year that this has happened. This telethon has been done this particular Sunday for years, long before NASCAR even came to FOX. Previous to the current TV contract, this race aired on FX, so it wasn’t a problem. As a result, the race was moved to a combination of WXXA’s second channel, and TW3 (a local access channel only available to Time Warner Cable subscribers). According to the on-screen guide, the time slot for this race went up to 7 p.m., but FOX left the air long before that. I’m guessing that their slot was actually up at 6 p.m… but I cannot know for sure.
Since Sunday was FOX’s last NASCAR broadcast of the year, I feel that it is my duty to give the crew a grade for their Cup coverage. Let’s just say that it’s been a tough season for them. Issues with who gets coverage during races, technical issues, accountability, ridiculous stunts, and objectivity have really hurt their overall product. This year also brought the blatant pimping of Digger and his friends, which David Hill, President of FOX Sports, even admitted back in February was nothing more than a way to create a revenue stream in the spirit of 1980’s cartoons (Transformers, anyone?). And, to top everything off, the ratings on FOX, which historically have had the highest ratings for NASCAR telecasts since 2001, are down approximately 13 percent from last season.
However, there was some good that came out of these telecasts. As a result, I cannot claim that this season was a complete failure for FOX. I’m thinking that, at the very best, NASCAR on FOX deserves a C-. It’s probably really a D+. The stuff that I have listed above are some of the factors that FOX needs to fix for next season. I’m not advocating firing anybody. That’s not me. I prefer working with people to fix issues in order to make the broadcast be as good as possible. It will be only then that FOX will regain its position as the premiere broadcast partner for NASCAR.
Of course, I am not the end-all for grading FOX’s season performance. I would like to hear what you readers think about this as well by posting in the comments section below or sending an email to me at email@example.com.
That is all for this week. Next week begins the toughest stretch of the season. Well, the toughest for those drivers who drive in multiple series anyway. All three major NASCAR series are racing next weekend… but at separate venues. The Cup Series has the Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, which also happens to be the first of six races to be carried on TNT this season. The Nationwide Series has a standalone race, the Federated Auto Parts 300, from Nashville Superspeedway on Saturday night on ESPN2. And on Friday night, the Truck Series races the WinStar World Casino 400k. That race will be televised by SPEED. I will critique all three of those events.
In addition, the ARCA Re/MAX Series serves its traditional role (at least, since 1983) as the support series for Sprint Cup at Pocono. That race will be shown on SPEED via tape delay at 4 p.m. I will critique this event as well. It will be a pretty full slate, but if anything else catches my eye, I’ll include that as well.
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 email address provided on the website in my bio. And if you would like to contact FOX, ESPN, or the SPEED Channel personally with an issue regarding their TV coverage of NASCAR, please click on the following links:
As always, if you choose to contact the networks by email, do so in a courteous manner. Network representatives are far more likely to respond to emails that ask questions in a courteous manner than emails full of rants and vitriol.
Thanks for reading, and have a great week!
©2000 - 2008 Phil Allaway and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Phil, I’m quite pleased to see Fox finish up their broadcast obligations and move on. The endless shilling from the goofballs in the booth, the constant cheerleading for some selected drivers, made up words and the horrendous assignation of the English language is over. Not to mention that ridiculous little animated creature living in a hole in the track
I can understand the occasional technical difficulty, but when you have fans pouring out their thoughts of displeasure week after week, one would think that the powers to be would make some adjustments…nope! Well that is water (or tire rubber) under the bridge. Let’s just hope that when next year rolls around, Fox will look back into the “lessons learned” folder and hopefully make the much needed (and obvious) adjustments. Remember Fox, the fans ARE your customers!!!
As for Faux, they’re gone until Feb. enough said. As for the scroll. Believe it or not, & Faux certainly does not. Every driver has fans. For us hard core fans of drivers who usually don’t run up front, don’t get any mention when they have issues, & never get interviewed, when they go to the garage. The scroll, if you watch only the broadcast. Is the only way to tell how your driver is doing. If you mute the TV, & listen to the radio broadcast, you get a lot more information. Plus no DW, it’s a win,win. This scroll that only shows the top 10 is really a bite. The few lead cars are all they ever show. So you already have this. I like it best when the scroll shows the interval, or the laps down, off, or out. If TV is going to totally ignore 3/4 of the field, they should at least give us a way to follow it. On a related note, yes I get it. UPS pays a lot of $$ to the network, so the 6 car (just an example) gets featured. TV is after all a business. But so is owning a race team. Every owner that fields a car with a sponsor. Should have that sponsor shown at least a couple of times during a 4 hour broadcast. It’s really hard for most owners to come up with sponsorship for cars that are virtually invisible on TV. This is why we are seeing, (or not seeing) the start, & park. teams.
I have to agree with your grade for FOX . It certainly couldn’t have higher .
I agree with dawg. With the horrible race coverage, that ticker is the only way we know where the drivers in midpack are, unless they happen to be racing against Earnhardt, Busch, Gordon or johnson back there, we never see them onscreen.
And watching that ticker change, it’s obvious at times that we’re missing a lot of good racing while the camera follows the lead car running by its lonesome for lap after lap
Give me more Arca/Remax .. heck, even Indycars and F1 or motorcycle racing are becoming more interesting than NASCAR .. and it’s not just the problems with NASCAR, but the atrocious TV coverage.
I must be in the minority as I like the Terminator tv show. But I’m definitely in the majority in hating Digger.
Oh yes, if you’re wondering what I think FOX will do for 2010, I can only think of one thing.
The scroll will likely disappear, to be replaced by a box in the upper left hand corner of the screen. This will likely look like TNN’s box from 1998?-2000, or the box that ESPN used for the 2nd half of 1999 and 2000 for Cup Series broadcasts.
Reasoning for this move? Corporate synergy, I guess. FOX Sports has dropped the full bar at the top of the screen for their FOX Saturday Baseball coverage this year, and I’m fairly certain that this will result in a revised scoring graphic for FOX NFL Sunday this fall.
Agree with your dad on the ticker. Too busy with little worthwhile info (if ticker cycles at 45 seconds and the cars lap at anything less how meaningful can it be) and look forward to something else. Pylon (if done right) would be a welcome relief, but downside is if we can see accurate and instantaneous changes for position and see a driver climb (or sink) the pylon without being reported on then its going to make the production look bad (which is why I figure FOX didn’t use it). Overall I’m ready for a change, hopefully to a network who remembers the race is central and will actually report as such.
I was very disappointed this weekend that there was no pit coverage of the tires coming off of the cars. Tires were and obvious problem all weekend and, although I may have missed it, I didn’t see anything about it on the Cup broadcast. I really expected to see closeups of the tires that came off of several cars to give us an idea of what they really looked like. Who knows, maybe Goodyear wouldn’t let them.