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 July 7, 2009
Welcome, race fans. For nearly 50 years, the 4th of July weekend at Daytona has marked the ceremonial, and in the case of this season, the physical halfway point. The Truck Series took the week off, so it was the Cup and Nationwide Series competing at the World Center of Racing this weekend.
The Cup Series’ Coke Zero 400 is the centerpiece of TNT’s Summer Series, so they roll out some extra stops for the race. As you may already know, TNT refers to the near-commercial free broadcast as their “Wide Open Coverage.” More on this a little later… for now, in keeping with the chronological order, we’ll start with the Nationwide Series’ Subway Jalapeno 250 on Friday night.
The Subway Jalapeno 250 was one of the few races this season which aired on a station other than ESPN2. The main ESPN channel aired the race. Maybe it’s just me thinking here, but when a race gets moved up to a bigger channel, I think that they should have their “A” game on. This was seemingly not the case Friday night.
Editor’s Note: According to ESPN PR, ESPN, and ESPN2 are now available in the exact same number of households, making neither channel “bigger” then the other in terms of their potential audience.
Quite often this season, I’ve been critical of Dr. Punch in the booth and his general lack of enthusiasm for calling the races. I’m not alone in this. Other writers have stated this problem, and fans have stated similar views. And after what I thought was improvement in recent weeks (New Hampshire not included, because Marty Reid was in the booth instead of Punch), Daytona was a big step back. It just seemed like there wasn’t anything there from Punch. Yes, he commentated on the race, but the man seemed to put zero emotion on it. It’s like he’s got physical issues or something, like Dick Vitale did recently.
Vitale actually was diagnosed with lesions on his vocal cords in December of 2007, and had to take a sabbatical from doing college basketball games for a couple of months as a result. After that, he had to take speaking lessons in order to learn how to project his voice from a different section of his vocal cords. Previously, his commentary style, which bordered on outright yelling, was centered on one part of his cords, which led to the lesions. My point here is that Dr. Punch is not a newbie. He’s been around for a long time, although most of that time has been sideline/pit reporting as opposed to actual booth work. Dr. Punch is now 55 years old and has been on sports broadcasts with ESPN for 25 years. As a result, he’s got quite a bit of mileage on his vocal cords. Of course, this is just a hypothesis…
The truth is that these enthusiasm issues have been following Dr. Punch for quite awhile now. This isn’t new. I’ve never really been a fan of Dr. Punch in the booth either for NASCAR or for college football games. Back in the pre-TV deal era (pre-2001), Dr. Punch served as a pit reporter mainly, but also did selected NASCAR support races as the play-by-play commentator. In addition, Punch was the backup play-by-play guy for Winston Cup races if Bob Jenkins was unavailable. I can only recall two Winston Cup races off the top of my head prior to 2007 that Dr. Punch did play-by-play, the 1990 Checker 500k at Phoenix and the 2000 Winston 500 at Talladega. I remember Dr. Punch acquitting himself well in those races.
Off the top of my head, I think these issues are a direct result of ESPN’s current NASCAR deal. Currently, ESPN has the rights to the entire Nationwide Series schedule (35 races), the final 17 races of the Sprint Cup season, plus practice and qualifying sessions. It’s a pretty grueling season, probably a tougher schedule than any other single on-air commentary team has. It could almost be argued that Dr. Punch is “saving himself” for the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard at the end of the month, which, mind you, is for a series that ESPN has basically not publicized all that much this year, outside of SportsCenter highlights and the roundtable discussion on NASCAR Now.
However, it comes off as Punch is mailing in his work with the Nationwide Series. Unlike Sprint Cup, ESPN is the only TV partner for the Nationwide Series. If Dr. Punch comes off as disinterested in those races, it can make the entire series look bad. This is not just something that ESPN should be looking at closely, but NASCAR itself should also be looking into the situation and having a say on the matter.
The Cup Series returning to ESPN on the 26th for the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard could result in a split commentary crew for much of the rest of the season. There are a few standalone races for the Nationwide Series (Gateway, ORP, Montreal, Memphis) remaining, ones that will almost definitely see a “B team” led by Marty Reid sent to cover those races. What about the other races for Nationwide? Will Punch be commentating on those events as well and possibly mailing those races in?
I don’t know. Maybe.
Editor’s Note: ESPN has reconfirmed to us that Marty Reid will be their play-by-play announcer for all Nationwide Series races once they begin covering the Sprint Cup schedule. Reid’s announcing duties will begin at O’Reilly Raceway Park the end of July and continue through the rest of the 2009 season.
Now, some people may ask, how difficult is it to call a NASCAR race? I’m honestly not sure. I’d like to think I could, but I’ve never been in a broadcast booth before. The extent of my TV experience is answering a question about voting on Election Day in 1994 when WTEN (ABC affiliate, Albany, NY) sent a cameraman to my Social Studies class to cover our class vote for governor (George Pataki vs. Mario Cuomo. I think Pataki won, just like in real life). It didn’t make air. I had a discussion at work about the toughest sports to call for television last week with my 18-year-old co-worker, Jordan. We came to the conclusion that ice hockey is the most difficult sport to call, followed by lacrosse. Both sports feature constant back and forth motion, and in hockey’s case, quite difficult to pronounce names. Motorsports (of any form) came in third, just ahead of basketball. Naturally, baseball is the easiest, since it’s generally the slowest paced of the sports.
Aside from Punch’s issues, I do have some other thoughts on the race telecasts.
Both Friday and Saturday night’s telecasts had a rather astounding lack of driver interviews despite a substantial number of wrecks. More on this during the Sprint Cup section of the critique. During the Nationwide race, there was a lot less of a chance of a car being repaired and sent back out on the track for points during the race than on Saturday night. The obvious reason for that was that the race was 150 miles shorter. Yet the only interviews from a driver involved in a wreck that I can remember were with Dale Earnhardt Jr. after crashing out along with Patrick Sheltra, Justin Allgaier, and Steven Wallace, as well as Kerry Earnhardt after he crashed.
I wish ESPN could have tracked down Patrick Sheltra and gotten his thoughts about the incident. Sheltra was making only his third career start in the Nationwide Series and was running very well before crashing out. Better yet, I would have liked to hear from Chase Austin, who was in the middle of a whole bunch of action Friday night, including spinning out Patrick Sheltra, which caused the aforementioned wreck that took out Earnhardt, Jr.
Also, there was definite overusage by Dr. Punch of the “Shootout Style” phrase to describe the double-file restarts that debuted in the Nationwide Series at Daytona. I was already pretty sick of it over the past couple of weeks, so I decided to introduce the “Shootout Style Count” this week. Unlike the Digger Count from back during the FOX portion of the season, this count will cover the entire weekend. In addition, it covers all of the different NASCAR TV partners and not just one of them. My unofficial count came to 17 Shootout Style references. And that is not counting Nationwide Series qualifying from Daytona, which aired while I was at work on Friday. I’m pretty sure that Dr. Punch or one of the other on-air personalities for ESPN could have slipped a few Shootout Styles in there…
On the positive side, ESPN actually cut out of a commercial break in order to show the aftermath of the Sheltra, Earnhardt Jr., Wallace, Allgaier crash. I’ll give them some brownie points there. That was unexpected, yet welcome. Also, the Full Throttle graphic has a speed reading on it now. This speed is tied to the telemetry off of one of the cars, as Dr. Punch stated Friday night. As to which car it corresponds to, that’s anyone’s guess. I’m guessing that it corresponds to the leader’s car, whoever that might be (in this case, I think it was Matt Kenseth).
Post-race coverage was very slim, a result of the race running over its time slot by 15 minutes. ESPN conducted interviews with the top 3 finishers (Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, and Carl Edwards), then quickly left air to get to SportsCenter. Due to the way the race ended, with a multi-car crash forcing a yellow after the white flag came out, the fans did not get to see the unofficial results or the point standings before ESPN left Daytona — which simply flat out bites. They definitely should have stayed at Daytona longer so that NASCAR could have more time to sort out their scoring loops and video evidence. During that time, ESPN could have squeezed in more interviews.
If I were to give the coverage a grade, I would give it a C-. ESPN needs to improve their Nationwide Series coverage substantially in the coming weeks, but with the Cup Series coming back at the end of the month, an adjustment is likely not in the cards. Especially once the Chase comes around, the series will be treated as an afterthought to ESPN.
On Saturday, TNT had their annual Wide Open Coverage of the Coke Zero 400. What this means is that, yes, there are commercials. However, most of these commercials were placed in a box taking up most of the lower right hand corner of the screen. During the time that those ads are on screen, the race continues on in the background with sound muted. The only full screen commercials that aired during the race were the ones that featured local commercials, like ads for Fuccillo Hyundai in Niskayuna, NY, where apparently the deals are Huge. Man, that guy annoys me…
Back to the commercials in the boxes. They worked fine, except for one: the Viagra ad. Now, I don’t care about Viagra, or the benefits that it provides to people who cannot “perform,” but when it screws up the broadcast, I do have a problem with that. During the first time their ad aired on Lap 66, the screen would freeze every second and a half or so. There would be pinkish colored vertical lines on screen as well. It actually reminds me of an issue back during the All-Star Race on SPEED back in May right before a commercial break.
Now, when I see technical issues on Sprint Cup broadcasts, the first thing that I do is query the other producers and viewers of our Live Blog to see if anyone else had the same issue. If it’s just me, I can just write it off to an issue with my cable box. This was the case at Auto Club Speedway back in February when my picture kept breaking up on the Standard Definition feed of FOX. Now, I cannot even watch anything on the SD feed of FOX on my basement TV. But, this issue was noticed by other people in the blog. I don’t pretend to know what causes those types of technical issues, but I know that it does make it kind of difficult to watch the race if the issues persist. Luckily, this problem was a one-time thing, though.
Another slight technical slip-up was on lap 143, while TNT was showing one of those Coke Zero ads that were seemingly made exclusively for this race. While showing the ad, TNT tried to insert some kind of information bar about Tony Stewart. I have no clue what it said, since it was underneath the commercial box. Whatever it was, it was pointless because of the ad being on at the time.
I’m not 100 percent on this, but it seemed like there were more of those Wide Open commercials than last year. At times, it seemed like there would be a group of two or three of those ads separated by only maybe two or three minutes of full screen racing. In addition, I’m really not all that sure about having the play-by-play guy (in this case, Ralph Sheheen) introduce the individual ads. It just doesn’t look right to me.
I did like the interview during the NASCAR on TNT Live! show where Wally Dallenbach interviewed former Cup Series car owner Junie Donlavey. For those of you who don’t remember, or did not follow NASCAR in the early 1990’s, Wally Dallenbach actually drove a bunch of races for Donlavey in 1991, with some support from Roush Racing (since Dallenbach was going to Roush to drive a full season in a No. 16 Keystone Beer Ford in 1992). Granted, almost nothing that Donlavey said in the interview was new to me, especially since I read Ken Schrader’s book, Gotta Race!, but it was still informative. Donlavey admitted in the interview that he viewed his team not as an upper echelon one competing for victories, but as a stepping stone team for relatively new drivers (and crew members) to the Winston Cup Series.
Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, the late Elmo Langley’s team (the No. 64 Ford) was more or less one step below Donlavey’s. Schrader admits in his book that he paid $125,000 for five races in Langley’s No. 64 in 1984. The idea was if he performed well in the No. 64, then Langley would help Schrader progress his career in Winston Cup. That apparently happened, because Elmo recommended Schrader during the season to Donlavey, who then signed Schrader for 1985.
Moving on, I can understand why this was done Saturday night (since Coca-Cola was sponsoring the race through their Coke Zero division), but I did not like all the emphasis being put on the Coca-Cola Racing Family of drivers. Heck, there wasn’t this much emphasis on them during the Coca-Cola 600 back in May, and that race was sponsored by the main division of the Coca-Cola Company. Drivers that are part of the Coca-Cola Racing Family were distinguished by their names in the scroll being red with a white background. In addition, the number graphics for those drivers contained a white number inside of a red Coca-Cola cap on a white background. However, I don’t think that those drivers really needed the additional emphasis during the broadcast. It makes TNT look like they’re playing favorites, which they more than likely were not doing.
I believe that the booth crew did a great job Saturday night. Ralph Sheheen had more time to get ready for his play-by-play role this week, and as a result, his performance was pretty much what I expect out of him: a steady one where he basically does his job, but doesn’t really get in the way. It’s almost like he sees perfection in his role in much the same way that an umpire in baseball does. You know he’s there, he does his job, and no one gets ticked off at him.
As for Bill Weber, there was absolutely no reference to him at all during the broadcast. It’s like he doesn’t exist. On Wednesday, TNT announced that Weber would be sitting out the remaining two races (Saturday night, and next weekend in Chicago) in TNT’s schedule as a result of the incident in Manchester, NH. In addition, Adam Alexander was brought in to take Ralph Sheheen’s place on pit road.
I have no idea whether this suspension is a Turner-mandated cooling down period for Weber, or an outright sacking, but the public wants to know what’s happening here. I, personally, have received e-mails from readers asking me what’s up with Weber. Personally, I couldn’t care less about the specifics of what happened in that hotel lobby on June 26th, and I know that TNT will never tell exactly what happened. I just want to know whether Weber will be back next year, so that I can pass that information on to my readers. And if not, I’d like to know whether we’re actually looking at an on-air audition for next year, or if Sheheen, who has done quite well in his fill-in role, is just keeping the seat warm for someone else.
Late in the race, Kyle Petty made a reference to why TNT was not interviewing seemingly anyone that was involved in any of the crashes on Saturday night. He claimed that they were all involved in getting their cars fixed and didn’t want to talk to TNT’s reporters. I found this to be kind of rare that a commentator would take the time to explain this during a broadcast. Petty claimed that people “from Twitterland” were asking him about it. The truth is that John Daly from the Daly Planet actually tweeted Petty during the race and basically asked him, in a nice way, of course, “What the Deuce is going on here?” Petty answered him on air within two minutes and then sent Daly a personal Twitter message going into slightly more detail during the next Wide Open ad. That message also included a picture from TNT’s infield set taken during a pre-race commercial. I’ll touch on this a little more in-depth in a couple of paragraphs…
The post-race coverage was once again a little short, but I can understand it since TNT was also over their timeslot by the time the race ended. TNT provided fans with interviews of Stewart, Kurt Busch, Johnson, Edwards, and Hamlin, in addition to a full field rundown and points check before leaving. On RaceBuddy, Larry McReynolds and Marc Fein provided some additional analysis of the race, and then included additional interviews with Logano, Vickers, and Ambrose.
Personally, I think that the Wide Open Coverage was quite good. I’ll admit that I’m definitely used to the typical way of broadcasting races, and using this system, it’s actually quite difficult to take a bathroom break if there’s never much more than a minute at a time that the action isn’t on screen. Of course, that’s not really so much of a gripe as it is a side effect of continuous coverage. There are some bugs that need to be worked out, but I’m confident that TNT can take care of them. I’ll give their broadcast an A-.
However, that Twitter exchange from earlier got me thinking. I don’t really want to sign up for Twitter because I feel that, for the most part, it’s pointless, especially if you already have a Facebook page. In that case, it’s redundant because Facebook already has a function where you can type out updates without being bound by a 140 character limit. Anyone who knows me knows that I basically can’t get anything across in 140 characters or less. Everything would look disjointed. In fact, those previous two sentences would just barely fit in a Twitter post.
However, many media personalities have Twitter pages already. In the NASCAR television media, each of NASCAR’s TV partners has Twitter pages. In addition, various NASCAR media personalities have their own Twitter pages. The aforementioned Kyle Petty, Wendy Venturini, Rutledge Wood, and our own Kenny Wallace are just a few examples. A few drivers also have Twitter pages, like Juan Pablo Montoya, Bobby Labonte, and Michael Waltrip. Michael McDowell in the Nationwide Series (who, by the way, will be in the No. 81 for MacDonald Motorsports this week) has tweeted from the drivers’ seat in the past. I used his page to figure out why he had to spend time in the garage back at Darlington (apparently, it was double ignition box failure, with some smoke in the car to boot). Oh yes, and if you run into McDowell, ask him about Bob Evans. He seems to go on about the restaurant constantly on his Twitter feed. Also, some of our staff writers here at Frontstretch have Twitter pages of their own.
This has caused me to reconsider whether I should sign up for Twitter, not so that I can write out random messages about myself for a bunch of people I really don’t know to read, but so that I can get in contact with some of the TV personalities in NASCAR. The benefit would be that I would gain more of an understanding of working on-air during these telecasts. And, of course, there’s the fact that I can pester the on-air staff for reasoning for certain things that happen on-air. It could possibly make the TV critiques better in the long run. Let me know what you think in the comments section below …
That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series are both at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois. The Nationwide Series will race in the Dollar General 300 Friday night on ESPN2, while the Cup Series will race Saturday night in the LifeLock.com 400 (not to be confused with the LifeLock 400 at Michigan International Speedway last month) on TNT. Many of you will be quite sad to see TNT go after what has been an up and down past few weeks — it’s their last telecast before ABC/ESPN takes over for the rest of the season. I will provide my opinions of those telecasts in my next critique; in addition, if something else piques my interest, I’ll talk about that a little bit 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 TNT, 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!
I hope you realise that all it would take to discover the inside story of what happened in NH with Weber is a simple visit to the hotel in question . Do you really think the hotel staff doesn’t know second by second what happened and who said what . As i’ve said before , if this involved Dale Jr there would be be legions of press camped out at the hotel until we had every single tid bit of info . Why keep going on about the mystery of Weber in NH , when a phone call to a hotel staff member would probably get you the entire story .
I liked the IRL style commercials . As always , Nascar follows instead of leading . I wasn’t too crazy about the lead in to the commercials , and the ads seemed to be more numerous than usual , but the side by side gives fans the option of wasting their time watching mindless repeats of mindless commercials , or watching the race in real time .
I think the Coke people got a little heavy handed in their advertising . The Coke name was everywhere , all the time . I realize they spent a lot of money for the naming rights , but the rush to get a return on investment needs to be tempered with a huge dose of common sense and good taste . I may or may not be an average consumer , but i can tell you i was sure sick of the word Coke by the end of the race .
TNT did a pretty good job. I like Ralph much better than I ever did Weber. I hope that Weber is out for next year, too. Pompus jerk. The wide angle shots at TNT on Sat were much better than the in car and other car camera shots we were forced to endure in ESPN’s broadcast and whatever’s wrong with Jerry Punch, I don’t know, but I know that I tuned out of the broadcast pretty quickly because he was so much a downer.
Being a Pepsi drinker myself, I muted the sound on all but the first one of the Coke ads. They were annoying.
Petty only asks McReynolds questions because of the dweeb in the production truck whispering in his ear bud. A lot of broadcast errors happen with an incompetent director in the truck.
None of you Johnny come lately’s remember, but, the last piece of coverage by CBS, back in November of 2000 at Atlanta, had the same coverage, except, the race was in the small window during commercials. That was when coverage was yanked from the professionals and handed over to the boobs at FOX. I’m glad to see them go back to that type of coverage. In fact, I would like to see FOX punted, along with DW and Larry McReynolds, and the lions share back in the hands of CBS, who were true professionals.
Marc, you’re referring to the “No Brakes Coverage” that TBS debuted in the UAW-GM Quality 500 at Charlotte in October, 2000. In practice, that was identical to the current side-by-side used for IndyCar races. It ended up being a one-time thing only since the advertisers wouldn’t allow Turner to bring it to their telecasts in 2001. I wish they did allow it.