Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
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 28, 2009
I know that the beginning of this week’s title sounds like something out of the 2001 movie Zoolander, starring Ben Stiller (Martial Arts good; Prime Minister bad), but it essentially drives home my point in this critique. Indianapolis is likely the biggest race weekend for NASCAR in the second half of the season. As a result, the pressure is on everyone to put on a good show even more than normal. That goes all the way from the teams at the race tracks to the TV people and the tracks themselves. Of course, anything could have been better than last year’s insanity caused by the tires at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but just because the tires could last longer than it takes the average person to drink a soda doesn’t mean that there aren’t things that could be better.
This past weekend, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway played host to the Cup Series for the 16th running of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. Meanwhile, the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series raced a few miles away at O’Reilly Raceway Park on their .686-mile oval. Were these telecasts up to snuff? It appears that the answer is yes and no — as always.
On Friday night, SPEED televised the Truck Series’ AAA Insurance 200 presented by J.D. Byrider (which, as far as I know, is a chain of used car dealerships). Of course, this wasn’t noted on the broadcast, because SPEED had their own presenting sponsor for their telecast. Personally, I hate this trend. I think it’s ludicrous and basically undercuts the companies that are already ponying up the big bucks (with the threat of a whammy) to put their names on the races. I especially hate how its effectively been written into NASCAR’s TV deals since 2001 that in order for the name of your companies’ race to be mentioned on air, you have to purchase a certain amount of commercial air time. This doesn’t make sense if the race sponsor is anything but a national company. It does not make sense for regional companies (We’ll use Food City, the sponsor of the spring race at Bristol as an example here) to pony up for national commercials if they have a relatively small base.
In the past, I remember CBS constantly referring to the Michigan race they did every year as the Michigan 400, when in reality, it was the Miller Genuine Draft 400 or Miller Time 400, etc. They didn’t refer to the race by its actual name until Miller Brewing Company dropped their sponsorship of the event and Kmart took over. In this case, I’m fairly certain that it was censorship on the part of CBS, or Ken Squier. One of the two.
Back to the Truck race. It was generally a good effort all around. Good action on the track, good camera work. All in all, a pleasurable watch. However, I do have some thoughts. At the end of the race, it seemed drivers like Aric Almirola and Dennis Setzer literally came out of nowhere. They likely focused way too much on the battle up front at the expense of the action further back. Had they shown a little more footage from further back, maybe we could have seen how Matt Crafton drifted back to his 16th place finish (I’m fairly sure it had something to do with his older tires, but Hornaday’s were just as old and he won). Crafton likely got the boot from someone at some point and ended up almost at the end of the lead lap.
I liked how SPEED used their SPEED Spotlight to help fans get to know these new drivers, although I will admit that seeing Caitlin Shaw in the No. 1 for Red Horse Racing made me think back to the Jim Sauter-Robin McCall switch up in the Cup Series back in 1982 (yes, from before I was born). I think that will work out better than the situation with J.D. Stacy’s No. 5 team in 1982, but I was just thinking out loud and writing on Twitter at the same time. Waltrip did have a little fun with Brandon Duchscherer’s last name, but that seemed to be all in fun.
Saturday night brought the Nationwide Series’ Kroger 200 from ORP. This was an excellent race to watch on television, and more than likely was an excellent race to see live at the track. Of course, I’ve never been there before, but the place definitely seems small enough that you can see everything.
The action was fast and furious and ESPN’s commentators (Marty Reid, Randy LaJoie and Rusty Wallace) were definitely into the racing. Reid in particular had several moments where his voice went up in pitch in reaction to the racing. I actually find this interesting. I think I’ll refer to this as “Going up an octave” for the rest of the season.
However, there were a couple of issues that I had during the broadcast. On the sixth and final caution, there was no reference as to who got the Free Pass (referred to on ESPN as the Aaron’s Lucky Dog Free Pass). In addition, while a good chunk of the field pitted under that caution, there were a bunch of cars (including drivers like Aric Almirola and Morgan Shepherd) that didn’t pit and took the wave-around. These drivers were never mentioned on air (there were roughly seven of them, most of which were re-lapped before the race ended.) I would have liked to know who took advantage of the wave-through.
Also, the fifth caution, which was thrown for Chase Austin’s crash; I don’t remember ESPN even mentioning it during their broadcast. The crash occurred during a commercial break, and when ESPN returned, the leaders were coming onto pit road, so naturally, ESPN covered those first. Afterwards, there was all but no mention of what caused the yellow. I was under the opinion that this was a debris caution until I looked it up this afternoon and saw that Austin had crashed (he ended up finishing 32nd, 21 laps down). Prior to that wreck, Austin was actually running well in the No. 07, but had gotten no mention at all on the broadcast. Since David Green abandoned SK Motorsports earlier this year, and the team dropped Toyotas in favor of Chevrolets, the team has struggled mightily, running what appeared to be repainted No. 84’s that Mike Harmon had unsuccessfully campaigned earlier in the season. It seems that the Xxxtreme Motorsports partnership has improved the outfit and brought in much needed sponsorship.
Overall, the issues that I mentioned above did not really detract much from the rest of the on-track action. The race was a joy to watch and I wish Nationwide (and Truck) races were like this more often. I fear that the purses that both series command today have completely priced them out of almost every short track in the country, with the exception of those run by ISC and SMI. If true, then that’s a shame, since people are being deprived of good racing.
Before I go on to the Cup telecast, I must make reference to ESPN’s announcement on Friday about the telecast of the Carfax 250 at Michigan International Speedway on August 15. ESPN has announced that the Nationwide race will be done with “Backseat Driver Coverage.” There will be no play-by-play man in the booth (meaning Marty Reid basically gets to take the weekend off). Instead, there will be five analysts commentating on the action. Tim Brewer will command his usual position in the Tech center while Ray Evernham, Dale Jarrett, Rusty Wallace and Andy Petree will be in the booth.
In execution, this will probably look like the Nationwide race last year in which Ned Jarrett was invited up to the booth as a guest. Evernham, who is essentially the fourth man up there, will have issues getting in anything edge wise (like Ned did last year), while Dale Jarrett will basically be the play-by-play guy. Wallace and Petree will basically occupy their normal roles in the telecast. On paper, this sounds interesting. I think it might end up being painful to watch, though.
On Sunday, ESPN returned to the Cup Series. The “A squad” of Dr. Jerry Punch, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree were on hand at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to broadcast the 16th running of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. Or, as ESPN referred to it, the Brickyard 400 presented by Golden Corral. Personally, I wish that Golden Corral would have decided to sponsor the No. 28 for more races instead of going this route, but I’m not in charge of Marketing for a chain of buffets, so I can’t make those decisions. I’m sure Allstate is spending extortion to sponsor the race, but they only received a total of four mentions on ESPN Sunday.
That’s actually one better than how it used to be. If I remember correctly, the previous TV deal (2001-2006) allowed for three (I believe) race sponsor mentions per race if they didn’t cough up the cash for the commercial package. Now, I think that may have been eliminated in the discussions that resulted in the current TV deal, but I’m not one hundred percent sure on that. This also extends (for some reason) to SportsCenter highlights as well.
Most of us race fans were wondering if some of the issues that Dr. Jerry Punch has had this year while doing Nationwide races would just be confined to the lower series, or if they would pop up on Cup telecasts once Indy came around. Unfortunately, they did arise. I’ve gone on about this multiple times already this season about how Dr. Punch just doesn’t seem to be into a lot of the races. Maybe he’s just a fickle race fan and finds it hard to watch (and in this case, commentate on) races if they’re not exciting. Many readers of my critique here are probably the same way. I don’t know what it is, but this stuff has got to stop. My general thoughts on this are as follows:
I’m pretty sure that Dr. Punch likes motorsports, NASCAR in particular. If a race doesn’t really “do it” for the average person, they can walk away, maybe click on the IndyCar race on Versus (from Edmonton on Sunday), or go veg out somewhere. Dr. Punch doesn’t have that option. It is Dr. Punch’s job to make the race exciting. Speaking in a dull monotone on a race telecast kills even the most exciting telecast of a race. For a not-so-exciting race, it makes it interminable. I think Dr. Punch would make for a terrible teacher based on what I’ve seen over the past couple of years. If Dr. Punch cannot change his tone, then something should be done. I’d argue that it’s ultimatum time now.
I’m sure Dr. Punch thinks that he’s up to the task, but he’s yet to show it so far this season. Do I think I could do better? Probably not. I’ve never done anything on TV before, except for answering a couple of questions on camera for WTEN here in the Albany area (ABC affiliate, Albany, NY). As far as I know, neither of those comments on camera actually made air. In addition, I’m also not the best at extemporaneous speaking and I tend to ramble. In the booth, I’d probably be like Weber, only friendlier and much more nervous. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I can pick the brains of some of ESPN’s commentators while I’m at Watkins Glen and get an idea of what they perceive their style to be, and how they prepare for the telecasts.
John Daly at The Daly Planet on Sunday claims that Punch is miscast and advocated a “trade” in which Allen Bestwick would be sent straight up to the booth to do play-by-play, while Dr. Punch would head up the infield studio. Could this be done? Yes, it probably could. However, I don’t think Dr. Punch would be willing to do it because it is what amounts to a demotion.
At this point, it almost seems like Punch is clamoring to return to college football play-by-play, which he did while ESPN was without NASCAR. ESPN shows an insane number of College Football games each season (I think it’s somewhere between 200 and 300 games between ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU). Punch could definitely fit in on one of those broadcasts. I think I’ve heard him do college basketball before as well.
However, I cannot say that ESPN’s broadcast from IMS was all bad. They were actually able to get an interview with Kyle Busch after his wall contact on lap 58. Kyle more or less answered Shannon Spake’s questions during the short chat in the garage area, which is unusual. Often times, Kyle will not answer questions posed to him, apparently because he considers them to be too obvious. I could argue that Kyle’s slight change in attitude could be attributed to another great aspect of the broadcast.
That other aspect was a 1-on-1 interview in the Pagoda (aired during the pre-race show) where Kyle Busch talked with ESPN’s Marty Smith. During the interview, Smith brought up the issues of arrogance on Kyle’s part over the past year or so. It was a very candid and interesting talk and I hope ESPN can do more of this content in the future. Our own Cami Starr hypothesized in our Live Blog that Shannon Spake watched this interview during the pre-race show (or before it) and adjusted her questioning style to better suit Kyle.
ESPN also decided to show the Driver Introductions live on the broadcast. I think this was a first for a NASCAR race, but more or less par for the course for Indianapolis. ESPN has been doing this for the past year for the Indianapolis 500 telecasts on ABC. Still, very interesting. If they absolutely have to have an hour of pre-race programming before the race starts, then please include this for the rest of the season. Heck, even add it to the Nationwide Series race broadcasts starting with Iowa this weekend.
It’s kind of sad that the telecast for the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, which is what amounts to ESPN’s signature race for their portion of the season, peaked during the pre-race show. I’ll admit right here that no race needs a 90 minute pre-race show. Heck, the Daytona 500 didn’t have a 90 minute pre-race show. However, it definitely looked like they were prepared for it. The actual race, not so much.
ESPN was hyping the amount of technology that they had at the track, which amounted to 76 cameras, including something called the “Bat Cam.” In reality, the race telecast didn’t look all that different from last year’s, which probably didn’t have 76 cameras, but it still had a dozen on air people. ESPN has also been maligned for overuse of in car cameras and tight shots this year and outside of the lap or so after restarts and after commercials, this was definitely the case on Sunday. I don’t really know what ESPN can do to improve their Cup broadcasts, but I do suggest that they listen to fan input. The fans know what they want to see, and when it comes down to it, ESPN exists to quench the thirst of fans. Without them, there’s no ad revenue, and without ad revenue, there’s no network.
Since the race ended relatively early, there was plenty of time for post-race coverage. ESPN gave fans ten interviews with nine drivers, and the winning crew chief (Chad Knaus). Generally, this isn’t bad, especially compared to normal races. However, ESPN still left the air 15 minutes early so that they could get to SportsCenter. I don’t really understand why this happened. Did they run out of stuff to talk about? Perhaps.
That is all for this week. Next week is another one of those multiple site race weekends where the ability for Cup drivers to do multiple races is strained. The Cup Series is back in Long Pond, Pa. for the Pennsylvania 500 on Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, the Nationwide Series will be in Newton, Iowa Saturday afternoon for the inaugural U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway. That promises to be a very interesting race. The race will be live on ESPN at 4:30 p.m. EDT. A couple of hours after the Nationwide Series race finish, the Truck Series’ Toyota Tundra 200 will be run at Nashville Superspeedway at 8 p.m. EDT and air on SPEED. I will critique all three of these races. In addition (like always), if anything else piques my interest, I’ll comment on 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. Also, if you would like to follow me via Twitter, you can go to my Twitter page HERE. 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!
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Besides clicking on the Indycar race on Versus, we also had the option of clicking on Speed and seeing a fabulous World Superbike race from The Czech Republic. One of the two legs was won by American Ben Spies who is making a run for the World title in his rookie season on many tracks he is seeing for the first time. I checked on the cup race and the Formula 1 re-run on fox (also on)during the commercials. Damn near wore out the remote!!
Jerry Punch will do the ESPN race broadcasts forever . He is bitter that he wasn’t signed to the top on -air slot in the football telecasts , so it isn’t our imagination that he sounds like he would rather be somewhere else . He would . He will never improve , he isn’t going anywhere . Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings . Andy and Dale were very good as usual on Sunday , what a change from the FOX mess .
Truck and Nationwide much better! This is because you can turn the race car. Don’t worry though. CoT POS will be here soon for the Nationwide series and I’m sure those shite cars will trickle down to the other series (i.e. ARCA – oh know!).
Cup series – Yawn. Lead car always pulls away. I like how the commentators tried to say Montoya had the best car. He had a decent car and clean air. Clear air pulls away 99% of the time. The car is a POS.
Why even talk about this crappy series anymore until they fix the race cars so the drivers can actually race for pass instead of just giving the spot up when they have had enough.
Na$crap’s top series is the worst of them all. The other series would be way better to watch if the cup drivers were not allowed to race more than 5 races or so each year and not contend for the titles. they poo-poo the show with their “talent”, ugh.. i mean superior equipment =)
they should of named the nation race the steve wallace 200,thats how many times they showed and talked about him