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 September 1, 2009
Hello, race fans. This past weekend was the last off weekend of the season for the Sprint Cup Series. But, that doesn’t mean that there was no action out there on the track. The ARCA Re/MAX and NASCAR Truck Series were at Chicagoland Speedway on Friday night to run support races to Saturday night’s IndyCar Series race. In addition, the Nationwide Series was in Montreal for their annual assault on the permanent road course that sort of drives like a street course. Were these telecasts great to watch, or was there something missing? Let’s find out.
On Friday night, the ARCA Re/MAX Series had the Ansell Cut Protection 150 at Chicagoland Speedway. For reference, Ansell is a brand of work gloves sold exclusively through Menards Home Improvement Warehouse. This twilight race was quite interesting to watch on SPEED. Since the race was a doubleheader, Rick Allen and Phil Parsons, who were on site to commentate on the Truck Series race, commentated from the booth.
When I watch ARCA Re/MAX Series races on SPEED, I always notice the emphasis put on the young stars Justin Lofton and Parker Kligermann during the broadcast. They’re the only drivers interviewed before and after the race, regardless of where they start or finish. Yes, I know that they’ve combined to win two-thirds (10) of the 15 races run to this point, but I know they’re not going to be in the series much past the season finale at Rockingham. Both still deserve their due, but I think SPEED needs to put a little more emphasis on drivers not named Lofton or Kligermann.
One off-track item of note to report: Friday was ARCA’s ninth race of the year on SPEED. But only two of the remaining six races (Kansas and Rockingham in October) are even televised at all. As for the other four events (Toledo, DuQuoin, Millville (New Jersey Motorsports Park), and Salem), there may be online streaming if you’re lucky. It’s quite uncertain how much TV coverage the series will be able to get next year. The trend in recent years has been downward, and with Re/MAX scaling back their sponsorship, who knows where the series is going.
As for the on-track action, it was pretty good. I still think that some cameras that were used during the Truck race were actually disabled during the ARCA Re/MAX event. As a result, a couple of incidents didn’t have conclusive replay angles to use. SPEED depended on Frank Kimmel and his roof cam to show what happened on a couple of wrecks.
The post-race coverage was quite brief, mainly because the seven cautions caused the race to run long by about 20 minutes. As a result, the only interviews conducted on-air were with winner Justin Lofton, his crew chief Mark Rette, and Parker Kligermann, who ran out of gas on the last lap and finished 14th. Then, the coverage ended so that SPEED could start NCWTS Setup, which Krista Voda teased at one point during the ARCA race.
Right after the Ansell Cut Protection 150 coverage ended, SPEED went right into their pre-race show for the EnjoyIllinois.com 225. Last week, I referred to this race as the Chicagoland 225, not knowing that they actually had a naming rights deal done for the race. I’m sorry for that screwup.
During the pre-race show, SPEED had Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis up in the booth, which was interesting because this was the first that we had seen corporate representatives of the series’ title sponsor on SPEED this year (Lemonis later gave the command to start engines). Lemonis announced that this year’s Champion of the Truck Series would win, in addition to the typical year-end monetary awards, a brand new Class A Diesel motorhome, worth well over $100,000. In addition, one fan will also win a similar motorhome as part of a contest that starts on Sept. 4. It was a very interesting twist to the broadcast, and definitely shows Camping World’s commitment to the series. This interview was conducted live on air right after a feature was shown where Camping World had a fan event in Chicago (hampered by rain) where drivers signed autographs, and Circle Bar Racing unveiled a special paint scheme for James Buescher’s No. 10 in support of Chicago’s 2016 Summer Olympics bid.
Another feature surrounded T.J. Bell and his love of wakeboarding. Also, Bell, along with professional wakeboarder Gregg Necrason, tried to teach SPEED’s Ray Dunlap how to wakeboard. Let’s just say that didn’t go well (I kind of expected Ray to fail at that, to be honest). But still, I think it’s nice to learn a little bit more about the drivers in the series, and these features were well put together to boot.
The race actually saw a lot more green flag racing than we’ve been used to from the trucks this year, which was a great thing. Green flag pit stops cut a significant number of cars off the lead lap, leading to extensive reporting that kept us informed of all the changes. Overall, I was fairly happy with the coverage of the action out on the track and in the pits. But I do have one gripe: Michael Waltrip’s constant sponsor references to Aaron’s.
Early on, this only really came up during cautions when it was announced who got the Aaron’s Lucky Dog (Free Pass). Michael Waltrip would announce who got the Lucky Dog (Norm Benning, Terry Cook, etc.). However, he would continue with references to Aaron’s even outside of these Lucky Dog situations later in the race. Now, we know how Michael Waltrip is with his overpromotion of … everything, but I really haven’t touched upon it much this season. I think that is mainly because he’s been doing it for so long now that I’m just used to it, even though it does annoy me. It’s really very similar to his older brother Darrell’s “Boogity Boogity Boogity” refrain at the beginning of races on FOX. Darrell’s done that for almost every Cup race that FOX has televised, but after nine years of that, it’s a little worn out now. I know a lot of viewers are actually quite sick of the chant, claiming that it makes FOX look unprofessional and that it annoys them.
I, for one, am not the biggest fan of it, but I’m not exactly in a position to tell people to stop doing things. I’m not a TV executive, and these executives are seemingly the only people that are capable of rendering these edicts. However, I think that overpromotion by Michael Waltrip of his sponsors on-air can hurt the integrity of race broadcasts.
The post-race coverage was actually the most intensive of the weekend, featuring multiple interviews and post-race analysis. My general thought on the broadcast is that I enjoyed watching it. Waltrip needs to keep his self-promotion in check for these races, though.
Sunday brought the Nationwide Series’ NAPA Auto Parts 200 presented by Dodge. This race weekend was hampered by rain for most of the time. The first practice session on Saturday morning was held on a wet track using the rain tires, eventually cutting the session short because the track got too dry. Happy Hour shortly after was actually canceled because NASCAR wanted it to be run on a dry track, but the weather didn’t obey. NASCAR also wanted to have qualifying in the dry, but was unable to due to the constant rain. Eventually, NASCAR relented, allowed the teams to put on the rain tires, and conducted qualifying in the rain. This was the first time in NASCAR’s Modern Era that a NASCAR touring series has held a qualifying session for a points race in the rain. Previously, the NASCAR Special Suzuka Thunder 125 at Suzuka Circuit’s East Course in 1997 had qualifying in the rain. However, that race was an exhibition race featuring teams from many different divisions of NASCAR racing Winston Cup cars.
Since it’s a standalone Nationwide Series race, ESPN sent what amounts to a “B” team to this event. Marty Reid was back in the booth after missing the races at Michigan and Bristol, while Rusty Wallace and Andy Petree joined Reid on site. There was no portable studio at the track, so pit reporter Dave Burns hosted NASCAR Countdown. Personally, I think he did OK. The pre-race basically consisted of a series of interviews and discussions on important aspects of the race (rain tires, brakes, track position, pitting, etc.). It wasn’t all that bad of a watch, to be honest.
And, then, we got to the race.
As many of you now know, Sunday’s race was the longest (3 hours, 49 minutes) in the 28 seasons of the Nationwide Series. Nearly 41 percent of the laps (31 of 76) were run under the yellow, and the race’s average speed was slower than the average speed of my drive to Watkins Glen three weeks ago (two lane, 30 mph segments included). And, just to make the race that much crazier (and longer), it rained with 13 laps to go, forcing a red flag so that the teams could come into the pits and change their cars over to rain tires and install the necessary peripherals for racing in the rain (rain lights, windshield wipers, Rain-X, etc.). Now, I could go on about how NASCAR really should not have to order a five minute intermission so that the teams can install all this equipment, but that is not the purpose of this article.
ESPN’s broadcast team had to exhibit a lot of patience with all of the carnage that was going on out there on the track. In addition, replays were not all that quick in coming on Sunday because there was so much action. In ESPN’s defense, it is very rare that there are four or five separate wrecks on the same lap during a race. ESPN’s production staff in the video trailers on-site has to monitor multiple cameras, so it can take a while for the staff to record each camera that actually caught the wreck(s). This is why it seemingly took almost 10 minutes to get replays on Sunday.
Before the race ended, Reid thanked the viewers watching the event on ESPN and the crowd in attendance, an estimated 68,000. However, Andy Petree seemed exasperated towards the end of the race at all of the impatience and wrecking. Truthfully, though, I think everyone was exasperated by the end of that race: commentators, drivers, crews, and fans alike. Personally, I hadn’t seen craziness behind the wheel like that since Memphis in 2007, when 25 cautions slowed the event to a crawl that only just barely finished before sunset. However, despite those 25 yellows, that 250-lap race ended 47 minutes faster. Looking back, I think that ESPN did the best that they could with what they were given. Everyone was completely worn out from the long weekend and all the rain at the end of the day.
I was happy to see that ESPN was able to get Mike Helton into the booth for an interview during the brief red flag for rain-related changes (which I don’t believe was truly required, although the yellow was because of D.J. Kennington’s wreck). The only problem I had with the interview was that Helton really didn’t say all that much once they got him up there. At least, nothing I didn’t already know. I was also happy to see that Reid requested a follow-up on why Jeffrey Earnhardt went behind the wall just two laps into the race, saying, “…I didn’t think that team was supposed to be a start-and-park.” Eventually, it was shown that the team lost third and fourth gears and had to change a transmission. It really bites to have a transmission go that early in the race. My only experience with that comes from having gears missing in my transmission at the beginning of practice sessions in NASCAR Racing 2003 Season for the PC. However, unlike the game, Key Motorsports cannot simply press “Shift+R” to reset to pit road with a fresh transmission.
Due to the marathon nature of the race, the event ended an hour after the race was supposed to be off the air (the timeslot for the race ended at 6:00 PM EST). There were interviews with the top four finishers after the checkers. Also, in reference to recent weeks in which there was no points check before leaving the air, ESPN put the margin between Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch (192 points) in the area right below the scroll, which was running the unofficial results. This was actually a suggestion I made in last week’s critique. Unfortunately, no other points standings other than the top two were shown on air. Perhaps running a separate scroll for the points standings in addition to the scroll for the unofficial results could have been useful here. Had this race actually ended somewhere close to on time, perhaps some of the surprising high finishers (Tony Raines, Jean-Francois Dumoulin, Antonio Perez, etc.) could have also gotten interviews.
That’s all for this week, folks. Next weekend is Labor Day weekend. I’m sure that a pretty good number of my readers are quite miffed that we’re not going to Darlington this weekend for the (insert corporate sponsor here) Southern 500. Unfortunately, I can’t do anything about that. However, NASCAR has made a schedule change for this year, so we don’t have to put up with a 500-mile race at Auto Club Speedway with hazy weather in the 95-109 degree range. Instead, the Labor Day weekend will be spent at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Georgia, where the Sprint Cup Series will run the Pep Boys Auto 500 on Sunday night, while the Nationwide Series will race in the Degree V12 300 on Saturday night. I will be critiquing both of these events for you guys next week.
A note on the Degree V12 300. ESPN has announced that Saturday night’s broadcast will once again feature the “Backseat Driver” concept, in which there is no play-by-play man but four analysts in the booth (Dale Jarrett, Rusty Wallace, Andy Petree and Ray Evernham). I’m generally not a fan of four speaking voices in the booth, period, regardless of whether there is a play-by-play man or not. This is because I think it leads to one of three things. One scenario has the fourth guy as essentially a “4th Wheel” and can’t get anything across on air since the other three guys are too settled into their roles. Another scenario is the other extreme, where everyone is talking at once and basically nothing gets across to the viewers, who really are the most important people to these productions when you really sit down and think about it. The third scenario is more or less what happened at Michigan when one guy basically controls everything — only not in a play-by-play role.
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 ESPN or the SPEED Channel personally with an issue regarding their TV coverage of NASCAR, please click on the following links:
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Thanks for reading, and have a great week!
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I totally agree with you on the red flag to change tires. On road courses have the equipment on the cars, such as lights and windshield wipers, and let the teams decide with tires they want to run, like the other road racing series. The Helton interview was a joke, he didn’t say anything worth while. I also think they need a rule for the number of cautions you can cause! If you spin 3 times you are done! You get parked, on these road courses I think that would help with a lot of the stupid cautions at the end of races. How many times did Steven Wallace wreck?
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