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.
September brings about the beginning of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. This is something that I have generally not been a fan of in the past, for multiple reasons. Most of those reasons are not really pertinent to this article, so I won’t get into it here. However, there is one thought that does relate to the TV telecasts.
New Hampshire’s September Sprint Cup weekend was inherited by the track as a result of the joint purchase of North Wilkesboro Speedway by Burton Smith and former NHMS owner Bob Bahre in 1996. As part of that deal, the two owners shut down the 49 year old short track and split the track’s two Winston Cup dates. New Hampshire claimed the fall date, the former Tyson Holly Farms 400. Now, that fall weekend is the first weekend of the Chase. But, the Sprint Cup Series was not the only series racing this past weekend. Saturday saw three support races. The last of the three was not televised, unfortunately. But, the first two were.
First up on Saturday was the NASCAR Whelen Modified Series with the New Hampshire 100. This was the series’ second telecast of 2009 on SPEED. Back in June, the modified race was not televised, despite the cameras running during it. By popular demand, SPEED stepped up to the plate.
Contrary to what I said in the closing of last week’s critique, this race was not televised live (at least, not at the beginning). When I wrote that it would be live, I was looking at NASCAR’s own Home Tracks Web site. At the time, it said that the race would start at 1 p.m. By the time Saturday came around, the start time had been changed to 12:45 p.m. Really, I don’t blame them for moving the race up, knowing that even with the slightly earlier start, it still ran up against the NCWTS Setup.
As a result of the tape delay, approximately 10-12 laps were cut out of the telecast. SPEED went to a commercial break during the fifth caution (thrown for a crash involving Donny Lia, Chris Pasteryak, Eric Goodale, Bobby Santos III and Richard Savary). When they returned, the race had restarted from that caution, run another segment, and another spin had taken place involving the No. 46 of Eric Beers. The restart from that caution quickly followed. It’s unclear, but I’m thinking that from that point on, the telecast was live.
As for the play by play, just like at Bristol last night, Mike Joy and Dick Berggren were up in the booth for SPEED and did an admirable job upstairs. Both are very enthusiastic for the series and probably wish that it got more exposure. Of course, the series got more telecasts in the mid to late 1990’s than it does now, despite triple the number of channels available today.
This race had one “ringer” in it, the No. 7 owned by Kevin Manion and driven by Ryan Newman. My thoughts when Cup drivers moonlight in these support races are always along the lines that they might take attention away from other, more deserving teams. This was not the case on Saturday. Newman had to come from the back because Steve Park qualified the car (Newman was in New York City fulfilling Chase obligations on Thursday when qualifying took place). Of course, it didn’t help that Park had a “moment” in practice on Thursday as well. He was invisible for most of the day, but made his presence known at the front of the field.
Something that I noticed that wasn’t touched upon was the fact that the Modifieds were quite a bit slower at NHMS than I thought they would be. Pole speed, in fact, was over a second slower than the Cup Series. Back in the 1990’s, those qualifying results would have been reversed. I’d like to know what kind of restrictor plate (and yes, they run them) the cars were running.
Due to the race running very long (the event had 11 caution flags which covered just over half (51 laps) of the 100 lap distance, the race ended right about when the pre-race for the Camping World Truck Series race (NCWTS Setup) was supposed to start. Originally, SPEED was going to leave the modified race at 2:30 PM to start NCWTS Setup and interview race winner Ron Silk during the show (Joy announced these intentions to the viewing audience on air). However, there was a change on SPEED’s start to allow for a quick interview of Silk in his driver’s seat (before he got the chance to get out) by Bob Dillner. This was good to allow the interview to air inside of the race telecast. However, due to the length of the race, that was the only post-race interview that was included on the telecast.
My thoughts on this race is that while it was chock full of wrecks, the racing was excellent to watch. Probably the best on-track action of the weekend. I’m glad that I was able to see it. NASCAR really needs to come up with something resembling a TV deal for this series (and the Southern Modifieds as well). As it stands, the two races aired on SPEED this year were the first televised races for the series in years. The series is still quite popular, but without TV coverage, it is essentially operating in a bubble. It cannot grow without coverage (this is effectively the same problem that USAC currently has).
Right after the marathon that was the New Hampshire 100 ended, SPEED continued with their coverage of the Heluva Good! 200 Truck Series race. The big story in the trucks this past week was the fallout from the contact between Matt Crafton and Ron Hornaday at Gateway. I thought that the coverage of it was a little overblown during the pre-race.
However, if Crafton and Hornaday were going to let bygones be bygones, KHI owner Kevin Harvick didn’t get the message. Harvick blocked Crafton on pit road during practice on at least two occasions, and even intentionally bumped him during the race. The contact damaged the left front of Crafton’s truck, hurting his downforce, while Harvick got away scot free. This, I’m not sure if NASCAR looked into this conduct or not, but it was given some lip service from the SPEED commentary crew. Crafton mentioned over the radio that he felt that it was an intentional move by Harvick. I wish SPEED could have summoned a replay of this contact, so that we could conclude for ourselves, but I guess they didn’t catch it.
The pre-race, which was cut a little short at the beginning because of the aforementioned Modified race running long, was of the usual good quality. The supposed feud took precedence, but there were all the usual features that we’ve come to expect, presented in a professional matter by Krista Voda. There was also a feature on Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 15 Graceway Pharmaceuticals Toyota. Almirola has impressed this season in the trucks after his Sprint Cup ride (the No. 8 for DEI-Ganassi) dissolved due to lack of sponsorship. Team owner Billy Ballew is interested in locking up Almirola for the future…
After missing the previous two races due to Sprint Cup commitments, Michael Waltrip was back in the booth along with Rick Allen and Phil Parsons. Some fans were not all that happy to see Waltrip back in the booth, preferring the more professional, non-self promoting Johnny Benson in the booth. Benson is scheduled to do one more race in the booth this season for SPEED (Memphis, I believe).
Generally, this was a good race to watch, but a lot of focus late in the event was given (rightfully) to the interterm squabbles between Kevin Harvick and Ron Hornaday. Honestly, I had never seen such a conflict before in an NASCAR race. Such conduct is usually reserved for Formula 1 or sports car Racing.
The post-race coverage was maybe a little light knowing that the race had only three cautions (albeit the second one, for Rob Fuller‘s crash, necessitated a short red flag for wall repairs). There were five post-race interviews, a point check, and footage from pit road (Harvick getting out of his No. 2 truck and walking over to the No. 33 to talk to Hornaday, who he believed was holding him up.
Finally, on Sunday came race number one of the 2009 Chase for the Sprint Cup, the Sylvania 300 on ABC (herein referred to as ESPN because all sports on ABC today are referred to as being televised by ESPN on ABC). Now, I mentioned last week that I am not a fan of the TV telecasts of Cup races in and around the Chase ever since the format was created. The reasoning? It seems that a lot of the time, the Chasers are all that matters. It’s like the cameras see only 12 cars and everything else just happens to be there. It bites. It definitely creates an upper class and an underclass, which was a fear that many people had when the Chase was created for 2004.
Pre-race featured plenty of interviews, all with Chasers, and discussion of the upcoming race, completely from the Chase perspective. Marty Smith made a rare appearance on NASCAR Countdown to discuss the story that he broke on Friday where Reed Sorenson (No. 43 McCafe Dodge) admitted that RPM team executives came to him during the summer and gave him the choice of taking a buyout and leaving the No. 43, or driving the rest of the season for no salary. Smith mentioned that Sorenson is confused by the whole situation, especially since the executives came right out and said that he’s not to blame for this. Personally, I find this whole situation to be confusing too. Does “no salary” in this case mean that Sorenson is only getting a cut of the purse (which I don’t believe would constitute a salary, per se), or does it mean absolutely nothing (no cut of the purse), and maybe even no per diem for expenses? Now, I think I know why this was done. The No. 44 was said to only have sponsorship through Richmond. At that point, RPM was looking at having to make a decision as to what to do with the Nos. 43 and 44. I’m guessing that this was a way to allow all four drivers to finish out the season in RPM equipment. As short as this segment was (it almost seemed “thrown in” for good measure), it was the only part of NASCAR Countdown that wasn’t Chase centered.
Sunday’s telecast more or less reinforced my fears. The telecast was centered upon the 12 Chasers and how their exploits could change the point standings significantly, which I will admit that they did. However, it’s the first race and only 40 points separated Mark Martin in the lead from Ryan Newman in 12th entering the race. With the points that close, of course there’s going to be mass movement. If nothing substantial arises that could kill someone’s Chase hopes, like Kasey Kahne’s blown engine, then I think that the Chase factor in the broadcast should be minimal at best in this race. In other words, think of it as a break from the “All Chase, all the time” from last weekend in Richmond.
The only real non-Chase centered feature is ESPN’s Up to Speed feature. This has been criticized this season for not featuring enough drivers, but ESPN made sure to cover more teams during those segments on Sunday, which makes me very happy. Unfortunately, for many of those teams, that might have been the only exposure that they received all day (even though they might have stayed on the lead lap all day). I, personally wasn’t expecting to see the No. 34 of John Andretti in an Up to Speed on Sunday, but there he was. However, with some of the teams further down the order, the lack of background information on some of them shows (Note: Yes, they get information on all the teams. I need to stress this to everyone notable that is reading this, in case you didn‘t see the fixed section in the Behind the Scenes article. The reporters have more information on some teams than others, though.)
Speaking of substantial stuff that could kill someone’s Chase hopes, I’m thinking that ESPN didn’t spend enough time on Kahne’s engine failure. As noted on Sunday, that DNF (a 38th place finish) dropped him 161 points out of the lead. That is the difference between maximum points (victory and leading the most laps) and finishing dead last without leading. That isn’t even the biggest reason why it should have gotten more airtime. Quite a few members of the engine shop were let go this week because of the RPM-Yates merger that will see the Nos. 9, 19 and 43 using Fords next season. One poster on our live blog suspected sabotage on the part of the engine department. Of course, that would never happen because it would be the end of a engine shop worker’s career if he/she actually did it, but it is newsworthy that the team has had so much strife in the past couple of weeks.
One thing I did notice were a number of cut-ins from commercial breaks to show important goings on. I was happy to see this. The first time it happened was when Kasey Kahne lost his engine on lap 66. ESPN was about two commercials into the break when Kahne’s engine went. Later on, ESPN took an ill-advised commercial break with 60 laps to go. The thought process likely was that they thought Martin was going to keep his word and pit on lap 245. Instead, he pitted three laps early and left ESPN out to dry. That happens, unfortunately. For their cut-ins, ESPN simply waited until one commercial ended to cut back. This is unlike some of the sharp cut-ins from commercial that we have seen in the past, like the cut-ins for the “Big Ones” in the 2001 and 2002 Daytona 500’s, where they cut out in the middle of a commercial to show the wreck. It makes for a more crisp overall product, but the viewers might miss something as a result of that desire to make the telecast look better. Also, I must stress this. This can only be done during national ad breaks. The breaks with local commercials must air fully and are outside of ESPN control since they do not load in the local commercials. The local ABC affiliates do.
Post-race coverage was almost non-existent. Here’s a simple way to know that the post-race will be abbreviated. Before Mark Martin was even done with his on-track celebration, ESPN was running their series of special thanks and credits. If that stuff is running before even one post-race interview takes place, the post-race will be very short. Sunday’s was only about five minutes in length. It featured interviews with race winner Mark Martin, his crew chief Alan Gustafson, and third place finisher Juan Pablo Montoya, who was quite unhappy with Martin’s tactics. There was also a point check before ESPN left the air. There was no time to really talk about Montoya’s remarks before the broadcast ended. In addition, the race technically ended under caution because the No. 44 of A.J. Allmendinger spun on the frontstretch coming to the white flag. No replay was shown of this spin due to the very short post-race, so it was unclear to viewers as to why this happened, although fans in the grandstands would easily have been able to tell.
The post-race was non-existent because the timeslot on ABC for the race only ran up to 5:30pm. The race ended just a couple minutes before 5:30 p.m. Networks like to get off the air from a live event on time if at all possible, so this move was expected. However, at least on the East Coast, there wasn’t anything important for them to get to. Here in the Albany area, my ABC affiliate (WTEN, Albany, NY) showed a syndicated cooking show right after the race ended before going to the news at 6. I’d argue that ABC could have keep the coverage going for a little bit longer in order to tie up loose ends.
Overall, I feel that ESPN has to bring a more inclusive broadcast to the table during the Chase for next time. The Chase is not the end all, and there are 43 teams out there — not 12. The other teams deserve coverage as well. The cut-ins are fine. They can stay because seemingly, a lot of important stuff these days happens during commercials.
That is it for this week. Next weekend is Dover, a race that has been held in mid-to-late September for most of the past 40 years. The Sprint Cup Series is once again the headliners with Sunday’s AAA 400. That race will be on ABC, with coverage beginning with NASCAR Countdown at 1pm EDT. Race coverage will start at 2, with a Green Flag expected around 2:16 PM.
The Nationwide Series will be the main support series to the Sprint Cup Series at Dover for the 48th consecutive time. Their race, the Dover 200, will be aired live on ESPN 2. Coverage will start with NASCAR Countdown at 3:00pm on Saturday with race coverage starting at 3:30. The green will fly around 3:45. I have no clue why they start this race so late knowing that Dover doesn’t have lights, but they do. What happens if it rains? You’re done.
The Craftsman Truck Series will be on the other side of the country on Saturday, racing in the Las Vegas 350K at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Race coverage from Nevada will start with the NCWTS Setup at 9pm EDT on SPEED, with the race starting a little after 9:30. I will be critiquing all three of those races for next week’s write-up, along with any other things that pique my interest.
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:
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 was watching NASCAR on Speed or whatever the program with Kenny Wallace and Jimmy Spencer is, and they did a short segment about how drivers who don’t make the Chase are NOT second class citizens.
I think I heard the word “Chase” about 200 times over the rest of the show.
But if this is the playoffs, why are non-playoff teams even out there? I think there will come a day when sponsors are going to put their name on the car only up to the Chase and only beyond if the driver makes it. There isn’t any point in paying millions to sponsor a car that will only be on for a sustained amount of time if it leads or wrecks, not likely often with drivers 13th on back.
That’ll be great for parity. Hendrick will be the only team that has sponsors.
Get rid of Jerry Punch , please , please , please . There is no announcer in the history of Nascar broadcasts that has done , and continues to do , a worse job . The ONLY thing he was concerned with during the Cup race was points . Oh , and Jimmy Johnson ( how many times did he remind us of the number of championships ole Jimmy has ) and Jeff Gordon . Punch actually sounded annoyed at times when he had to talk about any other drivers . To para-phrase Punch “ if Jerry’s career ended now … “ . And then theres his Tourettes like bark to hand off to the pit reporters . What keeps him on tv is beyond me .
The modified show was great Phil , but i’m surprised you actually have to wonder why there aren’t more . I’ll let you in on a secret Phil , Nascar isn’t concerned with promoting anything that doesn’t make them a bunch of money . Think Nascar Short Track Series , think Nascar Diversity Program . If a network would pay big bucks to have the Whelen Modified races on tv , it would be there . Without a network paying big bucks to Nascar , its not very important racing .
Latest ratings as published by USA TODAY, 22 Sept 09:
Sunday NFL = 15.4
Sunday NASCAR = 2.5!!!!
Saturday NCAA Football
The fans have spoken, as they have done all year!
NASCAR DOWN 19%!!!
This is HUGE!
And only pulling a 2.5 vs. football’s 15.4!!!
And King Brian instituted “THE CHASE” to compete with the NFL!
Well Brain Farce, that didn’t work very well now did it?
Of course we been trying to tell you so! You just ain’t listening!
Maybe I ain’t the one that fell off the TURNIP TRUCK!
Maybe he resides on INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY BLVD.!
I would call the ‘chase’ crap, but I don’t want to insult crap like that =)
2.5 rating, are you kidding me? HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa. In your face Brainle$$ Fran¢e. Your Cha$e garbage is an absolute failure. Nobody in their right mind can even hope to argure in favor of it with numbers like this that prove it is not working AT ALL. Go back to what worked for so many decades you talking monkeys running the show at NA$CAR. (Well said Turnip & P on U)
Hey “NA$CRAP is dying”!
Thanks, but I now wonder where all the NA$CRAP supporters are (all two (2) or three (3) of them, whatever is left anyway) that generally jump down my throat and
Kinda hard for them to “accept” the facts!
And the FACTS are speaking for themselves!
The lineup behind King Brian is getting shorter, and shorter, and shorter!
First in line of course is Mike Helton (now there is an independent thinker), then comes Kerry Tharp, (“the what do you want me to say Brian” guy), and then the rest of the lineup, some already on their knees!
What a sick organization!
And the other news of the day that both SPRINT & GOODYEAR are close to bankruptcy!
MMMMM, could that be in part that the “typical” NA$CRAP fan DOES NOT SUPPORT the advertisers?
I know I just bought a new set of tires for my truck, making a total of 8 tires bought in the past 6 months, AND NONE HAVE GOODYEAR ON THE SIDE! (4 Pirelli’s on the Prius, 4 Firestone on the Van, 4 Hankook’s on the truck)!
AND! I used to be a GOODYEAR buyer, my Uncle worked for them. Thank goodness he is retired from there.
As I have stated time, and time again, I don’t want to experience a blowout at highway speeds like the CUP cars do all the time!
Actually I consider that “reverse” advertising! They publicize GOODYEARS as the “Offical Tire of NA$CRAP”, but you see them fail, just explode actually, in the races, why would ANYONE want to buy a GOODYEAR?
Of course it just might be that EESPN does not care about racing fans, or quality, and lets the jerks in the truck decide what flies thru the air and then requires the guys in the booth to call the race off monitors rather than looking at the race on the track. At EESPN now Quality is Job None.
what is your problem with ESPN? It’s just a tv channel. I personally think that their tv coverage is ok.
EESPN displays little respect for auto racing fans, has increasingly sloppy coverage,across the board, and several biased, mean-spirited commentators – and then keeps increasing what I have to pay cable to get a product of diminishing quality.