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 October 13, 2009
Hello, race fans. Sunday saw the fourth weekend of the Cup Series’ Chase for the Sprint Cup at a new location, as the race at Auto Club Speedway moved from Labor Day weekend to Columbus Day weekend as part of three-way switch between Atlanta, Auto Club (Fontana), and Talladega. This was designed to both improve attendance and the racing because the temperatures were far less oppressive (in recent years, it has been upwards of 105-110 degrees in Fontana, and never below 92 during the day). Did cooler track conditions heat up the action? I think so … but only by a little.
Also this past week, NASCAR announced a new procedure for standardized start times for the Cup Series. As a result of a brokered agreement across all three networks covering the sport, for 2010 race coverage of all day races in the Eastern and Central time zones will start at 1 PM (or noon in the Central time zone). Race coverage of all races in the Pacific time zone (Phoenix, Infineon, and Auto Club) will start at 3 PM Eastern (Noon Pacific), and all night race coverage will start at 7:30 PM Eastern, regardless of the local time. The lone exception to these changes is the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte. This race, because of its length, must start in twilight; so as a result, the race will keep its 5:45 PM Eastern start time.
What are my thoughts on this move? It’s overdue. The general idea behind moving the race start times back was to boost ratings. Unfortunately, it actually had the opposite effect. I’m personally sick of East Coast races starting at three in the afternoon, especially at tracks like Dover in September. Not every oval on the circuit has lights, so starting a race that late in the day leaves little to no margin for error in case of rain. It also could be argued that starting the races in mid-afternoon actually hurt raceday attendance and the racing because of the sun being a factor for much longer both on the track and in the stands, making it uncomfortable for everyone involved. I will admit that it was somewhat satisfying to see David Hill (FOX Sports Chairman) actually admit on the record that he screwed up after pushing this idea initially several years ago.
Before I get into the race recaps, I want to touch on pole qualifying from Friday a little. Now, SPEED is known for not showing the sessions live, and I understand that. They’ve described their telecasts on air before as “time shifted.” The idea behind this concept is to allow every car’s qualifying run to be seen; and generally, this has worked well.
However, the “time shift” seemed to be in a “time warp” on Friday evening, as a couple of teams had their qualifying runs cut off from the Cup Series telecast. SPEED came back from a commercial and interviewed Max Papis, who qualified 15th … except I don’t think I saw his run. Mike Wallace, who DNQ’d, also didn’t get his run televised. It was just weird, and I can’t explain it considering the network’s thorough pattern of putting every car on air.
Unfortunately, those mistakes proved to be a recurring theme of the weekend as we move on to coverage of the actual races themselves. Due to the unusual weekend television setup, I’ll start with the season finale for the ARCA Re/MAX Series, the American 200 from Rockingham Speedway. This race started at approximately 1 PM on Sunday. However, since it aired during NASCAR RaceDay from Auto Club Speedway, SPEED tape-delayed the event so that the telecast started at 10 PM ET, right after Wind Tunnel. What us viewers got as a result was a rather weird telecast.
Generally, if a tape-delayed broadcast is the only way that a race will be shown, I’d personally want it to look a little better than SPEED’s telecast did. Now, I’ll admit that I did look on ARCA’s website (and saw on Twitter) that James Hylton had been injured during the race, and thankfully, was released later Sunday evening after suffering an ankle injury. But the way that SPEED showed this incident made me very confused. They literally jumped from a replay of the No. 70 of Tony Palumbo spinning out exiting Turn 2, with Hylton passing by unharmed, to a shot of Hylton’s No. 48 with the front end destroyed and on fire. I could not figure out how this happened, and I think it left Rick Allen and Phil Parsons in the booth confused as well. It honestly made me think that they were cutting the race down so that it could fit in a two hour time slot and “Wrecked” wouldn’t be pre-empted (which wasn’t even a new episode, but a repeat).
I should note here, by the way, that Hylton and Palumbo’s wrecks constituted the fifth and final caution of the race. SPEED had gone to a commercial during the fourth caution at approximately Lap 143; then, they came out of the break with the aforementioned replays. So SPEED more or less glossed over the red flag that Hylton’s mystery wreck caused, and then showed the restart at the beginning of lap 161. I’d definitely recommend not repeating that sequence, as it left more than a few viewers simply scratching their heads at what went on.
Also, there was quite a lot of talk about how the teams were doing a great job avoiding all the slower traffic out there on the track. I’m not sure, but I’m guessing that the commentators thought that with 41 starters, this race could have been a wreckfest. But in reality, it was very similar in feel to the Spring race in Rockingham. Both races had five yellows and had mostly a green flag feel. So while there was a rather large speed differential between the front-running drivers and those at the back of the pack, everyone by and large held their lines and were able to pass without incident.
I did like Rick Allen taking what he claimed was the fan’s side in voicing out against the thought that Eddie Sharp, or one of his minions, went down to the pit of Clay Rogers (No. 54) and told Rogers’ crew chief to tell Clay to back off of Lofton. If this actually happened, then that move was absolutely Bush League. I don’t care if your team is racing for a championship, you don’t manipulate the opposition into rolling over for you, especially when it’s a completely different team than yours. I simply cannot accept those types of tactics.
Beyond those issues, though, ARCA races at Rockingham are unusual races to watch by today’s standards and quite enjoyable. People can often race their way up to the front, then drop like bricks because they burned up their tires getting there. There isn’t a race track like that in this whole country. Heck, Darlington wasn’t even like that before it was repaved. The sealer that Andy Hillenburg had put down on the track last year really didn’t change the way it races at all. It just sealed the surface, and now, that sealer is starting to wear off. I don’t know what’s going to be done to the track in the future, but the pavement is about 16 years old now. The big repave may be coming soon…. regardless, this telecast was a nice way to kill a Sunday night, but the stuff I mentioned above should be looked at to make the broadcasts better while the racing is actually going on.
Because it was the ARCA season finale, post-race coverage was a little more substantial than what we’ve seen recently. On most of the broadcasts this year, Kligerman and Lofton were the only drivers interviewed before and after the races on SPEED. On Sunday, there were interviews with Casey Roderick and Ken Schrader, in addition to interviews with Kligerman (who won the battle) and Lofton (who won the war), along with Lofton’s team owner Eddie Sharp. I don’t think Sharp was asked about the potential tampering, though. I’d like to hear what ARCA has to say about that.
Sunday was the ARCA Re/MAX Series’ last race of the season. As ARCA negotiates their television deals on a year-to-year basis, it is currently unclear how many events will be broadcast next season. Hopefully, they can increase the number of races shown, or at least keep the same number on SPEED that we got this year. Also, I hope that ARCA could possibly take on an additional media partner in addition to SPEED for additional races. Maybe not MavTv, since they have a limited reach, but someone else to help supplement the SPEED broadcasts.
On Saturday, the Nationwide Series raced the Copart 300 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA. Mainly because the race was on the West Coast, the start time was not up against the end of a college football game, unlike the last three weekends (Cup Happy Hour was the unfortunate NASCAR programming that got truncated Saturday). Of course, last weekend’s scheduling produced another problem not previously seen this season. Pole qualifying for the Copart 300 was not televised at all. Zippo. Squat. Nil. This was because of ESPN’s commitments to college football games and SPEED’s live coverage of the Grand-Am race from Homestead-Miami Speedway. I don’t understand why they couldn’t have put that coverage on ESPN Classic, to be honest, but the network chose to pass on the opportunity. They must have their reasons …
Once the race started, the coverage struggled a bit. Now, I don’t write this critiques to simply blast the networks. But I have to find something I like in there, and it was pretty tough to do that this time around. One of the toughest segments in particular, already addressed on multiple Web sites, was the epic roughness that was Jeff Gordon’s guest appearance in the infield studio Saturday. Now, this bumpy ride in studio was certainly no fault of Jeff’s. He was simply there to promote Together: The Hendrick Motorsports Story, which was aired (in abridged format) on ABC at 1:30 p.m. ET on Sunday. More on that film later. But he was put on at a bad time, during a section of the race where cars were fighting tooth-and-nail on the track for position. That caused an awkwardness from the second Gordon came on the air, as the ESPN crew stopped caring about the race and appeared to overly focus on their guest. It even started out as a full screen interview, which should never happened during green flag racing — let alone aggressive side-by-side action.
The interview went on for what I guess was about six to eight minutes, with mostly Bestwick, Rusty Wallace, and Brad Daugherty firing questions to Gordon. Sometimes, one of the commentators in the booth would chip in, but they mostly stayed quiet and let the studio take control. It was almost like a break for them, even though it was Lap 44 in the race. There were good intentions and decent questions throughout; yet slowly but surely, things devolved into a bit of a train wreck. Constant on-track action led to interruption after interruption, to the point Jeff even started stopping mid-sentence to try and comment on some of the action himself. It’s just debatable how much attention was being paid to the race during this time period by everyone else, as they seemed so focused on getting Gordon’s promotion out of the way as if it were some sort of sales item. In the process, they forgot to sell the one reason fans turn the TV on to watch them in the first place: the on-track competition.
Another issue was the post-race after one of the better events of the year filled with plenty of storylines. Unfortunately, it was very short because the event was already 18-20 minutes beyond its timeslot when the checkers were flown, leaving the network in a bit of a bind. That happens when you get ten caution flags. As a result, there were only three post-race interviews (winner Joey Logano, Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski), along with a point check. The unofficial results were only shown in the scroll during the aforementioned interviews.
That rush to get off air led to missing one of the weekend’s bigger stories. The news of Tom Logano’s credential getting pulled had to get announced via Twitter feeds, since the race coverage was long over by the time NASCAR took action. Yet the confrontation happened almost immediately after the rest of the race, an issue the network could have reported had they stayed on air as little as another five minutes. Also, I would have liked to hear from a couple more drivers who had good runs on Saturday, like Michael Annett or even Jeremy Clements. In the future, moving post-race coverage to another channel like ESPN Classic or even having an online option for continued coverage would not be a bad idea here. FOX has done this with SPEED in the past, and NBC did it with CNBC or MSNBC at one point. TNT even has RaceBuddy exclusive post-race interviews that supplement the ones already on the broadcast.
On Sunday, ABC televised the Pepsi 500 from Auto Club Speedway, which was once again a rather sparsely attended event despite the date change to a more bearable time of year (attendance was reported at 70,000, equal to last year’s date in early September despite discounted seats).
The pre-race coverage, which was actually 45 minutes this week, featured only a few interviews, all with Chasers. There was also a sitdown interview conducted by Marty Smith with Kevin Harvick. This was an interesting interview to watch, definitely the racing television highlight of the weekend. Smith did an excellent job of probing Harvick, who appeared visually frustrated while describing his season in the No. 29. Smith admitted on his Twitter feed after he conducted the interview that he thought Harvick was leaving the team for sure after 2010 (interestingly enough, that opinion has since been deleted).
As for news ‘n’ notes, the incident between Greg Biffle and Tom Logano (Joey’s father) was barely touched upon by Allen Bestwick during the pre-race. However, it was not really discussed despite being one of the big stories of the weekend. Instead, there was a performance (taped) by Foreigner that aired during the pre-race show. Apparently, Foreigner has written a song about NASCAR and decided to use a venue to shoot a music video for the song. Personally, I didn’t think it belonged.
Moving on to the race, there’s certain things that are beginning to wear on me. ESPN needs to do a better job of telling the viewers where drivers are in the order during cautions. I don’t think I’ve been this confused before during a race since permanent on-screen displays were added to race broadcasts in 1995 (By “permanent on-screen displays,” I mean constant field rundowns, or the Top 10 pylon that ESPN/ABC used from late 1995-Las Vegas, March 1998). With the double-file restarts and different pit strategies, it’s very difficult to follow which cars are restarting where. Perhaps a dedicated resetting the field before each green flag run would be a great idea to give viewers needed info on who didn’t pit, who got penalized, and who got the wave around to get back on the lead lap.
Once again, the dreaded mystery caution issue reared its head this past weekend. Three cautions during the race were thrown for debris on the track, but the debris was only actually shown in one of those cautions (the third one). Apparently, someone didn’t tell Kasey Kahne that, as he ranted about that caution screwing up his day in an interview after he crashed out of the race. On Saturday in the Nationwide race, there were another three yellows for debris. Of those three yellows, only once was the debris actually shown on that telecast (a plastic Water Bottle, like the kind you get in a 24-pack of Poland Spring).
I remember when the debris cautions became an issue in the Cup series about three or four years early in the season. FOX decided to be proactive when that occurred, trying their best to find the debris and show it to the audience. I think ESPN needs to do that now. I’m pretty sure that with 60+ HD cameras at the track, whatever debris is out there can surely be found and displayed sharply for all to see.
Just like Saturday, ABC/ESPN scurried off the air with a hasty post-race show after the red flag ate up nearly 20 minutes right near the end of the race, leaving the event within five minutes from the end of a bottom-of-the-hour timeslot. To be really honest, at times, ESPN works with those timeslots as if it’s a hard deadline. What that means is that if ESPN can complete their race telecast on time, they will try with all their might to do so as if there’s never any other options. As a result, post-race lasted a shade over five minutes, although they did squeeze in interviews with the top 5 finishers. The point check and unofficial results were in the scroll at the top of the screen during those interviews.
As for Together: The Hendrick Motorsports Story, I believe that the version that was aired on ABC on Sunday (and which will be repeated on ESPN2 on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. ET) was cut all to heck. I’m choosing not to critique it at the moment, and will wait until I get the DVD. The official release date is not for another few weeks, so it might have to wait until after the season ends before I give my thoughts on it. I didn’t get an advance copy to review like John Daly did, unfortunately.
That’s all for this week. Next week brings the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series to Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina (and after this weekend, the track will no longer be referred to as such since Lowe’s did not renew their naming rights deal with SMI). On Friday night, the Nationwide Series will run the Dollar General 300. This will be televised on ESPN2 starting with NASCAR Countdown at 7:30 PM. The race will start around 8:15 PM ET.
On Saturday night, the Sprint Cup Series returns for the fifth race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Coverage for the NASCAR Banking 500 presented by Bank of America will start with NASCAR Countdown at 7 PM ET. The race is scheduled to start at approximately 7:45 PM ET. Get used to this setup for night races, because with NASCAR’s announcement of standardized start times in the Sprint Cup Series for 2010, this will likely be the norm and not the exception. I will provide critiques of both of these race telecasts once they’re complete.
Also this week, NASCAR will announce their inaugural Hall of Fame class. The announcement is scheduled for Wednesday at 4 PM ET and will be televised live on SPEED. I’ll give my thoughts on this telecast next week as well.
Two writer’s notes to finish up: Monday marked the premiere of SPEED’s new daily show dedicated to NASCAR and other motorsports, SPEED Race Hub. I want to watch a few episodes of that beyond the Hall of Fame announcement before rendering my opinion of it, so expect something from me no earlier than the October 27th critique. It’s been described as being relatively similar to ESPN2’s old rpm2night show from the 1990’s in literature; and hopefully, that’s how it turns out to be. It’d be even better at 7 PM instead of its current 7:30 PM slot, though…
Finally, as for the Chase count that I promised, I screwed up and didn’t keep count. But, I promise I will this week.
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Well one good thing happened on Sunday . If you’re like me you forget from one lap to the next what the current points standings are . But Jerry Punch has decided to make it his priority to keep us updated . And sure enough , starting on lap 46 , he let us know ( if the race ended now ) how the Chase was progressing . And to his credit never let us go more than ten laps without mentioning the Chase in one form or another .
From what I understand, Together was originally going to be a time buy by the Nascar Media Group. Then, Pepsi came on as a presenting sponsor along with Lowe’s and the Hendrick Automotive Group. Maybe it’s better for me to wait here. Waiting will allow me to review the whole package.
The thing that really cheesed me off in Sunday’s race was the last lap coverage. There was really good racing for position in the pack and we get to see JJ cruising alone through turns 3 & 4. Thanks go out to those in charge of what we get to see. It’s so much better to read about where everyone finished than to actually get to see it as it happens. Just my opinion, but it’s another nail in the coffin. Let me stress here, just MY opinion.