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 20, 2009
Hello, race fans. Last weekend’s races at Lowe’s Motor Speedway (soon to become Charlotte Motor Speedway once again) were marked by cold weather and somewhat dodgy conditions (both races were somewhat hampered by rain, in addition to the cold weather). This can affect race coverage positively or negatively.
Which way did the networks go? Well, before I start with the race coverage critiques, there are a couple of other things to cover. The first of these was the Hall of Fame announcement ceremony, which both ESPN and SPEED covered in varying degrees. ESPN did it with a short cut-in for live coverage of the announcement on ESPNEWS with analysis from Dr. Jerry Punch in Charlotte, who just so happens to be a voter. Punch is informative enough… but the coverage was simply too little. ESPN only showed the announcement, some analysis… and that was it. They were gone in 20 minutes or so.
On SPEED, however, the Hall of Fame announcement was the centerpiece of a two hour live show. Mike Joy and Ken Squier (both of whom had votes in the process), along with Darrell Waltrip and Kyle Petty anchored the telecast. Randy Pemberton and Wendy Venturini were also reporting from the floor after the announcement of the five inductees, which none of whom really surprised me all that much. (For the record, I considered both Frances, Earnhardt, and Petty to be locks, leaving one wild card spot open. I’m fine with Junior Johnson taking it, but I would have been fine with Pearson too).
The floor interviews were OK, although Pemberton’s with Ned Jarrett was a little rough (I think the camera cut to them about five seconds before they anticipated it, to be honest). The real fun came with the four anchors having guests up at their portable set. Brian France shows up these days at NASCAR functions about as often as the Mr. Invincibility item appears in the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video game on the NES (for reference purposes, it shows up three times in the whole game), so it was nice to see him talk about his father. Same for Lesa, who I can’t remember having appeared on television before Wednesday.
But it was the time that Richard and Lynda Petty spent on the set which was classic stuff. It was definitely a good way to spend your time right after work. Kyle was legitimately happy for his father, despite the acrimony that has played out between them over the years. Meanwhile, that story about Michael Waltrip living with the Pettys is crazy. I don’t really care that it had nothing to do with anything from last Wednesday… it was interesting.
Overall, SPEED’s coverage was a great show to watch, and I hope that with the building opening next year, that there will be more chances to do something like this type of coverage of the sport.
It is true that after NASCAR bound itself to traditions for so long, there is now a dearth of general knowledge about the history of the sport today. There probably always has been amongst casual fans, but even some of the die-hards don’t have the best knowledge of the sport’s history. Well, the Hall of Fame in Charlotte will go a ways towards alleviating that, but it can only do so much. Some have argued that NASCAR needs its own cable network like the NFL, NBA, MLB, and the NHL already do. I think that would be nice, but I question a lot of things if that were to happen.
At this point, I simply do not know whether a NASCAR Network and SPEED can co-exist. There’s only so much NASCAR content out there. Apparently, the original plan was for SPEED to be that NASCAR Network starting in 2002, but those plans fell through. Based on SPEED’s dropping of many properties in recent years, including most of their offseason programming (some of which, including the WRC and the Isle of Man TT, has been picked up by Discovery’s HD Theater), it could still be argued that they may be going in that direction eventually. Also, there’s that issue of carriage for the channel from national cable providers (if it ends up being separate from SPEED). Sports fans are sick of the stupid battles between companies and programming providers (Versus, anyone?) that do nothing but deny people the chance to watch what they want, and those exclusivity deals that tick me off so much (NASCAR needs to open up HotPass to everyone, now).
Also of note, Kenny Wallace announced on his Twitter feed on Monday that he has re-signed with SPEED for another two years through the end of 2011. Great news for fans of the Herminator, who will continue in his current capacity on SPEED.
One final thing of note on SPEED this weekend was a blatant violation of S&P on NASCAR Smarts. In this case, we’re not talking about Start and Parks, but the infamous “Standards and Practices.” Traditionally with game shows (which NASCAR Smarts would kind of qualify as), people who work for the channel broadcasting the show, are related to someone working for the channel, or people who work for sponsors of the show are prohibited from being contestants. SPEED broke this rule at Charlotte by having a relative of John Roberts as a contestant on the show. That is Bush League and should never be repeated.
Now, the Standards and Practices are a part of contracts that everyone that goes on a game show has to agree to. This dates back to the infamous Quiz Show Scandals of the 1950’s, where people were “given the answers” on shows such as Twenty One. Obviously, SPEED doesn’t really take this show seriously if they’re willing to thumb their nose at S&P. Where are the Knights of Standards and Practices? Oh wait, they’re guarding against excessive use of profanities, and for some reason, the Thai dish Mee krob.
In an unrelated note, Jeopardy! had their own issues come to light this past week. It was discovered that the third place contestant last Monday was actually a contestant on the show back in 1999, a violation of Jeopardy’s own rules. Apparently, they didn’t realize that he previously appeared. A more detailed write-up of that incident can be found HERE.
Hopefully, you’re all still with me after all that.
Now, without further ado, to the races:
On Friday night, the Nationwide Series held the Dollar General 300 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. This was an interesting race to watch, with competitive racing for positions throughout the field, in addition to a few incidents on the track.
As has become the norm for NASCAR Countdown broadcasts preceding Nationwide races, the pre-race was a rather low-key affair, with only four interviews and analysis from the infield studio. I wish ESPN would do more to bring attention to Nationwide-only drivers and teams instead of giving all the focus to Cup drivers in the Nationwide races. ESPN, for all their faults this year, is generally fairly solid when it comes to features though.
However, I still believe that ESPN needs to bring in some kind of information box to properly show the teams that take the wave around during cautions. Voicing out the cars doing it helps, but when there are a bunch of them (like the nine that did Friday night during the second caution), it gets a little confusing because the trend is to bark out the names as fast as possible.
Meanwhile, I’m starting to think that Marty Reid gets a little exasperated with the pictures that are being provided to the viewers. He exuded a tone of frustration during the broadcast Friday night. He definitely does his best to point out the action on the track, but the cameras don’t always show what he’s talking about. For example, on one occasion, Reid pointed out the three-wide racing going on back in the pack on a restart while the cameras were focused in on the leaders, who were single-file.
Unfortunately, cameramen are not exactly allowed to just shoot whatever they want to shoot, or whatever the play-by-play announcer references. If that were the case, you would definitely have a toss-up for broadcasts. They could be really good, or covered with random shots of attractive women that has nothing to do with the race (like the so-called “Boob Cam” that often appears at NBA games). As a result, what the cameras shoot is more or less the decision of Director Rich Basile, and to a lesser extent, Producer Neil Goldberg. It seemed like what they wanted, though, wasn’t exactly matching up with what Marty was looking to see.
I also wondered out loud what was going on with the updating scrolls we’ve seen this season. They weren’t updating in real time Friday night, and I have no clue why, to be honest. It was fixed for Saturday night, but the absence Friday night was notable.
I didn’t really know what to make of post-race coverage. If you look at it on the surface, using TV listings, it would say that ESPN left the air a half hour early (the timeslot for Friday night’s race supposedly ended at 11:30 PM), for seemingly no reason at all. In their post-race time, ESPN interviewed the winning crew chief (Jason Ratcliff), and six drivers. In addition, there was the typical dose of post-race analysis. I have no clue why ESPN left at 11 PM, though. None, whatsoever. Maybe they ran out of stuff to say, because as I’ve already said, they definitely weren’t in a hurry to get to anything.
On Saturday night, the Cup Series raced in the NASCAR Banking 500 only from Bank of America (yes, the name is unwieldy, probably because Bank of America probably thought it would make them look bad for advertising their bank so blatantly). This race was run in even colder conditions than Friday night (under 50 degrees at the start of the race), and was under the threat of rain early on.
Pre-race was short and low on content, to be honest. There were only two interviews (with Hendrick teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon) and no features were shown. If ESPN was not in commercial, or showing those aforementioned interviews, they were doing pre-race analysis from the infield studio. I should stress here that NASCAR was not in speed up mode for pre-race, too. It was originally scheduled to be a 25-minute pre-race show, far shorter than the others this season.
I will admit that Dr. Punch seemed to show a little bit more emotion in the booth on Saturday night than we’ve been seeing this season. While I think this is a good thing in the long run, I’m still not happy with ESPN’s notion that it was a good idea to not let Dr. Punch express himself fully in the booth. I can understand trying to play up Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree’s presence, but I do not believe that it should have been done at Dr. Punch’s expense.
Dr. Punch has plenty of experience calling sporting events. He’s done play-by-play for Cup races as far back as 1988. He did multiple Busch Grand National events over the years (I cannot give a number at this point, but if I were to guess, I’d say a shade over 70 prior to 2007). He’s done college football and college basketball, both from the booth and the sidelines. He’s been a loyal employee of ESPN for 25 years. He’s someone who rejected a potential deal with FOX back in 2000 to stay at the Worldwide Leader of Sports, hoping that someday, ESPN would re-acquire the rights to the now-Sprint Cup Series and allow him to “live his dream.” Yet we’ve actually seen Dr. Punch at his best not during play-by-play but rain delay coverage, when on-air personalities have to work off the cuff. Some think that Punch is miscast and should be on pit road, or in the infield studio. Well, I believe that Dr. Punch is under-utilized in the broadcast booth and has been operating with a metaphorical foot to the crotch this season straight from Bristol. The sooner that foot is withdrawn, the better…
The telecast showed a lot of the same issues that I, along with quite a few other writers, have pounded into the ground for much of this season. Every now and then, I read about fans making the conscious decision to not watch the races on television, opting instead for MRN Radio (if you’re lucky enough to live in an area with an affiliate, or have TrackPass). Still, others outright give up on the series until February, just so that they can stay away from ESPN telecasts. I am not really sure how common this is, to be honest, but I’ve seen sentiments along these lines on message boards over the past couple of years. I think it started sometime when NBC was still televising races (2005 or so?).
I really do think that ESPN needs to at least consider making some changes to these broadcasts in order to address the issues that have been raised this season. At this point, it could be assumed that their telecasts are actually hurting the sport. I understand the amount of commercials during the races (Hey, someone’s gotta pay for the broadcasts, which are most definitely not cheap), but the neutering of on-air personalities and outright bad camera work at times is not helping NASCAR out at a time in which they could use all the help they can get.
I really think that their on-air group doesn’t need any permanent changes, regardless of what my readership might say. However, there needs to be an outright change in philosophy for the broadcasts. This should be a change to a more straightforward style. It doesn’t need to be overly flashy. Also, as shown in the Behind the Scenes piece posted on here about seven weeks ago, ESPN insists upon using the broadcasts to show off their fully HD capabilities. HD requirements for ESPN telecasts already nixed the in-track cameras at Iowa in August (not built for HD cameras, apparently). Personally, I could care less about their capabilities despite the fact that I do watch the races on an HDTV. Yes, it looks nice, but getting up in someone’s grill does not show the whole story, and that is what needs to be worked on.
Post-race coverage was quite slim on Saturday night because the race ran almost right up to the end of the timeslot. As a result, hurry-up mode was brought into play for post-race. That’s a term that I am now going to use to describe post-race coverage where the Special Thanks and Video Courtesy credits flash on screen before the winner’s interview is even aired. There were only five interviews on-air after the race, one with winning crew chief Chad Knaus, and interviews with Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, and Juan Pablo Montoya. The point check was tacked onto the scroll underneath the unofficial results.
That is all for this week. Next weekend is a split weekend, the last one of the season. The Nationwide Series has a standalone race, the Kroger on Track for the Cure 250 at Memphis Motorsports Park on Saturday afternoon. Coverage starts with NASCAR Countdown at 3 PM EDT on ESPN2, with race coverage starting at 3:30 PM.
Meanwhile, at Martinsville Speedway, on Saturday the Camping World Truck Series returns after taking the last three weeks off for the Kroger 200 (yes, the supermarket chain is sponsoring two NASCAR races in one day). Pre-race coverage (NCWTS Setup) is scheduled to start at 12:30 PM EDT on SPEED, with race coverage starting at 1 PM. Finally, on Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series returns to the paperclip for the TUMS Fast Relief 500. Coverage will begin with NASCAR Countdown at 1 PM EDT on ABC. Race coverage is scheduled to begin at 1:30 PM. I will provide critiques of all three of these telecasts. In addition, I will also provide some random thoughts and musings that I pick up from the broadcasts over the next week.
If you have a gripe with me, or just want to say something about my critique, feel free to post in the comments below, or contact me through the email address provided on the website in my bio. Also, if you would like to follow me via Twitter, you can go to my Twitter page here. And if you would like to contact TNT, ESPN, or the SPEED Channel personally with an issue regarding their TV coverage of NASCAR, please click on the following links:
As always, if you choose to contact the networks by email, do so in a courteous manner. Network representatives are far more likely to respond to emails that ask questions in a courteous manner than emails full of rants and vitriol.
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I was one of the idiots who hounded my local cable company to carry Speed back in the early days. When the channel started it was all racing and aircraft; great stuff. They covered the European touring car events, Isle of Man TT, Formula 1, Motorcycle world events, and also regularly showed great historical motorsports stuff. Speed became in effect, my default channel. Then it all changed. It looked for a while as if it was going to become “all nascar, all the time”. Fortunately that seems to have gone by the wayside, but now most of what is on Speed is crap. I mean what serious racing enthusiast cares about customizing Hummers or Escalades for some overpaid stick and ball guy; or shows about towtrucks or some of the other garbage they have tried and dumped the past few years. If it were not for the Formula 1, Moto GP and World superbike, I would never watch. Some of the Nascar shows are amusing but they can also be very tedious in their relentless advocacy of everything the sainted ones in Daytona Beach do. I keep hoping that one of these days someone will start a motorsports channel that targets an audience of real enthusiasts. One can only dream , cant one?
I used to watch Speed all the time but that was because they actually showed racing. Nice to know that the WRC is still to be found — I will have to look for the Discovery HD channel on my lineup since I enjoyed that very much. The garbage that is shown on speed most of the time has made me a non-viewer. I agree with you that ESPN’s current broadcasting practices — Not showing the actual race and talking too much about nothing (maybe it’s a Seinfeld show and we didn’t know it) has made me avoid ESPN’s broadcasts. I use my computer, twitter, radio coverage and Trackpass to follow the race. The idea of having a race on TV is to show me the race, not whatever the current director has in mind. I just don’t get it. I have tapes of old races before ESPN got too “big” and they were great, not anything like this garbage.
You only need to look at who owns SPEED now to see why their legitimate race coverage has dropped off .. and has been replaced by lowest common denominator progamming like Monster Jam and Wrecked .
Mark, in all honesty, especially since ESPN does both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series this time of year, it is simply no longer feasible to do a race with only one or two pit reporters. The workload is just too enormous. I’m fine with the 4 they have now. I’d argue that the infield studio is not really required, though. I think that 7 people with mikes is the maximum for a broadcast, no more than 3 in the booth because people end up stomping on each other so that they can get their two cents in.
Also, with F1, you have smaller grids, teams that are much less likely to give information to pit reporters, and our race commentators aren’t on site (and haven’t been since sometime in the early 1990’s, with the exception of the U.S. Grand Prix). Not really the best comparison, although I do admit to watching all the F1 races.
As for Daytona 500’s in the 1970’s, with the exception of 1979 on CBS, none of them were flag to flag. In 1979, I think CBS had two pit reporters (Brock Yates and Ned Jarrett), but I’m not sure. Haven’t watched the DVD in a long time.
Is the problem of enourmous work loads for pit reporters a product of too many interesting stories . Or is it more likely a product of having far too many pit reporters who then have to justify their jobs by calling for every possible toss and then filling that toss with non-issues .
You know it’s funny. Yesterday I had the oppertunity to watch the 1990 Rockinham 500 on ESPN Classic. I’m not to sure if the 1990’s are considered the good ol days or not.
There was blocky cars with huge front valences that barely resembled an actual stock car.
A “race” occured on pit road and not to some line that someone painted. There was no #of crew member over the wall. I counted 10 guys over the wall on Kulwiki and Earnhardts car. There was no bobbing sign on a fiberglass pole. Some brave guy with a piece of plywood stood at the end of the pitbox praying he wouldn’t get runover or clipped. The gas can used to fill the car had the same sponsor on the gas can that was on the hood of the car. What a concept allow the team to showcase thier sponsors as they see fit. Speaking of a race on pit road Dale Earnhardt actually passed Bill Elliot on pit road and the apron before blending back in hoping to be able to catch Kulwiki and get a lap back.
Passing was hard to do unless a driver made a mistake. A car running on seven cylinders could get into and through the turn faster but not up off the corner. Which was nicely demonstrated by Kyle Petty chasing Earnhardt. The in car camera was clamped to a roll bar and shot out the winshield and couldn’t pan. Giving the viewer the driver’s point of view.
There wasn’t 30 different TV angles and special microphones planted around the tracks. The announcers had to actually talk over the race cars so you knew there were at a race. The announcers Bob Jenkins, Ned Jarrett and Benny Parson actually sounded like they enjoyed the race and allowed their emotions to flow with the race. BP got pretty excited during Green Flag stops.
The TV camera foucused on the lead cars most of the time. The camera wouldn’t always zoom in on the lead cars in the corners so you could see more cars entering and running the corners.
Note: Rockingham was the thrid to last date in the 1990 season. Phoenix and Atlanta would finish the season. Mark Martin had a 40 point lead in the Championship before Rockingham.
With 20 laps to go Alan Kulwiki had a 1 sec lead on Bill Elliot and they were in traffic. So that lead would shrink and expand. After a round of green flag stops, the ESPN director decided for 10 laps to cover the Mark Martin / Dale Earnhart battle for 11th and 12th place. 11th and 12th place was TWO LAPS DOWN. And they followed that instead of wacthing the leaders. Because they were the two that were running for the championship.
Darell Waltrip spun with two laps to go and the race finished under caution with no green white checker and no demolition derby. It just ended. And I didn’t feel robbed at all.
So let’s see.
Blocky cars, lead lap focus and championship focus. Overly excited announcers at times. 19 year difference in time. And I still love this sport.
I guess it’s just not about TV.
Althought it does get under my skin sometimes.
Just to follow up on a few of the things Mark said. Probably the most important difference between the F1 guys and Nascar is that the commentators are not shills for the FIA or Bernie Ecclestone. They discuss current controversies in Formula 1 during the broadcast and are openly critical when they think the officials screwed up or something stupid is going on. Contrast that with the lapdog attitude of most of the Nascar announcers. I swear every time i hear “and Jimmy or Tony or Dale is out of the pits with a full load of SUNOCO fuel” it sets my teeth on edge.
Yep, back in the early days of SPEED TV, it was an excellent show to watch.
And as many said above, it is but a shell of what it once was!
Now it’s programming, all of it, is “POLITICALLY CORRECT”,
I even remember the days Dave Despain was candid in his broadcasting, and then had to come out and state he can no longer say it the way it is! To much pressure from NA$CRAP!
So there went that credibility, I used to faithfully watch good ole’ Dave, but I’m telling you, I haven’t watched him in two years!
A sicko! What a waste of talent!
All because NA$CRAP treats us all like????
My guilty pleasure back in the good old days of Speed was watching the old Biker and Hot Rod movies on Friday nights. That and the cool commercials like the one where the guy in an old Vette gets pulled over and the cop asks him what was under the towel on his seat. Driver removes the towel and the cop goes off on him for having DUCT TAPE!!!! on the ripped seat.