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 · Thursday December 10, 2009
Hello, race fans. Hope you had a great start to the holiday season! After a few weeks off, it’s time to give a little NASCAR TV update on what’s gone on so far this offseason. Quite a few pieces of news have actually broken on the TV front since Homestead, so let’s get right to it with a quick recap of what went down…
First, on Wednesday, Showtime officially announced a new, weekly series called Inside NASCAR (not to be confused with the Inside NASCAR that aired on TNN from 1995-2000, which was a continuation of Inside Winston Cup Racing). It will premiere Wednesday, February 10th at 10 PM. This will be a one hour show dedicated to NASCAR, put together in a way that’s similar to Inside the NFL, which also airs on Showtime. The series will air weekly for a total of 38 episodes, part of a two-year deal with a team of announcers and analysts TBD (although Showtime insists they’ll be familiar faces from FOX, TNT, and ESPN broadcasts). It sounds nice, but Showtime is only available in a limited number of homes, so many fans may never actually see the show.
HBO is also getting into the game with 24/7 Jimmie Johnson, a four episode series that will go behind the scenes with JJ as he and the No. 48 team prepare for Speedweeks. If you’ve seen any of the 24/7 series that have chronicled preparations for major bouts, you might have an idea what to expect: an inside look at how everyone involved in the lives of Johnson, crew chief Chad Knaus, and owner Rick Hendrick play a part in shaping their focus and competitive drive heading to the biggest race of the year. Three episodes will air prior to the Daytona 500, and one will wrap up during Speedweeks itself, with the premiere episode scheduled for January 26th at 10 PM.
The question of Cup race telecasts is also starting to become a bit more of a hot topic. NASCAR.com had an article on the issue posted Wednesday, revolving around the Talladega telecast and how ESPN’s commentators (Jerry Punch, Dale Jarrett, and Andy Petree) talked about the action on the track. Apparently, it wasn’t just Ramsey Poston at NASCAR who was unhappy with the ABC telecast (he infamously ranted about it on the NASCAR Says Blog at nascar.com). It seems NASCAR executives weren’t pleased, either, with the lack of objectivity from the commentators. Here at Frontstretch, we touched upon this topic in Mirror Driving a couple of days after the race, and basically came to the conclusion that what they did was essentially a violation of journalistic principles. Now, I’ll admit the action wasn’t quite what we expected it to be. Commenting on radio transmissions (which were played on air) from drivers like Tony Stewart, who said he was bored, is certainly fair game. That would technically be considered a “fact.” Still, all journalists have to be careful to keep their own biases from dominating the telecast. Bestwick said it best when I talked to him earlier this year: “Once you say something… it’s out there. You can’t take it back.”
On a non-NASCAR (sort of) note, SPEED recently inked a three-year deal with AVESCO (Australian Vee Eight Supercar Company). This will allow for next weekend, tape-delayed coverage for the Australian V8 Supercars. I’m not sure what my readers think about this move, but to me, this is a “run around on your side” bit of news (like Homer Simpson did once). I’m really happy that I get to see my V8 Supercars on TV again, as it’s been two years since they’ve aired on SPEED. Before this deal, the only way you could watch Bathurst (the Super Cheap 1000, the biggest touring car race in all of Australia) in the United States was by watching it on a stream at justin.tv.
This move more than likely came about because of Marcos Ambrose coming into the Sprint Cup Series. Prior to coming to the United States, Ambrose was a two-time champion of the V8 Supercars. Admittedly, the first I’d heard of him was an embarrassing incident in the GMC 400 (GMC does not mean General Motors’ GMC) in Canberra in 2001, when he lost his left rear tire with three laps left in Race 1 of a doubleheader. The tire rolled down a hill, jumped up in the air after hitting a curb, and landed on top of a single strand pile of tires. Pretty funny to look at.
These competitions are a GM versus Ford affair, conducted in 3,000 pound production-based sedans with 600+ horsepower V8 engines. I think you guys will like it. Highlighted coverage of the last round of this season, the Telstra 500 (which was split into three races) from the new Homebush Street Circuit in Downtown Sydney (held on December 5th and 6th) will be shown on Sunday, December 13th at 1 PM EST on SPEED. Note that Ambrose is supposed to make an appearance in the Seven Network booth during the race.
In addition to the TV-related news that has broken in recent weeks, I’ve still got some leftover critiquing to get through. I never got a chance to judge “Quest for the NASCAR Sprint Cup,” which is a half-hour weekly series that aired during the second half of the 2009 season at 11 PM Tuesday nights on Versus. Due to the ongoing spat between Comcast and DirecTV over subscriber fees and channel placement, a substantial number of readers of this column (based on the number of homes that Versus is in, 20 percent of you or more is not at all out of the question) probably had no access to the show at all. Apparently, this is a series that SPEED actually passed on at some point earlier this year, which allowed Versus to jump at it and diversify their motorsports programming (which currently consists of live telecasts of IndyCar Series races and tape delayed telecasts of Indy Lights races).
The 11 PM timeslot was likely designed so that it would air after live sports telecasts (NHL games) finished for the night. It’s still on a little late, to be honest, so it’s tough for some fans to stay up for… I’ll give it some penalty points for that. However, it’s a very quick turnaround for this type of show. It originally aired on November 24th, just two days after Johnson wrapped up the title in Homestead.
Aside from that gripe about the timeslot, which is outside of NASCAR’s control, the rest of the show came off to me as being similar to Beyond the Wheel. What’s Beyond the Wheel, you ask? Well, at one point in 2005, the Thursday edition of NASCAR Nation was dedicated to Beyond the Wheel, which was a slickly produced recap of the previous week’s race, with voiceovers and interviews. Whenever I watched it, I thought the program was fairly well put together.
I echo those thoughts on Quest for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, even though it has a much tighter focus on the championship (sometimes too much so). The show is glossy, well put together, and includes exclusive (I think) interviews with main principals. In this case, since I’m basing this off the Homestead episode, they had plenty of quotes from Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus. In other weeks, it would be different people in the comfy chairs talking about the race.
The show effectively chronicles the entire weekend using radio chatter and conservations outside of the car to help tell the story. In addition, there is usually an overarching theme. Not surprisingly, on the Homestead episode, the theme was “Dynasties.” In between showing still frames of great teams or great individual athletes, interview footage of Johnson, Knaus, and other drivers discussing the idea was shown. After awhile, though, I will admit that I found this storyline a little annoying, as it just seemed the show was piling it on rather thick as far as the “four straight titles were concerned.” While I understand a desire to reach out to new fans, there should have been an assumption most people watching already knew what Johnson was about to accomplish (and by the time this show aired, already had).
But despite that minor complaint, I think this half-hour show is fairly good. It just flew by when I was watching it, which doesn’t necessarily happen all that often when I’m taking notes on shows for these critiques. As of right now, I am not sure whether this show will return for 2010, or if it’s just a one-time deal. If it does come back, I hope it’s for the full season…
Also, recently, NASCAR held their season-ending banquets. The Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series banquet was held November 23rd in Miami and shown on tape delay December 4th on SPEED. That same night, the Sprint Cup Series held their banquet at the Wynn in Las Vegas. Now, I’ll be honest with you guys. I’m not a fan of banquets, either live or on television. They bore me to tears. However, since I’m a NASCAR TV Critic, I’m beholden to my readers to watch them and give my thoughts. We’ll start with the big show for the Sprint Cup Series.
Now, many of you have likely read about the mess that was the planning of Champions’ Week from various online sources. The lack of promotion (of the week itself) was quite sad, and it was really quite amazing that NASCAR took so long to name a host. Frank Caliendo signed on to host the banquet last minute, and a small collection of acts complemented him on stage. Was that enough to add a last-minute injection of energy to a night that’s traditionally a bit of a snoozer?
The quick answer is: not really.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. The coverage started out with Steve Byrnes and Jeff Hammond hosting what amounted to a one-hour pre-banquet show. This show featured a review of the season using video clips, some discussion of the evening, and Jeff trying to describe what the wives were wearing to the banquet. I’ll admit that I found Jeff’s attempt to be Joan Rivers (or her daughter, Melissa) to be kind of funny, because it clearly did not seem natural and was very out of place. Oh, well; SPEED doesn’t pay Jeff Hammond to talk about dresses. (When you think about it, the only clothing he talks about on a regular basis are firesuits and Nomex.) Now, under normal circumstances, some interviews would have been nice here because it sort of seemed like the drivers were just arriving at the time. However, truth be told, they were already inside eating whatever the Wynn provided for dinner. We just had no idea because a schedule of their night was not noted to the viewers… that’s penalty points right there.
Furthermore, it seemed that the broadcast was roughly 20 minutes behind the actual banquet. Apparently, this is an improvement from last year’s telecast on ESPN Classic … but it’s still a delay nonetheless. You can’t stop attendees from Twittering and posting pictures online during a live event, and that causes confusion for fans who found out through a tweet things they wouldn’t see on TV until several segments later.
Due to the short notice for the banquet, NASCAR relied on old standbys and effectively whoever they could get to fill the entertainment portion. John Pinette, the evening’s comedian, worked the banquet last year. He was OK, but I’m not a comedy critic. Since I skipped watching last year’s banquet, I had actually never heard of him before.
For the musical acts, the first act was Escala, an all-female string quartet which played Palladio (the song that used to be used in commercials for De Beers, the South African diamond company). This seemed to have nothing to do with the sport and was just added for filler, although their performance was pretty good. Of course, for full disclosure, I played the violin for eight years and actually played an arrangement of Palladio in the String Orchestra for a concert when I was in high school. Also, the instruments they played were quite elaborate pieces of art. But, I’m not here to critique musical instruments.
Of all the performances, the one by Brooks and Dunn was probably the best of them. I’ll admit right here that I’m not a fan of Country Music, but their performance was the most relevant of the night and was very well put together.
Caliendo had a couple of monologues and bits to himself that got an OK response from the crowd, but not overwhelming. Yes, the John Madden and George W. Bush impressions came out to play for a little while. I think that with the short notice, he couldn’t get all of his best material out there, and it showed. Caliendo disappeared backstage when the real banquet ceremonies commenced, allowing Krista Voda and/or Mike Joy to handle the podium duties. This is something that they did well on Friday night.
Something that definitely needs to be looked at for the future is the overall length of the banquet. The total length extended well over four and a half hours, longer than an average race. Jimmie Johnson didn’t get to make his on-air speech until well after 1 AM EST, when most of the NASCAR fan base had fallen asleep. Granted, the sport has fans all over this country, but a good number of them live on the East Coast. No wonder why so many people skip out altogether on this experience each year…
Even with the issues described above, ratings are up for the banquet from last year. NASCAR themselves pulled it off of ESPN Classic 23 days beforehand and gave it to SPEED, mainly because of ESPN Classic’s shrinking carriage. For next year, though, several other changes need to be made to make it more TV-friendly. Most of the changes are on NASCAR’s end (promotion-wise) and will get done because they’re smart enough to realize that they can’t plan something like a banquet last minute. On SPEED’s end, they need to coordinate with NASCAR to have the actual banquet start at 9 PM EST and have that on television LIVE. Also, the event should be shorter. Three hours should be the max… maybe less than that. Put the focus back on the drivers, as maybe they don’t need a celebrity host and Joy and/or Voda could just host the whole show. I’m not sure what the principals involved in the sport would prefer, but they should have a say.
Before the Sprint Cup banquet started, SPEED provided tape-delayed coverage of the combined Nationwide and Camping World Series banquet from the Lowe’s Miami Beach Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida, where Krista Voda and Rick Allen co-hosted. As with the Sprint Cup banquet, the head table was right up on stage. Of course, with two series being represented here, there were two champions’ tables on either side of the stage, and the broadcast started off with the introductions of the winning teams. After a commercial (quite short, I might add), there was a “mystery” presentation of the Most Popular Driver Awards to Ricky Carmichael (for the Camping World Truck Series) and Brad Keselowski (for the Nationwide Series). This was known to us by the point that this aired on SPEED, but not on November 23rd, when the banquet was held.
After commercial number two, the presentation of the Raybestos Brakes Rookie of the Year awards were made. First, Johnny Sauter came on stage and did a sitdown interview with Allen and Voda, then Justin Allgaier followed suit. These segments seemed to look like they were shot before the opening of the show occurred, but I’m not really sure. 12 days is a long time to be able to fidget with a broadcast…
After another break, the top 5 introductions began. These introductions were done in a similar fashion to the Rookie of the Year intros in that there would be a graphic display, then a brief montage of the driver. Rick Allen would then call the driver up to the stage, and a mini three-way interview would begin between the driver, Allen, and Voda. While the interview was being conducted, the big screen on the stage showed either statistics from that driver’s season or clips of them at the track.
This process was done in alternating series order, meaning that the fifth place Camping World Truck Series driver (Colin Braun) came up on stage first, followed by the fifth place Nationwide Series driver (Justin Allgaier). After that, it was the fourth place Camping World Truck driver (Todd Bodine) and so on and so forth.
After the second place drivers came up on stage and did their interviews, there were some speeches. First was the representative of the championship winning Camping World Truck sponsor, in this case, Longhorn Tobacco’s Charlie Kivett (although Hornaday had other sponsors during the season). Series Director Wayne Auton then introduced Championship-winning crew chief Rick Ren and gave him a Victory Cigar, which he then dropped after he failed to put it in his jacket pocket. After that, Mike Helton introduced championship winning truck owner Kevin Harvick to come up and give his speech.
Following the trio of speeches, it was time for Camping World Truck Series Champion Ron Hornaday Jr. to come front and center and accept his accolades, which, in addition to the championship trophy, included multiple season-long awards (the Cup equivalents of which were handed out at the NMPA Myers Brothers Luncheon the day before the Sprint Cup banquet), a championship ring, and a necklace, described as a “spouse gift.” After the gifts were handed down, Hornaday made his speech.
After another break, the speeches and awards for Kyle Busch’s team were shown, effectively in the same order that it was done with Hornaday and KHI (CEO Jim Sexton spoke for one of Kyle Busch’s primary sponsors, Z-Line Designs, before Series Director Joe Balash introduced crew chief Jason Radcliff and then Helton introduced car owner J.D. Gibbs. Kyle Busch then came front and center, accepted his ring (no spouse gift because he’s not married to his girlfriend, Samantha) and made his speech, where he made a couple of jokes and seemed genuinely pleased with himself, even self-deprecating at times. Finally, the championship trophies were awarded and the show was over.
This banquet telecast comes off to me like a telecast of a truck race, to be honest. It’s the utilitarian version of a postseason celebration, and I liked it. Two hours is about right for a banquet, and it never seemed to drag (unlike the Cup banquet.) There were also no musical guests, comedians, or anything of that nature. The only “funnies” that were made were during speeches. I’m still not a fan of how they combined the banquets, but this format with one banquet for each series would be fine in the future.
That’s all for this critique, which went a lot longer than I thought it would. As of right now, I am not 100 percent sure when the next critique will run on Frontstretch, as we’re scaling back to a more intermittent schedule during the offseason. So if there’s no pressing TV news to write about between now and the end of the month, let me be the first to wish you a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season!
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