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
Monday March 3, 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.
Talking NASCAR TV · Phil Allaway · Tuesday January 26, 2010
Hello, race fans. It’s been a long winter, but I’m back for another season of critiques, commentary, TV news, and other random musings. But, before we start, there are a couple of things that I need to discuss.
First off, some Frontstretch news. I am expanding my areas of critique for 2010. Non-stock car racing telecasts will now be included. That means that you’ll get my thoughts on race telecasts for series like the Rolex Sports Car Series (Grand-Am), the Izod IndyCar Series, and the American LeMans Series. The first of these races to be critiqued will be the Rolex 24 next week. Early on in the year, these will be included in the regular critique. However, later on in the season, they may be moved to a new Thursday critique that will be exclusive to the Frontstretch Newsletter. This is because the critiques will get way the heck too long (and let’s be honest, I have seen comments both here, and at The Daly Planet (when I did the ESPN Behind the Scenes article) that my articles are too long. Bill Simmons Syndrome, if you will.)
On the news front, SPEED has officially announced the cancellation of This Week in NASCAR after 14 years. ‘Tis a shame. Even with all the problems the show may have had, it was still a good watch. There have also been wholesale changes in SPEED’s programming from the track. Kyle Petty will have a much more visible presence on SPEED this year. In addition to NASCAR Smarts (which I still think I would whoop tail on, despite it being unprofessional to go on the show since I’m a critic and a member of NASCAR’s Media Corps), Petty will appear on NASCAR RaceDay and NASCAR Victory Lane, in place of Jimmy Spencer.
In TWIN’s place in the 8:00 PM Eastern timeslot Mondays will now be two new shows. At 8:00, a new Monday edition of NASCAR in a Hurry will air. Knowing what the Sunday edition of the show is like, it may end up resembling the Sunday evening edition of Inside Winston Cup Racing (TNN days).
Then, at 8:30, Spencer has been given a brand new show entitled “What’s the Deal?” All we know about the show is that Spencer’s hosting, and that (according to SpeedTV.com) he will be “…sharing his opinions on racing and other matters.” My first thought when reading that is how he’s going to make it through an 8:30 timeslot, because when Jimmy gets going, the bleeps might have to be used. Sounds more like something that would work at 10 PM to me… but anyways, I’ll watch this with an open mind and give you a critique later in the year. I’m sure some of you might not be very high on 30 minutes straight of nothing but Jimmy, though.
Also, Inside NASCAR’s personality list on Showtime has been officially announced. Kyle Petty had been rumored to be on that show as well; however, Michael Waltrip from the recently canceled TWIN will be on the panel instead along with Randy Pemberton, Brad Daugherty, and host Chris Myers. The show premieres February 10th, and I’ll have a critique ready sometime in March (likely during that big off-week after Atlanta). Also of note, for those of you who do not have Showtime, the show will be available online through Showtime’s website.
Also in the past week, there have a couple of rants regarding the media, and particularly, TV coverage. Since I’m a critic and I must hit all the angles, I feel that I need to comment on them.
First off, back on January 17th, SceneDaily.com’s Jeff Owens posted in a blog about a brief conversation he had with ESPN’s Rusty Wallace. In that chat, Wallace mentioned his disdain for criticism of his work. Specifically, Wallace said, “I love doing TV. The thing I hate about TV is the comments about the job I do. I hate that part of it. I hate the Internet, I hate the blogs, I hate all that stuff.”
Wallace continued to say that other former racers that now work in TV also share this view.
I was going to originally concoct a quick response to this statement for the Newsletter last week because I viewed this as a personal attack on me (even though I was not mentioned by name), but decided to hold off (mainly because I kind of made himself sick from thinking too much). But, here it goes.
Rusty, I feel that race fans and members of the media (including myself) that are well informed of your tendencies on television have every right to compliment and/or criticize you for your performance in the booth.
However, it is my opinion that making comments (positive or negative) about someone has to have supporting evidence. You can’t just claim that someone bites, and then not give any evidence to back that up, or make any suggestions as to how to improve. For example, I personally don’t care that you sometimes refer to race cars as “hot rods.” This is something, like Darrell Waltrip’s infamous “Boogity! Boogity! Boogity!” refrain at the beginning of races on FOX that nobody could force you to stop saying on air since you’ve been using the term for so long (at least 10-15 years, I think).
The main issue that many people have with you on air is a potential bias towards your own race team (Rusty Wallace Inc., RWI), and particularly, your son, Steven. I understand wanting Steven to do well; what parent doesn’t want that? I should qualify that by saying that I don’t have kids, but I understand the feeling of wanting the best for someone close to you. However, the issue here is that Steven may be getting a little more on air coverage than he really deserves as a result of you being involved in ESPN’s broadcasts.
This type of issue has created problems in sports telecasts before. When Ned Jarrett was still working for ESPN and CBS, he dealt with this for years with his son Dale racing. For the most part, he kept it professional, and apologized for the rare instances where he overstepped his bounds (Ned’s call of the end of the 1993 Daytona 500, albeit a classic, is an example of this). You need to find a happy balance here. I think you’re almost there now.
However, going the completely impersonal route is generally not a good idea either. Bob Griese did this when calling his son Brian’s games when Brian was playing Quarterback at Michigan (Griese would refer to his son as simply, “the quarterback”). Yes, it came off as OK on television, but it created some family strife.
Now, I’m not going to sit here and claim that your job is easy, Rusty. I know it’s not. I know the kind of preparation that goes into a race telecast, and just the prep on your part is not dissimilar to the kind of output that grad students have to do on a weekly basis. The difference is that you don’t have to write papers. Instead, the race telecasts are your tests. Having to do all that prep while having your own Nationwide Series team and other responsibilities on television is no easy feat.
The one thing that I’m generally unsure of here is the level of criticism that you receive from other media members (other than myself and John Daly) and fans. In my columns, I stress that fans be courteous when talking about media personalities and/or sending e-mail to TV partners. The general idea is that fans would be far more likely to get feedback by keeping their anger down, and being more constructive. Of course, I cannot speak for everyone.
Last week during the NASCAR Media Tour, NASCAR.com’s Joe Menzer did an interview with longtime car owner Jack Roush. During said interview (unprovoked by Menzer, by the way), Roush went off on a rant. During the rant to end all rants, Jack said this:
If you look at our sport and the way it’s reported, and the way the communications box and the television box works in relation to the rest of what’s going on, there is not a sports activity in the world that’s got better critics and more knowledgeable critics than NASCAR does as we go to competition in front of the fans. We have not had the level of support from the TV studio box that the other sports have.
I would hope that FOX and ESPN and everybody else really think about what they are doing. We had more passes last year than we’ve ever had; we had more passes for the lead than we’ve ever had; we had more different winners than we’ve ever had; we had more cars finishing on the lead lap than we’ve ever had. The competition is great. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t subject to criticism for every move that NASCAR made or every move that a team made. But sometimes it sounded that way, coming out of the communications [or television] box.
Effectively, what Jack is saying here is that members of the media, specifically those who work for NASCAR’s TV partners, are making NASCAR out to be worse off than it actually is. The AMP Energy 500 at Talladega November 1 is a likely prime example of Roush’s point. This is a race that had 58 lead changes, one of the highest number of changes in the entire decade, yet the race was derided almost universally during the event by ESPN commentators, and afterwards by almost anyone with a voice in the industry.
Jack continued on to state that some analysts seem to have axes to grind, perhaps dating back to their driving careers. Wallace’s aforementioned comments above could be considered along those lines.
Do I think Jack’s right here? To a point. It can be argued that ESPN’s commentators were up front in showing their disdain for the action during that race at Talladega. However, NASCAR’s TV partners have typically withheld from outright criticizing NASCAR’s actions – at least not on air. I don’t really recall a moment that they did.
Moving on, as you may remember from last October, NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports, with the help of Pepsi, bought time on ABC to air Together: The Hendrick Motorsports Story right before coverage of the Pepsi 500. I stated at the time that the version aired on ABC was cut to heck and back, and thus, I could not critique it until I got a copy of the full story.
I don’t have John Daly’s pull, so I can’t get freebies. As a result, $18 later (including shipping), I have a copy of Together on DVD, and it’s time to critique it.
If there’s one thing that I can tell you right off the bat about Together: The Hendrick Motorsports Story, it is this. They talk about family a lot. It’s the overarching theme of the film, and you rarely go more than a few minutes without this being addressed. Even narrator Tom Cruise is part of this family, having had a 23-year friendship with Hendrick himself.
The story is generally in chronological order, with a couple of deviations. The start details Hendrick’s upbringing in rural Virginia and it ends in the present. All segments of the film feature interview footage with friends, family, drivers, etc.
It’s interesting to see Rick’s mother talk here. Apparently, when the team picked up its first victory at Martinsville in 1984, she joked with him at the time on the phone, claiming that Geoff Bodine (the team’s driver at the time) blew an engine, then coming back and telling him that Geoff won. It’s still pretty amazing that the team won after only 8 races in the series.
The film reveals some interesting facts that fans may or may not have known. For example, Hendrick co-owned a Budweiser Late Model with Robert Gee in 1983 that Dale Earnhardt took to Victory Lane at Charlotte. Another notable moment is when Jeff Gordon talked about moving into Rick’s house (and later, Ricky’s house). Gordon doesn’t directly mention why this was the case, but based upon the time period, its not too difficult to figure out that it pertained to Gordon’s divorce from his ex-wife, Brooke.
Unlike the version of the film shown on ABC, Tim Richmond is, in fact, in it. He wasn’t in much of it, but he was there.
The film is about 50 percent upbeat. A fairly significant chunk of the film is dedicated to the Plane Crash in 2004 and the fallout and sadness caused by it. You can easily tell that its still very hard for almost anyone to talk about it without breaking down.
However, there are some glaring omissions from the film that I wish were either covered at all or covered better. First off, at the end of 1996, Hendrick was diagnosed with Leukemia, and indicted for mail fraud for underhanded dealings through his Honda dealerships. The film decided to focus on the Leukemia, which I understand since it was far more serious of an issue, but they essentially glossed over the indictment, which led him to serve house arrest for the entire 1997 season. Hendrick’s only contact with the team during that time was a cell phone call after races. There was also no mention at all of the fact that Hendrick was pardoned by President Clinton in December, 2000 as part of a blitz of pardons in the last few weeks of Clinton’s presidency.
Another omission was Ricky Rudd’s entire tenure with the team. For those of you who are relatively new to the sport, Ricky Rudd drove the No. 5 for Hendrick Motorsports from 1990-1993, replacing original driver Geoff Bodine. 1990 was run with Levi Garrett sponsorship, and Rudd drove with the Tide colors the last three years there. In that time, Rudd won four times (and famously had a fifth taken away at Sears Point in 1991), had 35 top 5 finishes, 64 top 10s, and won four poles. He also finished second in points in 1991 – but he didn’t even get a mention. They essentially skipped ahead from Waltrip’s Daytona 500 win to Gordon’s entrance into Cup in 1993.
Ken Schrader also barely got a passing mention in the film. Schrader did get interviewed and briefly talked about not replacing Tim Richmond with the team (if anyone, he replaced Benny Parsons). In addition, he briefly mentioned his preference for driving for Papa Joe (who technically “owned” the No. 25). However, there was literally no mention of Schrader past that. Mind you that Schrader drove nine full years for the team. There was also no mention as to how Schrader’s tenure ended with the team either. According to Schrader in his book, Gotta Race!, he blames his departure from Hendrick Motorsports on his last crew chief there. Schrader simply wanted to have a car setup that he could be comfortable with. However, his crew chief would order changes to the car even after he had parked it for the day because “this is what Jeff Gordon is running.”
Also, there was no mention (other than one picture shown early in the film) of Hendrick’s sports car team. This is of lesser importance than the other omissions, but I’d like to have seen some kind of reference to it. For those of you completely in the dark here (which is probably quite a few of you), Hendrick Motorsports ran an Camel GT team in the mid-1980’s that ran “Corvette GTP’s” with GM Goodwrench backing. In reality, they were rear-engine Lolas designed to look similar to Corvettes. Drivers included Doc Bundy and South African Sarel van der Merwe (who subbed for an injured Darrell Waltrip in the Winston Cup race at Watkins Glen in 1990). Very fast cars.
In addition, Hendrick Motorsports had some involvement with GTO-class Camaros in the 1980’s, through the Peerless Racing team. This car, No. 76, carried Levi Garrett sponsorship at the time and was driven by Jack Baldwin.
As it stands, the film is 94 minutes long. It’s generally enjoyable, but I think it probably should have been longer, maybe 2 hours. Had the film included the aforementioned stuff, I think it could have easily reached the two-hour mark.
On the DVD are also some Special Features of note, including ten clips that talk about certain aspects of the team’s history. Some of these clips feature excerpts of interviews that were completely excised from the film. I noted that there was some censorship of logos in the short pieces about the Rainbow Warrior Checklist (most notably, the Valvoline logo on Ray Evernham’s uniform was blurred out). For the record, HMS has been using Quaker State products since 1996.
Personally, I wish that this film had been put out in a set for an inexpensive price, like what was done with Dale a couple of years ago. If you remember that, it was a six DVD set that I purchased at Wal-Mart for $19 early in 2008. It included the movie, interviews, bloopers, and deleted scenes. And that was just the first two discs. A photo gallery was also included, along with the 1998 Daytona 500 and 2000 Winston 500. I just saw copies there last weekend for $13. Dirt cheap for what you get.
I would have liked to have some classic races included in this theoretical set, too, like the 1989 and 1997 Daytona 500’s, and maybe a couple of Tim Richmond’s victories (like Richmond’s two victories in 1987 after returning from “double pneumonia”), along with additional interviews.
That’s it for this week. This weekend is the beginning of Speedweeks from Daytona! Yee-haw! I’m ready and raring to see some automotive action out on the track. Saturday afternoon sees the start of the Rolex 24 at 3:30 PM Eastern. However, unlike last year, the start will not be carried on FOX. Instead, race coverage is scheduled to start with a half-hour pre-race show on SPEED at 3:00 PM EST. The race is scheduled to start at 3:30 PM, with coverage scheduled to continue through 10 PM. SPEED will then return Sunday morning at 7:00 AM EST to show the last eight and a half hours of the race, as well as a half-hour post-race show. That’s pretty extensive, but not the most they’ve ever had (In 2001, the Rolex 24 was aired Start-to-Finish on Speedvision). I can also tell you that free timing and scoring will be available on Grand-Am’s website (grand-am.com) for the entire race (which they’ve done since at least 2003) and will definitely come in handy during the middle of the night.
Also next weekend, SPEED will televise live coverage of the Toyota All-Star Showdown from Toyota Speedway in Irwindale, California. On Friday night, SPEED will come on-air from Irwindale at 10 PM EST for a pre-race show that includes a recap of qualifying for the K&N Pro Series race. There will then be a 100 lap Super Late Model race, followed by a LCQ (Last Chance Qualifier) for the main show on Saturday.
On Saturday night, SPEED will once again come on air at 10 PM EST. During this slot will be a pre-race show, and then the 225-lap K&N Pro Series race, which is currently scheduled to go off at 10:25 PM EST. After the K&N Pro Series race is over, there will be a 75-lap late model race. Look for critiques to come next week…
In the meantime, 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 politely rather than emails full of rants and vitriol.
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I can’t say i’m surprised to learn that Hendrick left out many of the people who got him to where he is today . He doesn’t like sharing the spotlight . And even if he has to , he makes sure he gets credit over others in the organization . Geez , just watch him elbow his way into victory lane celebrations so he can have his face on tv and thereby be credited with having a hand in the victory .
You could have limited your whole article to the Jack Roush section and it would have been an OUTSTANDING article.
Always appreciate your columns – maybe the addition of the Thursday portion can increase brevity – sometimes its too much info to handle!!!
The only good I have ever had to say about Hendrick has come from his contributing two of his aircraft to the Haiti relief effort. His crews are all volunteer and Hendrick is absorbing all costs. One recent flight brought 46 orphans back.