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.
Phil Allaway · Tuesday February 2, 2010
Hello, race fans and welcome to entry No. 47 (No. 1 in 2010) in an open-ended series that looks into the broadcasts that we all love to watch. This weekend was the last weekend without action for NASCAR’s top three series, as Speedweeks starts in less than 72 hours.
But first, some late-breaking news (as in literally being announced while this critique was being written) – ESPN’s NASCAR Now announced on Monday’s show that they are soliciting fan opinions of certain show features and interviews through Twitter. The host (in this case Mike Massaro) will prompt you to send tweets to the program’s Twitter page in response to what you’ve seen on that episode, with certain tweets to be read at the end of each show. For example, Mike Helton was interviewed via satellite Monday, and Massaro asked fans to send tweets regarding what they thought of what Helton said. I’m not 100 percent sure on whether this interview was live or not, but apparently the reading of tweets may have been.
I haven’t had much time to react, but the first impression is I like this idea and I’m interested in how this will work later on this season.
Now, for this week’s critique:
Luckily for race fans, this weekend was not completely without motorsports action with two major races. In Daytona Beach the Rolex Sports Car Series, under the guidance of Grand-Am, hosted the annual Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway. The Continental Tire Series (formerly the Koni Challenge Series) also held a race, the Fresh From Florida 200. For those of you wondering, Fresh From Florida is a slogan of Florida Citrus Farmers. That race ran on Friday afternoon in Daytona, but has not aired on SPEED as of yet. It is currently scheduled to air Feb. 13th at 7 PM on SPEED.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent, NASCAR held its annual meeting of short track racers from all over the country at Toyota Speedway in Irwindale, CA. Both events had great action for viewers to watch.
Since the Toyota All-Star Showdown was a two-day event, we’ll start with that.
On Friday night, SPEED brought us “time-shifted” coverage of the preliminaries of the Toyota All-Star Showdown. How do I know that it was time-shifted? Well, the coverage started off with pole qualifying for Saturday night’s 225-lap feature. I logged onto NASCAR’s “Home Tracks” Web site, which serves as a portal for NASCAR’s non-major touring series: the now-K&N Pro Series (East and West Divisions), the Whelen Modifieds (North and South Divisions), the Canadian Tire Series, and the Mexico Series. There, I saw that Pena had won the pole, and a write-up was already on the site before the qualifying coverage finished on SPEED.
Also, I had some issues with the way SPEED presented that qualifying session. The only way that we learned about what times were run for most drivers was when Rick Allen or Phil Parsons told the viewers. There were a couple of exceptions for maybe two or three out of the 44 cars that attempted times – but no speeds were ever given for anyone. Apparently, no one was there to plug the times into the speed formula which is easily found on Jayski’s race pages.
Also of note during the session, SPEED showed Paulie Harraka’s qualifying effort from his roof cam. I found this interesting because this is banned during Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series qualifying sessions by NASCAR. The explanation given by James “Shifty” Shiftan for this at Watkins Glen had something to do with teams not wanting their competition to know what gears they were running; but apparently, it didn’t matter on a short track like Irwindale.
Finally, there was no reference on Friday night — or Saturday for that matter — to the fact that Joey Logano was driving what appeared to be a Chevrolet with Toyota logos on it. Strange. I’m assuming that the car had a Toyota engine under the hood, and Logano’s contract requires him to drive a Toyota in events outside of the Cup Series.
Later on Friday night, there was a 100-lap race for Super Late Models. For the second consecutive year this race was shortened, this time to 66 laps due to wrecks, reaching the one hour time limit. I was incensed that SPEED never bothered to give us viewers a starting lineup for this race. Instead, SPEED showed a group of notables, interviewed the pole sitter Rip Michaels, and then started the race.
The race coverage was OK, but the overall lack of a starting grid meant that I had no clue who 90 percent of these drivers were, which is really annoying. I’d prefer that SPEED not do that again. I think I saw the names of maybe 8-12 of the 40 competitors in this event, which makes it a little hard to follow things.
After briefly interviewing Michaels, who dominated the race, SPEED moved along to the K&N Open, which determined the last six spots in the All-Star Showdown. No starting lineup was given for this race, either. Also, there was no scroll for the first half of the race, which was just the beginning of scroll issues that SPEED had for most of the weekend in Irwindale (there were also issues with the lap counter).
My best guess is that the starting lineup for the Open was based upon how those 11 drivers qualified in the main session. Also, there didn’t appear to be any mention of the actual starting grid for the feature race until Saturday night. I had to go back to NASCAR Home Tracks and take the grid off of there before the race Saturday.
Also of note, Brendan Gaughan joined Allen and Parsons in the booth for the K&N Open, or – as I referred to it – the Consi. For the other races, Gaughan was there to assist with the radio broadcasts on SIRIUS. I don’t have SIRIUS, but from what I hear, he’s not the greatest on radio.
In this setting, Gaughan was OK, although he admittedly gave a lot of his focus to the lone female driver in the Consi, Candace Muzny, who finished third and raced her way into the field. To her credit, Muzny held her own in the Consi and in the main race Saturday night, until she got involved in a wreck.
Saturday night brought the 225-lap feature on SPEED. Once again, Rick Allen and Phil Parsons were in the booth, and were joined briefly during one of the pit stop breaks by Grand Marshal Michael Rooker (Rowdy Burns from “Days of Thunder.”) Of note with Rooker, Toyota Speedway used the All-Star Showdown to also celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the release of the notable 1990 Paramount film.
This was not mentioned on air.
SPEED showed a brief recap of Friday night’s action and did four pre-race interviews. This weekend’s racing will be best remembered as the coming out party for Sergio Pena, the 16-year-old driver for Revolution Racing (via NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity). However, some of SPEED’s personnel had a bit of difficulty remembering his name. He was referred to on-air as “Sergio Garcia” on at least one occasion. I’m not the biggest golf fan, but I do know that Sergio Garcia is a professional golfer – and quite a bit older than 16.
SPEED still continued to be “short shrift” with the starting lineups on Saturday night, which ticked me off as I struggled to figure out which drivers drove which cars. Once again, please don’t do that in the future.
Having whined about all that, the coverage of the actual racing was not all that bad. SPEED didn’t have a full crew at the track for this event, so some things weren’t fully caught on camera. For example, if a Sprint Cup race has a minimum 60 cameras (remember, ESPN has between 60-76 at every Cup race), SPEED was making do with maybe 15-25 in Irwindale (this is a guess, because I’m not really sure). For example, when Josh Combs, driving the No. 9 Ford as a teammate to Jason Bowles spun out, SPEED missed what caused the multi-car crash on lap 145. The cameras only caught Combs after his car was already perpendicular to the track.
I think there was a lot of coverage given to Joey Logano and Sergio Pena, although I admit the race was more or less between the two teenagers. (Nobody else even made an attempt for the lead during the race.) There was some coverage shown further down the order, but not much – especially considering that we’re talking about Irwindale, a very competitive half-mile oval.
Post-race coverage featured interviews with the top four finishers (Logano, Pena, Matt Kobyluck and Matt DiBenedetto) and some analysis.
However, that wasn’t the last race of the night.
After the 225-lap feature, there was a 75-lap race for regular late models scheduled. This race was shortened to 55 laps due to going over Irwindale’s curfew (by a substantial amount). Under normal circumstances, a noise ordinance goes into effect for Irwindale at 11 p.m. PST, while this race ended at nearly midnight PST. Last years’ event had similar issues, which led to the races being split up and shortened. Needless to say, I was bushed once this race was over, and is likely why I slept through the first three hours of SPEED’s Rolex 24 coverage Sunday morning.
Of course, starting 44 cars for a late model race on a half-mile short track is sure to lead to a few accidents, and Saturday night was no different. Here, the camera views hurt the broadcast again because in one of the wrecks, it was unclear who actually spun out and caused two other cars to hit the wall in a futile attempt to avoid… crashing.
There were a couple of post-race interviews here with winner Tim Huddleston, who seems to be a bit of a showman, and runner-up Sean Woodside. This was followed by a quick wrap-up and then off the air by what I guess was 3:15 AM EST. Of course, I’m not really sure because at that time of night, I was battling to stay awake. Didn’t make it 20 minutes past the end of the race before passing out.
The moral of this story is it’s always good to be able to see lower divisions of racing on television. Unfortunately, at times, we have to accept a lower level of coverage in order to make it happen. Aside from the screw-ups surrounding Sergio Pena’s name, Allen and Parsons were relatively solid in the booth. The production just wasn’t quite up to their standard. I think next year’s Showdown broadcast will probably be better.
Also on Saturday, SPEED provided live coverage from Daytona of the 48th annual Rolex 24, a never-ending race of endurance. Due to the economic issues that we already know about, plus some shady stuff (for example, the FarnbacherLoles GT team shutdown due to one of the owners being thrown in prison for embezzlement), car count was down this year. The 44 cars that started the race was the lowest number since 2003. That was the first year with the Daytona Prototype class, and only 43 started the race. A GT class Porsche GT3RS won overall.
Unlike last year, the start of the race was not shown on FOX. Instead, all of the race coverage, 16 hours in all, was televised on SPEED. I personally watched 13 of those 16 hours (I missed the segment from 7-10 AM Sunday because I slept through it).
SPEED brought an on-air crew of nine for the race, who would work in shifts. For commentary, there was the usual group of Australian Leigh Diffey, and former American racers Calvin Fish and Dorsey Schroeder up in the booth. Longtime Cup fans with memories tuned towards random minutiae may remember Schroeder being involved in ESPN broadcasts of approximately one and a half Winston Cup races at Watkins Glen in the early-to-mid 1990’s, when he was often used as a “road course ringer” the way Boris Said and others are today. This booth trio is generally a very knowledgeable group, and are enjoyable to listen to. In addition, Bob Varsha and David Hobbs, who usually commentate on SPEED’s excellent coverage of Formula One races, also lent their voices. Varsha was the de facto “host” of SPEED’s coverage, not unlike the role that Ken Squier played for CBS’ coverage of the Daytona 500 from 1998-2000.
On pit road, there were two duos of pit reporters. One duo was former racer Brian Till and Kelly Stavast, while the other duo consisted of former Trans-Am racers Chris Neville and Justin Bell. These pit reporters are not restricted to the “safe” side of the pit wall, unlike during NASCAR events, and can get up close and personal with teams doing repairs.
However, pit reporters were front and center in what was likely the biggest faux pas of SPEED’s coverage. It came during Justin Bell’s interview with Scott Pruett, who was sitting in his No. 01 BMW Riley. Meanwhile, in the background, the National Anthem could be heard. Not good. As could be expected, viewers flipped out.
I’ve found over the past couple of years that nothing ticks off race viewers like disrespecting the National Anthem, regardless of whether it’s by a network, the crowd at the track, or by viewers on a forum. Some sites that stream races online have actually made a point of banning people for saying anything during the anthem. As of 7 PM Monday night, a thread entitled “Disrespect” has 84 replies on the MySPEED forum for Grand-Am. This thread is dedicated solely to this slip up on SPEED’s part. To their credit, SPEED apologized for doing that interview (that appeared to be live) during the anthem. Granted, that apology came four hours into the race, but the fact that Varsha took the time to apologize for that says something (and he would know, since Formula One fans get angry at anyone saying anything during the playing of the national anthems of the winning driver and/or constructor at the podium ceremony).
Critiquing the on-track action during a 24-hour race is much different than a normal event. This is because for hours at a time, there may not be any actual racing for position. As a result, coverage tends to follow the leaders, battles (when they occur), and storylines. SPEED did well in this regard, but Saturday afternoon’s slip-up definitely hurt the overall broadcast.
Now, while the race was on SPEED (and when they were off-air), TRG had a web stream and chat on U Stream. SPEED prohibited TRG from showing any cars on screen, but the webcast featured live radio chatter along with interviews with drivers (including Andy Lally and Bobby Labonte) and crew members where viewers could send in questions to be answered. TRG had team member Lizabeth Moses heading up the web stream for the entire race, with some breaks. I give her a big +1 for being able to do the feed all night, on an empty stomach. An unclear number of unique viewers viewed the feed (possibly 50,000?), but the highest I saw at one time was a shade over 1300 people at one time.
Why do I bring this up? Two reasons. One, viewers on that webcast were complaining that SPEED was showing way too many commercials. Seemingly every major thing happened while SPEED was in commercial, from Justin Wilson’s dash to the Garage in Hour 21, to A.J. Allmendinger’s fire in Hour 23. I understand that producing 16 hours of on-air programming is not cheap, but sometimes luck does play a role in being able to show everything live. I guess SPEED just didn’t have it. The fact that SPEED had someone put SPEED stickers on a sponsor board during the web cast also ticked some viewers off.
Also, lots of important happenings occur during the nighttime hours, when SPEED didn’t provide coverage. John Daly suggested the idea of a RaceBuddy-like setup for next year so that fans could see the action online that wouldn’t be shown on television. I’m also generally in favor of such a free service, as long as a live chat is also available. Such a format would also be welcome for the 12 Hours of Sebring next month (if possible), 24 Hours of LeMans in June, and the Petit LeMans in October. SPEED does have On-board Pass available for Sebring and Petit LeMans (Road Atlanta), but that only covers on-board views.
Post-race coverage was centered upon the teams that made the podium in the two classes. As a result, members of only those six teams (Nos. 9, 01, and 95 in the Daytona Prototypes, and Nos. 70, 66, and 67 in GT) were interviewed. However, each of those teams had multiple members interviewed, so the final total came to 20 interviews in Victory Lane. The broadcast ended with a recap of the race and a wrap-up by Varsha and Hobbs.
Generally, not a bad broadcast, but SPEED has to be careful with the anthem in future telecasts. You mess with it, you get the horns. Simple as that. That’s not even an opinion here… fans have shown that it is a fact.
That’s all for this week. In a few days, the NASCAR teams roll into Daytona International Speedway to start practice for the Great American Race, the Daytona 500. SPEED will be down there with live coverage starting Thursday afternoon at 4 PM EST, while Budweiser Shootout practice sessions will air live from 5 PM to 6 PM and 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM EST. That’s followed by coverage of NASCAR Media Day, which I currently don’t know what that will entail. I’m assuming a bunch of interviews, but we’ll see. At 9 PM is the Budweiser Shootout Grid Selection, where the starting spots will be drawn.
Friday sees the first regular Sprint Cup practices, with two sessions scheduled from 2 PM to 3:30 PM and 4 PM to 5:30 PM EST.
However, Saturday is the big day of action. First up is Pole Qualifying for the Daytona 500. Coverage is scheduled to start at 1 PM EST on FOX and will run to 4 PM with the usual FOX crew of Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds in the booth. Note that the qualifying coverage will be live. This means that some runs will not be shown on air, as opposed to the time-shifted coverage we normally see on SPEED, which allows every run to be shown in their entirety.
At 4:30 PM on SPEED is the ARCA Racing Series Presented by Re/MAX and Menards (I know, the name is unwieldy) with its season opener, the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200. Of course, a lot of attention will be given to Danica Patrick, who is scheduled to make her stock car debut in this race.
At 8 PM, FOX comes back on-air with live coverage of the Budweiser Shootout. I will provide critiques of both the ARCA race and the Budweiser Shootout. In addition, I will provide thoughts on the rest of the coverage as I see fit.
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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You are right about Irwindale – the track is very competitive. It’s too bad Nascar moved Fontana’s Camping World Truck Series race to Pocono instead of Irwindale.
You seem surprised that there were problems with the SPEED coverage of races over the weekend . You shouldn’t be . You might remember the lyrics to a song “ she gets uglier and meaner every day , but i got her boy and that makes me the winner “ . SPEED / Fox has elbowed its way into the go to network for race coverage . Only the racing has become a sham . Far more marketing than racing .