Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Phil Allaway · Tuesday March 16, 2010
Hello, race fans and welcome to the weekly critique, my 55th. Since NASCAR’s three major series were off last weekend, it makes picking out something to look at just that much harder.
However, the Izod IndyCar Series had their season opener on Sunday in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Since I like all kinds of motorsports and not just NASCAR, I naturally gave it a watch. I had heard great things about their broadcasts last season and wanted to see whether that success would carry over to 2010.
Unfortunately, it did not. I should have known going in there could be some issues, since the series was starting the season outside North America. With international races, the Izod IndyCar Series does not typically shoot their own events like the V8 Supercars or Formula One does. As a result, race telecasts outside of North America are at the mercy of the host broadcasters.
That’s something we don’t often see these days, especially since Formula One moved their race broadcast production in-house. Today, all Formula One races with the exception of the Japanese Grand Prix are shot by FOM (Formula One Management) and licensed out to individual networks. (There is one exception: the Japanese Grand Prix broadcasts, which are still produced by Fuji TV.) Those local affiliates then take the video feed and either add their own announcers, or make an agreement with another country to “share” resources. For example, Australia often uses the British commentary feed for its broadcasts.
But things weren’t always so smooth in F-1. Prior to series head Bernie Ecclestone taking the TV production in-house, race broadcasts tended to be a mixed bag. Quality was literally dependent on the country, with no consistency amongst the staff each week. That led to a total crapshoot, although the Western European race broadcasts were generally considered to be the best produced while the newest entrants to the schedule (Malaysia, for example) were considered to be the weakest. These broadcasts also suffered from the “hometown factor,” with local drivers getting an inordinately high amount of coverage just because they grew up there.
With those pitfalls in mind, let’s delve into why the IndyCar broadcast showcased those same faults … and more.
VERSUS’ coverage started off tame, with a half-hour pre-race show setting the stage for IndyCar’s 2010 season debut. They began with a recap of Sunday morning’s qualifying, scrapped from live television the day before due to a very slippery surface in the Sambadrome (the start-finish straight). To VERSUS’ credit, they did not bad mouth the organizers for the problems and lauded the series’ efforts to fix it. Other drivers were not so forgiving (Danica Patrick complained it was “sad” that she couldn’t run full throttle on the start-finish straight.) But, that thankfully faded as an issue once the green flag dropped.
Yet the more I watched of this show, the more my opinion dropped of VERSUS’ coverage. As the pre-race show continued, it became painfully obvious it had been taped about an hour before air, with a sizable technical issue blowing their cover. When Jack Arute’s pre-race interview with Will Power was supposed to air, the broadcast jumped around, moving to an earlier interview with pole sitter Dario Franchitti and an interview that aired later on with Danica Patrick.
Speaking of Arute, last week I mentioned that VERSUS has a crew of three pit reporters at the races under normal circumstances. In Sao Paulo, it appears that Arute was the only one of the three pit reporters (and one of maybe two or three VERSUS crew members) that made the trip to Brazil. Even commentators Bob Jenkins, Robbie Buhl, and Jon Beekhuis didn’t make the trip, instead broadcasting from a studio back in the United States. As a result, the network was forced to make constant use of Arute, to the point that people actually found him annoying. I’m fine with his coverage, but I will say this much: the amount of work thrown onto his shoulders made this broadcast awkward and abnormal. Thankfully, the next VERSUS broadcast (April 11 from Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Alabama) will be back to normal, so Arute won’t have as big of a role as he did in Sao Paulo.
As for the race coverage itself, this production was plagued by bad camera angles and quick cuts away from the proper action. Those moves cannot be blamed on VERSUS, but on the home broadcaster who clearly struggled throughout. What a shame, because the action itself was actually pretty good by street course standards, and the booth was up to the task for broadcasting this action. However, the substandard pictures left us viewers (and the VERSUS commentators) guessing on certain issues, like when Simona de Silvestro pitted her No. 78 and lost three laps in the process. All I know was that she was slow on the track before pulling into the pits – no clue what happened there, and the TV announcers were scratching their heads right along with me. That’s not good.
Also, VERSUS debuted a new, slimmer looking scroll on Sunday. I find that this scroll is easier to read and doesn’t have the issue of a font that constantly “switches back” on itself, like the previous one did. The previous number font is still in use on VERSUS’ IndyCar Non-Stop graphics; but since these numbers are bigger, and thus easier to read than the ones in the scroll, I don’t really think that font will be altered. All of these were positive changes, but I’ll stop short of giving them an “A” here. The network struggled graphically in some other areas, including failing to have a Non-Stop number font for de Silvestro’s No. 78 – despite the fact they went to a break with her running in third place. I know it’s their season debut, but that is kind of sad. Hopefully by the next time out, that gets fixed.
For those of you watching the race on IndyCar.com’s website, there were some serious issues caused by a brief power outage right before a red flag for rain, ultimately forcing the event to adhere to its two-hour time limit. Not only did this knock out timing and scoring (just like it did on TV), it basically made the service inoperable. However, unlike the TV telecast, the problems persisted well after the restart. This was just plain unfortunate. Power outages/interruptions happen sometimes, as those of you reading this in the Mid-Atlantic and Eastern Massachusetts can relate to… but still …
Post-race coverage was relatively brief. There were interviews with winner Will Power, Raphael Matos, a look at the unofficial results, and some analysis.
To sum up the telecast, what we were treated to on Sunday is definitely not typical of what to expect from VERSUS, a victim of budget cuts and host broadcasters that weren’t up to task. However, the Izod IndyCar Series has suffered from low television ratings for basically as long as I can remember, despite fairly good racing, and what we saw on Versus probably won’t help things much.
Last year, the series was stuck in the middle of a protracted duel between Comcast (owner of VERSUS) and DirecTV. This resulted in VERSUS being pulled off DirecTV on September 1st while the two companies were at an impasse in discussions for the new TV deal. As of Sunday, an agreement hadn’t been reached, so Sunday’s race was available for DirecTV customers only through IndyCar.com. However, on Monday (just before press time), a deal was finally reached between Comcast and DirecTV. This will allow Versus to return to Channel 603 on DirecTV at the same service level as before, ending a 6 1/2 month stalemate. Terms were not released, but IndyCar fans can breathe a sigh of relief knowing they’ll be able to see their favorites live on TV once more.
Fast Track to Fame
Back on March 1st, SPEED premiered their new talent competition, Fast Track to Fame. The show, hosted by Michael Waltrip and Charissa Thompson, is designed to showcase various talents, from singers, musicians, and everything in between. Admittedly, I thought that Thompson was going to be the main host for this show, with Waltrip backing her up, but that was not the case. Waltrip is the main host for this show, with Thompson joining him on stage at the beginning and the end of each broadcast. In addition, Thompson interviews the contestants briefly before they go onstage. This is her bread and butter, since she comes from a sideline reporting background.
The format for the show is as follows. There will be six acts that will perform in front of a live audience at the SPEED stage at whatever track the Sprint Cup Series is at that weekend. Those acts are all judged by a panel of three judges: Riki Rachtman, radio host and SPEED contributor, talent recruiter Kathy Leigh Carter, and a guest judge. In Las Vegas, Hermie Sadler served as the guest judge, while Kyle Petty was the guest judge in Atlanta.
The contestants perform their bit for the crowd and the judges, and after they finish, the judges give their thoughts on the performance and grade it from 0-100 (in five point intervals). The group score is the combination of the three judges’ scores. The highest two scoring contestants then face off against each other in the finals. Same rules apply here. Whoever gets more points wins the competition, and a potential talent contract.
Looking at this show, it is effectively a cable version of a competition that a track might put on for campers, with the money behind it to match. I don’t really know why this needs to be on television, but it seems that everyone is enjoying themselves, which is important. The sheer presence of this show angers quite a few SPEED viewers, who believe that stuff like this takes away from the mission of the channel, which is to showcase motorsports and automotive programming…and this show satisfies neither of those facets.
I personally don’t really care for the show. There are already a bunch of talent-type shows these days. This comes off like a cheaper version of America’s Got Talent, where people can’t get voted off the stage before they finish their acts. Some members of the MySPEED Forums claim that it is the cheesiest show on television, while others claim that it is worse than the Gong Show. Of course, unlike the Gong Show, they take this show seriously. However, I’m sure that the show has its fans. SPEED considers NASCAR programming to be its cash cow and thinks that this show could work linked up to the NASCAR train. I doubt this show will last beyond this year, though.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend, NASCAR is back in action at Bristol Motor Speedway. Coverage starts Friday with the first Sprint Cup Practice session at Noon EDT. This is followed by the first Nationwide Series Practice session at 1:30pm EDT. Sprint Cup Qualifying coverage begins at 3:30pm EDT. Nationwide Series Happy Hour follows at 5pm EDT. All this coverage can be found on SPEED.
On Saturday, coverage starts with qualifying for the Nationwide Series at Noon EDT on SPEED. That is followed up by Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour at 1 PM. Coverage of the Nationwide Series Scotts Turf Builder 300 starts with NASCAR Countdown at 2 PM. Unlike the previous two races, this race (and NASCAR Countdown) will be aired on ABC. Race coverage starts at 2:30, with the green flag expected around 2:46 PM EDT. Also on Saturday, ESPN will once again bring us coverage of the Legends race, this year known as the Scotts EZ Seed Showdown. Live coverage will air on ESPN2 starting at 5:30 PM EDT.
On Sunday, coverage of the Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 starts with the FOX pre-race show at Noon EDT. Race coverage begins at 1:00 PM EDT, with the green flag expected at approximately 1:17 PM.
Also next weekend, the American LeMans Series has their season opener, the 12 Hours of Sebring. Coverage on SPEED starts Saturday morning at 10 AM, with pre-race coverage and the start of the race before breaking for two hours of aforementioned coverage from Bristol. At 2 PM, SPEED returns to Sebring to televise the remaining eight and a half hours of the race and some post-race coverage. SPEED will bring us 11 hours of coverage from Sebring. I will bring you critiques of the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races, along with the Scotts EZ Seed Showdown here next Tuesday. The 12 Hours of Sebring will be covered in the Critic’s Annex next Thursday. My thoughts on What’s The Deal?, Jimmy Spencer’s new show, will be featured in an upcoming edition of The Critic’s Annex.
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 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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Regardless of the coverage quality, at least Comcast and DirecTV have ended their pi**ing contest. Now I can see the race if I choose to.
In other words, FOX provided the camera work for the IndyCar race…