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 April 13, 2010
Hello, race fans, and welcome back to our weekly TV critique. This past weekend, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series raced at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona. Meanwhile, the Izod IndyCar Series was in Leeds, Alabama near Birmingham for the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by Legacy Credit Union. Let’s see how FOX, ESPN2, and Versus fared with their telecasts.
Bashas’ Supermarkets 200
On Friday night, ESPN2 broadcast the Nationwide Series Bashas’ Supermarkets 200 from Phoenix International Raceway. Marty Reid called the race from the booth, along with Rusty Wallace and Andy Petree. Shannon Spake, in her return for the first time since the end of last year, Dave Burns, and Jamie Little manned pit road. Dale Jarrett had the week off, along with Brad Daugherty, Vince Welch, and Dr. Jerry Punch. As a result, Allen Bestwick hosted NASCAR Countdown from the Infield Studio situated outside of the track near the kink in the backstretch, along with Wallace and Petree. The latter pair exited halfway through in order to get to the broadcast booth for the start of the race.
NASCAR Countdown started off with the news of John Wes Townley’s practice crash early Friday and subsequent replacement behind the wheel of the No. 21 Zaxby’s Chevrolet by Clint Bowyer. Although Richard Childress Racing claimed that it was a precaution due to the hard hit the second-year driver took, the rumor going around was that this wreck spelled curtains for Townley in the No. 21. However, news that has been released since Friday discredited that rumor, claiming Townley will return to the car sometime before the end of the month. But that didn’t stop Andy Petree from going on the record and saying that he didn’t think Townley would ever drive the No. 21 again. I definitely think that Petree was jumping the gun here.
There was also a nice sitdown interview with Carl Edwards that was conducted by Dale Jarrett during the week. It was pretty interesting, but the problem I have with it is that Edwards is a full-time Cup driver. He doesn’t really need the extra attention from an ESPN feature. For all I know, ESPN could have put that in the bank and used it later this season when the Sprint Cup Series returns to ESPN, or even on an episode of NASCAR Now. If ESPN really wants to help grow the Nationwide Series, they would do well to profile some of the full-time Nationwide-only drivers a bit more instead of focusing on the Sprint Cup interlopers.
This focus on interlopers continued in the actual race telecast. There was a small bit of attention given to Bowyer in the No. 21, since he only had the two laps of qualifying in Townley’s backup car before the race, but much of the TV time was on the other “Cupwhackers,” Busch, Edwards, Brad Keselowski, etc. I will say that this coverage was an improvement over the race last year, though.
If you don’t remember last year’s Bashas’ Supermarkets 200 telecast, I described it as the point in which ESPN’s telecast Jumped the Shark. I even referenced the telecast when I interviewed Dr. Jerry Punch in Watkins Glen as being a particular low point of last season.
There were some other facets of the broadcast that I didn’t like. You can’t do anything about the first two cautions coming out in the middle of commercial breaks (again), but I would prefer that ESPN find a way to get us some kind of a replay before the green comes back out. Unfortunately, in the case of Michael Annett’s spin, they were unable to deliver. In fact, they didn’t show a replay of the spin until Lap 26, 11 or so laps after the incident and six after the green had come back out. This was also shown in a full screen replay while there was action on the track for position. Unacceptable. Couldn’t ESPN have used a split screen here, like what SPEED uses during Truck races, or even like how they did a brief Craftsman Tech Garage segment on the kill switch later in the race?
There was some indecision in the commentators figuring out what caused Steven Wallace to hit the wall on Lap 102, spinning out his uncle Mike in the process. It was pretty obvious to me, at least, that a cut right front tire put the No. 66 in the wall, yet the ESPN commentators seemed slightly confused. The rear bumper cam on the No. 01 of Mike Wallace showed this perfectly, yet ESPN needed a second group of replays to see make this definitive for their announcing crew. I don’t know why.
Another gripe that I have—and not just with Friday night’s race, but with a lot of ESPN’s races — is that the network seems to have additional angles that catch incidents, yet never show them on-air outside the race recaps that Allen Bestwick narrates from the Infield Studio. In this race, ESPN actually had footage of Clint Bowyer stalling early in the event, causing the second caution, but didn’t show it until well after halfway.
Post-race coverage was relatively brief, as ESPN had gone overtime due to the seven cautions and the red flag following the big stack-up on the frontstretch. There were interviews with the first four finishers — Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, and Brendan Gaughan — as well as a check of the point standings. The unofficial results only appeared in the scroll during the aforementioned interviews.
Subway Fresh Fit 600k
On Saturday night, FOX broadcast the Sprint Cup Series’ Subway Fresh Fit 600k from Phoenix International Raceway. Due to NASCAR’s new policy of standardized start times for the 2010 season, the beginning of this race was moved up by an hour. In an attempt to make the race finish around the same time as last year, the race length was extended to 600 kilometers. There was not a whole lot of discussion about this extra length; after all, the race was still only 375 miles in its entirety (as opposed to, say, 500 miles at Darlington in a couple of weeks).
With the Cup show running on a Saturday night, pre-race coverage was shortened back to a half-hour instead of the full hour that FOX has provided us for the first six races of this year (and will provide us next weekend in Texas). As a result, some of the more irritating features of FOX’s Pre-Race (A Slice of Pizzi, anyone?) thankfully took the week off. However, a substantial amount of pre-race was spent unveiling the brackets for the DirecTV Head2Head Showdown, FOX’s picks competition. FOX really should have started it before the NCAA Tournament ended, to be honest. I really don’t care about it right now, and it took away time that could have been used to talk with drivers.
During the actual race telecast, the Head2Head Knockout actually affected how the pit reporters were disseminating their information. Under the third caution of the day (for Brian Vickers’ crash), information about individual cars was presented in the context of their First Round matchups (which start next week in Texas). I guess that this setup will be the norm over the next six weeks or so.
I would argue that this 32 driver competition could give some teams outside of the loop more exposure. However, if it dominates next week’s telecast, I won’t be happy about it.
This week, only two of the races’ nine cautions flew during a commercial break (Cautions 7 and 8). Still too many, in my opinion. The idea for the informational scroll during commercials from last week remains.
I also believe that FOX wildly underestimated how long this race was going to take. According to my on screen guide, the race telecast was supposed to end at 11pm EDT. Well, the race ended at about 11:40pm EDT. As a result, FOX provided us with the bare minimum of post-race coverage. This included interviews with the podium finishers — Newman, Jeff Gordon, and Johnson — followed by a quick check of the point standings. The unofficial results, like on ESPN2 on Friday night, were confined to the scroll along with some production credits. Some closing thoughts from the broadcast booth closed out the telecast.
I think that FOX seriously had no clue that this race was going to take almost three hours and 50 minutes. This was mainly because… there had never been a Cup race in Phoenix that has taken anywhere near that long before. As for their analysis, there’s been plenty of criticism I’ve heard directed towards the network over the past few days; but keep in mind this was not the most exciting race ever run. I think that FOX did a OK job showing the action, but I do agree there just seemed to be something missing this week. I can’t really put my finger on it … but everyone did seem just a little bit off.
Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by Legacy Credit Union
Sunday saw the Izod IndyCar Series make their 2010 debut on a natural terrain road course with the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by Legacy Credit Union at Barber Motorsports Park. Although this is the second race of the season that has been televised by Versus, it is the first one to be done with the full crew on site. The Sao Paulo Indy 300 in March was done seemingly with only one Versus on-air personality (Jack Arute), and the trio of Bob Jenkins, Robbie Buhl, and Jon Beekhuis were sequestered in a studio…somewhere.
As a result, Versus more or less debuted their 2010 setup in Leeds, Alabama on Sunday. Coverage began with Versus’ pre-race show, IndyCar Central, hosted by Lindy Thackston. On the surface, this pre-race show is relatively similar to NCWTS Setup on SPEED. IndyCar Central started off with a brief montage of the previous race from St. Petersburg, Florida before getting into interviews.
There was a nice feature on Will Power where they showed some of his training regimen, i.e. carrying a “slosh pipe” on his shoulders, his nutritional habits, and spare time activities — drumming with friends. Quite interesting to watch.
There was also a quick tour of the Barber Racing Museum, which overlooks the race course and has the largest collection of vintage motorcycles in the country. Very impressive-looking place. Versus also had some fun with Grand Marshal Charles Barkley trying out the steering wheel out of Ernesto (E.J.) Viso’s No. 8. Obviously, Barkley is a bit too large to get in one of the cars, and there is no way in heck that Barkley could wear E.J.‘s driving suit — as shown on the air.
With that, we were on to the main broadcast. The trio of Jenkins, Buhl, and Beekhuis were in the booth, while Jack Arute, Lindy Thackston, and Robbie Floyd were on pit road reporting. Arute also serves as a “race strategist” for the coverage, which means that he gets more air time than Thackston and Floyd during races.
During the actual event, Versus did a fairly good job of showing the on-track action, much better than in Sao Paulo. Of course, it also helps that Versus had their own crew there in Leeds as opposed to making use of overseas TV production. Also, there is not as much Danica emphasis in Versus coverage as there is in ESPN’s. For example, Danica wasn’t even interviewed during IndyCar Central, mainly because she was starting 19th and had struggled most of the weekend. Based on that, you could argue that Versus’ coverage is more equitable.
Versus also has the Full Throttle setup in which the race telecast continues in a small box on the left side of the screen while the commercial plays. The idea behind this was technically created for Turner Sports in 2000 and dubbed “No Brakes Coverage” at the time. It’s a nice way to keep track of the action while also showing ads. The first full course yellow came out during one of these breaks when Takuma Sato’s No. 5 stalled on track. On a NASCAR broadcast, we would have had to wait until the break ended to see it.
I do have some technical things to touch on. Versus unveiled a new pointer graphic on Sunday. In essence, it’s just like the FoxTrax that has been in use since 2001. Personally, I could go either way on this, but it definitely looks like a rip-off graphic. Another new graphical thing is a pop-up window where the drivers introduce and talk about themselves. If you took out the “talking about themselves” part, it would look a little similar to the athlete introductions before the bobsled competitions that SPEED used to show during the winter. I don’t like this feature during green flag action. In the future, I would prefer that Versus only uses it during cautions, if at all.
Post-race coverage was decent. There were interviews with some of the top finishers (winner Helio Castroneves, Will Power, Marco Andretti, Scott Dixon, and Castroneves’ race strategist, Tim Cindric), a check of the unofficial results, and a point check. There was also some post-race analysis from Jenkins, Buhl and Beekhuis before Versus left the air.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend is a busy one, with most of the major racing series in action. The Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series will be at Texas Motor Speedway for the Samsung Mobile 500 and the O’Reilly 300. In addition, those two divisions will be joined by the ARCA Racing Series presented by Re/MAX and Menards for a new event, the Rattlesnake 150.
Meanwhile, on the west coast, the American LeMans Series and the Izod IndyCar Series will be racing on the Streets of Long Beach, California.
Friday, April 16:
Saturday, April 17:
Sunday, April 18:
I will provide critiques of all three of the events at Texas Motor Speedway in next week’s edition of Talking NASCAR TV. The Izod IndyCar Series and American Le Mans Series events from Long Beach will also be covered, but in next Thursday’s edition of the Critic’s Annex in our Frontstretch Newsletter.
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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Kudos to ESPN for the last 50 laps of green lap racing with no commerials. If we are going to slam them for to many commerials, we need to praise them when they give us 20+ min of green flag racing WITH NO commerials. Yes there are still many things they can improve. Next I will probably complain about the commerials.
The IRL on VS was a very good broadcast , lots of different slants on stories , not focusing on only one or two drivers . My only suggestion would be to tone down the on screen grahics a bit . Too much info can be just as distracting as too little .
Mark, I wouldn’t call all 3 commentators in the booth stooges. DW can be a hand full, there have been many times when I wish he just didn’t talk. Larry Mac is better than DW, I can stand him more. Mike Joy on the other hand is very good. The guy knows his stuff, and provides good commentary. The problem with fox is they dumb down the commentary so the “casual fan” can figure things out. They need to take a look at formula 1 broadcasts. Very technical, no cheesy stupid crap, they talk about racing both on and off the track. That is what I want to see.
The F1 broadcasts should be the model for all network auto race broadcasts . Another race broadcast i really enjoy are the NHRA shows , not Paul Page , but Mike Dunn . Mike is extremely knowledgeable about every facet of drag racing , and as far as i know has never shilled for any one driver , team , or sponsor .
I like the idea of an F1-style approach to commentary on NASCAR broadcasts (to that end, both Varsha and Hobbs have worked on NASCAR broadcasts before, although I don’t believe that Varsha was in the booth for that). I struggle to see how that would look, though. It would be exciting to watch, though.
The Indy Car race will start after the Cup race but it will also end before the Cup race is over. 2 or 3 hours is perfect for a race. The Texas borefest this weekend will approach 5 hours.
I can’t really comment about the FOX broadcast on Sunday. All I could see were ads, promos and commercials with a little racing thrown in. All I know is from now on I will be recording the races, even if I am home to watch them. That way I can watch the race in half the time and skip through all the bull. Mike Joy deserves better than what he’s had to work with.