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 September 14, 2010
Hello, race fans, and welcome back to Talking NASCAR TV, where I look into the race broadcasts that we all watch (or try to watch) and dissect them with a fine tooth comb. This past weekend, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series raced at Richmond International Raceway. Also, the Rolex Sports Car Series held their season finale on Saturday afternoon.
Before I start… some news. On Friday, ESPN announced a new five-episode series entitled “Riding Shotgun: Kyle Busch.” This series will follow Kyle Busch around as he prepares for the first Chase race next weekend in New Hampshire. The series was originally supposed to premiere Monday night at 8 PM, but the U.S. Open Men’s Final between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic (delayed due to rain and lightning) aired instead. I will be covering this series in the future; look for its debut to come after NASCAR Now today at 5:30 PM.
Virginia 529 College Savings 250
On Friday night, the Nationwide Series returned to RIR to take on the three-quarter mile oval for the second time this year. This race would also serve as the third and final race for the new Nationwide car, scheduled to roll out full-time on the circuit beginning in February 2011.
NASCAR Countdown was a typical affair. Since this event was the first with the “new car” in four weeks, ESPN took some time to refresh viewers about the vehicle and its characteristics. However, this explanation was not really necessary as a month isn’t enough time for people to “forget.” However, a rule change recently announced removed rear sway bars from the cars, so a quick trip to the Craftsman Tech Garage was in order so that Tim Brewer could explain what was abolished.
There were pre-race interviews with Clint Bowyer (this move was interesting, since they had literally just talked to him less than five minutes earlier on the Sprint Cup qualifying show), Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, and Kyle Busch. Note there are no Nationwide Series “regulars” not driving a Cup car listed among them. Preceding the Kyle Busch interview, ESPN played the now-infamous Kyle Busch sponsafier ad where he was dressed up in the pink driving suit and talking about Bunnies, Kittens, and little baby seals because he was driving that scheme — although modified to fit NASCAR and Z-Line Designs’ preferences. Just for the sake of putting it out there, that scheme should have been run Saturday night.
A slight mix-up by Brad Daugherty made reference to Aric Almirola, who was driving the No. 7 for JR Motorsports Friday night. Brad accidentally mentioned that Aric would be driving that car for the entire 2011 season, which led people online to theorize that JR Motorsports had cut ties with Danica Patrick. Whoops. Almirola will be in the No. 88 next year, not the No. 7. Last I checked, Danica Patrick is still in play for next year, part-time in the No. 7.
Race coverage was up and down for ESPN. There were good battles for position on track that ESPN showed to viewers, and the broadcast booth seemed to be into the race very enthusiastically.
I liked the fact that ESPN postponed their scheduled commercial break on Lap 34 to show Tayler Malsam’s spin on the frontstretch, which brought out the second caution of the race. Of course, ESPN then squandered that goodwill by missing the restart from the same caution due to still being in a commercial. Ouch.
It gets worse, though. That wasn’t the only time they missed a restart. The next time the caution came out, it flew during a commercial break, and ESPN missed the restart because they were in another break. Nearly the entire third yellow flag period was spent in commercial.
Post-race coverage was relatively typical. There were six post-race interviews (Kevin Harvick, Reed Sorenson, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski, and Trevor Bayne). I’d say coverage of this race went OK overall.
On Saturday afternoon, Grand-Am’s Rolex Sports Car Series returned to Miller Motorsports Park for their season finale, the Utah 250. The usual group of Leigh Diffey, Dorsey Schroeder, and Calvin Fish were in the broadcast booth.
The start of this telecast was very weird, to be honest. There was a brief introduction to the broadcast, with clips of past incidents and on-track action, and then, the green flag. I’ve never seen a live Rolex Sports Car Series race come on the air this way… and I’m not really a fan. It’s like they joined the race in progress right at the beginning. I know it’s the last race of the season, but I cannot subscribe to this setup being used in the future. It looks quite amateurish, bush league, and so on. The track map (sponsored by Burger King) was shown right after the first commercial break, approximately five laps into the race.
Having said that, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t like the commentary. As I’ve mentioned multiple times this season, this trio is an enthusiastic bunch in the booth. The action for position was few and far between at times, but the booth made the race exciting to watch. This is generally not that easy to accomplish at Miller Motorsports Park because of the venue being so spread out. Even with a shorter configuration (3.09 miles), the Daytona Prototypes were still turning laps in the high 1:40’s and low 1:50’s. In the past, the series ran the full 4.5-mile configuration and laps were around 2:30. Lower classes were turning laps well over three minutes. For a track of that length, there were not all that many passing zones due to an overabundance of medium-speed corners.
When there weren’t any on-track battles to show, SPEED talked about individual teams and their plans for 2011, which is more or less the norm for the end of the season. Not a horrible way to basically kill time.
Post-race coverage was fairly standard. There were interviews with the Daytona Prototype (Memo Rojas and Scott Pruett) and Grand Touring class race winners (Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis). In addition, there were interviews with Chip Ganassi, owner of the Telmex No. 01 Lexus Riley and the championship-winning Grand Touring drivers, Emil Assentato and Jeff Segal. There were also checks of the final point standings for the Daytona Prototype and Grand Touring classes before SPEED left the air.
Of note here, Memo Rojas actually got to speak. If you watch Rolex Sports Car Series races on a regular basis, you will notice that Memo often stays in the background and lets Scott Pruett do all the talking. Based on that, I guess that Memo is a relatively quiet person. Either that, or he doesn’t like all that much attention and prefers for his driving to do the talking. However, he does have something to say, and it’s good that SPEED finally let him get in a few sentences before Scott went ahead with his whole “Hi to my family at home” spiel that’s legitimate, but so cliché by this point that other drivers have mocked it.
I enjoyed watching the Grand-Am race from Utah. I hope that they never pull what they did at the start of the telecast again, though. It’s a shame that they’re done for the season; only the Petit le Mans remains for ALMS, and that’s next month.
Air Guard 400
On Saturday night, the Sprint Cup Series returned to Richmond International Raceway for the 26th race of the season, the Air Guard 400. As this event was the last race of the “regular season” before the Chase, I was going into this race weary of the telecast due to Chase overload. Mind you, that was even with very little chance of any movement both into or out of the Top 12 – Clint Bowyer held a 117-point lead over his competition with one race to go.
Unfortunately, another opponent of late season Saturday telecasts reared its head: College Football. ABC had football starting at 3:30 PM Saturday (here, it was Florida State-Oklahoma). Despite the fact that this game was not remotely close, coverage continued until the end. I understand this move only because the Heidi Game proved that you absolutely cannot leave a football game early. Granted, it was 1968, but that doesn’t matter. People would be insanely angry.
As a result of this coverage, NASCAR’s pre-race show was very limited. The only driver that was interviewed prior to the start of the race was Clint Bowyer, 12th in points entering the race. The only feature that ran was a brief piece about Denny Hamlin and Kasey Kahne visiting the 9/11 Memorial, which is currently under construction in Lower Manhattan.
Our own Amy Henderson wrote in the Big Six entry in Monday’s Newsletter that Kyle Busch technically missed driver introductions and got a free pass from NASCAR. Since ABC/ESPN couldn’t get on the air from Richmond until 7:20 PM, though, there was absolutely no mention of it – and that’s something fans should have known about at some point during the night.
Since this race was run on September 11th, Richmond International Raceway had some special features to commemorate the day. Every fan was given a mini-American flag upon entering the track, instructed to wave it during pre-race, then on Laps 9 and 11 during once the green flag flew. Well, let’s just say that Laps 9 and 11 occurred during the first commercial break, so the network failed to mention the concept or show it to us in video replay; they didn’t have to. Not cool. Could ABC/ESPN had held off for seven minutes after the start of the race before their first break instead of three?
Race coverage was more or less what we’ve come to expect from the network during this part of the season. It was heavily stilted towards the Chasers. The only time you saw coverage of drivers outside of the top 5 or so was if they were a Chaser, or they were having serious issues, like Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
There was excessive talk about the Chase during the race. I’ll be the first to tell you that I really don’t care about the Chase, especially when it hasn’t started yet and nothing of real note was going to happen except for Hamlin and Johnson trying to claim sole possession of first. The broadcast booth beat the idea into viewers’ heads about Biffle locking into the Chase despite running horribly and finishing outside of the Top 30.
Early on, Marty Reid mentioned that Leffler’s No. 32 went to the garage on Lap 31 with all four brakes glowing on the car. This issue sounds like a legitimate problem on paper, albeit very early to have that type of mechanical failure. However, there was no footage shown to back this up. I wish ESPN could have broken from the grandmaster plan long enough to show us that. I don’t think the No. 32 made the broadcast at all. Also, the team had no sponsor on the car and may have been a S&P entry anyway. Now, I’m not accusing Marty of lying. I am saying that ESPN did nothing to protect Marty from potentially looking like an idiot here.
Also of note, since the race was aired on ABC, there was a different tone overall to the broadcast. Besides the constant Chase reminders, there was more of a learning demeanor used for the viewers at home. There were multiple cuts to the Craftsman Tech Garage for features during the race, including one on Lap 19 that cut away from live action. That ticked me off. You’re really going to prioritize a full screen Tech Garage feature on brakes over live action on the racetrack? You must be insane. Luckily, the split-screen returned a little later, but this concept is still ridiculous and, in my opinion, doesn’t win new fans over.
Since the race was completed in near-record time (even with the 15-lap caution for rain), there was plenty of time for post-race coverage. ESPN responded with 15 interviews. However, this actually consisted of the 12 Chasers, Joe Gibbs, Joey Logano, and Marcos Ambrose. The interviews of the Chasers (with the exception of Hamlin and Kyle Busch) were completely focused on the Chase, all but ignoring the 400-lapper just completed – what fans had tuned in to watch.
As for Logano and Ambrose, their interviews were short and sweet, especially Ambrose’s. I hate to see this happen, but it seemed like Jamie Little had very little to say to Marcos, which is a shame. As you might remember from when I talked to Shannon Spake last year, ESPN’s pit reporters get a substantial amount of information on 24 specific teams, and just basic setup information and such with the remaining cars. These teams may change from week to week, but I’m absolutely sure that all the Chasers were on that list. My best guess is that Ambrose’s No. 47 team was not one of those 24; Little seemed to bumble through the interview in a way that even casual fans at home would notice.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend is the first of the ten-race Chase for the Sprint Cup. The Cup Series will be back in action at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the Sylvania 300, where the Camping World Truck Series will provide support, along with the Whelen Modified Tour (Northern Division). Meanwhile, the Izod IndyCar Series will make their yearly trip to Japan for the Indy Japan 300. Here’s your listings for the week.
Friday, September 17
Saturday, September 18
Sunday, September 19
Right now, I plan on providing critiques of the Sprint Cup, Camping World Truck Series, and Izod IndyCar races for the critique on Frontstretch next week. The V8 Supercar L&H 500, the first race back for the series after their pointless nine-week long summer break, will be covered in 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 the SPEED Channel personally with an issue regarding their TV coverage from last weekend, please click on the following link:
As always, if you choose to contact the network 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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Isn’t the Nationwide COT going to race at Charlotte later this season?
Really glad I didn’t waste my money & time to go to Richmond. It was bad enough being bored watching on TV while doing other things around the house. I left the broadcast every time a commercial came on and I agree with you about the full screen Brewer segment. Who cares? Oh right, NASCAR is still trying to interest the “casual fan”. That would be the one who has already moved on to whatever the next hot thing is these days.
I think it’s high time a real network that actually can broadcast a race without bias or being controlled by NASCAR’s whims and whimsy stepped up.
Richmond was almost as boring as Fontana and that’s pretty bad. What use to be an exciting race has now been reduced to little more than a shill for a failed play-off system that has to rely on hype to generate artifical excitement and fails to deliver every time leaving fans frustrated, angry, and becoming less and less interested in what was once a great form of racing.
The Chase coverage has been a problem since BEFORE the Daytona 500.
How can ESPN show something and make it interesting when the product they’re given is flawed beyond anything? How can you make “racing” in a straight line fun and interesting? Nascar is boring beyond belief and trying to contrive a fake playoff system is beyond stupid. I will admit that ESPN sucks at broadcasting racing, and they seem to want to get back all the money they spent on football by overloading commercials during Nascar races. But I will continue to say, you cannot take a bad product and make it look good. Nascar is dying, fans are leaving and while Emperor Brian sits and fiddles and counts his money, Nascar will fade away and nothing will bring back the disenfranchised fan.
Kelly, if ESPN would move away from their script and let the race play out, they might put on a better broadcast. Far too often they stick to the script when their script has no relevance to the race.
Last year it was the Chase drivers and only the Chase drivers with a Jimmie Johnson love fest thrown in. Even when he was down 100 laps, he was part of the script so they followed his repairs religiously until he was back on the track. Expect more of the same. You can probably add in a Kyle Busch love fest since they all professed their love for him as Chase champion last week. (I’m anxious to see if they stay consistent with this)
The TV coverage is a major reason Nascar is losing rating to football in the fall and I don’t think ESPN really cares, since their bread and butter is football anyway