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 November 9, 2010
Hello, race fans. You know what time it is. Time to take another look at the race telecasts that we all watch. This past weekend, the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series were all at Texas Motor Speedway.
Before I start, Texas also marked a first for SPEED. Krista Voda was in the broadcast booth, doing play-by-play for the two Saturday morning Sprint Cup practice sessions. How did she do? It was a little similar to watching a college football game on ESPN2 that Pam Ward is in the booth for. Even though Voda has been working on NASCAR broadcasts for years, like Ward had with football, it still takes a little getting used to having a female voice in the booth. Still, Krista did a good job up there, impressive for her first time making the switch. But acquitting herself well in the booth creates a conundrum. What does SPEED do with their practice session broadcasts? Do they rotate their on-air personalities in the booth, or do they designate a specific group to do all practice sessions from there, no questions asked? SPEED management will have to determine their direction over the offseason.
Also, SPEED made a last-minute decision to cover Nationwide Series qualifying on Friday evening from Texas. Since they were already in the booth preparing for the Camping World Truck Series race, Rick Allen and Phil Parsons provided commentary. The coverage was OK, but they left the session early to get to Trackside Live. As a result, they missed James Buescher’s pole run. I don’t believe that a stage show should be shown over a live telecast of qualifying. SPEED had a re-air of Trackside on the schedule, anyway, so they could have just aired it then in full. For the regular airing, they could join in progress, or just air something else in the timeslot as filler until NCWTS Setup came on at 8:30 PM.
WinStar World Casino 350k
SPEED’s coverage on Friday night started off with the normal recap of last week’s Mountain Dew 250 from Talladega before getting into the meat of pre-race. A montage was shown of Todd Bodine’s six prior victories before his interview with Ray Dunlap.
Bodine was wearing an unusual knit cap with what looked like a monkey on it. Dunlap took the opportunity to… impersonate the monkey. Incredibly stupid. I know that everyone wants to have fun with the broadcasts, but don’t make yourself look stupid in the process. There is a difference between having fun with your job and being unprofessional. Dunlap seems to have a knack of doing stupid things on a weekly basis, and it’s really getting on my nerves.
One feature was focused on Aric Almirola and his 2010 season. In it, Aric admits that he’s run very well this season, but that Bodine simply outran him. Nothing groundbreaking here.
The major issue I had with the Setup was the fact they held off mentioning Matt Crafton had to fall to the rear of the field for welding a broken bar back into place after qualifying; it was ignored until the very end, when they interviewed him. Crafton was the pole sitter for the race, thus, it was a rather significant storyline to sweep aside to the conclusion of the Setup and the beginning of the race broadcast itself. It should have led the show, or come immediately after the recap from Talladega. Got to have your priorities straight.
It should also be noted that Friday night’s Truck race was also available online at NASCAR.com via Truck Race Buddy, or as I prefer to call it, TruckBuddy. The same setup that we’ve come to know from the Cup races on TNT was in use Friday night. In-truck cameras on Mike Skinner and Jennifer Jo Cobb’s trucks were available for viewing, along with my personal fave, the battle cam. The plan currently is for TruckBuddy to be available for the remaining two Truck races, as well.
One of the things I noticed about the race was that it reminded me of the last time the IZOD IndyCar Series was at Texas. Of course, the trucks are nowhere near as fast as the Dallara chassis, but they race very similarly.
Post-race coverage was fairly extensive since the race ended ahead of schedule. There were interviews with race winner Kyle Busch and crew chief Eric Phillips, Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton, Todd Bodine, Elliott Sadler, Parker Kligerman, and Ricky Carmichael. In addition, there were checks of the unofficial results, point standings, and a check of the owner points battle between Germain Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports before SPEED left the air.
A solid race broadcast to watch. The SPEED booth always knows the right amount of enthusiasm to bring into a race broadcast. I still believe that Michael Waltrip may be overstepping his bounds just a little bit, but it is not quite as bad as earlier in the season. My gripes with the Setup still remain, though. Big stories have to be given their due, and SPEED chose to ignore this weekend’s for whatever reason, to their own detriment.
O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge
ESPN had an unusual 55-minute edition of NASCAR Countdown on Saturday. This length was likely due to the fact that the track insisted upon a command to start engines as close to “High Noon” as possible.
No features were shown during the 55-minute pre-race show. Instead, there was plenty of pre-race discussion in the Infield Studio. Some of the discussion was focused on Turner Motorsports’ announcement of a four-car team with Justin Allgaier driving the No. 31 full-time next season. While it’s beneficial that Allgaier was able to get a full-time ride for 2011, the team does not currently have sponsorship, plus the move does not add any cars to the series. The No. 31 that Allgaier will drive is likely the current No. 11 (The No. 10 will become the No. 30).
I took particular offense to Brad Daugherty’s assertion that the Nationwide Series is “thriving.” With the current landscape in the series, a 20 percent purse cut for 2011, and an overall lack of new blood in the sponsor core, it’s not all rosy. Yes, KHI announced that they would have CitiFinancial on a car for Elliott Sadler next year, but they poached CitiFinancial from Roush Fenway Racing.
The only benefit that I saw in the expanded pre-race coverage was the fact that there were extra driver interviews, nearly a dozen in all. Roger Penske also did a guest appearance in the Infield Studio to talk about Brad Keselowski’s season and his impending first NASCAR championship as a car owner. Hard to imagine it would take Penske 20 seasons to snag one.
A strange issue saw ESPN fail to show the full starting grid on the pace laps before the green flag flew. I had never seen this change before.
The race broadcast was actually not that bad to watch. There was plenty of side-by-side action, with a decent amount of competition shown from all over the pack. However, the booth did take offense with a couple of NASCAR’s calls. The first was the no yellow call for David Starr’s wall contact on Lap 11. Yes, it could have been construed as a way to keep Danica on the lead lap, but Petree believed there should have been a yellow. For the record, I was fine with that call. Also, late in the race, NASCAR waited a couple of laps to throw a yellow for Brian Scott shedding debris after hitting the wall. The yellow only flew after Bowyer hit something. It should have flown earlier.
Post-race coverage was quite brief due to ESPN running short on time. As a result, there were only interviews with race winner Carl Edwards and the Nationwide Series champion, Brad Keselowski. The celebrations for both drivers were also shown. Unfortunately, ESPN’s approach meant that they could not properly cover the controversy on the final restart. Kyle Busch was adamant that Carl jumped the start. Evidence showed that it was borderline. No interview was aired with Kyle, who finished second. As a result, PRN Radio got the sole post-race interview with Kyle. According to Jim Noble, only their crack production staff kept Kyle from getting a fine from NASCAR and points taken away since he unleashed a series of “F-Bombs.”
Aside from the decent on-track action, which ESPN did take the time to show fans, this production was a mediocre effort. There was nothing that really stood out from this race telecast, and then the post-race coverage was just poor. ESPN simply did not cover the stories. There is the chance that Kyle could have rejected an interview request, but they needed to talk to him after the race. Not doing it is just not right.
AAA Texas 500
Sunday, ESPN returned with another hour of pre-race programming. Since they failed to properly cover the restart controversy on Saturday when they left Texas too quickly, Rusty Wallace, who has experience in jumping restarts from the front and being punished for it, declared Edwards’ restart to be A-OK. It was a short segment, but it should have been done Saturday instead of at 2:10 PM on Sunday.
For the first time, NASCAR Countdown featured a SportScience segment. Last year, ESPN acquired the SportScience franchise away from Fox Sports. For the uninitiated, SportScience is a franchise that looks into the physics behind what you see in sporting events. I’ll admit that I’m kind of nerdy, so I like this segment under normal circumstances. I do prefer it as a half-hour show, though, as opposed to being in somewhat random segments throughout ESPN programming.
Here, the feature was focused on horsepower, which was supposedly derived from how much of a field that a single horse could plow in an hour (yep, it’s just as archaic as most of the rest of our measurements). The majority of the feature was spent jamming the number 850 horsepower down viewers’ throats and comparing it to other things, like lifting the Space Shuttle Discovery. Comparing things is nice, but I didn’t take anything new out of the piece.
The big feature on Sunday was one about Bud Moore and his military career. The segment, which fits into “America’s Heroes: Salute to our Soldiers,” ESPN’s weeklong celebration of veterans, had very little to do with his time in NASCAR. Instead, it was a great look into the life of Bud before he became a champion car owner. What was particularly striking was Bud’s description of his nightmares that continued for years after World War II. The one thing that should have been mentioned to tie the piece into the present, though, was the fact that the deliberations in the NASCAR Hall of Fame vote actually considered evidence like Moore’s military record, even though it actually preceded anything he did in NASCAR, when voting him in as a member.
The most notable segment shown during pre-race was one about the No. 48 team and their drive to succeed at all costs. Jimmie Johnson described the environment as being similar to an NFL team and claimed that it had to be this way. In fact, Chad Knaus mentioned that some crew members actually don’t want to work for the team due to their constant pressure. Admittedly, the information presented here was not really anything new, but even ESPN itself had no clue how pertinent the information would be once the race came along.
Of course, when ESPN realized the importance of their feature, they screwed up. Allen Bestwick was effectively thinking out loud about what Johnson had said on Lap 216 while the race was under green. The coverage then cut away from the action to replay part of the feature from NASCAR Countdown. Now, I understand that not everyone watches the pre-race show, but you cannot cut away from green flag racing to replay part of a feature. Simple as that.
In the race coverage itself, there was a substantial focus on the top three Chasers (Denny Hamlin, Johnson, and Kevin Harvick), to the detriment of everyone else in the field. There were constant points updates via the dropdown box off of the scroll during the race. Every time these updates are displayed, Marty Reid would have to turn away from the on-track action to say something along the lines of “Look at how that pass affected the standings!” Now, maybe there is no real difference in how often this move is done compared to, say, 1991 or 1992 with ESPN. However, it just seems more intrusive now than it did then.
This focus on the aforementioned big three resulted in ESPN completely missing the lead-up to the now-infamous shoving match between Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon. Both drivers insisted in interviews that they had been racing close together in Turn 4 the previous lap before the wreck. Where was the replay of that action? There was none, so fans had no real frame of reference for what the Jeff’s were talking about during their interviews. To be fair, Marty admitted that the booth was looking towards Turn 4 and Truex’s issues when the actual crash happened, and I can understand that since Truex was wrecking (again).
The reaction to the fight on-air did not surprise me at all. Unlike in the 1990’s, when these types of incidents were looked down upon, today, they are seen as exciting. Brad Daugherty, in particular, seemed amped up. However, Marty Reid seemed almost in shock. He basically did not know what to say. While such a tactic can be used by a play-by-play man to allow the crowd’s reaction to tell the story (Vin Scully’s call of Kirk Gibson’s home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series is just one example), it would have to involve the cooperation of the color commentators, which did not happen here.
The idea of apologizing for gestures out of the broadcasts’ control came up once again. Now, I do not understand why it is broadcast policy to apologize for things like profanity and middle fingers from drivers. It’s not just ESPN, but all over the industry. It happens. It’s part of human life. Not everyone is five years old. We can handle that. In fact, many people want to see that type of behavior. Also, last I checked, ESPN cannot be fined by the FCC for broadcasting instances like those listed above on cable.
Post-race coverage was relatively brief since ESPN was nearly to the end of their timeslot. There were interviews with winner Denny Hamlin and crew chief Mike Ford, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, and Chad Knaus before ESPN left for Sportscenter. An interesting thing to note is that ESPN failed to give a point check before leaving. I know that the beginning of Sportscenter immediately following the race is supposed to be an extension of race coverage, and that they updated the points there, but after updating them constantly throughout the race broadcast, suddenly, there was no need to show the Top 12 in points when the standings were set in stone?
Recently, there have been articles written questioning the enthusiasm of the booth. Yes, we’re going down that route again. While I was not totally pleased with the way Marty called the end of the race, if he had been more jumpy, he would have completely blocked out Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. They have the right to get their points in.
Once again, ESPN failed to tell the full story on this day. The coverage gave viewers the idea that certain drivers would come out of nowhere to contend and that no one outside of the top 3 in points really mattered. The big picture beyond the championship needs to be told for each race. I cannot stress that enough.
That’s all for this week. Next week, the three major NASCAR series travel to the Phoenix International Raceway for another tripleheader weekend. The Trucks are scheduled to race Friday night, while the Nationwide Series will race Saturday afternoon. Then, it’s the main event: the Sprint Cup Series will race on Sunday afternoon. Here’s your listings for the week:
Friday, November 12
Saturday, November 13
Sunday, November 14
If you have a gripe with me, or just want to say something about my critique,
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I would like to give Speed credit for broadcasting Live the World Finals Late Model, Sprint and Modified Races from The Dirt Track at Charlotte Saturday Night. They did a pretty good job. Only big problem was trying to cram to much info and racing in the 4 hr broadcast, There was 3 days of racing and 3 championship up for grabs for only 4 hrs.
But I would take this over what we get from the nascar side anytime. The announcers do not talk down to the fans and a lot less fluff.
So over all I give Speed a solid “B” and hope for more of this coverage in the future.
ANY broadcast that doesn’t have that dumb a_ _ DW in it is already better then ANYTHING FOX COULD PRODUCE….BUT….if ESPN is going to cut to in car communications, can someone PLEASE,PLEASE tell the guys in the booth to SHUT UP for 10 seconds and LISTEN to the REAL story? I know I would like to hear what the driver and crewchief are saying! It BOGGLES the mind and it is really frustrating to have them talking over the radio. If the booth would listen to what is being said, they MIGHT get the ACTUAL story straight. I know….it’s asking too much!
Anyone else a little sickened by the amount of coverage Jimmie and the 48 team received. Yes, they had pit crew problems, but to focus on that team every 5 laps is pretty tiresome. Even before the pit crew problems they were followed him around lap after lap. There were other drivers having good days that they barely talked about like Reutimann, Logano, Martin, but were pretty much ignored due to the precious Chase.
And the wonder why fans are running away in droves. Its not about the race anymore. Its all about the Chase. When is Nascar/ESPN going to start getting the fact that people care more about the race than they do about the Chase.
Yes! Let us talk TV. 5:30am Monday. MSNBC. Willie Geist’s “Way too Early”. Willie, whose father is a very talented writer, does a bit during his sports recap. really. He did. He introduced the fight scene by showing Burton putting Gordon in the wall then the fight. Camera cuts back to him and his face has the complete condescension and the amused superiority of a 30 something New Yorker and he says: “NASCAR, folks.” Then cut to black.
Just had to mention this.
In the interest of accuracy, Phil, ESPN did update the points post-race. They put it in the scroll at the top of the screen. I do understand, though, how you and many others missed it, because they did not mention it at all verbally, to my knowledge.
How is it possible to get rid of Marty Reid and especially Brad Daugherty? Marty is a total idiot to Nascar and makes numerous mistakes with names, positions, etc… As for Brad, why do we have a “BASKETBALL” player analyzing racing? You sure don’t see Rusty Wallace or Dale Jarrett analyzing a basketball game! I wonder why that is? I know, they haven’t played the game professionally! Hmmmmm! I understand he has ownership in a team and has been around Nascar a while. But when you constantly repeat what experience Nascar analyst say and make stupid predictions as well as act like you know something pertaining to driving a race car, when all you’ve done is play basketball, why in the world would I listen to you? Last time I checked, a basketball goes in a hoop and is played on a court, not on a race track! He knows nothing that makes me want to listen when he speaks. And his analyzing of the race and/or drivers are something my mother as well as anyone else could do! I have to mute it every time he talks, because it MAKES NO SENSE to hear a PARROTT! Last time I checked, ESPN has NBA games on, surely they could use him there. At least there, he knows what he’s talking about. Get rid of him and bring in Bill Lester if ESPN has to be politically correct. I like Bill and he knows the sport, inside and out. And by the the way, BILL HAS DRIVEN AND STILL DRIVES A “RACECAR”! Hey ESPN, it’s not about race, it’s about knowing the sport your in and what kind of information you can bring to the fans watching. Your killing your coverage, so do all Nascar race fans a favor when I say, “GET THAT SO CALLED NASCAR ANALYST OUT OF THERE AND TAKE MARTY REID WITH HIM”!!! YOUR COVERAGE SUCKS!!!