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 16, 2010
Hello, race fans. It’s that time of the week again. Phil’s my name, and race broadcast critiques are my game. This past weekend, NASCAR’s Big Three series were all at Phoenix International Raceway.
Lucas Oil 150
SPEED’s Truck Series coverage on Friday night started out like normal, with a recap of last week’s action in Texas. Krista Voda spent much of the Setup on top of Rattlesnake Hill, which overlooks Turn 4. Yes, there were references to being bitten by insects, but that happens.
The big feature from the Setup was a look at Chris Lafferty and Lafferty Motorsports. I’ll admit that I didn’t really know anything about the recent newcomer to the series. In all honesty, it’s a pretty sad story. He came to North Carolina to make it as an engine builder, at all costs. Seriously. He claimed that all he had was the money in his pocket, clothes, and a gun. Eventually, he did catch on as an engine builder and entered the series as an owner as a result of accepting older trucks as payment for an engine and a desire to get some kind of return on the deal. Definitely not the typical way that an owner enters a major series. It’s an interesting, rarely told story and I’m happy that SPEED took the time to spotlight Lafferty and his struggles.
In addition to a look at the different types of pets that drivers have in the Bumper-to-Bumper segment, there were seven pre-race interviews before SPEED got into the race itself. Also, there were no issues pertaining to the embargoing of big stories to the end of the Setup like in Texas.
I was initially worried about how Michael Waltrip would handle himself knowing that Caitlin Shaw was in the race, as Shaw is currently interning at Michael Waltrip Racing in their PR department. I feared that there would be a degree of fawning over the young woman making her second career start in the DGR No. 72. However, I had nothing to worry about. Michael was careful to admit his business relationship with Shaw before the race began in order to set the record straight. However, Shaw may have gotten a little more on camera exposure than she would have otherwise.
TruckBuddy was back in play on Friday night and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the race that way. I mainly use TruckBuddy during regular commercials. I am partial to the Battle Cam. It works best for me. It also locks in on the Lucky Dog when the yellow flies, usually long before SPEED tells viewers who got the pass. Matt Crafton and Todd Bodine were the drivers whose in-truck cameras were locked onto the service. However, TruckBuddy lacks a leaderboard like regular RaceBuddy has. Turner Sports (owners of nascar.com) needs to look into changing that before Friday night.
Since the race ended so quick on Friday night, there was well over a half-hour of post-race coverage. Todd Bodine clinched the title (his second in the Camping World Truck Series) so there were interviews with Bodine, both Hillmans (Sr. and Jr.), and team co-owner Steven Germain, who I cannot recall ever previously seeing on a broadcast. In addition, there were interviews with a dejected Matt Crafton, Austin Dillon, Kyle Busch, Justin Lofton, Johnny Sauter, Aric Almirola, and Clint Bowyer.
SPEED gave viewers a great broadcast on Friday night. I had no real issues with the way that the broadcast was presented. The fact that the race ended so quick may have played a role in the display, however. Compared to the Battle Cam, SPEED’s coverage was a little more focused on up front, but not by all that much. Also, there was not all that much discussion of Bodine’s impending clinch until the very end of the race. The rest of the time was spent on the actual on-track action, which is very good to see. In regards to the Lafferty feature, it was a great look at how the other side of the garage operates as compared to the big money teams. ESPN could stand to take a look at the feature and possibly profile some of the smaller teams next season in their NASCAR Countdown shows prior to Sprint Cup or Nationwide Series races.
ESPN’s Saturday coverage from Phoenix started off with pre-race analysis from the not-so-Infield Studio, situated outside of the racetrack near the dogleg on the backstretch.
The main feature of Saturday’s pre-race coverage was a sitdown chat with Danica Patrick about how her foray into the Nationwide Series has gone in 2010. What did I take away from the conversation? That Danica really had no clue what she was getting into. Prior to making her Nationwide Series debut, Danica had a test or two at Walt Disney World Speedway in Florida, a test at Daytona in an ARCA car for her restrictor plate debut, and finally, the 80-lap Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200. Outside of the restrictor plate running, that is effectively zilcho. NASCAR’s testing ban on tracks that host Nationwide Series (as well as Sprint Cup and/or Camping World Truck Series races) undoubtedly hurt her, but there are ways around the ban.
The move to put her in the K&N Pro Series East race at Dover was a bit of genius, but it should have happened a long time ago. Danica’s schedule this season has not been dissimilar to being thrown to the wolves with little idea of the theory behind driving these behemoths (as compared to her Dallara). I will say that I was surprised at how little she apparently knew about the cars before Mark Martin sat down with her. JR Motorsports should have given her a driving coach from Day One. It is unclear how their actions have curtailed Danica’s potential in the car in 2010.
There was a lot of discussion about the tightness of the frontstretch and its tendency to be the site of chain reaction crashes both on Saturday and Sunday. However, as it happened, the frontstretch was devoid of any wrecking for the whole weekend.
During the race, there was an instance early on when Mark Green broke his transmission and then the engine in the No. 70 Chevrolet. When the yellow came out, ESPN was showing a replay of leader Joey Logano bumping David Green while lapping him. I don’t understand why ESPN couldn’t have cut out of the slow-motion replay to show Mark Green’s stricken car, then cut back to the replay. Live action takes precedence over taped footage.
Danica-mania is finally winding down. Aside from the one-on-one mentioned above, she got only a few mentions on air during the race, mostly for shenanigans with drivers like Alex Kennedy. ESPN seems to understand Danica’s limitations for the moment in the series. Sure, she’ll get better, but she was simply getting too much coverage for how poor she was running earlier on in the season.
Much of the coverage was centered upon the drivers in the top 10 on Saturday, which is generally not a good thing. It means that probably 80 percent of the coverage was given to Cup drivers, and that is not what I wanted to see. Covering races is all about exposure and if you’re focusing in only on a selected number of drivers, you’re missing out on part of the race.
The race ended fairly quickly, so there was quite a bit of post-race coverage. ESPN aired ten post-race interviews, varying from winner Carl Edwards and his crew chief Mike Beam to Cole Whitt, who made his Nationwide Series debut and finished 15th. There was some additional chatter in the Infield Studio before ESPN left the air.
This network’s Saturday coverage was fairly mediocre. I believe that a lot of things that they were assuming would happen, like a late caution or a bunch of wrecks, didn’t pan out. As a result, they didn’t really have a Plan B.
Kobalt Tools 500k
Finally, Sunday brought the Sprint Cup Series drivers out to play. Of course, as you probably remember, the big story coming out of Texas was the crew swap between the Nos. 24 and 48 during the AAA Texas 500. ESPN showed a montage of quotes pertaining to the whole mess. Now, since Johnson’s old crew struggled yet again in complete anonymity on the No. 24, Chad Knaus looks like a genius even though he submarined Jeff Gordon’s final two races of the season as a result. During NASCAR RaceDay, one fan in the gallery held up a sign showing his view on the swap. I saw it on Twitter before the race started and figured that you guys would like it, too.
One feature was designed around the near-fanatical drive to win that Knaus has. Apparently, he claims that he was even more obsessed when he was part of the Rainbow Warriors in the mid-1990’s. Using footage from the 1995 NAPA 500 at Atlanta was an interesting choice for the feature. It was the race that Jeff clinched his first title, but also one where they literally did the bare minimum to win the championship over Earnhardt, including a weird stop where they just let anyone on the team who wanted to pit the No. 24 over the wall. I don’t really think I learned much in the feature that I didn’t already know about Chad. However, it must be noted that the No. 48 is not his first crew chief job. Knaus served as Stacy Compton’s crew chief at Melling Racing in 2001 before moving to Hendrick Motorsports. I wouldn’t mind learning about how Knaus was as a newbie crew chief, since the No. 92 team was invisible outside of restrictor plate races that year.
Another feature covered Joe Gibbs and his faith. Gibbs talks constantly about there being some type of “plan” in place for life. I can’t claim that I have read it, but such a philosophy is likely very similar (if not the absolute same) as what Gibbs espoused in his recent book, Game Plan For Life. As a result, the feature could be considered nothing more than promotion for the book, interspersed with footage of his drivers in angry situations over the past couple of seasons.
ESPN also featured Harvick’s No. 29 in their ongoing series of features about individual teams. The Harvick feature consisted of a whole series of radio transmissions taken during the AAA Texas 500, and a brief look at a Bagging Challenge at a local Fry’s Food Store. Like most things with a pit crew, the bagging challenge (designed to just be a promotional appearance) turned into a bonafide competition with bragging rights on the line. Fry’s served as an associate sponsor on the No. 29 for Phoenix only.
In last week’s critique, I hammered away on ESPN for heavily focusing on the top 3 drivers in the Chase points (Hamlin, Johnson and Harvick). However, there were some other stories that briefly took precedence over the championship — like the infamous fight. The action on-track also helped out.
In Phoenix, there were no such other stories in play. It was all points, all the time. There were constant dropdown tabs with “The Points As They Are Now,” especially during the final run. It was excessive. Nothing else to it. The long green-flag runs only made this worse. Because of the field spreading out, there was little racing to show up front. Since the points were so important, ESPN wasn’t going to show all that much back in the pack, anyway. When there were battles up front and around restarts, they did show that coverage, otherwise, it was all about the points. Makes me want to rip my hair out, if I had a lot to rip out.
I did find it interesting that ESPN did catch Jamie McMurray tossing a water bottle out of his car to draw a caution. A classic bush league move due to the fact that McMurray had his deck lid come loose. Admittedly, I’ve never seen a deck lid end up like that without a wreck involved. Now, since NASCAR has access to ESPN’s feed, I’m surprised that they didn’t revoke McMurray’s Lucky Dog because of his blatant cheating. They have their reasons why they didn’t. Of course, NASCAR hasn’t said anything on the issue.
Even with the relatively quick race, there was not as much time for post-race coverage as you’d think. There was time for interviews with Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus, Kevin Harvick and Gil Martin. It says something that Edwards’ victory, his first in nearly two years, was basically overshadowed by the point race. Sure, Carl got plenty of coverage for his backflip and his entrance into the grandstand to celebrate with fans, but the general feel of it was “Whoop-dee-do,” let’s get back to the Chase.
The Chase-Centric coverage of races is simply hurting the sport these days. Yes, the championship hunt is close. I’m not doubting that. It’s fact. However, you cannot sacrifice covering the rest of the action on track in order to focus in on three people all day. It’s like watching one of those politically charged talk shows on a news channel. Ideally, sports telecasts are supposed to be above that stupidity. Apparently not.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend is the final one of the season (Oh No!). All three of NASCAR’s National Touring Series will hold their season finales at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Here’s your listings for the weekend (All times listed are in Eastern Standard Time, adjust accordingly for your time zone):
Friday, November 19
Saturday, November 20
Sunday, November 21
ESPN announced additional coverage from Homestead quite late — about 9 AM Monday. A Sportscenter _special, to be hosted by Allen Bestwick, focused on the championship will be a mere 30 minutes in length and air immediately after the Ford 300 on Saturday evening. Last year, ESPN aired a special 90-minute _Sportscenter live from Homestead that served as a coronation for Johnson’s fourth consecutive title. That is not happening, likely due to the much earlier start. Meanwhile, SPEED is once again expanding NASCAR RaceDay Built by The Home Depot to a whopping three hours.
I will provide critiques of all three of the races from Homestead in next week’s critique. In addition, I will critique the V8 Supercars telecast from Symmons Plains Raceway in Tasmania for next week’s edition of the Critic’s Annex.
If you have a gripe with me, or just want to say something about my critique,
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.
©2000 - 2008 Phil Allaway and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
The problem with TV coverage of NASCAR’S top tier is simple. Regardless of the network (and in the case of FOX I use that term VERY LOOSELY)it’s the 27 year old producers / directors with MBA’s that don’t have an iota of experience with automobiles or what RACE FANS (not kids) like or want to see. The other problem goes back to FOX and their Toyota schill DW. Yuck. Give me MRN or PRN anyday!
You are right on target about ESPN’s coverage!
They’ve also gone back to lots of shots of one lone car on the screen, which is just pointless. That’s not racing – you can watch qualifying for that!
I switched to a movie 1/2 way through the race Sunday because a) the aforementioned one car on screen and b)only covering the top 3 in the chase! What about all the fans of the other 40 drivers out there?
Thanks for calling out McMurray on the water bottle incident. I understand not wanting empty water bottles rolling around the floor of these cars during races. That’s why they have bottle holders in the car! McMurray should never have gotten that Lucky Dog, Nascar should have noticed that.
I was wondering about throwing things out of the windows. I’ve seen others do that all season. Quit watching the races; sick to death of seeing just the 3 in Cup and the Cup drivers in Nationwide. No wonder they’re losing their audience.
Nice summary of the races, Phil. One of the reasons I can’t watch ESPN’s coverage is because they are so obsessed with the points they don’t bother to cover the race. It’s annoying and useless to me. If that’s all I need to know, I’ll check online and find out. I tune in to see the race.
And they wonder why the ratings are down?
Havent the networks ALWAYS concentrated on the points as the season winds down? This isnt a new thing just because of the Chase. It happens in Baseball and Football too. The announcers will recap the standings and the wild card races in all sports.
You neglected to list the best motorsports hour on TV. Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain, on Speed, Sunday @ 9:00PM EST.
So there’s an obsession with points? Not wins? Amazing.
Ah, Poor Danica isn’t getting as much air time as she’s used too. FINALLY!