Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Phil Allaway · Tuesday February 22, 2011
Hello, race fans. With NASCAR’s three national series back underway for the year, starting with the biggest race for each there was plenty to cover as Daytona Speedweeks reached a thrilling conclusion. It was a challenging time for the broadcast networks, all of whom had to come out swinging with their “A” game as, unlike other sports they’re forced to emerge from three months of hibernation and cover the “Super Bowl” right off the bat to start their season.
So were the broadcasters on top of the rule changes, new faces in new places, and fantastic finishes in each of the Cup, Nationwide, and Truck Series this weekend? And did their pre- and post-race shows give us the adequate information we need to leave the race satisfied, not searching for more?
Turns out the second question became the biggest concern, part of a troubling pattern of the same old problems in the same old places during telecasts for SPEED, ESPN, and FOX to begin the first full weekend of 2011…
NextEra Energy Resources 250
Keeping in chronological order, we’ll start with the Camping World Truck Series, returning for their tenth season on SPEED. Let’s start with a couple of changes to the coverage, revealed throughout the beginning of the pre-show on Friday night.
That broadcast, “The Setup” started out with a new segment called “The Corral,” named after the area where drivers stage themselves before being introduced to the crowd. It is effectively a series of rapid-fire, pre-race interviews conducted by both veteran pit reporter Ray Dunlap and newcomer Hermie Sadler. I liked this segment, especially since as a basic rule it’s always good to have driver interviews in pre-race shows. There is actual substance in this feature, too as opposed to, say a human-interest piece. However, if any of NASCAR’s media partners did not really need to attempt a move like this one, it would be SPEED. They already had the most pre-race interviews of the TV partners last year, a reputation that I guess just means they would be the most willing to expand. With a boost from “The Corral,” SPEED had a total of ten pre-race interviews to get the fans reacquainted with plenty of their favorites.
A separate feature focused on ThorSport Racing, a team that has raced in the Truck Series since 1996 (full-time since 1997) and their insistence on keeping their base of operations in Sandusky, Ohio. Unlike the portrayal of the city in Tommy Boy, Sandusky is definitely not dead (in fact, during the summer it gets a lot of tourists thanks to the local theme park). The piece showed the obvious, that the city is proud of ThorSport and their success in the series after struggling during their first few seasons of existence… but it was tastefully done.
One note before moving on: TruckBuddy is back in exactly the same guise as it was towards the end of 2010. That’s good and bad. Good in that we can see uninterrupted race coverage during commercial breaks, but bad in that we don’t get an integrated leaderboard. That needs to be fixed, and soon because it hurts the application. Another complaint seen on Twitter was that nascar.com needs to label which driver is on each in-car (or in this case, in-truck) channel. That is something to look at. Granted, one of them was marked as the “Waltrip Cam” all night, while the other was in Jennifer Jo Cobb’s truck. That is something to look into for the future, though.
The race coverage was decent. Compared to the other two events, the trucks put on a somewhat more traditional type of race with less bumpdrafting. Darrell Waltrip, who was in the booth in place of brother Michael, kept himself in check for most of the night. Phil Parsons could actually say something, for a change.
As for SPEED’s new pit reporter, Hermie Sadler, he fit in very well. I shouldn’t really be surprised since it’s not like Sadler is new to the network, but I didn’t really know what to expect from him going in. Based on Friday, he’ll do just fine in this new role. And then, there’s the matter of his partner; I’ll admit here that I could care less about Ray Dunlap cutting off his ‘stache. At least SPEED felt the need to have a little fun at his expense, and it was what they did to bring attention to the change that worked out well. There’s something about seeing someone like Jennifer Jo Cobb or Johanna Long wearing fake mustaches that makes me chuckle.
However, when the race came down to the finish, Darrell slipped into his old ways. The run to the line could be described as nothing short of cheerleading for Michael. Despite the magnitude of the moment – winning on the 10th anniversary of his first Daytona 500 victory – we just can’t have that in race commentary. With all of the Earnhardt tributes that have aired over the past week and change, it is notable just how similar Darrell’s call sounded to how he called the finish of the 2001 Daytona 500. Darrell was blatantly biased in that call back then, and he definitely was Friday night as well. That is indisputable. Yes, I can understand that it’s a family situation here, but you have to be professional under any circumstance.
Post-race coverage was pretty substantial. In addition to showcasing the results, there were six post-race interviews. Since there were so many wrecks that eliminated contenders, it was a rather interesting group that got interviewed beyond Michael in Victory Lane; among them was new point leader Clay Rogers, who’s running with limited sponsorship yet completed an impressive drive up to third place.
Next weekend, we will see the normal Truck Series crew back in place. Without Darrell in the booth and Michael racing, we will see the team, armed with the younger Waltrip, get back into their normal flow. Darrell’s unprofessionalism aside, they definitely have a good product to build on so we’ll see how SPEED does this Friday night.
Saturday, ESPN started its fifth season back in the NASCAR fray with few changes from 2010.
NASCAR Countdown was unnecessarily expanded to 75 minutes for the season-opening race. Much of the time was filled in with analysis from the slightly revamped Infield Studio. While that’s nice, there’s only so much that I can take of the same old analysts bantering back and forth before the green flag.
Since Danica Patrick was back in the field, there was the obligatory Patrick feature. Patrick was in a barren room with a canvas, showing in-car footage of her Nationwide Series exploits from 2010 as if they were drawn using pencils of different levels of hardness. Looked interesting, for sure, but we didn’t really learn anything about Danica’s upcoming 12-race Nationwide Series assault that we didn’t already know. Also, ESPN previewed part of the piece on NASCAR Now during the week, rendering this final segment even more useless.
Another feature saw Rusty Wallace and Dale Jarrett take to the track in near-identical race cars to get a feel for the new type of racing that would be seen during the event. The analyzing duo drove around the 2.5-mile tri-oval for approximately 20-30 minutes with a full radio hookup the whole time. Part of the exhibition was shown live on ESPNEWS, while the rest was edited down into the feature we saw on Saturday. It was one of those classic learning by doing type of things, like a lab in Chemistry class at school. Not a bad effort.
Other features covered Elliott Sadler’s return to the Nationwide Series, along with the new “pick a title” rule. Those topics have been discussed repeatedly throughout most of the offseason, so once again, ESPN didn’t really add anything to the discussion.
Once the actual event began, there was something very obvious in the way that ESPN covered Saturday’s Nationwide race. They gave an inordinate amount of coverage to whoever was battling for the lead at that moment, regardless of what was going on behind them. Why? Let’s just be honest; the whole two-car drafting system, compared by some (like Andy Lally) to chain or train races that one would find at an Eve of Destruction was really giving me headaches. Behind the leaders, though there would be somewhat more traditional forms of restrictor plate racing that was all but invisible to viewers at home.
Apparently, ESPN wants to focus more on the drivers than on the championship this season. I have no clue how such a strategy would be different from what we’ve seen from ESPN over the past four seasons. As you may remember, there hasn’t been much of a championship battle since ESPN took over the Nationwide Series.
But that strategy seems to restrict itself to covering just the drivers within striking distance of the lead, all the time and every time they could. Even the infamous Patrick was pretty much invisible if she wasn’t up front. She did get quite a bit of coverage when she was getting pushed by Bowyer before the infamous “ditching” incident left her falling back. Plenty of radio chatter was played showing that she really wasn’t the best pusher out there, with Bowyer the primary complainer … but that’s about all she wrote (or televised).
It also seems that the broadcast booth expected to have a race where very few cars would actually finish on the lead lap. As a result, it was a little hard to keep track of anyone behind the top 4 once there was a long, green run. They were effectively dead to ESPN.
If the race was a bit of a letdown, coverage-wise, then post-race was a travesty. Of course, that catastrophe was outside of ESPN’s control due to technical issues. Turns out the audio just plain died right before the Victory Lane interview with Stewart. Viewers saw the interview, but with no sound which caused ESPN to take a commercial break after a minute of silence. However, since they were so close to the end of their timeslot, they basically got the sound back and went straight to their special Daytona 500 Preview edition of SportsCenter when they came out of the break. Bestwick did apologize for the issues and notified viewers that more post-race coverage would air shortly thereafter.
In their defense, ESPN did replay the Victory Lane interview that Vince Welch did with Stewart during the Daytona 500 Preview, albeit 18 minutes and two commercial breaks in. There was also a post-race interview with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. before the focus returned to Sunday’s race. I would have preferred more post-race coverage than that, though to be honest.
The bottom line with it all is ESPN cannot expect to go through an entire 34-race schedule and only cover a few drivers per race. Such a practice would alienate and anger fans; they would be wise not to repeat such a narrow focus again. You need to show the whole story when you cover a race, and on Saturday, ESPN clearly failed to accomplish that task.
Finally, we come to the big kahuna.
FOX returned its entire crew to Daytona, but there were a couple of changes to pre-race. The longtime “Hollywood Hotel,” where hosts Chris Myers and Jeff Hammond get stashed was briefly jettisoned in favor of using the stage that SPEED had been occupying for their NASCAR Live! shows during the week. Fans who paid the extortion (unsure of the cost, but knowing that it was $65 a person for the day of the Coke Zero 400 last year, it had to be a little more than that) to be in the Sprint FanZone, in addition to whatever their ticket cost could watch the trio on stage for the first 40 minutes of pre-race. The interview with Kevin Harvick was there as well, although I have no idea why they decided not to have Harvick on stage to begin with.
Now since it’s FOX, the pre-race concerts are back, and if you remember my previous early season critiques, then you might remember me not being a fan of them. But they’re not going anywhere, anytime soon which means Brad Paisley was the headliner on Sunday. Since I’m not a country music fan, I cannot gauge how good his performance was; I just don’t know enough about his style to project that. I do know that it took up 10-20 minutes of the pre-race coverage.
However, there was another brief performance by Dierks Bentley on the permanent stage inside the Sprint FanZone. He will be performing a version of his song, “Sideways” before every one of FOX’s 13 races this season, for better or worse. It seems that FOX is trying to designate “Sideways” as “the official song” of NASCAR on FOX since Eric Shanks took away their theme.
One feature definitely drove the typical FOX mentality that a lot of fans really cannot identify with. Early on, there was a spoof of the syndicated celebrity gossip show TMZ where the analysts and pit reporters, posing as random staffers, previewed the upcoming season. In addition, there were clips of guerrilla-style confrontations with drivers. It’s one thing to preview an upcoming season; it’s quite another to make a fool of yourself in the process. Not cool. Please do not repeat.
Probably the most tasteful feature done was the one with champions from other disciplines (Derek Jeter, Wayne Gretzky, Lance Armstrong) talking about Johnson’s championships and putting it in perspective. It was interesting to watch. Still, despite having 70 or so minutes of pre-race coverage, there were only five pre-race interviews. I don’t understand why FOX spends so much time on pre-race analysis when you have a bunch of drivers chomping at the bit to actually converse on air. If you’re going to have a pre-race show of that length, please give me more interviews during that time.
The overall feel in the broadcast booth was a little different this year. I’d argue that the constant action on track kept our trio on task a lot more, but the shenanigans that I often ripped on in the past were not really evident. That is, until the end of the race, when old habits die hard: Darrell seemed to get a little too excitable and basically cut off Mike Joy. Just because a race is really exciting, DW, doesn’t mean that you can perform “cutsies” whenever you want to. Perhaps studying how the guys at MRN Radio call races with enthusiasm without talking over their colleagues would help him here.
Since the race ran long due to the multiple cautions, there was not all that much post-race coverage. However, for the time they had, it was OK. There were six driver interviews, along with an interview of Trevor Bayne’s mother. Now, obviously Stephanie Bayne was thrilled about Trevor’s win and both FOX and ESPN interviewed her, but I don’t really think they should have put that interview on the air over an interview with one of the Wood Brothers, or David Gilliland. Sure, do the interview, but keep it on file for future use, like a feature on the pre-race show in Phoenix. For those of you wondering, according to Front Row Motorsports’ Twitter page, FOX did interview Gilliland, but it had to be cut from the broadcast due to time constraints. No word on whether there were interviews recorded for the telecast with the Wood Brothers or Bobby Labonte as of yet.
Also, some writers on Monday went after the broadcast booth for not being quite critical enough Sunday. I tend to agree with them to a point. Many of the race’s 16 yellows were caused by people bumping inappropriately, like the Big One in Turn 3 and Robert Richardson’s crash. Both of those incidents were caused by a driver bumping their teammate with too much vigor. The booth referenced the contact, but appeared to just consider these incidents to be foregone conclusions with the current package. It doesn’t need to be much, but something needs to be said more pointedly about that and the way the racing’s getting affected. On the other hand, you can’t go overboard with criticism … but I don’t think the balance was there this time around.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend, all three of NASCAR’s national series are in action once again. However, thanks to a schedule change, they are not hauling all the way out to Fontana. Instead, it will be the Phoenix International Raceway that will play host for the last time in its current guise. After the races end, the pavement will be chopped up and redone in time for the November, 2011 visit back to the speedway. In addition, graduated banking will be added in the turns and the backstretch dogleg will be reconfigured. The result will be a flatter and longer version of Concord Motorsports Park, I guess. There’s a PDF detailing the reconfiguration plan for PIR at their website available for public perusal if you’re interested in looking at the changes.
Here’s your listings for the week.
NOTE: All times listed are Eastern Standard Time. Please adjust for your time zone.
Saturday, February 26
Sunday, February 27
I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series races for next week’s critique. In addition, I will also give some random thoughts and musings on anything that might come up.
If you have a gripe with me, or just want to say something about my critique,
As always, if you choose to contact the networks by email, do so in a courteous manner. Network representatives are far more likely to respond to emails that ask questions politely rather than emails full of rants and vitriol.
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I agree with you assessments on Saturday’s race. The concentration on the front is okay if you’re going to cover the rest of the field to an extent, but the concentration on the front of the field in addition to the constant play-by-play (unnecessary when we can see what’s going on) was annoying as heck.
Why is everyone so worked up about driver interviews? All you get are the perverbial string of sponsor plugs and telling you they have a great car for the days race. I don’t get it.
My biggest complaint of the tv coverage has to do with DW. He brings the whole broadcast down with his cheerleading and constant schilling of Nascar/MWR/Toyota. And saying Michael was one of the best restrictor plate racers ever was a joke. He really proved that on Sunday didn’t he DW?
DW kept himself in check, WOW, that’s not what I saw. He is so unprepared he doesn’t even know the truck series title sponsor. His many on air issues and unprofessional behavior cannot be defended anymore, Mr. Hill.