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 March 22, 2011
Hello, race fans, and welcome to Talking NASCAR TV, where race telecast dissection is the name of the game. This past weekend, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series returned from their week off to race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Meanwhile, the American Le Mans Series presented by Patron Tequila (ALMS) held their season opener on Saturday morning at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Florida.
However, before we start, Versus announced their new on-air broadcast team for Izod IndyCar Series broadcasts on Monday. There are some returning members, but plenty of changes, one of which could impact the NASCAR on-air teams later this year. Most notably, Robbie Buhl is out of the broadcast booth, replaced by Wally Dallenbach, Jr. Dallenbach has never driven a race in what is now the Izod IndyCar Series, but he did drive in four CART races prior to his time in the Cup Series. Dallenbach will join Bob Jenkins and Jon Beekhuis in the booth. It is unclear whether Dallenbach will continue with TNT’s Summer Series for the 2011 season, as three Versus race weekends conflict with the Summer Series.
In addition, Marty Snider will join the broadcast team as a pit reporter. He will technically be replacing Robbie Floyd. However, Snider will still maintain his ties to Turner Sports and continue to work on pit road for TNT during their Summer Series of Sprint Cup races. For those race weekends, Floyd will return to substitute for him.
In addition, Kevin Lee has been promoted from Versus’ coverage of the Firestone Indy Lights Series to serve as a pit reporter as well. He will be replacing Jack Arute, who left Versus at the end of last season. If you saw that 2010 finale from Homestead, you might have noticed that Arute was very irritable on-air, getting into an argument with Beekhuis under a caution. Now, I imagine that that happens from time to time during commercial breaks, but not on-air where the viewers can hear it. Lindy Thackston will return to pit reporting for her third season and likely still host the pre-race show.
With that … we’re on to the critiques from Sebring and Bristol.
Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh From Florida
On Saturday morning, the American Le Mans Series presented by Patron Tequila held their season opener, the 59th running of the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh From Florida. The race also served as the season opener for the International Le Mans Cup (ILMC), a de facto world sports car championship that is sanctioned by the ACO (Automobile Club de l’Ouest, the sanctioning body that puts on the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June). As a result, a new numbering system was put in place just for Sebring and the Petit Le Mans in October. All teams running just in ALMS had to put a zero in front of their normal number since ILMC teams are assigned their numbers for the full season.
Before we even get into the race critique, I must talk about the new TV deal that the ALMS has reached for the 2011 season. Last season, ALMS had an agreement in which SPEED covered most of the schedule, with the exception of Mid-Ohio and Laguna Seca. Those races were streamed online at americanlemans.com live and aired on CBS via tape-delay. The delayed broadcasts were actually what amounted to documentaries, entitled “Road Warriors.” I critiqued the Mid-Ohio documentary for The Critic’s Annex last season and noted that it was a different, and not necessarily enjoyable, way to watch a race.
In the offseason, ALMS signed a multi-year deal with ESPN to give the series more exposure. The deal gives the series telecasts on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC. On paper, it doesn’t sound bad, but that’s not the whole story. The amount of live coverage of the series on television has dropped to zilch for 2011.
Yes, all races will be covered in their entirety. Also, new for 2011, qualifying will be covered in its entirety for the first time. However, all of those broadcasts will only be available on ESPN3.com. In order to get access to ESPN3.com, you have to have permission from whatever internet service provider and/or cable company you do business with. When you go to the ESPN3.com site, you have to pick your provider from the approved list and sign in using your password. Thankfully, the service is free.
The problem is not everyone has cable internet or broadband service. Also, not all entities actually make the service available to their subscribers (Time Warner Cable was actually a longtime holdout before finally making it available late last year). Quite a few fans cannot access the service at all. SPEED has a similar option, SPEED2.com, but there is nowhere near as much content.
When the deal was announced, one of the major selling points was the idea of being able to watch on your Xbox 360. I looked into that since I have one here. Unfortunately, that is currently unavailable for Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks customers. Makes me wonder who actually can take advantage of that. In addition, once that becomes available, there are more hoops to jump through. You have to go to a special site and get a special code that you have to punch in on your Xbox 360 to get access. The whole deal is pretty annoying.
So, after you jump through all those hoops, what did you get from ESPN3.com at Sebring? The first thing I noticed was that there are separate feeds for international viewers and viewers from the United States. My best guess is that the only difference lies within some of the graphics (kilometers per hour instead of miles per hour). Regardless of those slight differences, ESPN used an all-British broadcast booth for their feed.
On play-by-play was John Hindhaugh, the highly excitable chap who did the commentary on the “Road Warriors” specials last season, and on Mobil 1’s The Grid, which airs on SPEED. He was joined by Jeremy Shaw. The two have worked together with Radio Le Mans on ALMS events for the last two years. In a move against the grain with endurance races on television, both men did the entire 12-hour race, plus pre and post-race shows in the booth, nearly 13 hours straight. Just for that, I’ll give them the Ironman award. On pit road was the trio of Rick DeBruhl, Kelly Stavast and Jamie Howe, all three with a background covering sports car racing.
The race coverage was quite decent to watch, but it appears that the commentators have little to no control over what the cameras are actually shooting. Viewers would see a spun car on course and the commentators would reference it, but we couldn’t get a close-up of the specific car involved. Weak.
The service itself was far from ideal. At no point the whole time I watched the coverage did I see a picture equal to that of Standard Definition television. Why? Apparently, picture quality is determined based on bandwidth availability and whatever you’re watching ESPN3.com on (in this case, my laptop). The picture quality is shown on a scale from one to five. The user cannot change the quality, which bites. Still, the audio is great, even though it sounded like Hindhaugh and West were talking into a bucket at times.
I think some viewers might take a while to get used to Hindhaugh and West in the booth, but they’re very enjoyable to listen to. They are enthusiastic about the on-track action and do not stray from their purpose. Apparently, they also have an unfortunate tendency to “curse” certain drivers (you know, talk about how good they’re doing, only for the car to break about 40 minutes later). That happens, I guess.
Now, ESPN3.com’s coverage is one thing. The actual TV coverage that viewers got on Sunday is a whole ‘nother story. Check out the Frontstretch Newsletter on Thursday for my thoughts on the highlight package.
Scotts EZ Seed 300
ESPN started out their coverage with a special one hour edition of NASCAR Countdown. At the start of the show, there was significant discussion about the tire issues that plagued both series on Friday. Robin Pemberton appeared on the program and spoke on how Goodyear and NASCAR came to the decision to first go away from the compound used in August, then change their minds to go back to it. Good move.
There was a feature where ESPN followed Trevor Bayne for a couple of days in and around his hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee (which is relatively close to Bristol). It was an interesting look at Bayne, but with all the stuff he’s done since he won the Daytona 500, we didn’t learn anything new. There were also ten pre-race interviews.
Early on in the race, there were two major stories for the broadcast. One was Jennifer Jo Cobb’s refusal to start and park, well-documented while the other was the scoring issues that Frontstretch’s Brody Jones alluded to in his special Five Points piece from Bristol.
In regards to the Cobb situation, ESPN was right on top of it. Admittedly, this incident has garnered 2nd Chance Motorsports the most exposure they’ve ever gotten from ESPN since they joined the series last year. Dr. Jerry Punch and Jamie Little tracked down the two principals and asked for their side of the story. Cobb gave a nice interview with Punch, while owner Rick Russell claimed that he couldn’t hear Little and ignored her. It looked like he wasn’t even trying to listen to the question. Yes, he was without ear protection, but his actions came off as incredibly bush league and disrespectful. Sure, you can refuse an interview, but not that way. Also of note, Marty Reid made multiple mistakes regarding who was in the No. 79. Several times, he stated that Charles Lewandoski would be in the car when Little stated that Chris Lawson would be in it whenever they got on track.
As for the scoring issues, the scroll itself was kind of screwy early in the race. Luckily, that fixed itself by Lap 10 or so. However, the auxiliary stats were not available. Reid would periodically update that the scoring was still screwed up every once in awhile and as a result, ESPN could not chart the race off pit road.
After the competition caution, the scroll disappeared all together. ESPN has often used it as a crutch to provide their coverage to cars further down the pack. Usually, that would mean an alternate method would be required. Instead, ESPN stuck to the normal plan, and there were no rundowns given at all. Quite frankly, it was even rougher to watch than it was in the pre-electronic scoring days (prior to May, 1993). At least there was some good racing for position in that segment. However, without the scroll (and their scoring monitor), ESPN’s booth commentators were outright lost.
Even once timing and scoring returned for good after the second caution, the focus was still exclusively on the front runners, and especially on Kyle Busch. Note to ESPN: there is more on the track than just Kyle Busch. Granted, the front running bias means that there wasn’t all that much Danica emphasis (that is, until she wrecked), but it’s still not a good thing.
As for the 10,000 laps led milestone that Busch reached on Lap 265, I really didn’t care about it. I’d argue that Busch didn’t care, either. ESPN did seem to make a big deal about it, though. Must have been a talking point last week during the Tuesday afternoon conference call.
Since the race ended relatively quickly, there was a good amount of post-race coverage. There were post-race interviews with seven drivers and the winning crew chief. There was also a check of the driver’s points and some wrap-up analysis before ESPN left the air.
Saturday proved that ESPN’s booth does not handle adversity very well. It’s like the first season of Dream Job (remember that show?). One of the challenges on there put contestants on set and told them to read the script that they had written via the teleprompter for their highlights. At an undetermined time, they would kill the prompter, forcing the contestants to think on their feet. It was a little painful at times to watch… and so was Saturday.
Jeff Byrd 500 presented by Food City
Sunday brought the usual suspects back out for FOX’s coverage from Bristol. The pre-race show was what we’ve come to expect from FOX. That is, it was heavily focused on the trio of Jeff Hammond, Darrell Waltrip and Chris Myers on their portable stage on pit road. They have near unilateral control of the proceedings, which I am not a fan of. There continues to be hardly any pre-race interviews on the show, which I despise.
Because of these lack of interviews, I propose that FOX import “The Corral” from NCWTS Setup into FOX Pre-Race Delivered by Pizza Hut. I am a definite fan of SPEED’s new feature for 2011 in the Setup, despite the fact they were the network that needed such a pre-race feature the least.
The only feature that aired as part of pre-race was a quirky attempt to create the perfect driver for Bristol. After deliberation between Waltrip and Hammond, they created a concoction of a few different drivers’ traits. Didn’t really want to see that. The feature aired at roughly the same time as Bristol’s driver introductions with personally-selected songs, which quite a few fans would have preferred to see instead.
The reasons why the intros weren’t shown vary. The general opinion is that FOX didn’t want to play royalties for the music. I don’t think that would have applied here. FOX wasn’t playing the music, the track was. At press time, I’m trying to get more information about it and will update this critique when I get some.
There was also a one-on-one interview with Carl Edwards that was conducted by Darrell Waltrip in the Bristol infield. It was relatively well done.
During the race, FOX insisted on a lot of tight shots for much of the event. As we’ve seen in the past, such a strategy can, and most likely will bite you. Viewers have no perspective of what’s really going on at the track and when big things happen, there is a good chance everyone will miss it.
That was the case on at least two occasions late in the race on Sunday. Firstly, when Kevin Harvick went on his long slide on the backstretch, viewers saw the Harvick slide, but nothing else. Meanwhile, behind Harvick, there was the wreck between Bayne and Montoya. It took three minutes of replays before viewers could see that Bayne definitively ran over Montoya.
Right after that restart, Travis Kvapil also fell victim to a tap from Mark Martin. After the spin, the camera simply focused straight in on Martin’s car while Kvapil spun. Yes, Joy commented on the fact that Kvapil had spun and that the caution was out, but why focus in on Martin like that? Viewers were forced to wait for replays to see what Kvapil’s slide looked like even though all it would have taken was a quick pan to the right. C’mon now, that’s weak.
Post-race coverage was fairly typical by FOX standards. There were six post-race interviews and checks of the unofficial results and point standings. There was also post-race analysis from both booths before FOX left the air.
FOX has proven once again that you cannot rely on tight shots to call Sprint Cup races, especially at places like Bristol. You just miss way too much stuff. Also, at places like Bristol and Dover, the front bumper cams tend to make their only appearances of the year. Sure, they’re pretty cool to look at, but you can’t see all that much if the cars are right up against each other. In the future, FOX needs to show more of the show, same as ESPN. Just not a good week in general, TV-wise, at Bristol.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series make the haul back out west to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Late March should make for nice weather in the Inland Empire with a lower chance of precipitation than in the past. In addition, both the Izod IndyCar Series and Formula One hold their season openers as well in St. Petersburg, Florida and Australia, respectively. Here’s your listings, and please note: all times are in Eastern Daylight Time. Please adjust accordingly to your location.
Friday, March 25
Saturday, March 26
Sunday, March 27
I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup and Nationwide races in next week’s critique here at Frontstretch, guaranteed. The Izod IndyCar Series race will also be covered. As always, if anything interesting pertaining to TV telecasts breaks in the next week, I’ll be sure to cover that as well.
If you have a gripe with me, or just want to say something about my critique,
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If your driver is not in the top five, you never hear about him. There was many more story lines in the race. Keso who was wrecked early in the race came back from 35 two laps down to finish 18 on the lead lap, would have thought that would have been worth talking about.
I like the use of the bumper cam. It’s about the only camera that really captures how fast and how close these cars run. It’s the “focus on the leader” camera they use too much. Especially when the leader is one of their Chosen Ones.
Kinda a Busch-league move (pun intended) to use a picture of Kyle Busch’s car from last year instead of this year’s Nationwide COT.
C’mon Phil. Pretty weak critique of the Sprint Cup race. Thank goodness I listen to the race on MRN / PRN while watching on TV otherwise I would have had almost no clue as to what anyone in the field was doing other than the Toyota’s.
When the fans complain so much about ESPN’s coverage and only following the leaders, why do they insist on doing it anyway? Surely they know or do they just not care? I dread when they take over the Sprint coverage. These TV producers for both networks are real idiots.
I have a question Phil that I hope you can answer. When you speak of the Fox prerace show, you always mention the sponsors like so:
“Because of these lack of interviews, I propose that FOX import “The Corral” from NCWTS Setup into FOX Pre-Race Delivered by Pizza Hut”.
Can’t you just say Fox prerace show or is this something that you have to do? Thanks
I was extremely annoyed at the coverage of the Harvick spin. It took about 10 replays before we actually got a good shot of what happened behind him. Very weak.
And is it just me or are we always seeing replays of action because we are always at commercial. Passes for the lead are always missed.
Follow ups are terrible too. Where was the debris for the caution within the last 150 laps. They never said or showed. And they never followed up on the tire issues either. But yet DW has the cajones to tweet that the coverage was good.