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.
Hello, and welcome back to Talking NASCAR TV, where I look into the race broadcasts that we all watch and sometimes enjoy. This past weekend, the Sprint Cup Series was off, but the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series were both in action at Nashville Superspeedway.
Before we start, Jim Noble announced via Twitter last weekend that he will not be back on TNT’s Summer Series broadcasts in any form in 2011. Noble was the dedicated reporter for Turner Sports’ free RaceBuddy service, available at nascar.com. He would provide updates from the pits during commercials and give some input during the Countdown to Green pre-race show on TNT. It appears that Noble will not be replaced. Noble will still serve as a pit reporter for PRN Radio and will serve as a pit reporter for ESPN at three Nationwide races later this season.
Bully Hill Vineyards 200
The big story on the Setup Friday night had nothing to do with the race itself, but it was all about SPEED. Friday night’s telecast of the Bully Hill Vineyards 200 was the 200th Truck Series race to air on the network, an impressive accomplishment. Really, it’s hard to imagine that we’re in the ninth year of the Trucks being on SPEED.
Recently, I came across the 2002 Advance Auto Parts 250 from Martinsville on YouTube. ESPN2 televised the race with Dr. Punch doing play-by-play with Phil Parsons. Ray Dunlap and Amy East Cook were in the pits. It was a completely different telecast feel from what I’m now used to from SPEED. This change occurred even though the Parsons and Dunlap of 2002 are near identical to the Parsons and Dunlap of today.
It could be argued that SPEED has really placed the series up on a higher pedestal than they could have ever gotten from ESPN, which was still angry (at the time) about not only being frozen out of the TV deal that started in 2001 for the then-Winston Cup and Busch Series, but also not being allowed on track property (outside of Truck races). You might remember that period as the time when Mike Massaro did the equivalent of dressing up as a discarded half-gallon of ice cream in order to maintain ESPN’s presence at the highest levels of the sport.
To help celebrate the 200th race on SPEED, the major feature of the Setup was a countdown of the Top 10 moments that SPEED televised over the past nine years. The countdown was also punctuated with interviews with the notable protagonists. Most of those figures are still actively involved in the series. Carl Edwards, who just so happened to be at the track via his Nationwide duties, was a notable exception. Think of it as a 30-minute long edition of The Vault.
The main problem with SPEED dedicating the entire pre-race to… themselves is that they basically did not preview the race in any way. That is not cool. However, we did get to see Krista Voda get “caked” by Matt Crafton. Oh, what I would do for a screen cap of Voda getting the cake smashed in her face with something like “Pwned” on the picture. Seems like the perfect picture for something like the comment section at Jalopnik. What? I can’t have my cake and eat it, too? I need as much humor I can get these days. Of course, the instant replay of it wasn’t exactly necessary.
Since Michael Waltrip was at the Circuit de la Sarthe near Le Mans, France testing for his debut appearance in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, older brother Darrell was in the broadcast booth in a substitute role. I’m sure that many of my readers were seriously fretting Darrell’s involvement with the production. However, there are a couple of ways that I can gauge how Darrell’s presence will effect the broadcast itself.
Firstly, as completely innocent as it seems, I look at whether Darrell is allowed to do his whole Boogity thing. You know what I’m getting at. If he does it, then we might be in for a long night. If not, then the telecast might be quite interesting. It’s really all about control. Or to be more specific, the play-by-play man (Allen, in this case) assuming control over his domain. I know, it sounds very Dog Whisperer-ish. Or at the very least, like the Dog Whisperer impersonator on South Park a few years ago in Season 10. It should be noted that this restriction only applies to non-Cup races, where Darrell is not necessarily a regular. If it’s a FOX Cup race, it’s happening whether you like it or not.
Secondly, I look at Darrell’s analysis during the race itself. When he’s focused on the race at hand, he is possibly one of the best analysts in all of motorsports. He has a lot of insight on racing that he can easily espouse and make relevant, even if he never raced on the track itself (like at Nashville Superspeedway). However, he does get off-topic at times and that can mess with a broadcast.
Finally, there is the whole courtesy factor. Is Darrell picking his spots with his commentary, or is he all over people? If it’s the latter, you’ve got problems. There is no problem with someone “chomping at the bit,” but there is with outright cutting people off.
Darrell exhibited all the positive attributes that I mentioned above on Friday night. As a result, his presence on the broadcast was a great advantage.
Allen and Parsons brought their usual degree of enthusiasm to the race telecast. I had no real complaints there. However, there is still the continuing heaping of praise on Kyle Busch for completely random accomplishments. On Friday, it was Kyle leading his 20,000th lap in NASCAR’s top three series. Where the heck did that come from, and why am I supposed to care? He’s a Cup driver in the Camping World Truck Series. Accomplishments like that shouldn’t matter.
Post-race coverage was quite substantial. There were nine post-race interviews, in addition to checks of the unofficial results and point standings before SPEED left the air. That put the bow on an excellent broadcast – with the exception of the pre-race coverage that was missing – to mark such a special anniversary for the network.
Saturday afternoon saw the Nationwide Series back in action. Regular ESPN carried the standalone race instead of ESPN2. Since it was the first non-Cup support event of the season, ESPN decided that now was a good time to really get to know some of the Nationwide-only regulars. On paper, the features that ESPN did were pretty good. However, I don’t think that they needed to wait this long to break them out.
It is because ESPN waited this long to give the regulars a little more than just lip service that has led writers to accuse them of not caring about them. I don’t necessarily believe that ESPN has some wild bias against the regular Nationwide teams. Even if they did, they would never admit to such a thing because it could theoretically put them at odds with Nationwide, NASCAR and any number of other entities. They claim to simply cover the main stories of the race. Unfortunately, the Cup drivers are the main story most of the time because they’ve been the only ones in contention to win the last 39 races, for better or worse. That is not ESPN’s fault; it’s the fault of NASCAR, the teams, and most importantly, the sponsors.
One feature was based around the rickyvstrevor.com website that Roush Fenway Racing has created to hype Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Trevor Bayne. On the site, the two drivers challenge each other to do different tasks. The concept is nothing new. Its essentially a racing version of Kenny vs. Spenny, originally a Canadian show that was picked up by the Game Show Network in 2004 when they re-launched as GSN. Trey Parker and Matt Stone revived the show a couple of years ago for Comedy Central.
Here, Jamie Little set up a couple of random tasks for the two Roush Fenway drivers to perform as fast as possible. The tasks were Easter-themed. For example, one involved stuffing Peeps into one’s mouth as fast as possible. I thought the feature was a little weird and simplistic, like ESPN was stretched for time. The stuff that is on the Ricky vs. Trevor website is probably better.
There was another feature on Stenhouse and his great improvement since the middle of last season. As well as he has performed in 2011, I literally think that ESPN doesn’t know much about him. The feature shown Saturday contained new footage, but was almost no different from the last one.
Another feature focused on Aric Almirola, his upbringing and his career over the past couple of years. I found it interesting because viewers haven’t learned much about Almirola in his nearly six years in the upper levels of NASCAR. Yes, I knew he was of Cuban descent, but that was about it. There was also no mention of his only “win” in the series (Milwaukee back in 2007, when he was infamously pulled out of the car 59 laps into the race and replaced by Denny Hamlin). There was also no mention made of his success in the Camping World Truck Series. Interesting, but very much incomplete.
Taking a cue from FOX, ESPN also decided to take a look at the pit road loops and NASCAR’s automated speed control system on pit road. However, since FOX beat them to the air with their footage by two weeks, viewers (if they watched the Cup race from Texas) didn’t learn anything in the actual feature. Dave Burns did show where the loops were located on pit road for Saturday’s race in Nashville on a printed-out pit sheet right after it aired. That was a good move. I think that NASCAR’s TV partners should get a hold of the loop locations and make use of them on the broadcasts. Also, NASCAR needs to do a better job of showing fans where the loops are (remember, they do not correspond to lines on pit road).
In addition to the aforementioned features, ESPN gave viewers a dozen pre-race interviews with Nationwide-only regulars, Cup drivers, and other series interlopers (Austin Dillon). Quite a substantial amount. All in all, a pretty good pre-race show. Just shows that when you don’t spend 32 minutes mindlessly analyzing the upcoming race from the Infield Studio, you can get quite a bit done.
The trio of Reid, Daugherty and Craven was an interesting one in the booth. Before we even got to the race, I was under the opinion that Craven is an underused asset in ESPN’s NASCAR coverage. Not too dissimilar to Randy LaJoie’s standing before he completely screwed up and “Smokeyed MacPot.” Assuming that Craven doesn’t shoot himself in the foot sometime in the future, he could be very useful for ESPN’s coverage.
Our own Garrett Horton thinks that Craven could be useful for ESPN’s Sprint Cup coverage in the booth, and I agree wholeheartedly. In that case, I would have no clue which one of the analysts would have to go to accommodate Craven to maintain the three-man crew. A four-man crew, as Ned Jarrett’s guest appearance at Charlotte, and the “Backseat Drivers” shenanigans from 2009 prove, simply does not work.
Why does Craven do well? He explains what’s going on in simple terms, but doesn’t insult the intelligence of the audience. Also, he is very sensitive to how a car looks on track. To give an example, Craven mentioned how Justin Allgaier’s No. 31 was not handling all that well in qualifying. A radio transmission from Allgaier that was played on-air live effectively repeated what Craven said. Also, Reid seemed to be a little more comfortable working with Craven than Dale Jarrett, which is a little surprising knowing that we’re into Reid’s second full year with Dale.
As for Daugherty, he was an interesting choice to partner up. I’ve always been a bit unclear as to his official role on the broadcast. If it is to be excitable, then he passes with flying colors. I guess he’s supposed to be bringing in the insight of an owner to the broadcast. Most of the time, it doesn’t really help that much.
The race broadcast itself was not all that bad. ESPN made a concerted effort to give equal treatment to the Nationwide-only regulars as opposed to the Cup regulars, of which only five were even in the race. They definitely foresaw some of the sentiment that the weekend was likely to bring if the Cup drivers dominated.
Since the race was relatively quick with minimal long cautions, there was quite a bit of post-race coverage. ESPN provided viewers with a dozen more interviews. These interviews were with subjects just as varied as back in NASCAR Countdown. There were also a check of the point standings before ESPN left the air.
The broadcast was quite interesting to watch. Craven is a joy to listen to in the booth, but is and will continue to be underused. Reid and Daugherty were OK, although Brad did say a couple of weird things during the race that made almost no sense.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the Sprint Cup Series returns from their traditional Easter break to race at Richmond International Raceway, typically one of the more exciting races early on in the season. The Nationwide Series will serve as the primary support. Remember that the Nationwide race will be on SPEED due to ESPN’s coverage of the NFL Draft and the NBA Playoffs. Also, the Izod IndyCar Series will be back in action in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Here’s your listings:
Thursday, April 28
Friday, April 29
Saturday, April 30
Sunday, May 1
I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup and Nationwide races from Richmond next week here at Frontstretch.com. In addition, I will critique the Izod IndyCar Series race from Sao Paulo. The Critic’s Annex on May 5th (in our Free Newsletter edition) will cover Denny Hamlin’s invitational race, which was moved to Richmond International Raceway due to its former home, Southside Speedway, shutting down at the end of last season. This week’s Annex will cover the V8 Supercars from Hamilton, New Zealand.
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.
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I completely agree with Susan about Ricky Craven. The guy is a class act and extremely thoughtful in his comments. Kind of reminds me of Ned. I dont really see what Dougherty brings to the tablle. If we must have an owners perspective, lets limit it to pre-race conversations.
I strongly agree about how good Ricky Craven is at his new TV job.Everything Susan said is true and I personally look forward to when he’s on. I STRONGLY disagree about DW being the best analyst in Motor sports when he’s focused. I’m 61 years old and have been around racing my whole life and most of what DW says does not ring true. Even when he’s focused he’s wrong more than he’s right, plain and simple. Ricky adds to the enjoyment of NASCAR whereas DW ruins it for me. I’m sick of his and his brothers acts and wish they would go away!!
Love that picture of Ricky the Race Nerd. No wonder he couldn’t make it behind the wheel.
I love Craven in the booth. I think NW broadcasts should consist of different people than Cup broadcasts. (When ESPN covers the Cup races later on in the year) Let’s have Reid be the lead announcer for both series, but have Craven and Petree for the Cup races, while Jarrett and Wallace could team up for the NW races. I don’t really care for Wallace, but I like him a bit better than Brad.
I really liked having Ricky Craven on Saturday.Called it like he saw it. Liked all the comments today except for “Lastlap”. Guess he thought he was funny. Wrong!
I have to agree with Susan about Ricky Craven. And I do miss him in the car racing. The most exciting race I have ever seen featured his .002 of a second win over Kurt Bush. One I will never forget.
I agree with Susan and Wayne! Craven is very good and DW SUCKS!