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.
Talking NASCAR TV · Phil Allaway · Tuesday May 31, 2011
Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Talking NASCAR TV, where dissection of race telecasts is our game. Quite frankly, I’m exhausted. It was a very long weekend of action; Sunday, especially. The Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series were in action at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend, while the Izod IndyCar Series raced in their only real crown jewel, the Indianapolis 500.
Before we start, in somewhat random TV news that much of my readeshipr probably doesn’t care about, NASCAR on FOX’s Mike Joy joined Twitter late last week. If you wish to ask him a question personally, and it fits within the 140 character limit, you can at @MikeJoy500. Remember that the same rules apply for asking questions of TV personalities as I’ve been preaching for contacting the networks.
Having said that, on to the critique.
Leading up to Indianapolis, ESPN had been celebrating the history of the Indianapolis 500 with clips from older races, a marathon of classic Indianapolis 500’s on the now fairly difficult-to-find ESPN Classic, and features on Sportscenter. I kind of expected more of the same on the pre-race show, entitled The Indianapolis 500: A Centennial Celebration. I was wrong.
About the only part of pre-race coverage that was historically based at all was the intro. William Fitchner (recent winner of the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race in Long Beach) narrated a historic look at the 2.5 mile rectangle and its great races while footage of historic cars ran along with him while he was walking around the track. It was quite interesting.
The rest of pre-race was solely based in the present. There was a feature about Charlie Kimball and driving with diabetes. It was an interesting look at a little-known rookie driver in the series. They also mentioned that they would have access to Kimball’s blood sugar readings during the race and would use them on the broadcast. I can’t remember it being mentioned more than just once in passing.
There was a feature where Chris Connelly interviewed Dario Franchitti about his upbringing in Scotland and how it helped mold him into the man that he is today (along with some words from his wife, Ashley Judd). Granted, the feature was very good (Connelly is probably one of the best people that ESPN has for these type of features), it was a repeat. The whole thing aired on Sportscenter last week, so I had already seen it by the time Sunday came around.
There were also features surrounding Sam Schmidt, the owner of the pole-winning car (77-Alex Tagliani) and Danica Patrick. These were decent, but really nothing to write home about (although Patrick’s featured a Katy Perry soundtrack and what looked like Patrick on the catwalk).
Marty Reid and Scott Goodyear were joined in the booth for Indianapolis by Eddie Cheever, the 1998 winner. Cheever is pretty boring in the booth, so he basically added nothing to the broadcast. I guess that’s why he’s only there once a year.
ESPN also used the Indianapolis 500 to debut a new graphics package. The package puts ESPN’s motorsports coverage in line with the rest of ESPN’s offerings. Like FOX before them, the changeover came about a year late. Regardless of tardiness, the new graphics look clean. I like them. If you’re wondering when they will be coming to ESPN’s NASCAR coverage, according to ESPN’s Andy Hall, they will debut Brickyard 400 weekend, the first weekend of ESPN’s Sprint Cup coverage.
There was heavy usage of Side-by-Side during the broadcast. At least 11 of these breaks were taken under green flag action, including two of them basically back-to-back towards the end of the race separated by Brent Musberger talking for something like two sentences. It got to be a bit much at times. For those of you who want to know, there was only one regular commercial break taken during green flag action.
With their 62 cameras, ESPN had almost everything pretty much covered on Sunday. However, they missed a pass for the lead live just eight laps into the race because they were distracted. They didn’t cut back to the leaders for three-quarters of a lap, where they simply stated that Tagliani had gotten back in front of Scott Dixon. Then, they showed a replay of the pass, which happened on the frontstretch effectively right in front of the booth. Granted, Indianapolis Motor Speedway has one of the worst broadcast booth placements of any oval in America, but this was pretty bad.
Race coverage was very much centered upon the front of the field. ESPN needs to remember in their IndyCar coverage (and for that matter, their NASCAR coverage as well) that every team has some type of story. I’ll use the example of Bertrand Baguette, who drove the No. 30 to a seventh-place finish (and led late before having to pit for fuel). I heard nothing about Baguette until he took the lead when Patrick pitted with ten laps to go. Then, ESPN focused on the No. 30 as if Baguette were the only driver on the track. Its ridiculous. It was worse when Patrick was leading.
Despite running over the race’s timeslot, ESPN provided pretty good post-race coverage. There were interviews with six drivers (winner Dan Wheldon, JR Hildebrand, Graham Rahal, Tony Kanaan, Patrick and Franchitti), and interviews with three owners. There was also a check of the unofficial results, but no check of the points before they left the air.
The telecast suffered from a lot of the front running issues that ESPN has struggled with in their NASCAR coverage. Yes, there are some similarities in personnel between the NASCAR and IndyCar telecasts for ESPN (Reid being the most notable). Instilling a front running philosophy for covering the biggest open-wheel race in the United States is a terrible idea, especially since Sunday might be the only time that much of the audience watches an Izod IndyCar Series race all year. Just for kicks, what if Baguette had enough fuel and actually ended up winning? It would have been a substantial upset, sure. ESPN would have interviewed him in Victory Lane, along with team owner Bobby Rahal (who they interviewed anyway because he’s Graham’s father). That’s a given. Where would they have gone from there? They basically would have had to introduce Baguette to the audience at home. The No. 30 team strikes me as one of those squads that would have fallen into the 25+ bunch in ESPN’s NASCAR coverage that Shannon Spake explained in this piece back in 2009, especially since they’re not a full-time Izod IndyCar Series team (Rahal-Letterman Racing is BMW’s factory team for the BMW M3 and races primarily in the American Le Mans Series). In their defense, they did mention that Baguette had been training on simulators provided by Dallara all season since he lost his ride with Conquest Racing at the end of last year. If that’s all they had on the team and Baguette, it could have been quite rough.
Top Gear 300
On Saturday, the Nationwide Series returned to action at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Since ESPN was also providing coverage from Indianapolis last weekend, roughly the same group that covered the proceedings in Iowa was on-air in Charlotte, including Allen Bestwick in the booth.
NASCAR Countdown was not removed from the Indianapolis feel. They played an excerpt from the fairly non-descript Patrick feature that I mentioned in the Indianapolis 500 section, minus the flashy background used in the actual feature. In addition, there was a preview of the Indianapolis 500 with Reid, Goodyear and Cheever. Granted, the Indianapolis 500 is big, but I don’t know if that was really necessary, especially the Patrick thing. Yes, she’s part-time in NASCAR, but not right now.
The vast majority of pre-race was spent in the Pit Studio discussing the upcoming race. A lot of “dap” was bestowed upon Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., who managed to snap the Nationwide regulars’ 0-for-44 streak in Iowa. However, since we were back to a normal weekend, there was plenty of coverage given to the Cup interlopers as well.
In the race, the main focus was once again on the Cup drivers. Since Stenhouse showed that he could beat them, he got increased coverage as well. Kimi Raikkonen also got a substantial amount of coverage since he was making his Nationwide Series debut in the Perky Jerky Toyota. However, I debate whether they were giving the viewers the whole story about Raikkonen’s day. “Jalopnik”: http://jalopnik.com/5806620/the-ten-funniest-things-kimi-raikkonen-said-in-his-nascar-nationwide-series-debutpasted together a series of quotes that SBNation’s Jeff Gluck transposed from Raikkonen’s radio transmission on Saturday. ESPN talked about Raikkonen’s car handling ok, but Raikkonen was singing a different tune, tinged with profanity and water bottle complaints. Take that however you want to. Also, he described hitting Jeremy Clements’ splitter as if he hit a hunk of wood. I found that amusing.
Post-race coverage was ok. There were seven post-race interviews with drivers, plus an interview with Trevor Bayne, who was atop Matt Kenseth’s toolbox. The unofficial results made a rare appearance outside of the scroll, while the points were covered as well. There was also post-race analysis in the Pit Studio and broadcast booth before ESPN left the air.
The telecast was simply far too focused upon the frontrunners, just like Sunday’s Indianapolis coverage. Admittedly, I really don’t care much about Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Kenseth in a Nationwide race, but they were the main principals on Saturday. I’d like to have seen a bit more coverage further down the pack. A little more than just lip service being given to Cole Whitt, who made his third career Nationwide Series start for Pastrana-Waltrip, would have been well-deserved, and some words about the rest of the drivers in the field who don’t have a World Drivers’ Championship trophy at home.
Finally, the Sprint Cup Series returned with their annual 600-mile marathon. To think I actually thought that it was possible to run the event in under four hours! Of course that wasn’t in the cards.
Since it was Memorial Day weekend, the entire pre-race show (with one notable exception) was focused on that fact. Jeff Hammond took a tour of a military base and was shown some special equipment by a Quartermaster. Afterwards, they went to the “Fox Sports Skybox” for drinks, where they were met inexplicably by Chris Myers. It should be noted that the aforementioned Skybox is in a classified location in Southwest Asia (seriously, it is). It was opened up last year and was designed to resemble one of the FOX Sports Grill places (I guess).
There was also a feature where various drivers, car owners and crew chiefs thanked either veterans or current members of the U.S. Military for their service. Darrell Waltrip spent his weekly “Revved Up” segment thanking the veterans as well. That’s just fine and all.
Then, it got a little weird. Michael Waltrip joined his brother Darrell, Hammond and Myers at the FOX Desk to announce that his book, In the Blink of an Eye: Dale, Daytona, and the Day that Changed Everything, has been optioned by Columbia Pictures to be made into a motion picture. Crikey. Michael claims that its going to be an uplifting story and all that, but the book ends on a really down note. I have no clue how that will translate to the big screen.
Finally, there was a really annoying feature with Darrell and Larry the Cable Guy. Yep. You know where this went even if you skipped pre-race. Dueling catch phrases and stupidity. Oh man, that was terrible. Yes, it was designed to advertise Cars 2, which both men have roles in. I get enough catch phrases each week with the Boogitys. I don’t need any “Git-R-Done’s” in my NASCAR coverage, thank you very much. Please don’t do that again. It is annoying and makes all of FOX Sports look bad.
Late in the race, FOX broke out the as-yet still unnamed Side-by-Side commercial with 33 laps to go. Nice touch, although nothing really of note actually happened during that break. I guess it could be seen as another experiment (this break ran approximately two minutes in length), however, there is no way that representatives from FOX Sports did not see the positive comments that came out of the Dover experiment.
One of the major stories early on in the race was the fact that Greg Biffle was having issues with his Koolbox (note that the spelling used here is the official spelling). Hammond showed off the Koolbox in a technical segment (via split-screen), but it should be noted that FOX wouldn’t spring for a current system. I know that some teams, notably Furniture Row Racing, prefer to use the Koolbox V for their AC. FRR General Manager Joe Garone said last year in Watkins Glen that the team “…preferred to go with a proven product” over the then-new and more expensive Koolbox VI, which Roush Fenway Racing was likely using Sunday evening. Hammond broke out a Koolbox IV, two generations (and probably five or six years) old. I’m sure that there are significant differences between that system and the one that was giving Biffle fits. Therefore, it might not have been representative of Biffle’s issues. However, I understand that those systems aren’t cheap (I’ve seen used Koolbox III’s going for $3000-$3500).
Late in the race, Jimmie Johnson blew his engine to bring out the 14th and final caution. FOX aired uncensored radio chatter that included Chad Knaus using the F-Bomb. Now, Mike Joy immediately apologized for the F-Bomb, and I’m sure was probably a bit upset that it even reached air at all.
I look at it a different way. I’ve long since reached the point where I don’t care if someone swears like a sailor on TV, especially if its 10:45pm on a Sunday night. I don’t feel that Joy needs to apologize for that. Also, for those of you who think NASCAR might fine Knaus for that, it could be in the cards, but it won’t go down like Dale Earnhardt, Jr.‘s infamous S-Word Heard ‘Round the World at Talladega in 2004. Since 2004, the constant fines that the FCC were throwing around in response to the Janet Jackson incident have been ruled unconstitutional. NASCAR forced Earnhardt, Jr. to pay the FCC fine ($27,000) himself back then, then kicked him while he was down with the point penalty. Today, I don’t think they’ll be anywhere near as strict with Knaus.
Of course, stuff like Earnhardt, Jr.‘s slip of the tongue led to races being delayed for the “protection of the general public.” I don’t believe in that garbage. People can handle profanity on the television. Heck, parents could even use it as a learning tool for their children without the sanctioning body punishing Knaus. For example, I went to a Seton Hall-Connecticut women’s basketball game when I was still in college. Early on, legendary UConn head coach Geno Auriemma started cursing the refs up and down, eventually drawing a technical foul. Behind me was a father at the game with his young daughter. She asked him, “Daddy, what did he say?” Her father simply responded with “Something that you shouldn’t say.” I don’t recall him telling the little girl what Geno’s words meant. The point is this. Media partners should not have to perform the role of self-censors.
Also, the final lap highlighted two more issues. First off, FOX zoomed their cameras way the heck too close to Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on the last lap. As a result, it was very difficult for viewers to make out that Earnhardt, Jr. was out of gas (and completely impossible to tell that Denny Hamlin was out as well). Often times, NASCAR’s TV partners like to show off their HD technology on their telecasts. ESPN Producer James Shiftan actually told me as such back at Watkins Glen the same weekend that I interviewed Spake. Unfortunately, showing off your wares is not always beneficial for viewers. We miss out on the whole story.
The other factor was the anger-inducing bias towards Earnhardt, Jr. that Darrell Waltrip showed in his commentary on the last lap. Bias is the dreaded fourth factor that I did not mention in my Nashville critique. Recently, Darrell has been accused of being incredibly biased towards Kyle Busch. That was not a problem Sunday evening. However, Darrell appears to have a soft spot for Earnhardt, Jr. as well. I know that a lot of people want to see Earnhardt, Jr. break his three year winless streak, but you can’t just basically admit that you were cheering for him on-air. What Darrell did Sunday night was wrong, and combined with the not-so-good camera work mentioned above, made a rather substandard situation worse. Not a good show.
Post-race coverage, despite the fact that FOX was right up against the end of the timeslot when the race ended, was ok. FOX gave viewers five driver interviews, plus checks of the unofficial results and point standings. There was also post-race wrap-up discussion before FOX left the air after nearly six hours of coverage.
The race telecast was ok, but there are definitely things that need to be worked on. Darrell needs to be monitored in order to see whether he’s maintaining his objectivity. I wish that didn’t have to happen, but its an ongoing concern for me and my readers. The cameras need to show all the action, not just isolate people. What’s the benefit of isolating people when you need to show the full story of what’s going on? I’m not in the grandstands in Charlotte. I can’t see 87 percent of the track from my seat. Throw me a bone here.
That’s all for this week. The Memorial Day weekend dissipates just a little in the first week of June. However, we’ve got a split weekend coming up. The Sprint Cup Series will be at Kansas Speedway for their inaugural Spring race, while the Camping World Truck Series will join them as the main support. The Truck Series used to race at Kansas as the main support for the Izod IndyCar Series. Meanwhile, the Nationwide Series will be at Chicagoland Speedway for a standalone race on Saturday night with the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards as support. Note that Patrick is scheduled to be back in the No. 7 at Chicagoland Saturday night. You’ve been warned. Here’s your listings:
Friday, June 3
Time Telecast Network
Saturday, June 4
Time Telecast Network
Sunday, June 5
Time Telecast Network
I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series events from Kansas Speedway in next Tuesday’s critique here at Frontstretch. Later this weekend, I will cover Carb Day in the Critic’s Annex. For the June 9 edition of the Critic’s Annex, I will cover the Messina Wildlife Animal Stopper 150 for the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards.
If you have a gripe with me, or just want to say something about my critique,
As always, if you choose to contact the network by email, do so in a courteous manner. Network representatives are far more likely to respond to emails that ask questions politely rather than emails full of rants and vitriol.
©2000 - 2008 Phil Allaway and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
I think the Indy 500 line-up is somewhat nebulous. There were 40 some teams and more drivers as potential qualifiers. You go for a constant like Ryan Hunter-Reay (who almost missed), and you miss Bertrand Baguette (a one off). Many deals came together at the last minute. Scott Speed and Bruno Junquiera were swapped out for different drivers in the last hours of the last day.
The race is also wide-open rather than the ten or so teams that you can count on to win at Charlotte. Would you have had a fat file on J.R. Hildebrand for his first time at the track? How big was the file on Trevor Bayne prior to the 500?
There’s also the fan factor and that can go both ways. NASCAR fans are disgusted with the fact that “push” is given a detailed explanation during every other race. Indy fans already know Baguette, he presented himself well last year. But Indy has more one-time viewers than Charlotte so I can understand the desire for more background. I say treat it like ball sports. Assume the viewers know all the rules and participants and can research what they don’t know on their own time.
Overall, a good article. the 2009 article (the 25+ cars) ws very informative also. i missed that when it first ran.
Good column, Phil. I don’t watch much Indy car but the coverage of the 500 was pretty solid. They had their glitches, too, as you pointed out the whole “front runner” focus deal is just the same way that ESPN covers NASCAR.
As you pointed out, DW needs to watch his bias — I get that he’s the colorful commentator (and yes I do mean colorful, not color)but still, there should be professionalism. I have stopped watching any and all pre-race shows since they provide no added value to my experience and I usually view the race with the sound muted and follow the action using trackpass and the radio feed. It’s a far cry from 2001 when I watched or recorded EVERY minute of NASCAR tv. I look to the TV for it’s replay value since all these guys love their toys and zoom in tight which ruins the viewers experience.
Between dreadful camera angles and the self-promoting Waltrips, Fox has been swirling ‘round and ‘round the toilet for a long time. It’s about time they swirled on out. Fox management has no idea how many fans have permanently checked out of Nascar because they just can’t take any more of the DW/Michael sideshow. It would be a big boost for Nascar if a different network got the nod when contract time rolls around.
Sick of DW? Then vote for another driver to get into the Na$crap HOF. Send DW a message!
I know there are issues involved but how wonderful it would be if they got Bob Jenkins back into the ABC booth for the Indy 500!!!! I look forward to the IZOD races on Versus because I know how good the commentating will be!! I watched the 500 Parade because he is such a professional but has so much knowledge and a joy to listen too!!! Reid made me gag just as he does each Nationwide Race he is part of….He may have the knowledge but has no skills as a commentator!! YES please do get rid of both Waltrips.