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 June 21, 2011
Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Talking NASCAR TV, where race broadcasts are the name of the game. You won’t find people using modified golf carts on track to run their rivals out of fuel here.
This past weekend, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series were back in action at Michigan International Speedway. Meanwhile, the Izod IndyCar Series made their return to The Milwaukee Mile.
However, before we start, there’s some breaking news. Sports Business Journal is reporting that FOX is looking to potentially shift some races (as many as six) away from the FOX Television Network to SPEED. Granted, I would not expect the production to be all that different on SPEED as opposed to FOX, but it would take away some fans’ means of watching races. SPEED is available in 78 million homes, but some cable systems (mine included) have been moving the channel to the Digital Sports Tier, requiring digital cable and the extra cost for the sports package (for me, $5.95 a month) in order to view the station. A lot of fans aren’t going to like that move if it comes to fruition. What races could get shifted to SPEED if this happens? Take a step back to 2002 or so and check which races aired on FX. Dover, Richmond, events like that. Those would be candidates to be shifted.
Also, a quick announcement. I will be traveling to Daytona Beach to represent Frontstretch during the Coke Zero 400 weekend. As a result, I will not be critiquing TNT’s annual Wide Open Coverage from Daytona. Hopefully, Meatwad does not make an appearance on the broadcast this year. Here we go.
The Milwaukee 225
On Sunday, ESPN returned for their third race of the season, The Milwaukee 225 from The Milwaukee Mile. The coverage started out with Honda Pit Stop, the IndyCar Countdown show.
Honda Pit Stop started off with a recap of the Firestone Twin 275’s from Texas Motor Speedway.
Since the race was run on Father’s Day, ESPN aired a feature where certain drivers talked about what their fathers mean (or meant) to them. It was a nice look into the private lives of drivers, which we really don’t see all that much. In addition, there were five pre-race interviews and some pre-race discussion in the booth before the race began.
During the race coverage itself, ESPN kept up the Father’s Day theme by constantly referencing the drivers (seven of them) who were fathers and actually doing a father-themed Up to Speed (yes, this happened). It was a little weird in practice.
Unlike some of ESPN’s NASCAR telecasts, the Izod IndyCar Series telecast focused mostly on battles for position around the track. Since Milwaukee (for open-wheelers) is a short track in every sense of the word, there was no shortage of on-track action, and ESPN made a point to cover all of it.
However, outside of Will Power’s issues early on in the race, most of that coverage was centered at the front of the field. In a race with only 26 starters (two of which didn’t make it beyond Lap 15), that’s not so good.
Reid and Goodyear are basically throw-away guys in the broadcast booth at this point. They don’t really bring anything to the booth, but they don’t really take anything away either. Cheever is only in the booth for the Indianapolis 500, so he wasn’t back this week. We’re better off for that because Cheever is to racing commentary like Tim McCarver is to baseball commentary—useless. Having said that, I’m sure that some race fans were happy that Reid was not in Michigan this weekend.
ESPN nearly missed a restart due to being in a Side-by-Side commercial. As a result, they were a little slow getting to the wreck involving Sebastian Saavedra and Alex Lloyd. In the future, ESPN should not cut it so close with the Side-by-Side commercials to restarts. It also brings to mind a question: as long as local breaks are not involved, the network can break out of a commercial at any time to show something (wreck, major turning point of the race, etc.). Can ESPN do that with Side-by-Side commercials? It is a question that has rarely been asked.
Since the race finished right up against the end of the timeslot, post-race coverage was quite limited. There were interviews with race winner Dario Franchitti, second-place finisher Graham Rahal and fourth-place finisher / co-points leader (with Franchitti) Will Power. There was also a check of the points standings before ESPN left the air.
I generally enjoyed watching the action at Milwaukee. It really served as a way for me to cool down after the technological issues I had during the Cup race (written out in detail below). Having said that, ESPN never really gives those drivers outside of the top teams much airtime. If not for the wreck at the end of the Indianapolis 500, JR Hildebrand wouldn’t be getting much coverage from ESPN.
Of course, he got swept up into another wreck Sunday, resulting in an interesting exchange between Reid and Goodyear about what Hildebrand must be going through with his team owner, John Barnes. This was actually quite notable as Goodyear actually was able to use his vast experience to help out the viewers, which doesn’t really happen all that often. What I’m trying to say is that Goodyear isn’t used correctly in the booth. He is almost never asked to reflect on his own career and relate his experiences to anything going on in the present. If Reid played to this strength a little more often, it would make ABC’s remaining broadcasts from Loudon and Las Vegas that much better.
Alliance Truck Parts 250
On Saturday, the Nationwide Series returned to Michigan for their first-ever Spring race on the two-mile oval. ESPN televised the race on ABC. Since ESPN also broadcasted the Izod IndyCar Series race from Milwaukee, the alternative plan was put into motion. That means that Bestwick was in the booth with Briscoe taking his place in the Pit Studio.
Countdown was heavily focused on the race itself and interviews, which was good to see. Usually, the discussion is so focused on the Pit Studio that very little time is actually spent with the drivers.
The main feature in Countdown was a piece where different drivers talk about fatherhood, in honor of Sunday being Father’s Day, a feature similar to the one during pre-race coverage for the Izod IndyCar Series race, just with different drivers. It was a nice touch, but most of the drivers interviewed in the piece were Cup drivers.
In the race telecast itself, ESPN put a heavy focus on the top 10 drivers as if there were only the frontrunners on track. Everyone else basically was on screen only when they were lapped by the leaders, or if one of the frontrunners had some type of issue.
The exceptions to this rule were of the actual start of the race, and on restarts. In those cases, ESPN gave viewers some fairly nice wide shots that allowed us to see quite a bit of the action. For that, they should be commended, but still, as a viewer, I would like to see more of the action on track. It cannot be limited to just a sampling of the action. Coverage like this is part of the reason why so many fans hate races at Michigan and Fontana.
Since the race ended ahead of schedule, ESPN had plenty of time for post-race coverage. They responded by providing viewers with eight post-race interviews. There was also plenty of post-race discussion and a check of the point standings before ESPN left the air.
I’ve been saying it for the better part of two years, but ESPN needs to focus more on teams further down in the pack. Did you know that David Stremme finished 12th in the ML Motorsports No. 70 after starting in the back? Not likely. Stremme got three mentions on the broadcast all day. Two on pit road when Shannon Spake was calling his pit stops under green, and one right after a restart—that was it. Otherwise, he was invisible. That type of treatment is not good for the series, let alone ESPN itself. This policy that puts a lot of emphasis on Cup drivers only hurts the Nationwide Series, and ESPN’s investment in it.
Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400
Finally, we come to Sunday’s Sprint Cup coverage from Michigan. If you remember last week’s critique, I complained about the amount of commercials and some issues with RaceBuddy. Let’s just say both of them got worse.
Countdown to Green Delivered by Pizza Hut started off with the typical discussion with Petty, Czarniak and McReynolds. Interesting conversation that actually previews the race. As I’ve previously mentioned, Petty is the rock star of the bunch, but doesn’t make the show about himself (although he does claim that he’s a lot older than he really is).
The Pride of NASCAR feature was about A.J. Foyt, an interesting choice since Foyt never raced full-time in NASCAR, but instead cherry picked races for over 30 years, winning seven in 128 starts (including the 1972 Daytona 500). Tony Stewart narrated the introduction and talked about the influence that Foyt has had on his career. Although he never drove for Foyt when in the Indy Racing League (Stewart raced for Team Menard), Stewart idolized Foyt growing up in Indiana and runs the No. 14 today as a tribute to Foyt. Apparently, Foyt calls Stewart up and gives him the what for when things aren’t going that well. It was an interesting look at an often-overlooked portion of Foyt’s career, his moonlighting. In addition to his NASCAR efforts, Foyt also moonlighted in sports cars, winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Ford GT40 Mk IV in 1967 with Dan Gurney and twice at the 24 Hours of Daytona (1983 and 1985) in Porsches fielded by Preston Henn.
Another feature showed Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and crew chief Steve Letarte going to a military base and doing some training simulations. Afterwards, the two men sat down for a two-on-one with Czarniak. We didn’t really learn anything from the feature, except about Earnhardt, Jr.‘s drive to succeed, which is just as strong as its always been, but had been sublimated due to his lack of recent success.
There were five pre-race interviews shown. One of those was with Joe Gibbs, who talked about the confiscated oil pans from his team and how he had signed off on them. Carl Edwards also showed up on the stage to talk about his weekend. He also brought some props once again, in reference to the valve out of his engine that he brought to the stage in Pocono.
As I’ve mentioned previously, I keep track of the length of commercial breaks during green flag action and the number of those breaks taken. Sunday’s race, although being only two hours and 36 minutes in length, contained over 40 minutes of commercials under green in 15 breaks. It’s just plain excessive, nothing else to it.
The only explanation that I can come up with is that advertisers are not willing to pay Turner Sports as much for their time due to the fact that we have RaceBuddy at our disposal online (when it wants to work). Also, the Wide Open Coverage at Daytona often requires special commercials to be made specifically for the telecast, forcing the networks to accept even less money. Hence, more breaks during regular racing, to the tune of a roughly 40 percent increase over the FOX portion of the season. It hurts, and we can’t really do anything about it.
As for RaceBuddy, I had serious issues viewing the action on there Sunday. It says something that the Adobe plug-in crashed six times before the command to start engines was given. By the time the telecast (including the RaceBuddy-exclusive post-post-race show) was over, it had crashed roughly 30 times. Ridiculous. In addition, when it was not crashing, the picture was choppy as heck (meaning it would stop and start constantly). At first, I thought it was Internet Explorer causing the issues, so I switched over to Firefox. However, I still had the issues throughout the race, even after I restarted my computer. Frustrating—can’t describe it any better than that.
The sad truth is that RaceBuddy was giving viewers great images. For example, I saw Earnhardt, Jr. hit the wall for the first of three times live, something I don’t recall being mentioned on TNT. By the time the race was at Lap 150, I was just so frustrated with the crashing that I all but said the heck with it. I’m going to download an Adobe update and hope that it works because I simply cannot have a repeat of Sunday’s RaceBuddy travesty.
On TNT, they spent a decent amount of time trying to follow battles for position. However, with the long green flag runs, there were only so many battles to show. An issue that I did have with the coverage was that there was very little discussion of what happened to Jeff Burton. Petty simply stated that Burton wanted to get out of the way of everyone on the restart with 37 laps to go. No mention was made of the gearing issue that led to it, or of Burton at all for the rest of the race—not cool.
Post-race coverage was ok, but not great. On TNT, there were six post-race interviews, along with checks of the unofficial results and point standings. However, they chose to leave the air eight minutes early despite the race only having a three hour and 15 minute timeslot.
On the RaceBuddy-exclusive post-post-race show, there was a full recap of the race, five more interviews and more checks of the results and point standings. In addition, there was footage shown behind-the-scenes of the Red Bull Racing Team. The feature included a team meeting, some radio chatter and a discussion with a NASCAR official and was an interesting way to end the day.
TNT’s constant commercial breaks make it very difficult for the broadcast to develop any kind of a flow. The amount of green-flag racing shown in between breaks was just about as long as the breaks themselves. At least we didn’t miss too much in those commercials. I don’t think that will be the case in Sonoma.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend is one of my personal favorites though I don’t know if all of my readers would agree with me or not. The Sprint Cup Series will be making their annual trek out to Infineon Raceway near Sonoma, California for the first of two road races on the calendar this season. Meanwhile, the Nationwide Series will make their second trip to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The Rolex Sports Car Series will race earlier the same day at the 4-mile track on the undercard of a doubleheader. Finally, the Izod IndyCar Series returns to Iowa Speedway. Here’s your listings for the week.
Friday, June 24
Time Telecast Network
Saturday, June 25
Time Telecast Network
Sunday, June 26
Time Telecast Network
*- Tape Delayed
Like this week, I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Izod IndyCar Series telecasts. The Rolex Sports Car Series 250-miler will be covered in the Critic’s Annex on June 30.
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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The volume of commercials in Sundays broadcast was ridiculous. Phil, we need a VOICE with the networks. You are in the media business. WHAT CAN WE DO AS A GROUP OF ENTHUSIASTS? I’m not content to sit back and say “there’s nothing that can be done because that’s the way the networks opertate”. THERE HAS TO BE SOMEONE WE AS A GROUP CAN LOBBY. Do some research on our behalf and lead us in our fight to get back the sport so many of us love. Follow the money and lets get access to the decision makers. HELP US!
Admirable enthusiasm, Joe, but there really is nothing we can do. It’s all about the money and unless you and your lobby have enough to buy out the commercial time, you get what you get.
We tape the race and watch it in the evening since everything else is reruns. After fast-forwarding through the commercials, we watched the entire race in a little over an hour. I really thought I was going to break the fast-forward button going through all those commercials.
Really do enjoy your articles so I know whether it’s just me. I really dread when ESPN takes over the Cup series. Their telecasts really stink, IMO. Totally agree they spend way too much time on the Cup drivers during Nationwide races. All we hear about is Edwards and Busch. They sure do like “Cousin Carl” but at least we don’t have to listen to that “Closer” crap anymore (Harvick). I really think Nascar needs to do more before NNS is dead. I don’t see these Cup drivers filling the stands so what’s their reason now? Stands aren’t even full on Sundays anymore. And sticking with only the leaders is really boring to watch. That’s why I get Raceview. Sorry you had the problems with RaceBuddy; I didn’t. Worked fine. Last week it froze on me but no problems this week. I like having the choices. Sooner or later, everybody is going to start to DVR the races so they don’t have to watch the commercials. I actually think more people would see them if they did side by side.
Why was the Alliance Truck Parts 250 a car race and not a truck race?