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 August 2, 2011
Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Talking NASCAR TV, where we’re fine with innovation, as long as they benefit the final product. This past weekend saw the return of ESPN to the Sprint Cup Series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Meanwhile, approximately eight miles to the northwest, the Camping World Truck and Nationwide Series both raced at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, potentially for the final time.
However, before we start:
On Monday, Vulture, the entertainment division of New York Media (owners of New York Magazine), reported that Starz Media is set to announce a new NASCAR-related one hour series centered upon the first female car owner in NASCAR and the uphill battle to gain corporate backing. Apparently, this series has been described as “The red state Mad Men.” There is a tentative title, but I don’t think I can type it here due to our site’s standards on language. It’s in the link if you want to take a look. If it reaches the air, it will not be the first racing-centric drama series on premium television. Back in 1997, Showtime aired a series entitled Fast Track that featured Keith Carradine.
AAA Insurance 200
On Friday night, the Camping World Truck Series had their 17th race at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. The usual crew was in play.
Following the normal recap of the previous race (Nashville), SPEED brought viewers a rehash of Austin Dillon’s diving failure following the race, and the piece from NASCAR RaceHub last week where Jimmy Spencer awarded Dillon a “Straitjacket Award” for his stupidity. Then, Dillon busted in, Kool-Aid Man style. Why did they do that? First, because it was quite humorous. I’ll give them that. Secondly, SPEED had an ace up their sleeve with home movie footage of Dillon on a homemade slip-n-slide at roughly age 3.
There was a feature on Parker Kligerman, his rise up through the ranks of open-wheeled racing prior to the switch to stock cars, and his season so far in the No. 29. Admittedly, the entire first half of the piece was effectively a less specific version of the interview that I conducted last year with Kligerman. The second half was a detailed look at Kligerman’s 2011, which was interesting. As the season’s gone along and Kligerman’s climbed up the point standings, he’s gotten more and more airtime, so he’s not all that much of a dark horse anymore. Granted, I’m pretty sure the 2010 Kligerman would be pretty pleased with where the 2011 Kligerman is now.
Another feature was on Rick Crawford, a former driver in the series that has been forced to take a break from racing. It took a look back at his long career, which was fruitful, but only included a few visits to Victory Lane. It also showed what Crawford is doing these days (serving as the Promoter at Mobile International Speedway). There was no mention of some of the work he’s done recently with Jennifer Jo Cobb’s team.
When the race finally got underway, I was very happy with the amount of battles for position that were shown on-air. Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis is always good for that type of action, but it seemed like we just plain got spoiled on Friday night.
Unfortunately, I don’t think that SPEED was expecting the race to go caution-free for the final 107 laps. As a result, there were a series of commercial breaks that were all but back-to-back (nearly three minutes), followed by maybe three minutes of racing, then three more minutes of commercials. Such a practice really breaks up the race and makes it difficult to follow what was going on.
Since the race ended fairly early, SPEED had plenty of time for post-race coverage. To that end, SPEED provided viewers with eight post-race interviews, along with checks of the unofficial results and point standings. There was also some post-race discussion and a period put on the collision between Todd Bodine and Dillon. Cameras captured the two drivers discussing the crash and coming to a consensus about it. There was even an embarrassing moment when tenth-place finisher (and first time starter) Ross Chastain called Hermie Sadler “Sir.” I don’t think Hermie’s used to that, although it appears that he used to call his dad sir when he was younger.
Aside from the commercials that I mentioned above, I really enjoyed watching Friday night’s race on SPEED. The good amount of action on-track served as a definite contrast to Sunday’s action at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. SPEED’s trio in the booth was excellent and on task. They’re just a pleasure to listen to, even Michael at times.
Saturday night was supposed to be a big night for the Nationwide Series. It was the last Brickyard 400 weekend Nationwide race at the short track, but it was also scheduled to be the Nationwide Series debut for Travis Pastrana. However, a botched attempt at a 720 on Thursday night in the Moto X Best Trick event resulted in a broken heel and foot, forcing Pastrana to sit out. Obviously, this significantly changed ESPN’s plans. It resulted in planned features, one of which consisted of a look into the logistics of the “Pastranathon,” being scrapped. So, what did they do for pre-race?
Instead of being Pastrana-focused, ESPN went with a normal pre-race. Since the Pit Studio was eight miles down the road, Marty Reid, Rusty Wallace and Ricky Craven hosted NASCAR Countdown from stools at the exit of pit road. They talked about the race itself and some of the stories surrounding the Nationwide Series.
Pastrana did appear on NASCAR Countdown via satellite from Los Angeles, where he still was prepping for a (at the time) potential run in the RallyCross event on Sunday. He ended up having a go with a hand-operated throttle. He thought that it would have been possible to use it in the Nationwide Series, but he felt that he wasn’t experienced enough to give it a go. He also revealed that he is having surgery today and will be out of action until at least October, possibly until after the season. There goes seven races’ worth of storylines. Oh well.
The race telecast was pretty decent to watch. However, going from watching Bestwick in the booth in Indianapolis and then watching Reid at Lucas Oil Raceway emphasizes some issues with Reid. He is apparently not the most observant person out there. Yes, he is good with pointing out who’s S&P’ing, but not much else. Truthfully, Reid is more of a sports car guy. That’s his background in television. He’s even driven sports cars in the past. Although he’s had multiple stints covering NASCAR in the past, he’s simply not the most knowledgeable guy out there. As a result, Wallace and Craven definitely seemed to be running the telecast.
Once again, Craven has proven to be a great analyst to listen to in the booth. He is very informative and his explanations are simple enough that anyone can understand, without pandering. Wallace is himself, but he’s keeping himself in control these days. He doesn’t go on and on about his own cars unless something spectacular happens to one or both of them.
Of course, that happened Saturday night. Tim Andrews and Michael Annett collided and crashed in Turn 3. ESPN failed to catch Andrews and Annett’s crash on camera, which (according to Reid) was a first for this season. They only caught when Steve Wallace got loose and hit the both of them (already stationary) in Turn 3. Reid acknowledged that ESPN failed to catch the crash, which is good (in that he acknowledged it), unlike at Pocono last year (which he obliquely referenced). However, this is a short track. It is not that hard to see everything. Perhaps if the cameras weren’t zoomed in as much, they could have caught the wreck.
Also late in the race, Justin Allgaier’s car burst into flames under caution while running second. When that happened, ESPN decided to sneak in a break before the restart. After the break, they showed a replay of Allgaier getting out of the car via split-screen. The screwy scoring move that put Brad Keselowski in second instead of Elliott Sadler was simply explained away as an “adjustment.”
Post-race coverage was actually typical in scope since the late race yellows (not to mention the red flag) sapped much of the extra time away. Still, ESPN provided viewers with eight post-race interviews and a check of the points. However, their results were actually wrong and were not corrected before they left for X Games coverage.
The first three-quarters of the telecast, despite being carried by Wallace and Craven, were pretty good. However, the end of the race really fell off. It’s sad that all the cameras can miss a wreck at a short track. Even worse that they would slip off to a break like they did with Allgaier’s fire and then not properly explain how the deuce Brad Keselowski went from fourth to second. I’m sorry, but it appears that ESPN didn’t let the commentators do their jobs properly right there. That can’t stand. You have to be better than that. I expect improvement in Iowa next week.
Sunday saw ESPN’s return for year No. 5 of their stretch run coverage of the Sprint Cup Series. With ESPN’s return to the fold, some changes followed. As I’ve already written about previously, Marty Reid is out for the Cup races from now on and Allen Bestwick is back in the booth. I’d imagine that Reid would be the substitute in the booth if Bestwick was unable to fulfill his duties, though. Nicole Briscoe is in the Pit Studio, taking over Bestwick’s prior role.
On the technological side, ESPN’s new graphics package debuted this weekend. Big plus, there. Yes, it only brings ESPN’s NASCAR coverage in line with the rest of the network, but it looks a lot better and its a lot easier to read. Unfortunately, being late to the party graphically was an issue even in the 1990’s. Back then, ESPN’s NASCAR coverage was graphically behind the rest of the network. For example, when the silver and purple graphics were introduced in early 1994, the NASCAR coverage didn’t get it until August.
Since the Brickyard 400 is what amounts to the crown jewel of ESPN’s chunk of the schedule (Chase not withstanding), they went all out during NASCAR Countdown. There was a piece centered on what current and former drivers thought about racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I always think that those features are interesting because of the era we’re in now. Nobody makes their opinions known all that often.
SportScience returned with a look at how drivers can conserve fuel on the track. This was something that Andy Petree or Tim Brewer could have done, but the SportScience feature did it using computer-animated visuals. I don’t think I learned anything, but then again, I’ve been watching races on television for over 20 years.
ESPN also replayed the piece on Kyle Busch and how his perception has changed over the past year. That piece originally premiered on Wednesday night during NASCAR Now. In it, Busch talked about how some people have certain perceptions of him that he cannot change. As a result, he’s just not going to worry about it. The piece also brought up some of the shenanigans from this season (the bumping incident at Darlington, the 128 in a 45 in Troutman, North Carolina and Richard Childress channeling Nolan Ryan on Busch’s head). By the time it aired on Countdown, it was already the third time I saw the piece.
There was another new technical innovation on the broadcast. ESPN, along with BSI, the provider of in-car camera technology for all NASCAR broadcasts, unveiled a new HD in-car camera system. To simplify it, ESPN can now show two in-car shots from one car at the same time live. In addition, those two shots can be from any combination of the cameras available in the car. Pretty sweet setup. I figure such a setup would be more helpful for replays of wrecks than anything else. In practice, ESPN showed the two shots via split-screen under green. One view would be pointed ahead, while the other one would be pointed at the driver. I guess its a work in progress for now, but it will definitely benefit the coverage in the long run.
Another change was a move to a quad-pits setup for rounds of stops under yellow. Unlike FOX’s quad-pits setup where it is just four boxes on screen, ESPN’s setup has the four boxes in the corners of the screen, while viewers can still see the race off of pit road. Its nice. I like it. However, there were a couple of screw-ups. The first time they used it Sunday, Kasey Kahne was in Juan Pablo Montoya’s box, and vice versa. Whoops. Also, another time, Clint Bowyer was shown to have taken 255 tires on a stop instead of just two. Always good for a laugh, but just like math class, you gotta check your work.
The changes brought about by ESPN did benefit the broadcast. Having Bestwick in the booth instead of Reid meant that the broadcast was a lot more focused than last year. As a result, more actual racing could be covered. That’s a plus all around.
The Brickyard 400 appears to be probably the easiest race to cover for members of the production crew whose experiences are mainly in other sports, like football. For example, ceremonial pace car driver Hope Solo dropped by the Pit Studio right before the first round of pit stops to chat about her experiences at the track and behind the wheel of the Corvette. It reminded me of some of the booth interviews during Monday Night Football games.
Also, Ned Jarrett joined Bestwick, Petree and son Dale Jarrett in the broadcast booth for 25 laps during the middle of the race. While there, Ned talked about his career a little, his (brief) interactions with current UPS-sponsored driver David Ragan, and other topics. In addition to not really aging much in the last 11 years, Ned is still very sharp-witted on the mic. I don’t think he would be willing to return to booth work anytime soon (if ever), but it’s nice to hear from him.
The end of the race hurt the rest of the telecast badly. When Paul Menard came across the line to win, ESPN’s cameras zoomed in on the flagman waving the checkered flag in the flag stand and did not show any other cars crossing the line. In all honesty, this did not surprise me. ESPN/ABC has shot the end of Indianapolis race in this fashion for decades. Don’t believe me? Here’s the finish of the 1993 Indianapolis 500 at the 9:20 mark. Look familiar? It should. That is basically what ESPN did Sunday.
Me expressing a complete lack of surprise for ESPN’s actions led to a pseudo-argument with John Daly of The Daly Planet on Twitter after the race. If you read his articles, you probably know that not showing all the cars crossing the line at the finish is a huge issue with him. My main gripe is not that, actually. ESPN was so busy playing Menard’s audio and showing his crew celebrate that they failed to report on the stuff that happened on the final lap, like Mark Martin running out of gas. They should have cut away to show that after Menard crossed the line.
Since the race ended very early (it’s not the fastest Brickyard 400—fifth actually), ESPN had plenty of time for post-race. Viewers were treated to 13 post-race interviews, in addition to a check of the points. The ceremonial kiss of the bricks was shown live as well.
ESPN’s return to Sprint Cup went fairly well. But, there were a couple of glitches of note. I talked about the pit issues and the finish already. Another gripe I had was with the drivers that dropped from the wayside. I had no idea that Jeff Burton had blown an engine until I watched NASCAR Now on Monday. Not cool. Robby Gordon also claimed to have one go south on him early in the race. ESPN should work on keeping everyone fully up to date on those issues in the future. Interestingly enough, that was one of Reid’s strong points.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend is a split-weekend, but all three of NASCAR’s major series will be back in action. The Sprint Cup Series will make their second trip of the year to Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania. They will be supported by the unusual split show between the Camping World Truck Series and the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards. Meanwhile, the Nationwide Series will make their second trip of the year to Iowa Speedway. Here’s your listings:
Friday, August 5
Time Telecast Network
Saturday, August 6
Time Telecast Network
Sunday, August 7
Time Telecast Network
I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series broadcasts in next week’s critique here at Frontstretch. The ARCA broadcast may be roped into the Truck Series critique, as well. The Izod IndyCar Series race telecast from the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course will be covered in the Annex on August 11.
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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your exactly right, they really blew it at the end. If you were looking for anyone besides Menard or JG, you were out of luck.
Did you guys catch the pit guy Hollywood call Bestwick… Marty?
I also noticed Boyers tire count….Like they say – If 4 tires are good, 255 must be better!
What I missed was that JJ hit a pit crew guy from B. LaBonte’s crew. I knew he hit Vickers on pit road, but I missed where he hit another pit crew guy.
Early in the race, the 27 car won the race off pit road by taking 2 tires. ESPN immediately went to break as the cars rolled off pit road. When they came back from commercial I noticed the 27 car was at the back of the field. No mention was made as to what happened. Had to read the race report later to find out about the penalty. I like Bestwick & Jarrett… but ESPNs in race producers seem to be a step behind every year.
For the first time ever, Directv had menard on Pitpass along with Gordon, Earnhart, and Montoya. It really bummed me out that they had the audio hooked up to Kurt Bush’s channel. How could that happen for the entire race???? The spotter, driver, and crew chief remarks were irrelevant.