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 23, 2011
Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Talking NASCAR TV, where race telecast criticism is the name of the game. We’re back from a one week break since I was out of town, covering the races in Watkins Glen (including the rain-delayed Cup race). If you’re looking for a critique of the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen, I did write one that ran in the Frontstretch Newsletter on Thursday. If you subscribe to the Newsletter, you’ll have access to our archives, so take a look.
This past weekend, the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series were each racing at Michigan International Speedway. Meanwhile, the Nationwide Series raced Saturday afternoon at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.
NAPA Auto Parts 200
Oh yes. Montreal and the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Always good for on track action and wildness. The only thing that the Formula One events have in common with the Nationwide races is the fact that brakes are an issue. Other than that, it’s a great race to watch.
For Saturday, ESPN brought their coverage to the Ile de Notre Dame. Since the Pit Studio was back in Michigan, Shannon Spake served as the de facto host of NASCAR Countdown from pit road.
Most of the first half of Countdown was spent covering the impending announcement that Danica Patrick will be racing full-time in the Nationwide Series in 2012. I’ll be the first to tell you that I could care less about that fact, especially when some good action was coming up. It would have been a lot more annoying had Patrick not been entered in the race. Of course, that led to ESPN trying to get something out of her about it. If we’ve learned anything about Patrick in her interviews over the past few years, it is that she is very selective in what she says on the record. So much so that she is an incredibly boring interview, and she knows it.
Marty Reid seems to revel in raucous crowds at tracks. When they’re loud and out in force, he gets really giddy. I can’t describe it much better than that. Of course, Montreal’s estimated crowd of 70,000 definitely qualified as raucous.
During the race, there seemed to be a few specific drivers that ESPN decided to focus on. Marcos Ambrose was one of them, along with the French-Canadian contingent of Jacques Villeneuve, Alex Tagliani and Patrick Carpentier. Carl Edwards was in on that as well, along with Trevor Bayne, Robby Gordon, Danica Patrick and Steve Wallace. If your favorite driver was not in that group, than he/she got limited coverage. If you’ve read my critiques recently, then you’ll know that I’m not a fan of that.
Early on, the most controversial aspect of the race was when Maryeve Dufault was spun out exiting Turn 5 and had serious issues getting turned around. That turn has historically been a pretty nasty one. For example, Olivier Panis crashed into a tire barrier (that isn’t there now) in 1997 and broke both of his legs. The crash effectively derailed his career, regardless of the fact that he came back to the car before the season ended. The issue there is that the turn is blind. There is a pond on the inside of the turn, which makes it impossible to actually move the wall in. Spotters basically can’t see the corner from anywhere on the circuit.
All three of the commentators took a negative view of Dufault’s decision making while trying to get back underway. Wallace described it as a “rookie mistake” and suggested that Dufault try to whip the car back around instead of doing what she did. Perfectly valid. Trevor Bayne had every right to be scared in that situation. However, there was no mention of a prior on-track incident between Dufault and Eric McClure that resulted in McClure having to spend time behind the wall. According to Emily Brandt (McClure’s PR Minion), Dufault clipped McClure on the first lap of the race in the left rear. Prior to that, she was weaving about. There was also another instance where Dufault ran into McClure later in the race, prompting Brandt to tweet that NASCAR should park Dufault. ESPN had no footage of any of this, so they couldn’t comment on it. In fact, the only time I remember the No. 81 showing up during the telecast was during Dufault’s three spins. I’m sure that if they did have footage, the booth would have reacted negatively.
The excitement factor was quite appropriate for the booth for much of the race. I had no issues there.
There were a couple of errors in the broadcast, though. For example, Reid misinterpreted the chants from the grandstand when Carpentier dropped out of the event as his last name when it was his first name being chanted. Whoops. The booth also misdiagnosed Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.‘s issues with two laps to go. As you may have seen, Stenhouse’s engine went south at that point. However, the booth was convinced that Stenhouse had a tire issue. It wasn’t until a shot of the smoke coming out of the exhaust pipes a half a lap later did they actually realize that it was really an engine problem. You guys are better than that. It was pretty obvious if you checked your monitor that Stenhouse was blowing up. There was also a camera in Turn 3 that went to black around Lap 60. Luckily, ESPN quickly switched away from that shot.
Post-race coverage was fairly brief since ESPN was running up against the beginning of another Little League game. ESPN provided viewers with six post-race interviews (five drivers, plus the winning crew chief) and left right on schedule to get to Williamsport. The point check was constrained to the scroll to save time.
I always greatly enjoy the action at Montreal, but it seemed that Wallace didn’t do enough homework with the strategies. He said right on the telecast that the pit strategies were confusing to him and that he didn’t quite get what was going on at the beginning of the race. I don’t think you want to admit that on-air. It makes you look unprepared. Here is a place where being a car owner in the series hurts Wallace in the booth. He can’t go from team to team in the garage to get information like the pit reporters and other commentators can. He’s the enemy. They won’t tell him anything that he could use on-air.
SPEED returned early Saturday afternoon to provide coverage of the Camping World Truck Series from Michigan International Speedway. The Setup started off like normal with a recap of the series’ most recent race, the Good Sam RV Emergency Road Service 125.
Featured in the Setup was a piece about the grand opening of ThorSport Racing’s brand new shop (teased in artists’ renderings last year on the Setup) in Sandusky, Ohio. It was a time for celebration at the spacious quarters. Following that, ThorSport’s drivers (Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton and Dakoda Armstrong) went off to nearby Cedar Point to ride some roller coasters. Ray Dunlap tagged along and tried not to look like an idiot.
Another feature was focused on James Buescher and the season he’s had in the No. 31. A lot of emphasis was put on Phoenix, where Buescher failed to qualify (despite being in the top-25 in owners’ points last year, they didn’t run all the races, thus forcing them to qualify on speed). From there, the discussion moved on to redemption for the missed race.
I found no issues with SPEED’s telecast on Saturday from Michigan. Allen, Parsons and Michael Waltrip continue to work very well together. I think it might have thrown them just a little bit to have Kyle Busch in the field, and not be a threat to win. I know, it’s rare, but it happens. Luckily, they got right back in the groove and kept going.
The enthusiasm in the booth was stellar, as always. That is one thing I never have to worry about with SPEED. Also, on a random note, they had one more in-truck camera than normal Saturday (five instead of four). I’m definitely not opposed to that.
Post-race coverage was fairly typical for SPEED. There were seven post-race driver interviews and an interview with Bruce Cook, the winning crew chief. There were also checks of the unofficial results and the point standings before SPEED left the air.
Pure Michigan 400
Sunday brought the Sprint Cup Series out to play at Michigan International Speedway. ESPN was back with their normal contingent at the track. Also, as usual, pre-race discussion in the Pit Studio dominated Countdown. I don’t have anything against the Briscoe-Wallace-Daugherty trio, but I’d prefer that if they’re going to do a full hour of pre-race most weeks, please do some more features and interviews.
Having said that, ESPN did provide some non-analysis pre-race content Sunday. First up was a SportScience feature on athletes and extreme heat. Being the somewhat nerdy person that I am, I like SportScience features. Granted, this one was nothing I didn’t already know, but it’s always amazing to see just how much athletes sweat. I liked SportScience better when it was still a FSN property. I’d prefer that SportScience be it’s own show instead of being limited to pre-game segments and clips on SportsCenter.
ESPN also played an interview with Mike Helton that was taped this week in response to driver calls for better on-track safety (SAFER Barriers, moving of walls, etc.). Definitely a reactionary piece, but still good to have. As usual, Helton didn’t give any definite answers, though.
Marty Smith also did a one-on-one sit down interview with Joey Logano about his season and how he handled the rumors about Carl Edwards swooping in and stealing his seat. A couple members of a group that I discuss the race with every now and then thought that Logano was not far off breaking down and crying, but I didn’t really see that myself.
Races at Michigan are kind of tough to cover since they are prone to a “green flag feel.” You know what that means. Granted, the action around restarts and the actual start of the race is always pretty interesting. I expect ESPN to be on their A-game in those circumstances and they were on Sunday. They showed viewers plenty of action for position and made use of their available technology to show multiple races for position at once.
However, once the race got “out into the open,” so to speak, it is a totally different story. At that point of the race, there is still racing for position, but you might have to take great pains to show it. I did not really see that. I saw a focus on the front running teams and their battles, but not much beyond about tenth.
Also, the first (of two) Up to Speeds that ESPN did was completely focused on the four Hendrick Motorsports drivers. They were all running 12th or better at the time. I have nothing against Hendrick Motorsports, but spread the wealth. There are more teams out there that are deserving of coverage. I’d rather not see something like that for the rest of the season.
Post-race coverage was fairly substantial. ESPN provided viewers with eight post-race driver interviews, plus an interview with winner Kyle Busch’s crew chief, Dave Rogers. Continuing on a trend that started in Watkins Glen, ESPN gave an unscrolled look at the unofficial results, which is something that I am happy that they’re doing now. There was also a check of the point standings and some post-race analysis before ESPN left the air for SportsCenter.
Generally, this was an average telecast for ESPN. I’ve listed my specific gripes above. I had no issues with Bestwick, Petree or Jarrett in the booth. Michigan races are generally not the most exciting events, but our guys did their best to make it interesting. As long as they continue to improve the scope of the broadcast, ESPN will continue to improve.
That’s all for this week. Just a short layoff before next weekend’s racing begins. It’s Bristol time once again. You know what that means. Ok, maybe not quite as much as in the past, but it is definitely still in play. All three of NASCAR’s “National” Series will be at the high-banked short track for action this weekend, but that’s not all. Here’s your listings for the week ahead.
Wednesday, August 24
Time Telecast Network
Friday, August 26
Time Telecast Network
Saturday, August 27
Time Telecast Network
Sunday, August 28
Time Telecast Network
I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup, Nationwide races from Bristol next Tuesday here on Frontstretch, guaranteed.
If you have a gripe with me, or just want to say something about my critique,
As always, if you choose to contact the network by email, do so in a courteous manner. Network representatives are far more likely to respond to emails that ask questions politely rather than emails full of rants and vitriol.
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I thought the best parts of the Truck Race broadcast were when the roar of the trucks would drown out Mikie’s voice while he was talking. It just didn’t happen often enough.
I also noticed the ‘Through the Hendrick cars and the rest (or some) of the field’ too.
Favoritism, or payola?
ESPN’s coverage may have been okay but I get really tired of them only following the lead cars during the race when there is other stuff going on on the track. It’s BORING regardless of who’s in the lead. I want to see racing for position, regardless of where it is on the track. Really wish they’d do something about that before they lose even more viewers, which they will once NFL season starts.
Rusty Wallace’s poor commentating has been a hot topic ever since he started doing it.
Rusty Wallace has a major conflict of interest with his ownership of a team AND his son driving in the Nationwide series. It isn’t a matter of his being prepared, he simply should not be in the booth.
In addition to his conflict of interest, he’s really bad at broadcasting. the whole thing with not being able to figure out the fuel strategies would hav been funny if it weren’t so pathetic. Good thing Craven was there – at least he tried to help rusty and Marty.
Michigan is a boring race to watch on TV. It was pouring rain in my area so I had the tv on the entire time. I thought Allen did the best he could with the racing this track provides. I can tell you I would never bother to spend the $ to make the trip to this track.
Rusty certainly is not a very good broadcaster and I cringe when he speaks, but look at FOX and how many lousy broadcasters they have, the WALMOUTH brothers, Larry MacScreech, or as Monte Dutton refers to him a TV’s wordsmith, and Hopeless Hollywood Hammond who verbally stumbles and bumbles along on the air. So yes I don’t like watching Rusty, but look at the alternative. Rusty should probably join FOX/ SPEED as he would fit right in perfectly with those resident goofballs.