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 September 20, 2011
Hello, race fans. Welcome back to another delayed edition of Talking NASCAR TV. Thanks to a lucky day off from my non-Frontstretch job, I was able to watch Monday’s Sprint Cup race live from home, instead of having to wait until I got home to watch it on the DV-R. In addition, the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series were each in action in Joliet this weekend. Let’s do what we do best.
Fast Five 225
On Friday night, the Camping World Truck Series returned to action after a week off in Joliet, Ill. It was a somewhat typical night with nothing really out of the ordinary happening. But, let’s see how they did.
The Setup started off like normal with a recap of the previous race (the Good Sam Club 200 in Atlanta) before getting into some of the pre-race interviews. Unfortunately, when Hermie Sadler went to interview pole sitter Steve Arpin, he had technical issues with his microphone. SPEED acknowledged this gaffe, but they made no attempt to try again during the Setup, which bites. I understand that the show was pretty full, but they should have tried to give Arpin his deserved airtime again before the race.
There was a feature on Miguel Paludo and the road that he took in order to reach the Truck Series. Admittedly, I had all but never heard of him before he had entered the series — the vast majority of Paludo’s racing experience was in Brazil, and almost no racing in Brazil outside of the Grand Prix of Brazil at Interlagos (near Sao Paulo) is aired here in the United States. From SPEED’s telecasts over the past year, I was able to gleam that he had been a pretty good driver in Porsche Supercup, which is a spec series. If you want an American comparison (since we don’t have an American Porsche Supercup series), it’s the equivalent of the GTC Class in the American Le Mans Series. They use the same equipment (more or less). As a result, I had no real expectations of what to think of him on track. He’s done well so far and comes off as a little more confident in himself than fellow countryman Nelson Piquet, Jr. does.
Another feature was about Max Papis and his training regimen. The word that comes to mind is “stringent.” He puts himself through heck in order to train for these races. However, the feature itself came off as a commercial for Polar, the company that makes the heart rate monitor that he wears. Polar logos were everywhere, including the bike that Papis trains on and the cycling gear Papis wore while riding said $6,000 bike (estimated cost). Still, it was interesting because the monitor that Papis wears, the one which stores data about his workouts that can be downloaded and analyzed. It’s like having MoTeC data acquisition for yourself, as opposed to your race car (not legal in NASCAR, of course).
Race coverage was fairly typical for a SPEED telecast. The broadcast was balanced with a decent amount of coverage throughout the field. In addition, you had Rick Allen in the booth. Allen is a naturally excitable personality on-air, so you never have any issues with on-air boredom at the play-by-play position.
Post-race coverage was decent. SPEED provided viewers with eight post-race interviews (seven drivers, plus Danny Stockman (the winning crew chief)). One of those interviews was with Arpin, who finished 16th. Sadler stated ahead of time that this would be his chance to make up for the earlier issues. Yes, it’s nice that SPEED gave Arpin a second chance, but it still should have been done before the race started. There were also checks of the unofficial results and point standings before SPEED left the air.
Aside from the pre-race technical issues that inadvertently screwed Arpin out of his well-deserved airtime, SPEED put together a pretty good broadcast. The excitement level was proper and there was a very good amount of racing for position shown. That’s pretty much all I want from a race broadcast and SPEED delivered.
Dollar General 300
Saturday afternoon brought the Nationwide Series back to Chicagoland Speedway for its second visit of the season. Of course, since it’s now September, the college football juggernaut once again played a role, much like the Nards of Doom during the Dash to Death event on mXc when it still aired on Spike (slight viewer discretion advised for inappropriate terminology and ridiculousness).
However, unlike the Nards of Doom, a college football game won’t eliminate you from the airwaves (although, it might push you to another channel if it becomes one of those seven overtime thrillers). But, those games will certainly delay the start of coverage. That was the case on Saturday.
The Pittsburgh-Iowa game ran long by 15 minutes, meaning that NASCAR Countdown contained minimal content. There were a decent amount of interviews for such a short period of time (four of them), followed by a recap of the Virginia 529 College Savings 250 and a Tech Garage segment on engine airflow.
Once the race got underway, I had a gripe really early in the telecast. I don’t understand why viewers always need to be reminded that the apron at intermediate tracks is not out of bounds. This goes for the Cup broadcast as well. We’re not stupid here. Anyone who’s seen a restrictor plate race in the last few years knows that NASCAR puts a double yellow line on the inside of the track to denote what is and what is not in bounds. Now, I am not a fan of that rule in the first place (that is a discussion for another time), but there shouldn’t be a reason to have to say this every time they race at a 1.5 mile tri-oval.
During the event, two groups of drivers received coverage. One group consisted of the bonafide leaders. Granted, that group was pretty small: Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards. The second group consisted of a number of drivers in the top-10 runners that were constantly battling with each other towards the midpoint of the race. Beyond that group, you got nothing. Robby Gordon recently told Dustin Long in an interview that even if he ran full races, he would get the same amount of exposure as if he S&P’ed. It’s even more true in the Nationwide Series unless you wreck. That really needs to change. And they wonder why ten teams S&P’ed on Saturday…
Post-race coverage was relatively quick. It was all done in one segment without commercial interruption. ESPN brought viewers five driver interviews and one with the winning crew chief (Todd Gordon). There was also a check of the point standings before ESPN left the air to get to College Football Primetime.
Even though this event was the fastest Nationwide race ever run at Chicagoland Speedway, the finish was still right up against the end of ESPN’s timeslot, so they apparently had to leave rather quickly. However, I really don’t think that ESPN needed to allocate such a limited time to the event so that they couldn’t do a proper post-race. I shudder to think what it would have looked like if it were a more typical Chicagoland race with six or seven cautions instead of three.
Honestly, this race was kinda boring to watch. Brad Keselowski basically ran away with the proceedings. In cases like that, the broadcaster must find a way to make the race more exciting, and Marty Reid and the rest of the ESPN booth failed to do it. I’m sorry. As the de facto leader in the booth, such a task to make a boring race more palatable is ultimately on Reid, and he just wasn’t up to the task.
Sunday brought viewers what was supposed to be the first Chase race of the year. Of course, you know by now that it didn’t happen on Sunday. Not like NASCAR didn’t try to get the event in, but the weather just didn’t want to cooperate. Oh, well. You know what that means… rain fill.
ESPN provided viewers at least two dozen driver interviews during the time on-air. There were a couple of repeats. For example, Kyle Busch was given two regular interviews, while Carl Edwards had one regular one and joined Nicole Briscoe, Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty in the Pit Studio for some extra discussion. In addition to the driver interviews, a few crew chiefs were also put on the air. Chad Knaus also stopped by the Pit Studio for a chat.
During Countdown, ESPN showed a feature that basically went into Knaus’ past. Previously, I didn’t really know much about Knaus prior to his first stint at Hendrick Motorsports. In the piece, we learned about Knaus having only a high school education and seemingly being stuck working in a Rockford, Ill. factory making screws. He decided to press his luck and leave for the Southeast.
The piece contained what I think was the first mention of Stanley Smith on a NASCAR-related telecast in at least a decade (Knaus was originally hired to work for Smith’s part-time No. 49 Cup team). After Smith’s near-fatal crash at Talladega in 1993, Knaus was basically unemployed. To further his career, he drove to North Carolina to interview with Ray Evernham for a spot with the No. 24 team. Evernham was very impressed with Knaus and basically hired him on the spot. From there, he worked on the No. 24 for a number of years before leaving for DEI, then the Dodge Test Team, Melling Racing and back to Hendrick. I thought it was a very nice feature. Of course, any segment about the pre-Johnson part of Knaus’ career is going to be Evernham-heavy, but it would have been nice if ESPN could have tracked down Smith to get his input (if any) on Knaus (he is still around, and owns a drywall company in Chelsea, Alabama).
ESPN left their coverage from Chicagoland at 5 PM ET on Sunday, a half-hour ahead of schedule, to go to SportsCenter. From there, they did periodic look-ins at Chicagoland until Sunday Night Baseball started. Unlike at Atlanta, the announcement of the postponement was not shown on ESPN. Instead, it was updated in the BottomLine scroll. Kinda weak there, but by 8 PM ET ESPN was focused on the Phillies game from Citizens Bank Park.
On Monday, ESPN came on-air at noon ET with a brief introduction of the race and some words from the booth before the command (given by the GEICO Caveman). If you’re wondering, yes, there was an invocation and National Anthem, but they were before ESPN came on-air.
Once the race started, viewers saw the same Chase focus that we had during the Cup telecast from Richmond last weekend. Granted, there’s still nine races to go in the season from this point, so not every move resulted in a points check. In fact, there were no points checks that I noticed during the race. I don’t expect this exclusion to be the case once we get to even Charlotte in October, though.
Based on what I saw Monday, I don’t think I’d want to be anyone outside of the Chase for the next few weeks. With the possible exception of Talladega, they’re going to be basically ignored. Pretty much the only non-Chaser to get a decent amount of airtime on Monday was Paul Menard. Menard started on the outside pole and ran in the top-10 runners all day before running out of gas on the final lap. Even the Up to Speed segments were quite limited (there was only one all day).
Monday also marked the race debut of ESPN’s RaceBuddy setup. You might expect it to be identical to what TNT gave viewers during their portion of the season. To that, I say “not exactly.” Yes, you still had ten available channels (ESPN chose not to count the two mosaic channels in the overall count, which is their choice, I guess). However, there was an increase in the number of available in-car cameras from four to six. For many of you, that would be considered a good thing. For me, it’s lukewarm. Since I still have to critique the broadcast and can’t just sit around and watch RaceBuddy in-car cameras all day, I tend to only watch during commercials and check out the Battle Cam. That view was excised for this setup, which I’m not happy about. That was my favorite. Otherwise, the setup was identical to what TNT used during their Summer Series.
Also, I had some issues with Dale Earnhardt, Jr.‘s in-car camera. I’m not sure if anyone else can vouch for this problem, but when I clicked on it, I couldn’t get a picture for the first 50 laps of the race. After that, it came in fine. If you had any issues with RaceBuddy along the lines of what I just said, please post them below.
ESPN’s new NASCAR NonStop side-by-side commercial setup debuted in Joliet and generally worked well. With all the free time ESPN had on Sunday, they chose to do a quick run-through of NASCAR NonStop at about 4:40 PM. Since the scroll is still in use, unlike Versus’ setup, they do not need to keep the top-5 runners on screen and thus have more space for the advertiser’s logo.
On Monday, they went to the NonStop breaks starting on Lap 110. I guess that’s a little before halfway, but I’m not complaining. What’s the general effect that the new breaks have on overall commercial breaks in the race? I found that the earlier breaks were a little longer, maybe one extra commercial in each break. Still not as long as the three and a half minute breaks you sometimes see on TNT, though. I feared a substantial increase in commercials in order to allow for the NonStop, but that’s unfounded. Good all around.
Post-race coverage was very brief. ESPN gave its audience interviews with the top-4 finishers (Stewart, Harvick, Earnhardt, Jr. and Edwards) and an interview with the winning crew chief. There was also a check of the points before a quick farewell to get to NFL Primetime. I know it’s Monday and ESPN wants to hype the bejesus out of the Monday night game, but the telecast was scheduled to go to at least 3:30 PM EDT (at least, according to my on-screen guide). ESPN left the air 20 minutes early. Really not necessary.
I’m still not a fan of the supreme Chase focus. People get completely lost in the shuffle with such a close-minded outlook on the race. ESPN is not telling the full story of the race with such a focus, a frustrating philosophy that needs to change.
That’s all for this week, folks. Next weekend, the Chase continues in Loudon, New Hampshire (Weather permitting, of course.) Sprint Cup will be joined there by the Camping World Truck Series and the Whelen Modified Tour for a Saturday show. Here are your listings for the week…
Friday, September 23
Saturday, September 24
Sunday, September 25
*- Tape Delayed
I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series races from New Hampshire here at Frontstretch next week. I will also be covering the Whelen Modified race, but I’m unclear as to whether it will be here on the site, or in the Annex. For this Thursday in the Critic’s Annex, I’ll be covering the Indy Japan 300k from the Twin Ring Motegi. It hurt a little, I’ll telling you that right now.
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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Phil, you asked for comments on Race Buddy. I have two. First mine kept freezing all day. I rebooted several times to no avail. I realize this might be a local issue. Second, it’s maddening to have to endure that damn commercial EVERY TIME I WANTED TO SWITCH CAMERA VIEWS. C’mon guys, make us watch it 2 or 3 times and then realize “WE SAW IT”. Oh, one more thing. Is there a technical reason the streaming is SOOO far behind the actual telecast?
Race Buddy was lousy because of that idiot commercial that ran after every camera change. After an hour of that mess I turned off Race Buddy and went for a hamburger. No more Race Buddy for me and that’s a bummer since I don’t get ESPN.
Hm, I didn’t have commercials with Race Buddy. The leaderboard froze up a couple of times, but I just hit “refresh” and it worked fine. For what it’s worth, I was using Firefox 6.
I’m with you guys about the same commercial showing every time you switch channels. I’m surprised that it’s an issue. It would recognize the channels you’ve already viewed last year and earlier this year during the TNT portion of the season.
Joe, I had the same problems during the TNT portion of the year, but not yesterday. Interesting. As for why RaceBuddy is so far behind, it’s worth looking into. Definitely not the case with TruckBuddy, though.
Broadcasters can’t make the race more entertaining because they have a script to follow and cars to plug.
Broadcasters are killing off truck and nationwide teams with their incompetent, lazy production standards.