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 October 18, 2011
Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Talking NASCAR TV, where discussion of race broadcasts is the name of the game. I’m admittedly not really in the best mindset right now due to what happened on Sunday, but we have to go on. This past weekend, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series both had “home games” at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Meanwhile, the Camping World Truck Series was out in Las Vegas to support the Izod IndyCar Series in what was originally scheduled to be a 300 mile race.
Originally, I was planning to cover the Izod IndyCar Series race in the Critic’s Annex for Thursday. However, due to the extraordinary circumstances of this past weekend, I will focus on the weekend’s action in Las Vegas instead, while still covering Saturday night’s Cup race at Charlotte. As a result, the Nationwide Series critique will run Thursday in the Annex.
On Saturday afternoon, the Camping World Truck Series returned to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for their first day race on the 1.5 mile tri-oval in over a decade. SPEED was on-site with their normal crew. Let’s find out how they did.
Two weeks ago in Kentucky, Ron Hornaday scored his 50th career victory in the Truck Series. Celebrating that accomplishment was the main focus of the Setup. Throughout the show, various people talked a little about Hornaday, his on-track excellence and his generosity (Hornaday and his wife, Lindy, are known for taking people in to live with them). People who voiced their congrats here included Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Greg Biffle, Wayne Auton, Austin Dillon, Timothy Peters, Todd Bodine and Kyle Busch, amongst others. It was a nice touch.
Another piece had Hornaday talking about some of his greatest victories in the series. These included his first win at Tucson Raceway Park in 1995 (which also rolled into a discussion of how Dale Earnhardt discovered him through the Winter Heat Series), and his 1996 win in Loudon where he seemingly passed half the pack in the last few laps to claim the win, amongst others. Finally, there was a piece where Hornaday talked about his 50th win at Kentucky and what went into that win.
During the race telecast, there was a fair amount of amazement from the broadcast booth. I don’t think anyone really knew what to expect going in since it had been so long since the series had raced at Las Vegas during the day (and never on the current configuration). What we got was a wreckfest for the first half of the event, then a run long enough to stretch out the remainder of the field.
The booth seemed to be under the opinion that the whole field was going to eventually wipe themselves out before the 350 kilometers was through if they didn’t get their act together. Based on what we saw Saturday, it is quite hard to believe that there was a previous race with more cautions there.
Regardless, when they weren’t wrecking, SPEED did an excellent job showing the close racing for position throughout the field. There was significantly less focus given to Hornaday, who quickly made the Smith’s 350 into the Ron Hornaday Benefit thanks to his superior skill and equipment. I was very pleased with the actual race coverage.
Since SPEED’s coverage from Las Vegas ran long, there was a cut-in during the ninth caution to give a brief preview of what was coming during the final hour of NASCAR RaceDay Built by the Home Depot. However, since the race went over the end of it’s scheduled slot by about 15 minutes, there was literally no post-race coverage. They never actually showed the point standings at all. The post-race winner’s interview with Ron Hornaday was aired during a cut-in about 10-15 minutes after NASCAR RaceDay Built by The Home Depot was underway.
This was an incredibly weak way to end a great broadcast, but SPEED decided that NASCAR RaceDay Built by The Home Depot is more important than post-race coverage from a Camping World Truck Series race. To be fair, the truck races do not rate as high as NASCAR RaceDay does. I’ve seen articles that claim that NASCAR RaceDay gets over a million households every week. The Camping World Truck Series races only reach those levels at certain races. Saturday’s Coca-Cola 250 Powered by Fred’s will more than likely be one of them.
Izod IndyCar World Championships (or Las Vegas Indy 300)
Now, we come to the really sad portion of the critique. Sunday was supposed to be the 2011 season finale for the Izod IndyCar Series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The series was making it’s return to the 1.5 mile tri-oval, having not raced there since 2000. Granted, Las Vegas Motor Speedway was much different (and much slower) in 2000 since it still had the 12 degree banks in the curves.
Now, with the narrower racing surface and 20 degree banking, along with glass smooth blacktop played host to racing at speeds nearing 225 mph. These are speeds that were only seen in qualifying there in 1996. Of course, at that time, the series was still using Lolas and Reynards from CART. Those cars were not racing around the track in massive packs.
Before all heck broke loose on track, it was going to be a celebration. Maybe not like the Chappelle’s Show celebration that became the infamous Rick James episode, but a celebration, nonetheless. Danica Patrick was (more than likely, although the door has not been completely shut) making her final career start before leaving to race in the Nationwide Series full-time for 2011. It was also the final race for the Dallara IR03 chassis, a car that has raced in the Izod IndyCar Series for the last nine years. It is due to be replaced by a brand-new, low slung Dallara-built chassis for the 2012, with manufacturer-specific body kits coming in 2013.
In one feature, Patrick talked about her upcoming final start and looked back on her seven years in the series. The whole thing was set to Lady GaGa’s “Born This Way.” The general idea is that Danica wishes that she could have won more in the series, but she looks back at her time in the Izod IndyCar Series favorably.
On the lighter side of things, ESPN followed James Hinchcliffe and Oriol Servia to Cirque du Soleil, where they got to take a look at the preparation for the show. Hinchcliffe even participated by driving a small BMW Isetta-type vehicle onto the stage.
A third feature was based around Will Power and his drive to succeed. Of course, since this is Power, there was some banter about his name as well. Probably didn’t need to be there, but I’m not really in the mood to complain about that. Power took it in stride, though, since I’m sure he gets that all the time.
Finally, there was a brief piece on Dario Franchitti and his meticulous note taking. Apparently, during each race weekend, Franchitti brings a composition notebook with him and takes notes on anything he can think of that would pertain to the track or the car. Franchitti basically claimed that it started as just something to do, but it’s evolved into far more than that. He’s basically the thinking man’s racer.
Finally, we get to the race itself. During the first 11 laps or so, ESPN chose to focus on a lot of the crazy action in the pack. Meanwhile, up front, it was as close to sedate as you were going to get on this day.
Then, the huge crash happened. I’m not linking to it here because the vast majority of us know what it looked like by now. Under normal circumstances, replays are shown relatively quickly after crashes, especially when the commentators know that the drivers involved are ok.
Sunday was obviously not one of those times. Because of the violence of the crash and the situation involved, ESPN chose to refrain at first from showing any replays. This lasted for about ten minutes. I think they knew that it was a calculated risk showing any at all, frankly. The last thing that ESPN wanted to do is to look like they were glorifying the wreck.
For the next 30 or so minutes under the red flag, ESPN sought out as many interviews as they could with drivers involved in the crash, team owners, and other drivers who were ahead of the mess. A few drivers, like JR Hildebrand and Tomas Scheckter, declined interview requests from Jamie Little. Others did talk on camera, but refused to discuss what caused the crash.
As news of Dan Wheldon being airlifted to University Medical Center in Las Vegas was announced, ESPN made the decision to send Little to the hospital in order to give updates from there. For most of the rest of the telecast, Little was on standby and would call in and give updates to the production crew. She did not go back on-air (via the phone) until after Wheldon’s passing was announced.
At roughly the one hour mark of the red flag, a small group of drivers (Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Tony Kanaan) met with Race Control and stated their desires to have a drivers’ only meeting. That took place in the Infield. During that time, ESPN stayed on air with the booth providing updates. Vince Welch and Rick DeBruhl went into the Media Center since there wasn’t anyone to interview.
Meanwhile, as the telecast continued on, it became harder and harder for Marty Reid, Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever to keep their emotions in check. Reid seemed to be quite close to breaking down on-air for most of the last hour. Then, Cheever seemed to lose it a little.
When the official announcement of Wheldon’s passing was made in the Media Center at roughly 6:00pm EDT on Sunday, ESPN tried to bring that announcement live. However, they couldn’t quite get there in time. DeBruhl signaled the truck that they were making the announcement, but ESPN was only able to catch the tail end. Subsequent replays were able to show the whole announcement, with DeBruhl’s voice muted out.
After the announcement, ESPN showed one more series of replays of the crash, but not before Reid warned viewers that it was a shocking crash and that if they did not want to see it, that they should change the channel. Showing the crash again at that point was really not necessary, especially since there had already been a confirmed fatality.
Between the replays and the parade/salute, there was discussion of the incident and of Wheldon’s legacy. Everyone talked in glowing tones about the Englishman, his somewhat off-beat personality, and his friendliness. Finally, we came to the five-lap salute, something that was apparently agreed to by the drivers during their private meeting. The booth decided to remain silent for that tribute for the meaning of everything to sink in, which I felt was quite appropriate.
Afterward, Reid ended the telecast by describing why he always signs off with the phrase, “‘Til we meet again.” It was a touching end to a terrible day.
The broadcast booth did their best to stay objective, but since everyone involved had come to know Wheldon fairly well over the nine years that he was involved in the series, that was very difficult to do. For example, Little claims that Wheldon was the first driver to befriend her when she started covering the series.
ESPN did as good of a job covering this tragedy as they could. Nobody jumped to conclusions about Wheldon’s fate. I’d hate to use a cable news analogy, but it was a little similar to when Osama bin Laden was killed by Navy SEALS earlier this year. CNN and Fox News were a study in contrast that Sunday night while waiting for President Obama to speak to the nation. Fox News went on-air and presented their scoops before President Obama spoke, while CNN chose to wait and not just throw a bunch of information out there that they could not back up. ESPN chose to follow the CNN example here, which I think was the better course of action.
I should state for the record that there were some people on Twitter that objected to the use of the word “carnage” by Reid to describe the crash. I can understand that notion because it could have trivialized the impact of what happened. I am sure that Reid did not intend to do that. Unfortunately, that is just what came out. Reid cannot take it back.
Bank of America 500
On Saturday night, the Sprint Cup Series returned to the Charlotte Motor Speedway for the fifth race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. As it was the final race of the season scheduled to air on ABC (and the final night race of the year), ESPN brought viewers a shortened version of Countdown in order to satisfy NASCAR’s required 7:30pm race telecast start time for night races.
In that shortened version of Countdown, the show was dominated by pre-race analysis from the Pit Studio. Nicole Briscoe chose to take the weekend off and go to Las Vegas to spend time with husband Ryan and accompany him to the season-ending Izod IndyCar Series Awards Banquet, which was scheduled for yesterday (due to Sunday’s events, it was cancelled). As a result, Mike Massaro was tapped into double duty for the weekend. Pit Studio host and Pit Reporter. I know ESPN has a policy of requiring suits and ties on-air for men, but couldn’t they have made an exception for Massaro knowing that he was due to report from pit road. I really don’t think it was necessary to force Massaro to make a quick change like that before going into the pits. Granted, it would be easier to pull that off at Charlotte as compared to some places (such a setup would be near impossible to pull off short tracks like Martinsville and Bristol).
Aside from the pre-race discussion, ESPN provided viewers with five interviews, and a Tech Garage feature on weighing springs and the benefits of spring rubbers. For such a pre-race show, this was just about typical. Low on content I’d like to see, but passable.
Due to ESPN’s Izod IndyCar Series commitments, both Little and Vince Welch were not in Charlotte, along with Reid. Massaro and Shannon Spake were pressed into action and they were solid. Both of them are generally at the track every weekend, regardless of whether they’re actually on-air or not, so they’re always in the loop (if they don’t have on-air responsibilities, they can usually be found in the garage or in the Media Center).
Since the race was on ABC as opposed to ESPN on Saturday night, Allen Bestwick chose to be a bit more educational in the booth. There were detailed explanations of things like the new points system for this season and the wave around rule. I’d argue that most race fans would be a bit peeved at having to listen to such simplistic explanations. This goes double for the wave around explanations since that rule has been in effect for years now. ESPN’s response to such a statement would be along the lines of “Since the race was on ABC, we’re opening ourselves up to a new group of viewers who might otherwise not watch Cup races on ESPN. As a result, we must make those viewers feel like they understand what is going on.” Note that the previous two sentences are not an official statement from ESPN. They are simply what I think representatives from ESPN would tell me if I asked them about it.
Once again, the Chasers were the primary focus of the telecast. That is to be expected since this is the Chase. However, what I keep going on and on about in these critiques is that I want more than that. Probably the only non-Chaser that got any focus Saturday night was Greg Biffle. That was because Biffle went out and led a good chunk of the race. There were quite a few other non-Chasers that had very good runs Saturday. Kasey Kahne was quite strong, as was David Ragan, Marcos Ambrose and AJ Allmendinger. Trevor Bayne was also having an excellent run until his unusual fuel issues caused him to stall on the track and bring out a caution that ended up changing the complexion of the race.
ESPN didn’t necessarily help themselves very much with Up to Speed segments, although a lot of that was outside of their control. They attempted to do it a couple of times during the event, but they were both curtailed early. One was due to the first caution of the race, while the other one was stopped after only a couple of drivers because a round of green flag pit stops started early.
Post-race coverage was fairly typical. If the spate of cautions in the final 100 miles had not happened, then it would have been more substantial. ESPN provided viewers with seven driver interviews (one of which was with a non-Chasers (Marcos Ambrose)), and an interview with winning crew chief Jimmy Fennig. There was also a check of the all-important points before ESPN left so that ABC affiliates (at least in the Eastern and Central time zones) could get to the late local news.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend is a very exciting time for Sprint Cup fans, as Talladega is once again on tap. The new rule changes announced recently to break up the two-car tandems have not been tested, so it remains to be seen what they will do. The Camping World Truck Series will serve as main support. Meanwhile, the V8 Supercar Championship Series will be back in action on the streets of Surfer’s Paradise, Queensland. Here’s your listings.
Friday, October 21
Time Telecast Network
Saturday, October 22
Time Telecast Network
Sunday, October 23
Time Telecast Network
It should be noted that SPEED’s live telecast from Surfer’s Paradise only includes Race No. 2 of the weekend. There will be no live telecast of Race No. 1, which is scheduled to start at approximately 11:30pm Friday night (Eastern Standard Time). I will provide critiques of both of the races from Talladega, and the 300 kilometer V8 Supercar event in next week’s edition here at Frontstretch.
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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Respectfully, I think your analysis of the ESPN coverage of the Indycar tragedy was Waaaaay to generous. It was horrible and then after all of that waiting and inane commentary they managed to miss the initial announcement and then botched the replay of the announcement. After about 15 minutes of red flag, when it was obvious there would be significant wait for news, repair of the track etc. the genius producers at ESPN should have ran alternative racing programming with a ticker at the bottom of the screen explaining what was going on. We would have been spared the slow twisting in the wind the poor announcers went through, and the teams, family, and friends wouldn’t have been having their agony broadcast on international tv. The majority of the broadcast after the crash was nothing more than a vehicle to get through the commercial package and served no purpose but to serve ESPN twisted sense of drama.
I wonder how Jamie Little & Vince Welch will cope when they cover the Good Sam Club 500 at Talledega after they saw Dan Wheldon was Killed?
I thought they did a fine job under the most stressful and difficult conditions. I sat and read the paper while glancing regularly at the TV. Last thing I wanted to see at that point was another race.
old97, you couldn’t be more wrong. Going to alternative programming would have been the worst decision that they could make. Everyone wanted to know what was going on and most people were glued to the tv to find out updates. They did the right thing.
Also, alot of people give flack to Marty Reid, including myself, for his race broadcasts, but I thought he did one hell of job on Sunday under the circumstances. He didn’t speculate on anything and was classy the whole time. He must have been just as emotional is alot of people on pit road and a death of a driver has to be the worst thing for a tv announcer to report, so he should be commended for the job he did on Sunday.