NASCAR Changes Qualifying Format
posted by Summer Bedgood
Tuesday March 11, 2014
Following safety concerns regarding NASCAR’s new qualifying format, the sanctioning body is introducing some changes in preparation for this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. According to the Associated Press, NASCAR is banning teams from cool-down laps after their qualifying attempts, but will instead be allowed to hook up cool-down units to the engine through hood flaps.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a release from NASCAR fully detailed the changes. Teams will be allowed a single cool down unit to be connected through the right or left side hood flap, however the hood must remain closed. Additionally, two crew members will be allowed over the wall while cooling down.
“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”
The move comes after three weeks of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying system, where multiple cars are allowed to make qualifying attempts at the same time instead of the traditional one-car-at-a-time procedure. Drivers and teams had complained that the new rules didn’t allow them to cool their engines down on pit road, and the cool-down laps caused a dangerous situation with slower cars staying on the track at the same time that other cars were running by them at much higher speeds.
The rule will begin this weekend in Bristol, a track that has a much narrower racing surface than Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
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!
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Phil Allaway · Tuesday November 8, 2011
Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Talking NASCAR TV, where looking into race broadcasts is the name of the game. This past weekend, the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series were all at Texas Motor Speedway north of Fort Worth for a tripleheader.
However, before we start, I need to clarify something. Last week, I was really angry about ESPN not even giving the slightest reference at all to Sean Irvan’s injury on pit road at Martinsville. At the time, I referenced that Kvapil’s No. 38 team was not amongst the teams that ESPN typically focuses on. To me, this is indisputable. At the time, I referenced an interview that I did with Shannon Spake in 2009. That is a conversation that I noted in my behind-the-scenes piece on ESPN’s telecasts that ran in September, 2009. Yes, they do talk to everybody. I never intended to say that they don’t. If I have to put a link to this passage in the critique each and every week until I stop writing them, I’ll do it. However, I stated in that piece that they don’t cover everyone equally, and Spake’s quotes back that up. And I’m standing by those quotes. With that said, on to the critique.
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I suppose that no one was expecting all heck to break loose early on in Friday night’s Camping World Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. But, it did, and we have to look at everything we saw.
Let’s look at NCWTS Setup before getting into the meat of the Hornaday deal. It started roughly ten minutes late on Friday night, but for good reason. Nationwide Series qualifying ran late (or, at least the telecast of it did). You never know with the time shifting that SPEED often employs. Following a recap of the Kroger 200 at Martinsville, SPEED showed a montage of angry drivers after the race. Little did they know the anger was going to return soon after.
The main feature in the Setup was a piece on Jim Smith, who was one of the charter owners in the Truck Series with their No. 08 (later 2) truck driven by Mike Bliss back in 1995 and a part-time No. 06 for Butch Gilliland. Smith talked about what originally led to the creation of the Truck Series (Smith and a bunch of desert racers pitched the idea to Bill France, Jr., who scoffed at it. Smith decided to build prototypes anyway and stage exhibitions at now-closed Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, California before France saw the potential and gave the go-ahead).
Smith came across as somewhat bitter. He mentioned that the main reason that he left the series after 2005 was that Dodge was cutting back their support and he felt that Ultra Motorsports couldn’t “do it right,” even though he did have a fair amount of backing squared away. I also don’t think he’s all that enthused about the current direction of the series, which has completely gotten away from what it originally was (for example, only three tracks from 1995 (Martinsville, Phoenix and Bristol) remain on the schedule and only five of those are short track events (in 1995, those numbered 15).
As far as the race is actually concerned, the big thing here is how SPEED handled Kyle Busch and his shenanigans. When the incident happened, they had the cameras on Busch and Hornaday since they were battling for second at the time. I knew that Chapman could play a role here, and Hornaday was forced up the track. It was a shame that they got in the wall. NASCAR might have been a little quick on the trigger by throwing the yellow, but that’s another argument for another day.
SPEED had what appeared to be audio from Busch’s radio on-air while he was doing his thing. Viewers could hear Eric Phillips pleading with Kyle to cut it out, then cursing when Busch wrecked Hornaday. As you all know, I could care less about cursing. With the situation involved here, SPEED could care less as well.
Phil Parsons came right out and stated that Busch should be parked for the rest of the season. As we all know now, that won’t be the case. However, Parsons really jumped the gun here. Most of the time, commentators are expected to be impartial. I don’t think Parsons was objective here. However, in the overall scheme of things, I could care less. This was an extraordinary incident of misguided vigilante justice unseen in NASCAR for years. I don’t blame Parsons for stating that. Busch’s demoralizing of the Camping World Truck and Nationwide Series over the past few years has hurt both series overall, and that’s just from winning all the time. Now, he’s irrevocably affected the Camping World Truck Series points.
Now, SPEED definitely understood the gravity of the situation. It was the most blatant payback in NASCAR since Carl Edwards’ hook of Brad Keselowski in Atlanta and somewhat comparable to Dale Earnhardt’s move on Darrell Waltrip at Richmond in February, 1986. They got an interview with Ron Hornaday as soon as they could. Hornaday was naturally ticked, but actually tempered his words on-air. He was even more salty while speaking to writers in the garage, including some cursing.
SPEED basically stationed Ray Dunlap outside Busch’s hauler, which was being guarded by a couple of NASCAR officials. Finally, on Lap 27, Busch came out and gave a brief interview to Dunlap in which he tried to throw Hornaday under the bus for causing the original wreck, but did admit that he lost his cool. He’s got something against Harvick. The mere mention of Kevin’s name or association with him seems to tick Busch off.
Throughout the broadcast, SPEED ran tweets that they had selected (after vetting them, of course) that they thought were pertinent. Interesting enough. In Talladega, this was done just because they couldn’t figure out what caused Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter to wreck. Here, it was mainly reactionary tweets. Knowing that SPEED’s production staff took the time to create a brand-new cloud graphic for the expressed intent of showing off tweets, this format will probably continue to be used in the future. However, I think that there’s already a backlash. At least one PR rep tweeted during the race that they were unsure about tweeting during races with the knowledge that SPEED may co-opt their tweets and put them on-air.
Post-race coverage was fairly brief. SPEED only provided interviews with the winner (Harvick), the winning crew chief (Chris Carrier) and both Dillon brothers, along with a check of the points before leaving the air.
The prevailing feelings in the booth during this race was outright shock. They literally could not believe what they had just seen. They were still shocked at the end of the race. To their credit, they did not let Busch’s shenanigans affect the rest of the telecast. The commentary provided was just as upbeat and enthusiastic as normal.
I did find the constant replays of the Busch-Hornaday wreck to be a little much. Even Michael Waltrip admitted this by basically saying “if you haven’t seen it yet, stick around.” That’s a definite sign of overkill right there. SPEED had to realize that there is a saturation point.
O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge
On Saturday afternoon, the Nationwide Series returned to action after a somewhat inexplicable two-week break with just three races left in the season.
With the Noon Eastern start of NASCAR Countdown, Mike Helton’s announcement of Kyle Busch’s parking was still fresh on the mind of the general fan base. As a result, ESPN recapped the whole mess from Friday night at the beginning of the show. It should be noted that it is very rare that the Camping World Truck Series gets much of a mention on ESPN, even though ESPN is a NASCAR media partner. ESPN replayed an interview with Joe Gibbs that had originally aired just at the beginning of Sprint Cup Happy Hour Practice, one in which he expressed regret over Friday night’s crash.
Following the Kyle Busch segment of the show, championship contenders Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Elliott Sadler each had separate stints in the Pit Studio to talk about the race and their battle for the title. It was a nice change from the parade of ‘whackers that get constant camera time. Of course, the Cup guys did still get their due.
During the race, there was a very quirky technical issue basically right at the start. On the first lap, Brad Keselowski went flying up the hill in Turn 1. ESPN attempted to show a replay of this incident, but the feed cut to what seemed like a slow motion version of something that looked like live footage. A second attempt got that done just fine. However, no replay was ever shown of the near wreck on the first lap involving Aric Almirola. For those of you who missed it, it appears that Almirola may have had contact with Blake Koch exiting Turn 2 and almost went hard into the inside wall. Luckily, he saved it.
On Saturday, ESPN brought out the near constant championship point updates that serve to annoy me more than anything else. Here, it was just a reminder every now and then with an extra line underneath the scroll. Sunday saw the same thing. Expect that thing to be on-screen all race in Phoenix and Homestead for both series.
Even with the on-screen point updates, there appeared to be a focus on two storylines. One was the Stenhouse-Sadler points battle, with additional focus on Stenhouse. The other storyline was seemingly Carl Edwards running away with the show (again).
Post-race coverage was somewhat decent. ESPN provided viewers with six post-race interviews and a check of the Point Standings before leaving the air.
The race was actually quite boring to watch. There just wasn’t all that much going on except for at the very end, when Trevor Bayne came out of nowhere to steal the victory. ESPN stuck to their storylines and didn’t really give viewers a lot of racing for position in their coverage. That just bites. I can only complain about that so many times, but I’ll keep doing it until more racing for position is aired to the general masses.
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Finally, we get to Sunday afternoon’s Sprint Cup race. Of course, even 42 hours later, most of the talk was still about Kyle Busch, his stupid move, and his parking for the weekend. To that end, ESPN got Mike Helton to appear in the Pit Studio during the first segment of the show to explain NASCAR’s thought process leading up to the parking.
In that Q&A session, Briscoe, Rusty Wallace and Daugherty peppered Helton with questions. What did we learn from that interview? Not all that much more than we already knew, but we did confirm the fact that Kyle negatively affected the Camping World Truck Series championship battle did play a role in the suspension. It should be noted that NASCAR has threatened strict penalties for doing such a thing in the past.
However, ESPN did not stop their Busch coverage with just the Helton interview. No, that would have been just lip service. First, they aired a live interview with Gibbs (this segment is a different one as compared to what ran Saturday before the Nationwide race). Gibbs was somewhat distraught and talked about Kyle failing to set a proper example. He was asked by Dr. Jerry Punch whether Kyle could be penalized further, or even fired for this latest transgression. Gibbs appeared to sidestep the question. It could be argued that if Kyle were actually fired because of this wreck, it would be by far the biggest example of sponsor influence in the history of the sport, completely usurping Hooters nixing Jimmy Hensley for the No. 7 in 1993 in favor of then-unknown Loy Allen, Jr. and Kulwicki executor Felix Sabates ixnay-ing Hooters’ demands, leading to Hooters leaving a championship team seven races into the next season.
Beyond that, Marty Smith went and talked to a number of drivers early Sunday and asked them for their opinions. I’m not sure how many he actually talked to, but five drivers’ (A.J. Allmendinger, Trevor Bayne, Jeff Burton, Casey Mears and Joe Nemechek) comments did make air. Smith referenced this feature again Monday on the NASCAR Now Roundtable, where an extended period of time was spent with Smith and Ricky Craven basically having a discussion between themselves in which they equated Kyle to a teenager that needed to be told what to do.
As a result of all this coverage, the Kyle Busch segment of the show lasted 30 minutes without commercial interruption. Quite amazing, to be honest. I enjoyed it. Of note: I don’t think anyone was making the argument of Kyle being fired over this incident until ESPN brought it up. Then again, they’re also seemingly the only media outlet throwing the banhammer around at Joe Paterno, but for a completely different reason. The most interesting thing of all was that poll that stated that 55 percent of the 27,000 or so voters thought that Kyle should be kicked to the curb. I saw that poll question on ESPN.com Saturday night and thought that they were taking this controversy to the next level, beyond what anyone else would have tried to do.
Beyond Countdown, the Kyle discussion was thankfully kept to a minimum. This was aided by the fact that Joe Gibbs Racing refused to let Kyle talk to Smith (Yes, they tried repeatedly). However, the race telecast had its own problems.
A minor gripe, but at the beginning of the race, ESPN was airing what I think was taped radio audio that continued over the start of the event. I have never seen that before. I’ve seen live audio at the start of the race, but never taped audio.
The main gripe I had with ESPN’s telecast (besides the 40 minutes of green-flag commercials that I can’t do anything about, so I no longer gripe about it) was a lack of storytelling about even some of the Chasers. I had no clue how the heck Jeff Gordon worked his way up to sixth. I was watching the race and taking notes and all of a sudden, Gordon shows up on the scroll in sixth. I’m thinking to myself at the time, “what the deuce?” I swear, sometimes ESPN race telecasts can be like movies that contain massive plot holes. OK, not quite like the 9:45 mark of that clip, but you get the idea. We miss a lot. And it bites.
Of course, having said that, ESPN was able to stop themselves from going to a commercial break right when the first caution flew on Lap 112 for debris. Nice move. Now, if only we could get helmet cams on the marshals that pick up the debris. If you can put one on Kenyatta Houston (the front tire changer on David Gilliland’s No. 34) on pit road, it can be done. That would be interesting to have at ESPN’s disposal, don’t you think?
Since the race was actually run at record speed (something that was never mentioned on the broadcast and I only realized Monday morning), ESPN had plenty of time for post-race coverage. That time was filled with seven post-race driver interviews, plus an interview with the winning crew chief (Darian Grubb).
The Kyle Busch benching played a very big role in ESPN’s telecast on Sunday. In the included link in the introduction, I talked a little about how ESPN begins planning race telecasts on Tuesdays with a conference call. Kyle Busch’s actions blew that plan (whatever it was) to smithereens. The pre-race show might have been the best of the year. It was hard hitting, right to the point, honest and frank. And if that sounds like the disclaimer at the beginning of an America Undercover special on HBO, that wasn’t intentional. I just wish the rest of the race could be covered like that.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend is a step into the unknown. Yes, Phoenix has hosted a Cup weekend in or around this time of year since 1988. However, Phoenix International Raceway has received an overhaul since the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series visited back in February. We’ll see how that works. Here’s your listings.
Friday, November 11 (Veterans’ Day)
Saturday, November 12
Sunday, November 13
^- Available online via free streaming
I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races from Phoenix for next week’s edition of Talking NASCAR TV here at Frontstretch. Later this week, I will cover last weekend’s Lowe’s Foods World Finals from the Dirt Track at Charlotte for the Critic’s Annex in the Frontstretch Newsletter. That critique will mark my 200th critique for Frontstretch (time flies, doesn’t it).
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Concerning the delayed start of the truck race, the Busch qualifying did indeed run long. I heard specific mention of it, via my headset, by one of the local track media and they were busy trying to figure out how they were going to handle it.
You’ll never see helmet “debris cams” on the safety/cleanup crews because that’d give away too much of the game that goes on with debris cautions. I was at the track and watched specifically for guys to get out and collect the debris. On the caution that caused Kenseth to lose his 4 sec. lead, they never even got out of the truck to pick anything up and contacted the tower to say they didn’t find anything. Then in what appeared to be an attempt to cover their tracks, they came on to contact the tower a bit later only to mention that they had made a mistake earlier saying they picked up nothing but rather ‘one of their crew picked up a header bolt’. Yeah, right.
In case you missed it, did you know “Kyle is a great competitor”? Of course you didn’t miss it because they said it like 4,000 times! Did I mention that Kyle is a great competitor?!
I was more upset about the drama happening at the end?
Would Burton be able to hold on? Would Smoke catch him? Trouble was, ESPN never gave intervals and just showed Burtons car all by itself lap after lap. That was very frustrating. They aren’t afraid to plaster the screen with ads, but can’t put a tiny intervall on the screen so we could see what was going on. Very weak if you ask me.