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
Tuesday March 4, 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 November 15, 2011
Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Talking NASCAR TV, where critiquing race broadcasts is the name of the game. We’ll use any way possible to make sense of some of the decisions made on race telecasts, even referencing 20-year-old straight-to-video animated films, like last week. This past weekend, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series each had their penultimate races of the season at the newly repaved and reconfigured Phoenix International Raceway.
The beginning of Saturday afternoon’s Nationwide Series coverage was delayed substantially due to college football. The culprit this time? Michigan State and Iowa. This instance is the first time that we’ve had a game run really long this season ahead of the Nationwide race. Basically, all of NASCAR Countdown was wiped out.
Had Iowa scored and closed the margin down from 16 to 8, ESPN was going to air NASCAR Countdown and likely the beginning of the race on ESPN Classic. In fact, ESPN’s Andy Hall tweeted as such on Saturday. However, Iowa Quarterback James Vandenburg threw a costly interception with a couple of minutes left. This pick allowed the Spartans to run out the clock.
ESPN had enough time to do two things before opening ceremonies. One was an interview with points leader Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. The other was a montage of opinions about the new configuration at Phoenix from a few Nationwide drivers. Unfortunately, there were some pieces that bit the dust due to the scheduling. For example, Jamie Little did a one-on-one segment with Danica Patrick that she was talking about on Twitter Saturday before the race. Perhaps that will air Saturday afternoon since Patrick is in the No. 7 once again.
During the race coverage, there was amazement on ESPN’s part when it came to drivers making use of the apron in the Dogleg. I didn’t realize that they had left all that space on the backstretch open like that until Friday afternoon. Everyone seems to be in favor of stuff like that these days, but I’m not. It gives people excuses to cut the course and leads to stupid rules that I detest, like the yellow line rule at Daytona and Talladega.
A significant amount of the coverage on Saturday was centered upon the two championship contenders, Stenhouse and Elliott Sadler. Granted, both of those drivers were relatively close to the front most of the race (that is, until Sadler was wrecked late in the event). With such a setup, even the leader of the race was not given all that much coverage (unless it was Stenhouse that was leading). Aric Almirola won the pole for the race and led the first 66 laps. While he was leading, Almirola seemingly got very little attention.
Morgan Shepherd received a little more coverage than normal since he managed to have a decent run for maybe the second time all season. His No. 89 car was on the lead lap when he was swept up into the big crash with Sadler, Jason Leffler, and Almirola. I want to say that the interview Dr. Jerry Punch did with Shepherd was his first on-air interview during a race this year.
Post-race coverage was a mess. ESPN ran long by roughly 10-15 minutes due to the amount of wrecking that occurred during the race, and a red flag caused by a late crash that all but completely eliminated Sadler from championship contention. As a result, ESPN chose to end their broadcast during winner Sam Hornish, Jr.‘s cool-down lap. Weak. I think this instance is the first time ESPN has cut off early since the travesty that was the 2007 Sam’s Town 250 at Memphis Motorsports Park (you might remember that craziness). However, unlike that… evening in Memphis, Marty Reid mentioned that there would be some post-race coverage on ESPNEWS.
I was expecting a normal post-race setup since it was already off of ESPN2. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Basically, what they did was create an intermission in College Football Scoreboard over there so that ESPN could air minimal post-race coverage. That coverage included the winner’s interview with Hornish, along with interviews with Brad Keselowski and Stenhouse. The whole thing lasted maybe two minutes. Weak as heck. You could even argue that such a setup could be considered an insult to Hornish.
ESPN’s actions on Saturday showed that almost anything associated with college football is more important to ESPN than the Nationwide Series. Post-race coverage got moved to ESPNEWS not for a game, but for a show that shows highlights of college football games. The next game wasn’t scheduled to start until 7 PM. I don’t know how many people watch College Football Scoreboard, but I doubt more people watch that than a live sporting event.
Kobalt Tools 500k
Sunday afternoon brought the big boys out to play on the tricky (and extra slippery) one mile tri-oval. Early morning rains threatened to delay the start of the race, but that didn’t turn out to be any issue at all.
Of course, the biggest story entering the event was Kyle Busch’s return to the No. 18, the stripping of M&M’s from the car for the remaining two races of the season, and Kyle’s remorse for his actions in Texas. ESPN showed clips from Busch’s top-12 availability press conference and when team owner Joe Gibbs spoke as well. Busch definitely seems a little different than he did after wrecking Hornaday, but we’ll see whether this incident has really resulted in a change down the line. I’m not willing to state that he’s changed for sure yet, but I’m also not willing to write him off.
Like on Saturday, one of the main topics of discussion (other than Kyle Busch’s return to the seat) was the track itself. To that degree, ESPN aired a feature on the new configuration at Phoenix. This included footage shot during the open test held last month that included input from Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth in the piece.
Probably the most interesting feature that aired on Countdown was a look at Jimmie Johnson away from the track. The general opinion of Johnson is that he’s boring as heck, or “vanilla.” That’s not necessarily so. Friends of Johnson including of all people, Jason Sehorn, waxed nostalgic about shenanigans that they’ve gotten into off the track with Five-Time. The overarching tone here was that Johnson really knows how to unwind. However, at the same time, he’s apparently the nicest person you could know. Basically, there’s nothing that I didn’t expect people like Sehorn, Casey Mears, and Lindy Hornaday (Ron’s wife) to say about Johnson.
Finally, there was an interesting piece on fuel mileage racing narrated by Marty Smith. ESPN stuck Smith in a 1970s Oldsmobile (possibly a 442, but I’m not sure) and had him talk about how the COT’s introduction has brought along an increase in the amount of fuel mileage racing while hanging out at Dale Earnhardt, Jr.‘s sprawling estate. Our own Tom Bowles has talked about how this change has come about due to an inability to pass on-track. Smith didn’t mention that here, but he did mention the near complete elimination of loopholes in the rules due to the infamous “Claw” that NASCAR uses to inspect the cars.
During the actual race telecast, there was a significant increase in discussion of where drivers were running during the race as compared to Texas. As a result, there were no massive plot holes to speak of here, along with no rabbits, basset hounds, or banjo-playing possums. However, there were a number of drivers that got little coverage, if any at all. Our own Beth Lunkenheimer ranted on Twitter during Sunday’s race about how Cole Whitt basically got diddly-poo’s worth of attention until he spun out just past halfway.
As I predicted last week, ESPN did, in fact, have the points as they run on the screen below the scroll for nearly the entire race. No surprise there. Granted, there wasn’t all that much movement since both Stewart and Edwards spent the vast majority of Sunday’s race up front. After 312 miles Sunday, they settled absolutely nothing. It’ll be back next week as well.
The big track story in pre-race was the slickness of the oval. While this condition was a problem early on, it evened out in the second half of the race. I’m not really sure if the commentators expected that (both the Nationwide and K&N Pro Series West races on Saturday were wreckfests), but they simply went with the flow.
Unfortunately, one of the main issues that many viewers had with Sunday’s broadcast was the sheer number of commercials, especially in the second half of the race. I have stated in the past that I don’t like ranting about that because it isn’t anything that I could legitimately do anything about. ESPN has to pay for their broadcasts somehow (remember, they’ve got $50 million in equipment at the track every weekend, and they’re paying roughly that much more each year just for the rights to televise all the races they do). However, what I can gripe about is the placement of said commercials. The second half of the race seemed to be one NonStop commercial after another. At one point, ESPN came out of a NonStop break, showed four laps of green flag racing (maybe one and three-quarters of a second minute), then took another NonStop break. That’s just ridiculous. You can do something to make the segments longer, yet still get in all your breaks.
Post-race coverage was decent, given the amount of time that ESPN had available to them. There were seven post-race driver interviews, along with an interview with the winning crew chief (Kenny Francis). Also, knowing the situation that is currently surrounding the Red Bull Racing Team, there was also an interview with Jay Frye, the Vice President and General Manager. In addition, there was the usual check of the point standings before ESPN left to get to SportsCenter.
ESPN’s coverage from Phoenix was an overall improvement on what we saw in Texas. The commercials did become a serious issue in the second half of the race, but that just seems to be a fact of life when it comes to Phoenix. I should have known going in that it was going to be an issue since Phoenix races are some of the shortest on the schedule. I’ve complained in the past about Phoenix races having these types of problems during the FOX portion of the season.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend is the final one of the season for NASCAR, as all three of the “National” series will crown their champions at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Here’s your listings:
Friday, November 18
Saturday, November 19
Sunday, November 20
I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series season finales from Homestead for next Tuesday’s edition of Talking NASCAR TV here at Frontstretch. For this week’s edition of the Critic’s Annex, I will cover Saturday evening’s seemingly interminable Casino Arizona 125, the season finale for the K&N Pro Series West.
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The constant barrage of ads during races is no small part of the reason I stopped watching. That and hearing ESPN, Fox and NASCAR all condescend to us about the billion dollar contracts that must be paid for somehow. Cry me a freaking river.
Since 2004, ads not racing has become the focus of both NASCAR and the networks. Maybe if NASCAR Media Group wasn’t writing the scripts and dictating policy as to what will and won’t be shown we fans at home might actually see some racing interrupted by a commercial or two instead of commercials interrupted by a few laps of racing.
The people at ESPN seem to think that we as fans are okay with the “Non-Stop” BS because we can still “see” what is happening on track. But they’re dead wrong. When they run them practically on top of each other, it just makes a fan want to turn the channel or turn the TV off. Another thing they do that is wrong is, while in “Non Stop”, a caution would come out for a wreck, and they stay in their break rather than switch back to live action. That ticks me off too.
Bottom line is, the second half of any given race for ESPN is now known as a non-stop commercial fest.
I did not think NBC aka Nothing But Commercials, could be knocked off the top of the worst TV coverage of racing list. But ESPN did it! I don’t even watch it live anymore because of the non stop commercials & Kyle Busch being shoved down our throats as the best driver ever in history! It soo annoying & boring, I just DVR it & FF thru the commercials & watch with the mute on
I defend ESPN’s decision to cut off Saturday’s race as soon as it ended. Let’s face it, there are lots of college football games on and you want to show real action over interviews.
As for the commercials, I can’t tell how much too much is with NASCAR NonStop because you can still see the race unless you’re blind. To be perfectly honest, these telecasts are very expensive, and the network has to get ad support to offset the cost. If you’re still seeing the race, it doesn’t feel as bad as if the commericals were full screen.
Mr. ESPN – If you have anything smaller than a 60” TV that Non-Stop is virtually useless. I find it barely big enough to follow on a 65”