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 February 28, 2012
Hello, race fans. Points are finally in play. I really wish we could have gotten the Daytona 500 in on Sunday, but that just gives us more stuff to look at. Plenty to get to this week, so let’s delve right into the critique…
NextEra Energy Resources 250
Friday night marked the Camping World Truck Series’ return to the track for their first race of the season. With seemingly every organization undergoing some sort of change in the offseason (driver switches, manufacturer swaps, new teams altogether, etc.), there were plenty of Silly Season moves for SPEED’s crew to cover. How did they do? Let’s see.
The Setup returned with the same cast of characters from last year; however, the Corral did not return. As a result, there were very limited interviews. The only driver to get a regular interview was Ward Burton, who was making his Truck Series debut. Kinda weak and I expect better in Martinsville next month.
The main feature on the Setup was a piece on Richard Childress and his racing grandsons (Austin and Ty). The Dillon brothers, already far more successful than their father (Mike) on-track, talked about the differences between them (one’s more laid back, while the other’s super serious) and Childress’ role in their careers. The Childress Vineyards-shot piece also looked into the brother’s relationship with each other. It was an interesting look into the Dillon brothers and basically showed just how deferential they are to Childress.
Another brief piece asked certain drivers (Matt Crafton, Justin Lofton, Ty Dillon and James Buescher) how they spent their offseason. Finally, the SPEED crew has decided to add a Performance picks segment to their telecast, like the NASCAR on FOX crew does on Sundays. Of course, knowing the surprise winner, none of them even thought of picking him. Ray Dunlap is currently in the lead for their helmet trophy.
During the race, Michael Waltrip screwed up which Dillon brother was in the No. 3 multiple times. I don’t really blame him, but you got to study before your broadcasts. That’s step No. 1 in preparation. I’ve had TV analysts tell me on the record about the sheer amount of studying that goes into TV broadcasts (“Volumes,” according to Allen Bestwick). It makes me wonder just how much Michael actually does study his stuff before going on-air, or even whether he’s wearing too many hats right now (part-time Sprint Cup racer, sports car racer in the World Endurance Championship, car owner, TV analyst, etc.) That’s a story to watch for later in the year when he has to start missing races in the booth to race in Europe.
There was no issue with the amount of enthusiasm in the broadcast booth. Allen and Parsons brought their A-game to the night and made what was not the most exciting first half of the race bearable (not because there weren’t that many wrecks, but because there really wasn’t that much action). As mentioned above, Waltrip was a bit off his game — perhaps, he was still bummed about missing the Daytona 500.
Due to the event running long, there was what amounted to minimal post-race coverage. However, SPEED gave viewers a good number of interviews in that short amount of time (six, to be exact). Much of the post-race coverage was spent showing replays of Joey Coulter’s huge crash. However, SPEED couldn’t stay on-air long enough to get a word with Coulter, or for NASCAR to flesh out the unofficial results.
Why did that happen? Because they had to get to a sneak preview of Season 2 of Car Warriors. Whoop-dee-do. I could care less about that show. However, the main issue here is that SPEED had been publicizing that preview for about half of the offseason. Heck, I think that preview was teased more than the actual race was. That’s still bush league, though. Truthfully, SPEED should have at least stayed with the race telecast long enough to flesh out the results (they only gave viewers a very unofficial top 10) and for updates as to whether anyone in the grandstands was injured from Coulter’s catchfence hit (two, one went to the First Aid station near the ticket building, while the other briefly went to Halifax, but was released the same night).
Aside from the post-race coverage that left me wanting more, SPEED did a decent job Friday night. They just need to conduct more interviews during the Setup and wrap up their stories better. Here’s hoping they can keep the in-race rhythm up all season long.
Saturday afternoon brought the Nationwide Series back to ESPN for their season opener. To celebrate that fact, ESPN rolled out a 75-minute edition of NASCAR Countdown. However, the vast majority of that 75 minutes was spent inside of the Pit Studio, anchored inside of the Sprint FanZone. I typically don’t take much away from those prolonged segments (other than wondering when the heck they’re going to interview someone), but I did notice something. It appears that Brad Daugherty is taking stronger stands this year on-air. I’m happy to see that because if he’s not taking stands on something he believes in, I struggle to see his role on the telecast.
In the 55 minutes before ESPN brought us one interview — way too long, if you ask me — they did bring us features. There was a brief piece on the history of Daytona narrated by Marty Smith. Interesting choice, although if this segment were on SPEED, they would have gotten Ken Squier to do it. ESPN doesn’t really have an elder statesman voice that they can call in for those kind of things (Bestwick might be the closest thing to that currently on the payroll).
Smith hosted another piece where he charted out all the changes in “Silly Season.” The thing is, roughly 88 percent of everything covered didn’t really involve the Nationwide Series, a huge miss in a slot where that information is vital to help maintain fan attention. Sounds more like something that should have stayed on NASCAR Now. Smith’s busy week continued with a one-on-one interview with Kurt Busch. At this point, you know pretty much everything that is going to go into a Kurt Busch interview these days: discussion of his temper, clips of him flipping out, including the infamous YouTube clip from Homestead that’s nearing a million views. However here, Busch took the time to walk Smith through his mindset when that YouTube clip was being shot, and that made for an interesting look at the incident from another angle.
A fourth feature was based around Austin Dillon’s ascendance to the Nationwide Series and his insistence on using the No. 3. Let’s just say that if you watched the Setup before the Truck race on Friday night, you didn’t miss anything.
Finally, there was a one-on-one with Danica Patrick. Let’s just be honest — there is nothing more we can learn about Patrick, and I’m sick of the overkill. Remember that this feature was wrapped into multiple segments of Danica discussion in the Pit Studio. By this point, I just wanted to hear about someone else. And you wonder why with a 75-minute pre-race show, roughly seven drivers got mentioned? Makes me angry just thinking about it.
During the race, there were multiple packs of cars out on the track. Typically, there was a front pack with drivers mainly tandem drafting. Yes, those who were not could keep up a little more easily, but you weren’t winning if you didn’t tandem draft. Behind that group were a bunch of drivers in a pack draft, while other stragglers ran behind. Yet even with the cars spread out, ESPN spent much of their time covering the very front of the field. They had a few specific stories that they were going to cover (Patrick, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Trevor Bayne, the Busch brothers, etc.), and stuck to it. Everyone else was just there, including eventual race winner James Buescher. That is not the best way to cover any race as it lacked any information on two-thirds of the field.
Patrick crashing on Lap 50 meant ESPN had to call an audible. She was incredibly upset with teammate Cole Whitt for spinning her, a move that resulted in a expletive-laden tirade on the radio that it wasn’t aired with bleeps. While it wasn’t mentioned that she refused an interview, the network did say Patrick had spent some time in the hauler cooling off. That left them with no choice but to move on; however, as an alternative ESPN simply doubled down on their existing storylines. Drivers like Timmy Hill or Tayler Malsam only got mentioned if they wrecked or used pit strategy to claim the lead.
Like on Friday night, Saturday’s 300-mile race ran long due to all the wrecks towards the end of the event. But despite being only nine minutes over the expected end of the timeslot, ESPN left after three quick interviews in order to get to the North Carolina-Virginia college basketball game. That’s more understandable than leaving for Car Warriors, but ESPN has other methods of coverage at their disposal. The race is streamed online via WatchESPN. Heck, they could have easily given viewers extra post-race coverage on ESPN3. They can air 15 games at the same time on there. It’s just sad that ESPN failed to make full use of their available resources.
Of course, having said all that, ESPN needed to at least give updates on some of the drivers involved in the big wreck coming to the finish before signing off. Particularly Kyle Busch, since he took a heck of a hit into the SAFER Barrier head on. That was nasty. Luckily, he was OK, but you have to at least update the viewers on that. Throw me a bone here.
I wasn’t really all that impressed with ESPN’s season-opening effort on Saturday. Yes, Bestwick was reasonably solid, but there needs to be a more inclusive focus. It can’t all be about Danica Patrick, some Sprint Cup interlopers and three or four other Nationwide regulars, I’m sorry.
Sunday afternoon was supposed to be the “Great American Race” on FOX. Unfortunately, we got the Great American Downpour. However, that doesn’t mean that FOX’s crew just sat around scratching themselves and watching Spaceballs on DVD. There was plenty of pre-race action to cover, and with the weather acting up, FOX had their “Storm Scout” back (via satellite from FOX 11 in Los Angeles) to help out with the proceedings. Rick Dickert’s input is always welcome in these situations, and this time was no different.
FOX’s intro covered some of the big stories (Danica, Kurt Busch moving to Phoenix Racing, A.J. Allmendinger replacing Busch, etc.) by placing each person in front of an old-timey microphone and having them take questions from a bunch of 1950’s style reporters (probably a bunch of PA’s, in reality). Interesting, but I wanted more depth.
We then had another one-on-one interview with Patrick conducted by Darrell Waltrip. I guess that can be considered the coda, or the Annex to the original interview that was taped at the beginning of Speedweeks in the Media Center and run to death on SPEED. The twosome talked about the big crash in the Gatorade Duels and how her experience has been so far, but with that being said, I don’t really care about the 29-year old finding a gray hair.
With the rain continuing, FOX gave viewers 25 interviews, a high number. They also replayed part of the Budweiser Shootout and The 10: Greatest Daytona 500 Moments before leaving the air at 5:10 PM, 20 minutes before their originally intended timeslot would have ended.
Monday brought more rain and an additional delay to 7 PM. SPEED helped viewers out by making their edition of NASCAR RaceHub (originally scheduled to be a two-hour Speedweeks wrap-up) into a one-hour pre-race show with Danielle Trotta in Charlotte and John Roberts in Daytona splitting hosting duties. That was an impromptu setup, but very nice. I rarely talk about Trotta in this column since I don’t really cover RaceHub here, but she is a great host for this show (Note: It’s not her only gig. She splits time between covering NASCAR and ACC Sports). She shines on a weekly basis.
Hermie Sadler (who is looking more grizzly by the day) and Kenny Wallace joined Trotta in the RaceHub studio for additional analysis. The show featured five pre-race driver interviews plus a piece on Brad Keselowski and A.J. Allmendinger at Penske Racing. That feature was OK, but it was definitely something already put together for use whenever it was needed.
When FOX came on the air, they simply went straight to the command (which they were expected to do as soon as it was announced that the race was postponed).
One of the major stories for FOX’s telecast was how they were going to handle the Danica quotient that I was so worried about from last week. Luckily, the Lap 2 crash exiting the tri-oval more or less took care of that question for us. Since Danica was eliminated from any real contention because of the wreck, the booth couldn’t blush over her all night like I feared. Instead, there were some shots of the Stewart-Haas Racing team trying to repair Patrick’s No. 10 with a brand new rear end. Once Patrick got back out on track, FOX didn’t really focus on her all that much except to say that she’s out there to get more laps.
The one thing I took away from the race was an unusually high number of commercial breaks that happened to be spaced really close together. It reminded me of watching races about ten years ago on NBC. FOX also promised Side-by-Side commercial breaks once the race got into the final hour. Let’s just say that it is a work in progress. Mike Joy introduced a Side-by-Side commercial on Lap 171 that didn’t even turn out to be a Side-by-Side commercial. Effectively, the FOX production team made Joy look like a doofus. Also, it seemed like most of the Side-by-Side commercials were during the fire delay, to be honest.
Also, Darrell Waltrip appeared to constantly talk up Danica not just on Monday, but all through Speedweeks. It’s as if he just met her a couple of weeks ago, thinks she’s all that plus a bag of chips and a Big Gulp and feels the need for her to like him. C’mon now, Darrell, You’re 65. You don’t need to prove yourself like that. Just be yourself and spare viewers the stupidity.
Post-race coverage was quite brief, naturally. It’s unclear just when the timeslot for Monday night’s race was supposed to end (my best guess is 11 PM EST), but it ended well beyond that. FOX gave viewers interviews with the top-3 finishers (Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Greg Biffle) along with Patrick. The Patrick interview made no sense and was a complete waste of time. They should have just let her go off and debrief with her team. In addition to those interviews, FOX showed the unofficial results before they left for the local news.
However, that was not the end of the night’s coverage. SPEED put together a last-minute bonus post-race edition of NASCAR RaceHub that started at 1:15 AM. Adam Alexander hosted the show, along with Kenny Wallace, Hermie Sadler and newbie Matt Clark. That show featured a 12-minute highlight package for the race, complete with driver interviews taken from FOX’s race telecast and analysis from the three experts. It was an interesting addition to an incredibly bizarre Daytona 500.
There was an exclusive interview with winner Kenseth just for the show after the “Hat Dance” was complete, along with discussion of Jimmie Johnson and Patrick’s nights (not really necessary) before signing off.
Based on what we saw Monday, FOX’s season opener was effectively spoiled by the putrid weather and the perfect storm of quirk; they had to make the best of it. The production crew had to pull a nearly 20-hour day just to cover the 500-mile race on Monday, and that deserves an atta boy. Whoever’s responsible for breaking down all the equipment is likely pulling a 28-hour day because they’re not done until the trucks pull out of the compound to head out to Phoenix. I certainly wouldn’t want to be on that crew right now.
FOX’s coverage, however, remains a work in progress. The Side-by-Side setup is nice, but I think that if they can’t get those breaks for the whole race, they should try to do what ESPN does with their NASCAR NonStop because the current setup doesn’t cut it.
Finally, FOX is likely the most Twitter-friendly of the media partners. During the delay on Sunday, there was a bar on the bottom of the screen showing tweets from NASCAR personalities. They’ve got Matt Yocum taking pictures of random stuff that teams are using with his cell phone and putting it on his Twitter page. Gotta love the interactivity. It was a positive distraction during the extended red flag and is something that should definitely continue in the future.
That’s all for this week, folks. Next up, the 40-week long marathon moves from Florida to Arizona. While the Camping World Truck Series takes a month off, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series teams make the long haul to Phoenix. Here’s your listings (all times are Eastern).
Friday, March 2
Time Telecast Network
Saturday, March 3
Sunday, March 4
I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races from Phoenix for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. For this week’s Annex in the Newsletter, I will cover Chasing Daytona: Kenny Wallace as promised.
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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So what your saying Phil is basically nothing has changed from last year for any of the networks coverage
Trucks: solid broadcast
Nationwide: Scripted storylines with Danica and Cup regulars as primary focus
Cup: Commercial/promo/advertisement and Waltrip brothers overload and of course the Danica lovefest of said Waltrip brothers.
You are alot nicer about your critiques than I would be.
I agree with Steve. FOX Cup broadcasts suck mainly due to non car guy producers and the Waltrip brothers. Phil, how about doing us all a favor and sending your critique directly to ‘ol DW. It would be VERY interesting to witness his response.