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.
Couch Potato Tuesday · Phil Allaway · Tuesday August 7, 2012
Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, where race telecast critiques are the name of the game. This past weekend, the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series were each in action at Pocono Raceway. Meanwhile, the Nationwide Series was in action with ESPN’s “B-Team” at Iowa Speedway.
U.S. Cellular 250
On Saturday night, the Nationwide Series held their second race of the season at Iowa Speedway in front of a sellout crowd. Since ESPN was busy covering the Sprint Cup race in Pocono in addition to this event, there were some changes. First off, there was a rare two-man booth for this race. Marty Reid was joined only by Ricky Craven. There was no Pit Studio (it was back in Pocono), so Shannon Spake hosted Countdown from pit road. It was a throwback telecast in a way with only five on-air personalities.
Countdown started off with a recap of the Indiana 250, with emphasis on the final restart where Elliott Sadler was black flagged for illegally reaching the start-finish line before the leader. This included quotes from Robin Pemberton, whose explanation only caused more confusion. Sadler coming back from that ridiculousness was one of the lead stories of the telecast.
The primary feature of Countdown was a piece where Marty Smith and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. went on a trip to Nashville. While there, the duo took in a number of sights. They went to Tootsie’s bootery to get new boots, then picked up some Conway Twitty (Seth McFarlane would be proud). After checking out a parade, they went to the CMT Music Awards (this was June 6, by the way). While there, Smith and Stenhouse served as quasi-Red Carpet reporters and interviewed a number of musicians and celebrities (what Michael Waltrip would be considered here is somewhat unclear, but he showed up). The whole piece didn’t really have a focus, unless that focus was just having fun. If that was the purpose, then I guess it was mission accomplished.
There was also a brief mention of how Joey Gase met the man whose life was saved after he received a kidney from Gase’s late mother. I think that was the only time Gase was mentioned on the entire telecast. It would have been nice to at least have Gase talk about it a little bit since it is a good story.
The big story telecast-wise that came out of Saturday’s night was the performance of Ricky Craven. If you perused through feeds on Twitter during the race, you would have seen multiple tweets praising Craven’s analyzing ability. It is a change in pace from what we’re generally used to. I’ve described Craven’s booth performances in the past as somewhat cerebral. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Here, Craven was very informative in his commentary and helpful. He definitely showed that he is well informed about the happenings in the Nationwide Series well beyond the typical stories covered in an ESPN telecast. However, I feel that he may come off as a little wordy at times.
Also of note, Craven does work quite well with Reid. As many of you know, it has been a little rough in the booth for Reid so far this season. However, Reid just seems to be able to play off of Craven much easier than with Petree, Jarrett or Rusty Wallace. Perhaps Reid is a bit more at ease with the relatively inexperienced Craven. The two-man booth actually worked quite well. While some viewers probably missed the technical-based commentary usually provided by Andy Petree, I didn’t really miss it that much.
In place of the more technical-based content, we got more racing on-track for position, something that I’ve been clamoring for on ESPN for the majority of the time that I’ve been writing this column. I want to argue that Craven could be responsible for that. I know that all of ESPN’s on-air personalities have to be well-versed on as much of the Nationwide field as possible. However, it doesn’t always come off that way on the telecasts.
The only real technical gripe I noticed was something up with the RPM’s on the telemetry graphics around halfway. I’m not mechanical genius, but I know that Nationwide Series engines turn much more than 3500 rpm’s at Iowa.
Post-race coverage was fairly extensive. ESPN provided viewers with ten post-race driver interviews, plus interviews with the winning crew chief (Luke Lambert) and car owner (Richard Childress). There was also a check of the point standings and some post-race booth analysis before ESPN left the air.
I’m not sure about how much Craven wants to do commentary, but I think that he would be a perfect analyst for ESPN’s Nationwide Series coverage. However, he’s like the third or fourth string analyst right now, so he only gets to do a couple of telecasts a year. As a result, ESPN is sitting on a diamond in the rough. They should take advantage of Craven’s talents more often.
Pocono Mountains 125
Saturday brought the Camping World Truck Series/ARCA doubleheader to Pocono Raceway. Personally, I believe that this race is way the deuce too short, but that’s not important right now.
The Setup started off with a look at Tim George, Jr. and his skills in the kitchen. Apparently, he’s quite skilled. So is Ray Dunlap. Both were invited to Childress Vineyards under the guise of a one-on-one interview, which wouldn’t have been a bad idea since George isn’t exactly the most well-known driver out there. Instead, it turned into a 40-minute cooking competition similar to Chopped. Rick Allen, RCR teammate Ty Dillon, and Childress Vineyards Executive Chef Chris Wagner served as the judges. I guess George won, but both contestants put up a good fight.
Another feature had SPEED following Dakoda Armstrong around during his off-week after Chicago. He decided to go home to Indiana and race a USAC Silver Crown car at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, along with his brothers. Prior to that, Armstrong took the cameras to his family’s shop and talked a bit about his part prior to entering ARCA. The actual race didn’t go all that well due to another driver running over Dakoda’s right rear wheel. It was an interesting piece. I always like learning new things about drivers and this will count. Speaking of learning about drivers, it appears that Allen and Phil Parsons spent Monday at work with Clay Greenfield for what will likely be a feature during the Setup at Michigan. That should be fun.
The Setup still didn’t really have any interviews, though. In addition, there’s still no real analysis previewing the race. If ESPN does way too much analysis, SPEED does way too little. There has to be that happy medium between features, interviews and analysis. No one has that happy medium, yet. I suspect TNT, as god-awful as they were this season, may be the closest.
For Saturday’s telecast, we had a special guest in the booth. In addition to the normal three drivers, Jeff Burton joined in to watch the race from the booth. Burton was generally considered to be quite good. Since Burton’s still an active driver who had actually raced on the brand-new surface at Pocono Raceway, he brought a lot of first-hand knowledge to the telecast that fans really seemed to eat up (on Twitter, at least).
Honestly, when I watched the race live on Saturday, I thought that Burton had temporarily replaced Parsons. Since Parsons’ Cup team had a New Jersey-based primary sponsor (TRAQM.com), I figured that he had to go do some stuff with them. However, that was not the case. A four-man booth is just plain hard to work with.
Since the truck race was really Part 1 of a doubleheader, there was plenty of post-race coverage in order to bridge the truck race to the ARCA telecast which started at 3pm. There were nine post-race driver interviews, plus the crew chief (Harold Holly), truck owner (Richard Childress) and mother of race winner Joey Coulter. The John Wes Townley interview (which I think is a first for a post-race segment) was predictably rough. There was also a check of the point standings and an interview with ARCA polesitter Brennan Poole before the coverage transitioned to the ARCA Racing Series.
Overall, the telecast was quite solid. There was a healthy amount of coverage throughout the field and the telecast was informative. That’s always good to see. Also, I didn’t have any issues with enthusiasm levels at all. I still think that Waltrip needs to lay off the watermelon talk. He’s just got to stop that. We know that it is your favorite food (this was listed during the Setup) and that you went to a watermelon patch last week. I saw the pictures on Twitter. However, it is just out of hand.
Finally, we come to the Sprint Cup Series, which made their second visit of the year to Pocono Raceway. The track looked okay at the start of NASCAR Countdown, but conditions quickly deteriorated. How did they handle the mess? Let’s find out.
The primary feature of Countdown was a piece on Jimmie Johnson. Johnson talked about racing at Indianapolis, and his Crown Royal 400 the previous week. Pictures from ESPN’s Indianapolis telecasts, along with audio from ESPN and IMS Radio were worked in as well. We learned about how proud Johnson was of his crew and about how he wants to win eight Sprint Cup Series Championships (and as a result, be considered the best driver of all-time). Yes, it is a bold statement, but nothing I think most viewers wouldn’t have already known. I like features, but I like to learn stuff in them.
Another big feature was based around Denny Hamlin. ESPN’s SportScience department rigged up Hamlin and his car as a rolling lab during the Coca-Cola 600 back in May. They measured Hamlin’s heart rate, core temperature and multiple other aspects in order to give viewers a better idea of what drivers go through during a race, especially a race where there really weren’t all that many breaks, like this year’s 600. I was skeptical going in since the piece was described as something that mainly covered reaction time. They had already done something similar with Carl Edwards a while back. That piece was in a controlled lab environment and Edwards was put through a number of random tests. This was much different. I really enjoyed this piece. Stuff like that interests me, but I cannot necessarily say the same for everyone else.
As the rains continued to pelt down on the track, ESPN aired additional interviews. Ultimately, 20 drivers were interviewed before the race finally went green (Mark Martin was interviewed twice, once in a regular interview and a second time in the Pit Studio). There was also a strange discussion of Brad Daugherty shooting three’s during his NBA career, complete with clips of Daugherty in his Cavaliers days. Weird. Guess they had to fill time due to heavy rains and lightning (although this lightning didn’t hurt anyone).
The actual race coverage was not all that great. Maybe it was because of the long runs that we got on Sunday, but there really wasn’t all that much action for position shown all day. We got some nice action in the first few laps (Montoya’s pass backs on Hamlin, Earnhardt, Jr. making his moves up the order, etc.). However, once we got past that, it was mostly single car isolation views. It was a shame to watch, especially after the coverage we got Saturday night in Iowa.
I really wish we could have gotten anything at all. Yes, Jeff Gordon won the race, but I don’t remember seeing him before he got into the top-10 (remember, he started 27th). It is the classic dude coming out of nowhere scenario. ESPN shouldn’t put themselves in a situation where they have to explain something like this when their pictures and regular commentary could have done the talking for them.
As we all know by now, post-race was dangerous. As a result, ESPN could not bring viewers their accustomed coverage (Bestwick described their coverage as “haphazard”.) This was not because of lack of desire, but due to legitimate safety concerns. All of the wireless cameras were pulled off of pit road prior to the red flag. As a result, the only interviews that took place during the red flag were audio-only. Bestwick explained that the wireless cameras send signals to the TV Compound via handheld antennas. In a situation like Sunday, they’re basically lightning rods. Thus, I can understand the move.
The big lightning strike that resulted in all the injuries (and one death) occurred right after the race had been called, but before the winner’s interview. When that occurred, ESPN was knocked off the air briefly. Following a brief commercial break, they returned. Admittedly, some of the on-air staff were scared. Nicole Briscoe tweeted during a break, “A bit freaked right now. The #PitStudio is ROCKING!!!” Also, the Pit Studio reportedly started leaking as well. That will likely be fixed by this weekend in Watkins Glen.
Once the race was officially called, ESPN only showed interviews with drivers under cover. Jeff Gordon’s was in a makeshift Victory Lane, delayed until they could get a hardwired camera there. Meanwhile, Kasey Kahne was in the Pit Studio. There was also a check of the unofficial results and point standings before ESPN left the air. No updates were given on the condition of anyone injured in the lightning strike due to the fact that we didn’t know that anyone had been hurt until after the telecast ended. This method actually angered third-place finisher Martin Truex, Jr., who thought he was being disrespected. If this was like David Gilliland not making air after finishing third in last year’s Daytona 500, he’d have a case. Not so much on Sunday.
That’s all for this week, folks. Next weekend, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series will be back in action at Watkins Glen International in Dix, New York for 340.5 miles (not including possible GWC’s) of road racing. The Rolex Sports Car Series will also serve as tertiary support.
Friday, August 10
Time Telecast Network
Saturday, August 11
Time Telecast Network
Sunday, August 12
Time Telecast Network
*- Tape Delayed
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I skip all the pre-race stuff for all the TV broadcasts. There is simply not enough interesting stuff included. I actually was out running errands because I knew the race was being delayed for rain – it almost always rains at Pocono.
I didn’t realize that Martin Truex Jr had gotten such a big head that he’d think he’s being disrepected because he didn’t get an interview considering the bad weather going on.
Having been to many races at different tracks, IMO you need to take personal responsibility for your safety at the track. It can be dangerous due to weather and when you often have vehicles and pedestrians intermingled. For instance, the stupid utility carts that are used on the walkways inside the track are a big hazard. Fans walking both directions and the idiots driving those carts insist on getting through along with the golf carts carrying the “important” people. Sorry I paid my $, I’m important, too. (I’ll stop ranting now, but it is a good example of a dangerous situation).
Should the track make sure they get warnings out to the fans? Yes – they should be announced on the PA system AND shown on the big screens that nearly ALL tracks have in the infield. Relying on twitter or phones isn’t practical at a race. With the sound of the cars, plus a headset, I can’t hear my phone.