Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Couch Potato Tuesday · Phil Allaway · Monday November 19, 2012
Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, where race telecast critique is the name of my game. This will mark the final full-fledged TV critique of the 2012 season, as every series of note with the exception of Formula One and the V8 Supercars are done for the year. This past weekend was Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the final races of the 2012 season for the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series.
However, before we start, we have some TV news. On Saturday, Jeff Hammond tweeted that NASCAR Performance has ended production. There will be no new episodes during the 2013 season. This is a shame as the show was quite decent. Having that said, there might have been one too many on-air personalities on there. It is just the first victim of the eventual changeover from SPEED to Fox Sports 1. Still don’t know when that will be, but it will happen after the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring in March, but before the Petit Le Mans in October.
Also, the NBC Sports Network announced that they have hired Leigh Diffey away from SPEED to serve as their play-by-play commentator for the Izod IndyCar Series. He will replace Bob Jenkins, who retired back in September. In addition, Diffey will do play-by-play for NBC Sports Network’s coverage of Formula One as well. Diffey will be joined there by David Hobbs and Steve Matchett, who both come over with the Formula One deal.
The only question mark as of now is who will serve as a pit reporter for NBC Sports Network’s Formula One coverage. It is likely that Will Buxton will be able to continue his gig as the roving reporter, while also adding Izod IndyCar Series duties to his docket. If so, I’d imagine that it would be a huge change for him since he just made his first trip to the United States this weekend for the United States Grand Prix at the brand-new Circuit of the Americas.
With Diffey leaving SPEED for the NBC Sports Network, Bob Varsha stated via his Twitter feed that he will be replacing Diffey on SPEED’s broadcasts of the Rolex Sports Car Series and the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. This will supplement Varsha’s duties with SPEED’s coverage of Barrett-Jackson Automobile Auctions. It is likely that Calvin Fish and Dorsey Schroeder will stay at SPEED as well.
Ford EcoBoost 200
On Friday night, the Camping World Truck Series held their season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. How did SPEED do in their final NASCAR race of 2012? Let’s find out.
There really wasn’t all that much of note in the Setup, unfortunately. Likely the primary feature of the show was a piece in which the seasons of the top-5 drivers (James Buescher, Timothy Peters, Ty Dillon, Joey Coulter and Parker Kligerman) were recapped. Another montage showed off the 15 different drivers that won races during the season up to that point. I understand that the focus was on the championship, but there wasn’t anything new here. Meh is all I can say.
During the race, yes, there was a focus on the championship, but I didn’t get the feeling that it was the only thing going on. There was action on-track for position and I got to see those battles. I know that doesn’t sound like all that much to cheer about, but just wait.
One gripe I had was with the third caution, which was thrown for Max Gresham hitting the wall, apparently. At least that’s what Rick Allen told us. NASCAR’s official reasoning states debris (likely from said wall hit). Thing is, I couldn’t tell by looking at Gresham’s truck as to whether he hit the wall at all. Also, there was no replay of what happened. The fact that it was a borderline quickie caution didn’t help things much, either. Now, the second time Gresham hit the wall, we know he did it, but I’m not so sure about the first time.
Post-race coverage was pretty good. There were six post-race interviews, a final look at the point standings, and the trophy presentation to 2012 Camping World Truck Series Champion James Buescher. The only comment I have here is that there seemed to be a lot of down time. Perhaps SPEED could have added another interview in there.
Overall, SPEED put together a fairly enjoyable telecast. The action was relatively good on-track, although quite spread out at times. There was a decent amount of racing for position shown to viewers and the commentary seemed to work quite well. I’m happy for now. The Camping World Truck Series will be back on SPEED/Fox Sports 1 next season with very few, if any changes. Just don’t expect too much bonus coverage, especially once the channel becomes Fox Sports 1. They’ll probably have another live event that they’ll need to get to.
Ford EcoBoost 300
On Saturday afternoon, the Nationwide Series held their season finale on ESPN.
You could easily tell by the five minute mark of NASCAR Countdown exactly what their grandmaster plan was going to go. They were going to give viewers a healthy dose of Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Elliott Sadler. And that is exactly what we got.
There was a feature where Stenhouse talked at length about the various struggles that he’s had during the season. The Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway took precedence here (if you remember, that was the race he won after contact with Joey Logano which resulted in him ending up two laps down). I thought that it was OK. Stenhouse stated during the piece that he thought the championship was lost. Keep in mind that this was the fourth-to-last race of the year. After winning, he was six points behind Sadler.
For Sadler, ESPN created a piece where Sadler talked about the pain of losing the championship in 2011. Obviously, Sadler wants the title badly. However, the whole thing came off as defeatist. Sadler all but stated that after the crash in Phoenix, it was over. Stenhouse wins. It just hurts him that much more than last year.
Talk about a nice way to undermine a network’s agenda, but Sadler was being honest here. There’s no sugarcoating. Nicole Briscoe stated after the piece finished that the championship is by no means over, but Sadler was pretty definitive and I’ve watched way too much Match Game ’73 to disagree with the definitive answer. Granted, I’m writing the critique a couple of days after the fact, but the thoughts listed above are what came to mind while watching the feature prior to the race on Saturday.
The extreme focus on Sadler and Stenhouse continued into the actual race telecast on Saturday and, for lack of better words, drove me nuts. I know that the championship is very important to ESPN, but it has to be covered in moderation. Having the points as they run display below the scroll for the entire race makes it that much easier to cover the event equitably.
However, ESPN chose not to go that route. Despite the aforementioned display on screen, Sadler and Stenhouse probably got 70 percent of the airtime during the race between them. There were only a couple of other stories that were really covered to a notable extent. One was Regan Smith’s first drive in the No. 5 for JR Motorsports after having not raced in the series since Bobby Ginn shut down his No. 4 team. By Lap 40, I was already feeling burned out. I can only imagine what my readers were thinking.
Shortly after halfway, two things happened that I found to be notable enough to mention here. First off, the one and only Up to Speed segment during the race featured exactly three drivers. Who were those three, you might ask? Why, it was Sadler, Stenhouse and Austin Dillon, the top-3 in points? Let’s just say that I wasn’t too pleased. In fact, I yelled, “Ah, C’mon!” at the TV as if Nicole Briscoe could hear me. I rarely get that agitated (and loud) watching a race.
The other thing I noticed was a strange instance on Lap 110 when Jamie Little mentioned that NASCAR was considering penalizing Sadler for topping off on fuel while replacing a loose lug nut, then going back on themselves when they realized that it wasn’t a rule. Andy Petree appeared to be…perplexed because of it. So was I. Now, that isn’t so much a gripe about ESPN as a gripe about NASCAR nearly committing an act of stupid. I know there’s a ban on topping off on the pace laps before the start of the race. That ban has been around since about 1997. But, the stop referred to here was nearly halfway through the race. I have no idea who could have possibly come up with that explanation for nearly penalizing someone. It is looney tunes.
Since the race ended up running early, there was plenty of time for post-race coverage. ESPN brought us two trophy presentations (one for the driver’s champion (Stenhouse) and another for the owner’s champion (the No. 18 team, accepted by J.D. Gibbs). There were also interviews with Smith, Sadler and Dillon before ESPN left the air.
To be honest, I felt lost at times. With the extreme championship focus, I could never really get a good idea of what was going on in the race that didn’t affect the championship contenders. That’s not good. I was championshiped out long before the race was underway, then dealt with over two hours of championship commentary. Makes me wonder if any of the fans share my sentiment here.
Ford EcoBoost 400
Finally, we come to the Sprint Cup Series season finale. One last chance to sample the COT and it’s homogenous goodness before the “Gen6” car takes over next year. Of note, where the deuce did Brian France come up with that? Oh well. Here goes nothing.
An expanded 90-minute edition of NASCAR Countdown started out with a rehash of the final few laps of Phoenix. That included a recap of the Bowyer-Gordon retaliation event, the pugilism, the restart that should have never happened, Danica Patrick’s wreck out of what could have been a 14th-place finish, and the pile-up due to multiple oil slicks. Oh boy, just not a good day at all. You’d think they were done with that. Just wait.
Another piece narrated by Marty Smith centered upon the idea of trying to intimidate one’s rivals. Dale Earnhardt was an expert at it on the track. However, the past three years have seen the intimidation occur off the track with words. Does it work? Sometimes. That stuff had a much bigger effect in 2010 than now, though.
Another piece had Johnson talking about his relationship with Chad Knaus. In all honesty, the two of them work together well, but it seems that it’s Knaus’ way or the highway. I’m just not really sure if that strategy is working all that well anymore. Johnson needs to be able to make more decisions. Honestly, I don’t think I learned much from the piece, other than the fact that Johnson was still confident entering Homestead.
A third piece was based around Penske Racing, a team that has been active for the better part of 50 years. Roger Penske and Tim Cindric speak volumes for how much Keselowski re-ignited Penske’s passion for NASCAR. We’re talking about a team that has won dozens of races in the series. Just shows how intoxicating Keselowski can be.
Much like the Nationwide race on Saturday evening, the Cup race was heavily stilted towards the championship contenders at the expense of everyone else in the field. Again, I had trouble following what was going on at times, which I shouldn’t have to deal with. If it didn’t refer to Keselowski or Johnson, it may as well have not existed early on in the race. However, ESPN was a bit more generous with Up to Speed segments that talked about other drivers.
During the race, Kid Rock showed up in the Pit Studio to promote his new album (released today). He had also played a pre-race concert. This was unnecessary and played over a battle for the lead between Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr. Can’t the broadcast booth interrupt that?
Once Johnson dropped out with 40 laps to go, the rest of the race didn’t matter. It was simply coronation time for Keselowski. Such coverage is disrespectful to nearly everyone involved. There should have been mentions of Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose running out of fuel at the end (in Almirola’s case, it cost him a career-best finish). There should have been footage of other battles. Instead, we all but got bupkis.
Despite the race being run at record pace (for what seems like the fifth time in 2012), there was a minimum of post-race coverage. By minimum, I mean minimum of variety. There were interviews with race winner Jeff Gordon and the championship contenders, along with winning crew chief Paul Wolfe and owner Roger Penske. There was also the championship trophy presentation.
One thing must be noted here. I know that the race winner in the final race is an afterthought (unless he also wins the title, like Tony Stewart did last year). However, who thought that it was a good idea to rehash the stupidity in Phoenix, including replaying the intentional crash and donnybrook during Gordon’s interview? That’s gauche, bush league and totally unnecessary. Besides, wouldn’t that be completely played out by now?
From there, it got a little crazy. ESPN left to go to SportsCenter, where the race and the championship took center stage for about the next half hour. That’s where
That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the Formula One World Championship comes to a conclusion at Interlagos near Sao Paulo, Brazil. Sebastian Vettel has a 13-point lead over Fernando Alonso and can win the title by finishing fourth or better, but anything can happen. Coverage will start with Free Practice No. 1 on SPEEDtv.com Friday morning from 7:00-8:30am. Free Practice No. 2 will be on SPEED from 11:00am-12:30pm. Free Practice No. 3 is Saturday morning from 8:00-9:00am on SPEEDtv.com, while Qualifying will be live on SPEED from 11:00am-12:30pm. Finally, coverage of the Grand Prix of Brazil will run from 10:30am-1:00pm.
Also, last night was the combined banquet for the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series. The fact that the banquets are combined instead of separate continues to irritate me. However, if’in you’d like to view the festivities, SPEED will provide a tape-delayed telecast on November 29th (next Thursday) from 8:00-10:00pm EST.
Since this is the final regular critique of the season, I must thank my readers for sticking with me through a pretty tough season on the TV-side of things. If I actually had a lot (and I don’t), then I would have pulled at it a lot of times. However, there was some good coverage tucked in there as well. Also, I will be back for a fifth year of TV criticism. I’ll fully admit that I’ve probably been through quite a bit by TV critic standards (whatever those are). But, I will still stick to my overall goal of trying to make motorsports programming better for all race fans, not just myself.
If you have a gripe with me, or just want to say something about my critique, feel free to post in the comments below, or contact me through the email address provided on the website in my bio. Also, if you want to “like” me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, please click on the appropriate icons below. Finally, if you would like to contact any of the TV partners personally with an issue regarding their TV coverage from last weekend, please click on the following links:
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.
©2000 - 2008 Phil Allaway and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Phil, always enjoy your columns. Just one small correction – Will Buxton visited the US for the IndyCar race at Sonoma late this summer prior to the F1 race at Texas. He seemed to be impressed by the racing – he’d be a plus for both series on the broadcast team.
I was thinking that the TV coverage of this final race of the season was the worst of the year…….AND THEN SPEED TAKES TO THE AIRWAYS WITH DUMBASS WALTRIP AND GOOFY JEFF HAMMOND TO MAKE ME REALIZE THAT I SHOULD JUST GIVE UP WATCHING AND RETURN TO MY ROOTS WITH MRN.
The absolute best part of the whole championship weekend was big-mouth Mikey Waltrip’s mope quieted responce to the finish of the truck race when that damned dirty rotten stinkin government bailed-out Chevy beat that glorified grandiose Toyota (sarcasm) to the line by less than a foot. I haven’t laughed or fist-pumped to the outcome of a race in a long long time. LOL! In fact, after typing this up, I’m gonna call it as my personal highlight of the 2012 season. No only because of the outcome, mind you, but by shutting up that loudmouth pitchman puke. He is friggin annoying and would not shut up during the whole race (even talking over the others), until the last split second.
Go back and listen to it…its a beautiful thing. LOL!
The almost-a-penalty is a perfect example of NA$CAR members thinking they are Indiana Jones. His perfect line is “I’m making this up as I go.”
SPEED accusing Larson of driving over his head when he got together with their golden boy Dillon really irked me. It looked like a racing deal to me. Larson was the faster truck and looked like Dillon tried to block a bit. I don’t blame anyone for it, but they sure got on Larson for it. But it was to be expected from SPEED.
Did I hear some sniffles in the booth when JJ went to the garage. It sure was somber up there. It was pretty clear who they wanted to win given the prerace all they could talk about was ways in which Kes might lose the title. Utterly pathetic and disrespectful to Kes if you ask me. Glad he backed it up and shut them up in the process.
So now that we are to the end of 2012, does anyone think the broadcasts for next year on FOX will be any better. I’m skeptical given the amount they paid. I picture just as many commercials and more Waltrip shilling. Here’s hoping the new car at least provides better racing than the COT next year.
Joe,HankZ and Steve are spot on.How can Speed/Fox have any credibilty when a team owner and his brother are in the booth calling the race.