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.
Phil Allaway · Tuesday April 16, 2013
Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, where we critique all kinds of different race telecasts. This past weekend, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series were at Texas Motor Speedway. Meanwhile, the Camping World Truck Series made their annual trip to Rockingham for some action on a cheese grater masquerading as a racetrack.
North Carolina Educational Lottery 200 at the Rock presented by Cheerwine
On Sunday afternoon, the Camping World Truck Series returned to Rockingham Speedway for their second assault on the tricky, high-banked tri-oval. Honestly, the race was quite similar to last year’s. Turner Scott just plain dominated.
The primary feature of the Setup was a piece on Jeb Burton, Turner Scott Motorsports’ newest up-and-coming phenom. Jeb talked about how his father, former Sprint Cup veteran Ward Burton, helped him along in his career. Ward and his wife (Jeb’s mother) Tabitha were also interviewed for the piece. Ward took great pains here to explain that he didn’t simply bankroll Jeb’s racing, but helped him out as much as he could with funding (Ex: the State Water Heaters backing that Jeb had last year was backing that Ward had obtained back around 2007 when he was driving for Morgan-McClure Motorsports, money he maintained even after he retired). Today, Ward gives advice from time to time, but he’s taken a backseat because he feels that Turner Scott Motorsports can give Jeb everything he needs to succeed, and then some. I thought it was a nice feature on Jeb, and probably overdue. This segment was the first time (our Driver Diary with Jeb not withstanding) we really got to learn much about Jeb.
During the race, there was a good amount of racing for position when the field was all bunched up. SPEED did a pretty good job at showing that competition. Once the field spread out (and, interestingly enough, it seems to do so at Rockingham more than any other track in the series), there were still individual battles that SPEED showed viewers as well. I was never left wanting for action. At least, nowhere near as much as I was Saturday night.
Having said that, I do have a gripe or two. I’m not a fan of how SPEED scheduled their AT&T Race Break directly after a commercial. They recapped the race up to that point (Lap 121), then took another break. The result here was that we missed about 15 laps of competition. You could say that this rant is much along the same lines of what I’ve previously said about FOX’s Mid-Race Report back at Fontana. Please don’t take away our action for that. If you’re going to recap what’s happened in the race, please wait for a caution. Heck, it could have been done under the previous yellow, since the race passed the halfway point during it.
SPEED did a good job covering the Ron Hornaday – Darrell Wallace, Jr. incident. They had plenty of replays (including the Match Game-style “definitive answer” replay that showed Hornaday when he dumped Wallace), and got interviews with both of the parties involved. Hornaday admitted that he screwed up, but we’ll have to see what ultimately comes out of it. The penalty on race day was a wrist slap at best.
Post-race coverage was relatively brief due to SPEED running up against their time slot. There was time for four post-race driver interviews, plus an interview with winning crew chief Trent Owens. There was also a check of the point standings while the unofficial results were contained in the scroll.
Generally, I enjoyed Sunday’s truck telecast. There was some excellent racing on Sunday and Joey Logano’s charge from nowhere was quite exciting. I don’t know if I can co-sign Mike Neff’s statement in Monday’s Newsletter where he claims that Rockingham is the perfect racetrack, though. I don’t think he’ll believe that when the place starts having issues with potholes, which would force a repave. I hope all of you enjoyed that, since I doubt Kansas is going to be as exciting to watch.
O’Reilly Auto Parts 300
On Friday night, the Nationwide Series returned to action at Texas Motor Speedway. A battalion of Sprint Cup regulars were sprinkled throughout the field, while rookie Alex Bowman started from the pole.
On NASCAR Countdown, Brad Daugherty and Ray Evernham both had the weekend off. As a result, Rusty Wallace and Ricky Craven joined Nicole Briscoe in the Pit Studio for what I still consider to be way too much analysis. However, if I have to listen to Pit Studio analysis before a Nationwide race, I wouldn’t be opposed to it coming from Craven. I’ve stated here in the past about how I like Craven’s approach to covering the sport. It only benefits the telecast.
There was a brief look at Nationwide Series rookie Nelson Piquet, Jr. Effectively, it was an introduction to Piquet. Honestly, the way it was presented, I thought they were going to look at more drivers than just him. My best guess is that it is the first in a series of quick looks at Nationwide rookies. Granted, I did sit down with Piquet the day before he made his Nationwide debut at Watkins Glen, back in 2010, but I think I would have wanted a little more from this piece.
The primary feature of Countdown was a piece narrated by Marty Smith that concerned the idea of peaking too early in one’s career, and how it might relate to Trevor Bayne, who won the Daytona 500 before even winning a Nationwide race. The connection is made here between Bayne and Shakey Graves, an up-and-coming musician. I’ll admit that I had never heard of Graves prior to the feature. Both Bayne and Graves talk about their ascension in their chosen occupation. I thought that it was a nice segment, although a little disjointed.
Finally, there was a quick montage of drivers talking about what they did during the two-week break. Happenings ranged from sweet vacations to even things as benign as doing your taxes and going to the dentist (Sam Hornish, Jr.). Yes, it seemed tacky, but it wasn’t a bad piece to run.
The primary story on Friday night was the return of Carl Edwards to the broadcast booth. This year, Edwards seemed to be a little more prepared for his work. Despite the fact that ESPN announced Edwards’ participation quite late (Monday afternoon for a Friday night race), Edwards seemed to be more willing to participate this time around. Allen Bestwick and Andy Petree did spend a fair amount of time early in the race gearing their commentary, in order to include Edwards more easily, but he did seem to be more loquacious than last year. Having said that, he did get a little flustered during the fifth caution since so many different things were happening at once (pit stops, the Lucky Dog, Landon Cassill breaking, Robert Richardson, Jr. spinning out, etc.) I’d argue that he just needs to get used to it. Doing three races in a row instead of two races separated by a couple of months will help Edwards get accustomed to the nuances of race commentary. Like driving a race car, being a race telecast analyst is one of those things that takes practice. With time, Edwards should improve in the booth.
During the race itself, there was a limited focus once again. It seemed like a number of people came and went from that limited focus (Ex: Bowman) throughout the race. I just don’t understand the benefit of doing that. ESPN is the sole TV partner for the Nationwide Series, and as a result, they are in the business of helping to promote the competition. Covering the very front of the field and going on and on about Kyle Busch doesn’t really do that. Yes, he owns a team (that’s Parker Kligerman’s No. 77), but he’s a Sprint Cup regular. Kyle Busch’s success technically is at best neutral to the Nationwide Series, and at worst, killing it.
Having said that, ESPN has the means at the track to cover everything more inclusively. Believe me. They shouldn’t be spending seven figures per week to just cover a few people. If they didn’t have the funds to do so, we wouldn’t get such good replays of nearly everything under the sun that goes down during a race (Ex: Dexter Stacey’s wipeout).
Post-race coverage was quite brief due to ESPN already being over the end of their time slot by the time the race ended. As a result, coverage was limited to three quick interviews and a check of the top-10 finishers. The rest of the results were limited to the scroll. No point standings were shown, but it was mentioned that Hornish’s lead was cut from 28 to two.
On Saturday night, the controversy of the last couple of months finally came to a head with the running of the NRA 500. It should be noted that the NRA didn’t pony up the extra money to plaster their name and logos all over the broadcast, so you only heard the name a few times all evening. How did FOX do with their first night race of the year? Let’s take a look.
With all of the recent shenanigans in the Sprint Cup Series, FOX thought that it would be a good idea to take a driver to a Mixed Martial Arts gym for some training. Kevin Harvick, who once stated that there should be more fighting in NASCAR (shown in a clip) was the chosen one, so he went and learned some moves from UFC fighter Johny Hendricks. Hendricks directed Harvick through a series of striking, choking and footwork drills before they both get in the Octagon. While I understand what the piece was supposed to be about, it was really more of a thinly veiled promo for UFC on FOX 7, which airs on Saturday night.
There was not a word about Brad Keselowski’s issues with the rear-end housing, not even when they were talking with Keselowski. The issues with Joey Logano’s car should have been detailed much earlier in the show than they were. Unfortunately, that’s the problem with having a pre-race show that focuses on regular features of the show (not feature features like the aforementioned Harvick piece/blatant ad) and strips the pit reporters of their ability to add anything to that portion of the telecast. That has to change, simple as that.
Personally, I’d like to see Michael Waltrip excised from the broadcast in general because he doesn’t add anything to it (plus, he’s biased since he’s a team owner). Michael would be replaced with a fourth pit reporter. They have a number of people already in the FOX Sports fold (in no particular order: Ray Dunlap, Hermie Sadler, Bob Dillner and Wendy Venturini) that could take over that gig without any problems. I know they don’t want to replace Dick Berggren, but it’s not like Berggren was fired. He retired, as someone that is 70 years old is likely to do. At this point, I’d argue that FOX is hurting their telecast with the status quo. As for Hammond, he should be back in the Hotel (where he spends part of the time, anyway). The roving reporter gig just isn’t working out and takes away from the race itself (Ex: Hammond going on and on from on top of the “Hollywood Hotel” with about 50 laps to go. That didn’t add anything to the broadcast.)
I thought that FOX did a decent job of covering races for position during the first half of the race, when the cautions were positioned fairly close together and the field didn’t get all that spread out. However, once we passed over the halfway point of the race, the coverage started to focus on single cars more and more. I’m not so sure if that was more a lack of racing for position, or a personal choice. Regardless, I wasn’t so much a fan of it.
I’m still not convinced that FOX’s Gyro Cam is fully automated. There were times that there was a delay before the camera tilted to the appropriate angle, leading to a rather disorienting shot for viewers. I’m sure that the camera positions have given some viewers headaches so far this season. However, it’s not so bad on flatter tracks. Before this year, there were four people in charge of manipulating the in-car cameras from BSI (each person is typically assigned two cars). Those people will have a joystick at their disposal that can tilt and pan cameras. I have no reason to believe that a little dial couldn’t control the Gyro Cam.
It remains to be seen if Turner Sports or ESPN will make use of technology during their portions of the Sprint Cup schedule. If it’s technology from BSI, then they would be more than welcome to it, as in-car cameras are considered to be shared resources between the TV partners.
Post-race coverage was somewhat typical by FOX standards. There were four post-race interviews, plus checks of the unofficial results and point standings before FOX left the air.
As I stated above, FOX actually did a fairly decent job covering the action on-track, especially early on in the event. However, as the race continued and the green flag runs got longer and longer, they slipped into the trap of simply showing single cars out on track. Having said that, there were some good field recaps during the event and I was generally up to date on where everyone was.
However, I always constantly state that telecasts can always be improved. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as a “perfect telecast,” but I believe that TV partners should always strive to achieve perfection. If that’s as simple as finding more debris on track (Ex: I’m kind of assuming that the first yellow was for either a plastic bag or a tear off, but I’m not quite sure), so be it. For different partners, that might mean something different. It does not mean being a bunch of robots, that’s for sure. Mike Joy, Larry McReynolds and Darrell Waltrip do have a fair amount of fun in the broadcast booth, and that’s perfectly fine. That’s natural for them. Commentators are basically storytellers in the booth. The production crew complements that story.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series both travel out to Eastern Kansas to race at Kansas Speedway. Meanwhile, the Izod IndyCar Series and the American Le Mans Series will be racing on the streets of Long Beach, California.
Tuesday, April 16
Wednesday, April 17
Thursday, April 18
Friday, April 19
Saturday, April 20
Sunday, April 21
Time Telecast Network
Monday, April 22
*- Tape Delayed
I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup, Camping World Truck and Izod IndyCar Series races for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. In the Critic’s Annex in the Newsletter on Thursday, I’ll have a look at the V8 Supercars’ Microsoft Office 365 from Symmonds Plains Raceway in Tasmania. For April 25’s Annex, I will cover the Grand Prix of Bahrain on NBC Sports Network.
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“Personally, I’d like to see Michael Waltrip excised from the broadcast in general because he doesn’t add anything to it (plus, he’s biased since he’s a team owner).” That’s for sure Phil.
Who would you rather have in the booth? Carl or DW?
Carl for Sure! DW has his favorites and that is all you hear .‘No thank you!
No real commentary Phil…again. Why do you think that is Phil? Maybe you’re not relavent? Geez. Is EVERYBODY drinking the NASCAR kool aid?
Well, I agree with Phil. Michael adds nothing to the telecasts. I know Kyle Busch is a great driver but the love affair with him in both series is really old. There’s 41 other drivers they could talk about. Are they just lazy? In Nationwide, talk about the Nationwide drivers. It was nice last year when Kyle couldn’t cut it in his own equipment and we didn’t have to listen all race about him. You’d think after all these years, someone could do decent race coverage for all to enjoy.