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 June 18, 2013
Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, where race telecast criticism and breakdowns are the primary objective. This past weekend, the Sprint Cup Series was at Michigan International Speedway for their first visit of the year. They were joined by the ARCA Racing Series and Nationwide Series. 200+ mph was most definitely on tap. How did the TV partners do with what they were given? Let’s find out.
Patriot Pumps 200
On Friday afternoon, the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards returned to Michigan for their yearly visit. SPEED had the call.
It should be noted that the track signed Patriot Pumps to sponsor the race really late (like a couple of days before the race). As a result, mention of the race sponsor only made it into the intro.
There were no pre-race interviews on the telecast. Instead, there was some pre-race discussion of the engine issues that Venturini Motorsports had in practice, and how Ryan Blaney was that much better than everyone else in practice and qualifying.
During the race itself, Rick Allen and Phil Parsons were joined in the broadcast booth by 2009 ARCA Re/Max Series runner-up and current Nationwide Series regular Parker Kligerman. Kligerman was interesting in the booth. He was a bit wordy at times, but still informative. Not as obtrusive as Justin Allgaier can be. However, he’s also quite excitable, apparently due to ADD (Kligerman said that both on the telecast, and on Twitter). I think that’s just the way Parker is. “I’ve interviewed him before,”: http://www.frontstretch.com/pallaway/29135/ and it came out at times during that interview. For someone that’s only 22 years old, he did just fine.
One of the big stories that came out of Friday afternoon’s race was a spate of Hoosier tire failures, similar to last year. What the deuce did Hoosier actually do to improve their rubber since then? Perhaps bupkis. SPEED did not give the tire issues the amount of coverage that it deserved. We didn’t even see a tire off of a car until Lap 78. By that point, we’d already had three wrecks because of blown tires and other drivers (including race winner Brennan Poole) were blistering tires. C’mon, man. You blew it. The tires were the primary story, and you under covered it. SPEED better have a good reason why this is so.
Post-race coverage was decent. SPEED provided viewers with four post-race driver interviews, plus an interview with the winning crew chief (Kevin Reed). The unofficial results were shown in the scroll, while the points were not shown (SPEED did state that Frank Kimmel expanded his points lead as a result of finishing third, though).
Overall, SPEED really missed the boat on Friday. Going in, the tires were going to be an issue, but SPEED never really broached it until the problems crept up. That’s a shame. With the small field, there was only so much action to show. By the first caution on Lap 25, there were only 13 cars left on the lead lap. Seven cars start-and-parked, leaving 21 legitimate racers on track. There wasn’t all that much on-track action for position to show. SPEED did show an ok amount, but knowing what was going on, that’s fairly decent for what was actually happening.
It seems to be quite a shame that ARCA has fallen off as much as it has. Only 28 cars even entered Friday’s race, something that hasn’t been seen at a superspeedway since the 1980’s. Currently, a mere 21 cars are entered for Road America next weekend. 21 cars on a four mile road course. Cripes. Granted, that number may increase between now and race time, but that is just sad. Regardless of the cost of actually racing in ARCA under the old status quo from say 2005 or so, I think we’ve reached the point where the teams are basically running out of chassis since they still use old Cup cars.
Alliance Truck Parts 250
Saturday saw the Nationwide Series make their third appearance of the year on ABC at Michigan. Kyle Busch was back in the field, but didn’t really play a factor in the race for the win.
According to my on-screen guide, NASCAR Countdown was scheduled to run for 15 minutes. In practice, it ran a little longer than that. Knowing that weather was threatening, maybe that wasn’t the best move on earth. Ultimately, it didn’t matter since it didn’t rain until ten minutes after the race ended, but that was interesting.
With the shortened Countdown, there was no Pit Studio once again. Instead, Allen Bestwick hosted the show from the booth. There were four pre-race interviews and some pre-race analysis in that time.
During the race, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. came up to the booth to hang out for a while. Unlike some of the other special guests that ESPN has had there recently, Earnhardt Jr. wasn’t really there to join in on the commentary, though. Instead, what we got was a prolonged interview. Earnhardt Jr. talked about his own team (JR Motorsports) and the challenges that it faces on a week-to-week basis. Honestly, this would have worked better as a sit-down interview during Countdown than in the booth during the race. For much of the time Earnhardt Jr. was in the booth, the race itself was ignored outside of the pit stop sequence.
Since Earnhardt Jr. is a car owner in the series (ok, a partial car owner since he apparently owns only 25 percent of JR Motorsports despite being the namesake of the team), he is by definition, biased. Therefore, he shouldn’t be in the broadcast booth during a Nationwide race. I suppose that’s why his time up there turned into an interview instead of Earnhardt Jr. chipping in with analysis like Clint Bowyer did.
Also, based on what we’ve seen with Earnhardt Jr. over the past few years, he’s not really cut out to be a booth analyst. The role requires you to be quick on your toes with extemporaneous thoughts. Earnhardt Jr. is just not that person. He likes to put a lot of thought into what he says. While that makes him a great sit-down interview (and we have plenty of examples of good interviews with him, along with a travesty or two that weren’t of his own doing), it just doesn’t work in a fast-paced environment.
On the plus-side, I did like how ESPN showed the cut tire that ultimately derailed Austin Dillon’s charge towards victory. They had a camera right on the crew when they were testing the tire and we saw them discover the puncture live. Also of note, we saw a lot more of the debris than normal. Good to see.
Post-race coverage was quite brief since ESPN was up against the end of their timeslot (which they still exceeded, anyway). There were only three post-race interviews before ESPN left Michigan. There was no check of the points post- race, but there was one below the scroll late in the race. Perhaps ESPN thought that could serve as a proper substitute.
ESPN did an ok job on Saturday. The Earnhardt Jr. interview did detract a bit from the actual race, and that’s not good to see. There were some pluses on pit road, and minuses on the track itself. For example, we never got a replay of Mike Bliss’ spin on Lap 70. Granted, it did not draw a caution, but fans would like to have seen what caused that mess.
Quicken Loans 400
On Sunday, TNT returned after a pretty terrible debut for their second race of the year. Thankfully, no single driver dominated the race. Did TNT improve from Pocono? The short answer is yes, but how much?
Countdown to Green started off with drivers talking about Jason Leffler, who died on Wednesday. It was a nice touch since the thoughts were coming from the people that knew Leffler best. However, it also shows that TNT didn’t really prepare anything about Leffler for the show. Instead, they took the easy way out. Technically, this was before the intro to Countdown to Green, so there was basically no mention of Leffler during the show.
One feature saw TNT go to the infamous “Dirty ‘Mo Acres” in Mooresville, North Carolina for a little chat with Earnhardt Jr. Cameras took a little tour of “Whisky River,” the private old western town on the property. Ralph Sheheen’s interview with Earnhardt Jr. was in the saloon there. Later, we see the race car graveyard, where vehicles like the car Juan Pablo Montoya crashed into the jet dryer with, Jeff Green’s NesQuik Chevrolet that he rolled in 2000, Regan Smith’s car from February’s DRIVE4COPD 300 and others are left to rot.
Earnhardt Jr.’s idea of driving race cars somewhere until at least age 55 was quite refreshing. Very few of his peers hold a similar mindset. Also, his idea of going back down through the ranks is a little unusual. It’s more like what used to happen to a marginal minor league baseball player back in the 1950’s, when there were something like six or seven levels of minor league ball.
TNT’s All-Access followed Brad Keselowski around. After the recap of Pocono, we get to see him at Live with Kelly and Michael (really Kelly’s husband, since Michael Strahan was on vacation). Keselowski then talks at length about waffles, randomly. I don’t get that. After sitting on a photo shoot for his Camping World Truck Series team, we see Keselowski horsing around with Trevor Bayne at the Ford Proving Grounds and receiving an Excellence in Sports Award from Larry McReynolds at the Polish-American Hall of Fame. It was ok. Keselowski is clearly the type of guy that likes to have fun. He had plenty of it last week, including getting a hickey from an unnamed person the night before his appearance on Live with Kelly and Michael.
Finally, we had a few drivers (Jamie McMurray, Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola) talk about being fathers on Father’s Day and how rewarding the experience is. That was nice. However, Kurt Busch was also included here. Busch has no children of his own and talked about his father’s role in his upbringing. It felt really out of place, especially since he’s served as a quasi-father figure over the past couple of years to his girlfriend Patricia’s son.
For the first 150 miles of Sunday’s race, I didn’t have any issues with TNT’s commercial interruptions. However, I did take issue with TNT not breaking out of commercial when Kasey Kahne blew a tire and crashed. The wreck occurred relatively early in the break, which didn’t appear to be a local break. They could have broken out of it. However, I don’t recall TNT ever doing that in the past.
TNT uses their pit reporters better than FOX does, which is good. The broadcast booth is ok. Adam Alexander only does these six races in the booth each year. He needs more experience. However, he won’t get it at SPEED/FOX Sports 1. Too many dudes there. Kyle Petty operates with a conversational style in the booth. As a result, he creates a different feel. Many of you argued in e-mails or in the comments last week that he probably was not too happy in Pocono. This came out with the “crying towel” that brought out a yellow. Petty is extremely honest in the booth, almost to a fault. He’s somewhat toned down from the persona he has on NASCAR RaceDay Fueled by Sunoco, but still enjoyable. Wally Dallenbach is not really all that different on TNT than he is on NBC Sports Network with the IZOD IndyCar Series. He’s steady in the booth (Note: He’s been calling Cup races on TV for longer than he drove in the series). I guess I’m just used to him.
There was a good amount of post-race coverage this week. TNT brought viewers eight driver interviews and an interview with the winning crew chief (Matt Puccia). In addition, there were checks of the unofficial results and point standings, along with some post-race analysis before TNT left the air.
Overall, TNT did much better this week than in Pocono. However, they still have quite a ways to go. They did ok in showing racing throughout the field, but it was centralized towards the very front of the field. I wasn’t a fan of the whole “All is right with the world, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is leading” thing, either. I know it’s a reference to the radio call from last year, but if I critiqued MRN Radio, I would have blasted them for that, too.
That’s it for this week. Next weekend, we have one of my personal favorite racing weekends of the season. Sprint Cup will make their annual trip to Sonoma Raceway for 351 kilometers of racing. Meanwhile, the Nationwide Series will be in action at Road America. The IZOD IndyCar Series will be at Iowa Speedway. Also, just to make it that much better, this weekend is the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Sweetness.
Tuesday, June 18
Wednesday, June 19
Thursday, June 20
Friday, June 21
Saturday, June 22
Sunday, June 23
Monday, June 24
I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Izod IndyCar Series telecasts for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. For the Critic’s Annex in the Newsletter, Thursday’s edition will cover the Milwaukee IndyFest from The Milwaukee Mile. As of now, the June 27th Annex may cover Le Mans.
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:
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Your Dale Jr bias comes across loud and clear as it often does on the Frontstretch site. For fans, it was refreshing to see and hear Jr in the booth. He wasn’t there to comment on the race; therefore, he didn’t. He has better manners than to self-promote himself in someone else’s venue like Bowyer, Edwards, et al. It sure beats the suits weekly over-the-top lauding of Kyle Busch even when he’s not in the race.
BTW, don’t presume to know what percentage of JRM Jr owns. He built that business from scratch out of his own pocket a long time ago and is still the heart and soul of it. If you don’t know the facts, perhaps you should refrain from guessing.
what’s the difference between Jr being in the booth once in a while as an owner vs Mikey Waltrip being an announcer full time for Fox and on speed? Then again, we have Brad (basketball star) D in for ESPN, along with Rusty (even though his team no longer exists). Jr made an unuusal appearance and I have no issue with it.
I have gotten away from watching racing on TV. A lot of it has to do with the boring production efforts but some of it has to do with bias in the booth.
Jr being in the booth is fine AS LONG AS he is talking about his NW series team and the topic is about the NW series. ESPN likes to walk that fine line with Cup guys in the booth or features on Cup guys that aren’t even in the race. These have no place in a NW broadcast and it makes them look desperate for ratings.
Too many commercials. Cant’ get a feel for the cadence of the race. FOX set the standard and the rest of the networks will follow like sheep. Why not? It’s not about airing a race, it’s about selling advertising. I’ve found other blogs that do a better job of calling out the crap that the TV broadcasts are today. But it’s probably too little too late. Once the mold is cast it’s almost impossible to get away from it. Too bad. Thanks Phil.
Is there any comparison between the Cup races on a network TV station that almost everyone gets, and TNT, a cable TV station that not everyone gets? How can you compare the ratings?
“Too many commercials. Cant’ get a feel for the cadence of the race.” That’s for sure Joe. It’s one of the reasons I’ve cut back on NASCAR.