NASCAR Changes Qualifying Format
posted by Summer Bedgood
Tuesday March 11, 2014
Following safety concerns regarding NASCAR’s new qualifying format, the sanctioning body is introducing some changes in preparation for this weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway. According to the Associated Press, NASCAR is banning teams from cool-down laps after their qualifying attempts, but will instead be allowed to hook up cool-down units to the engine through hood flaps.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a release from NASCAR fully detailed the changes. Teams will be allowed a single cool down unit to be connected through the right or left side hood flap, however the hood must remain closed. Additionally, two crew members will be allowed over the wall while cooling down.
“The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”
The move comes after three weeks of NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying system, where multiple cars are allowed to make qualifying attempts at the same time instead of the traditional one-car-at-a-time procedure. Drivers and teams had complained that the new rules didn’t allow them to cool their engines down on pit road, and the cool-down laps caused a dangerous situation with slower cars staying on the track at the same time that other cars were running by them at much higher speeds.
The rule will begin this weekend in Bristol, a track that has a much narrower racing surface than Daytona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
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!
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Phil Allaway · Tuesday July 30, 2013
Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, where race telecast breakdowns are the name of the game. This past weekend, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series were each racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Meanwhile, the Camping World Truck Series had a midweek date with Eldora Speedway in Ohio.
CarCash Mudsummer Classic Presented By CNBC Prime’s The Profit
Last Wednesday, the Camping World Truck Series traveled to somewhat remote New Weston, Ohio for a series first. It was the first time that the trucks ever tackled dirt. The result was quite interesting. John Wes Townley did his best to impersonate Grits n’ Gravy from the World Series of Dice on Chappelle’s Show (Note: I’m sure that John Wes Townley is not on PCP). Austin Dillon claimed the victory, and Norm Benning briefly became a sensation.
For Eldora, FOX/SPEED brought out all the stops. The Hollywood Hotel, which was in storage for the winter, came out of dry storage for the show. Krista Voda hosted the Setup and much of the rest of SPEED’s coverage from there instead of her podium. It definitely made the show a little bit more of a big deal than normal. Joining her there for much of the time was Clint Bowyer, a man with a vested interest. So vested, in fact, that he shouldn’t have been there. Yes, Bowyer is a knowledgeable chap when it comes to dirt track racing, but his man (Jared Landers) was in the race. He was biased. Generally, that means that he has to go.
Now, the coverage of heat races was time-shifted by as much as 10-15 minutes so that SPEED would fill the entire two-hour timeslot prior to NCWTS Setup at 9:00 PM. Not a fan of that. They should have aired them live. Once they ended, they could have aired multiple additional interviews to fill the time, either as part of an expanded edition of the Setup, or simply heat race bonus coverage. Having said that, I did like the multiple interviews that aired before and after the races. SPEED also did a pretty good job of introducing the new guys that were in the house.
Also of note, I have no idea why SPEED didn’t track down what the heck happened to JR Heffner on the start of the LCQ (Last Chance Qualifier). I’m not saying that just because I cover Heffner on a weekly basis at Lebanon Valley (I actually do, and I’m generally on good terms with him) but just as a basic courtesy. It’s not like they didn’t talk to Heffner at all during the telecast. Perhaps JR didn’t want to talk about it, and if so, that’s his prerogative. However, you must make an attempt and it is unclear from SPEED’s telecast whether they did or not.
I’ll let you guys voice your own opinions about the middle finger seen ‘round the world from Benning. Honestly, I didn’t notice it until I saw people going on about it on Twitter. At that point, I rewound the footage and saw the telltale middle finger. There was no apology for this offending digit from a 61-year-old man. I’m fine with that. Of course, the audible radio profanity from later in the telecast came with an apology. That wasn’t necessary. People cussin’ is a fact of life these days.
Once the Setup began, the focus was seemingly on introducing dirt track racing to the viewers. I’d almost argue that by then, it really wasn’t necessary. SPEED had already aired two hours of practice, the heat races, the LCQ, and had been heavily promoting the race for weeks. Also, a fair number of people that watch the series on TV probably also watch dirt track racing (when it’s on). They’re not dumb.
First up was a piece on Eldora Speedway, the site of the race. There were sound bites from track promoter Roger Slack and a number of dirt personalities, including Steve Kinser and Joey Saldana. In addition, SPEED aired a piece narrated by Richard Petty about NASCAR racing on dirt. That particular piece was aired earlier in the week on NASCAR RaceHub.
Overall, the race coverage was a bit of a letdown. There was a fairly strong focus at the front of the field during the event. It’s as if nothing mattered (especially early on) behind about fifth. Also of note, the tires seemed to take quite awhile to come in. We saw a rare instance in which the lap times came down by a second or so during the race, which I thought was interesting. My guess is that the competition cautions basically killed any reason for pit strategy since you couldn’t gain or lose positions in the pits. However, the place simply isn’t conducive to live pit stops.
The intense focus on the front resulted in SPEED missing Ron Hornaday’s rather substantial wall contact that sent him to the pits (to be fair, SPEED did show a replay of the incident, but not until the yellow came out for the crash involving Landers, Ty Dillon and Johnny Sauter). No one even bothered to mention it until after the yellow flew even though they had to have known what happened prior to that. SPEED could have used a side-by-side setup to show that prior to the aforementioned crash.
SPEED only gave the race a 90-minute timeslot, which was not enough. The race nearly went 30 minutes over that before the checkers flew. As a result, post-race coverage was quite limited. Knowing that, what we did get wasn’t bad. Viewers saw five post-race interviews and a chat with winning crew chief Danny Stockman. There was also a check of the points before SPEED left the air.
I honestly think that SPEED got caught up in the Eldora euphoria on Wednesday night and forgot some of the things with which they normally pride themselves. Maybe they got a little too excited. The feel of the broadcast was much along the lines what is often seen during races like the Sprint All-Star Race, or the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown. Admittedly, I think it’s a little concerning.
On Saturday afternoon, the Nationwide Series returned to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for their second assault on the cavernous digs.
NASCAR Countdown was focused mainly on the newly rechristened Quicken Loans Pit Studio, where a great deal of pre-race analysis preceded the 250-mile event. I think it was OK, but it really didn’t add all that much to the actual race for me. No features this week. However, I saw on Jimmy Means Racing’s Twitter page that ESPN will be doing a piece on Joey Gase and Jimmy Means Racing that is scheduled to air prior to Saturday night’s U.S. Cellular 250. That should be interesting.
Now, since this past weekend was ESPN’s first Sprint Cup weekend of the season, it is usually at this point that the network likes to place Marty Reid at the helm of the Nationwide telecasts and have Allen Bestwick focus on Sprint Cup. However, Reid was under the weather and could not make it, forcing Bestwick to fill in.
The action at Indy was… the action. We knew going in that the field would spread out and that Kyle Busch would be a tough out. Both are facts of life here. Once again, I feel like there was more to offer than what we were provided with on television.
The big guest in the booth was five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. Johnson hung out in the booth for roughly 24-ish laps before he had to leave. While there, viewers were treated to more-or-less a prolonged interview with Johnson, interspersed with race commentary. I thought it was boring. Maybe the action on track at the time didn’t help things much, but I don’t really want to see a Q&A during a race like that. If we’re going to disrupt the normal flow of a race telecast, ESPN might as well put Johnson to work as an actual analyst, like what Bowyer did the one time he was up there earlier this year.
The race ended with 18 minutes remaining in the time slot. I think I might have expected a little bit more from ESPN, even though they did fill the airtime. We got four driver interviews and an interview with the winning crew chief (Adam Stevens). There was no graphic in or out of the scroll showing the point standings (although ESPN did air a “points as they run” drop down box on Lap 64, when Sam Hornish, Jr. was having his issues). I would have at least wanted the points to be shown on screen, knowing that it got all mixed up Saturday due to Hornish’s engine failure.
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Sunday brought ESPN back to cover the remainder of the Sprint Cup season. For some viewers, that is a good thing. Others, not so much. It also marks the first Cup portion of the schedule for ESPN as a “lame duck” following last week’s announcement that NBC will take over ESPN’s spot (and half of TNT’s) starting in 2015. A number of viewers thought the “lame duck” status would negatively affect ESPN’s coverage since they would no longer care. Based on the sheer amount of content ESPN had for Countdown in their PR e-mail last week, that does not seem to be the case.
ESPN expanded NASCAR Countdown to a full hour in order to build up to the annual 400-mile assault on the Brickyard. Features were the primary method in which they built it up.
The best of these features was a sitdown piece, where Marty Smith interviewed Tony Stewart on the yard of bricks at Indianapolis. This particular segment was shot a couple of days after the Coke Zero 400. Smith actually left Daytona prior to the race in order to fly to Indianapolis and prepare. Stewart opens up about his desires to race at Indianapolis as a child and his experience winning his first Brickyard 400.
In addition, he talks a little about how he was affected by the death of Scott Brayton back in 1996. I found that portion really interesting since it’s new material. I cannot recall Stewart talking about Brayton in the past. At the time, Stewart and Brayton were teammates for Team Menard. Brayton had won the pole for the Indianapolis 500 at a speed of over 234 mph. Then, a couple of days later, he crashed in practice and was killed. Since Stewart was a rookie in major open-wheel racing (by that, I mean the IRL) the veteran Brayton (14 career Indianapolis 500 starts, best finish of sixth in 1989 and 1993 for Dick Simon) served as a mentor during that abbreviated 1996 season.
Another feature had Nicole Briscoe talking to Danica Patrick about how her career is intertwined with Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Honestly, I thought this piece was a little flat. However, we did find out Patrick understands that her emotions are hurting her out on the track. She believes that her career will move to the next step when she stops letting her emotions control her in the car. That better happen soon, or Stewart-Haas Racing will have way too much crumpled bodywork in the shop. A piece narrated by Chris Connelly had Johnson and Jeff Gordon talk about what it would mean to them to win five times at Indianapolis. Honestly, this segment felt boring to me. The space could have been used better.
In another edition of The Real Juan (finally appropriately placed), Montoya and his family travel to the motherland, Colombia. Here, Montoya took us to the property in Guasca where he grew up. While there, we followed along as Montoya and his kids rode around on Polaris vehicles and Honda dirt bikes (which apparently raised the suspicion of the locals, who thought there was a race track on the property). Finally, we went to Ibague, where a new playground/recreation center that was built by Montoya’s foundation, the Formula Smiles Foundation, was dedicated. It was an interesting look at a place that is often connoted with some of the absolute worst in violence and poverty.
In the lead-up to the race, a fair amount of discussion has centered upon whether fans have abandoned Indianapolis for NASCAR. Heck, I got an email from a fan out of Florida about this very topic Monday afternoon. Unfortunately for people that aren’t at the track, it is a little difficult to tell at times. I know that a lot of people didn’t really believe the numbers that we were given, but NASCAR putting out the attendance estimates actually did help. Now that they no longer do so, you’re left to guess based on either you being there live (I wasn’t), or based on the telecast. Officially, it’s on the tracks to announce anything related to attendance. They generally won’t unless it’s a sellout, which they have to announce.
I could estimate attendance for Sunday’s race based on the shots from ESPN, but it might come in higher than what you’d think. My best guess is 130,000 – 140,000. That’s far from a sellout, but it wasn’t empty either. Having said that, there were some areas that were nearly bare, like the stands in the Chute between Turns 3 and 4.
ESPN did show the stands quite a bit throughout Sunday’s telecast. However, they didn’t really mention the attendance at all. Technically, they let Chad Knaus mention it via the radio while showing off the drivers with in-car cameras. He seemed to think it was a huge crowd. Maybe for another track, but not Indianapolis.
As for ESPN’s actual race telecast, I believe that the green-flag feel and the field stretching out did affect the broadcast. There was not all that much racing for position to be had once you got all that far out from restarts. ESPN did OK at times in covering the battles for position, but I don’t think they were helping Bestwick out much. An example of this phenomenon was right after the final restart. Bestwick noted a four-wide battle for position and said “Look at this!” Did the cameras look at it? Not really. You could see it in the background for a second, then they focused in on Martin Truex, Jr. in order to pay off an earlier reference to Truex charging up from 38th on the grid. Not that we really saw much of that.
Since the race ended so quickly (less than three hours to run the full distance) there was plenty of time for post-race discussion. ESPN filled that time with nine driver interviews, plus chats with the winning crew chief (Matt Borland) and Ryan Newman’s father, Greg. There was a check of the points before ESPN left the air.
Overall, the race didn’t give ESPN much to work with. However, they needed to provide more updates on drivers. We got plenty of Johnson, Newman, Logano and such. Beyond them, not so much. There basically wasn’t an Up To Speed all day (they were going to do one with 32 laps to go, but Logano pitted almost immediately, killing it). People need to be better informed.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend is another split for Sprint Cup and Nationwide. The Sprint Cup Series will make their second visit of the year to Pocono Raceway. They will be supported by the Camping World Truck Series and ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards in twin 125-mile races. Meanwhile, the Nationwide Series makes their second visit of the year to Iowa Speedway while the Izod IndyCar Series travels to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Here’s your listings.
Tuesday, July 30
Wednesday, July 31
Thursday, August 1
Friday, August 2
Saturday, August 3
Sunday, August 4
Monday, August 5
I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series races for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. The IZOD IndyCar Series race from Mid-Ohio will be covered in the Critic’s Annex on August 8th. For this week’s Critic’s Annex, I will be covering Friday’s Brickyard Grand Prix for the Rolex Sports Car Series.
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I don’t bother to watch the pre-race shows so I missed all of those things you said ESPN covered. I don’t buy into the hype these days. Just have someone reasonable in the booth to call the race and someone with half a brain to actually get the cameras to follow whatever action wherever it is on the track. It seems pretty basic to me. Indy was a bore, regardless of Stewart’s semantics. When did racing, not include passing? High speed parades are only interesting for a short while. We see the same old, same old at far too many tracks.
I enjoyed the Speed telecast from Eldora although I agree about the conflict of interest from Bowyer. I don’t like Mikey in the booth since he is an active owner, any more than I did Rusty Wallace and Brad D for ESPN. Sorry, conflict of interest – they shouldn’t be there.
The KISS principle works for racing as in most things. Too many bells & whistles just distract from the event.
Good article, Thanks. Many people we know are sick of the hype..hype..hype. From the failed experiment known as Danica, to telling us how great these boring races are. They insult the hard core fan always telling us something different from what we know and our eyes see. Nicole B. has to go, eye candy for some, but a hyper phony poodle for most. I think she would be the exact same if she was hawking kitty litter.
I beleive the issue from SPEED at Eldora was waaaaaay too excited or they were trying to over hype it. Screaming about Kenny Wallace winning his heat race really rubbed me the wrong way. Let’s not go overboard, even if you do work with the guy.
Also, if there was a time delay, why was there so much filler needed between heat races? It seemed like it took forever to get through them with all the long breaks in the middle. If its going to take that long, start these heat races earlier so the feature doesn’t last till midnight.
I never watched Indy, never had any intention. Its been single file racing there for 10 years and nobody wants to do anything about it. So I prefer not to watch. I’m pretty sure it was the Jimmie Johnson show anyway. We know how much ESPN loves them some Jimmie.