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 September 10, 2013
Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, where race telecast critiques are our objective. This past weekend, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series were in action at Richmond International Raceway. Meanwhile, the Camping World Truck Series made their second trip to Iowa Speedway. Personally, Richmond is one of my least favorite Cup races to watch each year because of the Chase focus. What happened Saturday night should be more than enough fuel for NASCAR to kill the Chase.
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On Sunday afternoon, the Camping World Truck Series returned to Iowa Speedway for their second visit of the year. The race was relatively calm until the end, but not half bad.
For the Setup, Danielle Trotta was back on pit road to host the show like normal, which I believe lends some credence that the production from Canadian Tire Motorsports Park might not have been a 100% FOX Sports 1 production. Naturally, the show began with a look back at the Canadian shenanigans, in montage form. We saw the wreck, the confrontations, the slap across the face, and some interviews. What stood out to me here was footage of an interview done off-air with Mike Skeen. I wish that had made the telecast from Ontario. Unfortunately, FOX Sports 1 needed to leave quickly that day, so we never got to see it.
The primary feature of the Setup saw cameras follow Miguel Paludo to the FOE Diabetes Research Center. We got a tour of the facilities and how the FOE (which serves as the funding organization for the center) is thrilled to be able to help. What probably should have been mentioned for disclosure purposes in the piece is that the FOE (Fraternal Order of Eagles) is a longtime sponsor of Turner Scott Motorsports, dating back to the Braun Racing days.
I’m not in the least bit surprised that Paludo would be supportive of causes designed to help treat and research diabetes. After all, Paludo himself is diabetic, as is his son, Oliver. While Paludo doesn’t promote that fact as much as, say, Charlie Kimball, it is still a big part of his life.
During these standalone weekends for the Camping World Truck Series, there is a noticeable difference in production values as compared to races where the series is supporting Sprint Cup, Nationwide, or the IZOD IndyCar Series. Corners sometimes get cut. Some instances don’t get replayed at all, like Paludo’s near wreck on Lap 195. There is no side-by-side stuff. We haven’t seen any of that since Bristol. Maybe it’ll return at Chicagoland. Stuff gets missed.
I would have also liked FOX Sports 1 to put the tire that came off of Brendan Gaughan’s No. 62 on camera in order to see what caused the failure. I know that it might not have been very easy to decipher since Gaughan blew the tire completely out sliding to a stop in his pit stall, but I believe that it would have been worth it just to help out the viewers. The stringy-ness of the tire after it failed was a little unnerving to me. Yes, the tire had been quite worn, but worn tires don’t necessarily fail in that fashion. I’m fairly confident that this was some type of separation.
Also, the fact that the small pile of rubber strings on the backstretch drew a caution after sitting there for 20 laps was a point of contention. When I watched the race live, I was confident that NASCAR would throw the yellow for it. When they didn’t throw it immediately, I knew they were going to wait until after Ross Chastain and the rest of the leaders made their stops. The goal was not to screw anyone over. Sure enough, it came during a commercial after everyone had made their stops. The booth announced that it was debris on the backstretch and showed crews picking up the coil of rubber. Chastain wasn’t all that pleased about what happened and took to Twitter to rant about it.
Post-race coverage was actually pretty substantial. FOX Sports 1 provided viewers with five post-race interviews and a check of the point standings before leaving the air.
Overall, coverage for the Camping World Truck Series has slipped in quality since the changeover from SPEED to FOX Sports 1. The polish just isn’t there, even with most of the same people in the same places. That’s what happens when you go from being (possibly) the marquee series exclusive to the network to a few rungs down the ladder. There are still some good things on the telecast. There are good explanations of what happens on track. People weren’t left in the dark when Ryan Blaney was sent back to eighth for “failing to maintain a cautious pace.” We got a perfectly decent explanation, complete with replays. There’s definitely some goodness here, but I feel that it’s been lost in the shuffle.
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Friday night, the Nationwide Series returned to action at Richmond International Raceway. While there was no Chase in play, points were still paramount.
NASCAR Countdown was focused quite a bit on the championship battle, and the battle for the race win. ESPN’s analysts seem to be convinced that Kyle Busch is invincible. He’s a threat to win whenever he shows up. Granted, he doesn’t sulk as much as he once did when he doesn’t win, but I have to say that the Kyle Busch love is a little annoying.
There was a real nice feature on Countdown based around Kyle Larson and his desire to race that was instilled early on in his childhood by his parents. We see clips of Larson identifying star sprint car racers in what appeared to be the mid-1990’s (for instance, Larson’s mom asks him to say “Jac Haudenschild,” a name that has to be tricky for the garden variety four-year old to pronounce). That family influence has definitely played a role in his love of sprint car racing. That sprint car racing got him recognized by everyone that matters in racing and put him where he is now.
The primary gripe I had with ESPN’s telecast was when they cut to a commercial break at Lap 172 when the yellow came out for an incident involving Jamie Dick and Jeff Green. The yellow flew before the commercial and Marty Reid acknowledged it. Yet, ESPN failed to stop themselves from going to break. Yes, this break was approximately 90 seconds instead of 150, but they never should have gone to commercial in the first place. To think that just last time out in Atlanta, they were able to stop themselves from this fate, but not here. C’mon dudes. You’re better than that. Also of note, the local vs. national commercial argument holds no water here since the break should have never happened to begin with.
Post-race coverage was about average. ESPN provided viewers with five post-race interviews and a check of the point standings before leaving the air to get to SportsCenter.
Overall, ESPN’s Friday effort was okay. Other than the commercial issue that I described in detail above, there was nothing else that really stood out, positive or negative. Having Marty Reid call the Nationwide races while Allen Bestwick focuses on Sprint Cup gives the telecast a different feel. It’s not necessarily a better or worse feel, just a different one. I will say that Reid seems to work better with just Ricky Craven than with Andy Petree and Dale Jarrett.
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Finally, we come to the last “Race to the Chase.” The points were all important. Ok, let’s not mince words here. I don’t like writing this. Having the Chase has artificially upped the importance of Richmond. Prior to the Chase’s creation, it was a pretty good race, but it kind of existed in and of itself. It was just as important as any other race around it. Now, it’s gigunta. It doesn’t translate to attendance, since there were plenty of empty seats Saturday night, even with $100+ tickets going for $40 online (Note: This is what my friend Brien told me. He was at the race, and did just that to get his ticket). Regardless, we need to look to how ESPN handled the final race before the Chase.
Naturally, the Chase conquered all in pre-race coverage. Not even those already locked in on points were given much coverage. Instead, it was all about drivers trying to get into one of the remaining open spots. The drivers interviewed were in and around the cutoff, or trying for the Wild Card. Heck, the simple notion of who was going to win Saturday night’s race was barely referenced at all, other than when the Quicken Loans ESPN Pit Studio analysts made their picks, which Nicole Briscoe accurately predicted would fail to actually pick the winner.
Once we got into the race, the Chase bubble was essentially all that mattered. The vast majority of the coverage went to a group of six drivers, regardless of where they were in the order. Those drivers were Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Martin Truex, Jr., Ryan Newman and Brad Keselowski. If you weren’t in that group of six, you best be leading the race, or you might as well be a ghost.
Also on that note, if you were in that aforementioned group, you got great coverage. If anything of note happened to you on-track, it was reported.
That sentiment even included the point leader entering Saturday night, Jimmie Johnson. This is probably the only scenario where the points leader could go behind the wall due to alternator issues, and ESPN fails to reference it until after the fact. Normally, they would freak out. Not on this evening. Just plain deplorable. Of course, having said that, I don’t think Jimmie Johnson has ever had as bad a night as Saturday night the whole time he’s been full-time in Sprint Cup. And that includes races like Texas in November 2009, when he got wrecked a couple of laps into the race.
I found Dale Jarrett’s reference about Phoenix Racing and James Finch quite interesting. Yes, it was literally the only time that the No. 51 and Ryan Truex were mentioned all night, but it was supposed to be James Finch’s final race as owner of Phoenix Racing. That is, if he bothered to show up. Jarrett apparently went to the team’s garage (or transporter) to talk to Finch and congratulate him on his retirement. Once there, Jarrett learned that Finch wasn’t even there and apparently hadn’t been all weekend. Gee, that’s a swell way to bid farewell to your 18 employees by no-showing.
Since ESPN needed to properly setup the Chase, post-race coverage was very substantial (actually to the point of ticking off my local ABC affiliate since they delayed the news by 25 minutes). There were 14 driver interviews, and multiple checks of the points (too many, honestly).
In addition, there was the definite in-car camera views from Clint Bowyer’s car of the intentional spin that got him docked 50 points and teammate Martin Truex, Jr. booted clean out of the Chase. Jamie Little didn’t beat around the bush here. She outright asked him if he spun out intentionally. Bowyer then proceeded to lie right to her face. Classy, Clint. Technically ESPN’s a lame duck since they’re out of the NASCAR at the end of 2014. However, they covered this situation with the proper professionalism that it deserved. The tough questions needed to be asked here, and stands needed to be taken. That was done. I’m happy to see it, although I’d prefer that these events never happen.
Andy Petree did take a strong stand against NASCAR’s ruling that Carl Edwards’ final restart was clean, and I tend to agree with him. The rule says that the leader (in this case, Paul Menard) has to get to the line first. Everything after that is fair game. NASCAR’s reasoning apparently was that since Menard got going, then bumped Edwards, the restart was ok. I don’t know about that. Since that got overshadowed by Ty Norris pulling a Flavio Briatore, I don’t think anything’s going to get changed there.
I have all the respect in the world for Menard, but I’m confident that he wasn’t winning Saturday night under any circumstances on two tires. He probably would have finished where he did (fifth) even if Edwards restarted legally. I still would have wanted to hear his take on the issue since it obviously affected him and the race. However, the race itself was not ESPN’s focus on this night.
Let’s just be honest here. The constant points updates really took away from the whole of the race. I’d argue that it probably would’ve been a whole lot better live without the point updates than it was on ESPN. For what it’s worth, my friend thought it was boring. There was some decent racing out there, and ESPN didn’t really show a lot of it. If it was for the lead, or involved one of the aforementioned six drivers listed above, then it got covered. Otherwise, nope. This is why the Federated Auto Parts 400 is my least favorite race of the year to watch.
That’s all for this week. Next weekend, all three of NASCAR’s National Series are in action at Chicagoland Speedway for week No. 1 of the dreaded Chase. Here’s your listings.
Tuesday, September 10
Wednesday, September 11
Thursday, September 12
Friday, September 13
Saturday, September 14
Sunday, September 15
Note that there is no scheduled NASCAR Countdown prior to Saturday’s Nationwide Series race. A three hour slot for college football, plus a “College Football Scoreboard” show immediately precedes the game. As we all know by now, that game will be closer to 3.5 hours than just three hours. Perhaps this is for the best. Regardless, it still bites. I will provide critiques of the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series telecasts for next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch.
For the Critic’s Annex this week, I will be looking at FOX Sports 2’s telecast of the ARCA Racing Series’ Prairie Meadows 150 from Iowa Speedway. Next week, we’ll be taking a break from race telecast critiques in the Annex to look at the new show on Velocity, Patrick Dempsey: Racing 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:
Note: If you’d like to contact the NBC Sports Network about their coverage of Formula One and/or the Izod IndyCar Series, unfortunately, you’re out of luck. The contact page on their website legitimately cannot be found. Hopefully, they get that fixed right and proper soon.
As always, if you choose to contact the network by email, do so in a courteous manner. Network representatives are far more likely to respond to emails that ask questions politely rather than emails full of rants and vitriol.
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You are right about the chase stuff making for bad tv. One of the reasons I don’t like the chase is because it has sucked all the fun out of individual races. I used to go or watch just for the pleasure of enjoying the track and the race, now it’s a constant being beaten over the head about points.
It’s time for Brainless Big Idea to go away. This gimmick no longer works – as evidenced by the amount of gaming the system that the 48 team has used to years and now MWR raised (or perhaps lowered the bar) even more with making the cheating a team event.
My guy isn’t in the chase. I’ll be skipping the next 10 races. The weather is nice this time of year – better things to do than be bored for the next 10 wks.
I just wish Marty Reid would learn who is which car so he wouldn’t have to call out just the car number every time, then he pauses as he looks up the name of the driver. It’s always, “the 54 car of…..Kyle Busch” or whatever car.
Did anyone else notice Rusty’s big gaff on Saturday night? “Roger Keselowski should be OK tonight! RCR builds good cars!” Roger Keselowski? He must be Brad’s look-alike cousin. And when did RCR hire him? Was Jeff Burton released early?
I am old school, and this Chase nonsense every year puts knots in my stomach and not in a good way. I couldn’t wouldn’t even watch Richmond because of it. I loath to watch the next ten races. The Chase is the biggest nail in the coffin of Nascar. Brian France thinks this gimmicky nonsense thrills fans, it doesn’t it makes them mad. What happened Saturday night was a bigger more overt showing as business as usual so their drivers can get into The Chase. The Chase has economic impacts for teams, if RingDing Donuts during the last 10 races isn’t seen or heard on TV because your car just missed The Chase, you will not have RingDing Donuts as your sponsor next year. Oh we could go on…