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 November 19, 2013
Hello, race fans. Welcome back to Couch Potato Tuesday, where race telecast critiques are the primary objective. We’ve reached the final races of 2013 for NASCAR’s National Series. The Camping World Truck, Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series each crowned champions in Homestead. Honestly, I can’t believe that it’s already over. Granted, I’m used to writing over 70 critiques a year about various forms of motorsports, but regardless of how angry I get with telecasts, it still bites when the season ends.
Before we start, I must make reference to Donovan McNabb’s foot-into-mouth moment on FOX Sports Live, Friday night after the Ford EcoBoost 200. FOX Sports has stated that McNabb’s thoughts on the show were his own at the time. I just believe that he really didn’t know anything about Johnson, or NASCAR in general before making the statement. Afterwards, McNabb was eviscerated from all directions. He tried to clarify his statement on Twitter and got trounced again. Eventually, McNabb congratulated Johnson on his title after the race.
I’d argue that nothing said on FOX Sports Live during its first three months on-air has generated a reaction quite like McNabb’s dis on Johnson did Friday night. Johnson decided to take the high road about the whole issue and not talk about it (apparently to the point that PR reps from Hendrick Motorsports told certain media members not to even broach the issue with Johnson), but under the surface, I’m fairly certain that he was incensed.
Basically, McNabb’s comments just show what NASCAR (and auto racing in general) is constantly up against in a never-ending battle for respect in sports. There’s always going to be someone that’s going to dump on drivers for perceived slights. McNabb has taken lumps for his statement (which technically had nothing to do with the discussion on hand) repeatedly over the past few days and will continue to.
Ford EcoBoost 200
On Friday night, the Camping World Truck Series held their season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Matt Crafton’s dominant season resulted in there not being all that much of a championship slant to the broadcast (Crafton clinched it just by cranking his engine). However, there was still 200 miles of action to be had. How well did FOX Sports 1 cover the action?
Luckily, the schedule on Friday night prevented another quagmire like what we saw in Phoenix. We got full coverage of the race and NCWTS Setup.
During the Setup, the primary feature saw Ray Dunlap sit down and interview soon-to-be champion Crafton for a wide ranging interview. The piece touched upon Crafton’s rise into his family’s late model (one of the few Fords racing on the West Coast at the time, essentially because his dad got hurt), the moves to ThorSport, KHI and back to ThorSport again, and his fatherhood. Pretty much covers everything, I think. This is the type of interview that I would probably conduct with Crafton if I ever had the opportunity. I thought that Dunlap did a great job with it. Found out some facts about Crafton that I never knew before.
The other piece that Dunlap featured in was quite stupid. The piece was ostensibly designed to promote Johnny Sauter’s new sponsorship from Nextant Aerospace, which debuted on Sauter’s No. 98 at Homestead. Basically, Sauter got to try out one of Nextant’s 400XTi jets (Note: Nextant takes used Beechjet 400’s and modifies them into modern jets that beat the new competition in its class). Sauter seemed to have fun with the piece, but Dunlap was a real moron here. Didn’t enjoy it.
Since FOX Sports 1 didn’t have a driver’s championship to focus on Friday night, their points focus gravitated towards the owners’ championship, which was being pursued by both Crafton’s No. 88 for ThorSport Racing and Kyle Busch’s No. 51 for his own team (Kyle Busch Motorsports). Early on, this particular battle wasn’t mentioned all that much, but as the race continued, the storyline mattered more and more, especially after Crafton got wrapped up into a wreck during the first GWC. Admittedly, most of FOX Sports 1’s viewers don’t give a hoot about the owners’ championship, but it is important. I just think that it was beaten into the ground.
Outside of the owners’ championship talk, we got a pretty good telecast with lots of good racing for position. FOX Sports 1 typically is the best of NASCAR’s media partners at showing good racing and Friday night was no exception.
Post-race coverage was quite substantial, knowing that the race was only given a two-hour timeslot (for reasons that I can’t explain). The three GWC’s meant that the telecast was already over its slot by the time the checkers flew. However, FOX Sports 1 still provided viewers with seven post-race interviews, plus a check of the final point standings. Finally, we have the championship trophy ceremony with Mike Helton before FOX Sports 1 left for FOX Sports Live roughly 40 minutes late.
Ford EcoBoost 300
On Saturday, the Nationwide Series had their final race of the season. The championship was clearly in the balance all day with Austin Dillon and Sam Hornish, Jr. separated by just eight points entering the day. How did ESPN do with the race? Let’s take a look.
As you are well aware, one of the biggest stories to break over the past week was Roush Fenway Racing announcing that Trevor Bayne had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a debilitating disease that can eventually led to paralysis after an unknown period of time. Luckily for ESPN, they have a resident doctor in Dr. Jerry Punch. Punch sat down with Bayne after the diagnosis became public to talk about his thought process after learning that he has MS and how it will affect him in the short-term (essentially not at all). Afterwards, Punch gave a demonstration of what MS ultimately does to the nervous system. Generally, a fairly simple explanation of a difficult to decipher disease. Punch did a great job here. However, Bayne is showing a lot of confidence in dealing with the disease. A weaker person in this situation would likely break down.
Another feature had Sam Hornish, Jr. talking about his ultimate desire to drive for Roger Penske from childhood. That dream came true in 2004 when Penske signed Hornish to take over the No. 6 Dallara after the retirement of Gil de Ferran. Over the past ten years, Hornish has driven for Penske in three different series. Both Hornish and Penske do have some regrets (both believe that Hornish shouldn’t have gone straight to Cup from the IndyCar Series). Overall, it’s been a good relationship. Unfortunately, it officially came to an end after Saturday night.
During the race, ESPN spent much of the event focusing in on the two point races, the Dillon-Hornish duel, and the Penske Racing-Joe Gibbs Racing owners points battle. This focus did hurt the telecast in places. One example was when the leaders came onto pit road during the first caution. Instead of the normal quad-pit setup where viewers could get a general idea of the whole sequence, ESPN chose to focus in on Dillon and Hornish’s stops. As a result, it was guess work as to who got out first. ESPN repeated this on Sunday as well, with similar results.
What stands out the most from Saturday’s race is the now-infamous 12 lap caution late in the race due to the crash involving Mike Wallace, Regan Smith and Jeremy Clements. Wallace drove his No. 01 back to the pits, littering the track with debris and fluid. The caution wound on and on and on, and the restart was waved off multiple times. It took until at least the second restart wave-off for the booth commentators to say anything about the unsatisfactory procedure. I think that the booth tried to stay low-key during this situation, but as the yellow continued on, they became frustrated, much like everyone else.
ESPN also seemed to be a little better than normal in finding debris on track both on Saturday and Sunday. We saw most of the debris that caused cautions, and Vince Welch showed off the hunk of debris that caused the third caution. On the track, it just looked like a piece of Bear Bond. Perhaps what we saw was Bear Bond. However, Clements ended up with a boomerang-shaped piece of metal (possibly part of a splitter) lodged in his nose. That’s legitimate debris if I’ve ever seen it.
Unfortunately, NASCAR’s strategy for the caution has lent itself to conspiracy theories, which is something that NASCAR definitely doesn’t need right now, knowing the year they’ve already had. Now, it should be noted that while NASCAR did wave the restart off at least three times, they did it for legitimate reasons. ESPN showed the crews that were still out on the track, picking up debris and putting down speedy-dri on the frontstretch. They weren’t holding the restart to keep Hornish from having a chance to make up the points on Dillon. Yes, it’s true that they should have thrown the Red Flag. That’s obvious by now. However, it didn’t seem like it would be necessary at first.
The long caution put the race right up against the Alabama-Mississippi State game, a fact that led some to believe that ESPN forced NASCAR not to go red so that ESPN could go to the game at 7:45. I doubt that happened. Ultimately, ESPN started the football game on ESPNEWS, then moved it to ESPN after the telecast ended.
Ultimately, we did get a fair amount of post-race coverage, even with the football game beckoning. Viewers saw three driver interviews, plus interviews with the winning car owners (owners’ and driver’s championship, since they were two separate operations), Mike Dillon (Austin’s father, and a former Nationwide Series driver in his own right), and both trophy presentations. Afterwards, ESPN left for Starkville, MS, where the game was three minutes in.
Ford EcoBoost 400
Sunday afternoon was the Jimmie Johnson coronation, and almost everyone knew it. Regardless, ESPN went all out for their final race of the season. How did they do? Let’s take a look.
For Homestead, ESPN went with a special two-hour edition of NASCAR Countdown (the first hour of which clashed with the second hour of NASCAR RaceDay Fueled by Sunoco) to promote the championship battle between Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick.
With the extra-length of the show, ESPN was able to show a number of features. Some were repeats, like the Bayne one-on-one that Dr. Punch conducted (re-aired due to the fact that Bayne was in the Cup race. Of note, Bayne broke a valve in his engine and finished 40th. He was running very well before the engine failed. I never really saw much of a mention of what happened to Bayne on the telecast.)
The show started off with Ray Evernham in one of the production trucks, talking about some of the pivotal moments from Phoenix pertaining to the Johnson-Kenseth battle. Evernham brings his championship experience into this piece, but he comes off as a little annoying here. I just didn’t like it. Too much hyperbole.
ESPN also replayed the interview that Marty Smith conducted with Tony Stewart. Now, this particular interview actually premiered on SportsCenter last week, but Sunday was the piece’s premiere on NASCAR Countdown. Smith, in his second one-on-one of the year with Stewart (the first being in Indianapolis back in July), did an amazing job showing the human side of Stewart. Admittedly, Stewart seems like a different person post-injury than before. He’s been humbled. However, I doubt that the injury will change his on-track demeanor in any way, shape or form.
The primary new feature of the show was a one-on-one interview that Allen Bestwick conducted with Mark Martin, who drove in what is likely his final Sprint Cup race on Sunday. While Martin has insisted multiple times over the past couple of weeks that he isn’t retiring, here, he basically does everything but say it. Martin talked about how he came to the decision to (essentially) hang it up back in January and how he didn’t really want to approach it publicly at the time. Martin appears to be at peace with his decision. I think that Bestwick did a decent job with the piece. I’m sad to see Martin leave driving, but he’ll still be around on a regular basis.
Finally, we have a nice feature on Jimmie Johnson’s competitiveness and fitness. Johnson and Chad Knaus explain the competitive streak that Johnson has, which is apparently unparalleled. Afterwards, we get a look at Johnson’s training regimen, which apparently includes 20 mile runs at a pace that would extrapolate to running a marathon in 3:15. Johnson also swims and rides a bike off-road (and on-road, but that wasn’t pictured). All of this is done at a very high level. Quite amazing, actually.
I’m fairly confident that this piece was done well in advance and would have aired on Sunday regardless of previous events. However, airing this feature on Sunday after McNabb’s aforementioned comments on Friday could be seen as the equivalent of this. Having said that, it was well done.
During the race itself, there was an expected heavy focus on Johnson and Kenseth (and to a lesser extent, Harvick). However, since the championship was nowhere near as close as last year’s Johnson-Brad Keselowski battle, ESPN allowed the telecast to be more inclusive. Having said that, focus on Johnson was quite heavy at times.
The focus on the championship did come at the detriment of others. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had a car that would charge like gangbusters at times. However, ESPN failed to take note of it until really about Lap 150. You would see Earnhardt Jr. in seventh one minute, then bugging the leaders the next. I just don’t feel that ESPN did a decent job in showing that until late in the race.
ESPN seemed to have the Menard issues covered fairly well, despite the unprecedented nature of the events. We got a good interview with Menard about the incident and overall good coverage. Also, there was some criticism of NASCAR waiting to throw the yellow, which I believe was warranted. They should have thrown it before Menard got to pit road. There was flaming debris on the backstretch. ESPN caught the fiery debris flying off of the No. 27. That should have been more than enough to throw the hanky.
Post-race coverage was fairly extensive since the race ended relatively quickly. However, given the amount of time that ESPN had, they really didn’t conduct all that many interviews. ESPN interviewed Johnson, Kenseth and race winner Denny Hamlin. In addition, Knaus and Rick Hendrick were interviewed and Johnson was presented with the Sprint Cup. There was a lot of empty space where it appeared that Bestwick and company had to fill time. I feel like that could have been used for additional interviews, but they chose not to.
That’s all for this week. The live racing season will come to a conclusion next weekend with the Grand Prix of Brazil, the final race on the Formula One calendar. I’ll have a look at that, in addition to some final thoughts on SPEED/FOX Sports 1 and ESPN’s coverage for 2013. Here’s your listings.
Tuesday, November 19
Wednesday, November 20
Thursday, November 21
Friday, November 22
Saturday, November 23
Sunday, November 24
Monday, November 25
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I don’t know about anyone else, but I cannot stand to listen to the Truck series broadcasts. Nothing against Rick Allen and Phil Parsons. It’s because of that whiny motormouth, Mikey Waltrip. Good heavens, does that idiot ever shut up? I have watched most of the Truck races this year, but on mute. I hope FOX cuts this P.O.S. from their broadcast team next year!
Ill second that. His voice reminds me of fingernails on a blackboard.
I concur with the thoughts on Mikey. His attempt at adding excitement is grating on my nerves. A little inflection once in a while is good presentation, but he cannot deliver a comment without hyping it. Get rid of him and leave it to the Phil and Rick!
Agree with all regarding Michael.
As for McNabb, who cares what he thinks. We know better.
Who cares what that ex football player says. Between his uneducated comments on Nascar drivers and the media going nuts over the mayor from Canada, isn’t there anything better to report on?