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
Tuesday March 4, 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.
Bowles-Eye View · Thomas Bowles · Tuesday February 26, 2008
Sunday night marked just the second official weekend of the NASCAR season. In a perfect world, I would have spent it smiling in Ontario, California, celebrating the sport's continued momentum off the heels of a Daytona 500 that exceeded expectations.
Instead, my night became so incredibly frustrating, so mentally frying I was virtually jumping through hoops in order to keep a redeye plane ride out of town.
As I stepped onto the flight that would take me away from the joke that was the attempt at a NASCAR race Sunday, I couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to leave an event I was supposed to cover before it actually finished up the next day. I'm never one to shy away from working overtime; you're talking to a guy who started out his career working a game six hours after I'd been taken to the hospital for food poisoning. But after the ineptitude and poor decision-making skills of the NASCAR brass left me at the mercy of a track and a sport that was rudderless in direction; frankly, after being jerked around I didn't have the stomach to stick around to see what happened. In one sense, no writer needed to; the real story had already been told, with the surprise ending that Cup teams, television crews, and millions of NASCAR fans were being played for fools. After nearly fifteen hours at Auto Club Speedway, multiple stoppages in the action, two dangerous crashes, and a track surface that looked like a creek was running through the middle of it, those clues still weren't enough for the sanctioning body to give up and officially call the event until the following day.
Once I boarded the plane, I finally heard the unthinkable but inevitable news; the sport had finally postponed the race, angering everyone who had mistakenly hung around for hours thinking NASCAR would follow through and dry the track to go racing. But as I tried to grasp the sheer ineptitude of the rain delay from hell I just witnessed, an unintended but natural consequence began to occur - and suddenly, I was having difficulty coming to grips with emotions I'd never thought I'd achieve in this business. In two plus years of being at the track full-time, I'd never wanted to leave a race early; after all, this job wasn't an obligation but a fulfillment of a dream. I've always felt my strength in writing and covering this sport in all the various forms I do it comes from a longtime passion of being a fan first; there's no better way to supplement your income by making money covering what you've always loved. And to me personally, looking back at NASCAR's California debacle, that's what disappoints me most of all; they did everything possible to burn the passion of one of its most hardcore fans into the ground, to the point where I was breathing a sigh of relief that I was about to be 3,000 miles away - not the weird feeling I'm missing something important I have whenever I'm not at the track most weekends.
Perhaps my biggest gripe over everything that just transpired is that there's no reason for our sport to be west of the Mississippi five days after our Super Bowl. None. Nada. Zilch. I had mentioned in a Thursday Sports Illustrated column that a schedule change should be in the work for 2009 and beyond, because the sheer logistics of teams traveling to California the week after Daytona just didn't make any sense. With virtually everyone - teams, the media, NASCAR themselves - based in the Charlotte area, the hardships involved in sending everyone back to home base, then 3,000 miles away within 96 hours of the year's biggest race just didn't make much sense. After all, would the Super Bowl-winning NFL team ever be asked to fly from the big event to say, London four days later to play a regular season game? Certainly not; and while I enjoy NASCAR's differences, but this is one area in which we should develop the same philosophy as our stick-and-ball counterparts — give teams time to breathe after our Super Bowl.
The consequences when we don’t do that can be devastating. In the end, there's no doubt the California schedule - followed by another West Coast race at Las Vegas - is what forced NASCAR's hand into a rain delay that would never end Sunday. A Monday race forced many of these organizations - many of whom have just one hauler - to not leave the track until Monday night, leaving a sleepless drive for days for truck drivers who would have to drive 3,000 miles back to Charlotte, then a second 3,000 miles to get to Las Vegas. All by Friday morning. It was a logistical nightmare, one the sport was intending to avoid in any way possible; I get that.
But it's also a nightmare that was completely unnecessary. Not too long ago, it was the quaint countryside of Rockingham, NC that hosted the second race on the Sprint Cup schedule, providing an easy trip for the NASCAR faithful, who - weary from a two-week trek down to Daytona Beach - would need to only drive a handful of hours from Charlotte to set up shop for the second race of the season. It's true the one-mile track wasn't always the warmest place to be; and with stands that could fill in the 60,000 range at best, it fell far short of the 100,000+ open seats California attempts to sell every year.
But with empty seats the norm, not the exception out West, this comparison isn't just about capacity; it's about competition, and Rockingham had some of the best the Cup Series had to offer.
Just consider the final race that was held at the track; in a side-by-duel to the line, Matt Kenseth beat Kasey Kahne by a nose - literally - to secure one of the closest wins in the track's history back in 2004. But even that wasn't enough to save its final date; and in 2005, we began this current ridiculousness, a California February date that left us setup for a nightmare that we're lucky hadn't happened before now. At least for the first three years, there was an off weekend for the Cup Series between California and Las Vegas, enough for everyone to catch their breath and move forward. But this offseason, that off weekend was mysteriously eliminated, a "West Coast" swing even more tightly established.
What perfect timing.
With this scenario shooting NASCAR right in the foot, their panic led to the unfathomable no-no of the sport starting the race under green when the track was obviously wet after three straight days of rain - the last of which didn't move out until two hours before the race was supposed to initially begin. As the cars hit the track another four hours later, even the most casual observer could see in camera shots that the "weeper" grooves located around the track were dripping out water like it was their job; but despite the protests of several drivers and the shock of many intimately involved in the sport, the green flag dropped anyways. What followed was like a poor man's daredevil act; within 25 laps, five good cars were wiped out, the victim of hitting the wrong piece of race track at 200 miles an hour while several others came perilously close to doing the same. Racing is dangerous, but never this inherently unsafe; can you imagine the backlash if Sam Hornish, Jr.'s car - which caught fire in a four-car wreck involving Casey Mears on lap 21 - had resulted in anyone getting significantly hurt? Judging by the damning liquid evidence that caused such a hard-knocks wreck, the sport would be lucky to avoid a lawsuit.
But despite all this, the sport clung stubbornly to its false hopes that their logistical nightmares could be averted. Their unwillingness to face the facts of Mother Nature ended with a marathon, five-hour rain drying the track process in which the race wasn't officially called until 2:00 AM EST. That type of long-term waiting - resulting in a decision that effectively put that time to waste - does nothing but irritate all those who are supposed to be the sport's biggest supporters. It sabotages the free time of the dedicated fans, who put their lives on hold all day Sunday for updates and delay coverage which would ultimately prove futile. It insults the teams, media members, and TV crews, who spend their hard-earned time and money revolving their lives around the sport only to not receive the dignity of a timely, proper decision. And that doesn't even mention the unnecessary roughness it puts the drivers through…we won’t even go there.
Well, you'd like to think after all this madness that NASCAR will finally give up on two dates in California. But let's not be fooled twice in 48 hours; with the rumors circulating about Atlanta's possible reduction in dates, fans will be lucky if the Speedway isn't a part of the Chase in 2009. However, maybe — just maybe — this unfathomable ending will be enough for NASCAR to put the pieces together and make the second race of the season at, say, Atlanta. Or perhaps move California and Las Vegas apart from each other.
And as for me? The Speedway was already my least favorite track on the circuit; now, it’s the sole track for which I have difficulty ever finding myself supporting. After 115-degree heat in September and 110 Degrees of incompetence in the Spring, I wound up more than comfortable watching Carl Edwards lead the Auto Club single file parade from my couch; and when it comes to races at the track in Ontario, I hope the couch is where I stay each race weekend from now on.
For me, that’s the biggest shock. I never thought NASCAR would frustrate me to the point where my passion for it took a hit; but right now, I'm in need of some recovery time.
Let's hope the healing comes quick and easy for all of us.
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Very well said boss.
I’m sure it wasn’t as bad for Joe Fan watching on TV like myself, but I just wanted to add a quick detail: the race coverage started at 3:30 PM on the East coast, fouling up the schedules of anyone who had to work the next day. I understand that…but then the next day the race was held at 1:00 PM EST…when everyone, especially West coasters, was at work! All because of the logistical nightmare you have described.
This is one thing NASCAR does need to change, but I’ll bet my six-pack of Corona that that’s when Brian will put up his hand and say that the sport has had all the change it can stand. Fontana is his baby and will survive low attendance and boring races like Rockingham and Darlington absolutely never could.
There doesn’t seem to be as much outrage as there should be about this, and it may be because fans simply expect this kind of ineptitude from NASCAR anymore. Without the participants even going on strike and killing the championship battle, NASCAR is at the point where baseball was in 1995, entirely because of hideous management. Playing country music before races ain’t gonna fix it.
Well stated! Well written!
A great summation of the mess we call NA$CAR!!
Oh, and I get a kick out of their statement: “Well, we asked the drivers”!!
Gee, has NA$CAR ever asked the drivers their input before assessing penalties?
You know, if you don’t enjoy covering Nascar anymore there ARE other sports. Or, for a complete break, you could try covering politics, crime, or even do book reviews (that would never take you out in the weather at all).
To quote one of your racing reporter peers, “If you’re not having fun, stay home and don’t bother those of us who are.”
Nice piece. I certainly agree with letting the teams breathe, and race, closer to home after the 500. In fact, I think we used to, at a joint called Rockingham. :-)
My passion for this sport all but evaporated when they took the last date from a real race track (Rockingham) and moved it to snooze-ville (California). This after they screwed Darlington. Couple that with the Top 35 rule, the joke of a car they’re running, the idiotic chase, and what’s the point any longer? I only watch the short tracks and road races any more as the rest are dreadful, boring affairs meant for insomniacs.
Here’s hoping the merger gets people to pay attention to the IRL now. Their races have been more interesting for a long time now. They’ve just been lacking in race teams.
The last time I saw a sanctioning body acting so imcompetently in trying to get a race started after a rain delay, it was CART at Milwaukee in 2000 and Road America in 2001. I was in attendance at both events and NASCAR’s decisions about this weekend’s race at California made CART look intelligent.
Too bad after those and many other poor decisions in running the business, CART is gone.
A point to ponder for Mr. France, perhaps?
Be careful what you wish for their answer may just be to put that off weekend back between California and Vegas. I don’t think any fan liked having an off week two weeks after the season had just begun. While I can’t argue with the distance factor, and I agree that NASCAR could have done a better job with decision making at California, the time of year there isn’t a track except Phoenix and Vegas where you can expect good weather.
You guys sure like to hog your NASCAR dont you? Forget everyone else, we only want NASCAR in the south for a few thousand people to watch. You should remember what you learned in Kindergarten, to share your toys so everyone can enjoy them.
Let’s go back to Rockingham. Smaller track to dry, earlier starting time, closer to home, and more action. But alas, $$$ talk and there must be more in California. That will all change when nobody cares any more.
It’s interesting to see everyone continue to bash the California race as if we don’t have other races on the circuit (Michigan, Texas, Charlotte…etc, basically any track larger than 1 mile and shorter than 2.5 miles) that create the same type of racing. It’s hard to keep really fast cars and really slow cars in the same general space. On a .5MI track, cars are everywhere, on a restrictor plate race, they’re all bunched up, even races from back in the day reflect exactly what we see today. How many times have I watched JJ DOMINATE at Charlotte, rarely is there a complaint about it being a snoozer?
Is it that Cali isn’t in the deep south, or that it’s somewhere that people don’t feel that NASCAR belongs in? Ok, it’s not the best track in the world, and maybe they should move the dates from being so close to Vegas (which is the detractor to ticket sales..I mean, why go to Fontana when you can to Vegas one week later?).
Other than last weeks debacle of when to run a race, and when to just throw in the towel, (which could have happenend at any track) racing in Cali isn’t so bad. I think this is part of the growing pain in a sport where growth, and exposure is key. Why does NH have 2 dates, what about Pocono (BOOOOORING), I guess what I’m getting at is, there need to be a few different things that NASCAR is willing to do to make racing better, the COT isn’t the complete answer. I like what they’re doing with the Nationwide engine package, maybe that helps. I don’t know, I don’t think that California Speedway is the worst track, and I think there is a lot more than can be done (way before resulting to restrictors being put on the cars at these tracks as well) to make racing better. Otherwise, it will be a long season of follow the leader racing.
Just my opinion, go 29.
Must have been nice racing in front of all those empty seats.
The only thing that will save NASCAR is a change at the top. It is clear that those in charge have NO idea what made the sport a success. They’re breaking all kinds of speed records heading down the path of CART. For the open wheel guys, it was the focus on road courses that started the collapse. For NASCAR, it is the abandonment of the grassroots fan base.
Rockingham should still be on the schedule but they’ll never admit their mistake and go back so I’ll pose another question. How many folks would have been at Kentucky or Nashville for the Monday makeup? You and I both know 75% or more of the ticketholders would be in attendance.
Of course, then all we would have seen was a good race in front of a good crowd. The bigwigs would have missed rubbing elbows with Tom Cruise and that would just be too much to ask.
Okay everybody , calm down . The Hack of all Hacks Voelker has again stepped in to let us know that our opinions regarding this column are obviously wrong because they don’t agree with Voelker . Anyone want to help M B find a job that won’t require pretending to be a racing correspondent .
Alan, I find it hard to believe that you’d see a 75% attendance at another track after a rainout. How many were at Dover and Michigan? Unlike the rest of the country, we Californians actually have to work on a Monday. After all, these wonderful Chinese products you all love to buy from Wal-Mart come in thru the harbor at Los Angeles.
Kevin in S Cal says…“Unlike the rest of the country, we Californians actually have to work on a Monday.”
uhhhhh….ok Kev, where have y’all been for all the Sunday races in the past? Oh, thats right, you were shopping under the grandstands, buying all those neat little die casts and everything else that just came off the boat in the harbor. Followed by a nice brunch at W. Pucks place.
Kevin wrote: “The reason why Rockingham and North Wilkesboro dont have dates any more is because the places are small and falling apart.”
The schedule_really could use more small tracks..that is pretty much what many of us grew up on, small tracks. Enough of all the tracks being exactly like the others. Oddly even NASCAR hasn’t wrapped their heads around the fact that Bristol continuously sells out..you’d think they would see that and make a ton of small tracks that still seat 160,000 like Bristol does. To M.B: We only complain because we care..(More than NASCAR does it seems);-)
Cali is great track when Dale Jr. wins there.
The main reason that there is animus towards California, dh, is that the long tradition of the Southern 500 was taken away to add a race there. If it were Michigan I think the reaction would be the same.
I actually don’t think that the California races have been all that bad myself, but I still far prefer the racing at Darlington.
As for MB…he (or she) is a fan. Some out there get tired of our negativity, and maybe they have a point. Except I can tell you, it’s often hard to find positive things to say when there are glaring negatives right before our eyes. And this past week’s race just happened to be another loud one.
By the way, I don’t care what anyone says…I love Pocono!
We can complain about California all we want but we can’t change the weather. It rained on the Brian France Circus for three days and no matter how hard they tried they couldn’t race. I will give NA$CAR a C+ for effort but an F for decision making. When the track is weeping you don’t go racing period.
Here is my take. The schedule needs a major reworking. Going to
Oh well, can’t judge NA$CAR. I was just one less fan who didn’t watch a race this weekend.
Kurt – I TOTALLY understand, I guess I just think that it doesn’t get a fair shot because of that, and EVERYONE continues to bash it. It’s tough to see tradition be changed so abuptly but honestly I’m just glad to see them run, but it’s just changing times, likely within 10 years time, that race will be gone from CA, only to be somewhere else…perhaps SC again. Change is hard, we all know that. Just look at that ugly car on the track!
And how can you love Pocono, especially since they don’t let them shift anymore, that was the best part, watching these guys work the gears and drive the car.
Kevin in SoCal…people who attend races in the south have the experience and the sense to know that a rainout is possible. Most let their bosses know that they may call in that Monday to burn a vacation day or sick day if the forecast doesn’t look favorable. It’s hard for me to imagine with today’s weather technology that you guys out there didn’t have heads up notice of the rain and that maybe there would be some rescheduling. But then it could be that most of the fans in attendance weren’t even CA. residents and couldn’t give up flight plans or the long trips home.
The one positive note…Fontana has been successful in making Michigan and Pocono racing more competitive or at least it appears that way when you measure them to that boring oval. The track is to wide for one thing. When cars are side by side and you can still read the number and sponsors on the doors that are on the inside then the track is to wide. At least the other cookie cutters had presence of mind to make alterations to the track in an attempt to increase competition. Of course they are owned by B. Smith and he still understands racing and the fan. For ISC to do such a move would be a confirmation that they (Frances) made a mistake and we know that never happens.
If they would have just built something similar to Rockingham out there then I feel more of you guys would find the racing interesting enough to attend. I have no problem with California dates and would love to make the trip to attend if the racing was worth the effort but it isn’t with the current configuration.
One last thing: NASCAR and ISC didnt build the track in SoCal. It was built by Roger Penske and then sold to ISC a few years ago.
I could care less if you run the races in the South, North, East, or West. They could all be in freakin’ Alaska for all I care. My only requirement is that the actual track you race the boys on provides good, hard racing. I’m sick of f’ing aero push ruining racing. Fix the cars (nice job with that crap box you’ve created, not) or go to tracks where it isn’t a factor (like Rockingham, duh).
It’s that simple. I don’t give a crap about championships and I have no allegiance to one driver or the other. Put the 43 fastest cars on the track and let them beat each others fenders in until someone wins, the way god and Dale Earnhardt intended it.
Stop being the WWF while so desperately trying to be the NFL at the same time. Be what you were as little as 10 years ago for crying out loud. The racing should be the show, not the broadcasters, not the commercials, not even the drivers when they’re outside of their cars.
P.S. – many people seem to think we’re just bashing California. Nope. We’re bashing what the California track represents when it comes to NASCAR. “Grow the sport” until it’s dead.
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