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 · Monday July 13, 2009
So many are disgusted with the racing that went on Saturday night at Chicagoland. But to understand the present, we need to take a look at the past, reminding ourselves of the story how tracks like the much-maligned 1.5-mile oval ever came to be in the first place.
It was the mid-1990s, and NASCAR couldn’t be healthier. With then-Wonder Boy Jeff Gordon winning his first championship at age 24, the sport was enjoying his budding rivalry with seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt, Sr. Other veterans like Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace, and Ricky Rudd were still in the prime of their careers, doing battle with up and comers like the Burton Brothers, Bobby Labonte, and a suddenly successful Dale Jarrett.
But the drivers weren’t the only backbone of this rapidly blossoming sport. A healthy mix of short track racing left fans asking for more without getting too much, guaranteeing some beating and banging in between places like Darlington, Daytona, and the newly-minted Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis that offered fans a plethora of different styles. In particular, an Autumn swing through two of the circuit’s smallest tracks — North Wilkesboro, and Martinsville – was crucial in setting the stage for the sport’s championship battle. It was at Wilkesboro in ’89 where Rudd and Earnhardt made contact on the final lap, spinning out for the lead while Rusty Wallace sped by with the points he’d need to win the title. Seven years later, Gordon swept through the short-track duet as part of a late-season charge that left him within a whisker of capturing Terry Labonte for the Cup.
But as you might expect, just as the sport was enjoying top-level competition the big brass down in Daytona saw a nice little side effect to the Cup racing’s growth: money in the pocketbook. And as fans filled the seats, NASCAR-controlled ISC, Bruton Smith’s Speedway Motorsports, Inc., and even Roger Penske (California’s first track owner) began to see the issues with these half-mile ovals: their profit margin. You see, short tracks could only fit so many fans in the stands, a far cry from the nearly 300,000 that packed Indianapolis’ 2.5-mile oval during the Indy 500. And tracks less than half a mile in length couldn’t balance stock car racing with the number one form of motorsports at the time: Indy Car. Even in the first year of the CART/IRL split, the open-wheel drivers still were the bigger draw, and tracks like North Wilkesboro were too small to stage a race for cars that drove faster and needed more room to battle on the race track.
With those thoughts in mind, suddenly everyone in a corporate suit had the perfect answer to capitalize on racing’s growing fan base: the “Cookie Cutter.” Beginning with the introduction of Texas’ 1.5-mile oval in 1997, new “intermediate tracks” began to sprout up all across the country. California, Chicago, Homestead, Kansas City, Las Vegas: they were all part of a five-year, national expansion plan that brought NASCAR’s schedule to 36 events by the end of 2001. Promoting “bigger and better” racing, these tracks were “all-in-one” gold mines where track promoters could eventually sell upwards of 100,000 seats for multiple races per year – while getting some open-wheel money on the side. The building blocks to a brighter future had been built.
Or so they thought.
Nine years into the sport’s grand plan, the intermediate track “boom” has busted rather quickly. NASCAR’s race at Chicagoland failed to sell out on Saturday night, with an announced attendance of 70,000 leaving them at least 5,000 short of capacity (depending on whether you believe that figure – or your eyesight). The racing itself had just 10 lead changes, tied for the fewest this season of any track that’s gone the full distance (Daytona’s rain-shortened 500 has just nine).
Yet for a track jointly owned by both the ISC and IndyCar’s IMS group, believe it or not stock car fans weren’t supposed to be their primary concern. There’s still an IndyCar race to be run in September, a race that had double the lead changes and far more side-by-side racing on a track that’s tailor-made for their success. In fact, of the expansion tracks listed above only California and Las Vegas are currently without major open-wheel events, although all have been able to host either the former Champ Car series or IndyCar at some point. However, their ugly split has left these series mere remnants of their former selves, with a fan base so small and the fields so weak their influence pales in comparison to the only game left in town.
That leaves these promoters stuck with tracks struggling with stock cars, leaving small consolation to a rapidly failing experiment of whether both series can co-exist in the same place. And just like IndyCar struggles to get around NASCAR’s best tracks – the ¾ mile at Richmond caused drivers to issue public apologies last month – places where the IRL succeeds mean nothing to NASCAR fans. As a result, they’ve seen their favorite drivers as part of a 43-car, single file parade at these 1.5-mile ovals, with the promise that “wear and tear” on the surface will eventually lead to multiple grooves and better racing. Yet even with greater parity and a higher level of overall competition, that’s never happened. Old car, new car, red car, blue car, the fields at these speedways spread out so quickly it makes it impossible for drivers to race side-by-side for long. Instead, a dreaded aero push leads to a push to stay single-file sooner rather than later, high speeds leaving drivers too close to a handling nightmare to worry about mixing it up for the fans up front.
And while these tracks have never been suited for your fancy, their presence has slowly eliminated traditional venues where fabulous finishes were the norm, not the exception. North Wilkesboro was the first to go, the .625-mile oval hosting its last race at the end of that 1996 season. Rockingham was next on the list, its last race producing a finish closer than any of its replacements has ever provided: an .010 second victory for Matt Kenseth in a thrilling battle to the finish line over Kasey Kahne. It’s amazing some fans never got a chance to see races here, the hotbed of where white-knuckle racing was born.
But what’s sadder is they’ll never get a chance to see them again.
Now, it’d be one thing if these speedways that replaced them were few and far between; but instead, the glutton of overexpansion has left these tracks the meat and potatoes of the current Sprint Cup schedule. The number of intermediate tracks has more than doubled, now totaling 14 events while making up five of the ten venues deciding NASCAR’s champion. It’s like adding the generic brands at the cost of tossing the most popular ones right out of the store: it may save you money, but in the end, you’re probably going to want the brand you like the most at some point.
And that’s where the sport is seeing its fan rebellion now. People are tired of wading through too many of these snoozefests every year, excuses in the form of petty debris cautions to bunch up the field no longer able to hold their attention. Even in the rare case of a photo finish, like Kyle Busch’s win over Jimmie Johnson at Chicagoland in 2008, it’s merely two laps and five minutes of racing excitement as opposed to three hours. Fans have woken up to that reality – and the TV ratings back up their intelligence.
Of course, the old short tracks still remain, empty and crumbling at their lack of use. In a perfect world, it would take just a few million in investments and the right owners to build them up for the Big Boys again. It’s just the corporate suits are too proud to admit their mistake, while deep down desperately searching for the money to build new one to replace them. It’s just that it’s far too late; the investment money is gone, the economy has tanked, and ISC and SMI’s reserves are depleted on tracks that never delivered to fan’s expectations.
Considering those who run our sport are people with business degrees and entrepreneurial spirit, they should have known better to hedge their bets on a multi-purpose race track instead of ones keeping their own foundation strong. And now, just like the housing bubble, their cookie cutter ideas have come to leave the sport’s landscape losing value by the second.
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8 laps for the field to string out Saturday night. The leader telling his crew he would save gas and tell me if I need to put the hammer down. All of the “cookie cutters” should think of cutting thier races in half where there is not enough time to put it in cruise control.
You don’t think the economy has anything to do with it do you? After all Nascar is built on the back of the working class and we’re getting kicked in the teeth right now
Interesting try for a column . Not a good try , but an interesting one . The book you looked in for all of the info apparently didn’t include the fact that Charlotte ( 1960 ) was the beginning of the 1.5 mile tracks that we currently have . And the owner of that track has often explained why he feels that all of his 1.5 mile ovals are the correct size and shape . Do you really suppose that Bruton Smith couldn’t afford to build a bigger track if he felt it was needed ? He certainly wouldn’t build a smaller one , you did manage to get the correct reasoning against small tracks . And as your knowledge of , and interest in Nascar only goes back to 1990 , you would of course have to get your usual Jeff Gordon mention into the story . The empty seats at Chicago mirror the empty seats at every venue on the Nascar circuit . And those seats aren’t empty because of the size or shape of the track .
“5,000 short of capacity”???
Guess I will have to trust my eyesight rather than their “numbers”!
Oh, could you do me a favor please?
Tell me who says they were “only” 5,000 short of capacity?
I want those people to balance my checkbook!
5,000 MY A**!!!!!!!
MORE LIKE 20,000, HUGE SECTIONS OF STANDS = EMPTY!
And being in close proximity to Chicago and a huge population, and drawing probably less than 50,000, has almost NOTHING to do with the economy!
It has to do with sick racing and a poor product on the track!
I live a mere 3 hours from the track, was not even on my radar to consider going!
I want to see REAL RACE CARS, REAL RACING, RUN UNDER REAL RULES!
I’ll excuse Charlotte and Atlanta as they have been on the schedule for a long time and have a history of good racing (especially Atlanta). Vegas, Chicago, and Kansas should never have been built in the 1½ configurations.
In all fairness, Saturday’s snoozefest would have been a snoozefest practically anywhere else, too. Mark Martin just put an old-fashioned whipping on the field.
I will also say that if it wasn’t for these boring tracks, Jimmie Johnson would not be a 3-time champion.
Another justification for building these virtually identical tracks was it gave Nascar the opportunity to build more corporate suites to house those multiple ‘official sponsors’. With the economy being so tight, I would love to know how many of those luxury boxes are sitting just as empty as the stands. Maybe, when you put your economic eggs in that basket to the detriment of the fans that brought you to the dance, the lesson is a bit hard to swallow. And Ryan, the ‘improvements’ to Nascar aren’t just the cookie cutters. I’ve had season tickets to Bristol for the past 9 years. After sitting through virtual parades with traffic there since the onset of the ‘chase’ and ‘improvements’ to the track itself, I didn’t renew my tickets this year. While it would have been a squeeze to do so with the economy the way it is, I would have found a way if Bristol hadn’t been neutered with ‘improvements.
What, these guys never visited New York or Chicago? Never saw a skyscraper? Well the folks at Bristol did, and managed to squeeze all those fans around (i.e., above) a shortrack.
Wonder how those Track Packs worked out for Chicagoland this year? If you were going to be a “walk up” sale on race day, you were still FORCED to buy a Track Pack which included the Irl/Truck weekend in Aug. Easily 15,000 to 20,000 empty seats on sat. Great sales dept, eh? What was really funny were the dreamer’s selling tickets on ebay and craigslist last week, bet that worked out for them. HA!
there’s 100 corporate suites at atlanta. 40 had sponsors and people in them this past spring race. over 50% were empty on race day. when tornado touched down at ams a few years ago, they powers to be rebuilt for the rich and famous, thinking that the sport was bullet proof, and would continue to grow. ha….guess they need to clean their crystal ball. here in atlanta, radio stations are already promoting the september night race, and giving away tickets. atlanta sold itself to the devil of the highbrow folks, suites aren’t selling, special motorhome parking where you can watch race aren’t selling, and the stands are empty. i’ve gotten so many direct mail pieces asking me to renew my tickets. they forgot the fan. now i have to park far away and take a tram. before, it was first come first serve on race day. if you got there early, you got a good spot. they rerouted traffic. if you go back roads, they make you go out into the nightmare traffic on 19/41. people know back roads to avoid that mess. it’s all about control and they’ve lost it.
I’ve been politely letting you criticize every single one of my columns (and I mean every single one, for weeks — for someone who hates my work you sure seem to love to read!), as you’re entitled to your opinion. But you stumbled on this one. Certainly, Bruton wouldn’t “build” smaller tracks than 1.5-mile ovals, would he? Of course he doesn’t believe in them these days … purchasing both Kentucky Speedway and New Hampshire over the past few years was just something he did when ISC held him up at gunpoint. And for saying both Las Vegas and Charlotte are the “perfect size,” he’s certainly spent quite a bit in repaving / rebuilding BOTH in the last decade — even though Vegas was just built in the late 1990s.
As for me being a “new fan” … let me see … I’ve been a fan now for 20 years and writing for nine. I’m hoping that doesn’t make me new, but I do know my favorite driver didn’t start and park in the over 1,000 races I’ve watched through the years before I decided to do this for a living at the race track. Don’t worry, though, I’m gonna get busy “mailing it in” for my next column, because why bother considering it’s a sport I fell in love with since I was 8? Clearly, running an independent journalism site with a group of writers who share that passion shows how little I care or understand.
By the way, thanks everyone for writing and reading! And conservative, the economy can only explain so much for major markets like L.A. and Chicago, places that can’t even sell out with half the capacity of tracks like Bristol.
If NA$CAR had stuck to their original business plan, of promoting races. Then they could to choose tracks that could provide the kind of racing that built it. That plan went out the window when they became track owners. Talk about a conflict of interest. Turns out it’s the fans interest that’s been most conflicted.
All I know is that I’m tired of ten laps of racing in a three/four hour ‘race’. I hardly bother anymore. And don’t even get me started on the travesty called the ‘Chase’! But there may be a silver lining to all this. Maybe real race fans will wander on over to their nearest short track and see what real racing is all about. The best racing I ever watched was at the old Flemington Fairgrounds track in NJ. The most exciting ARCA and Truck racing I ever watched was at that track. ‘sigh’
I have been a fan since the early 80’s. Money ruins everything…….and it is doing it to Nascar. I have worked for Fortune 100 corporations and small companies. I will never work for another Fortune 100 if I can help it. All they care about is profit. They don’t care about the employee, the product or the customer as long as they keep making money. Well Nascar is victim of that too. Brian France in an a$$wipe. If he had any sense, he would look to add some of these great older tracks and encourage building different new ones. Heck, I hate Loudon, NH with a passion. I wish they would plow that place over. It is the worst track on the schedule. It is horrible racing and too flat. But at least it has has character and is unique. Why does it keep it’s races? Money! It’s the only New England venue. Rockingham is twice the racetrack. I’m getting really tired of the Nascar BS. If Mark Martin was retired, I wouldn’t even bother watching.
Good column , I have seasons tickets to Bristol and this is the final year I will attend . After 12 years of great races , they have gutted the soul and removed the excitement of the Bristol race. Every year they have asked for more of my money and sooner . and every year they take a little of what I came to Bristol for in the first place . Short track bumping and banging …. even the TV folks have a hard time getting excited for this race now. I mean 75 -100 green flag laps is not much fun for a Bristol fan . By the amount of email and advertising about the night race lately There are going to be empty seats no matter what the “official” attendance numbers say . Good lord I find myself watching F1 for more fun .
Bruton bought NH and Kentucky for one reason , investment . Same reason he bought Bristol and everything else hes ever purchased . But he only BUILDS 1.5 mile tracks . Does that help clear it up for you ?
Good comments on the cookie cutter tracks. As you may remember, the NFL/MLB went through this same issue in the late 60’s and early 70’s. You may recall the awful stadiums of Three Rivers, Veterans Memorial and River Front. They were designed to handle both baseball and football. They were bad for both sports. Dull, lifeless, and no personality. Then they all wised up and built sport specific stadiums, which please the fans of both sports.
When you try to please everyone, you please no one….
Somebody needs to start a new racing league. The current one has lost it’s soul.
Another track that has the “buy the whole season” is Kansas. I live close the the track in Texas. You can buy a ticket for any race you want there. I would like to go to Kansas for the Cup/NW race in the fall but I have to buy the indy and truck in the spring also. In this economy I just can’t go to Kansas two times a year. There seems to be a lot of little things keeping people away from the tracks. I should also mention the hotels gouging the hello out of us also; Room rates more than double on race weekend.
The economy may have an influence on ticket sales but TV ratings are getting worse every week and the economy has nothing to do with that.
Fans just don’t care for NA$CAR anymore. Lets face it. The races are BORING!!!!!!
We used to watch every race. Now we maybe watch Bristol and Richmond. And we were hard core fans since the 70’s.
Amy – Totally agree with you about hitting up your local short track. The wife and I hit up Irwindale this past Saturday and saw some great racing. We came home and I fast forwarded through the Chicago yawn-fest and got through all 400 miles in about an hour, without missing any of the action.
Hey I’ve been watching NASCAR and all types of racing for over 40 years. I remember Petty, Pearson, Yarborough, Foyt, Gurney (yes they used to run in NASCAR too). Does that make me a superior fan or more knowledgeable than someone who has been watching for only 5,10,15 or 20 years? No it doesn’t. Does someone who watched NASCAR in the 1950’s have more passion about the sport than me? Maybe. Maybe not.We all come to our current views of how good or bad NASCAR is today with different sport viewing histories. By the way not all the racing in the past was great. Ask Jeff Burton. Many of the old races were decided by most of the field being more than one lap down.
Tom don’t worry I hear prunes work well for older people when they get that uncomfortable feeling!
Tom said: “And as fans filled the seats, NASCAR-controlled ISC, Bruton Smith’s International Speedway Corporation,”
I cant believe nobody caught that. Bruton Smith owns Speedway Motorsports Inc, not ISC.
Unfortunately for those of us who loved this sport – it has all become cookie cutter. From the drivers to what they do and say and drink. They are all robots!
Jeff Burton almost let it slip out on Saturdays night’s race when he almost complained about Na$craps double file ‘shoot-out style’ restarts (shite). Careful now Jeff puppet, you don’t want that Na$crap lobotomy Tony got back in the day (back in line you).
Didn’t Burton say not too long ago that this is the best racing Na$crap has ever had!?!?!Point proven. They are all mindless puppets living in the land of the free with their mouths tapped shut hoping the money still comes in. Well it is drying up! WTF happened to people being able to speak their minds? WTF happened to Nascar? Oh yeah it became Na$crap!
Thank you Frontstretch for giving us a place to vent!
P on U out!
Solution for the cookie cutter tracks…. Put a chicane in the back stretch.
We live only 2 hrs from Chicagoland and last year we said we weren’t going to renew or TRACK PACKS but we did. Now for sure we are NOT going back. We might attend the Truck race but hope to sell the IRL tix’s since Danica is from our area. Normally we end up giving away the 2nd weekend or throwing them away. The economy (TG) has not affected us yet so money is not the issue. Its boring races there. Most of the time it was just a high speed parade of cars going around in circles. We were hoping for the bogus cautions just to have side by side restarts to enjoy some side by side racing for a very short time. Some of you thought it was a snooze fest sitting on your couch watching it on TV being there was not any better. Watching TV you are forced to watch the leader running around in circles without withing 10-15 car lengths away to challenge them. At least normally at the track you can look around and find someone fighting for a spot. Not at Chicago very little of that.
We tried to listen to our driver on the scanner but there was a lot of track workers bleeding in on it so we gave up and listened to Kryle Busch. What a hoot listening to him curse up a storm and insult his team even to the the point of telling them he was never going to let them adjust on his car again. Wonder if that means they all are going to be fired and he do his own adjustments. He *#tched and moaned all night. He even got to the point that when asked what they could do for him he didn’t even answer. They quit even asking. He was even yelling at his spotter. People used to talk about Jr on the radio but I bet Kryle is worse.
Easy there Kevin in SoCal . I would think quite a few people caught that mistake , but Tom doesn’t seem to take kindly to people pointing out his errors . We all try to just let the majority of them go .
KRYLE was absolutely the most entertaining thing to listen to. Also interesting was listening to Brad/Tony Jr. Wow what a difference from tne JR/JR show. Very professional and very well done. I really thought Brad would have ended up ahead of Dale Jr except for some bad luck at the end.. Tom, if you let the complainers get under your skin, you are in trouble. I enjoy your writing and look foreward to it each week. If the complainers can do better, let them write a colunm and we can critique them for a change.
RE: TRACK PACS, or whatever Chicago sells, or tries to sell. I went to the Chicago speedway web site looking for IRL tickets.
The web site ONLY promoted TRACK PACS, and no-where to be found was individual IRL tickets.
So, I went to the “contact us” part, when I tried to send an e-mail, it said “out of office”, for about a month!
(this was maybe 3 weeks before the cup race).
ANYWAY, if all that makes sense! I would think the Speedway is in business to sell tickets, but maybe not!
Maybe they rely on selling Track Pacs to fill the IRL stands, sure don’t treat it, the IRL as a stand-alone series!
ARROGANCE I would call it! This track needs new management for sure!
Quit complaining and go to your local short-dirt-county fairgrounds track and take in a great show. You will see real racers and real race cars and it seems that everyone there is there for the same reason- the love of racing. You can get a beer and something to eat for less than your last paycheck,you can sit where you want and let the kids run without having a rent-a-nazi telling you when to breathe, in short you can still have a good time at a race without all the NASCAR bullcrap. Screw NASCAR they are’nt about racing anymore.
That Track Pass that Chicagoland offered killed them this year. I called the morning of the Cup race just to see if they were selling invididual tickets for the Cup race and they were not. I asked how much the package would be for the three remain races, starting price, $195, the same price for the package that included the Nationwide race. Had they reduced the ticket price I would have been in the stands, considering I bought my Nationwide ticket from stubhub for only 35 bucks, I wasn’t going to pay for a race that was already run. They lost a lot of money and respect in the racing world this weekend and hopefully next with individual tickets being sold, the attendence will go up. I love that there is a track so close to where I live and it is a beautiful track and everything is wonderful about it, but this year was embrassing.
Just a quick note that Kevin’s error he pointed out yesterday has been fixed. As always, thanks for writing and reading the Frontstretch!
AWESOME article! Right on the money.
We need short tracks, and Saturday nights under the lights.
If fans are really disgusted about the current quality of racing and racetracks in NASCAR, the solution is right within their grasp.
As more people speak with their wallet, you do the same.
I guarantee you that everyone reading this column has a short track or two right in their reach. I’d also bet that the majority sat at home glued to the TV expecting an exciting race at Chicago instead of turning it off and heading to their local short track.
It’s a pretty simple choice. Continue to sit and watch TV, expecting things to improve (in which case you need to stop complaining about the racing and the track), or get up and go back to seeing real racing and support your local local community in the process. Tivo’s and DVR’s are your friends.
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