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 October 5, 2009
Tony Stewart won the race at Kansas, but much of the focus continues to revolve around the man who finished 9th. After leading for much of the day Sunday, Jimmie Johnson’s team opened the door to their rivals with a rare pit road strategy mistake, with a four-tire stop at the wrong time keeping them from whooping the field and all but officially taking control of their bid for four straight titles. Considering the No. 48 car’s track record (and entering the day as the race’s defending champ) this race was where most of its competitors expected the door to get slammed in their face. Instead, Johnson left them all with a ray’s worth of hope going forward.
But at this point, that’s all it is. The reigning champ leaves Kansas second in the points, just 18 out of the lead and with the best average finish this season (9.8) of all 12 Chasers at the next six tracks on the schedule. As the Cup Series moves on to California this Sunday, he still must be considered the prohibitive favorite … and until he’s not, millions of fans will end up turning off their televisions because of it.
That attitude begs a simple question from a journalist’s standpoint: why? The answer seems so easy – the No. 48 has been too dominant for too long — but it’s really a lot more complex. Most times in sports, the quest to make history has captivated Americans in record numbers. The battle to set the home run record arguably saved the game of baseball in the late 1990s, while the Bulls’ run to six titles in eight years fueled the NBA’s growth in that same era. Even when a team is hated for their perfection, millions still wind up watching in disgust. For example, the Pats don’t exactly have a warm and fuzzy face to the world under the introvert coach Bill Belichick, but their run of perfection up to the Super Bowl had everyone tuning in record numbers just to see if someone could beat them.
Yet in NASCAR, as Johnson goes for a record that’s never been accomplished before in 60 years, the reaction from most fans is … indifference. We’ve got a team that’s on a pace to leave their driver third on the all-time win list by age 40, a man in Johnson himself who at the end of the year would have more Cup titles than anyone not named Gordon, Earnhardt or Petty … and yet, the reaction to so many people reading is, “Who cares?”
With the privilege of being at the track week in, week out, I’ve talked to a lot of fans, as well as people inside and outside the sport to try and get a sense of why the Jimmie Johnson phenomenon isn’t taking off. Some reasons are silly, others serious, but they all point to a pattern that has yet to be stopped – and gives us some insight into the current decline of NASCAR as a whole.
Here, then, are five reasons why the four-peat has flattened fans’ interest in the sport:
No. 1 – People think crew chief Chad Knaus is cheating.
In eight years of writing, I can honestly tell you this email, comment, conversation comes up the most the second you say the words, “Jimmie Johnson.” As recently as this past weekend, fans were all fired up about the latest “Bad Chad” incident in which NASCAR warned the No. 48 and No. 5 teams they came close to failing inspection, coming to within less than 1/8 of an inch of meeting NASCAR’s template off the center line of the car.
Now, to say Knaus is cheating off this latest incident is arguable at best (My take: of course they came close to failing inspection! You’re not winning championships unless you’re pushing everything you got to the ragged edge.) But the public perception battle Knaus faces is an uphill one he’ll never win. Twice during Johnson’s title-winning run the crew chief has been suspended six weeks for legitimate rules violations, including at the sport’s biggest race, the 2006 Daytona 500.
After those two instances, well … in the world of sports culture today, it’s one of guilty until proven innocent. Look at baseball, where one claim of steroids use taints a player’s career and may very well keep them from reaching their ultimate goal, the Hall of Fame. Sure, a 50-game suspension allows them to get a second chance, but in the eyes of the fans, they’re already tainted for life.
That’s the problem right now with the No. 48. Too many fans think they’re tainted … but unlike with steroids, the drug causing Johnson’s “success” (Knaus) hasn’t been removed. He’s just become one of the main leaders in the whole Hendrick organization, and that’s continued to make a whole lot of people mad.
As in, turn off the television when it’s Chase time mad.
No. 2 – Johnson is the poster child for a system fans hate to begin with.
It’s another column for another day, but when looking at ratings and attendance alone – nothing more – there’s a compelling case to say fans are unhappy at best with the Chase format. (Latest example: New Hampshire’s 2.5 initial rating was 17 percent lower than in 2003, the year before the playoff format was adopted).
Again, you can’t blame them for setting that philosophy; under this system, it’s genius, to the point other drivers (Juan Pablo Montoya most recently) have followed the same pattern to secure their spot in the top 12.
Looking to play copycat? It’s easy. Basically, that strategy can be boiled down to the following:
But this success has come with disastrous consequences. We have a whole legion of championship-contending cars now treating their races like fragile, broken glass, afraid to make any moves until the final 50 laps if they’re in a top 5 or top 10 position that’ll get them a good “points day.” Fans understand Johnson’s success is at the root of all that, because any good racer knows the second someone finds an advantage, it’s getting copied the next day.
And so, the No. 48 in their pursuit of a title (unjustly or not) becomes the focus of fans’ anger concerning boring races. For if you hate the team playing by the rules you hate, it’s only natural you despise the march towards a record that wouldn’t be achieved if those rules were different. (For those who forget, Johnson’s second title in 2007 would have gone to Jeff Gordon under the old format).
No. 3 – It’s keeping Dale Earnhardt, Jr. from winning.
Look, I said at the start of this column some of these reasons weren’t exactly “logical.” But my job is to report what I see and observe around the circuit. Let’s start with some basic facts before we go crazy:
* Dale Earnhardt, Jr. moved over to Hendrick in 2008 with the goal of winning a championship.
All of that has left a large group of fans really disgruntled, some of whom won’t bother to turn on the TV the last ten races simply because their man isn’t in the playoffs. What’s tops among their long legion of complaints?
“Junior’s not getting the same equipment as everyone else on the team.”
Considering the information sharing and open book policy at Hendrick, that’s a very tough statement to back up with actual facts. But that’s the type of criticism that’ll happen (fairly or unfairly) when you put four All-Stars on the same team, because NASCAR is an individual sport at its core. Only one of those guys can win the title, and for the other three they’re left to answer the questions of why they didn’t keep up.
Well, in almost two years Junior and the No. 88 have consistently come up short, and as long as the Johnson-Knaus duo exists chances are their biggest obstacle in winning a title comes from within their own organization. This leaves many Junior fans feeling like their man made a mistake, thinking Hendrick’s playing favorites with the No. 48. I’ve even heard some people go so far as to call Junior’s car “Jimmie Johnson’s R & D.”
Now, anyone with any actual insight into Hendrick knows Junior’s not being used as an R & D effort. But remember those fans I mentioned before? They’re already calling me an idiot for attempting to discredit their argument; and believe me, there’s a heck of a lot of them who feel this way.
In sports and in life, perception can mean everything. And until Junior puts a kink into Johnson’s armor, that’s going to be hard to break, leaving them turning the channel the second he turns on the jets. After all, he’s about to break a record they feel their own driver will never achieve as long as both are housed under the same roof.
No. 4 – Johnson doesn’t have a rivalry.
OK, quick show of hands … who hates Jimmie Johnson? No, not in the stands silly, in the garage! The answer, to be honest, isn’t a whole lot of people. Greg Biffle has been in the news lately, trying to stir up trouble with Johnson’s extra on-track tire test at Dover he claims gave him an edge on the rest of the field this September. Denny Hamlin has also raised a bit of a stink, and then we can’t forget about a few on-track bumps between Johnson and Kurt Busch over the summer.
Still, looking at the big picture, the No. 48 team just doesn’t have a consistent rival they’re battling on the racetrack week in, week out over the past three years. Each year, it’s been a different driver after the No. 48: Matt Kenseth/Jeff Burton in 2006, Jeff Gordon in 2007, Carl Edwards in 2008, and now Mark Martin/Juan Pablo Montoya this year. It’s a testament to Johnson’s longevity … but it’s also not as good at creating a compelling storyline. Yankees / Red Sox, for all its detractors, gets the biggest audience for a reason: it’s a rivalry people grasp with passionate feelings on both sides.
I just don’t think we get that in NASCAR when people talk about Jimmie Johnson vs., well, anyone.
No. 5 – Johnson’s personality.
So many journalists have hammered this point home, so many times, but the sad fact remains Johnson is racing’s equivalent of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. Great person, great team: but with about as much drama surrounding it as a public library at 3:00 in the afternoon. America loves a feel good story, but in sports it needs to come with a whole lot of emotion attached. And for the soft-spoken Johnson, an ingrained notion of political correctness combined with the fact he’s in a difficult spot (not yet veteran leader, not “aggressive young gun”) leaves him in this awkward in-between where he doesn’t even have the biggest voice within his own organization. Johnson may break the records of an Earnhardt or Petty someday, but his personality just doesn’t have that “it” factor they had to get fans running to the race track or even their television sets to see what’s happening.
That off-track demeanor often translates into Johnson’s racing style. He’s not flashy, and very rarely will muscle a guy out of the way in order to get the win. He’s also as calculated a driver as he is clean: when’s the last time you saw Johnson spin somebody outside of Daytona and Talladega? It’s a great legacy he’s building within the sport – just nothing anyone appears to be interested in.
People (Johnson fans especially) misinterpret this line of thinking to mean that nobody appreciates the three-time champ. That couldn’t be farther from the truth; after all, there is a huge difference between hatred and indifference. Over in the NBA, you have a good amount of core fans who like the Spurs, just like Johnson will always have his true fans. But the amount of fans in San Antonio compared to New York or elsewhere … well, that’s the reason we call them “small market” and “big market” teams. And for the past four years, you’ve had an uninspiring Johnson, the equivalent of that “small market,” attempting to sustain the growth of the second-biggest sport in America with his success. That’s just not going to happen … sorry.
As I write this piece, I think back to Sprint Cup Media Day a few weeks ago and how different drivers were swarmed by writers like a flock of sheep. Juan Pablo Montoya had so many reporters around him, I wondered how he could breathe. Yet an hour later, Johnson sat in that same spot and maybe half as many people cared. Instead of being excited about the possibility of history being made, it looked like those in attendance were simply tired about the story in general: and these are the reporters, where it’s our job to try and tell great stories. If so many can’t get excited about it, one can only wonder about the fan base itself …
With the series headed to California, there are still eight drivers who could leave that track atop the standings. Mark Martin is still in first place, with Montoya and former champions Tony Stewart and Busch within striking distance. But until Jimmie Johnson’s name falls out of contention, there’s an air of inevitability surrounding the quest for number four that remains. And for better or for worse, that’s keeping this year’s on-track Chase from showing any off-track signs of life — even with a story that should be as groundbreaking as the record it’s trying to achieve.
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Another reason no one seems to care (except the media, that is) about JJ winning 4 titles in a row is that many fans just don’t feel that a 10 race ‘champ’ under the new format is anything close to winning a title that takes an entire season to win. Even Jeff Gordon admitted that, if he won this year, he wouldn’t consider he won 5 championships…he would have won 4 Winston Cup titles, and one Sprint Cup title. I guess it’s not just the fans that feel the new format gives you a watered down title that isn’t really deserving of being compared to the ‘old’ way.
I used to dislike JJ for most of the reasons mentioned in this article. I used to feel the same way about Jeff Gordon mostly because he wasn’t a Petty or Earhardt. But that said the consistent performance by both these Hendrick racers has earned my respect. Sure I would like to see Dale Jr have more success. But it just proves there are many more variables to winning than just having top notch equipment.
Why do people think of Knaus and the 48 team as cheaters? Maybe because we know they are.
Its not that Jimmie Johnson is a naturally boring person. Matt Kenseth is naturally boring and no one hates him for it.
Its that Jimmie is boring on purpose and by design. He’s admitted to being a different person away from the track and to intentionally presenting the bland and sponsor-friendly facade.
Unlike a lot of non-Jimmie fans I actually quite like Chad Knaus. He’s got personality, flair, and passion.
But rooting for Jimmie would be like rooting for a department store manikin — bland good looks in shiny plastic that conceals what really lies beneath.
If Homestead comes down to yet another Jimmie Johnson runaway I’ll probably watch anyway because a driver I care about might win the race. But the Championship history-making will be yawn-inducing instead of exciting.
All the races are just so boring now. Not much passing (except towards the back). No excitement from the drivers – they are just turning laps and heading home after their 500 mile drive. More and more people are not going to the races or watching on TV – and it is not just the economy causing it.
Actually I like the Chad & Jimmie show, won’t watch it/them, but they know what they are doing!
Dear old Chad is a GENIUS!
But remember, this is NA$CRAP! Where the racing overall is boring and contrived!
Good article. Yep, pretty much sums up why I’m not bothering to watch the “chase”. It’s not interesting. Can’t blame Chad and Jimmie for playing by the idiot rules NASCAR made up. And yes, I’m one of the people who believes this is a watered down championship. The trophy goes to the 10 race points leader, not to best racer all season. I’ve completely lost interest and the all-chase, all the time, tv coverage doesn’t help.
How about the fact that Hendrick, with a gazillion dollars at his disposal and Brian France in his pocket, can pretty much buy himself a Sprint Cup championship year after year.
Remember when they reduced the number of teams an owner can have from five to four? Roush had five teams, Hendrick four. Coincidence? I think not, and I’m no fan of Jack Roush either.
It’s not JJ per se that’s bad for Nascar, it’s the fact that the big money super teams have made a mockery of a sport where a guy like Bill Elliott and Alan Kulwicki could come in and, with hard work and determination, make an impact without spending a king’s ransom. Rick Hendrick is the poster boy for what Nascar has become… a rich man’s pastime.
Reason number 6. The media keeps telling everyone to not like JJ. If you wrote articles about everything that was great about him all the time, that would rub in. Just like the media elected Obama. Now days the media drives everything.
I notice you forgot to mention that while Knaus has only been suspended twice , he’s been caught cheating many , many times . Sorry to kill your attempt at putting a shining face on the 48 team .
Oh, I so agree with Linda. The media tells us to believe this crap. It’s the Jimmie spin….that vanilla stuff. People hear it and hear it and hear it, until it is the accepted story, just like Mark is now anointed the “sentimental favorite”. It isn’t us telling the media what we think, it is the media telling us what we think….but we aren’t even aware of it. Jimmie could be exciting if the media decided to make him so.
Hey, it’s nascar that created JJ. I don’t blame him one bit. He knows how to play the game.
The chase system has drivers “points racing” more than the old system. Plus the chase is full of boring tracks (of which I include ‘dega) I mean, Auto Club Speedway?
Probably the biggest reason and also ignored by the media is: Hendrick uses his vast wealth to buy all his wins, money that he took illegally and spent a paltry $250, 000 to BUY a pardon from Clinton!! He is a convicted felon and would NOT be allowed into most other sports!!
There is another reason. To me Jimmie is the beneficiary of too many 1.5-mile tracks on the schedule. That and he has a crew chief willing to cheat to get the job done. Not to say that Jimmie isn’t a good driver; he is a very good driver, but I wouldn’t put him in the same category as JeffG, Tony, or even Shrub. Cale’s 3-peat is definately more impressive than Jimmie’s.
When schedule triumphs over talent, people tune out.
PS: The only thing keeping Jr from winning is Jr.
something just doesn’t add up with this 48 team. If you pay close attention to each week, they roll off the truck and are at the top of the speed charts nearly every track, nearly every practice session. And if they are not at the top, you’ll never see his name far down the list. Every track, every year, same thing. They are way ahead before the race even starts. I don’t get it. These cars are supposed to be all equal, how can one car consistently be so much better than the rest nearly all the time? I cannot fathom that in this level of competition that Johnson is just that much better of a driver than the rest. That car obviously has something the others don’t as how can one car out of 43 be at the top of the speed chart weekly. Can Chad Knaus really be that much better of a crew chief than all the others? Or has he found something that Nascar hasn’t yet? Unfortunately with Knaus’s checkered past, I still view JJ win’s as “questionable”. I’d like to see what he can do in a car that is not under the control of Knaus. Whenever JJ runs the Nationwide, he doesn’t exactly stink up the show, so if his driving ability is so vastly superior to the rest, then why isn’t he stinking up the show? Unfortunately the dominance of the 48 team is hurting the sport because people don’t want to go to a race and see the same car up front every single week. It’s not good for fans and its not good for sponsors, and something just doesn’t add up.
Funny thing. JJ is disliked in spite of the media’s hard work trying to sell him to us. Jr is loved in spite of the media’s hard work trying to make him irrelevant to his fans.
Yea, the indifference is there as plain as day. It’s not just Johnson. It’s the sport itself. nas$car has become boring the last few years. Another thing to sum it up. Carl Long gets caught cheating and he’s hammered. Johnson cheats and he gets hearty “please don’t do that again”. Enough said.
Ginger, I think you have that backwards. Junior is irrelevant and the media is doing their best to keep him in the story so his fans have something to make them continue watching.
I think many of us tune out because we are sick of the media constantly talking about JJ, they’ve all but automatically given the Chase to him. Hell, some of them were ready to crown him king before they even turned a wheel at Daytona. I’m sick of ‘it’s Johnson’s to lose’ because no, it isn’t. It is Mark Martin’s to lose. JJ in the Chase so far: 4th, 1st, 9th. Mark: 1st, 2nd, 7th. Who’s numbers are better? You can’t compare Mark this year to Mark in years past because he has a different attitude than I’ve ever seen him have and this is the first year with equal equipment to JJ. Until the checker waves at Homestead, it isn’t over. After this season is done, I have an idea, let’s save all the teams money and not race at all next year, just have the media present JJ with the trophy and we can all go watch reruns of 1992, that was a championship battle. Allison vs Elliot vs Kulwicki. Oh yeh, I remember that year, the 7 car didn’t have a prayer to win the Cup…
I’d have to chime in that it is the chase format that keeps me from being more excited about JJ. There is no doubt that what they are doing is special but it can not be compared to the pre-chase system and therefore no one really knows how special it is on the grand scheme of things. Will multiple championships become the norm in this new chase system or will it be 20 years before someone wins multiple chase championships? No matter what though, no one can deny the 48 team’s excellence.
The biggest problem I see is Who gives a flying flip about the Chase or any other playoff system, I watch to see racing but they can’t be bothered to show any, they are to busy running out graphics and stats about the “wonderful” 12 chase drivers, WHO CARES !! Show us some racing and the playoffs will take care of themselves.
How in the world could you compare Johnsons 3 straigt titles to Cales?? He won all 3 in the stupid chase crap, it isnt even the same racing and further more,if you dont think they get special treatment, they get caught out and out cheating at Daytona, what does Nascar do, they suspend Knaus and then give the damm car back to the team so Johnson can win the 500, does anyone else see a problem with that?? In a sentence, the chase garbage is a joke, Nascar wanted it and they can now look at all the empty seats and low TV ratings each week. They can fool themselves all they want and say it is the ecomony but sorry that does not fly.
Four out of five ain’t bad, Tom. I just can’t accuse Chad of cheating. More like “working” the system.
Responding to Mike 10/5
I’m just tired of JJ winning, probably a lot like Earnhardt fans were tired of Jeff Gordon winning a decade ago.
The “three-peat” was somewhat interesting – when the record was tied. But For the fourth year in a row, now, the end of the season seems to be all Johnson, all the time.
This week Kyle Busch tied and broke a Sam Ard record in the Nationwide series. We won’t have to listen to talk of that record for the next 52 weeks, though!
A very thought provoking article and extremely well stated. Jimmie’s run has remarkable and his numbers staggering but there does seem to be a missing element, paying the price for being non-controversial.
,The chase itself,is, and always has been the problem. Will anyone ever figure out that fans connect with drivers,win or lose?The top 35 makes it even worse,and until Nascar and the media gets what interests the average fan,loyal to their drivers ,nothing gets better. We would love to see driver intro, instead of talking heads, by the way. For new fans that would put a face on that car number and name . Fat chance.
Kevin in SoCal, yeah dude. That’s the reason Jr is the MPD and JJ is struggling to retain 8th. We don’t pay attention to the tripe the media is selling.
I’m torn on this. To be honest, the reason I’m not NEARLY as fanatical as I used to be is because the racing these days SUCKS. When was the last time we saw a finish like Busch vs Craven? How many boring runaway victories do we have to sit through now? I Tivo most races now and I inevitably FF all the way to the last 25 laps or so and when it’s all over with, I honestly dont’ feel like I’ve missed much.
Lee Spencer reported that the 48 & 5 were taken to the R&D center again this week. I can’t help but think that Nascar will find a way to break up Chad & JJ if they win again this year. Marybeth
Put Jimmie and Jeff in cars that aren’t Hendrick’s and see how good they do. Every driver who has driven for Hendrick has won and 3 have won Championships and Martin could very well make it 4 drivers. A great driver in a Cobalt will always lose a race to a good driver in a Corvette.
Lee Spencer reported that the 48 & 5 were taken to the R&D center again this week. I can’t help but think that Nascar will find a way to break up Chad & JJ if they win the championship again this year. Marybeth
Johnson’s Championships ARE as tainted as a steroid fueled Home Run record. And this latest question about Knaus’s car just bolsters the idea that NA$CAR wants a 4 time Chump and will do anything to get it.
I just have to laugh at how people think. They put blinders on and see only what they want to see. They act like no other crew chief ever pushed the evenlope, its cheating when Chad does it. Jimmie has won and people just cant stand someone who wins all the time unless its the driver they like. People hated when Jeff won all the time, what about when Petty and Earnhart won all the time, is that any different? I suppose their crew chiefs didnt do anything in the gray area. Oh yeah thats different. Jimmie Johnson is a great driver and a great person, you people that think he has no personality havent got a clue. I wish the media would stop telling us Nascar is going to fall apart because of Jimmie Johnson, yeah its all his fault. I guess people think he should just stop doing his job. He is suppose to win thats what they do. I dont know who the media is asking but I dont know anyone that going to quit watching Nascar because Jimmie is winning to much.. His time will end, but in the mean time people need deal with it. hateing someone because he’s good at what he does or because his personality isnt to your liking is just plain ignorant. Maybe if you plan on leaving Nascar because of something so ridulous you werent a very good fan anyway…
I wanted to see the post race interview of the 3rd place finisher. But had to wait untill all of hendicks boys got mic time. Sure has the look of “the HMS Series”. It darn sure slants that way. tou’d have to be dead not to notice.
Jimmie and Jeff are the Vance and Coy of NASCAR.
Go back to NASCAR roots No more air impacts,use 4way lug wrenches.More interesting to watch.Last 100 laps 4 tires or no tires,stops this slick “strategy” wins.Put winning in the hands of the car and driver stop this “ who pulled a fast one” to get the win. I shouldn’t have to watch a fuel economy race win,boring, the opposite of what a race car is.Most times now the best car and driver don’t win.I can’t get NASCAR races on the radio anymore,no stations around here carry it any more,why? THATS WHY NASCAR IS LOSING FANS!
The recent discussions that I have read in the last couple of years seem to resound the notion that the sport is heading toward franchising. The next thing that will occur is there will be a draft for up and coming drivers. The numbers are there, as evidenced by the merger and consolidation of the larger teams. Yates, Petty, Evernham, Roush, DEI. This realignment sets the stage for franchising in a quantitative stage. Now all is left is for them to name it franchising, followed by qualitative measures that level the playing field. VOILÀ! Franchised racing.
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