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.
Thomas Bowles · Monday October 12, 2009
Editor’s Note: Matt McLaughlin was off this week, so Managing Editor Tom Bowles filled in. Don’t worry, race fans, Matt just had a pre-planned vacation; he’ll be back in action for next Monday’s recap from Charlotte!
The Key Moment: Jimmie Johnson finally beat back a pesky Jeff Gordon after a series of frantic restarts over the final 15 laps of the race.
In a Nutshell: Hendrick Motorsports starts the day with a one-hour self-portrait documenting their success, and ends it with their cars 1-2-4. The perfect Hollywood script … one just wonders if even their fans themselves stayed awake to see the first 450 miles.
Of course, there is the small matter of that little prizefight to the finish. What does Matt call these? McRace? Well, with every McRace now comes that mysterious McDebris to bunch up the field and create an artificially contrived finish. I want to win McDonald’s Monopoly as much as the next person, but do we really have to bunch up the field and look for pieces with 15 laps left? Sounds unsportsmanlike to me.
Dramatic Moment: Every one of the last 15 laps, where it looked like a bomb exploded and lit a fire under the entire field.
Honorable Mention: Denny Hamlin taking the lead then subsequently wrecking himself on Juan Pablo Montoya’s front bumper.
Undramatic Moment: At one point, Jimmie Johnson was so dominant no one but Juan Pablo Montoya and Kevin Harvick were within 10 seconds of him. If it wasn’t for Jamie McMurray’s crash, all but the top 15 cars would have been lapped by about Lap 100.
What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week
In need of additional sponsorship, NASCAR’s looking at renaming the Chase the “Hendrick Processional Parade: A 10-Week Success Story Narrated by a weeping Jack Roush.” OK, maybe I made that up. But it’s certainly not looking so good for everybody else. Not only did Hendrick cars have a 1-2-4 finish in the race, but Hendrick-supported cars took four of the top 5 spots and are 1-2-4-5 in the points, respectively. Looking ahead to the next two weeks, Johnson calls Lowe’s “his house” due to his five career wins there, and Hendrick cars have won eight of the last ten races at Martinsville. So unless Montoya wants to use his front bumper on anyone else not named Denny Hamlin, it’s time to turn out the lights everywhere else: they might as well write “Rick Hendrick chassis and engines” on the trophy and call it a day.
In NASCAR’s defense, there actually was a “piece of rubber” on the backstretch with 15 laps to go. Too bad Kasey Kahne chose to speak out the one time the actual piece of mystery debris was shown on television; I’m sure he’ll have a nice little apology all ramped up for later in the week. But if NASCAR is calling these late-race cautions in the interests of safety, what would you choose – and more importantly, which one is more safe?
Door #1: Leaving this miniscule chunk of rubber on the backstretch in the off-chance someone runs over it and cuts down a tire when there’s only 30 miles to go.
Exciting? Yes; but the last time I checked, racing didn’t involve a roulette wheel.
Much has been made of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s sudden “surge” towards the front of the field as a sign crew chief Lance McGrew is finally turning things around. But even at his best, Junior was no better than the 5th-fastest Hendrick car all race, eventually caught up in a wreck not of his own making at the finish. Call it improvement, but I highly doubt Junior made the switch from DEI to run 5th or 6th on the Hendrick totem pole. Tell me they’ve improved when the No. 88 finally finishes what they started…
How much did John Skipper and ABC have to be banging their heads against the wall on Sunday? During a media conference call this week hocking consistent start times starting in 2010, a reporter asked Skipper, the Programming VP, what the network would do if a race would ever be pulled from the network if it infringed on the crucial 7:00 primetime hour. As you might remember, the last time that happened at Phoenix NASCAR faced the ugly scenario of being moved to ESPN for “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” Skipper adamantly denied that would ever happen again, going on the record with a decision they backed up in Sunday’s race. But here’s the ugly truth for NASCAR: going off the air long after 7:00, they preempted a program in “Videos” that had a 4.5 rating, 8 share, and 8 million viewers last Sunday. With no Chase race pulling more than a 3.2, it’s doubtful NASCAR came close to matching those numbers, meaning lost money and audience for the fledgling ABC network no matter how much we love our sport. The big money of the current TV contract gives Brian France some leverage in those situations right now; but the way these ratings are going, they can’t expect the same type of pull in 2013. It’s just not feasible.
Swept under the rug on a busy news weekend was a report ISC and SMI did try and buy Dover Downs back in 2007. A conflict between a small-time voting shareholder and Dover Motorsports Management made a letter public in which the two companies were hot on the trail of a potential sale before a deal fell through. Reading between the lines, though, you get the sense that the door isn’t fully closed, which if that happened would reduce the number of independent tracks to two (Pocono, Indianapolis) out of the nearly two dozen on the schedule. It’s one of the most incredible consolidations of power in the United States, let alone American sports, very similar to the type that’s going on in the Cup garage. Ten years ago, at least we had some version of rich and poor. Now, we’ve got rich, and a handful of desperate, starving vagabonds looking to simply walk away with some crumbs.
Here’s a new one: in an attempt to continually win over the media, Gillian Zucker actually held press availability during the race to put a positive spin on Auto Club Speedway. See, I knew there was a reason I always took the Fall race off! Anyways, from what I hear Ms. Zucker claimed the reason the stands looked half-full was there were thousands shopping underneath the stands and in the Fan Zone. Riiight … because people go to the race to not actually watch once the green flag drops. Even in L.A., where this happens all the time at sporting events, that’s a pretty hard sell. I’m not going to take a stab at an attendance number, but I can tell you based on accounts from the speedway and just looking at the camera shots 60-70% capacity would be a reach.
In Zucker’s defense, though, just when you thought California couldn’t hold an exciting race, they held a Nationwide Series free-for-all on Saturday. Between Joey Logano and Greg Biffle playing on-track bumper tag to the three-way battle between Denny Hamlin, Biffle, and Brad Keselowski that ended in wreckage, there was action all over the track from start to finish. Many will tell you the aggression came as a result of ten cautions that bunched up the field throughout. But in a race where pride, not points, were on the line for all but a handful of drivers, you saw everyone giving their best shot right from the drop of the green. It was a refresher that top-level talent can hold a great race on any type of track under the right circumstances. Now, to bring that aggressive attitude back to Sprint Cup week in, week out…
One interesting tidbit from Saturday is the Logano – Biffle feud, which ended in Joey’s father Tom getting involved in an off-track confrontation with Biffle on pit road. Now, I understand that Joey’s 19 and any father will go to great lengths to protect his children. With Biffle all but admitting a move to smoosh Logano’s car on the backstretch was payback, any parent who loves their child would be upset in that situation. But there comes a time and a place where those same people need to recognize their children are adults, ready to fight their own battles. For most people, that’s college … and at 19, Logano would already be a sophomore. Considering he’s about to be Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year, I think a guy with a national fan base might be responsible enough to take matters into his own hands at this point…
The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune
The government allowed Richard Petty Motorsports to declare a state of emergency Sunday after all four of their cars were destroyed in a late-race wreck. Hardest hit was their lone Chaser, Kasey Kahne, who also was the innocent victim of Kurt Busch’s bounce off the wall which sent him spinning through the infield with 10 laps left. No wonder he was so cranky and did things like accuse NASCAR of fixing races. On a related note, doesn’t it look like everyone at RPM is deathly afraid/confused of what’s going to happen next season? It’s like George Gillett announced a merger with the NC State Prison. Somebody smile already!
Denny Hamlin went from hero to goat after a jump on the restart wasn’t enough for him to clear Juan Pablo Montoya’s front bumper. To his credit, though, Hamlin manned up after the incident and took blame for making a mistake that took him from first place to out of the title Chase in a little less than 15 seconds.
David Gilliland’s career is in a do-or-die scenario as he prepares for a golden opportunity: three races behind the wheel of a fourth Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. So when Kyle Busch was too sick to finish the 500 miles, Gilliland got a head start by jumping from his start-and-park No. 71 right into the No. 18 car. But he was never able to make the adjustment as a super sub, finishing a disappointing 24th, two laps off the pace. In the process, he never expressed his disappointment in having to park the car he qualified in a TV interview, failing to say even the name of the team (TRG Motorsports) or mentioned their lack of funding in running over to greener pastures. I don’t know about you, but the whole concept of a guy starting-and-parking to go in the Big Boy ride just made me a little sick to my stomach … remember when we had 43 teams and that would never happen?
Brian Vickers has been the king of intermediate tracks all year, but he’s now been out to lunch for two straight weeks. That eight-car wreck late in the race took him out of his misery after running 30th for most of the second half with no right rear shock.
The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune
Jimmie Johnson seemed to have the world stacked against him Sunday. His team lost him a total of a dozen spots on pit road, costing him the lead virtually every yellow flag stop. Then NASCAR threw a slew of debris cautions to bunch up the field and keep his dominant car from lapping everyone. Add in his Chevy’s one weakness – it took about 2-3 laps to get going – and Jeff Gordon just about stole a win at the end of the race. But Johnson had enough of a final restart to pull it out.
Tony Stewart lost a lap due to a pit road speeding penalty, but used the wave around penalty to get it right back (which is becoming way too easy to do: see Did You Notice? Wednesday for more.) Once back on the lead lap, Stewart’s crew nearly blew it again by keeping their driver out on older tires about ten laps later than the rest of the field. When the debris caution flew, the No. 14 was coming off pit road in 20th place; but a call for fresher tires during a slew of late-race cautions gave them speed to jump to fifth at the finish.
It’s been a horrific year for Richard Childress Racing, highlighted by Kevin Harvick’s interview this weekend in which he admitted things we all knew months ago: he wanted out at RCR this year except Childress balked, and he’ll be sitting in a new ride come February 2011. At least three cars in the top 11 gives them something to build on for an intermediate track program that’s been God awful all year.
Kurt Busch looked like dead meat after slamming the outside wall with 10 to go, taking out Kahne and fellow Chaser Greg Biffle in the melee. The car was smoking so bad, it seemed all but certain NASCAR would have to throw the black flag, a tire would blow … or a combination of both in the final 10 miles. But shockingly enough, he held on, limping home 8th in a run that kept his faint title hopes alive.
What’s the Points?
With Jimmie Johnson taking the victory, he also jumped on top of the standings by 12 points over Mark Martin. It’s the first time Martin’s lost the lead in the Chase, but he’s still 46 up on Juan Pablo Montoya in third. Tony Stewart held serve in fourth, while Jeff Gordon jumped two spots to round out the top 5.
Kurt Busch dropped two spots to sixth. The Roushketeers now run seventh and eighth, with Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards gaining one and two spots, respectively. Denny Hamlin’s DNF had him tumbling down to ninth, with Ryan Newman rounding out the top 10.
Kasey Kahne and Brian Vickers remained 11th and 12th. It’s the battle for 13th behind them that’s gaining some intensity, with Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, and David Reutimann separated by a total of 87 points.
Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) — We’ll give this two shots of really bad vodka, the last one mixed with a little bit of Red Bull. The first half seemed destined to put you to sleep; but when all seemed lost, the last 15 laps were so wild they couldn’t help but hold your attention.
Next Up: It’s the final primetime race of the season, as teams and drivers head home to Lowe’s in Charlotte for a Saturday night showdown under the lights.
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Hey Matt – 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 4 races into 2009 chase. That’s 54 chase races, not 44. I haven’t checked Johnson’s win number you cite at 16 chase races, but please get the math right. Johnson has never missed a Chase (obviously) so he’s ran 54 of them now. Sorry, I just get tired of reading incorrect stats, seems to happen at a frightening rate here on Frontstretch.
So Tom drew the short straw and had to write up the California recap. I should have known Matt would pass on it. I figured he’d pull out the same column he wrote about this race last year.
Seemed like every time I would surf over to ABC to see what was going on the 48 car was all alone with a single file parade behind him. Yawn.
I did hear the Kasey Kahne interview where he called out Nascar for the B.S. caution, then the spin from Nascar apologist Brad Dourety. Brad, I think Kasey has a lot better veiw from the track than you have in the press booth. Your statement that he could not possibly see the “Water Bottles that were thrown on the track” is the lamest attempt at a save I have ever heard.
Two things I forgot. Did you hear Kasey Kahne’s MRN radio interview after his accident? Obviously he was upset over wrecking out, as he called the track boring, the racing boring, and called out NASCAR for having to throw a caution to make things exciting. Wow. You California-haters must have loved it.
So the crowd cheered once, when Jimmy passed the leader?
From the little snippets I saw from the second half that race was poetry in motion. I would compare it to the skill and grace one would see from figure skating.
No, Jimmie’s crew would lose him a few spots on every pit stop, and he’d have to actually work hard for a couple laps to get back up front. Then the crowd would cheer and go wild for him as he put the car back on cruise control.
A couple of things real quick …
1st off: Matt Math, thank you. However, you must have caught this column right as it was posted. A late editor had yet to go through and the stat was corrected, the mistake wasn’t there for long and would have been caught. We haven’t made a stat mistake in weeks, I can’t remember the last time I wrote a correction so I see we’re doing a great job. Sorry you disagree … by the way, I (Tom) did the column this week, Matt’s on vacation.
Kevin … 70% of 92,000 is 64,400. I can buy MAYBE 60,000 … even Zucker said sales were flat at best, which means it can’t be more than 70K. My guess is it was about 55% capacity, and attendance for Nationwide looked atrocious (although the race was the best stock car one put on at that track).
Thanks for the comments all.
On Hendrick dominance: Could someone explain to me how Hendrick is allowed to supply engines, chassis, and technical support to two additional cars in addition to their four, while Jack Roush has to give up one of his five? Roush never dominated like Hendrick is now, you’d think NASCAR would come down on Hendrick like they did on Roush.
Oh, I forgot…the Golden Boy drives for Hendrick now. Back when he was driving for a two car team and missing the Chase, a five car team doing well was a problem. But the team Junior drives for can run essentially six cars with no trouble.
I’m a Jeff Gordon fan and even I think that’s a bunch of horse s***.
I am tired of the debris cautions. It has become very obvious that NASCAR is using them to attempt to orchestrate “exciting” races.
Hey, how about you becoming my accountant! I could use the extra cash!
And, for Kevin in Socal, I now know what you look like!
The TV cameras scanned the stands, and showed a close up of the TWO (2) spectators, I just didn’t know if you were the one on the right, or the left!
Were you also counting hot dog wrappers?
Might’ve been a better race had Hamlin not taken himself out.
Hey, it was a hell of a lot better use of 3 plus hours than the Browns-Bills, Giants-Raiders or half a dozen other NFL games yesterday.
Looked like they had a race at Fontana and no one showed up to watch it. I’d say 60% was a really big stretch. The stands were virtually empty, frontstretch and all. 70,000?? I don’t think so.
“the fledgling ABC network”
It’s been around since 1948.
I’ve been trashing the Fontana track for years, so I must now eat some crow and say that the track can actually host a pretty decent race. The Nationwide race Saturday was one of the best races I’ve seen this year. NO COT, no Chase format, and what a race it was! Too bad only maybe eight people actually showed up at the track to watch it. Ironically, at least twice that number showed up the next day for the Cup race and saw 470 miles of nap-inducing monotony followed by 30 laps of actual racing dominated by HMS teams (plus Monotoya). Can it get much worse?
So it’s Hendrick’s 25th…at a California track…with two California boys up front.
Yeah…this is exciting. As much as watching paint dry.
More people go to Pole Night at Charlotte Motor Speedway than were at the Nationwide race Saturday. That was seriously pathetic. As for Sunday, did you all notice all but about one debris caution came out during commercials? How stupid does NASCAR think we are? Let the race play out on the track and stop effing with it already!
Boo Nascrap! Yet another race where they have ‘tampered’ with the out come. What a bunch of BS. At least Kasey let them know what was up. I can’t remeber the last time a driver called out Nascrap! I’m sure he has a scar on his forehead today from Nascrap re-programming him. What a bunch of sh$%!
This ‘sport’ is fixed!
There was a race in California on Sunday? There was football on my big screen Sunday and the games were great! No Jimmie Johnson in sight!
Am I blind, or what? No one mentioned JJ pushing Montoya on the restart when Hamlin came down as the writers say to block.I didn’see it that way. Many drivers come down low before the turn only to drift up going thru the turn. I don’t know if that was Hamlin’s intentions but his spotter probably did not see he didn’t have room. Maybe he was blocking. And JJ pushing is not illegal but he should have been more patient, the race was a long time from being over. My take is that JJ should take part of the blame for the wreck. I guess JJ will win a forth title but I’m pulling for Martin.. If it weren’t for him Hendrick and all his operation can go up in blue blazes for all that I care. His money can buy almost anything even keep him out of prison. Guess that was why he wanted to help Haas and Stewart while Haas was serving his time…
Matt, isn’t is a little curious that since all hendrick cars are supposed to have the same engines, that jj was able to drive away from the 24 on the straightaway on the restart. It would be interesting to see the speeds at the end of the straights during the race. Also gordon needs to get a crewchief that believes that winning is the way to win a championship.
Tom , could you elaborate a little bit on your theory that the chunk of rubber on the backstretch could have cut down a tire ?
Douglas and Ed: Virtually empty? Two people in the stands? Oh please. Were you only paying attention to the edges of the grandstand in turns 1 and 4? Those were the only empty sections. Or did you get Saturday and Sunday confused? Yes the Nationwide race attendance was very sparse, at best.
i’m beginning to think that na$car doesn’t want ganassi to win a race. montoya was way in the lead and bam, mystery debri caution. this is becomming a joke. whomever got out front took off. i didn’t want to see another jj win, or hendrick team (satelite team) for that matter. jr, if that boy didn’t have bad luck he wouldn’t have any luck. and jr being in top 10 during race is big news these days. wow….sad. can we give johnson the trophy now?
i did enjoy, very much, the nationwide race. of course they run different car. i guess nationwide races will be the same crap when they go to the cot. i can understand the safety and all, but man!
and now a smaller plate for ‘dega. that will just bunch them up even moreso. i thought they gave them a slightly larger plate a few years ago to aid the drivers in avoiding wrecks. now back to square 1. i mean ‘dega did increase the height of the catch fence.
sot his week we’ll hear about the lowes house and johnson being the owner of that track. yawn. didn’t lowes not renew their sponsorship of the track? will it revert back to charlotte motorspeedway?
Attended the Nationwide race on Saturday and it was fantastic. I think besides what Tom mentioned about most of the drivers racing for pride not points, I saw a couple more reasons why it was so competitive. First, Kyle and Joey got out of the mix early because of an accident and illness. Otherwise Kyle/Denny or Joey would have put a whopping on the field.Second the race was only 300 miles. Making it 300 miles made each lap mean more and ratched up the intensity. The racing was great. I wasn’t there Sunday but 500 miles is too long and bores both the crowd at the racetrack and watching on television. No excuses for the poor attendance on Sunday. It looked like close to the same attendance figures as in February when the weather was rainy and cold. I would say the economy and the high prices for tickets played a big factor. The seats that sold were the 35 and 55 dollar tickets. Paying 75 and 105 is too much in these times.
ok, ok, maybe a few more than just two (2), but not by many.
And for the record, I turned the channel to the California fiasco just twice, for maybe a total of four (4) laps.
And this was ALL ALONG the main straight!
Oh, as a reminder to everyone, Jeff Gordon “owns” JJ’s car, so don’t think there is different “equipment” in the 48 from the 24!
IT IS THE CREW CHIEF! That man is a GENIUS!
Make no mistake!
I have an idea to determine the champion. Race twice at each track and take the better finish of the two.
I will never understand the massive amount of discussion in this column relative to the attendance at a given race (and only when there are empty seats, by the way).
Hey Turnip, when was the last race you actually attended? My guess is that if they had a race next door to you and offered free admission, you wouldn’t go, so what do you care? Are you a shareholder in the corporation or something?
I go to three races a year, put my money where my mouth is, and could care less if there were 10,000 or a 100 thousand in attendance. It’s always a great experience in person…TV, not so much. But you just keep watching on your Philco for your 4 laps a week, so that we can hear what a bore it was. Always good to hear from an expert
The overnight TV ratings for this California race were 3.0. That was higher than the 2.5, 2.7, and 2.6 for the first three races. So let me guess, the people watching at home turned to the race, immediately fell asleep, and werent able to change the channel, right?
You checked the bathroom for extra people at the track, Kevin?
Seriously, consistent start times are good because it’s a pain in the ass to look for when the race starts, and also because those of us on the east coast (no offense) would like to eat dinner after the race, not during it. I have no problem with the Fontana race starting at 4, but I’m sick of getting ready for bed right after the Daytona 500. So I applaud the move. Not all of us are willing to pay for Tivo/DVR etc.
Remember, NASCAR wants that “casual fan”. Casual NFL fans know when the games come on and don’t have to look it up.
33 people voted ZERO beers for the race!?
I gave it two beers this morning but since it bothered you so much bill I just re-voted for zero….LOL.
People actually spend money to attend a race at Fontana? I did twice and still regret it after all these years.
I don’t know anyone who even watch’s it on TV. Fontana sucks and always will.
Ok ,What I did notice when ABC showed the debries was the little buggy racing away from the are of the debrie(look to the right of the screen) What was that doing there?
Zero beers. Johnson won. Shocker!!! As a long time fan, this stuff is too much. I didn’t watch a race for the first time in years. It’s Monday afternoon and I just checked to see who won. Johnson!! wow. How about that Hendricks processional parade. Makes for great racing! Notice my sarcasm. It’s getting to the point where bowling is more exciting to watch then nas$car.
Yes Mike, myself and three other friends spent money to buy four tickets. Two of my friends had not been back since 1999, and the other was last there in 2007. I hadnt been there for a NASCAR race since 2003. We all had a great time, and made plans to come back again in February and/or October next year. The track isnt as much a problem as the terrible ESPN coverage and commercials every 3 laps. Not to mention NASCAR’s use of the yellow flag for no reason, and not throwing the yellow for a good reason. There was some great racing the first 100 laps for once, as Hamlin, Montoya, Martin, and Johnson all led several times. But once Johnson got hooked up and ran away with it by over 5 seconds, it became a bore. It wasnt until the last few laps, when NASCAR decided to influence the outcome to break up Johnson’s dominance, that the fireworks happened again.
Hey turnip, gordon may own jj’s car but he doesn’t build or pick the engines jj uses. That engine that jj had was in a class of its own. Somebody should be looking for the nitrous bottle. Yes chad is a genius but with that motor jj could start anywhere and still run everybody down.
Knaus won? What a concept. I never give JJ credit for any win, just like the early space program, he’s just the monkey along for the ride. Give me a “rulebook” and access to Knaus’s car and I bet I can find a violation. NA$CAR never will ‘cause they’re well on their way to the coveted 4 time Chumpionship.
Jim (at 1:36 pm) – Hear, hear… as in “Hear, all ye good people, hear what this brilliant and eloquent speaker has to say!”
Here is something that nobody has mentioned…
JESSE MCCARTNEY BOTCHING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM!!!!!
He messed up the second verse, and then skipped one. Nice work guy. Maybe next time they can get Carl Lewis to belt it out. “UH OH!!!”
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Did You Notice? ... The Details Behind Busch Double-Duty And NASCAR Teams/Series Needing A Boost
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