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 · Wednesday February 24, 2010
Did You Notice? … That Michael Waltrip Racing-supported cars have suffered five of Sprint Cup’s seven engine failures this year? OK, so maybe the start-and-park efforts of Prism Motorsports shouldn’t be counted, but that’s still an alarming rate to be losing motors (their failure rate for 2010 is nearly 50 percent).
It would be one thing if MWR were making all their engines in-house, like Joe Gibbs Racing. But these are motors sent directly from TRD, making you scratch your head and wonder why they’re failing on those three cars when Team Red Bull hasn’t had a single problem yet. What’s even stranger is that these failures are happening to specific cars within the MWR fleet. David Reutimann hasn’t had a mechanical failure in nearly two years, but cars driven by Waltrip, Marcos Ambrose, and Martin Truex, Jr. have totaled up seven in the last 34 races by themselves. The team claims there’s no such thing as a hierarchy, that everybody gets the same level of technical and engine support. But those numbers make you wonder if certain cars – especially the No. 47 – are starting the year on some sort of experimental R&D.
Ambrose has suffered the most through the mess, his Chase chances already on life support due to failures outside his control. And considering the mess Toyota is in off the track – CEO Akio Toyoda was in a Congressional hearing Tuesday about the manufacturers’ acceleration problems – you wonder where racing engines lie on their list of priorities. Not exactly the smooth transition Waltrip expected from driver to owner, huh?
Did You Notice? … Jeff Gluck’s column this week claiming Auto Club Speedway should still have two dates? Since this is the hot topic of the week (and I couldn’t disagree more), I thought a great way to throw my opinion on the table would be in the form of a good-natured rebuttal. So, in order of Jeff’s five points, here’s why Auto Club keeping two dates would be an absolute travesty:
#1) Jeff: This isn’t about attendance.
Attendance may not be the criteria through which fans judge race dates, but to NASCAR the “ka-ching” of those turnstiles mean more than anything else. In the end, it’s all about cold, hard cash and ISC isn’t going to stick around at a place where not enough tickets are sold – especially with their profit margins on life support.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the seven lowest-attended races from last year (all ISC tracks, by the way). Keep in mind these estimates include fans that camped in the infield:
Martinsville (Spring) – 63,000
Which of these will lose the Kansas 2011 sweepstakes? Well let’s take Darlington, Chicagoland, and Homestead out of the equation right away, as they’re one-date wonders that aren’t disappearing anytime soon.
That leaves just Martinsville and Fontana left on the list. But while Martinsville had fewer people, the difference between the two is seating capacity. Martinsville’s is 65,000, while California’s is 92,000. That means while demand for Martinsville tickets remains high – even with infield campers, around 90 percent of tickets were sold for both races – California sold just 50-60 percent of their seats.
That’s important, because low demand forces Gillian Zucker to keep prices down, trimming the profit margins despite the track’s sponsorship from Auto Club. And while Zucker is pulling strings and spending money to get all these B- celebrities to the Speedway, the only thing Martinsville’s spending money on are those pink little hot dogs that give you a smile and a heart attack all in one. I might be guessing here, but I don’t think they’re quite as expensive as Styx …
Look, I still think Michigan could be in the running for these low attendance numbers due to how the state is falling apart. But barring a surprise, Martinsville and California will finish on the bottom of the attendance list once again; and for the stockholders that will ultimately have a say, those numbers are what’s going to drive their decision-making. It’s just basic business sense.
#2) NASCAR in California is a long-term process.
I agree that NASCAR wasn’t going to catch fire the second it stepped foot in southern California. But to say it’s a long-term process is ignoring the fact we’ve been in this market since 1997. It’s not like the sport just pulled up last year and said, “Hey, California! Here were are!”
So after fourteen years, you’d think some type of NASCAR fan base would begin to take root. It hasn’t. Let’s take a look at attendance the last seven years at California:
2003 (One Date) – 120,000
That doesn’t look like a long-term success story to me – more like a long-term exodus to the mecca of USC football, the newest Hollywood bar, and virtually anything else other than cars going around in circles. I’m not saying L.A. is an easy market to crack – the NFL doesn’t even have a team there – but they’ve also made it painfully clear NASCAR’s just not high on their list.
And let’s get one thing straight: if NASCAR drivers want to reel in new fans, why the heck aren’t they scouring the streets in L.A., holding public events that’ll help engage interest in the sport? The answer is they’re not doing community-based initiatives. Instead, they’re hopping on national programs like Loveline and The Ellen DeGeneres Show that they can be a part of any old time. Most of the driver appearances I saw this year were limited to the Fontana area only, a completely separate community from L.A. (We’ll get to that in a minute). So if NASCAR’s long-term goal has been to break through in Hollywood, it’s gonna be hard if all you’re doing is showing up to party or make a 15-minute cameo appearance.
“What should they do?” you might be asking. Well, what about doing a charity go kart race somewhere in downtown L.A.? Or working with the Lakers to pop up at the Staples Center during one of their games? You’ve got to go where the people are – not play celebrity for four days and then get out.
#3) Sponsors want to be near L.A.
Sure, sponsors want to be near the country’s second-largest city. But is Fontana really all that close? Answer: no. I’ve done the drive from Fontana to L.A. many times to hang out with friends on race weekend. With no traffic whatsoever, it’s a 45-minute drive – but that’s pulling my best NASCAR impression of 80-85 miles an hour. Typically, you’ll hit at least one traffic jam on the way, leaving “sponsors” 60 to 90 minutes outside the No. 2 market they crave. Don’t believe me? Go poll a random group of 50 out-of-towners and ask them what airport they fly into on race weekend. I’d guarantee you about 75-80 percent will say Ontario, NOT downtown LAX … because it’s just too far away.
I think that’s a big part of the problem, that the sport built this track in an area where it’s not smack in the middle of the city itself. Nowadays, with the attention span of the general public, sponsors need to be wined and dined outside the race track, and the outskirts of Fontana make it feel more like a Richmond – not the second-largest city it’s supposed to be a part of.
Also, keep in mind this argument is all about cutting from two dates to one. It’s not like the sport’s leaving L.A. altogether; if Kansas takes away a date, you’ve still got the October night race smack in the middle of the Chase. And wouldn’t a full-bore, one-time effort selling NASCAR’s playoffs be more effective? One race in the L.A. market would still be “special” in its own way.
#4) The racing stinks, but …
Ladies and gentlemen, we’re on board NASCAR 2010, a ship that’s been rapidly sinking the last few years. If Brian France is to follow through with this new “listen to the fans” mentality, there must NEVER be a but next to the words “the racing stinks.” If it stinks, and ISC isn’t going to put money into the track to fix it, well then … one of the dates must go, and the sport needs to go out and spice up the one that’s left (we’ll get to that).
There’s a method of thinking from Jeff’s point here that really bothers me:
However, I know some of those people are hardcore, devoted NASCAR fans. They’ll continue to watch every week on TV and likely attend races in Las Vegas, Phoenix or Sonoma.
So in that respect, it may be better to view Fontana as a “Racing 101” track: It’s an introduction for new NASCAR fans to see what the sport is about, even if they may not return there.
Sorry Jeff, but that just doesn’t make any sense. It’s good for the sport for fans to attend their first race at Fontana, then go back and tell their friends how much they hated it? I’ll tell you this much, if I was bored at a NASCAR track and people said the competition was better at a place like, say, Sonoma, I wouldn’t believe them. I’d just think to myself “This sport’s not all it’s cracked up to be” and go spend my money somewhere else.
NASCAR has enough fans turning off the television these days. We need to turn the tide of public perception; and half-filled stands of napping fans, some of them racing rookies whose attachment lasted all of five minutes, isn’t the way to get it done.
#5) Once is not enough.
Jeff closes with the argument one date at the speedway renders a NASCAR visit virtually meaningless. See this line below:
But taking a race away from California completely defeats the purpose of being there at all. If NASCAR is committed to growing the sport on the West Coast and in the L.A. area, it needs to keep coming twice per year and get new fans exposed to its stars – the drivers.
Hmm. Under that philosophy, shouldn’t we cut races at Infineon, Watkins Glen, Chicagoland, Kansas, Darlington, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, and Homestead? After all, these tracks have just one date (many in major markets), but I guess that’s not enough to expose fans to their favorite drivers.
People are so concerned about the backlash a cutback creates they forget about what’s happened at places like Darlington. Attendance there has skyrocketed since NASCAR cut their dates in half, with the Mother’s Day weekend selling out four years in a row. I expect a similar phenomenon over in Atlanta, where the Labor Day Weekend race far outpaced the Spring in attendance last season (rumor has it in 2011 we’ll be spending Atlanta’s Spring weekend in Kentucky instead).
The same thing can happen in Fontana, even if we don’t fix the track. Here’s what we do: keep the date in October, make it a night race on Columbus Day weekend, and shorten the distance to 300 miles. As we’ve seen the last two years, every once in a while this 2-mile oval shows some signs of life. How about a Sunday night shootout under the lights, where just 150 laps could make or break the difference in the midst of a playoff battle? Pair it with some of ABC’s primetime shows, helicopter in some better celebrities, and you’re putting your best foot forward in this market. Oh, and maybe you do a Chase go kart race in L.A. while you’re at it, similar to the Times Square deal up in New York City.
Even if that doesn’t happen, the bottom line is leaving one race in L.A. won’t be the end of the world. I’d prefer the second date go somewhere where the racing’s light years better (cough … Iowa … cough), but Kansas has shown its fair share of potential in recent years. At this point, pretty much any track would be a viable alternative for an experiment that everyone left behind long ago – except the sport’s officials themselves.
Did You Notice? … This column’s already long enough, so I’ll close with a few quick hits before breaking loose:
- It’s amazing to hear inside the garage how no one’s taking the first few races all that seriously due to NASCAR’s transition to a new spoiler. It’s like teams are looking at this regular season as if it’s split in two; and since the wing is here for only five to six races, most feel you can’t really separate contenders from pretenders until the new handling configurations come into play mid-April.
- Roush Fenway Racing was shut out of the top 5 for the second straight race at Fontana. Considering that had happened only once before, and we’ve been racing there for 14 years … that’s not a good sign they’re ready to dig out of their slump just yet.
- It’s still early, but among the drivers yet to lead a lap this season: Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards. Along those lines, is it just me or does Stewart-Haas look like it hasn’t quite recovered from stumbling through last year’s Chase?
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Not to pile on too much, I’ll just say that Jeff Gluck’s perspectives on racing are, shall we say… unique? Based on articles and tweets I’ve seen from him. I suppose it’s good to have an opposing viewpoint out there to weigh your opinions against, but it seems Jeff always winds up being the different one.
I’m not a happy man that my racer Marcos Ambrose is getting hosed by the TRD/MWR shops again. Especially when his team is trying to sell more sponsorship to be able to complete the season.
#1 Its hard to say its not about attendance when you close Rockingham and take a race from Darlington and cite low attendance as the reason. #2 These numbers say alot, And if you look at history you will see that SoCal does not support nascar racing (touring divisions) as a whole. Ontario Raceway closed late 70’s early 80’s lack of fan support, Riverside Raceway closed late 80’s lack of fan support. #3 LAX is not downtown it is on the coast. The NHRA does not seem to have sponser attendence problems at Pomona and this is not “downtown” #4 Build a good 3/4 or mile track with a 150,000 seats and watch the fans come out for good short track racing. Irwindale always seems to have a great crowd at the Showdown. #5 There are to many 1 1/2 tracks right now so I do not see an extra race at Kansas and Kentucky being much of an improvement over ACS and Atlanta
Remember when NASCAR switched to the Original COT and Roush struggled mightily – to Jack’s own admission they were behind and hadn’t prepared.
Do you think he learned his lesson and is putting all his eggs in the new spoiler basket? If so… will it be too late?
Instead of moving the race, why not change the racing format at some of the poorer performing intermediate tracks? It seems to me that these tracks could provide exciting racing if there was a different format. Instead of a 250 lap race, why not a series of 50-75 lap sprints with the full field followed by a 30 lap shootout with the top 25 cars. I think the racing could be good if NASCAR would think differently about racing at these intermediate tracks.
The racetrack had to be built out in the boonies of Fontana for a few reasons. One, the land is way too valuable the closer you get to Los Angeles and the coast. Two, only fans want a racetrack in their backyard, regular people hate it. The NHRA dragstrip in Pomona has gone thru several changes and rules lately because of the noise from the pro guys. Back in 2000, the city council voted to limit the number of events at the track, because the residents complained about the noise. That left us amatuers out in the cold with no where to go, but the pros stayed. It was a lose-lose for everyone. Thankfully Fontana stepped up and built us a drag strip, and that’s one of the reasons why I defend them. Remember the complaints around the Charlotte area when Bruton Smith was going to put in the drag strip there? Same thing. There is no land left to put in a racetrack near the people. The only land left is out in the boonies. Over the last 30 years, we have gone from ten quarter-mile drag strips in SoCal, to two, Fontana and Famoso. And the police wonder why there is so much street racing.
Regarding Fontana. Yes, Kevin has it right that the reasons for the track not being in Los Angeles is price of land and neighborhood noise complaints. The way I see it is that the track is not moving and trying to convince fans, especially local fans, that it is a Los Angeles track is laughable. The whole promotional tact of promoting it as the stars and Hollywood is a giant waste or time and money.
The main reasons for declining attendance is that the track is too big and flat. This is not just a Fontana thing. Look at all the other tracks that people say are boring, e.g. Michigan, Kansas, Pocono,etc. Common sense would indicate a larger space equals more spread out racing— by the way smaller tracks means closer racing, not necessarily good racing. I’m not sure it makes economic sense for ISC to reconfigure the track(more banking and/or a smaller size). The most reasonable answer at this point is make the races 400 miles for more intense racing. It would also help if the local community came on board to give the track a hometown flavor. Right now the whole experience is too cold and sterile. Plus if Dale Jr. could win, o.k. maybe just finish or be competitive, his fans would come back. A little levity at the end!
I think 72,000 fans at the race is a gross exageration. If the truth were known, I doubt that there were 50,000 people there. Why go to a place where there are not enough fans to support the sport and cause the teams to have far greater expenses because it is so far from their home base? I guess MASCAR is to country for the California crowd. You can take NASCAR out of the country but you can’t take the country out of NASCAR.
One race is enough for Fontana. There needs to be a race at Iowa Speedway, and there needs to be one less at Pocono. That date should be moved to the Pacific Northwest, the only region of the country that has no NASCAR races in the top three series, despite producing multiple Cup drivers (Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, Mike Bliss).
#1…#1! The ONLY reason attendance is a talking point is because the Media (YOU!) keep talking about it.
#2 see what I mean? You’re more about butts in the seat than butts standing up.
#3 The track is as close to LA as it can get without being sold out for condo space. There isn’t enuf Cup competition out here on the left coast as it is. Quit trying to take away more. Come back when Atlanta and Pocono has dropped back to one race (and Pocono, at least, deserves consideration for the lack of Northeast Cup racing).
#4 The racing doesn’t stink. It is a different kind of racing. Do you want ALL of cup to be 1.5 milers? California is like skating’s school figures. It isn’t exciting to watch, but it is still part of the scoring. Not every race can be Bristol, and, quoting Ryan Newman, if you come to see that, you need to go back to monster trucks, or drag racing. California’s races are chess matches…you have to watch for the nuances, the skill moves, NOT the bump and run.
#5 Both California’s races need to stay on the schedule until there is another track out here…Washington, Montana (they could probably use the highway system now), Utah. Until those crowded-together Southeast tracks get thinned a little, LEAVE CALIFORNIA ALONE!
My friends in California think Fontana has two dates that should be moved. That’s why they come east to see the racing at Bristol, Martinsville, Talladega, and Atlanta.
If they get one date, give them the February date. The weather out there is normally better than it is in the North, Midwest, and South. Move the Labor Day date back to Darlington. Send the Mother’s Day date to Kansas. See how many mom’s turn out for the casino, I mean racing.
THE SHOW STINKS, BAD RACE TRACK, THAT’S IT. I GAVE UP MY SEASON TICKETS AND RESERVED SEATS LONG AGO
Huh? How is Roush “reeling?” They put 3/4 in the Top 9 at Daytona (Ragan, out), and 3/4 (Ragan, out) in the Top 13 (2 Top 10s) at California. Biffle is 3rd in points, Kenseth is 7th, Edwards is 10th (Ragan, out).
Why isn’t “Hendrick Having Trouble?” Jeff Gordon isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire, Dale Jr is Dale Jr, and Jimmie Johnson finished incredibly deep in the field at Daytona. I hope you’re not basing everything on a single luck-laden Win. If thats the case, Kenseth’s upcoming victory at Las Vegas should fix that right up. Don’t let his 43rd place Lap 6 Engine failure from 2009 fool you.. He knows the way to victory lane.
Did you notice how easy Chevy Teams get to dominate without penality in Nascar!!!!!!
As far as attendance at Race Tracks what was the attendence at Sonama and Watkins Glen?
It seems to me that since they are only drawing approx. 50k fans, one of the events should be moved to Irwindale. The place would sell out year after year, and you could probably fill 100,000 seats, based on the quality of racing there. But, what am I thinking, Irwindale (or Toyota speedway at Irwindale) is not owned by ISC or Bruton, it is actually back to basics racing, and it is a unique track layout that is extremely entertaining. Given those factors, it is clearly a bad idea…
Lets stop sugar coating this thing and get back to the roots of racing. Admit it…the track and the racing sucks. We should take away the spring race and bring back Rockingham or Riverside.
Try this experiment – start now, plan a race in Rockingham, NC for…oh let’s say a year from some weekend in June of this year. Yep, that’s more than a year from now. Sell advanced tickets for $80.00 (that’s twice what I paid for a ticket the first time I went there). Then sit back and see how long it would take to sell out that track. Of course you understand that they would have to bring back the back stretch seats that were moved out.
NA$CAR management (I use that term VERY loosely) is nothing but a bunch of goof-balls. They’ve screwed up this great sport and will continue to do so until there is nothing left
I live in Atlanta, and I am perfectly ok with them moving Atlanta’s spring race date to Kentucky or somewhere else.
Because they did the smartest thing they could do here and that was give us a night race in warm weather!
It is perfect, the weekend is perfect and they will have great attendance.
The spring race is always a weather crapshoot, i.e. cold as hell and raining (which is what you are going to get in GA that time of year – Duh) and this is no joke, I have attended a LOT of Monday races there because of it.
So I am one race fan that has no problems with it due to the fact I also go to Bristol, Talladega, Darlington, etc.
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