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
Monday March 3, 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 March 31, 2010
Did You Notice? … Martinsville’s finish was one of the best we’ve had in the past several years, causing longtime fans to breathe a little easier about its future?
I wish I could say I’m with you on that one.
Certainly, if these decisions were based on racing alone Martinsville would be assured a second date forever. But as we all know, businesses don’t survive without making money, and with profit margins down at ISC that’s going to become more of a focus than ever before. This much we know for 2011:
- Kansas Speedway is on its way to building a casino that would make ISC plenty of money (opening by 2012). – With the casino nearing completion, that cold, hard cash is enough to give them an automatic second date – no matter how good or bad the racing is at the speedway. – The current Cup schedule won’t expand beyond its current slate of 36 races.
With those thoughts in mind, it’s clear someone’s going to lose a race when the schedule is set for 2011. And with NASCAR’s shaky truce with SMI’s Bruton Smith, you can be sure adding an ISC date won’t come at the expense of any of his tracks. Don’t expect independents like Dover, Pocono, or Indy to lose a date either.
So who’s at risk from the pile of ISC tracks? It’s a “race” (and not the good kind) between Phoenix, Michigan, Fontana, and Martinsville. You would think, considering Fontana’s usual snoozers versus the type of competition we saw on Monday, Martinsville would have knocked itself down to the bottom of the list.
Instead, it worked its way back towards the top. Attendance for Sunday (hard to compare rainout numbers) was listed at 58,000, roughly 7,000-9,000 short of capacity. That’s the smallest crowd for the half-mile oval since ISC took it over in 2004. And if you want to look at the ugly rain-delay numbers … they’re even worse. Officially, the count was posted at 40,000 but reports from the track claim that number seems slightly inflated, with 30-35,000 a more realistic total.
Those numbers pale in comparison to the “72,000” that Fontana was able to attract this Spring (a number also in quotes, as many claimed it was drastically overinflated). So on pure numbers alone, even though Martinsville sold out a higher percentage of its seats (roughly 85 to 90 percent) Fontana has a much greater ceiling in terms of overall capacity. Add in the fact it’s close to a major market, and you can make the argument that when the economy recovers, the track’s got greater potential to make more money. (Remember, these folks in business suits ignore things like “side-by-side racing” and “tradition.” After all, those ugly Lexuses they’re driving don’t get paid with ‘historic significance.’)
“No way!” you say. “More fans watch Martinsville compared to Fontana on TV. It’s simply not possible for NASCAR to make such a ridiculous move.” Ah, but here’s another dirty secret: Fontana’s TV ratings are actually higher. Check it out:
Spring Fontana Race Ratings:
Spring Martinsville Race Ratings:
Shocking, but true: from 2007 through 2009, Martinsville ratings were 22 percent less than Fontana’s, the second race of the season. For the hardcore fan, this freak of nature has a simple explanation: Fontana always carries with it the momentum generated by the season’s highest-rated race, the Daytona 500. But again, these men in suits don’t have time for explanations. Their flight to Jamaica is running late, and they need to make the Tiki Bar by 7:00.
“But you don’t understand!” you’re saying, now slightly deflated. “The ending of that race was enough to make them reconsider!” Hmm… have any of you forgotten how the last Rockingham race unfolded? Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne came to the line side-by-side, producing a finish that was almost too close to call (Kenseth won by a nose). In fact, two of the last three races at the Rock were instant classics like that – but in the business world, that didn’t matter. Those races are gone.
Remember the final Southern 500 in 2003? Terry Labonte pulled off the last win of his career, fighting through a race that featured 24 lead changes (the most there since 1996). The fall race the following year, moved to November, set another standard with 27 lead changes, won by Jimmie Johnson after a thrilling late-race battle with Jamie McMurray.
The next year, that fall date bit the dust.
So I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but in a business sense Martinsville hurt its chances to keep both its Sprint Cup dates in 2011. But before you go scream/cry/throw obscenities at me, take a deep breath … there’s hope. Both Michigan and Phoenix (along with Fontana) are undergoing economic evaluations by the ISC, and both have been hit hard by the current economy. Pulling a date from Phoenix would make the most sense tradition-wise (they’ve only had a second date since 2005) and their seating capacity of 77,000 doesn’t give them much upward potential. As for Michigan … well, they could be the true wild card. Attendance badly slumped last year, as has the quality of racing, not exactly an easy sell for fan disinterest combined with an unemployment rate approaching 25 percent. So by no means is a Martinsville date loss set in stone … it’s just not completely out of the question. And that’s a shame.
I’ll close in saying losing a date at Martinsville would crack my heart in two, as it would with many fans on the circuit. I don’t (and won’t) have the luxury of walking away if that happens, but I can certainly understand how for many that follow this sport that’s the final straw. Which is why I leave NASCAR with this quote from Michael Phillips:
“Money will come to you when you are doing the right thing.”
The right thing is to keep two dates in rural Virginia.
Did You Notice? … Jeff Gordon trying to snooker the field on restarts? The way he was choosing to step on the gas was the opposite of smooth, equivalent to a little brake check road rage in front of you on the highway. In my opinion, his struggle to get up to speed at the right time during the green-white-checkered finish opened the door for Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, and Denny Hamlin to take their shots in a race that should ultimately have been Gordon’s to win.
But what really bothered me is an incident early in the race where Gordon jumped the start. Following a caution on lap 70, the No. 24 got so far in front of the field with his acceleration pattern he was already five car lengths ahead by lap 71. NASCAR’s response was to “warn” Gordon about how he conducts himself in such restarts in the future, a move which might have played into the funky way he did them the rest of the day.
Some will say that message had the desired effect, ensuring Gordon didn’t snooker the field and break the rules when it counted the most. But did teammate Mark Martin get a “warning” when an air hose violation was discovered in the pits? Did Dale Earnhardt, Jr. get a “warning” for speeding on pit road last week? It’s not like Gordon’s a rookie here … he knows how to handle himself on restarts. So in my opinion, anything less than an outright penalty on the track for that type of stuff is unacceptable.
NASCAR wonders why it’s accused of playing favorites. Well, the second they say the word ‘warning,’ they leave themselves at risk for that very criticism.
Did You Notice? … Attitude can be everything inside the race car? Mark Martin and Kurt Busch both suffered through two major problems Monday. For Busch, his team chose to keep him out on old tires under an early caution flag, leaving him a sitting duck for the pack behind him on fresh rubber. In Martin’s case, it was that air hose penalty which left him 22nd with just 125 laps to go.
Two drivers facing adversity … two different reactions. For Busch, the poor decision led to an angry tirade on the radio, throwing him off his rhythm and easily into the clutches of his competitors around him. Second on lap 175, he was ninth by lap 200 and never so much as sniffed the top 5 the rest of the day. Eventually, a loose wheel dropped him three laps off the pace, killing momentum from an average finish of 1.5 these last two weeks and causing Busch to wonder aloud, “Why do I even try at this track?”
In contrast, Martin’s approach was to buckle down, take a deep breath and focus on fighting to the front. On lap 375, he was 22nd; 75 laps later, he was seventh and heading towards a certain top 5 finish until a bout with the outside wall ultimately sent him fading to 21st. During that time, the 51-year-old never complained, never screamed at his crew for causing him hardship … just chose to give nothing less than 110 percent.
People say sports is just as much mental as it is physical. Need any more proof?
Did You Notice? … A very unique way in which Roush Fenway’s selling sponsorship? Found on allleftturns.com, you’ve got Sean Pragano, PR director for Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.’s No. 6 Ford, attempting to sell sponsorship through a television format similar to QVC. The video’s well worth watching; it’s certainly a hilarious, creative way for potential backers to take notice of the up-and-coming 23-year-old (although in my opinion, it does start to run a little long).
There’s just one part where the sell gets a little tricky; when you get to the part where you give out Stenhouse’s actual results (not mentioned in the QVC catalog). Because after all, aren’t businesses interested in the bottom line? So far this season, the rookie has crashed in every one of his four races, posting a best finish of 25th, 33 laps off the pace. That puts him behind such household names as Josh Wise, Eric McClure, and Willie Allen (who has one less start this season). If there’s any consolation for Stenhouse, teammate Colin Braun has also yet to score a top 15 finish so far this season, putting the duo in Jack Roush’s doghouse before we’re even close to the Dog Days of summer. And considering the amount Roush Fenway charges a potential sponsor, those are the type of finishes that could make sponsors go with one of those underdogs at a bargain price instead.
So Nashville now becomes a crucial race for both men, especially considering Roush is funding half their programs out of pocket. If another bad day forces both to qualify on speed going forward (they’re right on the cusp of falling outside the top 30) you wonder how committed Roush will stay to funding both programs for the full schedule. Because when Mr. Roush doesn’t call the QVC line back … then you know you’ve got a real problem.
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If Brian France was in charge of other sports:
There would be 2 football teams in LA: The LA Packers and the LA Saints (do you really think Mr. France would have waited 5 weeks let alone 5 years before moving the team?)
Wrigley Field would have been torn down and replaced with a multi-functional facility in the Chicago city of Kenosha, WI.
My point is that sometimes tradition and the betterment of the sport should take presidence over increasing the almighty dollar.
And isn’t strange that every time NASCAR makes decisions based on the “business” and not the “Sport” – business actually suffers as well as the sport.
It’s not that I don’t agree with you, Thomas… unfortunately, I do. Still, when a cookie-cutter racetrack gets a race date because of a casino, and one of only 6 short track races gets cut as a result, well then you might as well stick a fork in the sport.
I maintain the position I’ve held for a while now. With nascar’s “back to basics” attitude of late, trying to reclaim more of their traditional fan base, I think they realize that taking a date away from Martinsville now would completely devastate that plan. I was also encouraged by ISC’s announcement a while back that they are evaluating the three tracks you mention—and Martinsville was not among them.
Finally, I think that attendance number is actually very good when you consider the circumstances. Going into Sunday, it was a near certainty that the race would be cancelled, and I think most people were aware of that. The rain also had to hurt walk-up ticket sales as well as last-minute sales in general (we knew as early as Friday that the race probably wouldn’t be on Sunday). But in spite of that, we still had a crowd that close to capacity? That is pretty remarkable! Remember that it is wise to look beyond just the numbers.
Wasn’t there a race about 8 – 10 years ago when the officials waved off the restart because the leader kept trying to slow way down and then accelerate once he saw the flag?
Rusty was black flagged (late in the race) back in the day 10-12 yrs ago at a short track (it was a monday race) and it cost him the race.
“So in my opinion, anything less than an outright penalty on the track for that type of stuff is unacceptable.”
Re the TV ratings, California has an advantage of falling in a quiet period as far as sports go (Winter Olympics years, notwithstanding). Martinsville, on the other hand, competes against the NCAA tournament. Because of that the Martinsville race has few of the casual viewers that California gets.
The only reason Fontana gets higher spring numbers is inflated anticipation of a good race after Daytona. After all, it is the second race after the winter layoff.
Pass that thing over this way please.
There was a race last year in which Jimmie Johnson jumped the restart completely (he was not the leader and beat the leader to the start finish line when the green came out) and was not penalized. This was late in the race as well. Do you expect Nascar to penalize Gordon for that?
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