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 May 12, 2010
Did You Notice? … The crowd cheering like crazy the second Jimmie Johnson’s Lowe’s Chevrolet came to a stop in Turn 3? After a savage wreck, Johnson was left to endure his first DNF at an unrestricted track since the Coca-Cola 600 in 2008, when A.J. Allmendinger’s failing brakes left him using the No. 48 like a dart on a bulls-eye entering the turn.
Now, I don’t have a problem with fans booing a guy they don’t like, but everything changes when a driver’s health is in question. Seeing that wreck live, I can say unequivocally it was the hardest hit I’ve seen someone take in person at Darlington since the repaving. Remember, this track is the same one where Steve Park suffered a serious head injury under caution, a reminder that crashes can happen anytime, anywhere. With an average speed approaching 200 miles an hour entering the turns, the Lady in Black is also carrying some serious speed, and ‘Dinger’s hit on Johnson was directly in the driver’s side door. Considering all the safety advances, you’d like to think someone’s going to emerge from that unscathed, but the ugly truth is you never know.
So what if Johnson hadn’t walked away? What if he was sitting there hurt? What the fans would have been doing – albeit in the heat of the moment – was cheering someone’s injury or death. If you were in that group, stop and think about it for a minute. Imagine if it was your son in that car, or nephew, or best friend; how would you feel to have 60,000 people celebrating the moment that killed him?
Look, I understand the zealous hatred for Johnson after winning four championships and establishing himself as the man to beat for a fifth. It’s natural to have good vs. evil relationships in sports, but there need to be moments where we stop and realize it’s all just a big game. In the end, people are putting their lives at stake in part for our entertainment, and when something serious happens on the racetrack we need to break out of the moment, take a step into the real world and recognize someone’s health should never take a back seat to the joy of seeing someone register a DNF.
Now, once Johnson climbs out of the car unscathed, then yes, by all means cheer away for his misfortune. But the way it was done at Darlington was a little too early for my taste.
P.S. – For all the Johnson supporters complaining about Allmendinger never taking his car to the garage, shame on you as well. If every driver just parked it behind the wall at the sheer hint of a problem, we’d have about 10-15 more DNFs every week. A team and driver’s job is to try and get the best finish possible under the circumstances, and if the ‘Dinger felt there were enough brakes to go the distance it’s the risk you take when every position and every point is meaningful over a 36-race season. To simply “give up” and pull in when there was some semblance of brakes left would have been the wrong thing to do. Not only that, but when the rotors did break off, ‘Dinger did the right thing, pulling to the inside of the backstretch in a move to spin himself out away from the rest of the competition. He just was carrying too much speed for it to work out the way he intended.
Did You Notice? … NASCAR’s 10 percent purse cut hasn’t been as bad as it might seem? I’ve talked with several smaller teams hurting over the cutbacks NASCAR announced at the last minute, claiming they had worked that money into their budget and now had to go out and replace it. But a quick look at the current Nationwide season shows funding isn’t down as much as expected.
Through the first ten events, the sport’s paid out a total of $14,437,094, a difference of $520,043 less than last season. That translates into a decline of just 3.4 percent, with some events (Bristol, Richmond) actually paying out more money than they did the previous year.
Of course, a smaller amount of bleeding doesn’t mean the wound has completely healed. When you consider the cost of doing business went up by at least the typical 3 percent inflation, independent car owners are still getting a good deal less cash to operate a business that’s gotten more expensive. And there’s still a negligible difference between say, 25th and 43rd place, giving little incentive for teams to stop the start-and-park phenomenon. Darlington was the latest example, where Stanton Barrett won $14,200 for 14th place – only $1,312 more than 43rd-place finisher Dennis Setzer, who parked his car after 11 laps for K-Automotive. That disparty (or lack thereof) just has to change, even if it means paying the last-place finisher next to nothing so there can be more separation. Now that this sport is run like a business, pride isn’t the sole motivation all the time, and a few extra dollar signs might help people get a little more racy heading down to the checkered flag.
Speaking of start-and-parks…
Did You Notice? … The dreaded start-and-park phenomenon is growing in the Cup Series once again? Last week’s race saw a season-high seven cars out of 46 there with no intention of running the distance: Whitney Motorsports (No. 46) and Braun Racing (No. 32) are the two newest additions, the former due to financial concerns and the latter to make a little extra cash for their Nationwide Series team.
What’s more gut-wrenching is the number of cars dropping that have attempted every race. Gone is the No. 90, now cutting back to a limited schedule, as they don’t believe in the S & P concept and don’t have the funding to compete. That leaves just 44 full-time cars, five of which (Nos. 55, 66, 87, 09, 46) are now expected to park almost every week. And that’s not including a few financially strapped programs, like the No. 36 of Tommy Baldwin Racing, the No. 7 of Robby Gordon Motorsports (remember, they only have sponsorship through May) and the No. 26 of Latitude 43 Motorsports that are hanging on by the skin of their teeth. Add in the uncertain future of Richard Petty Motorsports’ four cars, and we’ve got a sport that seems destined to lose at least two, if not more of its full-time teams by July.
That puts the dependency on part-time, start-and-park efforts to fill the fields. But will those cars keep coming to the racetrack with NASCAR’s new teardown rule on the last-place finisher? The sport hasn’t had itself a field of less than 43 cars since the New Hampshire season finale in November, 2001; however, I do think races like Pocono and Michigan (where the Nationwide cars are elsewhere, taking the No. 32 out of the equation) might cause that to happen under the right set of circumstances.
Even if we don’t have that problem, again what worries me is the lack of expansion of ownership in the sport. At the end of the year, we’re looking at uncertain futures for RPM’s four-car operation, EGR (looking for a sponsor for the No. 1 car), and perhaps Penske’s No. 77. Phoenix Racing’s No. 09 is also for sale; but in the meantime, none of the “new owners” NASCAR claimed would materialize in the wake of the economic decline have gained a foothold in the sport. New investors mean new money, and without it, you’ve got to wonder where the injection of cash to keep some of these cars afloat is going to come from.
When’s the last time a new primary sponsor entered the sport full-time? How about an owner? No single-car operation is running inside the top 30 right now, You’ve got to wonder if their lack of success is scaring off anyone new to try their hand at NASCAR’s top level.
Did You Notice? … Some quick hits before we take off:
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I agree with you totally about the classless cheering following some driver’s wrecks. I won’t say Johnson, because it isn’t just Johnson that has this happen to him. Certain “fans“ belong on medieval torture racks and not in the stands. But unfortunately the Freedom of Speech our founding fathers gave to us, didn’t come with a clause relevant to the speaker’s I.Q.
It wouldn’t take a huge increase in purse money to stop the start and park phenomenon. A simple rule change: Any car that retires from a race without taking the checkered flag, crashing, or blowing an engine will be subject to a suspension for their next five scheduled races. Entry money will NOT be refunded. That would end the problem right there.
As far as short fields, if 43 cars can’t come to compete every week then don’t guarantee 43 starters. NASCAR has increased and decreased the maximum field size throughout its history to accomodate the financial landscape. If people are truly honest, they would admit that they wouldn’t even notice the difference between 43 cars or 36 cars starting the event. A side effect would be less congestion on some of the tracks not built for today’s speeds.
Fans that cheer when a driver wrecks before they even know if he’s alright is one of the biggest turnoffs for me about NASCAR. It’s sick, it’s selfish and it’s small-minded. It also reinforces the stereotype that NASCAR fans are only there to see the wrecks and carnage.
You know guys, you can celebrate a driver being taken out of the race AND be concerned for everyone’s safety. I cheered when I saw the damage on the 48 car but I also turned to my husband and expressed my hope that everyone was okay. Nobody wishes a driver harm and if you don’t believe that then you’re the small-minded, classless jerk.
Ann, You go girl!!…..I’ll bet they are all Johnson fans whinning.!!
I’m with Ann… it’s easy to cheer when a driver you don’t like gets taken out, but that doesn’t mean you don’t care if they’re hurt. We’ve all seen drivers walk away from wrecks that looked a lot worse than Johnson’s did. To a degree, we’re conditioned to accept that they’ll be okay. I don’t think the vast majority of race fans would want to see ANY driver seriously injured, whether they cheered when the driver wrecked or not.
Sorry for being a bit condescending, but you set the tone…
What if I didn’t like your father or husband. How would you feel if he got into a wreck and everyone cheered before you even knew if he was seriously hurt? How would that make you feel?
Just because these drivers are public figures and you don’t like them doesn’t allow you to be a no-class dumbass.
I’m no Johnson fan but I’ll be damned if I’m going to cheer ANYBODY hitting a wall hard. I go to or watch races to see Stewart or Newman or JPM beat Johnson by a half a car length, not see him hit a wall.
As to the start and park problem, until there is a serious conversation about cost containment and sponsorship, its an exercise in futility. What exactly constitutes a “blown engine?” Obviously a rod poking out of a block does…what about a loose rocker? That would really be fun one to police.
Okay , we’ve been warned . Do not cheer , or boo , you are to keep silent , sit on your hands , make no discernable facial expressions or react in any way until the outcome of a wreck is known . You fans have to learn that Bowles feelings get hurt when you don’t give his favorite driver his due . Why , that was a “ savage “ crash , the worst Bowles has ever seen at Darlington , at least in the ten years or so since he found out that there is a race track at a town called Darlington . And even though the Steve Park incident was a completely different type of wreck , we dumb fans get your message . Fan emotion has no place in a sport where competitors can be hurt . Many fans , i would say the majority of fans simply don’t like Johnson . This isn’t a new phenomenon , he really hasn’t ever been all that popular . Your concern over the fans reaction to the Johnson crash is just a wee bit transparent Tom .
The one bright spot in the “ gut wrenching “ spectacle of underfunded teams trying to keep the doors open is that no one in authority at NASCAR pays the slightest attention to your almost weekly bleatings on the subject . “ Gut wrenching “ ??? You are quite a comic Tom .
I just want to say how flattered I am that you try and read every column of mine just so you can try and tear it to shreds. For someone who doesn’t like my writing, you sure do a heck of a lot of reading!
Thanks all for your comments as always.
What’s the point in reading Tom’s articles if you obviously dislike him so much? If I don’t care for someone’s writing, I simply don’t read it. Reading it and then bashing him for it seems rather pointless to me.
Tom , nice of you and your brother in law to respond .
It’s hard to get any smarter if you only read or listen to people who have the very same opinions as you do . I read your column because it concerns auto racing . While i certainly don’t agree with a lot of what you write , and i’m often not alone in that respect , you have your opinion as i have mine .As has been said before by readers of your columns , you’re far too thin skinned . If you find it necessary to publish your opinions on line , then you shouldn’t
Much better, balanced article than I had come to expect.
I don’t think NASCAR should try to eliminate all S&P’ers because they are not all the same. What Joe Nemechek and Tommy Baldwin do is not the same as what Phil Parsons’ team does. I have a real problem with S&P’ers who seem to have no intention of ever racing, but I don’t have a problem with teams like Nemechek’s who have to S&P occasionally so they can afford to try to actually race later. It seems to me that what NASCAR needs to do is to distribute part of the purse based on laps run.
With all the talk about S&P’ers it amazes me that I have not been able to find anywhere where anyone trys to keep up with who is S&P’ing at races.
So, if Newman takes over the #1 where does that leave McMurray? And if Kahne goes to SHR for a year, what happens to SHR in 2012? Does SHR become a one-car operation?
The whole scenario makes no sense.
I think they’re talking about the #1 in Nationwide series, not Cup series. Phoenix Racing has the #1 in Nationwide and the #09 in Cup. Kasey Kahne could run the #09 with Hendrick support like Brad Keselowski did last year.
I guess you lost me Mark. Im doing my best to understand your logic. Are you really suggesting that failure to approve of Johnson auguring into a wall in a serious wreck means that one is a Johnson fan? If so, its fairly obvious to me that you have absolutely no idea of what it takes to drive a race car or be a serious racing fan.
No Don , that isn’t at all what i’m suggesting . I’m suggesting that Tom Bowles is dramaticaly over-reacting to the Johnson wreck and the cheers or jeers of the crowd . Sporting events are based on winners and losers . That means taking sides by the fans . When a boxer is knocked down , part of the crowd cheers . When a tackle brings down the quarterback , the harder the tackle the better , part of the crowd cheers . And when a racer blows an engine or crashes , part of the crowd cheers . That type of behavior is part of sports . And Tom Bowles lecturing the fans about disrespecting his favorite driver is laughable .
Mark it is very easy to tell if a boxer is seriously injured when knocked down. When a QB gets a brutal hit and doesn’t jump right up, most stadiums go absolutely quiet.
No, I am not a Johnson fan. I am a Dale Earnhardt fan. I don’t care that he has been dead for nearly a decade. No-one can replace him. Today the only thing that matters to me is that every driver, crew member, official, and fan get to go home safely at the end of the day. See, I am a REAL fan of racing.
@ DonMei: I am not sure if you are aware of this, and I am not posting it to belittle your comment.
NASCAR routinely impounds a car from each manufacturer and random cars throughout the field to dyno test and strip down for compliance testing. This is in addition to the normal post-event inspection process. That includes a complete engine teardown. It would not be difficult at all to make sure at least one start and park team was included in these tests. Considering a 5 race suspension could actually mean the end of the team permanently, the chance of being caught lying about the reason for a retirement would keep most smaller teams honest.
The reason they are kept out of the sport Noel is that NASCAR has never tried to take a good look at the overall economics of the sport. Had they done so there are a LOT of things they could do, many of which would alleviate the start and park problem.
As to Marks comments, many of us watch a race to enjoy the competition without cheering on any particular driver.
Don, I don’t disagree with you at all. But NASCAR will never be a cheap sport. Nor do we want it to be. These cars are the true proving grounds for safety innovations that we see in our own road cars. It could be made cheaper. Even a portion of the TV money could be set aside to susidize small, unsponsored, and start-up teams. The France family’s greed means that will NEVER happen.
You are making my points for me vis-a-vis the economics of Nascar. Your point about Nascar provides innovations we see on our roadcars is ridiculous. All my roadcars have fuel injection, ABS. airbags, etc etc..I could go on and on.But why bother. Nascar is a spec series for 70’s technology.
Right on Mark!!!
@ Don: True, but the run flat tire tech was developed for race cars first, as were airbags, harness belts, collapsing steering columns, the cute little chest clip found on infant car seats. Many safety features are field tested in NASCAR and other series. Granted the technology is outdated, but to incorporate current technology wouldn’t actually decrease costs. It would increase costs. Look at the cutting edge technology in F1 $300 million doesn’t guarantee a championship. By comparison, NASCAR is having trouble filling its field with $30 million costs. Do you want to justify $50-60 million? I don’t.
I sure don’t Noel, but as a CPA and an economics profesor with 40 years experience in various areas of motorsports as a sponsor, race chairman and competitor I can absolutely gurantee you that there are ways to cut costs way below current levels.
Well this is coming from one of those “evil” ones that cheered when he wrecked. After he wrecked he tried to crank his car back up and he moved about 10 feet or so before he stopped and turned it off, so I knew he was ok. If you wanna complain about someone getting cheered when they crash, how about those bad crashes of Jeff Gordon?
Nothing evil…more about lacking common sense.
I agree with Jon. No one said this when Gordon wrecked all those times. All I heard were cheers and no one cared. We cheer because the drivers we don’t like wreck but we also hoe they are ok if it is a bad wreck like Johnson was in. So if you don’t like it then get over it.
I meant hope they are ok.*
Don I agree that costs could be cut severely. From our conversation I believe NASCAR would be run much differently if either you or I were in charge of it. I will admit that I am no financial wizard, my life has been spent studying the human body in relation to traumatic injury and chronic illness.
hahahahaha…. y’all make me laugh. Guess I’m terrible for cheering for a guy wrecking… big whoop. Get over it and write about something useful. And I agree with Jon and Steve…. where was this “sensitivity” when Gordon wrecked all the time? As I recall, plenty of races when Gordon wrecked the TV station would turn up the crowd mics and what do ya know? PEOPLE WERE CHEERING!!! Gosh, it sucks being a simple-minded guy with no common sense… I can’t ever make since of it all.
I did say it happened to more driver’s than Johnson. I also said it was terrible for it to happen to anybody as every driver deserves respect following a hard crash.
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