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 August 11, 2010
Did You Notice? … The underreported aftermath of the Kasey Kahne signing is it could keep another fully-funded car from popping up? Some of the other Kahne scenarios presented the last few months – staying at RPM, James Finch, Stewart-Haas Racing, JR Motorsports, etc. – all required a team to either grow or step up from being a start-and-parker to a fully-funded effort.
Not so with the organization Kahne ended up with, another sign of how money talks (remember, sponsorship was already in place at Red Bull, making it easy to dump Kahne there without signing additional financial backers). And even though Red Bull general manager Frye maintains there’s a chance Red Bull Racing might expand, recent budget cuts within the organization suggest three cars for them in 2011 is nothing more than a pipe dream.
With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at the next year’s fully-funded driver lineup for the Cup Series. It’s not looking pretty:
Roush Fenway (4 cars): Ragan, Kenseth, Biffle, Edwards
In a worst-case scenario, then, that leaves us with just 28 fully-funded machines (Gordon and Harvick don’t have sponsorship announced, but it’s a mere formality for two of the sport’s stars it’ll get done). At issue is the future of Front Row Motorsports, Richard Petty Motorsports, the third Penske car, Robby Gordon’s team (currently pursuing legal action against former partner BAM) and so much more. A few weeks ago, we witnessed a total of eight start-and-park operations at Pocono, with that number likely to continue showing up or even slightly increase over the final 14 races of the season. So far, we’ve had a total of zero new sponsors enter the fold for 2011, with the only deals announced existing companies willing to re-tinker their programs with another driver or team.
So call it the economy, call it shrinking ratings and attendance, call it whatever you want … but the bigger issue moving beyond this biggest move of Silly Season is the lack of new owners and teams to fill in those gaps. Will NASCAR shrink the size of the Cup field from 43 to 36 cars? There’s no indication of that happening. But is it detrimental to the sport to have over a third of the field not going the distance? Absolutely … and that’s what we could be faced with unless someone’s able to step up for 2011 and beyond.
By the way, for my take on the Kahne signing, winners and losers, and where we go from here be sure to check out my column over at SI.com.
Did You Notice? … Along those same lines of teams struggling to make it to the track, Tuesday’s news through Sirius Speedway reported that David Stremme has quit the Latitude 43 ride over lack of funding. With the knowledge I’ve gathered over the last few months, I’m certainly not surprised; in fact, I’m shocked it didn’t happen sooner.
From the moment Bill Jenkins took control of the No. 26 in January, sources within and around the organization have crowed about a running theme: A guy who borrows, borrows, talks a good game … and that’s pretty much it. I’ve even been told the initial purchase was never fully paid for, angering the investor that helped structure the deal and nearly causing Jack Roush to nullify the sale. In the end, no litigation was ever pursued because Roush had no choice but to ditch the number through NASCAR’s four-team limit. When you’re a week before the Daytona 500 and faced with a deal gone sour, well, there’s bigger fish to fry.
Sources claim Stremme isn’t the only one not getting paid, insisting former driver Boris Said and crew chief Frank Stoddard are among a long list of those dealing with less money than promised or simply continuing on a hope and a prayer altogether. Where all the money is going is anyone’s guess, as the team has made a hefty $1.66 million so far in 2010. The sad part is despite limited resources, this underdog team has really made a serious go at it, putting together the occasional top-25 run and putting out cars that can run 20th to 30th under the right circumstances. But no amount of uptick in performance can beat the consequences suffered by a phantom checkbook filled with monopoly money. There’s no question this team won’t make it to the Daytona 500 next season … if not fade out sooner without someone else stepping in.
Did You Notice? … In the midst of multiple schedule changes, the one that irks me the most isn’t Kansas getting a second date, or Chicagoland in the Chase, or even one fewer off week during the season. It’s the simple matter of ridiculous logistics that continue after the Daytona 500.
February consists of a beautiful two-week beach vacation down in Florida, where there’s nothing better for teams, media, and drivers than starting with racing’s Super Bowl. But consider the importance of that event for everyone, the equivalent of twice the energy spent compared to your normal race. To a person, we all leave there exhausted after giving our heart and soul to start the season off right. There’s no precedent to go on here, as every other major sport transitions from their major event right into the offseason … but you’d think a week at, say, Bristol or Martinsville would help to build momentum with a solid second race while serving the double purpose of bringing everyone close to home.
NASCAR’s schedule used to have that, a first three set of Daytona-Rockingham-Richmond to ensure we all recharged for the long year ahead. But in 2005, the schedule switched to a wild West Coast swing, one where teams were asked to go 3,000 miles from Daytona to Fontana, then Las Vegas as part of a three-race sprint designed to tire everyone out in the first mile of a nine-month marathon. The racing wasn’t good, the travel schedule was insane, and everyone privately whispered about how the logistics made no sense.
With schedule realignment looming, the one thing I expected NASCAR to fix was this issue, putting a second race at Homestead or even a place like Kentucky or Atlanta so teams could rest and recover. Instead… we lose Fontana, gain Phoenix, and still have the insane three-week swing. Huh? I know Phoenix is warm and all … but it’s still 3,000 miles and three time zones away from NASCAR’s home. Add in some ho-hum competition there the past few seasons, and it’s not the type of heart-pounding change that has fans on the edge of their seats. Why not do the West Coast swing in March? Or April? You could build it around a week off and then do a Fontana-Vegas-Phoenix swing, with a funky marketing name for it, while teams would have enough time to prepare for what’s coming.
Instead, we’re stuck with a situation where those who have no choice will be traveling, trying to keep it together along the way while those media that have one will simply stay home for one of those three weeks. I was at the Las Vegas race this year, and the media center was more empty than any of the races I’ve covered in 2010… not exactly the way to build publicity, right? It’s a simple philosophy of putting your best foot forward at the start and end of your season, because the beginning hooks you and the end’s supposed to leave you drooling for more. I hope NASCAR realizes that basic marketing concept before it’s too late.
Did You Notice? … Some quick hits on our way out the door:
- Notice both the new Kentucky and Kansas races are 400-mile events, part of a developing trend on NASCAR’s part to shorten races. I don’t know about you, but length of time doesn’t matter to me if the product itself doesn’t deliver, right?
- Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has now gone nine races without leading a lap. So far, he’s led only 68 this season, on pace for his lowest total since running a limited schedule when first moving up to Cup in 1999. In his defense, it’s not just him; Mark Martin across the garage has led just 59. Compare that to their other two teammates, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, who have led 1,690 over that same stretch. Can you say “imbalance?”
- Speaking of laps led, here’s a stat for you: Juan Pablo Montoya has led 385 this season, sixth-best on the Cup circuit behind only Johnson, Gordon, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Kyle Busch. In comparison, Chasers Martin, Carl Edwards, and Matt Kenseth have combined to lead just 103 … oh, Juan, the season of what might have been.
- Along the same lines of fewer teams in 2011, have you noticed there’s no talk of rookies moving up to Cup, either? Trevor Bayne isn’t ready, and even if Aric Almirola takes the plunge he’s run too many races to be considered for the Raybestos program. Two straight years with virtually no rookies in the Sprint Cup field? It’s no wonder fixing Nationwide driver development is on the agenda.
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©2000 - 2008 Thomas Bowles and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Waaahhh!!! I have to fly out to Phoenix after Daytona!! Waaahh!!! No offense, Thomas, but crying about how you are being inconvenience because you have to fly across the country to attend another race seems rather… whiny. Love your articles but please remember that some of us have to travel a lot more and don’t get to visit a race on the way.
Now I give you the schedule makes no sense. Shout out to the other Kevin on these boards but I have always felt the reason Fontana’s spring race never sold out was that people in the area were holding out for 1 more week to attend the Vegas race. I mean if I am going to visit a race and I live in CA, why not go to the one that isn’t all that much further away and I can gamble before and after the race.
NASCAR has needed to completely revamp the schedule for many many years. However that would take leadership and foresight from NASCAR’s management and – well I think you know where that is going.
Finally in regards to the smaller fields, it is sad to think that not even 10 years ago there would weekends where 55+ cars would show up. In fact I think in 2001 there was actually about 48 full time teams as three Petty cars kept missing races. Sad to see how the mighty have fallen.
So now it’s Hendrick-Red Bull as well as Hendrick-Stewart. Why do you have Hendrick with four cars?
Brian France and company have never impressed many with their intelligence. The schedule doesn’t bother them because they don’t have to move a team from Daytona to California. Last thought, I’ve been surprised with the number of teams still showing up for races. Collapse of sponsorship is taking longer than I thought. I figured the current government would have destroyed the economy and cup racing down to thirty teams or less by now.
Well done Tom , easily one of the funniest columns you’ve ever written .
I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the pit crews take up a collection to get you into a spa somewhere to ease the enormous stress and physical punishment you bloggers have to endure at the begining of each season . And here they thought they had it bad . Their life is a walk in the park compared to your trials and tribulations . Finally someone had the nerve to write about the true suffering that goes on in the press room . Dare i say Pulitzer right around the corner ?
Hey Tom. You’re not thinking that Brain Fart France is going to use common sense all the sudden. It’s his toy and he’ll run it into the ground if he wants to. And then he’ll say, “na na na na na” all the way back to his baffoon barracks in Daytona or Charlotte or wherever the “logistics” dictate.
Wow. Tough crowd.
Oh, by the way. I’ve heard that 36 is the new 43. I’m out.
I think the point he was trying to make was that teams/crew/personnel are going to be warn out by the 4th race of the season. Not the best remedy to start the season.
From what I have read, that new Fontana date will not be well received considering the weather is rainy during that time of the year.
I never thought people with that much money and power (i.e France and co.) could be that clueless about everything. They had a golden opportunity to give the schedule a much needed overhaul and they screwed that up too.
I’ve thought for a long time that there should be a week off after The 500. Then they should go to Phoenix and Vegas. Then come back for Richmond and The Rock. The weather should be warm enough not to worry about the race getting snowed out and fans sitting in 40 degrees or colder. That might be a deterent to ticket sales.
To make it easier to get sponsors get rid of the top 35 rule. To say to a potential sponsor “we out-qualified 15 cars but couldn’t race because a bunch of cars sandbagged and by the way we’d like to get 5 million from you” isn’t going to get you the result you want.
You would come across as a whole lot more intellegent if you could at least point out where and why you disagree with Tom instead of just resorting to juvenile attacks that make absolutely no point.
Thanks Kevin in PA, I’ve felt the same way about having California and Las Vegas right after Daytona, and one week apart. There’s nothing in Fontana but dirt, while Las Vegas has much more to do if the racing isnt great. I’m hoping that with one date next year, and its away from Las Vegas, we’ll see an improvement in the attendance at Fontana.
Oh, and I forgot to mention I wouldnt mind if the number of cars were reduced to 36, with the top 35 being changed to top 25. How many people really care about the guys in the back anyway? They either start-and-park, or dont have sponsorship, and are just taking up space.
Carl D , i think it’s pretty easy to see where i disagree with Tom . Truth is , maybe i don’t come off as all that smart because i’m not. By the way , the correct spelling is intelligent .
35 cars in the field?? Why not make the number 32 – the same as the NFL teams. Makes sense as Brian loooovvvveeeeesss to copy the NFL.
I’ve never thought that whole “west coast” swing right after Daytona made any sense or to take a break 2 weeks into the schedule. Start the season later and change the schedule to coincide with decent weather in the areas where the tracks are. Plus, only go to one track each time during the season, in the tough economic times that NASCAR keeps blaming for the reason why fans aren’t going (IMO a lot of it is because the product on the track is just not racy enough). One race at each track would increase the desire of fans to go to a track and would cut the schedule shorter. Ditch the darn chase and just let them race – see who the champion is at the end of the season and be done with it. No gimmicks required.
One last thing – on the polls – you need to add a “who cares” choice to it. I’m a proponent of having a None of the above category for elections, too. Just think of the possibilities.
“Oh, and I forgot to mention I wouldnt mind if the number of cars were reduced to 36, with the top 35 being changed to top 25. How many people really care about the guys in the back anyway? They either start-and-park, or dont have sponsorship, and are just taking up space.”
Back in the day most people cared about the guys in the back of the pack, and ESPN would actually show the battles in the rear of the field. Now that the “Product” has been dumbed down the newbies only want to see the superstars, and don’t care about the rest.
Why don’t they just go to Homestead after Daytona? Florida swing. Beats the H out of driving to California and/or Nevada.
Why not just start at Daytona, then work North? Hit Atlanta, then the Carolinas, then take a week off and head out West? Wouldn’t that make logistical sense? The crews would work from Daytona toward ‘home’, then they could spend some time with their families before making the West coast swing. Just seems to make sense to me.
why why why… who cares god shut the heck up and watch the races. Crybabies have filled the room once again! Seems like thats the only “fans” on the internet. Makes me sick
Vito, Atlanta should work as a 2nd race and then a week off. I also like the Homestead from Daytona to Atlanta. Wonder why they put the Indy and Ky races so close together in July….? The pocket of racing fans in that area is only so big & probably few can afford 2 races in a month.
HMS imbalance…I found the official HMS recap of the Pocono race…not one word about Jr.‘s engine blowing…let alone why…? When is the last time the 24/48 blew an engine…? After Watkins Glen when Jr. got out of his car after qualifying, he said that he did not have hp/speed. He was tickled to finish 26th in the race. He was afraid it would be a real disaster…? If Jr. is happy, I am happy. :)
It’s amazing a driver would be thrilled finishing 26th when his TEAMMATES in EQUAL bumper cars are winning chump-er-championships. Back to the bar with my friends.
Ajax, At Chicago the Speed/Fox announcers said that the 24 & 48 had the 2 new HMS 2nd generation cars. So I think that maybe they are not in equal equipment…? Have you ever heard of the 25/88 R&D car competing for a championship…?
Ajax, If Jr. got upset and depressed about these poor outcomes of races at HMS it could seriously depress or break him, is that the goal of Rick…? Jr. is taking a positive, the cup is half full approach
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