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 October 27, 2010
Did You Notice? … How much Jeff Gordon gets pushed around by Jimmie Johnson? Sunday was the latest chapter in a book of on-track incidents, Johnson clearly cutting off the No. 24 car on several occasions to the point Gordon radioed in to ask if J.J. “had a spotter.” Yet once again, even though it’s the No. 48 initiating contact, Gordon decides to complain instead of taking matters into his own hands and fighting back. How much longer is the prodigy going to run roughshod over the master? Four more years? Five? Six?
In watching Gordon the last few seasons, this constant deference to a team he co-owns is nothing new, an open wound that continues to affect the way he drives with everyone. Since Johnson beat the man at his own game in 2007, what’s followed has been three seasons with only one win and a sudden loss of composure in key situations to close the deal. It seems like whenever Gordon needs to stand up for himself, he doesn’t, and when he does get too aggressive it’s at the wrong times and provides the worst of circumstances.
Just think back to Martinsville in March, his longtime rival Matt Kenseth issuing a bump that angered the No. 24 driver and rooted him out of the lead. Had Gordon kept his composure, the chance for the victory was still readily within his grasp, but a knee-jerk response was to slam into the No. 17, wrecking the chances for both cars while Denny Hamlin slipped by for the win. Three months later, he turned a track he once dominated at Infineon into his personal Demolition Derby, angering everyone from Martin Truex, Jr. to Elliott Sadler while bulldozing his way to perhaps the most embarrassing fifth-place finish of his career.
Compare that to Sunday’s incident with Kurt Busch, a driver who our Nick Bromberg smartly pointed out has had a borderline personal vendetta with Hendrick Motorsports. Considering the circumstances, where the Miller Lite Dodge treated the DuPont Chevy like a pinball after a rather innocuous move, Gordon had every right to run down the No. 2 car and ruin his day.
Such confusing decisions on when to speak up trickle down to the crew chief as well. Yes, Rick Hendrick has a policy of being politically correct under virtually every circumstance, internal strife handled long after the cameras and media types like me go away. But several times this season, Gordon’s losses can be attributed directly to a bad call with Steve Letarte or the actions of his pit crew, who on Sunday left him caught in traffic with a poor stop that left the No. 24 a sitting duck. In some ways, it’s admirable the Rainbow Warrior hasn’t come out and criticized his crew the way Kevin Harvick, Busch, and others provide R-rated verbal abuse on a weekly basis. But there’s also an interesting counterpoint to the silence as well, summed up perfectly by Brad Keselowski in my SI Diary with him last month:
“Everyone wants to talk about the consequences of being too vocal,” he said. “Swearing, being angry — but what they don’t think about is the consequences of not being vocal enough. And when you’re not, people begin to think you don’t care. When you’re not angry from having a poor run or having a mistake or whatever, it’s very easily interpreted as you don’t care.”
Could the same be happening for Gordon? If you put out an attitude where you’re comfortable making these types of mistakes and moving on, then the crew gets it subconsciously in their heads that they’re going to be playing second fiddle to the No. 48 – and others. I think there’s an interesting dynamic at play here, one that will likely end with Gordon leading the most laps since Harry Gant in 1981 without scoring a Cup victory.
And at this point I’m more uncertain than ever as to when that car is going to find its way to Victory Lane again. Perhaps that lone win in the last three years was one of the reasons why it took so long for a 2011 sponsor to be signed, after several companies spurned Hendrick until a “Drive 4 Hunger” campaign sponsored through the AARP Foundation came through to fill the gap left by some reduced funding from DuPont.
Did You Notice? … NASCAR’s officiating silence is haunting them again? Ever since the story broke that the No. 48 had to replace a driveshaft cover on Sunday, I’ve heard so many stories and fantasies that Milli Vanilli and Bernie Madoff combined couldn’t compete. One of the more popular versions, reported by several outlets, is that there was a crack in the cover and NASCAR merely asked for the team to replace it for safety reasons. But others surround the thickness of the cover itself, saying its design bothered officials enough they ordered its removal.
Unfortunately, I’ll never be able to tell you the real answer here because once again, the sanctioning body has clammed up on the issue faster than Christine O’Donnell when you mention the word “witch.” And in pleading the 5th, the sport is again doing itself a disservice, considering even a whiff of a cheating scandal surrounding the reigning four-time champion is enough to give the fan base torches and a reason to march towards those luxurious ISC offices down in Daytona Beach. Whether it’s a minor issue or not distracts us from the major point, an open-door, honest policy to keep people informed when these types of incidents occur so it can be properly explained why one Chaser got a 150-point, Category 5 hurricane penalty while the No. 48 received the equivalent of “please” and “thank you.”
How many more times is it going to have to happen before NASCAR wakes up and realizes how ending conspiracy theories is as easy as opening your mouth and telling the truth? Then again, truth is a very hard thing to come by down in those offices these days …
Did You Notice? … As the Richard Petty Motorsports saga unfolds, the two innocent victims whose careers hang in the balance? In one corner is A.J. Allmendinger, who turned a part-time opportunity into a two-year, full-time ride courtesy of a third-place finish in last February’s Daytona 500. Recently the owner of a new contract extension, he’s embodied the heart and soul of a building organization that was looking forward to going to battle with him in 2011.
Now? One of the sport’s rapidly improving drivers could be sitting on the sidelines next year with no stock car opportunities and only a handful of open-wheel offers enough to possibly lure him away for good. What a terrible turn of events that would be: One of the sport’s more outspoken, honest personalities driven right back into the hands of a rival in the IndyCar Series that’s building more steam to challenge stock car’s reign of racing dominance than we might think.
But nothing would be more devastating to NASCAR than to lose Marcos Ambrose to … Australia? That’s where he’ll be going if the No. 9 ride doesn’t pan out, closing up shop and leaving Ford no choice but to follow through on a financial commitment to return the likable driver to V8 Supercars. With JTG-Daugherty Racing moving forward with 2000 Cup champ Bobby Labonte, Ambrose rolled snake eyes on a gamble where he felt the No. 47 was no longer the perfect fit despite a contract that ran through the end of the 2011 season. Now, despite public moments of regret, private hurt feelings have left him unable to close the gap and compromise to the point JTG-Daugherty would even consider rolling out a two-car team for next year.
And let’s not forget the hundreds of employees in the shop, too, all 240 being threatened with a pink slip if investors can’t get this ugly fight between a handful of rich men turned around by Monday morning. What opportunities lie ahead for them in a sport that’s rapidly contracting, no longer able to provide for the multitude of talented people within it just trying to make a living? That’s where the idea of start and park teams lie, ugly in practice but understandable when comprised of a handful of hard-working men who loved this industry and find it inconceivable to let go.
It’s a sob story that goes much further than a living legend and the lies he was sucked into, a deep cut that should make all of NASCAR’s remaining owners take notice. For even with Rick Hendrick, Joe Gibbs, Richard Childress, and others, the pool of funding is not unlimited.
Some sort of drastic action needs to be taken to stop the skyrocketing costs; otherwise, there’ll be just two rich men left, stroking egos on a playground with no one even bothering to come see them fight.
Did You Notice? … Fans really need to start practicing what they preach? Martinsville’s race was easily the best of the season, if not the top 3 behind March’s phenomenal green-white-checkered finish at the paperclip and February’s Daytona 500. It’s the type of event fans email me all the time saying they want to see, claiming it’s the “last straw” if a date ever gets taken away from the half-mile oval.
But it’s one thing to tell us what you want … it’s another when you don’t give NASCAR what it needs to justify two dates. Now, I know Martinsville unemployment is absolutely outrageous, a number hovering around 20 percent that exudes nothing but sympathy and support on this end. In many ways, 56,000 is a respectable attendance figure for a track with a capacity of nearly 70,000.
Here’s the problem, though: when looking at the bottom line numbers, it’s still by far the lowest attendance we’ve seen anywhere on the NASCAR circuit this year, with the exception of one other event: Martinsville’s rain-delayed show in March. That brought the track down to an average attendance of 48,000, a disturbing number that places it even 20,000 behind tracks like Chicagoland and Fontana, both of whom are struggling to attract fans despite a higher capacity.
“So what?” you say. “Fans were watching this race on TV.” Well, not exactly. The 2.4 rating leaves the track just fourth among the six Chase venues, trailing Charlotte, Fontana, and Dover with a viewership level that’s in line with similar declines around the postseason. There wasn’t the type of bump typically seen at places like Talladega, the restrictor plate addiction that makes it so difficult for NASCAR to do the right thing.
You’re also making it more difficult for them here. Especially in this era where profitability will become exceptionally important, with attendance dwindling and tracks on the precipice of closing down, men in suits aren’t going to care about tradition when they look at those numbers. So feel free to complain all you want when a date gets taken off the schedule, screaming “final straw” and “how dare you, NASCAR!”
But, just like poor attendance doomed Rockingham, you guys are just as much at fault for taking this type of classic competition for granted.
Did You Notice? …. Some quick hits before taking off: – Now that the cat is out of the bag with Scott Speed, the way Red Bull is treating his possible demise is more confusing than ever. Keep in mind Speed has been Dietrich Mateschitz’s right-hand man ever since the first search to land the American in a Formula 1 car in 2003. For nearly eight years he’s been given virtually unlimited opportunity by the Red Bull company, thrown in everything from open-wheel to stock cars without a hint of criticism from the powers that be back in Austria. To go from that to a third-rate insurance policy for the company, employed only in case Brian Vickers gets ill in the offseason, is the type of dirty, unfair ending we usually don’t see in this type of scenario.
Sure, Speed has failed to meet a performance clause in his contract, one that dictates a top-16 points finish for him to stay on board in stock cars. But would Mateschitz drop him after a season where there was small but gradual improvement? After all the years of investment in the California driver, it’s notable to have silence on his end after GM Jay Frye needed a yearly, three-week trip to Austria to seal his driver’s fate in the past. Notice that didn’t have to happen this time …
So what’s going on? The right answer in place of speculation is: I don’t know. But I’ve got a hunch there is something that just isn’t right here, a part of this story we don’t know about that will come out eventually.
- Speaking of something we don’t know, on the gossip front: Scott Speed and his wife Amanda and Kyle Busch and his iancée, Sam Sarcinella, are no longer friends on Twitter and Facebook, part of many signs that point to a once best-buddy duo hitting the skids. Considering the amount of press given surrounding their unlikely friendship, its demise is more than a bit surprising.
- Michael Waltrip returns to Talladega this week for PRISM Motorsports, worth mentioning since he had a car that could have won the race in the spring. He and Bill Elliott – driver of the No. 26 Ford this weekend – join Regan Smith and Brad Keselowski as wild cards on a weekend where anything can and will happen.
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I have to wonder if the lack of full stands at Martinsville has more to do with fans ‘voting’ on the chase scenario and the ‘new and improved’ Nascar than anything else. Not spending money on attending a race is the only way fans have to get the attention of the suits in Daytona. It may be the same reason that ratings are down. The race Sunday proved how good the action is on a short track, and it was certainly entertaining. But, if you don’t give a hoot about the convoluted points, why go? It’s a fans only chance to let Brian the Brain know how they feel.
I watched the Martinsville race on TV. There were plenty of cheap tickets for sale on craigslist ($20 bucks), but I saw no reason to go fight the traffic. I won’t spend my hard earned money on a broken product. NASCAR is broken. Until Brian France is fired, demoted, or decides to hunt palm trees for a living, I’m not going to waste my money, or my Sunday’s, on NASCAR.
I get what you’re saying about Martinsville attendance Tom, but consider the bigger picture.
Suppose a race is taken from Martinsville and given to Vegas, which I am confident will happen in the next couple years. Whatever core NASCAR had left will be gone, whether they attended races there or not.
Once that happens, Martinsville will most certainly lose its other event in short order, to a place like Kentucky if it does well with one event.
If there are two more 1.5-2 mile speedway events in a schedule that already has too many, people tuning in will see the same race every week and wonder why the sport even bothers to go anywhere besides Michigan.
Classic case of killing the goose for the golden egg. NASCAR may make a ton of money going to these big beautiful facilities, but in the long run it will destroy the sport because there is no more foundation of dedicated fans who tire of seeing only three or four key passes in a race. NASCAR does not need any more of a reputation for crapping on its most loyal fans while embracing whatever brings in a big payday.
Of course, they shouldn’t listen to me, since I stopped spending money on anything related to the sport when my driver got rooked out of two titles by an idiotic playoff system.
If the “men in suits” decide to take a race (or two) from Martinsville, that will drive yet another nail into Nascar’s coffin. When Nascar is left with mostly intermediate tracks in markets where stock car racing doesn’t have a healthy fan base, then it’s demise will be inevitable.
I’m confused, Thom. Exactly what lies were Richard Petty sucked into? I’m serious here. Please elaborate.
Maybe Rockingham would have sold more tickets if it didn’t require people to camp outside for a weekend and sit on metal bleachers for 3-4 hours in temperatures ranging from the low 30s to low 50s. na$car could have done a lot to help Rockingham survive, they just chose not to do anything.
I have to agree with your assessment of Gordon. He has lost his edge. This was a terrible season by his standards, and every time I hear him talk he sounds broken. I don’t think he ever got over losing that Chase in 2007. Just look back at 2006 the last time I remember him getting dumped so obviously, his first reaction after the race was to go after Kenseth (he later got him back at Chicago). This time he just said it was “my fault”. This might sound strong, but he sounds depressed. Sadly, my favorite driver is becoming the next Lebonte, Elliot, etc. a once great driver who is hanging on too long.
If Gordon was more motivated, Letarte probably would be gone. 2008 and 2010 are worse than any of Robbie Loomis’ years. In 2005 they won the 500 and a bunch of races, but they missed the Chase and Loomis got sacked. I hope Jeff retires, it looks like he secretly wants to
Went to one Martinsville race and would never go to another one. Racing was fantastic, but the parking, employees and getting out of the place were HORRIBLE. First place I have ever been asked to park my car in a handicapped section that was on the side of a mountain in knee-high grass that was 1/2 mile away from the track.Leaving was a disaster. It took 2 1/2 hours before we even started our car and another 45 minutes before we moved. Sorry, I will watch that race on TV in the comfort of my recliner.
In defense of the fans regarding your Martinsville comments, we EXPECT to see crappy racing, so we don’t go and we don’t watch. It was a fluke that the racing was good. So, the pressure is on NASCAR to deliver good racing so that we EXPECT GOOD and will therefore spend time and money to go see it.
One other aspect is that, yeah the racing was good, so long as you drove a Chevy or Toyota. Ford fans have had it with NASCAR’s complete bias towards Chevy and whichever Chevy driver they deem the chosen one, from Waltrip to Earnhardt to Gordon to Johnson. 28% of all wins since 1983 have come from those guys. Those of us who aren’t fans of those guys or their brethren are just freakin’ tired of the facade. We saw the man behind the curtain and we’re done believing there’s a wizard.
Love the writeup on jeff gordon. His teamate has been taken advantage of him for years. Jeff he’s not your friend. Quite telling us how great your crew chief is and how you got the best crew. Your not winning. Wake up!
Look, the race at Martinsville probably a great race, but I, like a lot of long time nas$car fans, have become so disenchanted and angry at the state of the the Brian and Mike show that It’s gotten harder and harder to care. Do you hear me faux emperor? It’s gotten to the point where nas$car on tv has become an afterthought even when the racing is good. I find myself watching football and switching to the race once in awhile. I NEVER thought I would be saying this. 30+ years of love for the sport has come to this. Better wake up nas$car. The hour is getting late.
Yes Jacob – we get it already – you don’t like Richard Petty.
If fans arent watching or going to Martinsville because of the Chase, then why were the ratings and attendance down in the spring race, too?
Why do we complain about losing Rockingham and Darlington, yet Fontana has the highest ratings of the 6 Chase races so far? Somethings strange in NASCAR land.
The question is how much of the TV rating decline is due to the races being on ESPN.
Kind of hard to watch the race on TV when it’s on a cable channel. I’m not spending $60 a month just to watch NASCAR races. While I’m no fan of the FOX broadcast team, at least I can see them. ABC/ESPN did themselves a disservice moving all the Sunday races to ESPN.
More positive, MRN finally has affiliates in my area. 3 months ago the only way I could hear a race was drive 40 miles North into signal range.
Let’s look beyond just the attendance figures themselves. Martinsville reportedly filled 56,000 of 61,000 seats this past weekend (92%). A couple of weeks ago, Fontana filled 70,000 of its 91,000 seats (77%) despite being in an area with a significantly higher population. Chicagoland, near another highly populated area, filled just 67,500 of its 75,000 seats (90%). When you consider that along with the economy and the unemployment rate which has been very high for a long time in this area, I don’t think coming within 5,000 seats of selling out is really all that bad!
I was at Martinsville – both races – even though NASCAR moved the spring race to March when it is not going to be warm and will most likely rain. I figured they are trying to kill the track. Why do I go? A. Because I like short track racing best and B. because I want to do what I can to not let NASCAR take a race or both races from the track for lack of attendance. Note: I travel from NJ to go to these races.
Regarding Gordon — I have to agree with your assessment. It has been ticking me off for years that he just rolls over for the 48. I know he’s a HMS company man, but geez, somewhere there’s got to be a line. I thought earlier this season when he was fired up at Johnson’s actions there might be a change coming. I’m guessing that Rick had a hand in all this and said — now, now, Jeff don’t be mad at Jimmie. Yuck. What the heck happened to MY race car driver? I was ticked off for most of the Martinsville race as I watched the 48 muscle past the 24 knowing his teammate had trouble if he was hung out on the outside. Hey, I know, its racing, but considering when the situation was reversed, the 24 LET the 48 in. Inside my head I was howling at Gordon NOT to let him in, but he’s gotten to be way too soft these days. Its fine to be a team player and not throw your team and crew chief under the bus as others have done, but somewhere here there’s got to be a change.
And Yeah he bumped Ears, so what, he didn’t wreck him. Considering that Ears then came back and wrecked the 24, he should have put him into the wall and I was sorry that he didn’t do it later in the race. Sorry folks – I’m biased on this topic.
I’m in agreement with some of the others here, I believe that some of the reason besides the economy that people aren’t showing up at the races is because it is an attempt to get NASCAR’s attention. Of course, as long as Brainless can live off of the current TV money and whatever the tracks bring in, he’ll continue to try and sell the snake oil to the fans that NASCAR cares. They do but only about themselves, not the fans.
Kevin SoCal – not disagreeing with you, but the Fontana race was on a Saturday night, and I don’t believe there were any NFL games on at the time. When up against the NFL, NASCAR gets clobbered.
Thank you for the honesty about how Jeff is driving and how it seems to be a different set of rules for the 48 car. When I’m watching a race and see how everyone is staying away from the 48 car, even Kyle Busch this weekend at Martinsville, it’s real hard to get interested in watching the next race.
Anyone who thinks that Dale Jr does not affect the the ticket sales is way off base. We are Dale Jr fans and we no longer go go to 3 to 4 races a year now we don’t even attend 1 a year. My husband and I have luckily not fallen into the financial troubles so many have but we became tried of spending 3,000 to 4,000 a year to go to races. The inflated flights, the rental car, the inflated hotels, and then the cost of the race tickets. We have it figured out we have spent at least 30,000 to go to the races. Of all the races we have been to Jr only won once. So now we have purchased a camper permanently parked on a lake and bought a pontoon for less than the cost of attending Nascar races and we have something to show for our money. We sometimes watch the races and sometimes not. We are still Jr fans and that won’t change. We don’t jump on the bandwagon of whatever driver is doing good. We no longer live our lives around Nascar. We are only 2 of Jr’s fans so I am sure there are MANY more like us.
Then you throw in the awful racing the COT car provides it is a waste of our time. Since that car has came about most races could be cut into a 1/4 of the laps. Very little side by side racing and whoever is in front in the clean air drives off and leaves the field. Nascar has to throw bogus cautions to try to add excitement to the race on the restarts but then it doesn’t take long before it is just a high speed parade which does nothing for us. I actually fell asleep at a race (Michigan) thats how bored it got and I do not drink I’m always the DD.
We are sad that our quest to attend all the tracks on the circuit (and also our closest tracks) has came to an end but we have opened a new chapter that is much more satisfying.
@ Iowa Guy:
The FACT is, Iowa Guy, that people’s obsessive need to see a back marker #43 on track is no less foolish than Jr. nation’ obsession with him.
I think the chase is the best thigh that happened to to Nascar.Next to the double restarts.It just has one thing wrong.It is not fair for the 13Th position and so on.In all fairness bunch the hole field up together by 5 point separation.Give bones points for winning a race and bones points for the winning the poll.Then let them loose to decide the champion.In respect to Petty Enterprise.I to lost a child.He was 5 years of age with a lot of promise.His hole life in front of him.Being run over in the crosswalk in front of my home.In front of me was devastating to me.Watching his eyes roll in the back of his head.Then he was gone.I will never forget nor will I be the same.Petty Enterprise has never bean the same after their lose of Adam.That alone took the spirit out of Petty Enterprise.My prayers are with the Petty’s.They will and are Blessed for fulfilling Adam’s dreams in victory junction camp. As far as ratings.I believe the tickets are all to much money.I can’t afford to bring my children to the cup races.Because ticket prices are to much $.Camping out off the question way to expensive.Nascar needs to be more family friendly on the expanse at the track.Nascar need to change tickets prices for children under 5 should be free and under 16 should be $10.00 and adult ticket need to be cut in 1/4 or more.They all so need to have open practice.All day for all the teams.On Thursday or Friday before the race.These cars are not eligible to race in the cup race that weekend.Tickets prices for open practice need to be free for children under 16 and $5.00 to $10.00 for adults. Better yet out side the tracks needs to be a large portion of free camping.This will bring more Family’s to the track and fill all the seat’s.By doing these thing nobody can be upset at Nascar for doing this last change that needs to happen to fill all seats.I remember way back when. The NFL use to black out the football games.In the areas where the game’s where being played at.Until the game’s were sold out. Then the black out was lifted for local viewing.If Nascar black out all cup race’s in the area the race is being raced at Intel they are sold out.People that really wont to see the race will by a ticket.People that can’t afford ticket today could afford to come.I know this will let every body that want to see the race will.The seats will be filed and concession revenue will be ski high because people could afford to spend a little more on food and BEER. Sounds like a WIN WIN to me.
“Population near the track does not affect ticket sales.”
Au contraire… the majority of race tickets are sold to people who live within a few hours of the track. The poor state of the economy drives the percentage even higher, as less people can afford to travel. In densely populated places like L.A. and Chicago, the effect is not as significant as it is for Martinsville.
Gordon82Wins: Seriously? Fontana was on a Saturday? The Fontana race was run on Sunday, 10-10-10. The CHARLOTTE race was run on Saturday 10-16-10. I think you got them mixed up.
Jacob, Next year may very well come; sometime. I can only hold out hope. At least he, and that number, have a tradition that go way back. It’s no different really from when the Wood Brother’s show up at the track from time to time. Do I expect they’ll put the car in Victory Lane? Nope, but I pull for them anyway.
As for Jr. Nation, well that’s just something I’ll never understand.
Hey, Gordon can’t complain when he can’t compete with the Big Johnson. Get up front , stay up front and win a few. Dont’ whine. Marcos Ambrose deserves a ride more than Junior ever did. At least Ambrose won several championships before coming to “Cup” where Junior got shoe-horned into a Busch ride when he hadn’t even competed in more than a handful of late model races. It used to be you had to EARN your way into “Cup” and not ride a family name in without any credentials like Junior, Brett Bodine, Kenny Wallace and Steve Wallace. The there’s the “who?” drivers that fill the last few spots on the grid. Why do those lame ducks and burned-out has-been drivers like Cope get in when talented drivers sit outside looking in? NASCAR is burning down and it sucks.
I don’t know Dave. Would a up and coming driver (Busch series) want to make his break into Cup with a start-n-park, or would that brand him as someone not to be bothered with? Off of the top of my head I can’t think of any that have moved from that status to a ride that at least runs the whole race.
I was at Martinsville on Sunday and thought the racing was great. I attend the two races in Richmond and Bristol plus the race in Darlington. Short track racing is the best..no aero push or clean air mentioned at all. I will only buy tickets to Charlotte the Monday before the race once I know the weather is ok for the weekend. I am sick and tired of cookie cutter tracks. If given a choice, I would drive 5 1/2 hours to Richmond before attending a race in Charlotte. I realize Bristol has a much larger seating capacity than Martinsville, but there were a lot of empty seats at the spring race…that is never mentioned though. My father and I attended a USAR race at North Wlikesboro in October. I miss that track. The front grandstands were completely full. Nascar is to the point that the almighty dollar trumps the racing action on the track. I could care less if a casino is being built behind the third turn grandstands. If I wanted to gamble, I would go to Vegas. I am also mystified in them pulling an Atlanta race and giving it to Kentucky to be run in July. Run the Kentucky race on the same date as the spring Atlanta race and see how many people show up. Atlanta and Rockingham always had questionable weather dates. The Monday before the last race in Rockingham, there was 10 inches of snow on the ground. Nascar is alienating their grassroot fans while catering to a fairweather fan base that will move along to something else in a few years. Did I say I was tired of cokie cutter mile and 1/2 tracks????
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