Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Bowles-Eye View · Thomas Bowles · Monday May 16, 2011
Dover produced an unexpected twist on Sunday, Matt Kenseth stealing a victory after two other drivers – Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards – led about 99.9% of the race up until the last 50 laps. Mark Martin was a season-best second, Brian Vickers was fifth one year removed from being in a hospital bed, fighting for his life yet the story this Monday morning from Dover revolves around three things: a FOX split screen commercial, monotonous racing, and more empty seats than most stadiums have capacity.
Not the type of water cooler talk you want, right? For now, we’ll save the FOX hallelujah, some sort of TV one-week wonder and focus on the larger, long-term worry of what’s wrong with the Monster Mile. Attendance has declined from a listed 150,000 to Sunday’s 82,000 number in less than six years: a whopping 45.3 percent decrease for what used to be one of the most competitive tracks on the circuit. Unofficially, other journalists were estimating the crowd at less than 60,000 although I tend to trust the track’s judgment based on my own eyes Sunday; keep in mind when you have a 130,000+ seat racetrack 50% capacity looks far more empty than it really is. It’s still a shocking turnaround, considering just two-and-a-half years ago I maintain the Dover Fall event was easily the best of the ten-race Chase: as the laps ticked down, a furious four-car battle between Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray raged for the lead. All Roush-Fenway teammates at the time, they spent the race’s last half-hour acting like rivals fighting for supremacy on your local go-kart track, making dicey move after hair-raising maneuver until Biffle pulled away to Victory Lane. It was part of an all-around performance to be proud of for NASCAR; the racing that day, front to back was so impressive I actually thought the Car of Tomorrow had turned a corner.
Too bad that road led to the local junkyard. Four of the last five races since have been snoozers, with only one (Spring 2009) producing a single pass for the lead in the last thirty laps. Jimmie Johnson was the culprit there, passing Tony Stewart to start a recent 3-of-5 streak at the speedway that’s actually part of the problem. He’s led an ungodly 1,192 of 2,000 laps (59.6 percent) during that stretch, often pulling away to large leads over the midpoint of races while leaving fans with nothing to do but watch the Lowe’s car simply come up and lap people. Honestly, if Lady Luck had swung the proper direction the No. 48 team could have won all five: pit road mistakes by Johnson (speeding, Spring 2010) and crew chief Chad Knaus (four tires, not two Sunday) led to victories by Kyle Busch and Kenseth, respectively in those events.
But the one-man dynasty is just a small part of a growing problem, declines that simply wouldn’t be if the sport were healthy. As my home market, I can tell you the track lies reasonably close to two major markets: less than two hours from Philadelphia (No. 5) and Baltimore (No. 21) with Washington D.C. and New York City within striking distance of a day trip. That’s well over 10 million people combined in that corridor, nearly ten times the amount within a similar radius of tiny Martinsville Speedway, the half-mile short track that nearly outdrew Dover’s fan base in April despite having less than 70,000 seats. Sure, the Mid-Atlantic isn’t exactly what you’d call a racing hotbed but with those kinds of numbers available? You should pull a crowd, especially with the added entertainment value of a casino next door (isn’t that why Kansas got a second date?)
You can’t blame the economy much, either as Delaware’s unemployment rate of 8.3% is actually below the national average. And marketing? In past years, the track’s been criticized for improper advertising but I can testify that wasn’t the issue this year; the last four weeks, you literally could not turn on the television in Philly without seeing some sort of blown up ad for the Monster Mile. Heck, I was coming home from a Friday night out a couple weeks ago, blasting my indie rock/college radio type station (let’s hear it for 104.5) and I came across a 30-second commercial for Dover at 2 AM. Clearly, that’s not the most expensive option (or the best timing, either) but it was outside the racetrack’s target audience, showing how extensively they’re trying. In recent years, the public relations team has been solid (Gary Camp is very good) and they’ve hosted events in Philly to try and connect the fan base to the racetrack.
Part of the problem could certainly be the ghosts of traffic past. At the height of Dover’s popularity, one horror story from a friend in 2005 explained an eight-hour ordeal just to get from the track to the state line (typically an hour’s drive) after the race was over. In the Fall of ’06, my first year covering for television I left the second the checkered flag dropped and still got stuck in a two-hour delay, the type of issue that fans have written in and say leaves them sitting on their couch, not at a racetrack watching for good. In 2011, those worries are long gone, much to the speedway’s chagrin – I literally hit the brakes for less than five minutes once I left, shocking when you think about how quickly that problem faded – but you know what they say about first impressions lingering on.
That leaves the giant elephant in the room NASCAR’s rapidly fading popularity, a theory they tried to disprove with February’s Daytona 500 until recent numbers have jarred reality back into focus. In a market like this one, where most of the interest at the height of the sport’s reach produced more of the “casual fan” Brian France likes to talk so highly of it seems their interest has been passing, not permanent. The new point system, a Nationwide Series Car of Tomorrow, even Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s new competitiveness hasn’t been enough to get people excited to come and see the races. New blood, or lack thereof has been an issue for a number of years now, the few bright spots like Trevor Bayne and Joey Logano fading quickly to aging veteran stars. Who was NASCAR promoting five years ago here? Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart. Wonder who they’re promoting now? You guessed it… bread can only last so long before it gets stale, even if you put it in the freezer (trust me, I’ve tried).
The competition issues have been focused mostly on the tires, a compound drivers claim has made it impossible to pass at Dover. Indeed, it looked like they were trying to figure skate instead of finesse their way through the one-mile oval Sunday, man after man complaining on the radio the cars just wouldn’t handle in traffic. Denny Hamlin was pretty vocal about the compound, joining Greg Biffle’s rant last Fall that Goodyear needs to make major adjustments. But you’d expect universal criticism and multiple failures to accompany a problem; neither happened.
“Great job by Goodyear,” said Vickers after finishing fifth, one of many drivers happy with the hand they were dealt. “I’m sure some guys complained about it, but I love it. I love it when the track lays down rubber like that. Makes it slip and slide and you have to move around and find a groove.”
Don’t believe a top-5 finisher? How about A.J. Allmendinger, who after DNF’ing with engine problems referred to the day as “fun” in trying to find the right line.
The layout of the track hasn’t changed during that time, and neither have the cars themselves; but what about the drivers? What about the theory they didn’t need to push the issue? Could that be what we’re seeing here in some of these races, especially with a DNF-destructive point system that’s emphasizing consistency? When Johnson fell back in the pack post-pit stop Sunday, the voice in his ear immediately was Knaus emphasizing a top-10 finish, not a win as the goal. And for all the talk about “win, win, win” from the post-race press conferences, there was a comment from Mark Martin that stood out to me.
“All the cars are almost the same speed, so it’s incredibly difficult,” he said when asked about the passing. “This is the era of NASCAR racing that we have today. Twenty years ago, there weren’t so many cars the same speed and passing and overtaking was easy.”
Perhaps that forced parity of the CoT, so good for that one race in ’08 may actually be what’s hurting Dover most of all. This track used to be a haven for comers and goers, tire dropoff allowing drivers to gain huge chunks of speed and positions over the course of a run. But now, the difficulty of simply passing a guy takes five, ten laps and the aero push you earn from being around those cars negates any type of advantage you have over the course of a run. So considering the amount you have to lose in the points, the time lost running side-by-side, and the handling problems encountered while doing so why take the risk for 14th over 15th? Especially when Dover’s a one-groove racetrack?
You found your answer Sunday, a single-file parade where any type of action was restricted to two, maybe four turns at most so everyone could go back to “searching for the right line.” Fun for the drivers? Absolutely. But their excitement means nothing unless there’s paying customers in place to go see that entertainment. The fact that those fans are dwindling, in record numbers means the current handling package in place, combined with this “new point system” isn’t the answer. And unless they find it, a track that’s been one of the sport’s finest, most unique facilities could be falling prey to a second date for another cookie-cutter sooner rather than later.
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Don’t discount the traffic as a major culprit. I live in Birmingham and know people who will not travel east on Talladega weekend because of horrible experiences in the 90s with traffic on I-20. When I tell people I’m headed to Talladega, 9 out of 10 people will tell me they’d love to go but they can’t stand the traffic. These are also people that love to tailgate at Auburn and Alabama football games, so I have to think their commitment to NASCAR is more the issue.
But, if you are a sport that is relying on a casual fan to fill out the grandstands, you are going to have a problem if people hear rumors of “terrible” traffic, even if it has been 10 years since traffic was a problem. Atlanta suffers from this problem as well even though the state solved Atlanta’s problems with some new interchanges.
I agree with you that Dover should be able to draw a bigger crowd, and my guess is some fans stayed away because of the weather report (I was surprised to find the race on when I turned on the TV).
Weather and traffic are two negatives to keep away the casual fan and marginal racing is going to eat away the base.
For what ever reason Dover wasnt a better sell, your last sentence scares the hell out of me and would be another Cashcar blunder if they chose to go that way. Nice article as always.
I just shake my head every time I hear someone try to blame the weather for attendance issues. I mean in all the races I have been to since 1980, never, not once, was weather a factor in deciding to go or not go. Tickets are bought in advanced, travel arrangements, lodging all made way before the day of the race. Now true, it could effect a few local fans, but when was the last time you went to a NASCAR event and sat beside a “local” fan?
Hell the way things are going, you will be lucky to have anyone sitting beside you! But that’s not necessarily a bad thing!
The stands were a very sad sight to see yesterday in Dover on TV. Even with huge sections covered with ad tarps, there were still huge empty sections of seats where people were supposed to be sitting. How much longer can NASCAR survive if the declines (attendance and interest) continue at their current rate?
I remember days at Bristol where rain was imminent and the stands were still full. Yes that has been a few years ago. As a matter of fact when the race was finally called that day, there were still more people sitting in the stands than there were for the entire race this Spring at Bristol! Make the racing exciting and people will be there and face any condition to witness the spectacle. Leave it boring with little action or passing, and they will just stay home. They probably wont even bother turning it on at all.
I think the fat lady might just need to start warming up.
I disagree about the economy, I believe that is a huge factor in not selling seats. A lower unemployment rate does not reflect how many people are UNDER-employed and cannot afford such luxuries as a NASCAR race any more. If they can watch the race on television and save the money they would have spent at the race, in order to buy food or fill up a gas tank or two, it is a no-brainer.
I remember the days of employment and my trips to Martinsville, now I cannot afford to even think about something this extravagant on unemployment wages… It is not just NASCAR, people have to be more strict on what they spend their money on.
It’s spec car racing at it’s worst. Combine that with focusing on points instead of wins and you get Dover yesterday. Sad.
Brian France went after the casual fan, and that’s exactly what he got. But I don’t think he was trying to make casual fans out of hardcore fans.
NASCAR today is completely unrecognizable from just ten years ago; they’ve got their parity and now no one is a superstar. Who’s tuning in to see if Regan Smith can pull down another win?
I turned on the race in mid-race and saw most of the screen covered up with a Sprint ad for a good minute; once it was off the screen it was about four laps before they went to commercial. The whole time the leaderboard was being interrupted: Coca-Cola, UPS, etc.
It’s like the networks know the ship is sinking and are grabbing every cent they can before they jump into the lifeboat.
Well done Brian.
In your assessment of the problem with attendance you missed the real reason, NASCAR moved the date from the first weekend in June to the middle of May last year, with the promise it was just for 1 year. Now, we are told it is permanent. I had to change to the fall event after 15 consecutive season at the spring race. NASCAR created this attendance problem, they were steady 100,00 plus at the spring race till then. I know 15-20 other families that also had to make the switch. Please place the blame where it belongs, NASCAR
If you all recall the old ‘business growth model’, it will explain clearly what is happening to NASCAR.
I live 10 minutes from IMS and have no intention of going to the Brickyard this year. I refuse to spend 75 bucks a ticket to watch mediocre racing. And Indy is one of the worst for traffic (and I used to go to Pocono – which is another story altogether).
Kevin if its “just” the economy, then why arent the TV numbers through the roof with all these people tuning in that cant afford to go to the race? Its not “just” the economy!
NASCAR is the new IROC. And what happened to IROC?
with that many folks nearby, they probably lost some due to weather as a lot of walk-ups changed their mind. But to tell the truth, Dover is getting what it deserves. Their mismanagement in Memphis and St Louis led to the demise of those tracks and now it looks like they have under promoted and mismanaged their own home. If there is justice the management at Dover will be in an unemployment soon.
it is the [old poops that have ruin our sport. not the drivers not the tracks. but the [old poops that have their brains in the wrong place.
In the past two years I finally converted my BF to a NASCAR fan. And its interesting to hear his views. One thing he noticed and hates more than anything else are the drivers he calls points racers.
Weather has nothing to do with it. Times are bad, really bad. $200 a night w/2 night min for Red Roof Ins just don’t cut it anymore. Tix are still expensive, and we have to pay for all that private jet fuel now, don’t forget. When Dale died, so did NASCAR. Even Gordon looks bored in the 24, and has lost his thirst. Racing on Sunday used to be about going to the races and forgetting about corporate america, now there’s 43 mid level managers on tv every Sunday afternoon saying I just wanna thank, God willing, car ran real reall good etc….I’m done with it. And I can be at Dover in 35 minutes. And one more thing..put back the asphalt and let ‘em slide a little again.
I think NASCAR has just come back to reality. Outside the big races you aren’t going to draw 100,000+ week after week anymore. Though the talk that the sport is going to shut down is a bit over the top. They still draw more than most MLB teams for a weekend series.
I agree that logging costs are a huge problem. However, on the other hand NASCAR tickets are very reasonably priced in my opinion. Not to mention they have free parking and let you bring coolers into the track. For me its refreshing to go to a race after going to a Yankee game where a decent seat costs $100+ and beers are $9.75. I agree with many that B. France has tried hard as hell to screw the thing up, but NASCAR still has a lot going for it. Overall the racing has been really good this year.
Sue… I like your concept car, but it’t too simple an idea for Na$crap and Brainfart Z. France to understand.
I’d like to think all those missing fans are out supporting their local short track. I know I am and have rediscovered real racing. Late Models rock.
With all the success of the Lowes car I wonder what Home Depot could be thinking running in the back every week. Are the Gibbs teamates all running the same equipment? If I were little Joey I wouldn’t be smiling so much.
I have attended races at Dover since 1988. I agree the racing just is not that good these days. I think the car is to blame. Lets face it, the CoT will not spin out by itself. As loose as those cars were Sunday, not one went around on it’s own power without a tire issue. There is no risk/reward for racing this car hard which leads to a single file parade. Fix the car and the racing will get better.
The other issue with Dover is ticket prices. This track has never lowered prices. They just now came up with ticket packages (full price with a few perks) but I only heard about those last minute, not that it mattered, I renewed my tix months ago. I understand they can’t just lower prices across the board but if it means keeping both races, lower them as they get closer to the date. Just give us long time full price ticket holders a few perks when I get there.
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