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.
Bowles-Eye View · Thomas Bowles · Monday March 19, 2012
Sequels to great movies often leave us with a sour taste. But have you ever watched one before seeing the original? More often than not, you’ll leave the theater with a far better feeling than those who saw both. That’s because expectations are different; your imagination hasn’t run wild. The storyline of what’s supposed to happen with the characters, a plotline climaxing in an A+, “can’t fail” performance hasn’t been set in your head. For once trained, the mind is a difficult thing to change; the success of the original also comes with a curse. How could anything else compare? Your subconscious has already assured it can’t.
I know what you’re thinking; you came here to read a NASCAR article. But more than ever, that type of comparison feels appropriate considering the great repaving Bristol “mistake.” Once the hardest ticket to get in all of sports, there were more empty seats at “Thunder Valley” than people actually in attendance on Sunday. Sure, the “official box score” said 102,000 but a venue that, at capacity could hold 160K looked lucky to have 70,000 butts in the stands. Even if you believe NASCAR’s estimate, that’s still a 36.2 percent decline in just the last three years for a place that’s earned a label as the mecca of national short track racing.
But that reputation, earned through the “old Bristol” has left indelible images permanently implanted in our heads. We remember a one-groove racetrack, with contact the norm and not the exception in a place where passing often came at a price. Mechanics used to loathe postmortem Mondays, working overtime to fix the sheet metal on cars that wouldn’t pass muster for a Demolition Derby after the race. Patience was a virtue, and also a necessity, as drivers would need to “force” their way through the field or risk spending 500 laps stuck in place.
That chrome horn was used, more often than not in perhaps the one venue where contact and crashes were an accepted part of the game. I’m not saying fans watch for those wrecks, that they should or that contact is safe. But Bristol had the reputation of being the one place where you felt the drivers would emerge unhurt, leaving fans to focus on the drama in the aftermath of their disastrous ending.
And boy, what drama there was. It was the one place where emotions would always lead to a top-10 soundbite, where even the best-behaved could lose their temper and throw a tantrum for the world to see. There was mild-mannered Dale Jarrett, in 1993 throwing his helmet at Bobby Hillin, Jr. after a wreck. There was the rare, politically incorrect Jimmie Johnson, in 2002 ripping Robby Gordon a new one in the same sequence Ward Burton threw his heel covers at Dale Earnhardt, Jr. … because he had nothing to shoot him with.
And then, there was Dale Sr. himself, a successful competitor at a track that catered to his Intimidator label. You had Earnhardt spin friend / rival Rusty Wallace, in 1995 and Wallace react with displeasure. Then there was Terry Labonte wreck number one, in that same event which led to Labonte crossing the checkered flag sideways; still leading, but with his Kellogg’s Corn Flakes car torn to pieces. Four years later, he wasn’t so lucky in a wipeout that left Earnhardt saying I’m sorry in the form of “rattle his cage.” Even now, the best racers at this track are also known as the most aggressive on the circuit: do the names Kurt and Kyle Busch ring a bell?
All of these names and events come together to form a certain brand of competition. Through the years, the Bristol fans had come to expect was unique from any other race, any other venue out on the circuit. There would be 15-20 cautions, sure, which would decimate half the field. But between that Russian Roulette method of survival, they relished the strategies drivers made to combat those ugly wrecks and impatience. They enjoyed the different crew chief’s ways to gain or lose track position. And they appreciated how lapped traffic, which can now politely get out of the way, could hold up the leader and cause a ten-car jam-up for the top spot in a heartbeat.
Ever since that repave, in 2007, by and large that type of competition at Bristol has disappeared. What’s left in its place isn’t bad; it’s just different. In fact, I would kill for the type of side-by-sides we see at Thunder Valley now to happen at the intermediates like Chicagoland or Kansas, 1.5-mile struggles that NASCAR still hasn’t figured out since their 2001 debut on the circuit. But on those tracks, you could never have the type of contact “old Bristol” used to offer; in this age of aero push, it would mean competitive death. Impatience comes in the form of aerodynamics, not driver roadblocks; plus fuel mileage, not fuming tempers have become the order of the day on those speedways. Fans deal with that type of strategy three times a month; Bristol used to offer them something more.
Now, they don’t have it, and because of that their brain thinks “it’s just another race.” It’s a shame, really, because at times the racing at Bristol is very, very good. Sunday offered its share of compelling storylines, as well as a few “fireworks” here and there: see Earnhardt vs. Gordon, along with the six-car wreck that wiped out pre-race favorite Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, and Kasey Kahne before 25 laps were even complete. You had Brian Vickers racing with a sense of urgency, leading well over 100 laps in a fifth-place finish that may well save his Sprint Cup career. Even A.J. Allmendinger, not exactly a short track specialist spent time up front before fading late in the race.
In between were fantastic side-by-side battles, for the lead between Matt Kenseth and eventual winner Brad Keselowski. The half-mile offered plenty of grooves, more than any other short track we’ve seen to the point that type of action doesn’t scrub off too much speed. Plenty of space to race also leads to few, if any crashes: at one point, we had a 220-lap green-flag run. That’s more laps than we even race at nearly a quarter of Sprint Cup events. Sure, some of that is conservatism, drivers taking it easy to ensure a Chase-building finish in race four of the regular season. But if you forget what Bristol used to be, then go back and watch this event it’s hard to say it was a bad race. The same style of competition happens at Atlanta, which produced a thrilling ending between Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon last Fall. If I sit here and say Bristol sucked, then don’t I have to say that was awful, too?
The drivers are sitting there scratching their heads, uncertain how this product isn’t playing to the fan base. And of course they love the new racetrack; why wouldn’t they? Instead of feeling stuck in highway traffic, their minds turning to mush over three-plus hours they can race at their own pace in peace. The aftermath of new asphalt is making it easy; it’s hard to suggest changes when it makes life difficult. Others, like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. think better tires might bring the field closer, perhaps leading to three-wide competition at times.
But that’s missing the point; fans don’t want that type of action here. Instead, after enduring the loss of so many special traditions Bristol appears to be the one where they shout, “Enough!” They want a one-groove facility, they want political incorrectness back and drivers to lose their temper in the aftermath of broken race cars. Otherwise, in their heads, poor Bristol has become just another race, one that becomes the marketing kiss of death for northeastern Tennessee track officials. That normalcy brings the reality of absurd hotel prices, an inconvenient location in the mountains and traffic patterns that get you home in hours, not minutes. With several options within 500 miles of Charlotte, there’s plenty of places for Southeastern race fans to spend their cash. And with NCAA Basketball clogging up the news cycle, the only way NASCAR can get mentioned is for the A+, Bristol of old to rear its head, rivalries and rogue emotions creating the soundbites needed for air.
Is it fair? No. But without an adjustment, those alternatives will continue to win out; because for fans, Bristol is no longer special. The expectations in their heads are set, and stubborn minds will never lose the beauty of what once was, regardless of how “almost good” the sequel has become. That means the message is clear: Bruton better stop blaming the economy and bring back the original before it’s too late.
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©2000 - 2008 Thomas Bowles and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
I guess it is always “different strokes for different folks.” I saw lots of old-track Bristol races. Yeah, they had they own kind of appeal; wrecks, crashes, spins, pushing and shoving…and most times that was before the green flag dropped or during cautions laps. I don’t think that the fans left Bristol because they reconfigured the track. I think the fans left because NA$CAR reconfigured racing, and not just at Bristol.
If you look at what NA$CAR has done to racing as a whole – it is a pitiful shame. There are tracks all over the country that have had a drop-off in attendance. Of course I’m not saying anything that hasn’t already been painfully pointed out. Yes, the racing is different at Thunder Valley due to the new track. But as a whole, racing itself has been reconfigured and not necessarily in a way that will draw back the lost fans – or for that matter – draw in many new ones either. As we all know, the only thing constant is there will be change. Let’s just hope NA$CAR figures out the best ones before they chase all the fans off.
I agree with much of what MJR said but I would offer one more comment. When you go to one of the first 26 races, you know in your mind its not a championship event, its simply a qualifier for the championship. Subtle, maybe but with the old system you could look back and say gee if they had finished tenth instead of twelfth at track x, he would have been champion; now its gee he would have qualified for the championship.
I haven’t attended a Bristol race since the change. I was lucky enough to get tickets to the last weekend before the re-pave though and it was sad to see the place so empty yesterday!
I agree with both Don and MJR and would also like to add that the reason I liked the “old” Bristol was because it WAS more difficult. Let’s face it, these are supposed to be the best of the best in racing!
Why do they need another track where speed and design will get them to the front. I liked watching them have to qualify well and then keep or gain the track position needed to win!
You had to be a great driver to keep the fenders clean and get to the end of the race (not to mention being lucky not to end up in someone else’s mess).
I know a lot of these guys have skill, but it was one of the few venues where they had to really show it to move forward.
That’s what I miss of the old Bristol.
Plain and simple, Bristol has become another snooze fest!
Even with the new configuration, Bristol is still better than most tracks on the circuit. I think MJR is more correct, NASCAR has simply Chased too many fans away. It says it all when the most marketed driver in the sport at the moment is someone with fewer actual on-track accomplishments than Casey Mears.
To paraphrase “Office Space”—
“Looks like you’ve been missing a lot of races lately.” “I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’ve been ‘missing’ them, Bob.”
Multiple groove track my ass, at what point did you see cars that were remotely equal pass on the inside. the only thing enjoyable about sunday for me was that I had plenty of leg room and spare seats for my cooler and lunch.
You actually used the phrase “ race at their own pace in peace”? You are more out of touch than BMS and NASCAR combined! Does anyone really think that is what we want? Go ask the empty bleachers, they will tell you.
Don — your comment is absolutely spot on! When you go to one of the first 26 races, you know in your mind its not a championship event, its simply a qualifier for the championship.
Why bother to attend or even watch on TV now? It’s a shame because every race used to be a standalone event – now it’s just for seeding — and I hate it.
I never thought I’d see the day when a cup event at Bristol would be boring and half the seats empty.
And now we go to Fontana? 5-hour energy can’t even help that. The 48 will probably win it.
I guess I’ll be out mowing the grass Sunday then.
Bristol 2007 is the perfect example of fixing what wasn’t broken. After 5 years, I know I should stop whining about it but I can’t because it almost feels personal. Like they went and ruined ‘my’ Bristol for no good reason at a time when it was the hardest ticket in racing.
I went to every race at Bristol from 68 into the late 70’s. Wasn’t problem getting tickets the morning of the race.
When I go to a race I usually plan in advance and a few years ago I saw that Bristol was moved to a March race date and I laughed and said what fool would go to Bristol in the mountains in March and sit in the snow and cold to watch a race well I got free tickets and was a fool who camped at the track and the temp dropped to 31 at night and I will never be a fool again. If they move it back to April I would possibly come back and a March race date will never be planned even with free tickets.
So, Keith…swapping California and Bristol wouldn’t bother ya? I do think it’s stupid to travel to the West-coast tracks, then back to run Bristol, then out to California. Must be BZF thinkin’ there.
I love the new Bristol, It’s more racing, less demo-derby. They may have given the top a little too much advantage, but it’s still better than the dump-and-run, one-groove track it used to be.
And, please, Get off the attendance thing. The sport isn’t about butts in the seats. I want the media to br talking about who’s winning and who’s losing, not about who’s missing in action.
I’ll always prefer good close racing without beating and banging, so count me as preferring the new Bristol. If I want to see beating and banging, there’s always Martinsville, which is a lot tighter, more exciting and also SAFER to beat and bang on.
The PROBLEM with Sunday’s race was that FOX made it their mission to only ever cover the top 5. While Kenseth vs BK was fun to watch, there was even better racing back in the pack that no one heard a damn thing about.
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