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.
Thomas Bowles · Wednesday May 30, 2012
Did You Notice?… There’s no place that signifies NASCAR’s turn from crashes to consistent green-flag racing than the Monster Mile? I studied the last ten years at Dover and found a fascinating transformation. A track that once chewed up cars and spit them out has instead become the hallmark of the “debris caution” era:
This trend is right in line with the last few races, which have shown an increasingly smaller number of wrecks. In Dover’s case, though, the culprit can be traced to another element we don’t often mention when it comes to “conservative” green-flag competition: the tires. A change in the compound over the past few seasons has made it nearly impossible to run side-by-side or to have cars on the edge of control handling-wise and it also limits the falloff over the course of a run. That parity in speed makes it next to impossible to pass, creating the type of “hold your position” racing fans hate.
What does that take away from a track like Dover? Unpredictability. For years, fans have been able to look at this race and know that, at any moment, a car could be chewed up through faulty Goodyears or a bad entrance into Turn 3. Now, the wrecks have been minimized and the racing has been forced into a type of single-file parade you’d expect at a larger intermediate track. No wonder why the speedway has seen a sharp decline in attendance the last few years.
Note: How crazy has this change in cautions been in 2012? At this time last year, we had five out of 12 events with double-digit yellow flags. This season, we’ve seen just one, this year’s rain-delayed Daytona 500 (which barely makes the cut at 10). But here’s the most fascinating statistic; excluding restrictor-plate races, the number of yellows we do have called for “competition, debris, rain, or fluid on the track” is an astounding 51% (26 of 51). If you take out the short tracks of Bristol and Martinsville, that number jumps to 67% (26 of 39). Compare that to this year’s Indianapolis 500, a race that had eight cautions for 39 laps – and zero for “debris” or “oil on the track.”
Did You Notice?… IndyCar’s long-term momentum from the 500 could be halted sooner than you think? Some might point to the 2012 ratings, down 5 percent from last year to a 4.1 in the Nielsens (for comparison’s sake, the Daytona 500 pulled a 7.7). But I’m not exactly surprised at the shrinking viewership despite Sunday’s fantastic finish. The 500 itself was not marketed well this year, with limited coverage and commercials outside the little-engine-that-could NBC Sports Network. Without Danica Patrick, there were a limited number of “big names” in the field (like it or not) and a smaller number of American favorites for the country to rally behind. Plus, with only 33 cars qualifying, the once-exciting Bump Day turned into a mere formality.
No, the real boost, in theory, should come from after Indy, when a number of casual fans were turned on by the most lead changes in 500 history and Takuma Sato’s last-lap desperation moment that fell short. Dario Franchitti, for all his familiarity in open-wheel circles, has the type of personality that could transcend, ala Helio Castroneves and his Dancing With The Stars performance. But what will fans find if they click on the TV and turn to Belle Isle this Sunday?
Road course racing. Single-file strategy… and lots of it, with cars bottlenecked and having to plan out their passes. Three-wide racing? You’re lucky to get two-wide on this narrow course, 180 degrees different than the type of competition fans were subjected to. It’s not bad, just different – not exactly the type of “hook you” event fans just introduced to the sport would be expecting. The next opportunity IndyCar will have to showcase its oval package is at Texas, June 9th, and then they won’t be at a similar type of 1.5-mile-or-larger speedway until Fontana for the season finale on September 15th. In all, less than 40 percent of the season will be run on ovals, a focus on road and street courses that showcases diversity but also limits the type of exciting competition we just saw.
Certainly, safety remains a concern in the wake of Dan Wheldon’s tragic crash in Las Vegas. But there’s something to build on with this package, and plenty of big tracks to choose from once built for IndyCars in the late 1990s. (Michigan? Homestead? Even an eventual return to Vegas?) The bottom line is even though the road racing has been solid, the key to growing this series on television is going to be on the oval tracks. Sure, the attendance might suffer in the short-term – some of the street courses draw large in-person crowds – but show any fan that Indy race on Sunday, give them a discount to their local track and they’ll be intrigued enough to consider showing up.
Did You Notice?… The way Kasey Kahne held his composure, even in the worst of times? I say that not only to praise him but also compare to another NASCAR driver in the midst of his Dr. Phil crisis, AJ Allmendinger. Like Kahne, the ‘Dinger has flashed speed through much of this 2012 season, running second at Martinsville and scoring four top-5 starts in 12 races – including a pole at Kansas. But all too often, a series of hard-luck circumstances have taken over; engine problems in that same Kansas race, a series of wrecks (Daytona, Phoenix, Darlington) and even a broken left front hub, at Charlotte which left him frustrated and an ever-prototypical “unavailable for comment.”
Now ‘Dinger is the type of guy who wears his emotions on his sleeve, an asset when you’re cashing in on top 5s every week (or headed to the bar on a Friday night – this guy is one of the most outgoing, fun-loving NASCAR drivers on the circuit). But when you put him in a slump, one of the worst of his career, in which his back is increasingly against the wall in top-tier equipment? I present the following “official” quote:
“Something happened with the left front hub; I’m not sure exactly what happened there. We were never good from the start; we just weren’t good, very fast this weekend. It’s disappointing to have something else break every weekend. We weren’t very good anyway.”
Ugh. Can I have a little cheese with that hidden whine (for the record, one of our staffers observed ‘Dinger, post-hub failure and can pin the personality that forced out those words). I say that because this man is despondent headed to one of his best tracks, Dover, a place the No. 22 Dodge should have confidence: their team won last Fall here with Kurt Busch. ‘Dinger, in his last four starts there has qualified no worse than eighth, collected two top-10 finishes and led 152 laps. It should be a place where confidence, perhaps an upset win should be an expected result.
But here’s where Kahne and Allmendinger differ. The former, during his time of need, had the support of about a half-dozen crewmembers picking him up. They’re close friends, from crew chief Kenny Francis to mechanics in the shop that have stood by him for nearly a decade, confidantes outside the corporate atmosphere of HMS. Then, you had a hands-on car owner in Rick Hendrick challenging him, combined with support from at least two teammates that truly want to be engaged in Kahne’s success: Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.
Where is that web of support at Penske for ‘Dinger? Do you see his 75-year-old owner, an open-wheel guy, coming in every Tuesday, putting his arm around AJ and going, “It’ll be OK?” No, because in the end, what was a dream for the driver was a last-minute option for the owner. No one, from the shop sweeper to sponsor Shell/Pennzoil, had planned a long-term investment here; it was up to the driver to prove his worth, all by himself.
Now, the man’s stuck on an island, watching the dream crumble and there’s no one internally to turn to. So the frustration builds, an ugly cycle, and before you know it? Public comments start alienating a crew of strangers who have just been through the ringer with Kurt Busch. It’s an ugly snowball, rolling down the mountain, and I worry without a confidence-building run this weekend (remember, June 2011 is where Keselowski took off) there’s no one to stop the pink slip from getting written this November.
Did You Notice?… Quick hits before we take off:
- Our Brett Poirier had an amazing comparison I’d like you all to see regarding Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon. I’ll summarize: Kahne’s little run towards the top started with an innocent seventh-place run in Fort Worth in mid-April. What position did Jeff Gordon finish in at Charlotte? Seventh. What I’ll add to that is Hendrick’s unlimited resources, which can now be focused on Gordon during the summer months with two drivers solidly in the Chase and a third (Kahne) well on his way. With a top-20 points position all you need, including wins, don’t be surprised if Gordon isn’t out of the running for the postseason quite yet. After all, we all thought (me included) Kahne was dead in the water…
- What’s up with Stewart-Haas Racing? No need to go inside the numbers; bottom line is it’s nothing the Chase can’t fix. Remember, this slump they’re in was nothing compared to last sluggish summer before ripping off five wins in ten races. The major goal here is to make sure Ryan Newman doesn’t miss it; as long as they pick up a second win for the No. 39 (Loudon, anyone?) the “meaningless” regular season for those already holding a Chase bid makes their struggles a moot point.
- NASCAR’s economic problem is scheduled to reach epidemic proportions once again at Dover, which it usually does; for whatever reason, it’s a market even major teams have trouble acquiring sponsorship for. At least seven, perhaps up to nine teams won’t go the distance on the Cup side while the number of Nationwide cars without enough funding could reach 14. 14! That’s one-third of the field; even if you’re in the “I don’t care” camp when it comes to start-and-parking, that’s hard to ignore from a competitive standpoint.
- Overnight numbers for Charlotte’s Coca-Cola 600 were up 2 percent, from a 4.0 to a 4.1. A total of 5.06 million households were listed as viewing the race, more than expected after heavy criticism over the competition. But here’s one theory I have; after an exciting Indy 500, wouldn’t you want to keep watching racing to see if the 600 would be just as good? Just like with the bad numbers at Indy, sometimes it takes awhile for the audience to catch up to the excitement – or lack thereof.
- 140,000 in Charlotte? We haven’t brought up attendance that much this year, but I have to differ with NASCAR’s assessment. Much of the Turn 2/backstretch seating was empty this weekend, with a giant American flag covering about 50% of possible spaces. Are they counting that on the list?
Look, these issues are well-documented and it’s clear stock car racing isn’t the only sport having problems (many baseball teams have reported a decline in attendance this year). But all we ask for is honesty; if 80,000 seats were sold, then why not report that as the number? It’s still more than almost any NFL team gets for a single game. I just don’t see why this type of gross exaggeration, to the point the numbers are laughable if you look at them has to continue.
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Two points, both about road racing. First, the race at Belle Isle will be processional, no question. Real road racing takes place on circuits like Laguna Seca or Road America., not pseudo Monaco courses. Second, however processional it may be, it’s a he’ll of a lot more interesting than most of t he NASCAR races on 1.5 ovals where the objective seems to be to hold your position, don’t take any chances and focus on that idiotic exercise called the chase.
There are so many good, classic road courses in North America that Indycar is ignoring, because they can’t use their street race “Festival” formula that might see 100,000 people over the course of a weekend. Most of the time it sucks for racing, but it’s great for an “event.”
Long Beach and St. Pete need to stay, as does the Toronto Indy, but other than that most of them are awful.
I also really like Edmonton, but it’s an airport course, not street, so it’s different.
Just think how cool it would be to see them run some of the great old road courses from their past… Laguna Seca, Road Atlanta, Road America, VIR, Mosport, Montreal, maybe Hermanos Rodriguez…
And remember the Burke Lakefront in Cleveland? It was an airport course similar to Edmonton and the racing was always great. Would love to see them go back there.
Not to mention getting rid of awful and dangerous Super Speedways in favour of flat ovals they belong on: Iowa (already there), Loudon, Richmond, Phoenix, Pocono…
We don’t need no stinkin” CHASE!
It would be so great to see the Indy cars at Mosport again. After all, how do you think the Andretti Straight got its name. It would scare the drivers all to he??.
As with Indy cars, NASCAR needs more road course races. Times have changed. In the late 60’s and early 70’s people emulated drag cars on the streets because they could relate to them. Today, people are into the “G” machine deal and that would apply directly to road course racing in NASCAR
I don’t want to see wrecks. I want hard racing FOR THE WIN.
The current points system and chase is killing what little excitement is left in nascar.
Add to that the Goodyear concrete Eagles and the COT, which only Cheating Chad can modify, and we’re not left with much.
I think we’re seeing another side of the Kurt Busch at Penske story. If an all time good guy like Dinger is having trouble there….
The problem with the tires not giving up has to do, in part, with the the shorter fuel runs. The cars can only go 75-80 miles, instead of close to 100 on fuel, which means whatever problems would show up at the end of a 90-100 mile run don’t exist because they can no longer go that far on a tank of fuel. If NASCAR increases the distance the cars can go on a tank of fuel, I think you’ll see better racing because the drivers will have to conserve their tires. That, along with the conservative racing tha points system has brought along, is why you’re seing so many extremely long green flag runs, which are leading to long-standing race records broken, and in some cases, shattered.
Also, the writer of this article mention that there were 140,000 at Charlotte for the Coca-Cola 600, which represented another drop in attendance for that event. But let’s not forget that the estimated attendance for the Indianapolis 500 was only 220,000. Not long ago, the Brickyard 400 drew more than that. The 220,000 at Indy represented a lower number of spectators than there are seats at Indy, and that’s the first time I can ever remember an attendance figure that low for the Indianapolis 500 since double decker seating was introduced at Indy in the late 1940s. So it’s not just NASCAR that’s struggling for attendance. When the Indianapolis 500 can’t even sell out, there’s a bgger problem than anyone suspects.
I like road racing but have to agree that if you want to capture AWOL NASCAR fans that enjoyed Indy, all of the ABC/ESPN races have to be ovals. They used to go to Milwaukee right after Indy. Great track!
If they do a road course instead, it has to be a real one and not a street course. Those rarely have good racing.
Indycar is headed in the right direction but their TV situation is dragging them down. We’re not in an economy where people can choose the deluxe cable package with all the channels. They need to get the races on NBC or at the very least CNBC. Unlike the Frances, I have confidence that they know the problems and will do something.
Indy cars @Pocono, that would be fantastic, Pocono is a perfect track for Indy cars, It drives like a road course, its big and lots of places to pass, especially the front straight.
I was shocked to read “motocrossed” say Pocono would be great for Indy cars! YES it was, many many times. I hope it returns. Also, it was built for them at first!
140,000 at Charlotte-no way
Blue Seats in Turn 4—half full at best
i have been looking at Google maps images of racetracks and have noticed a shocking and sad decline in the actual seats at racetracks. like bud sudz said, 1&2 at charlotte; gone. backstretch and part of fronstretch grandstands; gone. Michigans’ in 3&4. gone. i plan making a full report and posting it somewhere soon, but this is an unfortunate thing that’s happening in NASCAR.
i have been looking at Google maps images of racetracks and have noticed a shocking and sad decline in the actual seats at racetracks. like bud sudz said, 1&2 at charlotte; gone. backstretch and part of fronstretch grandstands at atlanta; gone. Michigans’ in 3&4. gone. i plan making a full report and posting it somewhere soon, but this is an unfortunate thing that’s happening in NASCAR.
I wonder if the lack of an increase in viewership for the 500 had to do with the racing being rather boring the past few years and fans expecting the same.
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