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.
Monday night, after the Super Bowl. It marks the end of NFL season, but the beginning of a slow transition where NASCAR once again preps to take center stage. The next big American sporting event belongs to stock car racing; the Daytona 500 stands less than three weeks away. And no matter how far this sport has fallen, that 9.9 television rating for the Great American Race, just last season still held a larger audience than last year’s World Series. NASCAR remains competitive with stick and ball sports in that arena; NBC didn’t just pay $440 million a year for a sport that will give nothing back.
It’s important to recognize those facts while feeling like Sprint Cup racing stands on the edge of a rocky cliff, the kind where cars go over the precipice only if they feel like splintering into a thousand pieces. The Boston Tea Party would be envious of Winter’s riot fans appear to be throwing, one week after changes to NASCAR’s Chase leave the way to pick the sport’s yearly championship unrecognizable from anything before it.
Change is hard enough to sell; unpopular change is potentially devastating. And a look at the “poll of polls,” comments hitting my inbox and those from articles detailing these major adjustment leave the “avid supporters” of NASCAR’s new ten-race playoff at somewhere around 10 percent. Excitement surrounding the sport’s biggest race has been met with confusion by the masses, most of whom don’t understand the new system and resistance from the very souls paying money to be sitting in those seats down in Florida.
The roots of said protest represent thousands of grown men and women acting like they’re in the death throes of a bad relationship. “I’m done.” “How could Brian France do this?” “I’m selling my season tickets to Bristol and moving to Cancun in protest.” (OK, maybe the last part isn’t true. But wouldn’t it be nice with this winter?) NASCAR’s insistence they did market research on their latest major shift, turning the title into a four-driver, best-finish-take-all procedure at Homestead seems to have used the wrong target audience. Last I checked Brian’s cousin, 100 ISC employees and the blind old lady in the nursing home don’t really give you a diversified opinion.
There’s one thing to be said about the new Chase experiment: great timing. I’m actually serious here. It’s a “lame duck” year with television partners TNT, ABC, and ESPN, the part of the package whose ratings were hurting (in comparison to FOX, whose first half audience has pretty much leveled off). If this rollercoaster, slam-bang idea turns out to be a Fall disaster, there’s an out for NASCAR to call the whole thing off just before NBC starts their ten-year program. You don’t roll the dice in 2015, especially with changes in scheduling and perhaps other major shifts on the horizon. If you’re going to be crazy, be crazy now; “out with the old, in with the new” is going to be your mantra anyway in 12 short months.
But risking that stability, in general right now is perhaps the sport’s biggest problem. One of the reasons the NFL keeps growing is its core rules simply don’t shift. Sure, maybe kickoffs get moved five yards back, or safety improves to minimize concussions. But you don’t go, from year-to-year and fail to recognize the sport in a matter of 12 months. NASCAR, with all its intricacy, from teamwork to restart tweaks to pit road strategy is hard enough to pick up on the surface. Now, we’re dealing with the following in just the last decade alone…
2004: New ten-race playoff, with ten drivers for the title replacing a “modern era,” season-long format in place since 1975.
None of those changes address race-to-race competition; they’re all surrounding season-long math. But I digress; dismiss for a minute your head spinning over trying to simply digest those rules. The bottom line is we’ve seen the format adjust four times in 11 years, the largest of many traditions NASCAR has not hesitated to tear apart (Darlington, more cookie-cutter racing, etc.). Is this sport stable… or is it a Ponzi scheme? Baseball, by comparison adjusted their playoffs twice over the past 21 seasons – and “old school” fans are still pouncing, daily while the new ones digest a somewhat diluted form of the product. Part of maintaining order in any sport, I feel is reacting to problems rationally. Tearing down the house and starting over seems kind of extreme, right?
The fact this format needs an infographic explainer makes the whole decision ten times worse. Cliches of “Final Four” and claims winning will get you a title doesn’t change the fact, under this format a winless Dale Earnhardt, Jr. would have taken home the trophy in 2013. And what do we make of NASCAR’s 26-race regular season? It was easy enough for guys like Jimmie Johnson to make the Chase in the past few years. Now, if someone like him or Kasey Kahne wins Phoenix in February… do they take the next six months off? Turn it into the world’s longest test session? Convincing these drivers to get up on the wheel, for more than the last few laps already became a daunting proposition as is. It’s hard to race for fourth, in the final 50 circuits when you’ve got your win and you know that extra point doesn’t matter. Drivers can talk to me until they’re blue in the face… but that extra “oomph” won’t always be there when the money, the job… their short-term futures are fully secure.
I’m worried about that, a dilution of the product plus teamwork between multi-car teams who need every driver in. When Joe Gibbs Racing has their first two cars in, why not throw every resource behind the third to make sure they all make the postseason? Money will drive these decisions, not individual competition and that’s not what the fans are coming to see. Sure, there will be more strategy, underdogs doing their best to win on, say, fuel mileage but last I checked we’re trying to attract fans of fast cars… not chess.
It’s important to note these are pitfalls NASCAR’s willing to live with, every direct quote from the brass referencing how long and hard this decision was to make. Track officials, marketers, they’re all going to sing the company line because there’s no other choice. So many others, even if slightly critical will back off now and take an unbiased approach: let the year play out and see how it goes. Even Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch, who seemingly hate the new changes have their careers, their livelihoods invested in the sport’s success. There is no other choice but to shut up and compete.
But for fans… they do have an out. And after so much resistance, these past few weeks the question is whether it’s all an empty threat – or a mass exodus that will make NASCAR regret their version of “radical” change. Is that the conversation we really want to have two weeks before the sport’s biggest race?
The short answer is no. But NASCAR, once again has left us with no other choice.
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©2000 - 2008 Thomas Bowles and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
My best on line friend died the other day. Sort of glad rd didn’t see this mess to the sport he loved.
Some very good points made in this article, Tom.
This has taken the wind out of the sails of many fans before the season even starts. At least my expectations are set low.
I know that there are 5 of us who have not renewed our season tickets this year when we have for the past 10.
They should have broken up the points and given them out at approximately quarter (or fifths) segments of the race to try and keep things interesting. And gotten rid of the chase. But no, Brian is way smarter than the rest of us.
The one given is that the Daytona 500 will have a big audience. The Indy 500 has a huge audience too but like the Daytona 500 it’s an iconic race and will gather a crowd no matter what the rest of their respective season does.
My nephew used to hot rod his cars till he moved to the city and now doesn’t even own a car. The only Nascar races he’s watched were when he was at my house. However when he isn’t out playing sports he’s home watching football, baseball, hockey, Euro soccer and even American soccer league…..Nascar isn’t even a blip on his screen.
There is a saying about the straw that broke the camels back and whether this season’s changes are that straw or next years changes are will play themselves out. The France’s have their TV money and nothing will change till “the proud sponsor of Nascar” companies no longer see any benefit to paying for that slogan. Once the France family has to cut back to only one new Ferrari a year then they will remove Brian.
I love auto racing, some forms more than others. I used to race, and for the win. Now that I must satisfy my racing addiction by watching TV, NASCAR is the prevalent show. My first season of watching, I was shocked and a little upset someone else was celebrating at the end of the last season race. That’s bull!! Ya didn’t win the race, get off the track! That belongs to da winnah!!! Wow did I kick the poop outa some cushions!!! Championship racing is a pleasant side trip. Each race according to the rules IS da BEEF that supports me, and for that I am grateful. My side trips into opinions and sometimes ridiculous comments are a tasty tidbit. Just please help me feast on the racing according to the rules once in a while by taking a couple of reviews of the article or comment before you click [post]. I just love the thrill of my butt puckering as I ride with another man driving his car farther into a corner than where angles and even I fear to tread. David
I really don’t understand how draining even more importance from the individual races helps increase interest in the sport. By focusing so much attention on the final race, why bother watching or attending any but the final race? By using these gimmicks, they are simply avoiding the basic problem, which is making every race more interesting and competitive. The cookie cutter cars, tracks, and aero dependence don’t help. Keeping teams in such a small box doesn’t allow for the creativity that used to keep fans interested. Amazing that a man who grew up around the men who made this sport can be so oblivious to what made it so popular.
nascrap gets all over MWR about possible fixing a race. But they do it all the time. Now it has flowed over to the Rolex, with YELLOW flags. THE france family does not stop messing up racing.
Human nature is to complain when an event occurs that people dislike more than it is to praise when an event occurs that people do like. For proof of that, check out the comments section on just about every article ever published online. Overwhelmingly the comments are more negative than positive. As such, when consulting one’s inbox, reading comments on articles and viewing Twitter, it would appear as though NASCAR’s decision is unpopular. However, I find it unreasonable to suggest that NASCAR, with its millions of dollars and vast resources, wouldn’t have done its due diligence in polling a representative sample of NASCAR fans and non-fans alike to determine a format that would appeal to a majority as opposed to appealing to just the online sector of its fan-base.
Secondly, while true these changes don’t address the race to race competition, the changes to the chase do make winning more important. It is now “win and you’re in” versus – “race well for 26 races and you’re in”. Not to mention that NASCAR is working with the teams and with Goodyear to make changes to the car to make the racing more exciting. That is a work in progress and there isn’t a magic bullet that will make each and every lap of every race exciting. That process will continue forever.
Thirdly, you can’t go back in time and erase history to re-write it with today’s rules, so to say that Dale Earnhardt Jr would have won the 2013 championship is false. Nobody other than Jimmie Johnson won the 2013 championship, and had the season been run with different rules, no one could say what would have happened differently as no one can predict the variables and changes in strategy that would have occurred and thus no one could predict the result. If we had the ability to predict the result in sporting events, the events themselves would not occur. Thus to state that “this event would occur had this event happened” is a fools errand.
Finally, to suggest that drivers who achieve wins early in the season under the new format will simply turn the remaining races into test sessions is to suggest that drivers and teams don’t care about pride, trophies, money and sponsors. Can you honestly see Jimmie Johnson winning the Daytona 500 and then running nothing but test sessions until Chicago? And during that time having all of their setups be so poor as to have them not competing for wins each and every week? On the contrary, Jimmie and Chad will try and dominate the entire season by being better and more creative than every other driver. That is what drives them. That is why they go to the shop every day and to the track every weekend. Every other driver will be out their not just to win their race and clinch their chase berth, but also to keep the Jimmie’s and Chad’s from being dominant. Every other driver out their has something to prove, either to themselves, or their owners, or their sponsors.
All of that to say, do I think that NASCAR has made the right call with the changes they have implemented? That remains to be seen. I know that I’ll be watching, because it certainly seems exciting. It isn’t the direction I would have gone, but that doesn’t mean that its wrong. At the end of the day, I watch NASCAR because I love to watch cars drive at high speeds. I watch NASCAR because rubbing is racing. I watch because I’m emotionally invested in my favorite manufacturer and my favorite driver. I go to the races for the roar of engines, the squealing of tires, the smell of burning rubber and the burnt exhaust fumes. I am a fan of NASCAR for all of these reasons and more. And the truth is that regardless of the changes NASCAR has made to the sport in my 33 years of life, none of those reasons have been affected by the changes NASCAR has made. Rubbing is still racing, I still want my favorites to do well, and nothing beats the atmosphere at a NASCAR race. The sport will never be perfect, it has evolved from a sport where 2nd place was regularly laps down to the leader to a sport where 2nd is fractions of a second behind the leader. The rules change with an eye towards making the sport better tomorrow than it is today. Not every decision will be the right one, but if today’s decision is wrong, tomorrow they’ll go in a different direction and I’ll still be along for the ride.
Good article, Tom and you make a very coherent list of the reasons why I am upset about this change to what has been, up until now, my favorite sport.
I have been pretty vocal on twitter about how I feel about it. I would also like to know who they polled and how the questions were framed because I can say from my own point of view and from discussions with fans at some of the tracks I’ve been to over the past few years – the chase itself was NOT popular – contrary to Brian France’s disbelief and comment “someone told you they didn’t like it”. Sheesh, how clueless can you be? I agree, ripping up the entire fabric of the sport, rather than doing the hard things that need to be done to make the race cars better so that the racing itself (the reason why I actually go to the races) is a short sighted way to go about it.
As you say, obviously the drivers don’t have a choice, they will sing whatever song Brian and his minions put in front of them. After all, that is a corporate decision. It also makes their comments suspect IMO. Once upon a time, if drivers I liked said they were in favor of something, I would believe them and think about it. That ship sailed the first time NASCAR penalized a driver for speaking their opinion and that has also cost NASCAR because they destroyed not only NASCAR’s crediblity but the drivers as well.
I think this format makes the potential for cheating and team orders an overwhelming possibility and having races turn into demolition derbys and the championship final race into a crapshoot is sickening.
I have said I will hang in until Gordon retires – honestly I thought he would in 2010 when the DuPont contract expired, but he’s continuing at least through 2014, so I will pay at least some attention to the sport, but BZF wants the casual fans, he’s succeeded in turning a lot of die hards into that. However, my family and I have not renewed the race tickets that we normally would have – the “fun” part of the sport simply isn’t worth the money it costs at this point.
Kevin, I would disagree that the people who are posting their comments are not representative of “avid fans”. You are entitled to your opinion, but so are those who think this is a stupid idea and I believe that those opinions are more valid than the ones that I would expect BZF & his NASCAR cronies to have used to form their opinion. It’s been obvious for years that the “emperor has no clothes” but no one can tell him that.
A lot of good discussion here, from Tom’s column and all of the comments. As Kevin said, the impact of the new format remains to be seen. Me, I’m hopeful, but certainly not very optimistic.
One more thing Kevin, Regarding – “However, I find it unreasonable to suggest that NASCAR, with its millions of dollars and vast resources, wouldn’t have done its due diligence in polling a representative sample of NASCAR fans and non-fans alike to determine a format that would appeal to a majority as opposed to appealing to just the online sector of its fan-base.”
We really can’t tell how fair those polls are because most of us have never seen one. I can say I have never seen a poll on NASCAR.com where one of the options was “we should get rid of the chase”. If you can prove to me that those who were part of the process were given that option as one of the choices I might be willing to agree with your supposition regarding NASCAR’s “due dilligence”. But personally, I haven’t seen it and I consider myself a serious NASCAR fan.
BTW, my point here is that NASCAR structures the poll in a way that leads the results in the direction that they want (assuming there is a poll). Bottom line, I just want to see one to appraise how fair it is.
I agree with Kevin. I’m a recent convert to NASCAR and I’ve grown to love it in the last couple of years. I watch and go to the races for the cars, the power, the drivers, the experience. I don’t go for the rules format. I’m sticking with NASCAR. I’m excited to see what happens this year and how the new format works.
Great article! Pretty much sums up me and about 10 of my friends, who watch a lot of the races. @Kevin- Im glad you are a man of patience and a realist. Those are great traits to have, and a lot less stressful. I dont have an ounce of that in me, so Im up in arms over this. I think, more than anything, people like me are mad because of NASCARs lack of communication with its real fans. Real fans are the ones who dont care about the glitter, just the racing. I think a lot of the outrage stems from the fact we never were even given a chance to give our opinion. It feels like they never cared anyway! They could have at least done polling at every race last year, so they could at least have the opinion of the people spending their hard earned cash AT THE TRACK!No phony focus group cares like the REAL fans do. Personally, it feels like a slap in the face to those who have supported for 25+ years.
The question that remains is; are the fans really going to recognize the final race winner as the sports champion or will he/she just be another race winner? IMO BZF has diluted the importance of the term champion.
I would pay to see the list of fans BZF took opinions from.
Racing will never die but, will NASCAR?
Someone mentioned that you can’t go back and look at who the champion would have been with a newer system. But, I think you can and as several articles I have seen says that Jr. would have won the championship last year if this new system was in place. Well, while I am a Jr. Fan if this new system would have won him a championship last year then the system is seriously flawed. Jr. didn’t win a race and you had several drivers with multiple wins. Kenseth had seven, Johnson I believe six. Could you imagine the outrage if Jr. had won last year with his record? If it could have happened last year using the new system format what’s to say it couldn’t happen in the future? And, sure the championship is nice but let’s get back to winning races and letting that be important like it use to be. Look, I still don’t like the chase and I think it was a mistake. If you want a champion then it should be based a the whole season and not just the last ten races. But, King Brian knows best and I guess we’ll find out how it works out. And, another thing, the drivers all know better than to criticize Nascar because they know they will be penalized. So, don’t put anything into these drivers saying they “like” the new system. They are just going along with it because they know they have to tow the line or it will be hell to pay.
Bill & kyboy88,
NASCAR is in the business of making money. NASCAR is of the opinion (and I’m sure they have research to back it up) that despite the complaints, most of their hardcore fans will watch the sport regardless of the changes made, and if they upset and lose a few hardcore fans in the process of gaining a whack of casual fans that will sell advertising and generate more revenue, then they are ok with that.
Don’t get me wrong and confuse me for a supporter of Mr France. While at the end of the day, he can do what he wants, I simply have a hard time believing that the rest of the NASCAR hierarchy are simply his minions. I am quite sure that Mr Helton, Mr Pemberton, Mr Darby et al are not people of low intelligence and I would think it would be difficult to pull the wool over their collective eyes. I don’t believe they would stay under the employ of Mr France and cater to him if the research that NASCAR does was not fair, or if Mr France simply chose to ignore the research that he is shown.
Unfortunately, NASCAR is a business that is intent on making as much revenue as possible. At the end of the day, it is revenue that is driving their decisions, not losing some of their hardcore fans. You may not like it, but that is the harsh reality.
Personally, I am just saying that I can see past all of that to give the sport a chance to continue to entertain me. I am willing to wait to see the product on the track before I make an opinion for or against the changes. And maybe this year I won’t like the results, and next year something else changes and I will. At the end of the day, NASCAR has given me hours and hours of entertainment, (even over the 10 years of the chase)and I have a lot invested in the sport emotionally. I am not willing to turn my back on it just because they make some changes that I think I won’t like. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for now.
Very true and they have been losing hardcore fans. Unfortunately those casual fans haven’t been marching up to the ticket windows to repalce them.
I also find it hard to believe that you can’t fathom the minions toeing Brian’s company line. Have you read any of the articles on Fox by Hammon, Waltrip and McReynolds? I have yet to see anything negative or cautionary regarding these changes, only positive. Surely they have some reservations or concerns. My point here is, if these guys are once removed from Brian’s grip and they won’t say anything negative, how is it hard to believe that those directly under Brian’s thumb won’t do the same?
You may be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and apply some common sense to the decision makers, unfortunately, all I see are “yes men”.
Kevin, you may be right that many fans aren’t as vocal about their opinions as those of us posting and tweeting, however, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t there or unhappy with this new plan. As you say, NASCAR is a business and I have no problem believing that they will a)tailor the questions to get the results they want and b)that all of the people you named who work directly for NASCAR will keep quiet, rather than jeopardize their jobs. After all, where else could they get a job which pays as well as I would be willing to bet they are paid (no actual knowledge of pay scale).
The difference between NASCAR & other corporations is that they don’t have shareholders other than family to answer to and as long as the $ is coming in from TV,NASCAR sponsors and track revenues, well, they are fine with things as they are. Unlike Coca Cola, who when they rolled out “new coke” and the people who loved the old product screamed bloody murder, NASCAR doesn’t learn from its mistakes, they just keep saying “we’re right, you’re wrong” and we’re going to do what we want. Having listened to people like Robin Pemberton make statements in the press, which are NEVER positive in relation to the fans, but always adversarial and derogatory, personally I don’t think he should be allowed to speak in public.
Like BillB, I simply dismiss any opinions from DW, Hammond and McReynolds because they have proven time and again to simply be paid mouthpieces for NASCAR.
There is a big difference between being an fan who spends money on tickets, souvenirs and follows every race and casual fans. Based on observations at the races I’ve attended for the past few years, there aren’t enough of either group to pay the tab which is why so many ISC tracks are reducing the # of seats. Of course, they also think they can raise ticket prices as part of that. The problem with that theory is the sport has to interest people enough to actually WANT to buy a ticket.
Actually in some ways I suppose NASCAR should be happy that the fans do care – even if it is angy words, but it would seem to me that actually listening to your “customers” might be an even better plan.
Or maybe Brian isn’t making the decisions. Maybe he’s knuckling under to the TV executives so that the tv contracts continue to make him rich. Maybe the tv guys are making these decisions. If that is the case we all know how that will end. Their agenda is to maximize rating by turning this sport into a reality television show. Maybe Brian’s real culpability is that he is allowing it because his (and NASCAR’s) main concern is maximizing revenue and not with maintaining the legitimacy of the sport. Either way, the result is selling the soul of the sport for money in which case the true fans of the sport don’t matter. What matters are those “fans” that want a reality television show to follow with crapshoot rules that provide a scripted ending every week (aka, wrestling).
I’m baffled. If NASCAR was really upset with the MWR antics at Richmond 2013 they will be furious when Homestead 2014 proves to be “Richmond on Steroids!” Championship Contenders’ team-mates will be wrecking other Contenders in a massive “Demolition Derby” in the last-gasp shoot-out for the “Winner Take-All $5 to $6 Million Sprint Cup Championship!”
Throughout the season look for previous race winners pulling over and letting team-mates win to get them into the play-offs.
With NASCAR’s credibility already at it’s lowest low, it seems “the Genius” is making his “game-changing decisions” in “Panic Overdrive,” OR maybe… NASCAR’s addictive need for Richmond-type publicity is unquenchable! That’s the mystery about addicts… it seems they love to destroy themselves!
Hows that Koolaid going down Kevin? Would love to see the imaginary poll done … Oh wait I can just listen to larry mac & DW etc to hear all the Wonderful things that are going to happen with this while at the same time being told how little any of us know about this & should pay my cash & shut up. Well our 2 races a year just went to none & I think many Sunday afternoons just opened up for us..Product on track (NO DOWNFORCE) with no passing & Dull D Tracks are the big issues but maybe if we put this really big news in front of it, no one will notice… Don’t woory we’ll make a car that only works on the Dull D’s & then they’ll stop complaining & pay the cash…Woe is this sport with brian at the helm Poor Bill & Bill ..they deserved better. I don’t say this just because it’s true….It’s because I can
Great article, but even better comments. It’s great to see a civil discourse with differing opinions play out on the internet. Kudos to all who’ve commented and repsonded.
That said, my take on this is we’ve yet to see how it will play out. It may be truly exciting, it may blow goats. And any change to something that so many people enjoy is going to upset fans, some moreso that others. Brian France is doing what he feels is necessary to keep Nascar relevant to a world of the internet, hundred of TV channels, and many many entertainment options every weekend.
And it is much easier (and cheaper) to manipulate a points system in an attempt to generate excitement than it would be to tear down five or six of the 1.5 – 2.0 mile Dull D cookie cutter race tracks and replace them with the short tracks and road courses that now offer up much of the excitement in Nascar. Aerodynamics and downforce have killed the racing at the cookie cutter tracks; the Gen 6 car didn’t make much of a difference there, and unfortunately the majority of the races are on tracks that produce uninteresting races. I plan on tuning into the races that should be good – the short tracks, the road courses, and the plate races (I know opinions vary greatly on plate tracks, but I’m on the edge of my seat seeing the pack of cars tearing around Daytona and Talladega, although the carnage that tends to come about is difficult to reconcile). The best way to make our voices heard is through ticket sales and ratings. I for one don’t plan my weekends around Cup races if they are racing on an intermediate race track anymore. I’ve learned there are better ways to spend my weekend than watching a parade. But if it’s Bristol, Martinsville, Richmond, Sonoma, Watkins Glen, Phoenix, Dover (sometimes), Daytona or Talladega, I’m going to watch.
It’s pretty shameful that some of you use the whole “kool-aid” nonsense just because someones opinion differs from yours.
Of most of the comments here, the only one I’ve seen that was insightful and not just another knee-jerk “bash NASCAR” reaction was Kevin’s response.
A lot of you people need to understand that for a company to grow, you have to attract new fans, especially younger ones as they are the future.
Going back to the season long format may appease to the older die-hard fans who spent a life-time watching their sport this way.
As for today’s younger generation, there are so many things to to chose from, so many options for entertainment, that if NASCAR doesn’t adopt a system that will create entertainment, they will cease to exist 20 years from now. The 18-34 demograph is the future of NASCAR’s fanbase….not disgruntled die-hards from the Petty era who are 60+ years old.
As Kevin stated, the negative reaction seen on the internet is not an accurate representation of everyone’s opinion. Go read any article written on Yahoo or elsewhere on David Stern or Roger Goodell, and see how many people bash them the same way they bash France. Yet, people still watch NBA and the NFL regardless of how big of an “idiot” everyone claims those two are.
Is the new format the right direction to go? Well, that can’t be answered just yet, but a few things are certain. It will be exciting to watch…and those of you yelling about how you’re done with “NASCAR” will probably be the first ones watching at Homestead this year. When the ratings for that race increase over the previous years, the majority of you will end up looking pretty foolish.
I’ve watched NASCAR for 21 years, and I’ve never been more pumped for the start of a season. But I guess I drink too much kool-aid, huh?
It will be interesting to see how many cautions are called to manipulate the field to ensure there is an “exciting” finish at Homestead. The final few races were bad enough to watch with the focus on the chase cars. Now during the last race I imagine the 4 “championship contenders”, dale Jr. and princess Sparkle Pony will be the only cars shown.
I will say that your comment “When the ratings for that race increase over the previous years…” is short-sighted. I notice you said “That race”. The real test is what affect it has on the ratings for the first 26 and even the first 9 chase races.
Well, I’ll leave it at that so you can finish your Kool-Aid. ;)
One time I asked a well known NASCAR writer, why they make the decisions they make. His answer was that NASCAR is like a whore…will do anything for money…lol
Robert E, when I read about the format change, my first thought was similar to yours – well, now we will have a crapshoot/demolition derby to determine the champion.
Smoke, I’m not in that 60+ range of fans either so that comment is just as insulting as you feel the “kool aid” comment is to other posters.
Since BZF is the “head” of NASCAR, I have to assume he’s the guy driving the bus but who knows.
I used to follow hockey, I gave up on that after a couple of strikes where the season disappeared and IMO NASCAR has gone down that same road with the oversaturation of the sport, along with the constant rule and car changes which have not resulted in a sport that is as much fun to watch as it was before those changes were made.
Over the past few years, I’ve used the method of watch the 1st 10 laps, go away and do other things, come back & watch the last 20 laps, I’ll probably continue to do that, but we already made the choice to not renew tickets to several races we went to last year and that was BEFORE these changes were announced. NASCAR is bleeding fans – maybe this will help Homestead, but I doubt it will help the other 26 races which had already been marginalized.
I see positives and negatives to the new format, BUT I’ll still go to my one race per year and enjoy the show. I do like the emphasis on winning and expect some “excitement” near the end of the first 26 races when a handful of drivers who were expected to win haven’t yet and are fighting to be one of the 15 winners. I have less interest in NASCAR than I did 15 years ago but still enjoy it. I will root for anyone other than the 48 to win the whole thing this year.
This is just my opinion, and many will disagree, but if you are so quick to turn away from the sport like that – you were never a “fan” in the first place. At least not a dedicated one. Maybe casual. I can’t imagine ever turning my back on NASCAR.
Change is inevitable. You learn to accept overtime.
I’d wager that few have turned their backs completely. But I’d also wager that millions are just kind of glancing over their shoulders once in awhile to see how their favorite driver/driver’s old team is doing.
… … have been a NASCAR fan (and racing in general) since 1963 … and have been a LIFE Member of the United States Chess Federation since 1974 … just sayin’! Also, NASCAR was so much more exciting when it was more like a “chess tournament” than “Saturday Night Rasslin’,” too! He’s (in my opinion) the greatest NASCAR driver of all time, but I’d hate to face a “David Pearson-type” on the chessboard!
Allen, I’ve been annoyed with NASCAR’s idiotic moves for the past 10 years and have allowed hope to spring eternal each year, so my decision to be less interested in the sport is not a knee jerk reaction, but one of this being the last straw.
Tim, I think that is going to be my way of managing my expectations going forward.
I have never seen so many posts about a single article, let’s sum it up Mr. France is not money hungry he is using the power he has “money buys power and power always wants more power” and for some of your assertions that Mr. Francis employees would say something to Mr. France you’ve got to be kidding I know most of these guys their good honest people that believe better days are coming I also believe that there is a large sand pile somewhere that some of their heads are in.
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