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.
Voice of Vito · Vito Pugliese · Wednesday February 3, 2010
Last Friday, as I was hurriedly going through my daily morning ritual of taking an ugly face and making it beautiful, the clock radio on my nightstand was transmitting my local morning sports talk radio show, Bakita & Grey on 107.3 WBBL-FM in Grand Rapids. It was a typical January Michigan morning; 10 degrees, overcast, and downright depressing. Glancing out my bedroom window, the road in front of my house was frosted by what looked to be a trace amount of powdered snow and road salt.
If you are from an area of the country that actually steals a glimpse of that gigantic orange fire orb in the sky, picture just about any episode of Ice Road Truckers, and you’ll get an idea of the misery that that is a Great Lakes winter.
My garage door opener screeched in protest from the dried grease caused by subfreezing weather as I left for work – yes, I am one of the fortunate few in my state that is gainfully employed with a rock solid company – when the news story that had been eluded to all morning on the radio was finally reported. NASCAR team owner Felix Sabates (minority stakeholder of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing) made some rather unsavory comments regarding the state of my state, in particular regarding the two Sprint Cup dates that are hosted by Michigan International Speedway each NASCAR season.
“I mean, there’s nobody left in Detroit other than the police and the unemployed,” Sabates told the Charlotte Observer in an interview. “I’d cut Michigan off the schedule altogether. Michigan — I’m talking about the state — is never coming back to what it used to be, so why go there and throw good money after bad money?”
Ouch. Talk about kicking a man when he’s down… then white-washing him in a snow bank and taking his mittens.
Considering the hypersensitive society in which we live in today, with people’s skin as thin as 5w20 motor oil, his remarks were insensitive, insulting, and unnecessarily negative, what with the start of the 2010 NASCAR season just two weeks way in Daytona. What followed was a flood of angry calls and e-mails from people across the state who were justifiably upset with what Sabates had said about our home.
But here’s the ugly truth. Having heard his comments and reflecting on what I had seen and read in the news the few days prior – as well as having lived the past three decades, while Sabates’ comments may not have been the most inspiring words spoken to rally the troops here in the frozen tundra… was he really that far off base?
First of all, let’s take a look at the first target Sabates took a shot at (no pun intended): the city of Detroit – once again, the murder capital of the United States for 2009. It’s home not only the most miserable sports franchise in recorded history, but also a 70 percent unsolved homicide rate. While Michigan struggles with a nation-leading unemployment rate cresting 14 percent, Detroit’s “official” figure is just under 30 percent – though the mayor and other civic leaders concede the jobless rate is realistically closer to 50 percent (the additional 20 percent being those who have been unemployed for so long, they have simply given up on trying to locate a new job.)
Those figures are consistent with the recent losses suffered by the automotive industry over the course of the last two years, which ultimately spurred government intervention – and acquisition of General Motors and Chrysler in early 2009. In 2000, there were approximately 332,000 jobs tied to the Big Three in the Big D – today, that number has fallen to 115,000.
Those are some The Grapes of Wrath-type numbers, folks. Mix in a dust bowl and you have all of the ingredients for a modern day Steinbeck adaptation.
During the economic expansion of the new millennium, Michigan was one of the few states that missed the boat. As the decade drug on, many took the next train out of town, as 67 percent of moves within Michigan were people leaving the state. Keep in mind that during this same span of time California’s housing market crumbled, Las Vegas crapped out, and Louisiana and Mississippi were nearly washed off the map from a storm and flood of Old Testament proportion. The manufacturing hub of North America was barely able to survive what natural disasters and acts of God were endured and overcome elsewhere.
That being said, it’s no surprise that this has had a bit of an effect on attendance at the two stock car races nearby that were always guaranteed sellouts each and every year.
Michigan International Speedway events had traditionally been much-anticipated and circled spots on the Sprint Cup calendar. After all, they were in the backyard of the Big Three automakers. The races took on increased significance and bragging rights for those associated with General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler, as they welcomed and entertained hundreds and even thousands during a race weekend.
I can recall the June event in 1999 when I went with three of my friends, baking in the 90 degree heat and humidity, sitting high atop the Turn Three grandstand, smashed into each other, positioned behind some guy in a Jeff Gordon T-shirt who insisted upon each lap made by the No. 24 Monte Carlo to declare, “Rainbow Warrior, baby….RAINBOW WARRIOR!” Where we were sitting, there was not room for one more cooler, let alone another spectator. The attendance figure posted that day was 125,000, with probably another 20,000 in the infield.
Even as late as June 2004, traveling to the race that morning with my cousin Joe, we sat motionless on I-94 for the better part of an hour, engine off, waiting for the traffic jam from Independence Day to inch forward. Upon arriving and parking about a mile away from the track, we sprinted to our seats, where I was elbow to elbow with a man who was so large and sweaty, I am convinced was either George “The Animal” Steele, or that one guy from the picture at Bristol with a No. 3 shaved into his back hair.
Again, there was not an extra seat to be had that year; grandstand attendance was cited at 160,000 with again, tens of thousands more in the infield.
Fast-forward to June 2008. Suddenly, NASCAR is not the most important thing in the world for those who are out of work and struggling to make ends meet. NASCAR instructs the drivers to not complain about the struggles of the new CoT, or voice their displeasure with the racing that had gone from manic to milquetoast in a matter of months. Gas prices were hovering around $4.50 a gallon, while recorded attendance plummeted to 115,000. Those same grandstands where my buddies and I were hunched and hung over in less than a decade earlier were as vacant as the boarded up, abandoned houses that are visible while driving into Detroit for a Tigers game at Comerica Park.
In 2009, Kid Rock was the Grand Marshal of the LifeLock 400 at MIS, but it might as well have been his buddy Bocephus, as the opening verse of A Country Boy Can Survive by Hank Williams, Jr. came readily to mind in noting the sparsely populated frontstretch grandstand. 90,000 made it to the track this day, and from my position atop the press area on pit road between Jamie McMurray and Kurt Busch’s pit stalls, that figure seemed generous.
With attendance falling by nearly half in the span of 10 years, it does give credence to Sabates questioning the retention of two dates at Michigan. After all, isn’t that how Rockingham and Darlington lost their dates? They too, were, tracks woven into the fabric of NASCAR lore, whose land-locked locales were both a deterrent and detriment to attending a race as part of a family vacation – with dates that in the case of The Rock could be less than hospitable weather-wise.
At the end of the workday last Friday, I returned to my ride and was listening to The Huge Show, which was overrun with irate callers, still dismissing Sabates’ comments as scurrilous and reprehensible. About the same time the calls and e-mails were still pouring in, Sabates had issued the following apology:
“In an attempt at humor I made some comments about the city of Detroit and the people of Michigan that were in poor taste and that I sincerely apologize for,” Sabates said. “I have worked directly or indirectly with the auto industry for over 40 years as both an auto dealer and a NASCAR owner and it was never my intention to put down the auto industry, its workers, the city of Detroit or the state of Michigan. I have such respect for all of them.
“I am so frustrated over the challenges that this tough economy has brought to everyone in this country that I inadvertently joked about one of the areas hit the hardest. Those of us that have the luxury of getting to work in such a great sport like NASCAR owe a great deal to the city of Detroit and their support of the auto industry because without either, the sport of NASCAR would not be what it is today.
In fact, Michigan International Speedway, even in this tough environment drew an impressive 100,000 fans to the track at their last race.
“My sincerest apologies to anyone that I might have offended, it was certainly not my intent.”
As far as I was concerned, apology accepted – even though much of what he said is reinforced by our own local and state media every day.
Let’s be honest: Felix Sabates is one of the more colorful individuals left in our sport. He is always one to speak his mind open and honestly, a gift for gab, and always makes for an interesting quote or sound bite whenever a microphone is within earshot. Was his intention truly to insult or belittle Michigan and those who live here?
The story doesn’t end here – in tomorrow’s newsletter, What’s Vexing Vito, Felix Sabates puts those controversial comments into context, assessing the state of the sport, how we got to where we are today, and what needs to be done to prevent it from going belly up.
©2000 - 2008 Vito Pugliese and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
just a thought. Is is bizarre that the words “belly up” and Nascar are in the same sentence? 10 years ago, could we have thought that?
This brings up a question that can never be correctly answered. How many fans go to the Michigan races that are not from Michigan? This question can be ask about any track and the percentage will vary at each race. I talked to a man from Michigan last November and he said only the Detroit area was really bad. The rest of the state was doing better. Opinions are like noses, everyone has one and they are all different.
Great Article. Sabates has always been insensitive but in this case it is more truth than fiction. I am not talking down michigan, I have lived in Florida for over 40 years and it is basically in the same boat. The unemployment is a lot worse than advertised and now we are going to recieve thousands of Haitian refugees added to our sick economy. Is Florida ever going to be the same? Heck No! Is it going to survive? maybe.
I agree with what he is saying, one date should be enough for any venue right now so that we can get Nascar to the areas that also want it. R.I.P. Wilksboro
I for one found Felix’s comments very offensive! But then, maybe Mr. Sabates takes some offence that almost half the crowds at Michigan come from across the border from Ontario! What would he ever do if there ever was another Sprint Cup race here in Ontario (the last one was in 1958, won by Lee Petty)? Come on, Felix, Michigan is the only chance most of us Canadians get to see a Cup race, therefore, Michigan has to be kept on the schedule, and has to keep both dates! And by the way too, I get to at least one Michigan race a year, and some years, I get to both!
I live in Saginaw, Michigan. And let me tell you, it isn’t just bad in Detroit, the entire state is in economic ruin. We have really high unemployment and I haven’t had a job since 2006, which coincidentally was the last time I attended a race at MIS. My dad was an auto-worker for almost 30 years and was recently retrained to work at a hospital after EATON corp. moved his plant to Mexico. Gotta love the USA…… Hopefully you’ll see me and family at MIS this year, fingers crossed! And apology accepted!!
Vito said: It’s home not only the most miserable sports franchise in recorded history
Yeah, I cant stand the Red Wings either. ;) They’re a bunch of overpaid pretty boys, similar to the Yankees.