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 July 14, 2010
Following the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona two weeks ago, talk began again about changes to the Sprint Cup schedule for 2011 and beyond. Hey, why not? After all, there is talk of changing the championship format for only the third time in seven years…
Further credence was given to this speculation when NASCAR President Brian France said last week that International Speedway Corp. (ISC), Darlington’s parent company, and Speedway Motorsports, Inc. (SMI) both have petitioned the sport to have their dates realigned, with Darlington not yet receiving its event sanctioning agreements.
That leaves plenty of cities licking their chops at the prospect of NASCAR expansion. Tracks looking to pick up a second race include Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway, while Kentucky Speedway has been lobbying the past few years for a Cup date. SMI owner Bruton Smith owns all of the ones involved in both losing and gaining a date except for Kansas, which is owned by the France family-controlled ISC. The list of names are familiar, however, and with the speed and alacrity in which change has swept through NASCAR the last year or so, it would stand to reason that the Sprint Cup calendar will look markedly different come February, 2011.
So which tracks are likely to take one for the teams next year?
Atlanta: Is taking a date from here really necessary? With apologies and condolences to Talladega, Atlanta has long since been recognized as the fastest track in NASCAR since its 1997 reconfiguration. It has been host to some of the closest and most memorable finishes in recent history, chief among them Kevin Harvick’s first victory in 2001 – just three weeks removed from Dale Earnhardt’s untimely passing.
For years, the Fall Atlanta date served as the final race of the season, the site of some very memorable championship finishes. Does the 1992 battle between six drivers and Alan Kulwicki winning it on bonus points ring a bell? Jeff Gordon, Rusty Wallace, and Bill Elliott were also among those who clinched down-to-the-wire title chases there.
Still, lagging attendance meant that before the season even started, Felix Sabates was suggesting that Atlanta should lose a date altogether. Huh? If someone can find a compelling racing-related reason why one of the most unique tracks in the series should lose out to the REM-inducing Kansas or the typically underwhelming Las Vegas, I’d be happy to listen.
Part of Atlanta’s troubles were corrected last year when its second date was moved from the fall to a summer September date – albeit one over Labor Day weekend. Last year’s penultimate race before the Chase reset brought 111,300 fans in attendance, up from 94,400 earlier that year at the March event. It turns out that fans really aren’t into freezing their behinds off at a track that may produce something between balmy 60-degree weather or a snowstorm, as in 1993.
So if there is one track that should keep two dates, it’s Atlanta. While location might sell some tickets, racing is what generates ratings, and those Sportscenter highlight reels that seem to have been the inspiration behind green-white-checkered finishes and double-file restarts.
New Hampshire: Five years ago, I would have been hollering from the rooftops like a New York City jumper hopped up on PCP to can a date from New Hampshire – if not both of them. The track that Kyle Petty once suggested should be boarded up and turned into a trout pond was always one that left me nonplussed, filled with intense feelings of indifference and boredom.
Over the course of the last few years, however, it has finally matured into a track worthy of two events, producing some of the best racing during a time when genuine close competition has been sorely lacking. It is a one-mile oval, but races like a short track – something that is sorely missing from our sport, a special type of competition which is often romanticized and the loss of long lamented.
That means there typically is a late-race battle between drivers at New Hampshire. Witness Denny Hamlin’s .068-second margin of victory over Jeff Gordon in 2007, Mark Martin’s tussle with Juan Pablo Montoya last fall, or the one three weeks ago between Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch in the closing laps. Sure, there is the occasional runaway, like Clint Bowyer in ’08, or a race that is called because of rain (Joey Logano’s first win in ’09), but overall, the Magic Mile has become quite a treat in the Northeast.
Plus, along with Dover and that first week of the Chase, when they motor the top 12 through Times Square, this place is about as close to the major markets of Boston and New York City as we’re probably going to get for the foreseeable future.
California: This is a track whose time for contraction has come. Much like Ron Burgundy, it was kind of a … “big deal” back when it first opened in 1997; NASCAR had broken into the coveted Los Angeles market, and was prepared to take SoCal by storm. Through the years, many waited for something memorable to happen there – but it never came.
Along the way, Caliborin’-ya has drawn the ire of fans for a number of reasons. As the follow-up event to the Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing, the Daytona 500, it routinely fills only a portion of the stands in February due to 500 miles of mind-numbing monotony. It is likely no great coincidence that there is more trash blowing around the track than your regional landfill, as it was built on an old concrete quarry, and looks like something that would typically house a lot of green 55-gallon drums with radioactivity warning stickers.
The heights of heresy were reached in 2004, when California was given the Labor Day date that for over 50 years was Darlington’s hallmark event, the Southern 500. This moment was perhaps the point when, for many fans, NASCAR began to jump the shark, becoming pander bears in a desperate plea to gain attention from viewers who could really care less about the rich history and legacy of the sport.
Or so they thought. Ironically, with that move both attendance and attention began to dwindle. The caliber of actors, singers, and stars appearing at Fontana started to steadily decline, looking more like a rerun of Hollywood Squares than a premier sporting event in the entertainment capital of the planet. (Tip of the cap to Jack Nicholson, however. You, sir, are welcome to be the flagman for the whole race this fall if you so desire. Wear a Kobe jersey if you want.)
With this trio in the mix to be sacrificed, those tracks looking to pick up a date are not exactly barn burners themselves, but are mainly benefiting through two reasons: geographical convenience and promotional possibilities.
It has been suggested that Las Vegas may become the launching pad for the Chase, or potentially the final event of the year. It also provides fans that are traveling to the track something other to do than just the race itself. Besides, it would not be a major sporting endeavor if there weren’t the specter of gambling surrounding it.
Kentucky works too, I suppose. It is in the Southeast, so it’s kind of getting back to our roots, and a new track isn’t always something to be reviled. Besides, NASCAR probably would like to go there just to rub it in Jeremy Mayfield’s buzz cut.
Casino notwithstanding, Kansas is the one that remains a bit of a mystery to me – I seriously don’t understand the on-track appeal. With the United States shunning missile defense and Iran’s nuclear ambitions going unchecked, I guess being centrally located in North America makes sense. After all, our missile silos and SAC headquarters have always been positioned about the plains in the middle of the country – to give us a few extra minutes to scramble everything.
But if NASCAR isn’t going to use corn fuel as a fuel next year, as had been widely reported, what is the rush to head back out there? I see it turning into the second coming of California, which, as detailed above, is not necessarily a good thing. Besides, a rain delay is a small problem – a tornado delay is a whole other story.
Whatever the outcome, the landscape of the sport looks to be “evolving” once again. The problem is these moves have not exactly worked out in the past, and we’ve seen what happens when you change for the sake of change. Given the cast of tracks involved, I’d say NASCAR would be best served in this instance to leave well enough alone.
©2000 - 2008 Vito Pugliese and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Most race fans around here have resigned themselves to losing a NASCAR race. The manufactured controversy over security costs – which are the same or less than those SMI pays to other local departments, despite their claims otherwise – plus adding an IRL race pretty much told us it was going to happen. And that’s fine, because as much as we love NASCAR, we don’t like having out of town bullies try to force us to do stuff. Which Bruton knows quite well.
NASCAR should be concerned however, since that’s that much less exposure in the Boston/New England market, which isn’t going to help their TV ratings, plus letting SMI open the doors to IRL at his tracks just gives them a leg up to compete for fans with NASCAR – and right now IRL is getting positive press, and NASCAR negative around here. Of course, if NASCAR is going to let ISC and SMI dictate where their races should be held, then they have nobody to blame for this but themselves.
As for the economic impact of losing a race, it’s been overblown. Some businesses will lose a bit of income, but over the year, it won’t kill them, since no business can live on the income of two race weekends a year. Most of the money gets spent on hotel chains which send the money (except local salaries) out of state, or at the track itself, again most of which except salaries goes out of state. And now people who wouldn’t visit in June during race weeks will come up here and spend tourist dollars, and those dollars have a higher percentage staying in state.
Living in the Martinsville area, I am relieved that talk of our track possibly losing a date has all but disappeared. However, I hope Atlanta doesn’t lose a date either. It does produce some of the best racing we see, certainly best among the 1.5-mile tracks, and it has always been among my favorites. I’m more neutral toward Loudon, but I agree that it has gotten better in recent years. As far as I’m concerned, they can take both dates away from Fontana!
In a perfect world, I’d love to see two dates return to Darlington, Rockingham, and North Wilkesboro. Several other tracks (those 1.5-miles and larger) could lose one of their two dates. I know it won’t really happen, but it’s nice to think about anyway.
NO more boring D-shaped ovals! Darlington had better NOT lose its one existing race. The racing is great and the crowds have been a sell out or close for years.
BZF ought to try and buy 2 brain cells to rub together before making any decisions.
I agree the schedule needs to be revamped — what I think they should do is sit down with a map, weather forecast and the names of all the tracks and try and make the smartest decision with all those factors.
If NASCAR cares about the traditional fans at all they will move darlington to labor day and give Kentucky mothers day. I hate for Atlanta to lose a date but I understand and kentucky is a similar track in southern market. NH for Vegas and KS for CA aren’t going to make much of a difference to anybody.
I really think the attendance problem with Atlanta is the unbelieveable traffic jams getting into and mostly leaving the track . It’s fast , usually puts on a good race , has a lot of history , and is in the South . I just think people have soured on the trafic jams over the years . I know it’s been improved recently , but too little too late maybe .
Being from NH, I would be very upset losing one of those races, but at the same time it is inevitable because of the Bruton factor. The only way I would be happy if NH lost a race, is if it went back to North Wilkesboro. They deserve a race along with Iowa, Pikes Peak, Hickory, and Memphis. Apparently Brian France hasn’t noticed that his best attendance figures occur in the small markets, but what do we know?
I have no problem with giving up a Fontana date so that Martinsville, or any other good track, keeps both their dates on the schedule. Fontana didnt ask for two dates, and it certainly didnt ask for the Labor Day date that put it at the top of the long time fan’s hate list. NASCAR should be going to more tracks once instead of twice so that more people across the country can see a NASCAR race close to their home.
If SMI and/or ISC owned Pocono or Dover, then these date swaps would be gimmes. But it seems that SMI’s short list of date donor tracks has to be 1) New Hampshire and 2) Atlanta. ISC has a few more options for date donors: 1) Martinsville (Ouch!), 2) California, 3) Michigan and 4) Phoenix.
Kevin, I’m sorry to say that Martinsville’s remote location, lack of air service, aging facility and declining attendance makes it a prime candidate for the 2nd Kansas date.
While California seems like the logical choice, its Winter date is too early and its Fall date is too late for Kansas weather.
Just went to the NASCAR site. They have a beautiful picture of the modifieds at Martinsville. What memories!
I don’t know what you are thinking JT. If you look at a map Dover has more people living less than 4 hours from it than any track on the Schedule by far.It looks empty because it has 133,000 seats.Its attendance still beats all the tracks you listed and Chicago, Phoenix and Homestead.
Pikes Peak Raceway re-opened about a year ago. Robby Gordon was testing there a few weeks ago.
I don’t really understand a Fontana to Kansas swap. I mean, I’m sure there’s more money into ISC’s pockets, and I understand that…but from a racing perspective, it’s not really an improvement. There are so many other places they could go to put on a better show (if it were about that) than Kansas.
I’m in favor of Atlanta losing a date. There’s lots of 1.5milers (I know they’re not all the same), and it, with 2 dates (like Fontana) is not pulling its weight attendance-wise. I know that there are some “but look at the racing” arguments…well, good…They’ll likely have good attendance and good racing for their 1 date.
I don’t think that NHMS deserves to lose a date. The attendance is strong for both races, and the racing has really improved.
Too bad they’re not talking about moving all 3 dates to tracks that don’t currently have a cup race, instead of just 1.
JT, I’m actually less concerned about Martinsville losing a date now than I was a year or two ago. I think NASCAR is smart enough to realize that if they get rid of yet another old-fashioned, traditional short track race, they’re going to lose most of their remaining traditional fan base. I don’t think they can afford to not give Martinsville two dates for a long time to come.
The tracks should be determined by the quality of the racing, not its ameneties surrounding the track. I have said for a long time, that if you fix the product on the track (which is not good right now), the stands will be full every weekend.
Not sure what the obsession with Kentucky and Las Vegas is. Las Vegas will be just like Fontana. The stands will be full with one race, but half full for 2 races and the racing isn’t stellar there either.
And why is it when Kentucky was under different ownership, it wasn’t worthy of a Cup date. Now that Bruton has bought it, it all of a sudden is?
Being from New England, If NH loses a date, I will never buy anything associated with Nascar again. All those promises Bruton made when he bought the track from Bahre about it not losing a date. Now he is using this bogus security argument as a reason for moving a race. Bruton is a bully and I’m glad the town is not giving in to him. I’m sure Mr. Magoo will get his way though. Kentucky Speedway will not do better at selling tickets than NHMS.
Steve, there isnt room on the schedule to give Kentucky a date, especially since it was independantly owned. Now that Smith owns it, there still isnt room on the schedule, unless he moves a race from one of his tracks to it. That’s the issue here. NASCAR and ISC certainly arent going to give up a date (and the money) at one of their tracks to give to a competitor’s product.