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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

NASCAR Mailbox: New Viewership, Start-And-Park, and Public Perceptions

Well, we’re headed to Las Vegas, and it’s the first time in a while that I can remember anyone placing a special importance on this race. However, with the new Gen-6 car and Las Vegas Motor Speedway being one of the many mile-and-a-half racetracks on the schedule, this weekend may finally give us a true assessment of what to expect from the Gen 6 car for the rest of the season. However, with an underwhelming performance at Daytona and a so-so grade at Phoenix, expectations are cautiously optimistic heading into Sin City. However, I can’t help but think that no matter what, it will be impossible for the race to receive “good” reviews. After all, regardless of how well the car races, this race is still 400 miles. I don’t care if passing is flawless and perfectly executed. You just won’t see passing and three-wide racing from green flag to checkered flag because most of the drivers know the value of the phrase, “to finish first, you must first finish.” Do I really think anyone reading this feels like it will be a thriller of the race all the way through? No, but I do think there are some who will find any reason to be critical. Let’s let this car run its course before we give it a failing grade. Now, on to your questions… — *So is SPEED Channel just going to be a separate entity or die?? FOX Sports 1 will carry the races and what else is intended here for this new channel??* _Arthur_ To put it simply, Fox Sports 1 is going to be the new name of SPEED. It will look much different than what most of us have come to know of SPEED throughout the years. Honestly, I think the new name makes it pretty obvious that it’s going to be a broad-based sports network rather than focused specifically on motorsports and other car related programming. In other words, it’s an alternative to ESPN. The various sporting events it is scheduled to cover are NCAA College Football and Basketball, UEFA Soccer, UFC, and of course, NASCAR. <div style=\"float:right; width:240px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/15506.jpg\" width=\"240\" height=\"139\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">FOX Sports 1 will replace SPEED as the channel that will carry what was the staple of NASCAR programing, as well as UEFA Soccer and UFC. If there is any justice in this world, though it will not carry Unique Whips or Pass Time…</p></div> NASCAR fans won’t really be missing much though when it comes to NASCAR coverage. FOX Sports 1 will still carry the Camping World Truck Series races, the All-Star Race, SpeedWeeks, Daytona 500 qualifying, the Budweiser Duels, as well aspractice, and qualifying sessions. Additionally, shows like _Race Hub_, _RaceDay_, and _NASCAR Victory Lane_ are also going to stay with this network though Race Hub will be moved from evening to midday. In fact, the only area that I see where fans will lose coverage is in regards to other motorsports. The announcement really only mentions NASCAR, which means that shows like _SPEED Center_ and _Wind Tunnel_ are likely, and sadly, going to go by the wayside. Though there will be 24/7 sports coverage on the network, as well as original programming like talk shows and special documentaries, I think the coverage of other motorsports is where SPEED Channel has proven itself to be unique to viewers who are looking for just that. I’m afraid other racing series will get buried if they are washed out of the programming lineup on SPEED. That could be an overreaction, though. After all, series like ARCA and the Rolex Series have renewed their contracts with SPEED and that should still carry through with the rebranding. However, I hope FOX Sports 1 still offers SPEED viewers what they’ve always known the network to be about: racing. — *“Why doesn’t NASCAR do something about these start-and-park teams? It’s making the sport a joke! I think they need to go back to the old days of starting 36 on short tracks and the fastest 40 on a mile and over. My suggestion to stop the stat-and-parkers is to cut the race money if they don’t make a legitimate attempt to race and if they do retire give them an inspection of the car. If there is no issue, they lose half of their money.”* _Jamie_ Jamie, that’s hardly fair. After all, most of the drivers and the teams as a whole don’t genuinely _want_ to start and park. If they want to race at all, that’s the only way they can afford to. Should they simply just decide to give up their dream because they don’t have the deep pockets or multi-million dollar sponsorships that the other teams have? Again, that’s not fair. <div style=\"float:right; width:275px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/14913.jpg\" width=\"275\" height=\"183\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">Some fans want to stop the start and parkers from entering the field since they aren't \"really trying.\" Contractual obligations and a free market economy dictate that they will remain.</p></div> If start and park teams really bother you that much, there isn’t much NASCAR can do beyond controlling the money the other teams can spend which I’m totally against. Money drives this sport more so than any other, and any “dreamers” wanting to get in the sport can’t just go to a scouting location and prove their worth. Basically, the start and park teams are doing the best they can with what they have and hoping beyond all hope that someone will give them an opportunity to shine. Honestly, though, what are they really hurting? Almost no one notices them, and the only people who do are the ones looking for something to complain about. If those teams weren’t there, the field would be much shorter and NASCAR would be cursed out for that too. Simply put, unless you’re funding that team, leave them alone. They’re just doing what they can. — *Why is NASCAR trying to profit off of negative press? At least that seems like what they are doing, to attempt to reel in fans, not the right way to do it.* _Matt_ Matt, the negative press I think you are referring to are the stories that came from the Nationwide Series crash at Daytona and the NRA sponsorship of Texas Motor Speedway. One was negative because of sympathy, the other because of (ugh) politics. The rest of my answer will depend on this assumption, though I can’t think of any other topics that would be described as “negative” by mainstream consumers. First off, I’m not sure I understand your use of the word “profit”. It’s not like they’re selling merchandise that say “get well, fans” for Daytona or guns emblazoned with the NASCAR logo. Are they trying to use this new-found mainstream attention to get more butts both on the couch and in the grandstands? Um … yeah. Why shouldn’t they? Listen, for the first time in years, NASCAR has been in the mainstream media for weeks. They’ve been discussed on talk shows, newsroom panels, and stirred up debates amongst people who would otherwise never pay attention. That’s better publicity than another public relations firm could ever muster up. In other words, it’s relevant. Honestly, the only story that has received mainstream coverage that I would describe as “negative” was the Daytona crash. But what was NASCAR to do? Say, “Don’t watch our sport, because bad things happen.” No, they should say, “Yes this was scary and we wish it had never happened. What you missed was the racing before it, which was great! You should tune in!” <div style=\"float:right; width:250px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/15440.jpg\" width=\"250\" height=\"302\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">Profiting off the misery of others? NASCAR has been in the news for two straight weeks not by their own design, but more so the morbid fascination of the media at large.</p></div> I wouldn’t call the NRA story “negative” just because it’s controversial. The only place it’s being portrayed as negative are left-leaning “news” websites which skews stories to fit its own agenda anyway. Even if the name “NRA 500” furthers a stereotype, the people who are laughing about that are never _ever_ going to watch anyway. If NASCAR is “profiting” from it, it’s from people who are already watching or just don’t care. NASCAR is doing the right thing by trying to generate more viewers for the sport that was brought on by all the attention. They’d be stupid not to, and I hope it works. *Connect with Summer!* <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/summerbedgood\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/6502.jpg\"></a><a href=\"https://www.facebook.com/summerdreyer\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/6501.jpg\"></a><br> \"Contact Summer Bedgood\":http://www.frontstretch.com/contact/28526/

Side By Side: Should NASCAR Award Bonus Points Throughout Each Race?

_Welcome back to Side By Side. There are always two sides to every story, and we're going to bring them both, right here, every week. Two of our staff writers will face off on an important racing question … feel free to tell us what you think in the weekly poll and also in the comments section below!_ *This Week's Question: NASCAR is looking at all sorts of ways to make the racing early in events more competitive. To do so, should they begin awarding point \"bonuses\" for segments of events (first 100 laps, second 100 laps, etc.) so drivers will be encouraged to race harder?* <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike Neff, Senior Writer: Segmented Bonus Points Are a Must</span> We’ve heard the same ol’ song and dance for years and it has never been more prevalent since the advent of the Chase. Drivers ride around for most of the race and then drive hard at the end because that is when they pay the money and the points. There is no incentive to go hard during the middle of the event unless you’re trying to lead the most laps, and with the current point system, where you only get one point for leading the most, the danger of losing twenty or thirty points due to a crash is far more daunting than trying to get the one bonus point. As a result, fans are turning away from the sport more and more because the only parts of the race worth watching are the beginning and the end. The time has come for NASCAR to give the drivers a reason to push hard throughout the event. The tracks on the NASCAR circuit, as well as the events themselves, come in a variety of different lengths, so it would not work to pay points at a specific numbered lap. Instead, what NASCAR must do is decide what percentage of the race will result in the awarding of in-race points. The most logical, and easiest for the fans to understand (which is a priority apparently for the folks in Daytona) is to pay points at the quarter marks of the race. However many laps are to be contested, divide that number by four and pay the points after each segment of the race that contains that many laps. <div style=\"float:right; width:275px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/15500.jpg\" width=\"275\" height=\"172\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">Would awarding points in designated segments throughout each race create close racing…</p></div> In simple terms, the Daytona 500 is 200 laps long. Divide the total number of laps by four and you get 50-lap segments. When the first 50 laps of the race is completed, points are awarded. Then, you do it again at the halfway point and finally at the three-quarter mark before the ultimate points are awarded for the finishing order. You will have the same formula at every track; there will just be different numbers of laps in the segments. The drivers will know before the race starts what the lap numbers are so that they can focus on being in the best position at those points in the race. You wouldn't want NASCAR to award full race points at each of these segments, but rewarding the top 5 or even the top 10 would make things much more interesting. If they paid 10 points for leading at each quarter point of the race, a driver could actually score more points than the winner by leading at the three-quarter mark but coming home second in the race. Some fans might object to that, though, and NASCAR could obviously tweak the points so that the winner is guaranteed the most points on a race weekend. But the point is that it will give drivers an incentive to go hard for the whole race and someone can actually make up some ground in the standings, something that is extremely hard to do these days. Paying points for more than the quarters might give too much to the drivers leading or near the front of the pack for most of the race but not at the finish. However, it will encourage the drivers to go hard early and often during the race to keep themselves in contention for the bonus points throughout the event. Race strategies will develop around these point milestones. Some teams might stay out under a caution to garner the points while other teams pit. When the points are earned the teams who stayed out will then pit and the cars at the back of the pack will now be up front. It will open a myriad of possibilities which will all add excitement to the event. Would this idea be harder to follow than the current point system? A little bit. However, the thing that most fans want to know is where does their driver sit at the end of the day? They really don’t care about the points that are earned throughout the race or where their driver runs. As a result, the drivers will know when they want to be up front and getting there will add excitement to the events. It will also open up sponsorship opportunities for race promoters because each segment could have a sponsor paying a purse to the leader. It would hearken back to the old halfway bonus. For those who don’t remember, there used to be a halfway bonus of $10,000 for the driver leading at the crossed flags. It cost Dale Jarrett the Brickyard 400 one year because he tried to stretch his fuel to the halfway point and ran out. Racing should be about trying to lead the most laps and beating the competition. Unfortunately, it has come down to a points management game now. The only way to get the competitive excitement back into the sport, while still allowing the bean counters the chance to keep track of points is to offer them more often throughout the events. In the end, it will make for a much better show. <span style=\"color:orange; font-weight:bold\">S.D. Grady, Senior Editor: There's no need for more bonus points</span> And welcome to the New Hampshire 100, three times the charm, trophy awarded to all comers, presented by NASCAR and your local T-ball team. No, it is not worth your while as a top-notch professional stock car team to go balls to the wall all 500 laps, proving to the world that your machine is the most durable, that you've hired a pilot with both endurance and wits, and that you've the wherewithal to garner enough sponsors to pay your bills. No, it's quite all right. We've got you covered. <div style=\"float:left; width:250px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/15495.jpg\" width=\"250\" height=\"375\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">…or would it simply mean everyone gets a ribbon while the winner's accomplishment is diminished?</p></div> Instead of pushing every limit on man and machine, we've got a brand new way of doing business for the Sprint Cup Series. We're going to fully embrace the title sponsor's name and turn Sunday's marathon into a Saturday Night Special. Every 50 laps we'll award a ribbon to the boy or girl who slips past the start/finish line first–there's a new flag designed for the moment – it features a cartoon character. We're just waiting for the fan poll to come through so we can name it. We've also decided to print a certificate for the best fuel mileage, snazziest pit crew uniforms and most dramatic performance by a crew chief. If that's not enough, there's the 75-lap, 50/50 raffle to keep the fans interested. During the lap 150 scheduled break, the track mascot will scamper up and down the stands awarding the brightest fan (that's brightest…as in t-shirt color) free tickets to come back again. On lap 225, there will be a Twitter poll with random participants earning points toward a meet n' greet with the lap 275 leader. Victory Lane? That has been abbreviated into a photo op with the State Troopers in the parking lot while the team tries to escape the traffic jam. No, you cannot improve the racing of the Sprint Cup Series by chopping up the event into shorter, lucrative segments. By doing so, you will have devalued all that the teams have worked so hard to achieve in reaching the upper echelon of stock car racing in America. There are no 500-lap features at your local Friday night track. The cars won't last. The drivers aren't as good. The ruts in the surface would probably crumble. By reaching the Sprint Cup Series, you have proven that you've got the goods to go the distance. When you take the trophy, you've done what many others have only dreamed of accomplishing: beat the competition by being the brightest, fastest, strongest, most adaptive, focused, intelligent and on the occasion just plain lucky. And yes, by driving smart for the first 499 laps. The fat lady only sings once a race. That's what we hand out the big checks for and that's the way it should remain. Otherwise, we should close every major racing venue and excuse ourselves to the splintered benches of Thompson, Irwindale, and Eldora. *Connect with Sonya!* <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/laregna\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/6502.jpg\"></a><br> \"Contact S.D. Grady\":http://www.frontstretch.com/contact/14360/ *Connect with Mike!* <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/mneffshorttrack\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/6502.jpg\"></a><br> \"Contact Mike Neff\":http://www.frontstretch.com/contact/14354/

Tech Talk: Comparing Loop Data To Analyze The Gen-6

_Author's Note: An unexpected scheduling conflict caused our crew chief to be unavailable this week, so we're going to take a look at the loop data statistics from last year's Phoenix race vs. this year's to see what the performance of the Gen-6 vs. COT looks like from a purely data-driven perspective._ NASCAR compiles a mountain of statistics each week that allow digit heads across the land, and in the garage area, to make unbiased comparisons on many different levels. Since Sunday's race was the first unrestricted event for the latest version of the Cup Series car, it just might be interesting to see what the numbers reveal. The first numbers we'll look at are quality passes. A quality pass is one that occurs on a car running in the top 15 under green flag conditions. In last year's race, Jimmie Johnson finished fourth but had the most quality passes during the race with 63. Interestingly, in 2013, Brad Keselowski finished fourth and also had the most quality passes; however, the defending champion only notched 35 of them. In looking at the quality passes, the top 11 passers in 2012's Spring Phoenix race made more than the top passer in 2013. That's sign that to pass someone, last Sunday it was far more difficult than during the race a year before. <div style=\"float:right; width:275px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/15503.jpg\" width=\"275\" height=\"102\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">Much has been said of the Gen-6 cars leading into the 2013 season, but are they really that much better than the COT was?</p></div> Next up is the speed in traffic stat. It gives you the average speed of the driver when he has another car within one car length of them during green flag laps. This year's top runner at Phoenix was Matt Kenseth with a speed of 129.807 mph. Last year's best in traffic was Jimmie Johnson who clocked 130.260 mph. When it was all said and done, the speed of the top runners was nearly identical from one year to the next. Third up is the statistic that backs up the argument that you always hear from the people who attend the race in person. They always maintain that there is so much more action back in the pack than what you see on TV. Green flag passes will most definitely let you know which race had the most excitement from front to back of the pack. In 2012, Jimmie Johnson once again led the category with no less than 90 passes during green flag competition. That was nearly 50% more than this year's king of the overtake, AJ Allmendinger, who put the move on 61 cars throughout the length of the race. The top 12 drivers in the 2012 green flag pass statistics made more green flag passes than the top passer in 2013. Laps led is another category that indicates the competitive nature of a race. More drivers leading laps means more drivers were at the front. Certainly some laps led occur when drivers stay out during cautions, but in the long run, more drivers leading laps indicates more competitive races. 2013 saw nine drivers lead laps, with five of them leading double digit laps and Carl Edwards leading the most at 122 circuits. In comparison, 2012 saw 15 drivers lead the field across the line, but only five of them led double digit laps. The mandate that came down from above as the manufacturers and NASCAR's R&D center started working on the latest edition of the Cup series car was to have more side-by-side racing and more passes for the lead. While there is a long way to go and many things to be learned about this new car, for now it is looking like the older car was a bit more competitive. However, the older car had been around for six years, and there had been a lot of tricks and techniques learned to make it better. For now, the jury is still out on the new car. But, looking at the numbers that were accumulated last Sunday, the older car was faster, had more passing and more leaders. We'll see what it looks like when the series rolls back into Phoenix in November. *Connect with Mike!* <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/mneffshorttrack\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/6502.jpg\"></a><br> \"Contact Mike Neff\":http://www.frontstretch.com/contact/14354/

Did You Notice? … NASCAR's New TV Challenge, Record Droughts &amp; Six Shooters

*Did You Notice?…* The major undercurrent of FOX’s rebranding of SPEED as FOX Sports 1? The new network, set to debut August 17th is a reaction to NBC’s recent cash infusion into its own sports network. NBCSN, who happens to be looking for a chunk of NASCAR races in the next rights package, is being built as a “superstation†of sports with designs to challenge ESPN over the next decade. Add in CBS’ own dabbling in sports, albeit on a smaller scale with CBSSN and FOX felt like they needed to get with the program. (Note: ABC, the last member of TV’s network giants is owned by the same parent company, Disney, that controls ESPN.) With that adjustment, though comes a reality check that some of the programming all have enjoyed on a racing-only network will simply go away. You’ve got to think, considering how they had cornered the racing market at one point FOX recognized a limit to how much money they could make through motorsports-related programming. Sports television, after all is a business just like all other fields and rebranding the network allows it to pursue other, more profitable sources of programming. Already, Dave Despain’s _Wind Tunnel,_ popular amongst hardcore racing fans has been placed in the “under evaluation†category as to whether it will continue under the new network. What a nice way of saying its days are numbered, right? I think Despain, while one of the best racing reporters of our time doesn’t have an audience centered on that juicy 18-49 age group that makes advertisers start to spontaneously drool. There are other sports, like soccer that take less time, are easy to produce, have a well-rounded following and will bring in a newer, hipper audience. Again… if FOX felt racing would carry the majority of their new venture, maximizing the profit why wouldn’t they have found a way to keep a version on SPEED? The bottom line is, while racing will form parts of the network (it won’t go away; FOX’s TV deal would be a waste without it) don’t expect it to be front and center all the time. Especially during the Fall, when Sprint Cup is televised elsewhere and NFL season takes center stage racing will be barely a blip on the radar screen. Expect major drops in the ratings, too if the big network chooses to move a handful of their Cup races to FS1 beginning in 2015. Yes, the network may be in 90 million homes but we saw the consequences for IndyCar when their races were relegated to Channel 12356 on the local cable channel. (The Nielsen ratings are so microscopic, these days it’s hard to get a reading on what they actually are for that series.) In the short-term, there’s not much NASCAR can do about this adjustment. But as the four stick ‘n’ ball giants – hockey, baseball, football, and basketball – carry on with their own, branded networks you have to wonder what the sport is going to do to protect itself. Through NBATV, for example basketball can always rest assured its product is out there, along with 24-hour analysis and special programming for its hardcore fans. At one time, NASCAR was rumored to be starting its own TV network in Charlotte but those plans, at the moment appear to be on hold. In the meantime, its own NASCAR.com website continues to struggle with interactive, in-race enhancements for fans to the point people have emailed me and said they can’t even navigate to the website because it’s crashing their browser. On Twitter, a once cutting-edge way for fans to stay connected to the sport now comes with a worry drivers can be fined for speaking their minds about series rules. We’re living in a technology and television generation, yet both seem to be slipping out of NASCAR’s grasp. Getting a grip on that, beyond Danica Patrick and the Gen-6 car may be more of a key to growth than anything else. But I’ll tell you one thing that definitely isn’t a positive; a racing network specifically changing its name to _get away_ from racing, with no replacement in sight. That doesn’t tell people to come sit in the stands on Sunday. *Did You Notice?…* The panic over the new Generation-6 model? It’s two races in and already, after some below-average competition people are ready to take this car and throw it in the trash bin. We haven’t even been to an intermediate track yet! For those threatening to boycott the sport, already it’s like watching a baseball game after changing the rules and then leaving, stomping your feet in the third inning. Is it that bad you can’t bear to see how it turns out? I do have one concern, though and it surrounds dominance from a particular program. \"As I pointed out yesterday,\":http://www.frontstretch.com/tbowles/42496/ the whole concept of “cookie-cutter†tracks filling the boredom quota in our lives comes from the fact Jimmie Johnson has absolutely dominated them. Here we are again, two races into a season and that pesky J.J. has an average finish of 1.5. His current shop, still led by crew chief Chad Knaus won 10 times and stomped the competition during the first year of the Gen-5 chassis. Add in the atypical early success of Earnhardt at Phoenix, a track where he’d skipped a beat at times in very recent history and you’re looking at the possibility for a runaway regular season, at least. The Gen-6 was designed, in part so the smaller teams could start on a level playing field, have a better chance to challenge the superstars above them. Instead, should HMS come out and take control it all but sets a Formula One style separation in stone. Someone needs to find a way to compete; there’s still time. But you have to think if J.J. contends and/or wins this Sunday he’s got to be the overwhelming favorite in the Chase once again. *Did You Notice?…* This interesting twist, following Carl Edwards' Las Vegas win put together by our own Kevin Rutherford? For a driver of his caliber (and for someone whose previous winless streaks weren't as daunting), Edwards' 70-race losing streak in Sprint Cup was unexpected and a bit troubling. Though he's never been a driver to go on a tear, save for 2008's nine-win campaign, seeing his familiar No. 99 out of victory lane took some getting used to. But while the streak was sizable, it's certainly not among the longest. In fact, in terms of resolved streaks (i.e. winless streaks broken by a victory), it runs about mid-pack. As hard on one's confidence 70 races without a win may be, Bill Elliott actually holds the distinction of the longest losing streak in Cup that ended up being broken with a victory (for drivers who have won at least once). Awesome Bill went an astounding 226 races, between 1994 and 2001 without one. A close second is Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s dry spell between 2008 and last year, 205 races in total. That said, Edwards' streak came at a time when he was still semi-competitive. In 2011, he finished tied for the championship despite winning only once that season, while Elliott and Junior downright struggled during the years of their streak.That's partially what makes the lack of wins less affecting; one only really looks at 2012 as a year when he didn't perform up to standards. Edwards' winless streak isn't even that long put against other active drivers in the same boat. Of former winners who have competed in one of NASCAR's top series since 2012, Ken Schrader holds the current record, with a 565-race dry spell dating back to 1991. Derrike Cope hasn't won since 1990 – 327 races – and former champ Bobby Labonte just hit 326. In terms of drivers in (proven) winning equipment? Martin Truex, Jr.'s 205 races without a victory comes to mind. It all comes down to the team for which Edwards drives. Guys at Roush Fenway Racing are pretty much expected to win, not go on 70-race spells in between victories. Coupled with the fact that he actually hasn't been half bad despite not winning, him taking so long to taste victory surprised a lot of people. Don't count on it being this long again. *Longest Winless Droughts Snapped* (Between wins - Number of starts to get first career win does not count) *Bill Elliott* - 226 ('94 - '01) *Dale Earnhardt, Jr.* - 205 ('08 - '12) *Jeff Burton* - 175 ('01 - '06) *Sterling Marlin* - 170 ('96 - '01) *Dave Marcis* - 167 ('76 - '82) *Did You Notice?…* Quick hits before we take off… - An underreported story from Phoenix is the way new Ford “front man†Brad Keselowski pushed the old, uncontested superstar a car length ahead during that green-white-checkered finish. Clearly, both men have matured since this \"2010 flip\":www.youtube.com/watch?v=-y-9ZDs8fd0 that could have turned tragic after the two couldn’t get away from each other on-track; the mellowing of the bad blood between them is genuine. But I also think two of the smartest men in the garage are well aware of where their bread is now buttered. Penske Racing (Keselowski) is getting their engines from Roush Fenway, during year one with the Blue Oval program and needs all the support they can get. When you don’t build your own equipment, well, the last thing you want to do is bite the hand that feeds you. As for Edwards? He’s never been afraid to seek out help and support. And who better to help rebuild your confidence, sharing information than a man that just won the 2012 Sprint Cup championship? - Front Row Motorsports is putting on a brave face this week. But after tearing up five cars, out of a possible six to start off 2013 you have to wonder how much they’re hurting for equipment. An underfunded team, who doesn’t have extra cash lying around to begin with the next month or so may be a case of “survival mode:†third driver Josh Wise starting-and-parking while the other two, David Ragan and David Gilliland, take out a restraining order on anyone within 50 feet. Such is the nature of NASCAR these days, another layer of possible conservatism that comes with running behind on building these new cars. - Is it just me, or does Kurt Busch still think he’s driving Phoenix Racing equipment? Even last Fall, when experiencing success with Furniture Row Racing’s No. 78 he’d put himself in hot water unnecessarily with a self-imposed trip to the outside wall. You’d think a former Cup champion, once known for his consistency would learn to take a 15th-place car and finish 15th with it. Second place is the first loser; I understand that much-needed aggression within the sport. But sending yourself to the garage on a wrecker comes with a nasty bill that’s only going to dig your smaller team a deeper hole. - NASCAR and the NRA. Really? Who knew both sides had a burning desire to shoot themselves in the foot? Anytime you try and put politics and sports together, well, mixing oil and water comes to mind. No one cared, for example about the six-shooters in Texas Victory Lane until everyone started sniffing post-NRA deal. I just don't see this ending well for either side… *Connect with Tom!* <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/NASCARBowles\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/6502.jpg\"></a><br> \"Contact Tom Bowles\":http://www.frontstretch.com/contact/14345/ *Connect with Kevin!* <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/surfwax83\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/6502.jpg\"></a><a href=\"http://facebook.com/surfwaxamerica\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/6501.jpg\"></a><br> \"Contact Kevin Rutherford\":http://www.frontstretch.com/contact/37802/

The Offseason Might Never Be The Same

The offseason. That time when we at first breathe a collective sigh of relief and take a break from devoting our Saturdays or Sundays to races. We all plan things around races on occasion, don’t we? Especially on a certain Sunday in May. No, the winter months are for getting away from that and spending time with our families and friends, especially those poor souls who don’t get the attraction of fast cars and non-stop action. At least the early part of the offseason is like that; toward the end we all get a little bit antsy–just a little anxious. For pity’s sake, can’t we start racing yet? NASCAR types don’t have to endure quite the wait the IndyCar crowd does. They race until mid-November and they are back on track in earnest by February. Well, we last saw cars turn laps in anger in September and we won’t see it again for another three weeks. That’s the end of March, for crying out loud! I’m going to forget what the drivers look like by then! <div style=\"float:right; width:275px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/14308.jpg\" width=\"275\" height=\"183\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">Who wouldn't want to see this guy (Will Power) chair racing to help waste away the INDYCAR offseason? Photo courtesy INDYCAR LAT USA.</p></div> Ah, but INDYCAR had your back on that front this year. No, there isn’t any racing, but thanks to _The Offseason_, there was a chance to enjoy some of our favorite drivers this year. For those who have not been following, INDYCAR has been running a series of short videos called _The Offseason_ featuring Will Power, James Hinchcliffe, Charlie Kimball and Josef Newgarden that depicts the quartet of bored drivers running amok around INDYCAR headquarters. Sure, it’s fluff, but it’s just the right amount of fluff to give us a “fix” when we don’t have racing to enjoy. It’s also a great move on the part of INDYCAR. The clips range from a few seconds to a couple of minutes long. They probably filmed these in a day or two, but they’ve gotten several months of fresh content to keep their drivers in front of fans. They dole them out one by one each week, right in that period of winter doldrums when fans start itching for the season to start. I’d call that a great return on a minimum investment. They are \"posted on YouTube\":http://www.youtube.com/user/indycars so fans can find any clips they missed simply by searching \"The Offseason IndyCar\" and can enjoy their favorites as many times as they want. And I don’t know about anyone else – maybe I’m just some sort of geek – but I’ve lately found myself eagerly looking forward to the arrival of the newest clip every week. A minimum of effort was needed to keep fans engaged and showcase driver personalities, but it gave them something to follow all winter. Why doesn’t NASCAR do something like this concept? Maybe they just haven’t thought of it. Maybe they don’t think the offseason is long enough to need something fluffy to engage fans, especially since they are back on TV by mid-January with preseason testing. I can think of one other reason but I don’t think putting it out there is going to make me very popular in stock car circles. NASCAR fans would hate it. They don’t want fluff. They don’t want drivers doing silly skits or engaging in staged antics. They make that clear every time one of the networks airs something of this variety. It’s undignified. NASCAR drivers are not clowns, they are here for business and we don’t want silly stuff going on instead. To put it bluntly, they can be sticks in the mud and sometimes take this whole racing thing too seriously. Whatever. Do I really think Will Power \"chair races in the halls\":http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_KIVEdU2HU of INDYCAR headquarters? OK, scratch that one. That might be a bad example because he might do that if given a chance. Do I really think Will Power \"listens to Justin Bieber on his computer\":http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8olE3ERiHg in his cubicle at headquarters? Good Lord, I hope not. My point is, I realize these guys are just goofing around and I don’t think they really spend the winter months running around the office doing silly things while wearing their driver suits. I realize someone put these skits together solely for publicity purposes. I also think it was a great idea because when I can’t watch real racing and be serious, it’s just fun to cut up and watch them act silly when there’s nothing better to do. And it gets fans to engage and look for content when they might not normally even be thinking about INDYCAR. Additionally, serious news is also beginning to flow again. The league has announced a few rule changes for this year aimed at allowing team strategies to become a bigger part of the game. Teams will be able to start the race with any amount of fuel in the tank they choose instead of being required to have it full. Distances in a handful of races have also been changed, and it's all in an effort to allow for more varied fuel strategy and take mileage races out of the equation. Teams will also have more tire strategy at their disposal. Previously, only one set of new tires was allowed during each of the three segments of road/street course qualifying, but now teams will be limited only by their allotment of tires. That means they can decide if they want to use fresh rubber to get a better starting spot, or choose to save it for the race. They will still be required to use both the primary and the alternate tires for at least two laps during each road/street course. For the double-headers, one set of each must be used during each of the two races. Teams have been testing, although \"Hildebrand’s pink Caddy\":http://www.frontstretch.com/tbowles/42488/ provided some light moments there. Driver and car combos have been coming together, some of them harmoniously, some of them dubiously, and some of them contentious on at least some fronts. Katherine Legge isn’t done having her say about Dragon Racing releasing her in favor of Sebastian Saavedra and keeping her sponsor True Car. Either way, the long offseason is almost over with one perk, perhaps; the offseason next year won't be quite as long because we'll be racing until October this year. In the meantime, thanks INDYCAR for coming up with an idea to keep some of our favorite drivers in front of us until the real action begins. I think fluff is fun. Racing is supposed to be a sport. It's supposed to be fun and I think sometimes fans and participants forget that. _The Offseason_ was a good reminder. And if we're honest, who doesn't want to have chair races in the hallway? *Connect with Toni!* <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/ToniLMontgomery\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/6502.jpg\"></a><br> \"Contact Toni Montgomery\":http://www.frontstretch.com/contact/14351/

NASCAR Writer Power Rankings: Top 15 After Phoenix-1

<div style=\"margin: 20px; width: 275px; float: left; border: 0px solid black; padding: 3px\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/1952.gif\" border=\"0\" alt=\"Frontstretch Power Rankings\" width=\"206\" height=\"202\" /></div><div><div><div>The backflip is back! Carl Edwards survived a green-white-checkered finish and broke a 70-race winless streak in Phoenix to capture his first win since Las Vegas in 2011. Ironically, this is the same track Edwards broke his first 70-race winless streak at, back in November 2010.&nbsp;</div><div><br /></div><div>Tire wear was the major story leaving Phoenix as a majority of cautions were a result of right-front tire failures. Those among the victims included Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick, who both fell out of the race from damage due to blown Goodyears.</div><div><br /></div><div>Also a top story was track position. Early leaders Mark Martin, Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne were strong throughout the first half of the race, but Martin and Kahne couldn&rsquo;t recover after falling back into traffic due to ill-handling race cars. Edwards was the only one of that trio to finish inside the top 15. &nbsp;</div><div><br /></div><div>In the end, the cream rose to the top. Nine of the top-10 finishers Sunday were in the top 10 in the final 2012 point standings. It&rsquo;s still early in the season but Jimmie, Brad and Junior are making statements. Did Carl Edwards&#39; victory help propel him up the rankings? Or does Jimmie Johnson reign supreme with back-to-back top-2 finishes? Read on to find out:</div><div>&nbsp;</div></div><div><strong>How The Rankings Are Calculated</strong>: Frontstretch does our power rankings somewhat similar to how the Associated Press does them for basketball or football – our expert stable of NASCAR writers, both on staff and from other major publications will vote for the Top 20 on a 20-19-18-17-16-15… 3-2-1 basis, giving 20 points to their first place driver, 19 for their second, and so on. In the end, Michael Mehedin calculates the points, adds some funny one-liners, and … here you go!</div></div><table border=\"0\"><tbody></tbody></table><table border=\"0\" cellspacing=\"4\" cellpadding=\"0\" bgcolor=\"#a0a0a0\"><tbody><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td colspan=\"4\" align=\"center\"><strong>FRONTSTRETCH TOP 15 POWER RANKINGS: March 6th</strong></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td><strong>Rank</strong></td><td><strong>Driver (First Place Votes)</strong></td><td><strong>Votes</strong> </td><td align=\"right\"><strong>Last Week</strong></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>1</strong></td><td><strong>Jimmie Johnson (10)</strong></td><td align=\"right\">219</td><td align=\"right\">1</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Appears that Johnson is in &ldquo;Chase Mode&rdquo; mode a little early this year. <em>Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>2</strong></td><td><strong>Brad Keselowski</strong></td><td align=\"right\">199</td><td align=\"right\">2</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Don&rsquo;t look now but the champ is looking like he&rsquo;s ready to make five-time earn number six. <em>Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>3</strong></td><td><strong>Dale Earnhardt, Jr. </strong></td><td align=\"right\">194</td><td align=\"right\">3</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Two good races on totally different tracks, a good sign for Junior Nation. <em>Jeff Wolfe, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>4</strong></td><td><strong>Denny Hamlin</strong></td><td align=\"right\">168</td><td align=\"right\">7</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">BONZAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIII!!!!! <em>Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>5</strong></td><td><strong>Clint Bowyer </strong></td><td align=\"right\">163</td><td align=\"right\">5</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Happy with a solid, sixth-place performance, but probably would have preferred that finish a lot more the last time the series visited the desert. <em>Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>6</strong></td><td><strong>Matt Kenseth</strong></td><td align=\"right\">152</td><td align=\"right\">6</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Matt showed what TRD power can do without any issues. <em>Michael Mehedin, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>7</strong></td><td><strong>Carl Edwards</strong></td><td align=\"right\">150</td><td align=\"right\">NR</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Good to see the focus in the grandstands after the race was for a driver celebrating a win, not debris from an accident. <em>Michael Mehedin, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>8</strong></td><td><strong>Tony Stewart</strong></td><td align=\"right\">137</td><td align=\"right\">11</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">The boss had to prove that an SHR car could make it to the finish. <em>Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>9</strong></td><td><strong>Jeff Gordon</strong></td><td align=\"right\">135</td><td align=\"right\">9</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Could see Clint Bowyer at the end of the race but couldn&rsquo;t get close enough to dump him again. <em>Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>10</strong></td><td><strong>Greg Biffle</strong></td><td align=\"right\">128</td><td align=\"right\">4</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">The rollercoaster that is Biffle&rsquo;s season is heading towards hill number two. <em>Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>11</strong></td><td><strong>Kevin Harvick</strong></td><td align=\"right\">100</td><td align=\"right\">13</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Hoping the entire &ldquo;baby in the car&rdquo; during pre-race has been put to bed, <em>Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>12</strong></td><td><strong>Kasey Kahne (1)</strong></td><td align=\"right\">89</td><td align=\"right\">10</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Kasey continues to dig a hole much like he did in 2012. On the positive side, the hole isn&rsquo;t as big as it was this time last year. <em>Michael Mehedin, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>13</strong></td><td><strong>Mark Martin</strong></td><td align=\"right\">74</td><td align=\"right\">14</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">Fondly recalls the days when four new tires made your car faster than those competitors that opted for only two. <em>Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>14</strong></td><td><strong>Kyle Busch</strong></td><td align=\"right\">60</td><td align=\"right\">8</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">The natural flow of Sunday&rsquo;s race guaranteed that the early spin would keep him from being able to record a decent finish. <em>Phil Allaway, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr bgcolor=\"#ffffff\"><td align=\"center\"><strong>15</strong></td><td><strong>Aric Almirola</strong></td><td align=\"right\">58</td><td align=\"right\">NR</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\">It will be a while before Aric is considered a threat for anything, but sitting ninth in points after two races is a good start. <em>Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com</em></td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\"><strong>Dropped Out</strong>: Danica Patrick (15), Ryan Newman (12) </td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\"><strong>Others Receiving Votes</strong>:&nbsp;Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (52), Jeff Burton (43), Ryan Newman (39), AJ Allmendinger (27), Marcos Ambrose (27), Martin Truex, Jr. (23), Juan Pablo Montoya (21), Kurt Busch (15), Joey Logano (14), Paul Menard (11), Casey Mears (6), J.J. Yeley (3), Danica Patrick (2), Bobby Labonte (1).</td></tr><tr><td colspan=\"4\"><strong>Who Voted</strong>: <a href=\"http://twitter.com/Critic84\">Phil Allaway, Frontstretch.com</a>; <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/NASCARBowles\">Tom Bowles, Frontstretch.com</a>; <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/KellyCrandall%22\">Kelly Crandall, SpeedwayMedia.com</a>; <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/dustinlong\">Dustin Long, Athlon Sports</a>; <a href=\"http://twitter.com/tonylumbis\">Tony Lumbis, Frontstretch.com</a>; <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/MikeyMehedin\">Michael Mehedin, Frontstretch.com</a>; <a href=\"http://www.facebook.com/RaceTalkRadio\">Dennis Michelsen, RaceTalkRadio.com</a>; Brad Morgan, Frontstretch.com; <a href=\"http://www.facebook.com/MNeffshorttracj\">Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com</a>; <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/surfwax83\">Kevin Rutherford, Frontstretch.com</a>; <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/jeffwolfe206\">Jeff Wolfe, Frontstretch.com</a>.</td></tr></tbody></table>

Top Ten Things Ryan Newman Was Thinking As He Walked Away From His Phoenix Crash

<div style=\"float:right; width:250px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/14463.jpg\" width=\"250\" height=\"390\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">I can't believe I thought it would be cool to try and grow a beard like Jimmie's! This stubble itches something fierce under the helmet–must shave now!</p></div> *10.* Oh, well…. at least now I can check on my fantasy racing league. *9.* Man, all those free Bloomin' Onions are still weighing me down. *8.* I swear the GPS said to turn right. *7.* One of my cows just had another calf. I gotta hurry and get home to see how they are doing. *6.* Somebody said something about a fight going on back here. Where is it? *5.* This gives me a chance to show off my sponsors a little more. Please re-up. Please! *4.* Where the heck did I see that Port a Potty? *3.* This NASCAR green movement is taking things a bit far… *2.* Who thought it would be funny to put the rattlesnakes from the hill under my seat? *1.* I'm no Clint Bowyer, but I can move pretty fast, too! \"Contact the Frontstretch Staff\":http://www.frontstretch.com/contact/14345/

Nuts for Nationwide: Annett’s Anguish, Plus Seven Part-Timers To Watch In 2013

The crop of young talent in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series is deeper than it has been in years. After many years of Cup guys running the show, more teams are taking chances on rookie drivers to lead them on the path to victory — or, at least, some good finishes here and there.

In 2013, three of those drivers — Alex Bowman of RAB Racing, Kyle Larson of Turner Scott Motorsports and Kyle Busch Motorsports’ Parker Kligerman — lead the charge with full-time efforts and established organizations. Count on at least one, if not more of them making it to Victory Lane by season’s end. That’s how good this group is.

Voices From The Cheap Seats: Fans That Sue Are No Fans At All!

Here it is, not even a week after the first race of the season and already it looks as if NASCAR is going to have at least three lawsuits to contend with. We’re off to a great start!

Now normally, when it comes to suing NASCAR, I am usually on the “non-NASCAR” side of the aisle. This time however, I find myself firmly entrenched in the sanctioning body’s camp.

Jeb Burton Driver Diary: Daytona Success, Goals and Extended Breaks

_Welcome to Jeb Burton’s Driver Diary! After running a handful of Camping World Truck Series races last season before a lack of sponsorship sidelined him, the 20-year-old has signed on to run the full season with Turner Scott Motorsports behind the wheel of the No. 4 Chevrolet. In five races last season, Burton posted a lone top-10 finish (eighth at Charlotte) and has already bettered that with a fifth-place at Daytona to start off 2013. Join in all season long as he keeps you up to date on everything happening both on and off the track._

I started racing Motocross and I did that and won some races. I realized my talent was better on four wheels than two, so I took it to go-karts and succeeded very well at it. Then we went on to Late Models and I ran really well. We figured it was time to go to the next level, got some time and ran well in the Truck Series (in 2012). I knew I could do it then and I’m with a great organization now – it’s time to win races now.

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