Nate Ryan

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Rare peek into race purses, payouts under charter system


A new filing before a Thursday bankruptcy court hearing for BK Racing provided a window into the payouts of NASCAR’s charter structure.

The system, which went into effect two years ago, guaranteed revenues and race attendance for 36 cars. Funding was based on four categories: entering a race, historical performance over the past three seasons, the traditional points fund (with extra cash) and race results. It was partly intended to help teams by providing more predictable revenue guarantees for budget projections.

MORE: Court filing reveals expenses, revenue for each race

Prior to the 2016 season, each race had a purse that paid out for finishing position and contingency awards (which rewarded the most competitive teams). Under the new system, money paid for results was based solely on finishing position, and NASCAR abolished publishing purse totals and race winnings in box scores.

The BK Racing document, which was filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Western District of North Carolina, sheds some light on those now shielded numbers. It lists the total purse for every race during the 2018 season and also lists BK Racing’s prize money for each of the first four races in the No. 23 Toyota with driver Gray Gaulding.

–Daytona 500 (total purse $15.466 million): The team earned $428,794 for finishing 20th.

–Atlanta Motor Speedway (total purse $2.477 million): The team earned $91,528 for 36th.

–Las Vegas Motor Speedway (total purse $2.647 million): The team earned $98,754 for 33rd.

–ISM Raceway near Phoenix (total purse: $1.459 million): The team earned $82,000 for 34th.

Though the formula was different for structuring the purse and race payouts, here were the total purses and payouts for those positions in 2015, the last year that earnings were publicly made available.

–Daytona 500: Total purse $19.8 million; $348,803 for 20th

–Atlanta: Total purse $6.3 million; $101,370 for 36th

–Las Vegas: Total purse $6.5 million; $118,724 for 33rd

–Phoenix: Total purse $5.1 million; $74,805 for 34th

A hearing on the BK Racing bankruptcy case will be held in Charlotte at 2 p.m. Thursday.

Click here to view the BK Racing filing.

Ryan: Hey, if Kyle Busch wants to stick around, how about everybody?

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Kyle Busch is right: The top three finishers after every Cup race should make mandatory visits to the media center.

But don’t stop there. Bring every finisher to an Olympics-style “mixed zone” accessible to media after the race, and let’s curtail the pointless exercise of madly scrambling out of the track and to the airport to beget the social media transmissions that often serve as a crude deconstruction of what exactly happened over the past three hours.

It would be much more productive for everyone (and enlightening for fans starved to gobble up every salient morsel of analysis and explanation) if the checkered flag finally fell on the “race after the race,” which essentially precludes much of the news gathering opportunities inherent to other pro sports.

The media corps has been culpable in glorifying this dash, which is exclusive to NASCAR in a way that seems odd when framed in context.

In the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NHL, locker rooms for both teams open after a cooling-off period that ranges anywhere from a few to 15 minutes. The key is that when the games end, the coaches talk, and then every player ostensibly is fair game for interviews (though it can take patience to wait out the superstars).

That’s difficult in the chaos after a Cup race, where there is less of a guarantee of information being disseminated efficiently. There is no cooling-off period — a selling point because interviews often are emotional with drivers exiting cockpits after three hours of intense pressure and sometimes insane temperatures.

But it’s tricky to pin down interviews with three dozen cars parked in close proximity and a few hundred people zipping between them packing up tools or making beelines for the infield tunnel.

Everyone is in a hurry to go somewhere because … why?

There is the pride of winning the “race” out of the track that hardly anyone cares about beyond the participants (depending on traffic flow at nearby airports, the reward can be sitting on a tarmac and idling away jet fuel worth thousands while awaiting departure).

And yes, there is the joy of getting home in time to catch loved ones before bed.

But neither scenario necessarily is threatened by waiting an extra 20 to 30 minutes. And the work at the shop still starts at the same time Monday.

This trend began in the early 1990s when many drivers began buying or leasing their own planes (and some had pilot’s licenses). But it really took flight in the mid-‘90s when teams assembled private air forces to ferry hundreds of crew members around the country in what has become a well-oiled marvel of travel logistics.

In the span of a few years, road trips went from four wheels to two wings, and it radically changed postrace dynamics that weren’t all that dissimilar from a locker room in some instances. A few decades ago after the Southern 500, the Darlington Raceway showers were where many reporters found drivers. Richard Petty would be accessible for hours while signing autographs.

What if drivers now were asked to hang around a little while for interviews? And in some designated media bullpen (once upon time, it was known as the Unocal gas pumps)?

There is a successful setup employed in Formula 1, whose drivers must traverse a mandatory TV media area with affiliates from around the world (the top three also attend a news conference, and some hold open availability at team hospitality).

There is sure to be pushback in NASCAR against this idea, likely from those who will trot out the tired argument that it’s another example of news media “laziness.”

This is in the same vein of those who decry lobbying for shortening races and blame-shift it to “a NASCAR industry that wants to work less.”  (Psst, the length of a race, whether it’s two hours or three and a half hours, has little impact on the hours worked afterward … feasibly, reporters will be working much longer after a short race that’s eventful than a three hour-plus snoozer).

At least with longer races, a case is made for incremental value by those who demand more laps.

What is gained by getting to the airport 20 minutes earlier? A head start on angry tweeting on the ride home?

Take a cue from Kyle, fellas, and stay a while. Your stories need to be told!

After relatively smooth inspections at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway, what changed to prevent 13 cars from making a qualifying lap at Auto Club Speedway?

It doesn’t seem to have been track-specific because if teams were trying to navigate the backstretch bumps on the 2-mile oval, there likely would have been work done around the fenders. But the offending areas seemed mainly concentrated in area around the rear window and deck lids.

Perhaps teams (particularly those whose advantages with customized splitters were eradicated by rules changes this season) were conservative with the new Optical Scanning Station through the first few races? Once comfort was achieved, the teams tried to take more, and many found the limit at Fontana.

It also might have been illuminating for teams without OSS machines in their shops. Though NASCAR offers the option of using the scanner at its R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina, ensuring a car meets the rigors of the new inspection apparently is a process requiring multiple scans during the course of car-building – putting a premium on having an OSS handy.

NASCAR’s move to conduct inspections only after qualifying at Martinsville Speedway (essentially treating it as an impound-style race) has prompted an interesting question within the industry: Will the teams be held to looser or tighter tolerances?

Generally, it makes sense to allow more leeway in inspection post-qualifying than prerace, but in this case, those inspections are one in the same.

NASCAR will be using post-qualifying tolerances at Martinsville — which presumably would mean less potential for inspection problems.

After weathering last Wednesday’s impending departure of primary sponsor Lowe’s, Jimmie Johnson’s week has gotten off to a much better start with a season-best ninth Sunday and a ranking among the top five dominant athletes of the past 20 years.

There are still some major questions to answer about the future of the No. 48 Chevrolet and crew chief Chad Knaus (whose contract runs through this season), and a long way to secure the competitiveness and consistency to win an eighth championship. But Johnson has made a career of proving anything is possible, and it would be foolish to bet against him.

On the flip side at Hendrick Motorsports: It might be just a blip, but Chase Elliott’s 16th at Fontana in the wake of a penalty last week will bear watching.

After committing the same infraction in a victory at Richmond, Joey Logano’s 2017 season came off the rails. The Team Penske driver had eight top 10s in the first nine races. After the Richmond penalty (which disqualified his win for playoff eligibility), Logano had nine top 10s in 27 races and missed the playoffs.

Elliott could pick up where he nearly left off last October at Martinsville Speedway and win Sunday, but if the No. 9 Chevrolet driver continues to struggle, it’s sure to raise the specter of Logano’s results last year.

There were wildly varying assessments of the crowd at Fontana, ranging from near capacity to perhaps far less. Depending on the camera angles of the grandstands (overhead shots vs. from the pits), it’s easy to understand the confusion.

NASCAR discontinued releasing attendance estimates more than five years ago. Being fans of transparency in this corner, it would be encouraging if tracks could eliminate arguments such as the above by releasing official figures (the party line has been that it’s against the policies of the publicly traded companies that own nearly all the tracks that host Cup races).

There also were social media discussions Sunday night about whether there was an unfair media-driven focus on NASCAR crowds vs. the NCAA tournament and other pro sports, which unquestionably have suffered attendance declines, too.

But this isn’t about being relative to other sports leagues, it’s about teams’ revenue streams. By NASCAR’s admission, race attendance is among the most critical factors used by sponsors to evaluate the return on their investment in stock-car racing.

With teams dependent on corporate sponsorship to make their budgets, there always will be greater scrutiny on audience metrics in auto racing – regardless of the media coverage.

Kyle Busch says he wasn’t approached for postrace interviews (video)


Kyle Busch was ready to answer questions after finishing third Sunday at Auto Club Speedway, but the Joe Gibbs Racing driver said there weren’t many.

Now he wants to ensure there will be in the future, lobbying for an expansion of postrace driver media availability.

In a series of tweets after the Auto Club 400, the 2015 Cup champion explained he was parked at the end of the pits because of unsecured lug nuts on his No. 18 Toyota. He apparently was approached there only by a reporter from the Motor Racing Network.

During its postrace coverage, Fox Sports said none of its reporters had talked with Busch, who has faced criticism before for electing to decline postrace interviews after tough finishes. His mic drop after finishing second in last year’s Coca-Cola 600 also caused controversy with Busch later explaining he is wired to be emotional.

Busch also wasn’t brought to the media center for the postrace news conference. NASCAR’s PR staff typically brings the winning team, runner-up and a third driver of its choosing that often is the best storyline (which is sometimes the third-place finisher).

Though Busch and Kevin Harvick would have seemed to be involved in the best storylines Sunday after race winner Martin Truex Jr. and runner-up Kyle Larson, fourth-place finisher Brad Keselowski was chosen as the third attendee.

“I’m not really sure why I’m here,” Keselowski said with a smile. “I finished fourth.”

Busch also seemed surprised he wasn’t chosen to attend the media center news conference.

He later advocated for mandating that the top three always are brought to the media center and also called on more clarity for postrace media obligations.

NASCAR declined comment on Busch’s remarks.

For the record (according to a Toyota release), here is what Busch responded when asked postrace about where Truex was beating him on the 2-mile oval: “Everywhere. Just thought we were closer than that but obviously not. We were right on top of (Truex) yesterday. The first run I thought we were really good and showed some strength but from there on out showed no strength.”

Armed with an apparently strong WiFi signal for his trip home to North Carolina, Busch was in a chatty mood on Twitter.

As Busch’s Twitter interactions grew (both with haters and fans) in the hours after the race, it caught the eyes of others in the NASCAR industry who were both amused and impressed.

NASCAR America: Kevin Harvick opens up about his past in revealing interview


In a revealing interview with NBCSN’s Marty Snider, Kevin Harvick provided a rare window into his tumultuous early seasons in Cup.

Harvick, who is vying for his fourth consecutive victory Sunday at Auto Club Speedway, endured his share of controversies after being thrust into Cup the week after Dale Earnhardt was killed on the final lap of the Daytona 500.

He would win his third start in the No. 29 Chevrolet, but he still wrestled with the weight of racing in NASCAR’s premier series for Richard Childress Racing.

“It was very strange the way I was brought into the light of the racing world,” Harvick said during A Driver’s Drive feature on Thursday’s NASCAR America. “When Dale (Earnhardt) died, you step into this car, and these people want you to be like him.

“Well, I rebelled. I wanted nothing to do with being like him. There were some struggles throughout the year at RCR. In order to keep yourself relevant, you had to find a headline. In order to find a headline you had to do something that wasn’t right, like jump over a car, or say something you shouldn’t. So you were constantly creating moments you felt were keeping you in the headlines.”

The Bakersfield, California, native said he eventually realized that racing wasn’t a job but the realization of a dream that began as a 5-year-old racing go-karts in a dirt field. The son of a fireman and a secretary worked on his race cars inside a tiny shop with a tin exterior, rats in the sewer drain and a restaurant next door that precluded painting bodies until 1 a.m.

Harvick said what he loves most about competition is “to beat somebody, and they don’t think you should have beat them, and they don’t know how. There’s no bigger thrill than beating the guy you’re not supposed to beat or winning a race you’re not supposed to win.”

Watch the video by clicking above.

NASCAR America: Which 20something knows his 1970s rock?


Unusual facts are the focus of the latest edition of Uncomfortable Interviews with Rutledge Wood.

Asked for the most obscure thing they know about anything, a selection of NASCAR drivers provide answers that range from the length of a polo field to the astronomical wonders of the Hubble Space Telescope to the little-known codicil that sets an age restriction on racing beer-sponsored cars.

There also is one surprisingly youthful driver who is surprisingly well versed in Bachmann Turner Overdrive song origins and an overlooked phrase in “Sweet Home Alabama.”

Click above to watch the video.