Kevin Harvick says Saturday night races should move to Sundays, Iowa Speedway should get Cup date

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Reigning champion Kevin Harvick called the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule a “weak link’’ and suggested it is time for changes, noting “you can beat a dead horse as much as you want, it doesn’t come back to life.’’

Harvick said that Saturday night races need to be moved to Sunday afternoons, the Sprint Cup series should race at Iowa Speedway and at least another road course should be added to the schedule.

Harvick made the comments Friday at Talladega Superspeedway. This is not the first time Harvick has been critical of NASCAR’s schedule. He said in March that 90 percent of tracks should have only one Cup race per season, noting improved attendance at Auto Club Speedway after its second race was moved to another track.

Here’s what Harvick said Friday:

On growing the sport:

“If you want to talk about growing the sport, I believe that some venues need one race. I believe the schedule needs to be mixed up. People like things that change, they don’t like stagnant things. In my opinion, the most stagnant thing in our sport is our schedule and our venues that we go to. So you can beat a dead horse as much as you want, it doesn’t come back to life. Sometimes you just have to change things back up to keep the excitement and enthusiasm in the sport. I think our schedule is definitely the weak link along with some of the venues we go to. That’s my opinion.

On what’s important with race schedules:

“The most important thing to the sponsors are those TV numbers and social media outreach. The fans are important to the event in the grandstands but in the end, the Joyce Julius numbers and the sponsor numbers are the most important things. I know that we talk about Saturday night races a lot and a lot of people like Saturday night races, but more people watch Sunday at 1 (p.m.). That, to me, is when we need to be on when the most people watch. The fans in the grandstands seeing those products are important, but the TV numbers are the most important thing we have.’’

On where the Cup series should race:

“I know the first place I would go is Iowa. I think everybody wants to see more short tracks and more venues. Road racing, we have a couple of road races on the schedules, most every team has two road race cars and spends a lot of money on their road race program. Adding a road race here or there would definitely be something that I would vote for just for the fact that internationally road racing is very recognizable to race fans. There’s not many ovals. You can take your pick on road courses. Montreal does a great job. You could go to Laguna Seca. There’s a lot of good venues. I’ve always been a fan of let’s go to the (Sprint Cup Awards) banquet and roll the pills around of race tracks across the country and have a wildcard race every year. Go to the Milwaukee Mile. You could go to test these venues and see how the markets react. Even if you only have 30,000 or 40,000 people in the grandstands, if you put on a good event for TV and do the things that it takes to have a unique event that’s really what people want. They want unique things.’’

On why he doesn’t feel enough changes have been made to the schedule: 

“Two publicly traded companies (International Speedway Corp. and Speedway Motorsports Inc., which own most of the tracks the Cup series races). I think when you look at what NASCAR has done, when you look at what the manufacturers have done, when you look at the teams and the sacrifices and the changes all three of those groups have gone through, they’ve gone through major, major changes. You look at the body style changes and the effort that the manufacturers put into this, rule changes for these particular superspeedway races and the safety effort that NASCAR has put in, it’s not that the tracks aren’t putting in an effort, but there needs to be a different type of effort. This is just my opinion. We’re just talking today.’’

NASCAR owns Iowa Speedway. NASCAR Chairman Brian France discussed the chances of Iowa Speedway getting a Cup date during a press conference in July 2014, saying:

“We don’t have plans for a Cup date there. We’re working with the state representatives and others to help us build racing in Iowa to the highest level that we can, and they’re doing a great job with us, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the entire effort that the communities have made in and around Iowa. But they’ve got a nice full schedule with IndyCar and Nationwide, and I think that’s where that remains.’’

As for Saturday night races, some are held for various reasons. Next weekend’s race at Kansas Speedway will be Saturday night to avoid running on Mother’s Day that Sunday. The Texas race last month was run on Saturday night to avoid going head-to-head against the final day of the Masters golf tournament, which typically dominates that day’s TV viewing. The July Daytona race moved to Sunday night to accommodate NBC, which is returning to broadcast Sprint Cup races.

 

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: All-Star Scan All, look ahead to Coca-Cola 600

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Carolyn Manno hosts from our Stamford, Connecticut studio and is joined by driver Landon Cassill. Jeff Burton joins from Burton’s Garage.

  • This weekend, NASCAR’s best will be put to the longest test of the season in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The 600-mile distance isn’t the only thing that’s unique about this challenging event. Landon and Jeff will explain what drivers have to look out for, both on and off the track!

 

  • The Charlotte region is also home base for Team Penske and its 2017 IndyCar Series champion, Josef Newgarden. As he heads into this weekend’s Indianapolis 500, Newgarden joins the show LIVE to discuss the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, his relationship with his Penske teammates, and what it’s like working for “The Captain.”

 

  • And it’s our favorite feature of the week – Scan All! Crank up those scanners and listen in on drivers, crew chiefs and spotters as they battle for a million bucks in last Saturday’s All-Star Race.

 

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Matt Kenseth discusses early progress for Roush cars on Dale Jr. Download

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Matt Kenseth shares parenting tips for Dale Earnhardt Jr., discusses their early days racing together and talks about his return to the car for Roush Fenway Racing in this week’s Dale Jr. Download.

Kenseth returned to the Cup Series earlier this month, driving the No. 6 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing at Kansas. He finished 36th after he was eliminated by a crash. He won the pole for last weekend’s All-Star Race and finished 14th in the 21-car field.

Kenseth will be back in the car for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 and the next two races (Pocono and Michigan) before Trevor Bayne drives the No. 6 at Sonoma.

Kenseth and Bayne will split time in the car the rest of the season.

Kenseth, without a ride after Joe Gibbs Racing did not renew his contract last year, was brought to Roush Fenway Racing to help that organization improve its cars.

“It’s been really different for me because it’s a different role than I’ve ever felt like I’ve had through my racing career,’’ Kenseth said on the podcast.

After two races, Kenseth is learning what needs to be done to help the team. 

“I kind of now know where I feel like that they’re at and how much we need to do to get back to an extremely competitive environment,’’ Kenseth said, “so it’s just a lot different role and different feeling than I’ve ever had before, it’s more of a project.’’

In terms of that project, where do things stand after two races?

“Obviously, there’s a lot of room for improvement,’’ Kenseth said. “I think, the potential is there but certainly it’s going to take some work and probably a little more patience and a little more time than maybe I originally thought.’’

Listen to the show here and all that Kenseth had to say.

Cup team’s debut stirs debate on value of smaller part-time teams

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The entry of NY Racing for this weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 has stirred talk about the value of smaller teams unable to compete a full season in Cup after a comment from the chairman of the Race Team Alliance.

NY Racing is entered in its first Cup race of the year. JJ Yeley is the driver. The team announced Tuesday a multi-year deal with Steakhouse Elite as sponsor. The team is owned by John Cohen, whose previous Cup teams ran 16 races between 2012-15. His team’s best finish was 32nd in the 2015 Daytona 500 with Reed Sorenson. His teams also failed to qualify for seven races and withdrew five times.

The entry of NY Racing means one car will fail to qualify for the Coca-Cola 600. The five teams going for the four spots available for non-charter teams are those of BJ McLeod (No. 52, Rick Ware Racing), Sorenson (No. 55 Premium Motorsports), Timmy Hill (No. 66, Motorsports Business Management), Parker Kligerman (No. 96 Gaunt Brothers Racing) and Yeley.

NY Racing’s entry drew the ire of Rob Kauffman, co-owner of Chip Ganassi Racing and chairman of the Race Team Alliance. Kauffman tweeted about NY Racing’s entry and then responded to a few who questioned him.

Kauffman’s tweet drew a response from Xfinity driver Tommy Joe Martins, who has been vocal about the importance of smaller teams in NASCAR’s national series and the need to raise the profiles of such teams. Martins responded to Kauffman’s comments with a series of tweets.

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Bump & Run: Where to race next with All-Star rules package?

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When and where would you suggest running the All-Star package next?

Steve Letarte: I think there was definitely some entertainment. I enjoyed the package. I think the when is somewhere in the regular season. I don’t really think it belongs in the playoffs unless we run it a few more times in the regular season. It seems to me that Michigan, Indy and Pocono are the three tracks that I think easily the package could be adapted to.

Kyle Petty: Let me say first when they announced this package for the All-Star Race I was not impressed. I’ve always lived by “I hate Plates!” But … as everyone who knows or listens to me run my mouth knows, I can eat crow! I thought the race was entertaining and enjoyed it! I would like to see it at Michigan. I think the draft there and speeds would translate well to the package. And as we know from the Xfinity race last year at Indy, it made for some interesting moments there.

Nate Ryan: Pocono with an eye toward Indianapolis. Potentially Michigan (though a form of it is being used in the Xfinity race). Kentucky Speedway also seems a natural because the track and its owners already are on board and supportive of the concept.

Dustin Long: Run it at Michigan in June — when the Xfinity Series also is running it — then do it at Indianapolis in September. See how teams make their cars better and how that impacts the racing. That will give NASCAR ideas of changes it can make for 2019.

Dan Beaver: Michigan. The wide corners would allow drivers to get four-wide without the consequence seen near the end of the All-Star Race. Based on the success of the first race, they could choose to use it again when they return for race number two. Pocono is another track that needs a boost in terms of competition, but with the speed carried into turn one and the narrowness of the groove in two, that could be a recipe for disaster. By the time the playoffs roll around, shelf the science project until 2019 and Auto Club.

Daniel McFadin: It shouldn’t be tested in the playoffs, so if I had to pick a track before then I’d go with the August race at Michigan. That would mean both Cup and Xfinity teams tried out the package there this season.

What is a concern you have about the All-Star package?

Steve Letarte: The biggest concern, I think, is that one of the reasons it was successful was because teams didn’t have time to develop it. As teams develop it, it will change. I think the ratio of downforce to power is pretty successful. They need to try to keep that as teams make gains, whether horsepower with the plates or downforce with the car.

Kyle Petty: My main concerns are drivers/teams and fans. Drivers/teams went into Charlotte with some ideas of what this package would do and feel like but not 100% sure of everything. We saw a race where ALL drivers/teams were as close as they’ll EVER be with this package. The next time it’s run, someone will have figured out a way to be better than the rest and the never-ending cycle of rule changes vs. drivers/teams will continue. That’s what NASCAR has ALWAYS been and Thank God there’s still a little of that left! … The fans are a concern because they like it now but will they like it tomorrow? We’ve seen this same movie before. Everyone says they love tandem racing! Two or three races later they hate it! NASCAR listens to the fans and changes the rules as to not allow tandem racing. Once again fans Love the new racing … for two or three races and then some will want tandem racing again! NASCAR can’t chase the fan opinion, the fans matter, but the product on the track matters MORE. It’s why NASCAR is in business, the racing business, it’s why drivers/teams race and in the end it’s why fans come. We need long-term solutions not knee-jerk reactions.

Nate Ryan: It still seems to remain as difficult to pass the leader, if not more difficult.

Dustin Long: Just how much will some teams get better with this package and how will it impact the racing. Will there be more separation among cars? How will that impact passing at the front? That seems to be an issue already. Will it be worse?

Dan Beaver: From the outside, the cars appeared to be too stable because of the reduction of speed. Portions of the race were too similar to restrictor-plate superspeedway races where the mental aspect of passing was more important than the handling.

Daniel McFadin: The amount of difficulty for the car behind the leader to get close enough to challenge for the lead. It’s possible the straightaways just aren’t long enough at Charlotte build enough momentum.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame will select its next class Wednesday. Name one person — other than Jeff Gordon — who should be in the next class and why.

Steve Letarte: Roger Penske. I think because Roger Penske has had a Hall of Fame career as a car owner but his reach in NASCAR is much more than that. He was involved in Michigan International Speedway, he built Auto Club Speedway. Penske, that last name is just iconic in the U.S. when it comes to industry. I think his involvement in NASCAR matches that and he should go into the Hall of Fame.

Kyle Petty: ALL are deserving in so many different ways. I know or knew every one of the nominees. I’m sorry I can’t pick just one. So  I’ll just say … Congratulations Jeff Gordon! 

Nate Ryan: Alan Kulwicki because he accomplished so much with less than his rivals while also being ahead of the curve on the engineering trends.

Dustin Long: Kirk Shelmerdine. Won four championships as Dale Earnhardt’s crew chiefs in the 1980 and won 10 percent of all his starts while working with Earnhardt, Ricky Rudd, Richard Childress and James Hylton.

Dan Beaver: My vote goes to Red Farmer. He epitomizes NASCAR’s golden years with a path that weaves in and out of the top series while also running paved short tracks and on dirt. Still racing and winning well into his 80s, a driver like Farmer defines the sport for many grassroots fans. The Hall needs to remember its roots, just as NASCAR does.

Daniel McFadin: Kirk Shelmerdine. He won four Cup titles with Dale Earnhardt Sr. That’s one more than Ray Evernham won with Jeff Gordon. Shelmerdine partnered with Earnhardt for 44 of his 46 Cup wins.