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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Auto Club Ratings

Cup Series ratings from Jayski.com:
NASCAR on FOX notched a 4.6/10 (8.1 million viewers) this Sunday for racing from Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA. This was the fifth Sprint Cup points race of the season and there are several comparisons to be made to last year. The most relevant is that this week's 4.6/10 is +5% better than last year's fifth race, a 4.4/10 at Bristol. This year's Fontana race aired against NCAA regional finals games, and from that angle there is no comparison to last year because the Martinsville race that would have faced similar basketball games last year was rained out. The least relevant comparison is to last year's Fontana race, which aired in the post-Daytona window last year and earned a 5.6/11 (-18%). In addition to the overall +5% improvement over last year's Bristol race, the Fontana race produced some positive returns among younger viewers. Sunday's 1.6 among Men 18-34 is +14% better than last year's 1.4 at Bristol. Through five races, the 2011 NASCAR on FOX season is now pacing +11% ahead of last year nationally (6.2/14 vs. 5.6/12), including gains among Men 18-34 (+28%, 2.3 vs. 1.8) and Men 18-49 (4.2 vs. 3.7).

Nationwide Series Ratings from Jayski.com
ESPN's live telecast of the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., on Saturday, March 26, earned a final national household coverage rating of 1.6, averaging 2,148,001 viewers, according to the Nielsen Company. The Fontana race was moved to a different time in the series schedule this year. In comparison to the race that was held at Nashville Superspeedway in the same timeframe last year, the rating was up as the Nashville race earned a 1.1 rating on ESPN. In 2010, the Fontana race was held in February, as the second race of the season, and earned a 1.7 rating on ESPN2. Overall, the combined network average U.S. rating for the NASCAR Nationwide Series so far this season is a 1.7, the same as it was at this point in both 2009 and 2010. (ESPN)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sprint Cup Results From Fontana

After close racing in the final laps of the Auto Club 500, Kevin Harvick slipped by Jimmie Johnson in the final corner of the event, taking the victory. Kyle Busch led the way with just a few laps remaining until Jimmie Johnson got by him, then Kevin Harvick.

There were 18 lead changes among 10 drivers and 4 cautions for 16 yellow flag laps. Attendance was up to 88,000 from the event last year. Note that they speedway only has one Sprint Cup event per season compared to two events last year.

Here are the full unofficial results following the race.

1.Kevin Harvick
2.Jimmie Johnson
3.Kyle Busch
4.Matt Kenseth
5.Ryan Newman
6.Carl Edwards
7.Clint Bowyer
8.Brian Vickers
9.Kasey Khane
10.Juan Pablo Montoya
11.Greg Biffle
12.Dale Earnhardt Jr.
13.Tony Stewart
14.AJ Allmendinger
15.Jeff Burton
16.Paul Menard
17.Kurt Busch
18.Jeff Gordon
19.David Reutimann
20.Mark Martin
21.Martin Truex Jr.
22.David Ragan
23.Jamie McMurray
24.Landon Cassill
25.Joey Logano
26.Brad Keselowski
27.Regan Smith
28.Marcos Ambrose
29.Casey Mears
30.Trevor Bayne
31.David Gilliland
32.Andy Lally
33.Ken Schrader
34.Robby Gordon
35.Travis Kvapil
36.Tony Raines
37.Dave Blaney
38.Bobby Labonte
39.Denny Hamlin
40.Todd Bodine
41.JJ Yeley
42.Joe Nemechek
43.Michael McDowell

Friday, March 25, 2011

Juan Pablo Montoya Wins Auto Club 400 Pole

After a crazy day at Auto Club Speedway with rainy weather and track seepage issues, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series was finally able to get to practice and qualifying after a delay. Juan Pablo Montoya took the Sprint Cup pole for the event with a speed of 184.653 and a time of 38.992. There were no cars that did not make the race due to only a 43 car entry list. Here is the unofficial starting lineup for Sunday's race.

1)Juan Pablo Montoya
2)Denny Hamlin
3)Joey Logano
4)Regan Smith
5)Tony Stewart
6)David Ragan
7)Jeff Burton
8)Kyle Busch
9)Ryan Newman
10)Mark Martin
11)Matt Kenseth
12)Jamie McMurray
13)Marcos Ambrose
14)David Reutimann
15)Paul Menard
16)Jimmie Johnson
17)Clint Bowyer
18)Carl Edwards
19)Brian Vickers
20)AJ Allmendinger
21)Brad Keselowski
22)Kasey Kahne
23)Kurt Busch
24)Kevin Harvick
25)Martin Truex Jr.
26)Casey Mears
27)Trevor Bayne
28)Landon Cassill
29)Jeff Gordon
30)Dale Earnhardt Jr.
31)Greg Biffle
32)Dave Blaney
33)Bobby Labonte
34)Michael McDowell
35)Robby Gordon
36)Travis Kvapil
37)David Gilliland
38)Andy Lally
39)Ken Schrader
40)Joe Nemechek
41)Todd Bodine
42)Tony Raines
43)JJ Yeley

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cup Ratings Down, Nationwide Up

NASCAR on Fox posted a 3.9/9 Sunday for racing from Bristol. There are two relevant comparisons to last year. Yesterday's race was the fourth Sprint Cup points race of the season, and compared to last year's fourth race yesterday's 3.9/9 is down -19% versus a 4.8/11 for racing from Atlanta. The other comparison is to last year's Bristol race, which was the fifth race of the season and also followed a bye week. Yesterday's 3.9/9 is down -7% compared to last year's Bristol race. The effect of last week's early season bye week, which is always damaging, was even worse than expected this year. Sunday's 3.9/9 is -26% lower than the 5.3/11 that FOX earned for the Las Vegas race that preceded the bye. Last year FOX came out of the bye week with a 4.2/9 for Bristol, which was just -12% lower than the 4.8/11 posted in Atlanta two weeks earlier. Competition from the NCAA Tournament does not appear to have been a major driver of the decline. Although the Tournament was generally stronger this weekend, the two windows that faced the Bristol race were up only +4% over last year (5.8/13 vs. 5.6/13). Despite this week's decline NASCAR is still pacing ahead of last year for the season-to-date. FOX has averaged a 5.7/12 for its first four races, up +10% over last season's 5.2/11.

ESPN's live telecast of the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Bristol (TN) Motor Speedway on Saturday, March 19, saw an increase in total viewership over the telecast of last year's race that aired on ABC, according to the Nielsen Company. Saturday's telecast on ESPN averaged 2,322,153 viewers, up two percent over the 2,286,794 viewership average for last year's race on ABC. The viewership rise was despite a drop in rating for the telecast last year's ABC telecast earned a 1.6 U.S. household rating while Saturday's ESPN telecast earned a U.S. household rating of 1.5

From Jayski.com

Monday, March 21, 2011

It's Time For Change At Bristol

It has been a great start of the season....until Bristol.

Attendance and ratings were up all across the board....until Bristol.

This track used to be the place with the toughest tickets to get, now that is no longer the case. Now, you could buy twenty to thirty thousand tickets just 20 seconds before the green flag. Why? It's all because of the new configuration.

Bristol Motor Speedways decided to install progressive banking on the surface in 2007 - meaning the top of the track has more banking than the bottom of the track. This creates more side by side racing, however, it wasn't as good of an idea as it was on paper. As lead changes increased, bumping, wrecking, and fighting decreased.


That's exactly what the majority of the fans are saying, if not, all of them. Bristol is no longer 'The Place' to go watch a NASCAR race. It's just like any other track, just a lot smaller.

Now, that's not to say the racing isn't good. The racing is still one of the best and would be great to see anywhere else. However, this is Bristol, the ultimate short track, the ultimate bull ring. Here, side by side racing is just a let down.

So where does NASCAR, and most importantly Bristol Motor Speedway go from here?

This might be a lot to ask for, but the track needs to be re-done.

It is now time to mix it up. Whether it be put back like the old Bristol, or re-done in a different way, it is key that the speedway gets back to its motto of "racing, the way it ought to be." If not, who knows where Bristol might be in the future.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Kyle Busch Wins At Bristol

Kyle Busch has won yet again at Bristol - winning 5 races in a row in the Camping World Truck, Nationwide, and Sprint Cup Series combined.

After a race that was led by multiple different drivers who had come and gone, Kyle Busch was able to hold of Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson in the closing laps.

There were 19 lead changes with 8 drivers and 10 cautions for 57 yellow flag laps.

Here are the unofficial results:

1.Kyle Busch
2.Carl Edwards
3.Jimmie Johnson
4.Matt Kenseth
5.Paul Menard
6.Kevin Harvick
7.Kurt Busch
8.Greg Biffle
9.Kasey Kahne
10.Ryan Newman
11.Dale Earnhardt Jr.
12.Mark Martin
13.Bobby Labonte
14.Jeff Gordon
15.Marcos Ambrose
16.David Ragan
17.Martin Truex Jr.
18.Brad Keselowski
19.Tony Stewart
20.Jeff Burton
21.Jamie McMurray
22.Regan Smith
23.Joey Logano
24.Juan Pablo Montoya
25.Dave Blaney
26.Travis Kvapil
27.David Gilliland
28.Tony Raines
29.Bill Elliott
30.David Reutimann
31.A.J. Allmendinger
32.Andy Lally
33.Denny Hamlin
34.Trevor Bayne
35.Clint Bowyer
36.Brian Vickers
37.Casey Mears
38.Dennis Setzer
39.Robby Gordon
40.J.J. Yeley
41.Joe Nemecheck
42.Landon Cassill
43.Michael McDowell

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Danica Upset Over Wreck With Ryan Truex, Truex Takes Blame

Danica Patrick's momentum from a top 5 finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway came to a halt in the final 100 laps of the Bristol race - Danica's final Nationwide Series race until June.

The JR Motorsports driver made contact with Ryan Truex, Martin Truex Jr's younger brother, and slid into the outside wall trying to save the car from crashing. Danica showed her displeasure by signaling him under the pace laps after she climbed from her car.

“I felt like I got a run down the straight and it felt like he came into my right front,” Danica Patrick said. “I don’t know exactly what happened.

"He just runs hard – he’s run hard every time I’ve been around him and it seems like overkill. If your car is good you’ll go forward, if your car isn’t, you’ll go back and that’s just a lot of NASCAR.”

Ryan Truex later admitted that he was at fault for the incident.

“I got loose, came off the wall, came down on her,” Truex said. “My fault. I didn’t mean to do it. If she’s mad, she’s mad. There’s nothing I can do about it now.

“I didn’t mean it. I’m sorry. I don’t know if she thinks if I did it on purpose or she was mad that it happened.

“It was my first time here. I’m learning just as much as she is. I guess it was a rookie mistake by me. Sorry.”

This was Danica's worst finish of the 2011 season so far, and her only finish outside the top 20. She is ninth in points, although will not compete full time due to her Indycar schedule. She will supposedly make a decision of which series she would like to compete in later this year, however she continues to not be focused on it quite yet.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Bristol Dale Jr. Quotes

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has gotten off to a great start in the 2011 season with new crew chief Steve Letarte. With the team chemistry improving more and more as the races begin to click off, Jr. Nation gains more hope and excitement. Dale Jr. however, is happy but is not ready to call it a good year yet. Here are some statements made by Earnhardt Jr. in Fridays practice and qualifying day at Bristol.

"I think we've just got to temper our excitement over what we've seen so far. Just got to temper your mood and keep working hard. Keep focused on how much further in the season we've got to go."

"It's just such a clean slate starting this season that it allowed me to sort of reboot a little bit," he said. "Me and Steve are getting along really good. Hopefully we can maintain that. That's going to be the challenge, really – maintaining our positive attitude and the communication and the consistency that's working right now."

"It's just such a clean slate starting this season that it allowed me to sort of reboot a little bit. Me and Steve are getting along really good. Hopefully we can maintain that. That's going to be the challenge, really – maintaining our positive attitude and the communication and the consistency that's working right now"

Talking about Steve Letarte, Jr. said, "He does a great job of just keeping you in the game. You're part of the puzzle and everybody needs to be pulling in the same direction. He's good at what he does, you know? There's no doubt about it."

Thanks to Jeff Gluck for the quotes

NASCAR, Goodyear To Make Weekend Tire Change

Based upon the fact that the Bristol Motor Speedway is not gaining tire rubber on the surface during NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series practices, NASCAR will switch the tire compound for the teams this weekend. The tires will arrive later Friday night, so the Sprint Cup Series teams will qualify on the old tires and will practice on the new ones in practice on Saturday. The Nationwide Series will run the old tires in qualifying and the start of the race and will switch the tires on a competition caution during the race.

The move comes after the tires were laying down a powdery substance.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Look Back: New NASCAR Video Game - Just What NASCAR Needed

The new NASCAR Video game release is coming up later this month, March 29th for Playstation 3 and XBOX. The Wii version will come out April 12th. There has been a large amount of hype around the video game and how it could help NASCAR. The following is an exact re-post of the blog posted on this website following the news of the video game. Please remember that some news facts in the re-post have changed, such as the release date, which was supposed to be just prior to the Daytona 500.

On September 29th, 2010 the official announcement was made about the next NASCAR video game, something that has been absent for quite some time.

Activision along with Eutechnyx announced the multi-year agreement with NASCAR to distribute multiple NASCAR games over the next few years. The first of them will be "NASCAR The Game 2011," coming out just days before the 2011 Daytona 500.

EA Sports covered the NASCAR games for years, but lack of interest from EA eventually led to the end of the partnership. Their final game was NASCAR 09.

For years, there was uncertainty around NASCAR fans and gamers about when or if there were to be a new NASCAR game in the near future. Just about a year ago, rumors began to spread.

People began hearing that Activision was currently designing the next NASCAR game, but there was never any more confirmation. There was just the same old rumors that only seemed the exist on forums.

About three months ago, rumors began to pick up. A popular NASCAR rumor website, Jayski.com, discovered of the rumor, which led to even more speculation.

Then, the announcement came. There would finally be a NASCAR game.

Within days, it was a big topic within NASCAR. The same week of the official announcement, the show NASCAR Raceday on SPEED showed fans the first ever trailer. Great graphics along with a well put together piece increased the excitement. Fans began following the official social media sites for the game in bundles, allowing Eutechnyx to interact with NASCAR fans nicely, answering loads of questions along with trying to put requested features into the game by the time the game would be released.

So far already, based upon great screen shots, wallpapers, videos, and even pod casts answering the questions of fans, Activision and Eutechnyx have proven this game will be better than any NASCAR game of the past. They may not be perfect to start with for the first game, but they have many years to constantly improve the games, plus the ability to update the games after buyers purchase it. The racing game company has done their homework. There is a good chance this will be a good relationship for fans, Eutechnyx, and NASCAR.

NASCAR needs as much exposure as they can get. This has been one of the problems with NASCAR, according to many. This video game will expose NASCAR to more than just NASCAR fans, but to the entire public.

Activision and Eutechnyx, welcome to NASCAR.

Note: Here are some website dealing with the game:
Official Site: http://nascarthegame.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/NASCARthegame
Twitter: http://twitter.com/NASCARTheGame

Twitter of one of the game developers: http://twitter.com/davet_etx
Twitter of Community manager: http://twitter.com/baker011
Thanks to the official site for the image.

Racebuddy for the Truck Series is doing wonders for everyone

At the beginning of 2011, NASCAR.com and SPEED Channel announced an agreement to make a Racebuddy application available, free of cost, to fans for the entire Camping World Truck Series season. The announcement was a huge step for NASCAR in online applications as there used to be very little available.

The Racebuddy feature is a four camera angle live video, with no commentators or commercials. It has two in car cameras, a battle camera, and a pit road camera angle. This combination allows fans to use the application as an extra tool to watch the race. So far in the 2012 season, it has been perfect.

With great television coverage this season, Racebuddy has been a major success. Action on the track is never missed, which allows a lot more forgiveness for fans when watching the telecast.

Contrary to what major NASCAR TV partners, like FOX and ESPN, believe, the application does not draw fans away from the race on TV, lowering the ratings. It is not an actual stream of the race, meaning fans cannot watch the same thing in multiple places. The telecast is still needed to get an understanding of the race, but Racebuddy is able to allow the fan to get even closer to the action. Remember, there are 36 to 43 cars or trucks on the track - the TV cannot show all of them. It is a perfect match for all.

As of now, there are no plans to run the Racebuddy application for the Nationwide or Sprint Cup Series (except for the TNT races in the summer). However, Racebuddy for the Truck Series was a huge step in the direction. Hopefully, it won't be long until the next big step.

NASCAR The Game 2011 Sneak Peak

After a few silent years of video games for NASCAR, Activision along with Eutechnyx will be releasing "NASCAR The Game: 2011." The release date is scheduled to be March 29th for Playstation 3 and XBOX and April 12th for the Wii.

This video game, which had seen a lot of hype in the recent months, may be what NASCAR is looking for in expanding the viewership to a younger audience. With graphics that were seen in a recent sneak peak on Youtube, that goal is looking possible.

Here is a preview of the game at Daytona. If for some reason you are not impressed, the developers say that they have made improvements since the video was made to make the racing more exciting and realistic. They have made it clear that with certain settings and a good steering wheel setup, a fan can drive a track just like their favorite driver.

Ineligible points scoring drivers winning in Nationwide and Truck nothing to be worried about

Kasey Kahne took the number 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports truck into victory lane at Darlington during the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series off weekend. This marks yet another ineligible championship contender winning in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the Nationwide Series this season. In fact, there have been no eligible winners so far after three races in each series.

This has many fans concerned about NASCAR's new rule for 2011 - a driver can only score points in one series. Many say this rule is making problems for the two series. However, there is not much to be concerned about - it is still very similar to any other year in the past.

All the drivers that have won in the Camping World Truck Series or Nationwide Series so far in the 2011 season are not scheduled to run the full season in that respective series (and did not run the full season in that series last year as well). This means that it doesn't matter whether or not they can score points. So this new rule has not done anything to hurt the series.

People's concerns are definitely revolving around the championship winner not winning a single race in the season. While this is a good possibility, it is important to remember there are many good teams out there and that number seems to be growing, so it may not be as bad as many think.

Let's face it - NASCAR can't just ban Sprint Cup drivers. They, first of all, sell tickets and sponsors, but also improve television ratings and fill up the entry lists. They are needed - at least right now - in the two series. Getting rid of them would just be a bad move to say the least.

So if you're one of those people who are thinking NASCAR needs to make a change - there's not much they can do. The situation may not be pretty all the time, but it's far better than what it has been these past few years.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Fuel Injection This Year?

On SPEED's NASCAR Race Hub, Jimmy Spencer pointed out that he has heard from someone within NASCAR that there will be at least one fuel injection race this season, most likely in the Chase race at Martinisville. Although there are no official announcements about this, it is a fact that the Sprint Cup Series will run fuel injection in the 2012 season.

Transcript of Brian France Teleconference

The following is a post of Brian France's address to the media on Tuesday, March 9th 2011. We would like to thank Jayski.com very much for the entire transcript.

KERRY THARP: Good afternoon, everyone. We appreciate you joining our special NASCAR teleconference today, featuring NASCAR chief executive officer and chairman Brian France.
Brian, at this time I'm turn the floor over to you for some opening comments.

BRIAN FRANCE: Thanks, Kerry. Good afternoon, everyone. We're just having on our off week here a little bit of a discussion about the start of the year, some of the things that are going on, some progress reports in a few areas. I'm going to reserve most of the time to take as many questions as we can.
But obviously in general with a very dynamic Daytona 500, having a really young star born, having the iconic 21 Wood Brothers team in Victory Lane, with 74 lead changes, very interesting way the competition played out during the Daytona 500. We started there and then on to Phoenix, getting Jeff Gordon back in Victory Lane, record lead changes again there, attendance up across the board.
Obviously, the competition has never been better. That's been brewing in terms of going in the right direction for a number of months, dating back well into last year where, as you know, we made a number of changes in the new car, which is not a new car anymore, but to get the car racing as good as we possibly can.
There's still some challenges for us and for many, many sports, many companies with still an uncertain outlook for the economy. As we said all along, we're not economists, we're not building around a doom-and-gloom, robust economy, we're doing what we think we need to do in general terms.
Obviously fuel prices are never helpful to our fans or anybody who needs to drive to an event, or anywhere. So those things are always out there.
The last thing that I would mention above competition that I think is important, we said during the last couple years that when the economy does what it does, you have some challenges, that's the time to look around and look deep at some of the areas for the future that you think you might be able to improve on.
Those reviews range, as you know, from the communications review, which brought us our IMC structure, Brett Jewkes, a number of new hires that are coming, has obviously been completed and we're implementing that on behalf of the industry and ourselves.
Then everything that would range from digital media, how effective are we in that new medium, range from the fans' experience at track, away from the track, trying to really get connected to our future in some meaningful ways.
Those reviews - I've sat through them all - are going very well. They're going to give us good ways to make sure this sport keeps on getting bigger, better and grows in the future.
With that I'll turn it over to questions.

KERRY THARP: Thank you, Brian. We'll open it up now to questions for Brian France.

Q. Brian, I wanted to ask you in regards to the TV ratings, different people said different things about them, I know there were challenges last year from going against the Winter Olympics, the Daytona pothole, the Vegas race. I wanted to ask you, shouldn't the ratings have been up this much anyway based off of not having that competition? People in the industry talk about the long-term broader picture. While the numbers are up from last year, they're down from 2009. How do you view that?
BRIAN FRANCE: I've always said ratings are a function of many things: the competition, how you're viewed at the time by the fan base in a given moment, how the actual race is playing out. There's all kinds of things that go into it. No one around here is celebrating. We're obviously pleased we're up dramatically in our ratings. But we know that is an ebb-and-flow thing. We're focused on a lot of things that will give us growth down the road. We're going to work on those, not get too excited or too down. I look at the interest level of the sport, and that's growing after having peaked and maybe dropped back a little bit for some reasons a couple years ago. The general interest level is going up and that's what we're going to be working on, is creating new fans.

Q. You have the races where you grow ratings and attendance, then you have the off week. Can you detail the reasons why you have this off week so early in the season? Are you going to change that for next year?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, it's historically how many events in the calendar we want to run, regardless when they ran. Historically it has been around this time where we do have an off weekend. Arguably you would like to have that come down eight or ten races later. But that's just how the schedule and the climate issues that we face with certain markets and everything else has played out. The reason for changing it is mostly driven that the other sports calendars are going to change on us - not just the NFL, but maybe some other things. So we're trying to get into the right date. It also does accomplish, when we change next year, moving back the 500 a week, we'll eliminate the early schedule gap here. That will probably be a good thing.

Q. Brian, a lot of feedback that we in the media get from fans is about the post-race show or the lack of a post-race show. There seems to be a sense of frustration that fans invest so many hours into an event, then they get under 10 minutes of reaction after from the drivers that they've been watching. Is that something that NASCAR is hearing from your fan council? Do you have any input with FOX to try to solve this dilemma fans are faced with?
BRIAN FRANCE: We do have a fair amount of programming that happens with the SPEED Channel throughout the post race, even into the evening typically. But, yeah, I think generally speaking we would agree, that it would be nicer to have a longer post-race. But if you think about it, most sports don't have a particularly long post end of a game, whatever else. The networks don't stick around for an additional half hour. It's not something FOX should be thinking about because, after all, that's just not the norm with network or even cable television. Once the game is over, there's typically a short post-race. You hope the rest of it, social media, NASCAR online, places to digest good post-race information is where they go.

Q. Several of the manufacturers have talked about the next generation of car being redesigned for 2013. Can you bring us up to speed on how that project is coming along?
BRIAN FRANCE: Going well. Obviously lots of dialogue with the car manufacturers. We're addressing those needs, which is the need to keep the competition and safety and all that stuff where it is today, which is at a very high level. At the same time, evolving the car to give them even more identity with their manufacturer make. There's a way to do both. It kind of coincides with some of their new model launches and some things. So we're working pretty closely, as you can imagine. It's going well. That's the beauty of the R&D center today. We can do multiple tasking with big, big initiatives, and do them hopefully all fairly well.

Q. What do you see as the biggest impact on television ratings? Sponsorship revenues you and the tracks can earn or now are they becoming more critical on the rights fees as you start negotiating in the next couple years?
BRIAN FRANCE: We spend a lot of time looking at obviously traditional broadcast television. Our cable partners are critically important. We spent a lot of time recently looking at the other media, which is social and digital media, where that's all going, where people are getting information, content and everything else. We have a plan. We have a robust plan in the long run. We'll try to capture both. But one of the ratings impact is people are getting their news, updates, their fix, if you will, in lots of different ways today. We're going to want to, as a sport, make sure that we're taking advantage of all of them.

Q. Brian, can you address the ethanol situation and what challenges have you faced with the implementation to the new fuel in the three top series?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, the fact that we haven't had a discussion is evidentiary proof of how well it's working. We couldn't be happier with it. From the early testing, we got good performance numbers. The teams certainly think it's working well. It obviously takes us another step. Especially now that you see energy prices going where they're going, it takes us a way down the road with a real biofuel that we're using in the car. They've just been a really good partner so far and it's going well.

Q. Will the elimination of the open week early continue after next season? Will the Daytona 500 still be moved up in years past this? Can you tell me the thought process why there always seems to be an open week early.
BRIAN FRANCE: As I said, it comes from the fact that we want to have 36 events, plus the All-Star Race, all that stuff. It's just a logistical matter where you can place events, February, March, in some parts of the country. There was an open weekend even though it might not be ideal. We're going to move that. It's going to fix that, although it wasn't the main driving reason. In my view, all things being equal, we'd probably like to be racing this weekend. But I don't believe that to be a significant challenge for us because we happen to have an open week. We have a long season, we're going to have some open weeks. In the long run, with the 500 moving, it will by definition take care of that. Our schedules are year-to-year, but you typically can see we have a lot of continuity.

Q. I asked you earlier in the year of the potential of an NFL lockout. How do you think NASCAR is now positioned should that happen? Why do you think we're seeing the growth in the younger demos so soon?
BRIAN FRANCE: First of all, my hope is that they will figure that out. I am not close to that any more than anyone else is. We're wishing that all of the leagues do well. That is just the reality of how we look at that. We don't pay any attention to where they are, where they're not. It's obviously out of our control. The younger demo is the bigger question. That's good. I think having a young winner, and Jeff Gordon runs up our young fan base, and then Junior, arguably he's competitive more than he was a year ago. Probably a lot of reasons. I think the kind of racing we had, just to get off to kind of a good start. But the young demo is something we're going to keep working at. It goes to candidly reaching new young fans. This is not a one-dimensional effort here just to get people to tune in on television. It's to get young fans really interested for the long run in every aspect of enjoying NASCAR the way we want them to enjoy NASCAR.

Q. I'm intrigued by the schedule-making process. This year you added testing to Daytona. You can actually point to that as a catalyst for a big Speedweeks to where we are now. What is the process that you go through as you look at the 2012 schedule right now?
BRIAN FRANCE: Well, you look at historical dates obviously. We have been a sport that's tried to build continuity around that. A lot of other motorsports, that's not necessarily so important. With us, it is. Then you look at the broader sports calendar, the notable big events that we're always looking at: the Masters, obviously the Super Bowl, other major events throughout the year that you want to make sure that you're putting your events in the right place as to get everybody the most room to be successful that you can. It's all those factors. And the last point would be we have some limits as to moving dates around beyond even the continuity of events, which we've changed when we've had to. There are seasonality issues. You can't run a race in Phoenix, Arizona, in July. You're not running Cincinnati in February. On and on it goes. There's a lot of things that have to go into making up the ideal schedule.

Q. We know you've been a big supporter of the diversity program. Where does that stand now? Has it taken a little longer to get minority drivers into the top three series?
BRIAN FRANCE: I really didn't have a timeline. After all, there are limited seats available in the first place. But I will say that when we've had to change the program to maximize it, we've ended up partnering up with Revolution Racing, which has given some of these talented, diverse drivers a better opportunity to show their skills. It's not just giving them the opportunity, it's giving them the right opportunity. I will tell you Darrell Wallace is a young African American driver that's winning. He's doing that now. We're going to have a breakthrough in that area. It's going to be on my watch, and I'll be very proud of that when that occurs.

Q. A couple of the drivers after recent races have expressed a level of concern about the level of rough driving going on out there these days, especially at places that don't normally feature that. Do you share their concern or do you think it's normal racing?
BRIAN FRANCE: No, I don't share that concern at all. They're the best guys in the world. We've said, You have to mix it up, this is a contact sport. We feel really good about that. It's made the racing better. They've got to figure that out. They're doing that largely. I would say, too, with the wild card situation, where the last two spots are going to be decided by wins, if you don't happen to have the perfect top-10 performance in the first 26 events, I think you saw the disappointment with Tony not winning when he thought he should have won last weekend, he now counts that because he doesn't start fast. He may need that. I think you're going to see an escalation of that. That's what great competition is. I'm actually happy to hear people complaining about that. It means it's working.

Q. Daytona obviously saw kind of a different style of racing than in the past. What did you think of that? Do you like that better or worse than the 30-car packs that we'd seen before?
BRIAN FRANCE: To tell you the truth, we were curious, too. It was a phenomenon. We'd never seen anything like that. We were curious going into Sunday. I remember talking to Mike in the tower. We didn't know how that was going to play out. But 74 lead changes, dramatic racing all the way through, although it looked a little bit different, the competition level went up. We look at a lot of things to come to that, but we like it. It's different. But, generally speaking, if competition goes up, the races are exciting, we're going to like it.

Q. What do you think was the single most important factor in getting the buzz and the ratings up? Was it Trevor winning? Was it Jeff Gordon, Danica?
BRIAN FRANCE: You know, I don't know. We can't monitor things and measure things that closely. We went out in a strong way, as you know, in 2010 down to the last laps. We hadn't had that in a few years. You want to go out strong. It's really important to have a good playoff, a good finale. You see where that's helped the Super Bowls of late, which have been very competitive. So have some other series, other sports. You want to go out on a real high. We have a very short window to launch. If you're going out a little bit down, it’s a little harder to ramp up. So it's probably all those things.

Q. Are there any things that are worth pointing out innovative that NASCAR is going to do like what they're doing this weekend in the 1:00 special that will showcase on an off weekend a culmination of tape that hadn't been seen before? Are there other things like that coming up?
BRIAN FRANCE: You know, the programming schedule, it's pretty set. There will be a couple special shows that you'll see. One will be on the ethanol and the biofuel transformation we're working on. By and large, we'll zero in on the events. FOX, they're off to a very fast start. We'll be working with Turner for the mid-summer package, and ultimately ESPN and ABC as we conclude to make sure that they're getting everything they need from us and we're getting everything we need from them.

Q. Regarding the schedule, do you see any changes?
BRIAN FRANCE: Do we see any major changes in the schedule? We don't release that for another month or so. We did have a fair amount of changes last year and even some in the last couple years. So by definition I don't think you're going to see a lot of changes. We'll see how some of the new dates, their new time on the calendar works out. But I don't think there will be as much as there was, say, in 2010. We don't want there to be. We prefer to have a good continuity. That's our preference.

Q. What do you think of Danica's run last week, historically what that did, the highest finish by a female in any NASCAR national series?
BRIAN FRANCE: I think that elevated her. There was some discussion, did she have the right stuff to compete in the Nationwide Series. You know, I think she dispelled a lot of that. There's always circumstances in the start of a new career. But sometimes things are out of your control, people can crash in front of you, a hundred other things. I think she elevated herself quite nicely. That's nice to see. She's a very competitive person. She's always said she's here to compete, not just happy to be here. That fits my criteria.

KERRY THARP: Brian, thank you very much. We appreciate everyone's participation today on the teleconference. We'll see you at the racetrack real soon.
BRIAN FRANCE: Thank you all.

Las Vegas Ratings Up

The good streak continues for NASCAR's television ratings with another significant increase compared to last season. Here is a post from Jayski.com:

"Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race from Las Vegas earned a 5.9/12 (10.8 million viewers), which is +34% better than last year's 4.4/9 when the race went head-to-head with the gold medal hockey game at the Vancouver Olympics. Sunday's race also posted huge gains on average viewership (+41%, 10.8 mill. vs. 7.2), Men 18-34 (+46%, 1.9 vs. 1.3), Men 18-49 (+36%, 3.8 vs. 2.8) and Men 25-54 (+37%, 5.2 vs. 3.8). Sunday's race also easily ranked as the highest-rated and most-watched sports programming of the weekend. Through three races NASCAR On FOX is averaging a 7.0/15 and 12.4 million viewers. Compared to 2009 NASCAR is down slightly on rating (-1%) but up slightly on viewership (+2%)."

Also, the Nationwide series ratings were up a large amount as well. The race at Vegas increased 22% in ratings.

"ABC's live telecast of the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday, March 5, earned a final national rating of 2.2, averaging 3,458,988 viewers, according to the Nielsen Company. The rating marked a 22 percent increase from last year's race that aired on ESPN2 and earned a final U.S. rating of 1.8."(ESPN)

As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide series takes a week off, it will be interesting to see how the ratings fair at Bristol for their return.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Kevin Conway/Robby Gordon Incident: Conway Statement and NASCAR Statement

NASCAR Nation has no doubt heard of the recent confrontation between Robby Gordon and his former driver, Kevin Conway. While there are multiple stories from both sides floating around, NASCAR has announced an official probation for Robby Gordon, who supposedly assaulted Conway during the Las Vegas race weekend. Here is the statement from NASCAR.

"Robby Gordon, driver of the #7 Dodge in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, has been placed on probation until Dec. 31 for a rule infraction he committed March 4 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Gordon was penalized for violating Section 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing; involved in an altercation in the garage area with another competitor) of the 2011 NASCAR rule book."

While no probation is currently in place for Conway, there have been talks that he "doesn't get a free pass." Kevin Conway and Extenze released a statement to the public about the incident:

"I don't mind stiff competition, but I want to make sure the hard facts are told. First and foremost, I love being a part of NASCAR and have worked very hard to earn the privilege of competing in the Sprint Cup Series. On Friday night, Robby Gordon, who has a long history of issues in NASCAR decided to ambush me in the garage area at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, completely unprovoked. Robby even confronted Joe Nemechek, my car owner, on pit road during Cup Series qualifying shoving him and telling him that he was looking for me and going to assault me. We have many witnesses including a crew chief that signed a police report documenting the truth of his physical attack on me. Situations like this are not good for our sport. It's one thing if we were racing each other and I wrecked him or he wrecked me, that's an entirely different situation. It's very unfortunate that he chose to physically attack me to address his rage. Our fans, sponsors and NASCAR expect and deserve more from our competitors than this bullish, illegal behavior that was displayed by Robby against me."

Now while nobody will completely know for sure what occurred between the two drivers during the race weekend at Las Vegas, it is certain NASCAR knows the most. From the rulings made by NASCAR and the two sided stories, there is no doubt that Robby Gordon "assaulted" Kevin Conway is some way. As far as what Conway did, it may not be enough for probation, however, it must be something big enough to not "get a free pass."

It is probable that the public only knows about 60% or the true story - but remember, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Dale Jr: 'This Really Ain't A Fluke'

For the second consecutive week, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his new 88 team pulled off a solid top ten finish. Although it may not seem like much, it really is something to be confident about for Jr Nation as well as Dale Jr. himself.

"It feels like it's working – and it's obvious that it is working, when you really look at it," he said. "I was sitting there in the middle of the race saying, 'You know, this really ain't a fluke. This is how it's supposed to go and how it should go – and how it went in the past when things were good.'"

It's no secret Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been struggling in his recent years, with multiple crew chiefs and teams, with what is supposed to be the best equipment in the garage. Dale Jr. himself knows that this season is critical for his future in racing.

"Failure at this point is completely unacceptable," he said. "I've got to put it all out on the line to make this work, because if it don't work with him, I've got nowhere else to go. I've got no other options, really – other than to race myself into oblivion with my own team and Tony Jr. and those guys.

"I want this to work. I want to race Cup. I want to be in the COT the rest of my career, and I want to be successful."

He was the head of the Hendrick team today, the only team to finish in the top 10, in fact.

It may be early, but Dale Jr.'s pairing with crew chief Steve Letarte seems to be a good one, and may even become the best Earnhardt has ever had. There is no doubt that confidence is what needs to improve the most with the driver, as Jr. stated on the radio just following the finish. Having more good runs, will increase that confidence incredibly and should even propel the team to victory lane in the near future.

Thanks to Jeff Gluck from SBNation.com for the quotes.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Danica Patrick Proves She Belongs In Las Vegas Race

Danica Patrick had a solid day throughout the entire race at Las Vagas Motor Speedway, constantly improving as the race marched on with her number 7 team. This, has always been the case, she had always seemed to get somewhat better throughout a race ever since she had started running in NASCAR's number two series, but this weekend she actually got a great finish out of it. With around 25 laps to go, Patrick was running around 10th place, which would have been enough to many fans and media that had criticized her in the past, but she would move further up as a result of smooth driving and strategy, to a top five. Yes, a top five. Fourth to be exact.

Patrick became the highest finishing woman in any NASCAR touring race after that great run.

"To be honest, I think we're making some real progress," said Patrick, who has not had a finish outside of the top 20 this season, but had a large portion of her races last season outside of the top 30. "We make progress every weekend, but it's just a matter of, are you on the lead lap and in position to take advantage by the end of the race?"

She didn't do it all by herself, however. This is, after all, a team sport. Patrick had great encouragement from TJ Majors, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Sprint Cup spotter, who kept a calm voice on the radio and helped her through her laps. Johnny Benson, former Truck Series champion, has been mentoring her the past few weeks, and has really made an impact in her learning process and driving style for the better. Don't forget Tony Eury Jr., who gave Danica a reasonable setup and pit strategy to get her up in the front.

"I think it’s huge," Tony Eury Jr. said about the positive finish. "I think it’s going to help her out tremendously"

Today Danica proved not only to her critics that she is a great race car driver, but she may have proved to herself that she can compete in NASCAR, and do it competitively. This confidence will only breed more confidence in the future for her, allowing more great finishes, and maybe, just maybe, a decision to have full time career in NASCAR.

Nationwide Series Las Vegas Qualifying

Carl Edwards received the pole for the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a speed of 181.824 MPH and a time of 29.70 seconds. No cars went home because there was only 42 cars on the entry list. Here are the unofficial results of the qualifying session:

1) Carl Edwards
2) Kyle Busch
3) Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
4) Kevin Harvick
5) Mark Martin
6) Elliott Sadler
7) Trevor Bayne
8) Reed Sorenson
9) Denny Hamlin
10) Justin Allgaier
11) Brad Keselowski
12) Michael Annett
13) Brian Scott
14) Aric Almirola
15) Kenny Wallace
16) Ryan Truex
17) Steve Wallace
18) Mike Wallace
19) Mike Bliss
20) Eric McClure
21) Kelly Bires
22) Danica Patrick
23) Jeremy Clements
24) JJ Yeley
25) Kevin Lepage
26) Jason Leffler
27) Brett Rowe
28) Josh Wise
29) Shelby Howard
30) Jennifer Jo Cobb
31) Jeff Green
32) Scott Wimmer
33) Robert Richardson Jr.
34) Derrike Cope
35) Timmy Hill
36) Morgan Shepherd
37) Carl Long
38) Kevin Conway
39) Tim Andrews
40) Daryl Harr
41) Donnie Neuenberger
42) Joe Memechek

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sprint Cup Series Las Vegas Starting Lineup

Matt Kenseth broke the track record in front of a large crowd at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a speed of 188.884 MPH and a time of 28.59 seconds. Brian Keselowski failed to make the race. He did not qualify last weekend at Phoenix either. Here is the unofficial staring grid for the Vegas race.

1) Matt Kenseth
2) Marcos Ambrose
3) Carl Edwards
4) Greg Biffle
5) Kyle Busch
6) Joey Logano
7) AJ Allmendinger
8) Ryan Newman
9) Martin Truex Jr.
10) Mark Martin
11) Jamie McMurray
12) Regan Smith
13) Jeff Gordon
14) Jimmie Johnson
15) Tony Stewart
16) Trevor Bayne
17) Denny Hamlin
18) Paul Menard
19) Brian Vickers
20) Brad Keselowski
21) Jeff Burton
22) Kurt Busch
23) Juan Pablo Montoya
24) Bobby Labonte
25) David Reutimann
26) Kevin Harvick
27) Casey Mears
28) Clint Bowyer
28) Mike Skinner
30) Kasey Kahne
31) Joe Nemechek
32) JJ Yeley
33) Dale Earnhardt Jr.
34) Dave Blaney
35) David Gilliland
36) Landon Cassill
36) Bill Elliott
38) Michael McDowell
39) Robby Gordon
40) Travis Kvapil
41) Andy Lally
42) Tony Raines
43) David Ragan