As NASCAR Sprint Cup hits its Summer Stretch of races, Sunday's stop was at an old track with a new look -- the freshly-repaved 2.5-mile Pocono International Raceway. A new track surface always changes the dynamic of the race and that was clearly evident in Sunday's 400-mile race.
I get asked by political candidates all the time "what can I do to learn how to grow my Twitter following?" After last night, I have a new and simple answer. "Watch NASCAR." Or at least, watch and emulate NASCAR's savviest tweeter.
It's easy to find Danica Patrick at Daytona International Speedway. Just look for the pack of photographers, the whirring of their cameras capturing the every move of NASCAR's newest star.
A few years ago, NASCAR touted its new vehicle design as the Car of Tomorrow. Now that car is finally being updated with technology that is, oh, about three decades old.
CONCORD, N.C. -- Amid heavy criticism of the buddy system at Daytona, NASCAR officials believe it's time to bring back the pack in this year's 500.
Employees were treated for smoke inhalation after a fire in the machine shop at the Joe Gibbs Racing headquarters in North Carolina Tuesday, the team said in a statement.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Given the dramatic success of the 2011 season, NASCAR officials are confident that the sport will carry momentum into 2012.
To NASCAR fans desperate for the way it used to be, the vision was as breathtaking as seeing water in the desert.
Uneasy lies the head that wears a ... headset.
It would be NASCAR's dream race in many ways: Ricky Carmichael, Travis Pastrana, James Stewart on the grid of the Daytona 500, legions of 18-to-39-somethings huddled around televisions and smart devices, breathlessly watching this triumvirate of motocracy as it prepared to compete in Sprint Cup's premier event. Oh, the brand new merchandise they would be wearing. Oh, the loyalty for their new sport of choice bursting from their young and impressionable hearts as they follow their motocross/supercross/action sports heroes loyally to their new vocation.
History says that if you show enough interest in an investment, the financial industry will keep churning out newer versions, even after it has run out of sensible ideas. Think back to the late '90s, when mutual funds were hot and fund companies came up with "theme" funds -- remember the StockCar Stocks index fund, which bet on NASCAR-related businesses?
With the most historic track in the world as its backdrop the 18th Brickyard 400 had a surprise winner as Paul Menard gave team owner Richard Childress his third victory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
INDIANAPOLIS -- For its first 45 years of existence, NASCAR dreamed of racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The track was the motor sports mecca of the world and the home of the world's most famous race -- the Indianapolis 500 -- which began in 1911.
NASCAR is one of the most popular sports in America, but stock car racing is probably not the first thing you think of when it comes to protecting the environment.
Trevor Bayne's Daytona 500 fairy tale turned about to be just the beginning. The fresh-faced kid from Knoxville, Tenn., with a part-time ride in the fabled No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford became the youngest, at 20 years and a day, to win NASCAR's greatest race, doing so in his first try and setting off a wave of nostalgia for the legendary, but recently struggling Woods, and euphoria over the emergence of a possible new star.
In the midst of all the Danica-mania swirling around NASCAR, it is easy to forget that there are two women who have been fixtures in auto racing since the earliest days of the sport.
No matter their position -- car owner, crew chief, driver or crew member -- each person likely will face the same dilemma in the 10 races before the field for NASCAR's title hunt is set:
Like the person who stands alone in the back of a crowded room, officials often strive to be anonymous. Make the call, but don't stand out. Sometimes circumstances force an official into a greater role. Sometimes they place it upon themselves.
CONCORD, N.C. -- Thick and foreboding, the slate gray door stands guard. VIPs and their guests walk by, headed to cushy seats and catered food in Charlotte Motor Speedway's suites. For some, the door's only purpose is to serve as a landmark -- the next opening down is the women's restroom.
It has all the ingredients to be the most compelling of any All-Star event.
MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- No NASCAR driver has been to Victory Lane more often in the last four seasons than Kyle Busch, who continues to rack up Hall of Fame numbers at just 25 years old.
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- With the National Football League is in the midst of a lockout that has put the future of America's most popular sport in jeopardy, such labor unrest does not, and may never, exist in NASCAR.
Kyle Busch very nearly won the weekend, collecting trophies in the Nationwide and truck series races at Phoenix International Raceway. He only managed a runner-up finish in the Sunday show, however, though he did collect a major ego boost when Jeff Gordon, upon breaking a 66-race winless streak, put his victory in perspective by marveling, "We beat Kyle Busch!"
"That's one small step for NASCAR, one giant leap for NASCAR-kind." OK, maybe I stole that quote from Neil Armstrong, but the suits down in Daytona Beach have been begging for a shred of positive news heading into their Super Bowl. On Tuesday, they finally got it from an unlikely source: the Nielsen ratings, which showed a slight increase from 4.4 to 4.5 for the Bud Shootout, while Daytona 500 qualifying from Sunday was up 19 percent.
It was only a 75-lap exhibition, but following the first repave since 1978 wide eyes and great expectations were placed on NASCAR's crown jewel speedway down in Daytona Beach. The Bud Shootout, featuring a hodgepodge of entrants (from last year's top 12 finishers to former Daytona 500 champs) was the equivalent to a public, experimental test session for NASCAR's Super Bowl on the 2.5-mile oval next Sunday. Twenty-four drivers got an eight-day head start on how to handle new asphalt under race conditions, deal with the draft and find a dancing partner -- or two -- that'll help them take the checkered flag first when the big prize comes next week.
It's been a rough patch for NASCAR's "young gun" movement, thanks to five straight championships by Jimmie Johnson and a dearth of strong opportunities at the sport's top level. Since the start of 2008, only two Cup Series rookies (Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski) have visited Victory Lane. Moreover, in two of the last three years, the freshmen class made it through an entire slate of 36 races without a top-10 finish. Add in the stock car and economic crash, and it's no wonder once expendable, C-level veterans suddenly have the upper hand with sponsors looking for absolute certainty in their investment. Inexperienced, unproven youngsters can't even come up with $50,000 in sponsorship money to get a seat at the table.
Stability. Silence. Serenity. Staying the course.
NASCAR is hoping a Points Racing for Dummies approach will help solve some complicated problems, but whether the new simplified scoring system CEO Brian France announced Wednesday night helps boost attendance and television ratings remains to be seen.
At its core, racing's defining characteristic is speed. The winner is the driver who completes the distance in the fastest amount of time, armed with numbers that obliterate the 65 mph "guideline" that limits us on most highways in America. Obsession with seeing people push those boundaries, whether over one mile or 500, is why fans all over the country pack the stands.
Among NASCAR's many challenges entering 2011: finding that Fountain of Youth.
Hope big and compromise with what you can accept. With that bit of wisdom in mind, here are 11 somewhat fervent, somewhat frivolous hopes for motorsports in 2011.
The official end of 2010 also brings with it an important anniversary for this column. It was at this time one year ago the SI.com Mailbag was born, created off a couple of old e-mails I'd been keeping in the Hoarders episode that served as my inbox.
There's a fan who's been writing incessantly about a holiday wish list for NASCAR. During the Christmas season, I thought it was a good idea to bring it up briefly, but with a twist: three wishes where I could go back in time to keep major changes from happening. Let's go through them:
IndyCar and Nationwide driver Danica Patrick visited the SI.com offices recently to talk about her foray into NASCAR and her participation in the DRIVE4COPD campaign.
With the end of another season comes a fun-filled NASCAR banquet in Vegas, but the meat and potatoes of that awards ceremony is a virtual repeat from last year. The luncheon for the Most Popular Driver Award? How about Dale Earnhardt, Jr. for the eighth consecutive time. Those Chase drivers standing up on stage? All of them have been there within the last two years. The drum-roll, championship presentation? Been there, done that. Jimmie Johnson gets his fifth straight.
FORT WORTH, Texas -- With television ratings sagging and empty seats a common occurrence at tracks all over the schedule, NASCAR got what it needed most Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway when Jeff Gordon assaulted Jeff Burton after the two crashed during a caution period.
Midterm Election Day may be in the past, but for NASCAR, the real election occurs over the next three weeks. For after the mounting criticism surrounding the Chase for most of its seven-year existence, officials must decide whether the current version is to blame for much for the attendance and ratings declines we've seen this Fall.
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- With the 2010 NASCAR season winding down, many top teams are already looking ahead to next season. In years past, that meant offseason testing, but NASCAR banned that two years ago as a cost-saving measure, and is only lifting it at Daytona in mid-December and mid-January because of a recent repaving job there. But is it time to ease the moratorium even more than that or do away with it for good? Drivers and owners shared their thoughts on that subject with SI.com last week.
NASCAR says that it will use a 15% ethanol blend in its racing fuel, days after the government approved the mix.
It's back to school and back to work for most Americans Tuesday, but the return engagement NASCAR's watching with an eagle eye looms 48 hours away: The NFL. How will a league whose Hall of Fame game preseason ratings nearly matched the Daytona 500 affect viewership heading into the Chase? A strong Sunday night show at Atlanta gives the sport much-needed momentum, but will the recent dramas and wide-open title race -- albeit still stuck with Jimmie Johnson as the favorite -- be enough to captivate America from turning on the pigskin instead?
SPARTA, Kentucky -- If NASCAR wants to increase its television ratings, boost attendance at tracks and regain its stature in the media, then Kyle Busch has to be the driver who steps to the forefront and wins NASCAR's "Chase for the Championship."
Nine years. 917 races. Zero deaths.
NASCAR's best may be 'having at it' this season, but those behind the wheel aren't the only ones whose safety can be put at risk under the new stance come race day.
Kyle Busch becoming the first driver to win in NASCAR's top three series over a course of a single weekend. The reigning four-time champ, Jimmie Johnson, getting spun out by Juan Pablo Montoya and looking vulnerable. Brad Keselowski calling Busch ... let's just say a synonym for donkey, much to the delight of a Bristol crowd that showered the one-time rebel with adoration.
Brad Keselowski does a bi-weekly diary for SI.com. Heading to Bristol this weekend, he previews the Saturday night fight under the lights while reflecting on a week full of hometown cookin' in Rochester Hills, Mich. Also in this latest edition: his take on the Ryan Newman -- Joey Logano saga, thoughts on adding a mid-week race to the schedule and why he's a Florida "hater."
The problem with a 24/7 news cycle nowadays is that waiting for an "official" announcement becomes a little anti-climactic. Ten years ago, today would be a NASCAR news bonanza: Richard Childress Racing unveiled Budweiser as a primary sponsor for Kevin Harvick, while legend Richard Petty welcomed Marcos Ambrose into his likely two-car program for 2011. These are some of the final puzzle pieces in a Silly Season climax of blockbuster announcements. Tomorrow, the sport fully unveils at least half-a-dozen changes with the unveiling of next year's Sprint Cup schedule.
NASCAR has problems. News flash? No. But finding solutions to these problems is the real issue. Other than more jobs, more discretionary income for America's hurting working class and a sudden spike in interest from television viewers, little has been proposed to pull the sport back into at least a level flight path after years of upward trajectory. Outside the confines of the inner sanctum of NASCAR power, and free from the burdens of actually having to enact painful changes, we present seven ideas that could drastically improve the sport.
When the enduring images from the past week are a pair of fines and a pair of ugly wrecks -- one plane, one car -- you know things aren't exactly all that peachy in NASCAR Nation right now. And how ironic that 2 + 2 equals four, the exact number of Brett Favre's jersey and retirement talk that threatens to drown out coverage of the upcoming race at Watkins Glen.
Jack Roush is helped out of his wrecked plane after it broke in half on landing at the Oshkosh Air Show Tuesday.
Here's a good one: what do Chad Ochocinco, LeBron James, Mark Cuban and Philip Rivers have in common?
When NASCAR nation descends on Indianapolis Motor Speedway next Friday, tales of this weekend's summer vacation will mostly center around one thing: racing. The simple act of going 'round in circles at high speeds is addictive, something that's needed like that first cup of coffee every morning. It's why A.J. Allmendinger's choosing to go-kart in Wisconsin this weekend while his wife vacations in the Bahamas. It's why Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne will kick up the sand on the track, not the beach, in Ohio, and why I spent eight laps practicing for my Pocono debut.
For NASCAR teams and drivers, it's summer vacation this week, but the powers that be have no such luxury. You can bet officials down in Daytona are working overtime to turn around a sport that continues to suffer a serious decline.
Close your eyes and play along with me.
The NASCAR rulebook is known for more gray areas than George Clooney's hair. But amid NASCAR's habit of changing rules the second it makes them, three parts of competition have always been enforced: gas, engines and tires. Violations within that trio are the equivalent of a Class A felony, a trial of guilty until proven innocent, and NASCAR believes its penalties for such transgressions can't be lessened for extenuating circumstances.
For years, NASCAR has undergone a seamless transition at the top. In the '90s, Dale Earnhardt was king, followed by Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and now four-time champ Jimmie Johnson. So it's only natural that the next young superstar coming up the ranks to challenge Johnson is ...
Count me among the minority who weren't awed by NASCAR's restrictor plate show on Sunday. Yes, a record-breaking 88 lead changes combined with the type of photo finish that leaves everyone cheering was entertaining -- there's no disputing that.
Two major shifts in two weeks have left the NASCAR landscape quivering. It's more movement than in all of last season combined, and these pending sponsor and driver swaps for 2011 have everyone simply trying to keep their facts straight.
1. The fans have spoken, and who is the Racing Fan to not listen? After discussing NASCAR's sagging attendance and TV ratings in my last column, I was inundated with e-mails from Los Angeles to Radford, Va., with fans' takes on not only what's wrong with the sport, but how to fix it.
Brad Keselowski does a bi-weekly diary for SI.com. In this latest edition, he talks about building momentum after two top-15 finishes, speaks on the controversy of Cup Series guys double-dipping in the Nationwide Series, and offers his suggestion to fix the sport's ailing Rookie of the Year program. Plus: what he'll never forget Dale Earnhardt, Jr. told him about dealing with NASCAR's rabid fan base.
Brad Keselowski does a biweekly diary for SI.com. In this latest edition, he puts his flip with Carl Edwards to bed and talks about moving on through a top 15 finish at Thunder Valley. What did he learn from it all? And what happens from here? Plus: the inside dish on NASCAR's new spoiler, the most talented Cup driver he's ever worked with, and whether open-wheel racing is part of his future now that he's driving for an Indy 500 legend.
Cornell. Butler. Northern Iowa. These names may ring hollow for 11 months out of the year, but in March they became synonymous with the Cinderella stories thrilling college basketball fans during the NCAA tournament.
It is truly fitting that NASCAR's era of the wing will come to an end this Sunday in Thunder Valley at Bristol Motor Speedway.
LAS VEGAS -- Las Vegas is a town built for the 21st century: instant gratification. With 25 cents and one pull of the lever, there's no such thing as patience; you'll know if a slot machine makes you the next rags-to-riches story in seconds.
One week after a pothole sunk the Daytona 500, NASCAR caught a break after a rainstorm just missed California's 2-mile oval Sunday. That led to a double bonus, with the race not only ending on time but the threat of raindrops leaving drivers on pins and needles throughout -- creating a rare Hollywood action thriller at a track known for its share of boring races. But when the smoke cleared after 500 miles, this movie script ended with an all-too-familiar face up front.
FONTANA, Calif. -- Track president Gillian Zucker likes to bill this weekend as "NASCAR's trip to Hollywood," but there isn't anything Hollywood about Auto Club Speedway, which sits amidst the decaying remains of the old Kaiser Steel Mill. This place is about as earthy as it gets, with the race track built upon a remediated site of toxic waste from when the Inland Empire factories belched out smoke and soot in the 1940s and 1950s.
The NFL has center stage this week, but it won't be long until NASCAR replaces it. The night before the big game, the green flag drops on the 2010 season, with the exhibition Bud Shootout the precursor to next Sunday's season-opener. Saturday also marks Danica Patrick's stock car debut and the pole qualifying for the Daytona 500. So don't let the Saints and Colts drown out your NASCAR love! Just sit back, enjoy the Miami festivities, and know it won't be long before North Florida becomes the focal point of the sports world once again.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- When NASCAR announced its 2010 season would be known for "Have at it, Boys," it didn't have in mind a road crew with shovels full of asphalt, filling a pothole on the race track of its biggest race. But that's how this year's Sprint Cup season began, and race officials can only hope things improve dramatically this weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
MOORESVILLE, North Carolina -- When NASCAR officials announced that their attitude about officiating races in 2010 will be "Have at it, boys," one of the first thoughts that came to the mind of this skeptic was: "Haven't we seen this before?"
NASCAR 2010: We're back and better than ever!
So much for Kyle Busch's time on the hot seat. The 24-year-old's longterm deal, announced Monday by Joe Gibbs Racing on the Sprint Cup Media Tour, left my crystal ball cracked before the 2010 season even starts. At least according to this "article" I found, I'm not the only one who is off base when it comes to predicting the future. Sometimes it's easy to forget that we're crack reporters here at SI.com, not psychics.
With such an overwhelming response to the first mailbag, I'm reminded that in NASCAR there's never an "offseason" -- just growing anticipation towards a Daytona 500 that's fewer than 50 days away. So let's sort through a few questions as 2010 gets underway. Make sure you keep those questions coming, too; email@example.com is the best way to get your voice heard.
MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- With just a few days left until Christmas, shoppers are scurrying through the snow and ice to find the perfect gift for the holidays. Race fans need not worry; iRacing has the answer: a subscription to iRacing Motorsports Simulations, which allows members the chance to race against NASCAR's Dale Earnhardt Jr. and A.J. Allmendinger as well as IndyCar Series drivers Justin Wilson and Danica Patrick.
In their fourth year of existence, the Bowlesy Awards celebrate the best and worst of NASCAR Racing in 2009, taking one last look before we prepare for the next year of Danica ... er, Cup Series competition in 2010. As long as you pass your drug test (and NASCAR Santa checks it twice!), we've got a front row seat reserved for you -- because unlike the banquet in Vegas, everyone's guaranteed to leave this column a winner.
1. Dale Earnhardt's fatal wreck at Daytona (Feb. 18, 2001)
HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- There may still be confetti floating in the South Florida air after Jimmie Johnson's championship celebration Sunday night, but in this "full-speed ahead" sport of NASCAR, nothing ever comes to a complete stop. That's just the way NASCAR Chairman Brian France wants it.
SI.com's Mark Beech takes a spin around the racing world for the most intriguing stories in and out of the garage.
As NASCAR heads to Talladega this Sunday, the Cup Series will conclude its 22nd consecutive year of "restrictor plate racing." Designed to slow speeds on the circuit's two fastest tracks, Daytona and Talladega, restrictor plate racing is a temporary solution to an age old question: how can NASCAR keep drivers safe while leaving competition and innovation intact?
SI.com's Mark Beech takes a spin around the racing world for the most intriguing stories in and out of the garage.
A small news story has me thinking big things about NASCAR this week. And to think, it all revolves around something as simple as a number.
NASCAR heads to Pocono this weekend, the site of the sport's latest effort to spice up competition: double-file restarts. Now eight-weeks old, the move debuted with great fanfare, and has been lauded by most in the garage.
KOONTZ LAKE, Ind. -- There's a lot on the line at Sunday's AllState 400 at the Brickyard -- NASCAR's annual trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Simply put, there are three entities that cannot afford to fail -- NASCAR, Goodyear and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway itself.
NASCAR's Hall of Fame will begin the process of selecting its inaugural five inductees Thursday when 25 nominees are unveiled. It will be prestigious to make the list, virtually a guarantee of future membership, and it will be interesting to see who doesn't make the cut -- those forgotten by the passage of time.
The two biggest racing series in the world, Formula 1 and NASCAR, don't have much in common. NASCAR's big, bulky stock cars pale in comparison to F1's open-wheel marvels of engineering precision, with the wind tunnel meaning just as much to a team's finish as the driver in the cockpit. With side-by-side racing difficult in F1, there are more lead changes in one stock car race than there are in one-third of an F1 season.
So NASCAR is going to go with double-file restarts in the Cup series. Good for them. The new rule should make for some interesting racing over the next few weeks, and especially in the Chase. I worked with my colleague Lars Anderson last week on a piece that he wrote for the magazine about how NASCAR can improve the quality of its racing. Double-file restarts was one recommendation.
Five things we learned after the running of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, won in an upset by David Reutimann after a rain-shortened race ended on Lap 227:
Three years after the floodgates opened on an open-wheel NASCAR invasion, it appears the bleeding has finally stopped for the IRL. As the curtain rises on this year's Indy 500, Dario Franchitti finds himself running open-wheel after just one failed season attempting to transition into Sprint Cup. He joins Jacques Villeneuve, Sarah Fisher and Patrick Carpentier as recent examples of how success in one form of motorsports doesn't always translate somewhere else -- failures that make others wary of attempting to make the jump (Danica, are you listening?).
Innovation comes less often from Eureka! moments than from borrowing a bit here, and a bit there. The Vikings were actually quite helpful, once all the pillaging stopped. Rock n' Roll didn't just steal itself from the blues. Someone had to do it for Elvis. Anyway, sports leagues can learn from each other, too. So here are five things racing could learn from the other major sports, and vice versa.
Critics are trying to figure out why NASCAR ratings are down 15 percent from last season. The biggest drop in viewership since the sport's gargantuan TV contract in 2001 is significant enough to raise eyebrows.
Given the state of the U.S. economy, it's a well-known fact that NASCAR's immediate future -- tied as it is to the fate of corporate America -- is uncertain. But with the news earlier this week that the White House was effectively taking over General Motors, while at the same telling Chrysler that it was off the federal dole, a murky outlook has grown suddenly more opaque. Everybody knew last year that a pullout of at least one automaker was a real possibility. Now they're going to have to come to terms that such a situation is almost a certainty. We are extremely close to being through the looking glass here, people.
The recession isn't stopping one enterprising race car driver from pursuing his NASCAR dreams. CNN's Larry Lazo reports.
There's a very interesting piece this week on ESPN.com by former SI scribe Ed Hinton that's all about NASCAR's Drive For Diversity program. Normally, stories about D4D make my eyes glaze over just a bit. It's always been my (not so firmly-held) belief that diversity will come to NASCAR when it's good and ready, and that there's just no way to force drivers who aren't ready into its three national series.
If Daytona is NASCAR's Super Bowl to start, then California is its red herring that follows. For the past four years, the speedway one hour from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood has won the Oscar for Worst Track Conditions, with the 2-mile oval criticized incessantly by fans, media, and race teams alike. Last year's February edition produced the biggest firestorm yet. After a light but steady rain fell all weekend, NASCAR attempted to start the race on Sunday when the track wasn't completely dry. Chaos ensued in the form of a multi-car wreck, with water seeping out from underneath the racing surface and causing slick spots where cars suddenly lost control without warning. After finally addressing the problem and stopping the race, rain resumed -- and fans were then kept in the dark until almost 2:00 a.m. EST before race officials finally gave up. The decision to postpone the finish until Monday came only after a record seven-hour rain delay.
DAYTONA BEACH, Florida --When the green flag drops for the Daytona 500, fans in the grandstands and those watching on television won't notice whether teams tested in the offseason or not. They will see the same type of racing they have come to expect in NASCAR's biggest race. And because of that, NASCAR should make its offseason testing ban permanent for years to come.
It begins on Friday, the longest season in sports. The Sprint Cup cars will roar onto the track at Daytona International Speedway to practice for Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout, NASCAR's version of an all-star preseason game. Then on Sunday there's qualifying for the 51st running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 15, the first of 36 points-paying races in a season that is already filled with more uncertainty than any in recent memory.
MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- Squeezed out by the emergence of multi-car teams when business was booming, single-car, independent teams are going to save NASCAR's starting lineups in the Sprint Cup Series during the economic downturn.
MOORESVILLE, North Carolina -- After 10 days away from this community known as "Race City USA," I was quickly reminded that I was back in NASCAR territory.