Queers4Gears.com

NASCAR and MotorSports – From a Queer Perspective

Out of the Tunnel 78

We’re back!   After a week off, Adam and I have returned.

I talked about my trip to Hawaii and Adam caught us up on what happened in the Texas race I missed.

We recap one heck of race weekend in Darlington and if Clint Bowyer has some payback coming his way.

Plus:  Gene Hass makes his F1 bid official and Adam gets a new theme song!

And of course – what’s up our butts!

You can listen to the show one of three ways:

1) on iTunes – click here to listen on iTunes (be sure to rate us and leave a comment)

2) right here on Q4G:   just click play

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3) or you can download the show directly to your device by clicking here

Kevin Harvick wins Sprint Cup race at Darlington in overtime

[ via NASCAR Wire Service - by Reid Spencer ]

Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images

The 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season has been one of feast or famine for Kevin Harvick—and on Saturday night at Darlington Raceway, Harvick enjoyed the delectable taste of victory.

Passing Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the next-to-last lap of the second attempt at a green-white-checkered-flag finish, Harvick won Sunday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 and all but locked himself into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup as the first two-time winner in the series this year (he still needs to finish in the top 30 in points after race No. 26 and attempt to qualify for every race).

In the second race of the season, Harvick dominated in winning at Phoenix, before a spate of mechanical issues waylaid him in four of five subsequent events.

On Saturday at Darlington, he was the class of the field again, leading 238 of 374 laps in a race that went seven circuits past its scheduled distance. Nevertheless, it took a four-tire call in the pits and a late caution to give Harvick a final chance to beat Earnhardt, who had streaked to a 15-car-length lead on two fresh tires in the first attempt at a green-white-checker.

But Kurt Busch’s wreck on the backstretch brought out the 11th caution on Lap 369 and snatched the victory from Earnhardt’s grasp. Restarting on the outside of the front row after powering past Jimmie Johnson on the first attempt at overtime, Harvick prevailed with a superior car on superior tires.

The victory was Harvick’s first at Darlington and the 25th of his career. It was the series-best third win of the season for Stewart-Haas Racing.

After the race, Harvick, the pole winner, revealed he had been keeping a tactic in reserve for just the sort of moment that arose Saturday night at the 1.366-mile speedway.

“We were able to hang on there at the end, and I knew I had that high line I hadn’t showed it to them all night on the restarts, and I wanted to save it until the very end,” Harvick said. “I kind of learned that last night as we were in the Nationwide race. It was a good tool in your tool bag to have there at the end.”

In fact, Harvick passed Earnhardt to the outside through Turns 3 and 4 on the penultimate lap.

Earnhardt finished second, .559 seconds back. Johnson ran third, followed by Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle. Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, rookie Kyle Larson, Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman completed the top 10.

“Everybody was telling me that I had a 15 car length lead, and I don’t want to hear about that,” Earnhardt said. “I’m going to hear about it all day tomorrow; ‘Man; you almost won it.’ They said we had it won with a 15 car length lead coming into that last white flag when the caution come out on the back straightaway (for Kurt Busch’s wreck off the nose of Clint Bowyer’s Toyota).

But (Kevin) was pretty fast. I think he was going to run the (heck) out of it and try to get there. I was trying not to look in the mirror, just try to run as hard as I could. I didn’t know how much speed the car had. We were on two tires … But feels good to be close.”

Nothing could thwart Harvick’s domination of the first two-thirds of the race. A dropped lug nut on a pit stop on Lap 222 relegated him to ninth for a restart on Lap 227. But by the time NASCAR threw the seventh caution on Lap 247, Harvick was running fourth.

Four laps after a restart on Lap 252, Harvick was back in the lead, passing Brian Vickers for the top spot.

After Paul Menard hit the outside wall for the second time on Lap 271, Harvick ran over a piece of Menard’s brake rotor—twice—but his No. 4 Chevrolet was unaffected. Biffle took the lead on pit road with a two-tire stop, but Harvick regained the point on the restart lap (279) and quickly pulled away to a two-second advantage over Jeff Gordon and Earnhardt in second and third.

On longer runs, Gordon’s Chevy was the equal of Harvick’s, but Gordon had a miserable time on restarts and repeatedly dropped back so far on the initial green-flag laps that he couldn’t make up the ground during the course of a fuel run.

But it was Johnson who chased Harvick lap after lap after a cycle of green-flag pit stops ended on Lap 323. Johnson got as close as .601 seconds back before Harvick began to pull away. But caution for fluid from Joey Logano’s Ford scrambled the field on divergent pit strategies and set up the wild finish.

Harvick restarted fifth on Lap 363 as the first driver on four new tires and gained the third position before NASCAR called a debris caution on Lap 364 to necessitate the first attempt at overtime.

Notes: Gordon retained the series lead by one point over Kenseth, but neither has a victory this season. … Rookie Kyle Larson scored his fourth top 10 in eight races this season. … Harvick is the first polesitter to win at Darlington since Dale Jarrett accomplished the feat in 1997.

IndyCar: St. Pete Television Ratings

The kickoff to the 2014 IndyCar season in St. Petersburg was a great one.  The racing was great.  The camera work by the ABC crew was miles better than it has been in the past.  Allen Bestwick was awesome in the booth, even though Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever as still as dull as ever.  All in all, it was all IndyCar could’ve hoped for in kicking off the season.  However, on Monday the overnight television ratings for the ABC telecast came in at a disappointing 0.6.  The last time the season opener at St. Pete was telecast on ABC in 2012, it received a 1.1 overnight.  In other words, the ratings are not good at all.

At this point I should first point out that IndyCar was going head to head with the NASCAR telecast, which is no-no #1.  IndyCar will always lose when it goes against NASCAR.  Always.  Second, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament final 4 was also telecast.  I’m not sure how many crossover fans there are between NCAABB and IndyCar, but another high-profile event competing for attention is never a good thing.  So, there are a couple of very good reasons why the ratings for the race suffered.

I’ve been accused of being negative.  I will admit that has sometimes been the case in the past.  However, in stating that the ratings for the first race of the season shown on ABC sucked, that is not me being negative.  That is a fact rooted in numbers.  The sky is blue.  Fact.  Getting hit in the head with a frying pan hurts.  Fact.  The IndyCar ratings at St. Pete sucked.  Fact.

Of course Twitter lit up with commentary, of which I had to put my 2 cents in.  From those conversations is why I am writing this.  What gets under my skin is being told that stating the ratings are terrible makes someone a negative person, that real fans shouldn’t care what the television ratings are because the focus should be on the racing, or that the television ratings don’t really matter.  If you are a real fan, television ratings should concern you.  The television ratings are the #1 indicator that sponsors look at when looking to invest in something like IndyCar.  “How many people are going to see my logo?”  IndyCar needs sponsors.  Sponsors want to see great television ratings.  Shitty ratings, the sponsors leave.  When the sponsors leave, there is one less car and driver on the track or one less event on the schedule.  Do you want that race at Kentucky?  Then you better hope the television issue gets sorted as soon as possible.  Do you want to see drivers like Conor Daly, Pippa Mann, Sage Karam, Alex Tagliani, and Oriol Servia racing every weekend?  They need the television ratings to be much better so they can get the sponsors to invest in them and the series.  “Hi, would you like to invest $5M in IndyCar?  About 300K people watch the majority of the races.”  Heck, you’d be much better off buying a billboard on the side of a busy interstate in Houston.  That’s not a joke.  It would literally be seen by more people.

Consider the following.  IndyCar ratings are down.  We know this.  Last year we had GoDaddy leave IndyCar and cite awareness and television ratings being too low to justify the cost as a reason to leave despite winning multiple races with James Hinchcliffe.  Running in the back with Danica in NASCAR is better for them and more cost effective than winning in IndyCar.  Hinchcliffe’s sponsorship was replaced by a United Fiber and Data which is something, frankly, I can’t buy or use.  EJ Viso and his Citgo/PDVSA sponsorship left the series, although that is more political than anything.  He was replaced by Carlos Munoz and is primarily sponsored by AndrettiTV…which means he doesn’t really have a sponsor and Michael Andretti is footing most of the bill.  Barracuda Networks left Bryan Herta Autosport, and BHA just has a smattering of associate sponsors and rotating sponsors, most of which were poached from the now shuttered (due to lack of sponsorship), Dryer & Reinbold Racing.  Dragon Racing, which fielded 2 cars the past 2 years, is no longer full-time with no announced plans to race again in IndyCar.  Chip Ganassi did manage to land NTT Data to sponsor Ryan Briscoe, but that’s not a product for the normal fan either.  The Dale Coyne Racing cars continue to be sponsored essentially out of Dale Coyne’s pocket.  Simona de Silvestro didn’t return to the series and neither did her Areva/Nuclear Clean Air Sponsorship.  Panther Racing has pretty much closed shop after they lost the National Guard sponsorship which went to Graham Rahal after his Big O tires /Tire Kingdom/Midas sponsorship didn’t return.  James Jakes didn’t return to IndyCar with his Acorn Stair Lifts sponsorship because the budgets required to run now are too high and his check is no longer big enough.  Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing is on year 3 with no primary sponsor and is living off of a check from oil guy, Wink Hartman.  Despite winning 2 races and finishing 3rd in the championship, HP sponsorship left Simon Pagenaud with no primary replacement in place.  His team, Sam Schmidt Motorsports, signed Russian rookie Mikhail Aleshin because of the sponsorship he brought…from a Russian Bank.  Juan Pablo Montoya entered the series with no sponsors, and only has Verizon lined up as a sponsor at this time, and they already sponsor Will Power and the entire series.  This is not even mentioning HVM Racing, Conquest Racing, and Newman/Haas Racing are no longer on track because of a lack of sponsorship.  Michael Shank Racing never even turned a lap on track before having to ditch the IndyCar effort.  Sure, sponsors change all the time, but they should be replaced with new sponsors.  Unfortunately, that isn’t the trend with IndyCar right now.

Sure, there isn’t much an average fan can do to help the ratings other than tune in.  But, we can help offer ideas and solutions to make IndyCar stronger and help it grow.  Grassroots campaigns work, so we can be a part of it.  Look at OpenWheelMom’s blog and what she’s trying to do to get younger fans involved.  Frankly, the series should be doing what she’s doing anyway, but it’s a grassroots effort to drum up some support and get kids involved.  Maybe we concerned fans can get the ball rolling.  More Front Wing does an excellent job recapping events and providing information in an easy to use format.  It’s quite possible the IndyCar website could use some of those ideas to enhance their site.

All that said, I really do hope Verizon can help plug the dam.  Better yet, I hope they have enough funding, patience, and savvy to not only plug the dam, but re-engineer and rebuild the dam.  IndyCar can’t survive otherwise.  It won’t.  And if Verizon can’t, hopefully they can get some others to join in and help.

The point is fans should be concerned because concern may result in an action.  Concern raises awareness of a problem.  The concern is because we care.  I refuse to wear rose-colored glasses, stick my head in the sand, and act if everything is rainbows and sunshine.  The sport I enjoy is withering away.  You see it.  I see it.  The numbers don’t lie.  That’s not negativity, that’s truth.  The concerned fans are the real fans here.  We aren’t leaving.  We aren’t going anywhere.  But, we are hoping someone listens to our ideas.  Every revolution in history has started with a handful of people being pissed off, upset, wronged, concerned, or hopeful about a future they want to see and help make happen.  I won’t stand idly by and just not care.  I will be neither a yes-man for positivity’s sake, nor a negative Nancy just for the sake of being negative.  If the SS IndyCar is taking on water, I’m going to at least grab a bucket and try to keep it afloat.  I won’t sit in my deck chair and pretend like the boat isn’t sinking.

Ross (@therossbynum)

Out of the Tunnel 77

This week Adam isn’t on the podcast – something, yada, yada about baseball and opening day.

Joining me is Q4G’s resident Indy Car Guru – Ross Bynum.

Ross and I talked about the fantastic Cup race from Martinsville and Kurt Busch’s return to victory lane.  Ross also gave us a full recap of the Indy Car opener from St. Pete and he ate some chicken.

All that, plus….. what’s up our butt!

You can listen to the podcast one of three ways

1) on iTunes – click here to listen on iTunes

2) right here on Q4G:  just click play –

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3)  or you can download the show directly to your device by clicking here

Kurt Busch strong-arms Jimmie Johnson for Martinsville win

[ via NASCAR Wire Service - by Reid Spencer ]

Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

On Sunday at historic Martinsville Speedway, the driver known as “The Outlaw” committed highway robbery.

Bullying his way past six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson with 10 laps left in Sunday’s STP 500 at the .526-mile short track, Busch held on to edge Johnson by 0.263 seconds, denying Johnson a ninth Martinsville victory.

A Martinsville winner in 2002, Busch added a second victory at Sprint Cup’s oldest current venue to his resume. Busch’s 25th career victory was his first triumph in the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet and the first victory as a Sprint Cup crew chief for Daniel Knost.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished third in a race that produce a record 33 lead changes and a sixth consecutive different winner to open the 2014 season. Joey Logano ran fourth, followed by Marcos Ambrose and Matt Kenseth.

Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer and Paul Menard completed the top 10.

Busch stole the victory from Johnson, despite an earlier collision with Brad Keselowski’s Ford that cost Keselowski 31 laps.

“We’re done,” Busch said tersely after running into the back of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford, a car Busch drove for much of his career, to date.

That was far from the truth. Busch worked his way back into contention and restarted third on Lap 466 after caution for Carl Edwards spin in Turn 2. On Lap 473, he got the nose of his car under Johnson’s No. 48 Chevy and grabbed the lead.

Ten laps later, Johnson — who led 296 of the 500 laps — regained the top spot with a slight nudge to Busch’s bumper, but Johnson fought a loose handling condition the rest of the way and couldn’t keep the Stewart-Haas Chevy behind him.

Busch, like Johnson, was driving a Hendrick Motorsports chassis powered by a Hendrick engine.

“I didn’t know if we’d be able to do it,” Busch said. “The 48 car is king here, him and the 24 (Jeff Gordon, who also has eight Martinsville wins). This is the old theory ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.’ I had a Hendrick chassis prepared by Stewart-Haas Racing, a Hendrick motor. So thanks to those guys and Chevrolet.

“I’ve been on this journey for a while, and every time you come to Martinsville, you kind of draw a line, like ‘There’s no way I’ll be able to challenge those Hendrick guys or be up in the top 10.’ These Stewart-Haas guys gave me a car to do it.”

Johnson, who has been having uncharacteristic difficulty closing out races of late, did everything possible to keep Busch at bay.

“That’s all I had,” Johnson said. “I ran the rear tires off the car. I flipped every switch and knob I could to get front brake and turn fans off to try to help bring the balance back. But it was still too loose to get the win.”

IndyCar: Ideas from the Firestone 550K

NOTE:  The below post was typed up and never finished from June of last year.  Oops!  However, the points are still relevant, and I’ve updated some of the thinking.

This past weekend at the Firestone 550, I had the pleasure of taking a couple to their first IndyCar race.  I didn’t spend much time during the course of the evening chatting with drivers or anything of the “media” nature.  I spent my time showing my friends around the paddock, answering their questions, and trying to make sure they had a great time.  I found the experience to be very enlightening.  Sometimes it’s easy to forget what it is like to be a new fan of a sport or just someone checking out something with curiosity for the first time.  I’ve never known that feeling with racing because I grew up around racing.  Racing has always been second nature to me. So, because of this experience, I’ve had a few ideas in regards to attracting new fans, informing them, making sure they have a good time, and retaining them as fans.

Garage Tours/Ambassadors

Monica Hilton was kind enough to show us around the Team Barracuda garage area pre-race.  My friends were asking lots of questions about the cars, how much certain pieces cost, what was the purpose of something…typical newbie questions.  It’s easy to look at an IndyCar and be quite confused because it’s not like a normal car.  Other than a steering wheel and 4 tires, not much appears to be similar to something someone drives on a daily basis.  This is why IndyCar needs to give garage tours and have “ambassadors”.

First, the garage tours shouldn’t be something that comes with a caveat.  You shouldn’t have to sign up for anything special like IndyCar Nation (may it RIP).  It should be free to new fans.  I know each track controls a lot of that, but if you convert these people into fans, they’ll be paying patrons later down the road.  You have to hook them first.  But, who should be giving the tours?

Any Jim Bob with a knowledge of IndyCar shouldn’t be giving tours.  In these situations, an entity like IndyCar needs someone that is not only knowledgeable, but personable and represents the IndyCar brand.  This is the job of an ambassador.  It’s not their responsibility to regurgitate reams of facts, but they should be able to relate to a new fan and answer questions in a way they understand.  Frankly, no new fan really cares about who won the 1965 Indy 500 or Offy engines.  A $30K steering wheel?  Now you’ve got their attention.

Livery Changes

One thing I learned on Saturday night is that IndyCar liveries are difficult to discern from one another at 210mph+.  This never occurred to me because I always know who is driving what on any given weekend.  However, to my friends, trying to tell Tony Kanaan’s car from Ryan Hunter-Reay’s and Graham Rahal’s, or Tristan Vautier’s from Josef Newgarden’s was nearly impossible.  At speed and under the lights, it was even hard to tell Hinchcliffe from Franchitti’s Belkin livery if one of the cars wasn’t right in front of you.  Livery designers need to do more to make sure their car stands out and is unique.   Furthermore, the numbers on the cars were no help at all.

“What am I supposed to be watching?”

Good question, right?  About half-way through the race when the field was all jumbled up, one friend turned to me and asked that question.  It had never really crossed my mind before because there is always something to be watched on the track.  But, for a newbie, they may not know what to look for.  I told them to find a driver they are interested in and watch them.  Or, they could find a group of cars running together and watch the passing taking place. Another option, one I do a lot, is to watch one specific section of the track.  From our seats, this would be turns 3 and 4.  Watching one specific section of the track allows you to look at the different lines the cars are taking and you can see who’s car is handling well.  They weren’t as interested in that option.  My female friend liked the pit stops a lot and thought those were really cool.  So, I told her to watch pit lane and that when a team sat tires out in their pit box, it meant their car was pitting soon.  New fans need to know what to look for…so let them know what you enjoy!

Lights on the Cars

Right at the first caution one of the first questions that I was asked was, “What do the lights on the back of the cars mean?”.  I told them that it’s an instantaneous way of letting the drivers behind each car know when the caution flag is out, or when they will be restarting, etc.  They thought that was pretty cool.  As the race went on and it became very difficult to follow who was leading, where the leader was, and who was a lap down, I had a thought:  Why don’t the cars have lights in a more visible spot, like the roll hoop or along the bottom edge, that glow colors?  I know this concept exists with Swift chassis’, but this would be taking it a step further.  The leaders car could have a blue glow and the lead lap cars could be green.  It would be an easy visual clue to those in the stands as to who was leading or fighting for position.  This wouldn’t necessarily be as useful on a road/street course or during the day, but for a night race it would be awesome.

How the Car Looks

I asked my friends what they thought of how the car looks.  My female friend said she thought it looked cool and that she thought it looked smaller in person that what she imagined.  My male friend also said he thought it looked cool, but that he didn’t like the big gap behind the front wheels and the big flat piece with the shark fin.  He said that part looked weird.  Opposite of his wife, he said the cars seemed bigger up close than on television.  Nevertheless, a “cool” and a “cool, but…” answer shouldn’t be ok.  An IndyCar should look badass.  Period.  No other opinion should cross anyone’s mind when looking at an IndyCar.  I hope the aero-kits help this problem out.  It’s harder to feel a connection with something that doesn’t look familiar (at least a NASCAR car kinda looks like something you drive on the street), so it must look great to draw some kind of strong reaction and emotion.

Turbo Engines

The engines just aren’t loud enough.  They don’t sound mean enough.  One of the things I actually enjoyed about the non-turbo V-8 engines was their piercing sound.  They sounded fast.  They sounded tough.  Racing is a sensory experience.  It’s sights, sounds, and smells.  If you can control some of these, like sound, it should be amped up as much as possible.  My friends said, “The engines don’t sound as loud as I thought they were.”  They had even bought ear plugs and didn’t even need them.

Marketing Partners

The “IndyCar doesn’t have any marketing” thing has been beat to death and is a subject for a whole other post, but IndyCar needs partners.  Verizon as the title sponsor should help, but there needs more sponsors that are partners in promoting the series.  Sure, having the Florida Lottery on the sidepod of the car is great, but if they aren’t airing commercials, utilizing their participation in the series in print media, and aren’t at the track promoting their product, it doesn’t really matter.  Sure, having a car on the track is great, but if the sponsor isn’t fully engaged it really is useless and doesn’t benefit the series.

Marketing the Drivers

On top of the above statement, IndyCar needs sponsors that are going to promote their driver.  A driver should be on television, in the media, in advertisements, cardboard cutouts, talking to kids at schools, at trade shows, and auto shows.  My friends at the race didn’t know anything about the drivers or who they even were.  I managed to get a “Isn’t that guy married to one of the Judd’s?”, a “I think I saw that guy on Dancing with the Stars.”, and “Is that Mario’s kid?”  However, these people know who Jeff Gordon is and they don’t even watch NASCAR.

Andretti/Rahal

Other than Castroneves, these are pretty much the only 2 names people outside of IndyCar recognize.  IndyCar and the series sponsors have got to capitalize on this.  There doesn’t have to be any fake or contrived drama drummed up, but make it a rivalry.  Show clips of their dads racing each other hard, and how the rivalry lives on.  Make it part of the “IndyCar story”.  Sure, both may suffer from a little bit of “poor little rich kid” syndrome, but that shouldn’t keep the series from making them part of the relevancy solution.

No Build-Up Pre-Race

The buildup to an IndyCar race at an oval is pretty stale unless it’s at the Indy 500.  I mean, it’s a huge track in the middle of nowhere and you show up to sit in the hot sun for a couple hours before the race starts.  It’s quite dull.  I’m not sure what the solution is, but there has to be a better way to build excitement before a race.  I’m not sure if it’s making sure IndyLights is at every race (I know, they don’t race on all ovals because of crash costs, budgets, etc.), but right now a nap is more entertaining before an oval race.  Drifting races are cool, and the offroad series with Travis Pastrana is neat, but it’s still not quite right.

Not Much To Do

The IndyCar Fan Village is a great concept.  I love the idea, but the execution right now is lackluster.  I know part of the growth of the Fan Village should come from sponsors, which are lacking right now, but there are plenty of things IndyCar could do to spice it up.  This is especially true if there’s not much happening on track before a race.  Here are a few ideas:

First of all, stop calling it a village.  A village makes me think of a place  leprechauns live, not an exciting place to checkout cool IndyCar stuff.

Second, there should be more simulators.  The National Guard tent has an awesome setup.  An old Dallara chassis is hooked up to iRacing allowing fans a chance to race a few laps while sitting in an actual IndyCar.  We all know there are now lots of old Dallara chassis sitting around collecting dust.  There should be 10 of these lined up for fans to hop in and race.  The line at the National Guard car is always long, and that discourages participation.  Think of how a little kid would feel going back to school and saying, “I got to sit in a REAL INDYCAR and race!  I sat in the seat!  Look at this awesome pic my mom took of me racing it!”  Heck, I even have a couple of pics of me in the car that I think are awesome.

Third, there should be an education tent/area.  Have someone explaining parts and pieces of the cars.  Have a driver come and talk about front wing adjustments.  Let it be an interactive Q&A type thing.

I work doing trade shows now, and an awesome giveaway always resonates.  It keeps the product, driver, and series in front of fans away from the track.  I have a Helio, AAA lens/glasses cloth that I still use I got at a AAA tent at Texas 3 years ago.  IndyCar itself should be passing out awesome giveaways, not just sponsors at their tents.

There should be a DJ.  I know a DJ would be expensive, but when fans are at the track there should be something keeping the energy high while in the Fan Village (ugh, that name).  No more unknown bands playing.  No more “turn on Sirius XM and play some stuff”.  Have someone there, interacting with the crowd, spinning upbeat songs.  If you want younger fans, you have to appeal to them.  Take it from me, DJ’s are cool.  Sure, grumpy old guy may not like it, but IndyCar has got to get it’s cool back, and a DJ playing would be one way to be a lot cooler.

Who Should I Cheer For?

My friends, who knew essentially nothing about IndyCar, needed someone to cheer for.  Because the drivers were all unknowns to them, they didn’t even know they should pay attention to.  Here is a huge problem for IndyCar.  Showing up at a track, or watching a race on tv, is only entertaining when you have someone you’re cheering for.  I wouldn’t watch a basketball game featuring 2 teams I’m not a fan of, so why would anyone watch an IndyCar race when they don’t have any connection to any driver.  Fixing the driver awareness problem is key to fixing IndyCar.

However, as a fan myself, it was kinda fun getting to tell my friends about certain drivers and letting them decide who to cheer for.  Pippa Mann was nice enough to meet my friends prior to the race, so they cheered for her, but unfortunately her engine expired at the start.  However, anything can be a reason to cheer for someone in the beginning.  ”Wow, I love the color of their car.”  ”He’s really cute, I’ll cheer for him.”  ”I love me some Target, I’d like one of those cars to win.”

I apologize for the rambling, but these are just a few observations and ideas from taking friends to the track with me.  You’d be surprised what you learn when you step back and view an old experience as a new one with fresh eyes.  That’s something the series needs to look at itself through.  Rose colored glasses are not allowed.

Ross (@therossbynum)

Out of the Tunnel 76

This week Adam and I were joined by Matt Weaver from PopularSpeed.com

We talked about 2 incredible races in Fontana, tire “issues” vs. team set-up decisions, Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin being back out of the #11 car.

Plus, Michael Waltrip interviewing Donna Summer and my interview with Eric Stonestreet (Cam) from Modern Family.

All that – plus Matt filled us in on his “Going the Distance” stories and his post on the Rahal/Earnhardt ride swap.

All that plus a lot more.

You can listen to show one of three ways:

1) on iTunes:  click here to listen on iTunes

2) right here on Q4G – just click play: 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

3) or you can download the show directly to your device by clicking here

Kyle Busch escapes tire issues, wins Auto Club 400 in overtime

[ via NASCAR Wire Service - by Reid Spencer ]

Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images

In a race that saw tire problems turn the contest upside-down, Kyle Busch won Sunday’s Auto Club 400 in a green-white-checkered-flag finish that took the fifth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event of the year six laps past its scheduled distance.

The first driver on four fresh tires for a restart on Lap 205 at Auto Club Speedway, Busch passed Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart on the next-to-last lap, bringing rookie Kyle Larson with him.

Able to keep Larson behind him on the final lap, Busch crossed the finish line .214 seconds ahead of the 21-year-old, who had won the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at the two-mile track one day earlier.

The victory was Busch’s second straight and third overall at Fontana, his first of the season and the 29th of his career. Kurt Busch, who like Stewart took right-side tires only on the final pit stop on Lap 200, ran third, followed by polesitter Matt Kenseth and Stewart.

Jamie McMurray, Brian Vickers, AJ Allmendinger, Paul Menard and Carl Edwards completed the top 10.

“I knew four tires was going to win the race, so I’m glad (crew chief) Dave (Rogers) called that,” Busch said in Victory Lane. “There was some great racing up front between Tony and Kurt there. It was really interesting to watch that.

“I went into Turn 1 thinking I’m going to run the middle and then Tony started sliding off the bottom and I’m like, ‘Nope, not having it.’ I had to get some brake and cut my car to the left and drove underneath him and got him cleared off Turn 2, and I was able to keep Kyle Larson behind me.”

Though he ran second, Larson nevertheless earned Busch’s admiration in the process.

“Man, what a shoe that boy is,” Busch said. “If he would have gotten alongside of me, it would have been a whale of a race. I drove off into Turn 3, but I heard ‘Car inside’ on my left.

“If he drove it in further than I did, Jesus must have told him to stop… What an awesome race this track produced!”

Larson was surprised he was able to reach second place after restarting ninth in the bottom lane for the green-white-checker.

“I was thinking I was going to line up eighth,” Larson said, “but then the 40 (Landon Cassill) stayed out, and I had to line up on the bottom, and I was disappointed because the bottom had been getting jammed up once we got to Turn 1. I was surprised–I just watched it on TV and it was pretty wild–we were four wide there into (Turn) 1.

“Came out in fourth there, I think, and then got to second off Turn 2 the next lap and thought I might have a shot at Kyle, depending on where he’d go into Turn 3. But he was good enough to keep it on the bottom and stay ahead of me. But we’ll take second. Long race and definitely didn’t expect to run second, so I’ll take it and head back to North Carolina with a smile on my face.”

Until the final five laps, the race had all the makings of a routine victory by Jimmie Johnson, who had a commanding lead over Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon as the event approached the regulation distance of 400 miles.

But Johnson, who led 104 laps, blew a left front tire and drove his car to pit road, handing Gordon the lead. No caution.

Brad Keselowski suffered his third left rear tire failure a lap later but stayed out of harm’s way. No caution. The same fate befell Marcos Ambrose on the same lap. No caution.

Finally, when Clint Bowyer’s Toyota spun on lap 198, thanks to a flat left rear tire, NASCAR called the caution that set up the two-lap dash to the finish.

The tire issues that surfaced during Saturday’s practice sessions—particularly in the left rear position—plagued drivers throughout the race, not just at the finish. Kevin Harvick caused the first caution on Lap 18 when his left rear tire blew.

Harvick charged through the field and was running third on Lap 138 when another blown left rear forced him to pit road. With tire debris strewn across the backstretch, NASCAR called a caution on Lap 141, with Johnson in the lead.

Keselowski, who suffered two flat left rears during Saturday’s practice, had two more during the race but both yellow flags rescued him in both cases. Twice Keselowski brought the No. 2 Ford to pit road under caution with the tire soft, escaping a failure at speed that could have damaged the car.

But the third failure, in the closing laps, dropped the 2012 series champion to 26th at the finish.

The race winner, though, had no tire problems and suggested that other teams might have been overly aggressive in lowering tire pressures.

 

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