Did you miss an event during this busy week in racing? How about a late-night press release, an important sponsorship rumor, or a juicy piece of news? If you did, you’ve come to the right place! Each week, The Frontstretch will break down the racing, series by series, to bring you the biggest stories that you need to watch going forward for the week ahead. Let our experts help you get up to speed, no matter what series you might have missed, all in this edition of Pace Laps!
Sprint Cup: Another Wet Track Just under 50% of the Cup races this year have featured rain delays. Ok, the percentage number makes it seems worse than it may be, as there have been only seven races thus far, but having three of them feature rain delays is problematic.
Though the Air Titan 2.0 is supposed to help with this situation, is it time thatNASCAR looked at things a little differently? Perhaps it’s time to start calling races with a bit more, ahem, speed. Fans, including those at the track, have got to be feeling frustrated by NASCAR’s drawn out process of trying to dry a track and hoping for the best. The development of some kind of time frame might be in the sport’s best interest, so as not to presume that fans will wait around all day for a race to possibly, maybe, start or re-start.
The Texas race will be shown on FOX beginning at noon on Monday, with the green flag to wave at 12:08. For those who won’t be at work, be sure to enjoy it. Huston Ladner
Nationwide Series: Youth Movement Accelerates There’s no better time for the Nationwide Series than the last few weeks.
Friday night another young gun, 18-year-old rookie Chase Elliott, played his part in highlighting what the future of the sport will look like. Elliott captured his first career Nationwide win in just his sixth start, adding another trophy to his impressively growing mantle, started with incredible short track career as well as a Truck Series win from last season.
But Elliott is just a part of what’s shaping up to be a career year for JR Motorsports. He leads the points with teammate Regan Smith second, and now both have won a race this year. Team owner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. couldn’t be happier and noted on Friday night that having lost the championship with Smith last year, JRM badly wants to close the deal in 2014.
If the first six races – especially Texas – were any indication, they’ve got a great shot. Friday they led over half the race with all four cars finishing in the top seven, proving the company is not only locked and loaded but again has found talent that will be around for a very long time.
Welcome to what the Nationwide Series is all about and say hello to the team that’s leading the way. Kelly Crandall
IndyCar: TV Ratings Woes It’s unfortunate that TV ratings have become such a major talking point in the world of auto racing, but as the industry tries to stay relevant in a changing media landscape, TV ratings are, for better or worse, a key barometer that needs to be monitored for a sport that is struggling in terms of maintaining popularity. This is the reality for INDYCAR in 2014, and that reality is murky to say the least.
The opening race of the INDYCAR season at St. Petersburg on ABC last week only mustered a 0.6 overnight TV rating according to Nielsen Media Research. That is not good in any way shape or form. ABC can get a 0.6 rating at just about any time of day no matter what is on the channel simply because of how popular the channel is. The fact that INDYCAR couldn’t move the needle any further than that on a Sunday afternoon on a network TV station is troubling in every sense of the word. Yes, the race was up against stiff competition from the mainstream sports world in the form ofNASCAR and March Madness, but if this sport is going to survive long-term, it has to be able to perform better than an 0.6 on network TV.
As ratings continue to dwindle for this once healthy sport, INDYCAR and its media partners need to take a hard look at what factors are involved with these ratings dips and figure out a way to raise them. If that means scheduling around other mainstream sporting events, so be it. If it means glitzing up the coverage, so be it.
Regardless, something has to be done, because INDYCAR can not survive on an 0.6 rating. Its as simple as that. Matt Stallknecht
NHRA: Continued Force Ashley Force Hood “borrowed” sister Courtney’s car and made four passes in the Traxxas Ford Mustang Funny Car during a day of testing for John Force Racing last Monday at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. She renewed her NHRA Funny Car license with passes of 4.11, 4.04, 4.01 and 4.05 seconds (her best pass would have qualified her second for last weekend’s event). Force Hood last raced at the NHRA season finale at Pomona in November 2010 before taking time off to start a family. There is currently no timetable for a part-time or full-time return to racing for her, but having her license does give JFR an in-house substitute should one of the other drivers be unable to compete at an event.
“Getting in this Funny Car all these guys are established and have a routine with Courtney. The spotlight will be on me if I mess up. I just wanted to do everything right and not mess them up or mess the car up,” said Force Hood. “It was weird to be in Courtney’s seat and get tips from her.”
NHRA also tweeted that they are nearing a motorsports milestone. Women currently have 98 Pro wins, so who will score the 100th NHRA Pro win for a woman? Toni Montgomery
Formula One: Bahrain’s Primetime Success Story The series visited the beautiful track in Bahrain this weekend. With the race as the sun set and the lights came on, the first question to ask is: Why doesn’t F1 run more races under the lights? The cars look great and the racing brisk.
Mercedes seemed to gap the field at Bahrain. Will stalwarts Red Bull and Ferrari catch up?
The second question to be asked: Will anyone catch Mercedes? During the early stint of the race, the top 7 cars all ran Mercedes engines. That Lewis Hamilton and teammate Nico Rosberg ran away with the race – even after a late restart – shows how strong that team is. They now sit atop the standings with a large gap over even the formidable Red Bull team. And Ferrari? They seem way off the pace, as noted by a disgusted Stefano Domenicali leaving the track before the race had finished. Huston Ladner
Short Tracks Pace Laps: Icebreaker 150 A True Thriller Justin Bonsignore led three times throughout the day at Thompson, CT, but he didn’t take the lead for the final time until there was only eight laps remaining. He and polesitter Woody Pitkat battled side-by-side late in the going. It appeared that Bonsignore finally got by Pitkat to take the lead, but then the caution came out and he had to try all over again.
“If you look at any of the career wins that I have there’s a million caution flags in that race and they’re always at the worst times for us,” said Bonsignore.
That set up a 12-lap shootout. Bonsignore struggled to get going on the restart and almost lost second place to Doug Coby. But after clearing Coby he quickly chased down Pitkat, got underneath and then took the lead coming out of turn four and left Pitkat in his dust.
“The competition is so close,” said the race winner. “I just drove my butt off and I was able to get it done.” Rob Blount