Presented by Frontstretch.com
The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
April 30th, 2014
Volume VIII, Edition LX
Time Telecast Network
2:30 AM - 3:00 AM NASCAR Now ESPN2
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 1
6:30 - 7:30 PM NASCAR RaceHub FOX Sports 2*#
*- Tape Delayed
NASCAR Penalizes Marcos Ambrose and Casey Mears
Following their post-race scuffle at Richmond International Raceway, both Casey Mears and Marcos Ambrose were penalized on Tuesday. The pair made contact on track while racing for the 18th position, and as a result, confronted each other post-race. Things got heated as Mears gave Ambrose a shove, getting physical before Ambrose landed a punch to Mears, all of which was captured on FOX television cameras.
After reviewing video, NASCAR's response was to fine Ambrose $25,000, while Mears was fined $15,000. Both were placed on probation through May 28th. Per NASCAR, both drivers violated Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing), and 12-4.9 (Behavioral Penalty; involved in an altercation in the garage area after the race) per the 2014 series rulebook. No points penalties were given.
There were also reports that an unidentified ECR crew member sucker-punched Ambrose, in the midst of breaking up the scuffle. However NASCAR's investigation, which included looking at video and speaking with the Australian, who said he was not hit, resulted in no penalties.
Overnight Richmond TV Ratings down 12%
The racing may be much improved in NASCAR this season, but television ratings remain in a steady decline. Saturday night's Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Speedway earned an overnight rating of 3.0 on FOX, setting a new Nielsen low for the network in a non-rain delayed event. In the previous four years, Richmond had held steady at 3.4, one of the least popular races on the network but still holding a consistent audience.
Overall, FOX has yet to post a ratings increase for any of the nine races it's covered this season, including the lowest-rated Daytona 500 since the event was first televised flag-to-flag in 1979. Notably, since taking on NASCAR coverage in 2001 seven of the eight lowest-rated Sprint Cup races on FOX have aired on Saturday night. Five of those eight have taken place at Richmond.
Kurt Busch and Jacques Villeneuve Pass Refresher Tests at Indianapolis
Before the rains hit Indianapolis Motor Speedway Tuesday afternoon, both Kurt Busch and Jacques Villeneuve were able to pass the Indianapolis 500 Orientation Refresher test needed to participate in practice and qualifying for the 98th Indianapolis 500 in May.
Both drivers had previously passed the program before – Busch last year in his test with Andretti Autosport and Villeneuve as a past competitor and winner. They had to demonstrate solid car control, reaching speeds above 215 miles an hour all while meeting the second and third stage requirements of the rookie program.
Busch is attempting to become the fourth driver to do the "double" while competing in both the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same day. He ran 66 laps and posted a best speed of 220.844 mph.
"This attempt is something serious. It's an amazing challenge. Overall, it was a good day just to settle in with the team and advance further than rookie orientation," Busch said. "It felt good to give feedback to the team from the car and have them explain things to me how we're going to move forward. They continued to change downforce combinations on the car and it was just neat to feel all that and check it off the list."
Villeneuve, meanwhile, made his last start in the Greatest Spectacle of Racing in 1995. He ran 83 laps and posted a fastest speed of 217.742 mph.
"It took a while to get there. The first few laps were surprising because it felt like I was going fast and I looked and it was 180 (mph)," the Canadian said. "I thought, 'There's still a long way to go,' and then 190. And another 10 laps, I started getting in the rhythm, and once you start going flat all around it becomes easy. I think your brain, your vision just needs to get used to driving at speed."
Busch will join other rookies for this year's Indy 500 on May 5th to turn more laps in preparation for the event.
Turns out the 21-year-old, Alva, Florida native and driver of the No. 92 BTS Tire & Wheel Distributors Ford F-150 for Ricky Benton Racing in the Truck Series comes from a long line of watermelon farmers. Chastain's family members have grown the fruit in South Florida for generations, making his ties to this associate sponsor so unique.
"Growing watermelons gave me a foot in the door at the Watermelon Promotion Board," said Chastain. He fondly recalls traveling up to Orlando to meet with the folks up there with his father and pitching them on sponsoring his car all those years ago. Now, seven years later, Ross Chastain is affectionately called "The Watermelon Kid" in the garage area by fans and drivers alike, working together with the Watermelon Board to build a memorable brand.
"I wanted to take the next step, and so did they, so we went truck racing," said Chastain.
Beginning his career in the Truck Series in 2011, Chastain debuted with Turn One Racing, earning a tenth-place finish at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis. He would start five events in total, earning two more top-20 results and turned some heads within the garage area. For 2012, Chastain was back in a truck, this time for SS Green Light Racing, with the National Watermelon Association and Promotion Board still on board. The sponsor wrap included the bed of his truck "filled" with watermelons (a gimmick that has become a trademark element of the truck's paint scheme for both driver and sponsor), making it one of the most unique-looking vehicles to run NASCAR today. Chastain earned two top-10 finishes that year, earning respect as a full-time competitor on tour.
Chastain then drove for Brad Keselowski Racing during the 2013 season, starting in 15 races and earning his first career pole award at Iowa Speedway in September's Fan Appreciation 200. He finished second to 2012 Camping World Truck Series Champion, and now Nationwide Series driver, James Buescher. Even after a breakout 2013 season, however, Chastain was not brought back by BKR, so he signed a deal with Ricky Benton and his RBR Enterprises race team out of Cerro Gordo, NC for 2014, bringing Watermelon along with him.
The amount of exposure that the driver of the No. 92 truck brings to further the promotion of watermelons is huge.
"We're getting watermelon.org out there on the track, and that's irreplaceable when you look at it," said Chastain, comparing sponsorship of the RBR truck versus buying air time on television ads in the markets they promote the fruit in across the country.
Ross Chastain and Ricky Benton Racing will be running 10-15 races this season depending on ongoing sponsorship. Currently, the RBR team is planning on running Kansas for the SFP 250, Charlotte for the North Carolina Education Lottery 200, and Dover for the Lucas Oil 200 this May.
Greg Davis is a Contributor for Frontstretch. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor's Note: With the NASCAR Twitter community expanding by leaps and bounds, it remains a place for instantaneous news, reactions, and a whole lot of inside jokes. We understand if you don't want to join the Twitter community - but as a fan, it's important to know the news and info you're missing out on! That's why, every week, Allen Bedgood will sort through the thousands of messages and give us a little taste of what's going on each Wednesday.
So, without further ado, here's a look at what those in NASCAR were thinking over the past seven days...
@keselowski: Huge thank you to gargoyles for giving me glasses so great I don't want to give them away. pic.twitter.com/wnCZvLlivV
@nascarcasm: Hey @DaleJr - since you apparently wield the power, could you suggest on Twitter that the field at Talladega be peaced by Kate Upton jogging?
@MikeLingerfelt: Not real happy about taking a lugnut to the face or the shredding tires tonight! pic.twitter.com/vWZ20LuMEi
@DaleJr: Apparently, I burped in an interview. Gonna do a lot of that tomorrow.🍺 #ExcuseMe
@MissSprintCup: There's no better feeling than adding a @NASCAR Sprint Cup Series "win" sticker to your car! Right, @joeylogano?! -MM pic.twitter.com/9KkPe3bddE
@jim_utter: Uh BOOM! http://www.mobypicture.com/user/DL_Mackie/view/16836315 …
@heymartysnider: You can't penalize Ambrose or Mears. If you want "boys have at it," they just did.
@ESPNMcGee: #NASCAR VP Robin Pemberton didn't seem to be too concerned about the Ambrose-Mears bout. Said review coming Mon-Tues.
@dennyhamlin: Do you know how hard you have to misjudge a corner and plow into the guy in front of you to wreck someone 3 cars up? #morons
@dennyhamlin: Upon further review. Just a racing deal. I'm just pissed off.
@CJMearsGang (Casey Mears): Had a good car tonight. Proud of the @GEICORacing team. Interesting end to the night. #13
@AmandaSpeed: Holy crap. I went to bed early last night, just got up and checked twitter. Wtf?!? I missed a fight in NASCAR. Wow!
@austindillon3: Thanks everyone for the birthday wishes headed turkey hunting!
@DaleJr: Here's a shot of the back yard. That's Laverne, Shirley, Flo, & Vera.. named after 70s sitcom stars. #Buffalo pic.twitter.com/YcxnW8Ap3x
@NASCARonNBC: The DogeCoin car is complete (Via reddit /u/caphits) pic.twitter.com/m1KUSN9p58
@AllWaltrip (Darrell Waltrip): just saw @jpmontoya from the #IndyCar race in #Birmingham, he doesn't even look like the same guy that was in #NASCAR, slimmed down version
@mattdracing: I feel I can more publicly announce now that I will be racing the #40 car for TMG at 6 races this year starting at Iowa on May 18th!
@mattdracing: I will still be in the #46 car this weekend at Talladega. The guys are working hard to get the car ready for the superspeedway!
@jim_utter: Kurt Busch's @IndyCar ride pic.twitter.com/fUh30Zj7SL"
@KeselowskiBrian: Ready to go to Talladega @ARCA_Racing with the Kurzjewski's pic.twitter.com/AbQO75BpMZ
@dustinlong: #Nascar ... Casey Mears says on Race Hub that he and Marcos Ambrose "had a good conversation" today. #AskMRN @MRNRadio
@naterynan: Toyota reportedly is moving U.S. HQ from SoCal to Texas. Interesting because its #nascar engines are built in SoCal.
@AllWaltrip: Hanging out with the pace car driver for Saturday night's race pic.twitter.com/UCfKh6uADw
@nascarcasm: Penalty Tuesday. Heated discussion in progress. Currently deciding whether to fine Ambrose & Mears $25,000, or give them a $25,000 bonus.
@dustinlong: If #NASCAR promotes family values, please show me where in family values it's OK to punch someone & not get disciplined. #AskMRN @MRNRadio
@PPistone: Again don't think Ambrose or Mears should be fined but if they are #NASCAR cannot use that fight in any promotional material - agree?
@NHMS: Happy 103rd Birthday, Rachel Gilbert! 3 yrs ago, u drove #NHMS pace car for ur 100th! pic.twitter.com/AXSpSuVeYp
@DaleJr: "@LoriGould: What's your opinion on the @NBA banning of Sterling & commissioner Silver's decision? @DaleJr" I was pleased. Quick & severe.
@DeLanaHarvick: This dude ALWAYS leaves the packing and unpacking to me... #bullshittiness pic.twitter.com/PVOg3JFyVr
@KevinHarvick: .@BrantleyGilbert ride along! pic.twitter.com/GQrNgaKfL8
@nscrwriter: Jeremy Mayfield tell-all video will be released this Friday 5/2 on http://J2Mayfield.com : http://us8.campaign-archive1.com/?u=172c3b53585f0b979358979cd&id=163eb06a9f&e=b6ab2d5785 … #NASCAR
@nascarcasm: 81-year-old Donald Sterling banned from the #NBA for life. So basically 4-5 more days.
@AlexBRacing: Talladega office #nascar http://instagram.com/p/nYfzDeCJI7/
@jeff_gluck: NRA is sponsoring the military portion of Coke 600 pre-race show @CLTMotorSpdwy.
@JebBurtonRacing: I will be @kansasspeedway next Friday night racing with @ThorSportRacing!
Did You Notice? ... Moving Past The Racism, NASCAR Meddling and Rookie Mistakes
by Tom Bowles
Beyond the Cockpit: Brad Keselowski on Qualifying, Racing and Writing
Harry Scott, Jr. Owner Diary: Young Standouts, Night Racing Unknowns and Cording Tires
as told to Beth Lunkenheimer
NASCAR Writer Power Rankings: Top 15 After Richmond I
Q: For Dick Trickle fans, the 1990 Winston 500 might be best remembered as the race where he got caught smoking a cigarette by the in-car camera. However, it was a decent run for Trickle until the day was ruined. What happened?
Check back Thursday for the answer, here in the Frontstretch Newsletter!
Q: For Buddy Baker, the 1991 DieHard 500 was an interesting race. Late in the event, he spun out Rick Mast in the tri-oval, triggering a blowover for the Skoal Classic Oldsmobile. Earlier in the race, Baker triggered another issue on-track. What happened?
A: Baker got into the rear of Ernie Irvan entering Turn 1 just barely. However, at 190+ mph, it simply doesn't take much to create a mess. Irvan spun up the track, forcing rookie Bobby Hamilton to try and avoid him. Hamilton hit Irvan, then sideswiped Jimmy Spencer, who hit the wall. Rick Wilson hit Irvan as well. Richard Petty, Lake Speed, Greg Sacks and Ted Musgrave were also involved. The crash can be seen in this clip.
Spencer and Wilson were out of the race on the spot. Sacks and Richard Petty continued after simple pit stops, while the others required some time behind the wall. As for Baker, he finished on the lead lap in 13th.
Frontstretch Trivia Guarantee: If we mess up, you get the shirt off our backs! If we've provided an incorrect answer to the Frontstretch Trivia question, be the first to email the corrected trivia answer to email@example.com and we'll send you a Frontstretch T-Shirt ... FREE!
Coming tomorrow in the Frontstretch Newsletter:
-- Top News from Phil Allaway
-- Critic's Annex by Phil Allaway
-- Links to your favorite Frontstretch articles, and more!
Tomorrow on the Frontstretch:
Voice of Vito by Vito Pugliese
Vito returns to the website this year with his unique views on everything racing.
Going by the Numbers by Kevin Rutherford
Kevin returns with a look at the statistical side of NASCAR.
Tech Talk by Mike Neff
Mike is back with your look at the technical side of NASCAR. This week, Matt Puccia stops by as he, Greg Biffle and the No. 16 team prepare for the uncertainty that is plate racing.
Fantasy Insider by Jeff Wolfe
Jeff is back with your look at the best bets to fill your fantasy roster. This week, we head to Talladega and he sets you up for the plate race side of fantasy.
Truckin' Thursdays by Beth Lunkenheimer
Beth is back with your weekly look at the state of the Camping World Truck Series. This week, Beth looks at some of her most memorable moments in series history with Kansas looming less than two weeks away -- and a return to semi-regular racing after that.
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