Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Feb. 12 Daytona International Speedway (Budweiser Shootout At Daytona *)
Feb. 13 Daytona 500 Qualifying
Feb. 20 Daytona International Speedway
Feb. 27 Phoenix International Raceway
March 6 Las Vegas Motor Speedway
March 20 Bristol Motor Speedway
March 27 Auto Club Speedway
April 3 Martinsville Speedway
April 9 Texas Motor Speedway
April 17 Talladega Superspeedway
April 30 Richmond International Raceway
May 7 Darlington Raceway
May 15 Dover International Speedway
May 21 Charlotte Motor Speedway (NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race *)
May 29 Charlotte Motor Speedway
June 5 Kansas Speedway
June 12 Pocono Raceway
June 19 Michigan International Speedway
June 26 Infineon Raceway
July 2 Daytona International Speedway
July 9 Kentucky Speedway
July 17 New Hampshire Motor Speedway
July 31 Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Aug. 7 Pocono Raceway
Aug. 14 Watkins Glen International
Aug. 21 Michigan International Speedway
Aug. 27 Bristol Motor Speedway
Sept. 4 Atlanta Motor Speedway
Sept. 10 Richmond International Raceway
Sept. 18 Chicagoland Speedway
Sept. 25 New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Oct. 2 Dover International Speedway
Oct. 9 Kansas Speedway
Oct. 15 Charlotte Motor Speedway
Oct. 23 Talladega Superspeedway
Oct. 30 Martinsville Speedway
Nov. 6 Texas Motor Speedway
Nov. 13 Phoenix International Raceway
Nov. 20 Homestead-Miami Speedway
* – Denotes non-point event.
2011 NASCAR NATIOWIDE SERIES SCHEDULE
Feb. 19 Daytona International Speedway
Feb. 26 Phoenix International Raceway
March 5 Las Vegas Motor Speedway
March 19 Bristol Motor Speedway
March 26 Auto Club Speedway
April 8 Texas Motor Speedway
April 16 Talladega Superspeedway
April 23 Nashville Superspeedway
April 29 Richmond International Raceway
May 6 Darlington Raceway
May 14 Dover International Speedway
May 22 Iowa Speedway
May 28 Charlotte Motor Speedway
June 4 Chicagoland Speedway
June 18 Michigan International Speedway
June 25 Road America
July 1 Daytona International Speedway
July 8 Kentucky Speedway
July 16 New Hampshire Motor Speedway
July 23 Nashville Superspeedway
July 30 O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis
Aug. 6 Iowa Speedway
Aug. 13 Watkins Glen International
Aug. 20 Circuit Gilles Villeneuve Montreal
Aug. 26 Bristol Motor Speedway
Sept. 3 Atlanta Motor Speedway
Sept. 9 Richmond International Raceway
Sept. 17 Chicagoland Speedway
Oct. 1 Dover International Speedway
Oct. 8 Kansas Speedway
Oct. 14 Charlotte Motor Speedway
Nov. 5 Texas Motor Speedway
Nov. 12 Phoenix International Raceway
Nov. 19 Homestead-Miami Speedway
2011 NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES SCHEDULE
Feb. 18 Daytona International Speedway
Feb. 25 Phoenix International Raceway
March 12 Darlington Raceway
April 2 Martinsville Speedway
April 22 Nashville Superspeedway
May 13 Dover International Speedway
May 20 Charlotte Motor Speedway
June 4 Kansas Speedway
June 10 Texas Motor Speedway
July 16 Iowa Speedway
July 22 Nashville Superspeedway
July 29 O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis
Aug. 6 Pocono Raceway
Aug. 20 Michigan International Speedway
Aug. 24 Bristol Motor Speedway
Sept. 2 Atlanta Motor Speedway
Sept. 16 Chicagoland Speedway
Sept. 24 New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Oct. 1 Kentucky Speedway
Oct. 15 Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Oct. 22 Talladega Superspeedway
Oct. 29 Martinsville Speedway
Nov. 4 Texas Motor Speedway
Nov. 18 Homestead-Miami Speedway
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Too bad NASCAR chairman Brian France and Izod IndyCar series counterpart Randy Bernard aren't scheduled to actually appear together at tonight's Texas Motor Speedway 2011 schedule bash until a post-ceremony photo opportunity. We're not looking for the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debate – lip sweat notwithstanding – but two directors chairs and some lively banter from the leaders of North American racing's preeminent series could have been entertaining and informative. France and Bernard are acquaintances, anyway, so there should have been no formalities, maybe even a little playfulness – if allowed – over the wow-factor of each series' announcement tonight.
Night racing in April? Yeah, whatever. We're racing twice in a day!
But alas, just a photo op. Too bad.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Joie Chitwood's biggest leap of faith continues to benefit the IRL, even after he made another and left for a new job this summer.
As NASCAR's Chase ramps up toward what may or not be a climactic finish on Nov. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the IRL's season will culminate at the same track in two weeks with three drivers within a nose piece of a title.
Defending series champion Scott Dixon leads 2007 champion Dario Franchitti by five points and Ryan Briscoe by eight.
The race virtually assures another close points finish, a hallmark of the simple system the IRL has employed -- with a few adjustments -- since its formative days in 1996. And it all started with Chitwood auditing a race result.
Chitwood wasn't sure he'd made a prudent decision. He'd grown up riding stunt bikes in his Tampa family's traveling daredevil show, broken away on his own to finish an MBA, and here he was lugging boxes full of medical supplies for this start-up racing circuit at a makeshift track at Walt Disney World in 1996.
"I get hired for three months to help out at Disney World Speedway. I'm carrying TVs, all kinds of stuff," he said. "I'd just graduated with a finance degree. I'm thinking, 'My wife is going to kill me. This is not what I signed up for.'"
The gamble eventually proved worthwhile. The IRL prevailed in the bitter but equally destructive civil war with Champ Car, and Chitwood rose from an administrative head -- "I was in charge of entry blanks, credentials, prize-winning, insurance, everything you didn't have enough of " -- to the presidency of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
It was more than a name plate on a desk for a man who had "been to every track in the country" as part of his family's show. His grandfather, and namesake, had contested seven Indianapolis 500s from 1940 to '50, finishing fifth three times. He felt a kinship with the place and what was a restoration project for its image and national relevance.
His departure in August -- to become vice president for business operations with International Speedway Corporation -- removes another set of hands that helped hold the fledgling circuit together. But he's left a few things behind, among the most important, the simple, yet fair scoring system that has produced several compelling championship battles in recent years.
And to think it all began when he used his finance degree to work while vetting a USAC points report in the league's second season.
"After the Phoenix race, I'm kind of putting together what the prize money should be and I catch a mistake with the USAC points after the race that no one else caught. And I'm a little bit like, 'What if I do it, and it's wrong, it's going to affect how you pay out prize money'," Chitwood recalled. "So I kind of write out a little memo trying to be politically correct, but basically catch a mistake."
Indy Racing League officials decided to form their own sanctioning body before the 1997 season and Chitwood was tasked with Speedway historian Donald Davidson to concoct an original system for awarding points for race finishes. They tinkered with the USAC model, applied some ideas to the results of past CART seasons.
"So we took the last year and started running some things and came up with 50 to win, 40, 35, 32, then down by a point, and that's how we did it, basically," Chitwood remembered. "But it wasn't like we just did it. We looked at some other models, at what other people were doing and came up with something that seemed to make sense. You have a benefit for winning, but fifth place wasn't a detriment and it seems like it worked out well."
Very well. Since 2006, the eventual champion has won by fewer than 17 points. Sam Hornish Jr. won his third title in 2006 on a tiebreaker when he and defending series champion Dan Wheldon tied atop the standings. Franchitti won by 13 points, Dixon by 17. There have been two ties since 1996.
All of which greatly pleases IRL president of competition Brian Barnhart, for whom there is beauty -- and validation -- in simplicity for a series that brandishes both in its constant struggle for viability against NASCAR.
"It was well thought out, because it balances out the emphasis on winning and it rewards some consistency and it plays out very well," he said. "And I think our points battles over the past several years have certainly validated our points system, and we don't need to do anything to contrive competition or reseed or do anything in terms of artificially trying to create excitement. It's not to say someone can't come in and dominate. They can, but we've been very fortunate the sport has been exciting and on the edge the last couple years, and we've come down to the last race."
(2005 article from when Chitwood was in his second year as president and CEO of Indianapolis Motor Speedway)
BYLINE: BRANT JAMES
St. Petersburg Times, 2005
Joie Chitwood admits his 36 years have been unusual. Born into a family that barnstormed the country for four decades as the stunt-driving Chitwood Thrill Show, a staple of state fairs and dragstrips, Chitwood grew up in Tampa, attended Jesuit High School and went on to earn a bachelor's degree at the University of Florida and an MBA at USF.
Daring to think big, and yearning to use his education to return to his family roots in racing (his grandfather raced seven Indy 500s from 1940-50), he applied for jobs at just two places when he finished school: Daytona International Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Hired by Indy Racing League founder Tony George to help open a speedway at Walt Disney World in 1996, Chitwood has climbed the company's ranks until being named president and chief operating officer of IMS last year.
It has been a long journey from the go-cart he drove in the family show as a 5-year-old. This week, Times auto racing writer Brant James talked with Chitwood about his memorable life and career.
How did the family come to be the Chitwood Thrill Show?
My grandfather (also Joie Chitwood) was a race car driver, raced in the '40s. During World War II, racing was outlawed. There was a gentleman out there that ran a stunt show and his name was "Lucky" Teeter. He died performing a stunt in a show, and his widow went to my grandfather and asked if he would help her sell the show. He was an out-of-work race car driver (so) he decides to buy the show. By 1950, the stunt show is barnstorming. He has shows going all over the United States at fairs and speedways, so he retires as a driver and becomes a full-time stunt man.
He had two boys, Joie Jr. and my uncle, Tim. I'm Joie III. At some point during the early '60s, my grandfather moved the family down to Florida. We need a place to work on the vehicles (during the winter) and being in Pennsylvania doesn't really work well when your schedule is May to October.
What was your role in the show?
When I was 5 I started driving a go-cart. When I was 8 I started driving a mini-Indy. At age 12 I started driving a Chevette, and after that I started doing everything, whether it was standing on the side of the car when Dad was driving it on two wheels, or driving the car on two wheels, or performing reverse spins, or doing a 180.
You're the caretaker of a venue that millions of fans are passionate about, more like a Fenway Park than a normal speedway. What's that like?
I've run other racetracks and it's always about generating attention for your property. But here at Indy, if we do anything it's newsworthy, and if it were to occur at another track, no one may care. But whether we repave the track, or we grind the surface or we change a day or a schedule time, there's always a consequence. Is it going to cause this or that? People are very passionate about this place. They have great memories. They always talk about, "I remember when I saw (A.J.) Foyt win his fourth race" (or) "I was there when they broke 200 mph." And so that passion translates into attention.
What I probably enjoy most is (that) I feel like I have a connection to this place. Because my grandfather raced here - he finished fifth three times, he is credited with being the first man to wear a seat belt in the Indy 500 - there is that special connection. I feel like I have some history here, and it's not just a job for me.
I would imagine there are some amazing perks to your job.
No. 1 is during the prerace activities. We typically drive some old cars around the track from the museum. One of my grandfather's race cars that he drove in 1946 is in the museum - it's called the Noc-Out Hose Clamp Special - and a couple of years ago I got to drive that around the track. So give or take 50 years of history, I'm driving around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the morning of an Indy 500 in a race car that my grandfather finished fifth. So that, by far, is the greatest of activities.
Will the U.S. Grand Prix Formula One race be back after the disaster this year (just six cars raced after tiremaker Michelin advised its seven entries that their tires would be unsafe without last-minute changes to the course)?
We've made a significant investment in that sport. With what it took to build the road course and Gasoline Alley suites and all the improvements to make it an FIA-acceptable road course, we made an investment that we're not looking to be over. But (we) have to make sure having (the event) here is good for us, the city of Indianapolis and the fans. Obviously, the quality of the last race wasn't up to anyone's expectations. We don't want it to go away, but we have to make the right decision for all involved, and right now we're trying to see if it's possible.
Is it Indy or nowhere for U.S. venues?
My feeling is there is no other place than Indy where an F1 race could be successful in America. In terms of our property, our ability to hold fans, the history, the uniqueness, I don't think having an F1 race in Las Vegas or wherever would really match up to what we have here. So I think it really would be very tough to be successful anyplace else.
What do you most miss about Tampa?
So many things. Spanish food. I love Cuban sandwiches, deviled crab, stuffed potatoes, black beans, you name it. It's something Indianapolis doesn't have much of. I miss the water. I used to live five or six blocks from the water in South Tampa right near the WestShore mall. I miss the SEC. I always enjoyed that Tampa, although it's a good-sized town, it always felt like a small town to me. I always had that good feeling about it. My wife (the former Susan Garner) is a fourth-generation Floridian, from Arcadia, and they're quite rare, and she misses it very much.
I always miss it. I've always assumed at some point I will be back in Florida. I don't know when, but I would love to make it back there, whether my career here is over or whatever. But Tampa is still home to me.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
The Izod IndyCar Series' running of dual same-day races at Texas Motor Speedway in 2011 would be new for the circuit in its current incarnation, but not unprecedented for major open wheel racing in North America. That said, it's still rare.
USAC contested Twin 125s at Michigan in 1973 and CART did the same in 1979. CART also held 125- and 126-mile duals at Atlanta in 1979 and 1981.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
CEO Ralph Gilles said on Tuesday that he "briefly looked into" the possibility of Dodge joining the Izod IndyCar Series in 2012 as one of at least two engine-providers, but added "right now, my focus is on NASCAR."
Gilles said he "kind of met" with IICS officials at a recent race, and although he came away intrigued by the possible reach into new demographic base, he didn't sound eager to join Honda, the sole engine provider after Toyota and Chevrolet left the series after the 2005 season. Honda officials have expressed a desire to bring in other manufacturers, and league president of competition Brian Barnhart said in July that he and league officials planned domestic and foreign junkets to find them. Gilles isn't ready to commit.
"It is kind of locked up with Honda right now," he said. "From actually studying that viewer base, it is quite different from Formula 1 and NASCAR. There is a unique viewer base there. It was intriguing, but it's a couple years out."
Roger Penske, who fields the only Dodges in the Sprint Cup series, said he would welcome "other investments or other manufacturing opportunities," in the IICS, where he fields a three-car team. Dodge's parent company, Chrysler Group, is run by Fiat, which also controls long-time Formula One participant Ferrari.
Monday, August 9, 2010
BYLINE: BRANT JAMES
St. Petersburg Times (2005)
Line 1 wants to talk about how much Jason Schmidt could help the White Sox.
Line 2 has the Cubs on his mind.
Line 3: Bears.
Line 4: Bulls.
Line 5: Blackhawks. Slow day.
Line 6: Anyone want to kick around whether Tony Stewart can win three in a row Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway? Anyone?
The phone banks at WMVP-AM didn't align exactly that way Thursday, three days before NASCAR makes its annual stop in its eighth-biggest television market, but they might as well have, said Jim Pastor, the general manager of the ESPN affiliate and Chicago's largest sports-talk outlet. Though NASCAR has made a push into larger, nontraditional markets and has done well on television, it has failed to make progress in the daily drone of sports-talk radio.
"We will bring it up more around the big races or when they are at the speedway, but we play the hits," Pastor said. "And ultimately, the listeners determine what the hits are."
That indicates to NASCAR CEO Brian France that although viewership and interest continue to increase, stock car racing has failed to leach into the fabric of America's sporting consciousness. That's the last realm, it would appear, for NASCAR to conquer, and until it does, France seems bothered by what he hears. Or doesn't.
"That's one of the hot topics that occurs in my office every day," France said in a national teleconference. "Because, in fact, we are very undercovered for the size audience we have, not just in sports-talk radio."
There is no disputing NASCAR's popularity on television. According to statistics provided by NASCAR, an average of 6.6-million households, a 9 percent increase from 2004, have tuned in to each race this season. Of the top five cities by households watching - Atlanta, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Dallas and New York - only Atlanta is a traditional market. In Chicago it has 131,000 households per event (an 11 percent increase), but racing struggles to inspire commuters on the Dan Ryan Expressway and fans in South Wacker Drive cubicles to make the call.
"NASCAR has all sorts of statistics that show it does well on television in major markets, and the interest level is higher than it has ever been before, which is all legit," Pastor said. "But as far as creating a buzz and a presence on sports-talk radio, at least on this station, the thing I would need to remind NASCAR of is in major markets, it's not like in middle markets where if you are not the only game in town, you are the biggest game in town, and here you are competing with two baseball teams, the NFL and the NBA, with a fan base that has been in place a lot longer than NASCAR has. So it's not so much that the buzz is not there, it's just more that the collective buzz that surrounds Chicago, especially during the summer, is divided among any number of things."
France understands that stock car racing is a new taste compared with baseball, football, basketball and hockey. NASCAR was first broadcast on national television in 1979 and was not a fixture until the 1990s.
"In fairness, relatively we've been at it for 50 years but America really discovered us just 10 years ago in a prolific way," France said. "That's going to take an awful lot of time for those not used to covering NASCAR to go, "Gee, this is an important thing.'
"The other thing is, we have a big plus in that all of our races are national events, mega events. That's one other issue: We don't have home teams. So there is a tendency for publications and newspapers and radio affiliates to want to cover just what they think the hometown fan base wants to hear, which is the hometown teams."
Tampa, the fifth-best NASCAR television market last year, has slipped to sixth behind Dallas but has experienced a 10 percent increase to 138,000 households per race. This market's standing is impressive considering its metropolitan area population (2.4-million) is roughly half that of the smallest market (Atlanta, 4.2-million) in the top five.
But even here, it's hard to strike up a NASCAR debate on radio, mostly, WDAE vice president of programming Brad Hardin said, because on-air personalities such as Steve Duemig, Dan Sileo, Ron Diaz and Ian Beckles are "not big NASCAR fans in general and it drives the topics and the direction they go in.
"I think that's why you don't hear a lot of those calls on the air, people are conditioned to thinking, "Steve Duemig isn't going to talk NASCAR, so I'm not going to call and ask him about it.' I think in WDAE that's something we need to beef up. I'm not happy with the amount of coverage of NASCAR we have now."
WDAE airs a weekly NASCAR show syndicated to about 140 affiliates. Rob D'Amico, who produces the show in Tampa, said on-air talent in emerging markets is not "training the listeners."
"I think that's what Brian might have meant. A lot of guys in the business may not know enough about it to talk about it," he said.
The chatter on MVP sways again to the White Sox as Nextel Cup drivers prepare to qualify an hour southwest in Joliet. It's tough to get a NASCAR word in edgewise with a first-place White Sox team, the beloved Cubs and Bears and playoff-qualifying Bulls soaking up the airwaves. Even the lowly Blackhawks hold sway.
"It's below all of them," Pastor said of NASCAR. "It's at the bottom of all of them."