Steven B. Wilson
Follow us on Twitter @SpeedwayDigest
With a thrilling, last-lap pass in the first MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES race to feature the new stage format, 2004 NASCAR premier series champion Kurt Busch won Sunday’s season-opening DAYTONA 500 on FOX, with 23.3 million viewers tuning in for all or part of the event. An average audience of 12 million watched the race across the FOX broadcast network, FOX Deportes and FOX Sports GO, including 11.92 million on FOX alone.
Key 2017 DAYTONA 500 highlights are below:
· The race averaged 11.922 million viewers on FOX, up +5% over 2016’s average audience of 11.357 million, peaking at 14.031 million viewers from 6:15-6:30 PM ET
· The DAYTONA 500 scored a 6.6/15 HH rating, which is flat overall compared to the 2016 edition but delivers positive gains across key male and adult demographics:
HH Rating vs 2016
2.2 vs 2.0 (ties a four-year high)
3.7 vs 3.4
5.2 vs 5.0
1.8 vs 1.6 (ties a four-year high)
2.8 vs 2.7
3.9 vs 3.8
· The race projects to rank as the highest-rated and most-watched sports event of the weekend and the highest-rated and most-watched sports event since the Feb. 5 Super Bowl on FOX
· The DAYTONA 500 projects to rank as FOX’s highest-rated and most-watched telecast of any kind since Super Bowl Sunday
· The race continues to remain the No. 1 motor sports event in television
· Top-Five Markets: Core NASCAR markets led the way with Greensboro, N.C., finishing first with a 17.5/31, followed by Greenville, S.C. (16.5/28), Indianapolis (14.4/26), Knoxville, Tenn. (12.7/22) and Jacksonville, Fla. (12.4/22). Markets that experienced the largest year-over-year increases include Austin, Texas (+111%), San Diego (+74%), Oklahoma City (+49%) and Norfolk, Va. (+47%). Yesterday’s race also saw significant gains in America’s biggest markets, including Chicago (+18%), Philadelphia (+32%), Washington, D.C. (+18%) and Atlanta (+20%).
FOX SPORTS GO: FOX Sports GO delivered an average minute audience of 39,832, up +99% over last year’s 20,008, marking the best performance ever for a NASCAR event on FOX Sports GO.
SOCIAL: The DAYTONA 500 was the second-most talked-about event on social media Sunday, trailing only the Academy Awards, with 443,000 people posting about the race on Twitter or Facebook. Two million people posted or engaged socially regarding the DAYTONA 500.
FOXSPORTS.COM: NASCAR was the most popular section on FOXSports.com on Sunday, with 450,000 people visiting the section. One in three visitors to FOXSports.com consumed NASCAR content on Sunday, while users averaged 9.2 minutes on the site.
FOX Sports’ coverage of the 2017 MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES continues this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, with live race coverage on FOX at 2:30 PM ET and pre-race coverage beginning at 2:00 PM ET on FOX NASCAR SUNDAY. For more FOX NASCAR information, please visit FOX SPORTS PRESS PASS.
Veteran driver and owner Clay Greenfield (https://claygreenfield.com/) made his return to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series last Friday night, but the night ended early — through no fault of his own. The dreaded "Big One" came after the first full lap of the NextEra Energy Resources 250. Greenfield's #68 US Pavement Chevrolet was one of 17 trucks caught in the mess, but the veteran owner/driver isn't about to let this slow him down. He and his team are actively seeking sponsors for April's Alpha Energy Solutions 250 in Martinsville, Virginia.
"We had a short run here at Daytona," said Greenfield. "My team prepared a truck that qualified 15th and even had a shot at the top ten. You have just as big a chance of winning as you do of getting caught up in 'the big one', it's a product of speedway racing. I want to thank my sponsors, US Pavement and BH Holmes Construction, for helping make this possible. Now I've get my sights set on a victory at Martinsville."
Greenfield's skill has never been doubted, but in the past, he's relied on older equipment. That's a big handicap in the ultra-competitive Camping World Truck Series, which is seen by many as the most exciting of NASCAR's big three racing series. This year, Greenfield brought new equipment to Daytona and turned in an excellent qualifying performance, proving he can more than keep pace with the sport's top contenders.
Clay Greenfield PR
Michael McDowell and Leavine Family Racing (LFR) captured a 15th place finish at Daytona International Speedway during the season opener of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) season.
Despite running out of fuel with two laps to go, McDowell and LFR began “The Great American Race” on a strong note by quickly moving up from their 22nd place starting position into the Top-15 within just a handful of laps where McDowell would race for 139 of 200 laps.
After the first caution, McDowell made his first pit stop to tighten up the No. 95 K-LOVE Chevrolet SS, as it was sliding around the 2.5-mile tri-oval. After the adjustments, McDowell was able to work his way into the Top-10 where he would stay the majority of the race.
During the second stage of the race, McDowell raced side-by-side for most of the race and even narrowly avoided multiple wrecks, as spotter, Doug Campbell, helped McDowell navigate through the pack and into the Top-5.
McDowell raced in the front of the pack for the majority of the final stage while battling three-wide, until the No. 95 K-LOVE Chevy ran out of fuel with only two laps remaining in the 59th running of the Daytona 500. McDowell went on to cross the start/ finish line in 15th after having the 5th most laps in the Top-15.
“We had a great race,” said McDowell. “We ran in the Top-10 and Top-5 all day long and had ourselves in a really good position. We dodged a couple of big wrecks and had a little bit of damage, but not too bad. Then we just ran out of fuel there with two to go. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t have a shot to make a run there at the end, but everyone at LFR did a really great job. We were really hoping to get our K-LOVE Chevy into victory lane or at least a top-5. I think we were pretty close to it.”
Crew Chief, Todd Parrott is proud of his team and looks forward to many more great runs this season.
“The whole LFR team did a great job today,” said Parrott. “We had some great pit stops and had a fast car, but we just came up a little short. We are definitely excited to get the 2017 season started after having such a great run.”
Advance Auto Parts, a leading automotive aftermarket parts provider in North America that serves both professional installer and do-it-yourself customers, has signed a strategic, multi-year partnership with the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS).
The agreement designates Advance Auto Parts as the official partner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at events including the legendary Indianapolis 500, Brickyard 400, INDYCAR Grand Prix, Lights at the Brickyard, and more. Advance Auto Parts has more than 5,100 company-operated stores across the United States and Canada.
"Advance Auto Parts is a perfect fit with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway," said Matt Davis, Advance Auto Parts marketing and sponsorships manager. "Indianapolis is the racing capital of the world, and we couldn't be more eager to see the Advance Auto Parts brand represented with one of the most famous sports venues on Earth."
The IMS Radio Network also will be renamed the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
"We're thrilled to welcome a globally recognized brand and first-class company like Advance Auto Parts to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's family of sponsors and lineup of world-class events," IMS President Doug Boles said. "Advance Auto Parts represents quality and places its customers first, and those values also are so important to us. We are grateful to LST Marketing for its skilled work in facilitating a partnership that showcases the growing and cross-generational reach of our fan base."
"Our brand and the name 'Indy' are synonymous with excellence in automotive," Davis said. "We can't wait to get started."
Following his mother’s sudden death in 2011, NASCAR driver Joey Gase made the courageous decision to donate her organs and tissues, which ultimately touched the lives of 66 individuals in desperate need of a transplant. Since then, Gase has become as passionate about donation as he is about racing. In December 2015, he was awarded NASCAR’s inaugural Community Champion Award for his work supporting organ, eye and tissue donation.
Atlanta Motor Speedway will soon fill its 110,000 permanent seats with motorsport fans. Meanwhile, over 119,000 men, women and children across the county are waiting for the gift of life through transplantation; over 5,600 wait in Georgia. For the upcoming Rinnai 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Gase will race the LifeLink® #52 car in honor of his mother and others touched by donation and transplantation, like Officer Jody Smith.
Engaged to be married, Officer Smith, a Georgia Southwestern University Campus police officer, had a full life ahead of him when he was tragically killed in the line of duty. Officer Smith made the decision, before his death, to register as an organ donor. LifeLink is humbled to partner with Gase to honor Officer Smith on the LifeLink #52 car. Officer Smith’s picture will be placed on the back panel of the race car and will serve as a tribute to the legacy Officer Smith leaves with those whose lives are forever changed by his decision to donate life.
On Wednesday, March 2, Gase will visit the Georgia Department of Driver Services Customer Service Center in Locust Grove to share his personal experience as a donor family member and honor the life of Officer Smith, and donor families in general. Recipients, donor families, and registered organ donors will be invited to sign and make handprints on Gases’ LifeLink #52 car during a special event called “Handprints of Hope.” These personal tributes to organ donors, transplant recipients and healthcare professionals will ride with Gase on the track during his race as an inspiration for fans about the power of donation.
Joey Gase PR
Twelve hours after celebrating his DAYTONA 500 victory in Daytona International Speedway’s Gatorade Victory Lane, the newest champion of “The Great American Race” was still processing the defining moment of his NASCAR career.
“It’s surreal,” the Stewart-Haas Racing driver said Monday morning, during the annual Champion’s Breakfast in the Speedway’s Bill France Room. “Wins are hard to come by … but to win the DAYTONA 500, it’s hard to put into words. It’s beyond belief, really.
“As a kid you watch this race on TV and you live the experiences with the drivers who win the race or lose the race. And after racing in this race for 16 years [myself] now and having it go 16 different ways, when you win it, it erases all those memories and now you have this permanent memory of being able to drive into victory lane with the winning car.”
Busch indeed was 0-for-15 in the DAYTONA 500 coming into Speedweeks 2017, but he also had three DAYTONA 500 runner-up finishes (2003, ’05, ’08) to his credit. Busch also is a former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, having won that title in 2004. Since then, his career has traveled to both peaks and valleys.
Peaks and valleys are now history. The DAYTONA 500 is summit material.
“I’m a survivor,’ Busch said. “I feel like I’ve pulled the sword from the stone. We’ve conquered Daytona.”
During the Champion’s Breakfast, DIS President Chip Wile presented championship jackets to Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner (with Tony Stewart) Gene Haas and crew chief Tony Gibson, a Daytona Beach native; a Rolex Cosmograph Daytona watch to Busch; the Harley J. Earl DAYTONA 500 championship trophy to Haas; and the Cannonball Baker champion crew chief trophy to Gibson. In addition, Wile and Busch unveiled the logo for the 60th annual DAYTONA 500 on Feb. 18, 2018.
Another DAYTONA 500 tradition continued Monday as the DAYTONA 500 champion car began its one-year showcasing in the DIS Ticket and Tours Building residence. Yearly, the winning car is brought in direct from Gatorade Victory Lane. The goal is to allow fans to see the car in all its race-mode authenticity. That mission was accomplished with Busch’s No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford. The car reflects the intense battle waged Sunday, with dents, dings, tire rubs and duct tape. There’s even a huge chuck of infield sod on the hood, which flew up and landed there during Busch’s post-race donuts in the grass.
Following photos of Busch and the entire Stewart-Haas team with the No. 41, the new champion placed one foot and both hands in cement, then carefully signed his name on the square that will be added to the DAYTONA 500 Champion’s Walk of Fame outside the Ticket and Tours Building.
Another tradition: the annual whirlwind high-profile media tour for the champion. Busch left for New York City after the breakfast for two days of media activity that includes FOX News, Race Hub on FOX, NASCAR America on NBC and ESPN’s SportsCenter on Monday; and Live! With Kelly, SiriusXM and Game Set Max on FOX on Tuesday. The media tour will continue in Atlanta on Thursday with stops at The Weather Channel and CNN Headline News.
After a rough and tumble opening weekend for all three national touring series, the 2017 NASCAR season shifts 400 miles north to Atlanta Motor Speedway, a track where drivers will face a whole different set of challenges, as the historic facility, first opened in 1960, closes the books on one iconic era of racing before opening another on a new surface in 2018.
As the season shifts into its non-restrictor-plate racing schedule, Week 2 offers a bounty of intriguing storylines to watch as NASCAR returns to the historic high banks of Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Final Race on Current Atlanta Surface
After 20 years, 31 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races, 19 XFINITY Series races and 15 Camping World Truck races since it was last repaved in the spring of 1997, Atlanta Motor Speedway’s 1.54-mile quad oval track will see one more race in each of NASCAR’s top three series this before getting a facelift later this spring. Atlanta's is the second-oldest surface on the NASCAR circuit.
Some of the many iconic events in NASCAR’s history that happened on the current surface include Dale Earnhardt’s 0.01-second margin of factory over Bobby Labonte in 2000, Kevin Harvick’s emotional and record-setting 0.006-second margin of victory over Jeff Gordon in Earnhardt’s Richard Childress Racing car the following year, Carl Edwards’ first Cup Series victory and subsequent season sweep of both Atlanta races in 2005 and the first-ever Atlanta night race in 2009.
NASCAR’s 2500th Race
In its 68th year of competition, NASCAR will run its 2,500th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway during this Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. It will also be Atlanta Motor Speedway’s 102nd 500-mile race. No other track on the circuit has hosted as many races of that length.
Double-Duty for Chase Elliott
After leading 23 of the final 26 laps in yesterday’s season-opening race and falling just short of his first regular-season victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, 21-year-old Chase Elliott will offer Georgia racing fans double the opportunity to watch him win on his home track.
Elliott will pilot the No. 23 All-Star Team for GMS Racing in Saturday’s Active Pest Control 200 Camping World Truck Series race, just his 11th career start in a truck, before attempting his first Cup Series win in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 on Sunday.
AMS Legends Alum Victorious
While Elliott fell just short of his first Cup Series victory, one of his fellow AMS Legends alumni did emerge victorious after the first week of the 2017 NASCAR season. Kaz Grala, who raced on the AMS “Thunder Ring” in both 2011 and 2012, sealed his first NASCAR win in last Friday’s Camping World Truck Series race in Daytona. He will try for his second straight to open the season in this Saturday’s Active Pest Control 200, driving for GMS Racing in the Camping World Truck Series.
Seven-Time Three Straight at Atlanta?
In its 57-year history, no driver has ever won three straight races at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson can be the first to accomplish that feat on Sunday. Johnson drove from the 37th starting position in 2015 and the 19th last season to win back-to-back Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 victories. He is the winningest current driver at Atlanta with five trips to Victory Lane. NASCAR Hall-of-Famer Fred Lorenzen, however, did win four races in four years at Atlanta from 1961 to 1964, though they were not consecutive. Cale Yarborough, another Hall-of-Famer, did something similar three years in a row from 1967 to 1969, winning three straight Atlanta spring races.
The defending 2016 Atlanta Camping World Truck Series winner, John Hunter Nemechek, will be joined on the race track this weekend by his father, four-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and 16-time XFINITY Series winner, Joe Nemechek, in the Active Pest Control 200. Father Joe has two Camping World Truck Series starts at Atlanta under his belt, finishing 35th in 2006 and 10th in 2015. He also has seven top-10 finishes in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series level in 39 Atlanta races.
Crowded XFINITY Series Lineup
While full-time XFINITY Series drivers make up the bulk of the Rinnai 250 entry list, several Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers are set to crowd the front of the pack for Saturday’s race. Brothers Austin and Ty Dillon, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson and Aric Almirola are all scheduled to compete for this year’s Atlanta XFINITY Series crown.
Three drivers, JJ Yeley, Mike Harmon and Kyle Busch, winner of the 2016 Atlanta XFINITY Series race, are scheduled to drive in both the Rinnai 250 XFINITY Series and Active Pest Control 200 Camping World Truck Series race on Saturday.
The 2017 Atlanta NASCAR weekend gets underway this Friday, March 3 with practice sessions from all three NASCAR national touring series, followed by Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying. On Saturday, AMS will host NASCAR’s only same-day doubleheader with the Rinnai 250 XFINITY Series and Active Pest Control 200 Camping World Truck Series races. The Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race rounds out the weekend on Sunday, March 5.
Watkins Glen International and Suburban Propane, L.P., have announced an arrangement that will allow fans to have their propane tanks filled on-site during events.
Suburban Propane is a nationwide marketer and distributor of a diverse array of products to meet the energy needs of its customers, specializing in propane, fuel oil and refined fuels, as well as the marketing of natural gas and electricity in deregulated markets.
Watkins Glen International President Michael Printup said the affiliation with Suburban, and the ability to offer a convenient filling service for fans, is a perfect fit.
“Customer service is crucial to Suburban Propane, and that’s a big reason why they have been leaders in their industry since 1928,” Printup said. “Similarly, Watkins Glen International considers customer service to our fans among our most important initiatives. With these similar values, the relationship with Suburban Propane is a great one, and we look forward to working with them in the years to come.”
Fans are encouraged to bring their empty propane tanks to the Watkins Glen International Operations Center, located in the facility’s infield near the main tunnel, and can have their existing tanks refilled, or exchanged for new tanks, saving them a trip to the village of Watkins Glen or elsewhere.
“We’re collaborating with Watkins Glen International because we believe our work together can offer a unique convenience to local racing fans,” said Jasen Gray, manager of Suburban Propane’s Horseheads, New York, customer service center. “This was an easy decision for us, and we’re looking forward to a great year.”