The Frontstretch Newsletter: Kevin Harvick to Carry Busch Colors Through 2019

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Nov 3, 2016, 6:58:04 PM11/3/16
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THE FRONTSTRETCH NEWSLETTER
Presented by Frontstretch.com
The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
Nov. 3, 2016
Volume X, Edition CXCVI
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What to Watch: Thursday
 
- Today is pull-in day for NASCAR's National Series at Texas Motor Speedway.  Unfortunately, it has rained in North Texas.  Not the best omen.

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Thursday's TV Schedule can be found here.

Top News
by the Frontstretch Staff

Anheuser-Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Extend Partnership

On Thursday, Anheuser Busch and Stewart-Haas Racing announced a contract extension that will keep the St. Louis-based brewer's Busch brand on the No. 4 through the end of 2019, guaranteeing that Anheuser-Busch will be a primary sponsor in Sprint Cup for a minimum of 37 consecutive seasons.  Read more

Have news for the Frontstretch? Don't hesitate to let us know; email us at phil.a...@frontstretch.com with a promising lead or tip.
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Editor's Note: Potts' Shots will return soon.
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The Critic's Annex: NASCAR Seasons: 2001
by Phil Allaway

Before we start today's critique, we've got a quasi-racing related game show announcement.  Yesterday, NBC Sports announced a new game show called Shotgun that will premiere on NBCSports.com after Sunday's AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.  Based on the press release, I believe that the gist of the show is effectively "Cash Cab meets Jeff Gordon scaring Travis Okulski."

Rutledge Wood is the host and contestants will be riding in the passenger seat of race cars while professional racers (unclear who these drivers will be) traverse various courses at Irwindale Speedway (Note: Irwindale Speedway is within the TMZ, or thirty-mile-zone of the corner of West Beverly and North La Cienega Boulevards in Hollywood, meaning that production costs are decreased as compared to other ventures on location).  Wood will be asking random questions, likely via a radio.  Its a competition where one contestant will reign supreme after eight episodes and win $25,000.

The first four episodes will debut Sunday, while the remaining four will debut online after the Can-Am 500k at Phoenix International Raceway.  The TV debut for the show will be on Nov. 19 after the XFINITY Series' Ford EcoBoost 300 on NBCSN.

Admittedly, this is a show that combines two of my favorite things: Racing and a game show.  I've written at length before about my love for game shows, including the time I tried (and failed) to get onto GSN's The Chase.  However, just because Shotgun combines two of my favorite things doesn't necessarily mean that the result will be good.  Regardless, I will definitely be critiquing this show later on this year.

Today, we're taking a look at NASCAR Seasons: 2001, a show that chronicles the 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season, and everything surrounding the season.  It was a rather exasperating season, full of terrible circumstances and record parity.

The season was covered in chronological order, so we started with Daytona.  Since this was only a one-hour show, there was only so much time that could be given to the Daytona 500 and the death of Dale Earnhardt.  There are other shows that I've covered in the nearly eight full seasons that I've spent critiquing motorsports television for Frontstretch that go into more detail about that dark day.  FOX Sports' The Day: Remembering Dale Earnhardt is one of them.

Book wise, there's at least a couple of decent accounts.  Michael Waltrip talks about it at length in his autobiography, In the Blink of an Eye: Dale, Daytona and the Day that Changed Everything, as does Darrell Waltrip in his book Sundays Will Never Be The Same: Racing, Tragedy and Redemption--My Life In America's Fastest Sport.  Jade Gurss covered the day from Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s point of view in In The Red: The 2001 Season With Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (at the time, Gurss was Earnhardt Jr.'s PR rep).

There was a section here on the show where Earnhardt Jr. talks about the mainstream attention that his father's death got.  He couldn't perceive that so many people cared about his father and that he doubted that Dale Sr. truly understood what he meant to people.  For the sake of this argument, I think Dale Sr. had an inkling, but nothing like what it actually was.

Aside from the actual crash, that was my biggest takeaway from that whole mess.  I found out about Dale Earnhardt's death because FOX23 in Albany was doing live news Special Reports to announce Earnhardt's death every hour.  ESPN ran tributes to Earnhardt on SportsCenter for days, despite the fact that the network was denied press credentials for much of Speedweeks outside of the Truck Series opener.  They outright stated on-air that they were clueless about Earnhardt's impact.

One of the more interesting quotes from the show pertained to The Winston.  Dale Earnhardt, Jr. stated that everyone that went to backup cars didn't exactly go through technical inspection.  I'm not too sure about that because there was a pretty long break between the first and second attempts to start the race.  I'm not 100 percent sure how long because I missed the first start back in 2001.  The Winston was the same night as my Junior Prom.  I got home from it shortly after a Super Soaker assault on the Hollywood Hotel had occurred, well after the first start.  It had to be 11:30 p.m. or later by the time the second start occurred.

However, if it was actually true that NASCAR didn't properly inspect the backup cars, then that is highly inappropriate on NASCAR's part.  Downright scandalous, actually.

The Pepsi 400 that year would have been a pretty big deal even if Dale Earnhardt hadn't died in February.  It was the first Winston Cup race as part of the new TV deal and they were going all out.  I found the content about Earnhardt Jr. going down there a week early to be quite interesting (remember, back then, there was a week off between Sonoma and Daytona).

Then, you got into 9/11, another crushing blow that threw the entire sport into a tizzy.  Honestly, I'm surprised NASCAR took as long as they did to postpone the race at New Hampshire, but it is interesting that Mike Helton (who was running the show at the time since Brian France was not in power yet and Bill France, Jr. had medical issues that kept him away from the track) actually did consult with a number of drivers including Dale Jarrett prior to making the call.  I think it would have been rather difficult for a number of people to get to New Hampshire, knowing that the airspace was closed for days after the attacks.

Also of note, the U.S. operations in Afghanistan actually resulted in coverage of the UAW-GM Quality 500 at then-Lowe's Motor Speedway being moved from NBC to TNT.

Ultimately, this special focused on only a couple of stories (Dale Earnhardt's death, 9/11, Dale Jr. handling his father's death and Jeff Gordon's charge to championship No. 4).  There were a number of others stories that year that should have gotten more coverage.  For example, the season holds the modern-era record for winners in a season (19, including first-time winners Michael Waltrip, Kevin Harvick, Elliott Sadler, Ricky Craven and Robby Gordon).  Heck, with a stroke of luck, that number could have been 21 (Robert Pressley was right on Harvick's tail at Chicagoland while Casey Atwood was really close to winning Homestead).  Yes, Gordon clinched the title in Atlanta and won by over 300 points, but did that affect my enjoyment of the season?  No.

The 44-minute format for shows such as NASCAR Seasons: 2001 tends to leave me wanting more.  Depending on your outlook, that can be a good thing.  I personally enjoyed the special.  If Dale Earnhardt's death and 9/11 never happened, 2001 still would have been a very different time in NASCAR just because of the TV changes (briefly referenced, but not heavily).  That took some getting used to.  I'm actually surprised that there were no references to the silent lap 3's that were done for the rest of the 2001 season in Earnhardt's memory.

Phil Allaway is the Newsletter Manager and a Senior Writer for Frontstretch.com.  He can be reached via e-mail at ashl...@mail.com.
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Frontstretch Line of the Week
 
From Blake Koch in the Midst of ‘Career Changing’ Year

"The biggest strength is the team owner we have.  He’s such a great motivator and doesn’t put any pressure on myself or Chris Rice or any of the guys. His biggest order for us is to make sure that we go and have fun. I can’t thank Matt Kaulig for keeping my career around and changing my life. That guy is straight from God." - Blake Koch, on his car owner, Matt Kaulig
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TODAY AT FRONTSTRETCH:

by Phil Allaway and Aaron Bearden

by Joseph Wolkin

by Huston Ladner

by Bryan Gable

by Toni Montgomery

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FRONTSTRETCH TRIVIA:

Q: The 2001 Jani-King 300 at Texas Motor Speedway featured a rather unusual instance in the quad-oval during the race.  What happened?

Check back Friday for the answer, here in the Frontstretch Newsletter!

Wednesday's Answer:

Q:  The 2004 Silverado 350k at Texas Motor Speedway was marred by a huge crash involving Bill Lester and David Reutimann.  What happened?

A: A crash such as this one is easily possible today.  Lester was trying to pass Reutimann on the inside when he suddenly got loose in turn 4.  Lester corrected and hit Reutimann, resulting in both drivers pounding the outside wall hard.  Robert Huffman, J.R. Patton and Chad Chaffin were also involved in the crash, which can be seen here.
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COMING TOMORROW
In The Frontstretch Newsletter:
We'll preview the Sprint Cup Series' AAA Texas 500 while also providing news from Thursday.

On Frontstretch.com:
We'll have Four Burning Questions for you to think about heading into this weekend's action in Martinsville.
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Talk back to the Frontstretch Newsletter!
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