The Frontstretch Newsletter: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is Back; 2016 Driver Reviews Begin Today

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Dec 12, 2016, 8:07:04 PM12/12/16
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The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
Dec. 12, 2016
Volume X, Edition CCXV


What to Watch: December 12-18

- In NASCAR, this will be a very quiet week as preparations for the 2017 season continue.  However, IMSA teams have an open test scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday at Daytona International Raceway.  It will be the first public test for the new Cadillac DPi-V.R. and the Mazda NT24-P.
- Also, we are starting our yearly Driver Rewind series today at Frontstretch.  Here is the schedule:


TUESDAY, Dec. 13:
Casey Mears
Clint Bowyer
Aric Almirola

Paul Menard
Danica Patrick
Greg Biffle

THURSDAY, Dec. 15:
Trevor Bayne
Ricky Stenhouse Jr
Ryan Blaney

FRIDAY, Dec. 16:
AJ Allmendinger
Ryan Newman
Kasey Kahne

MONDAY, Dec. 19:
Chris Buescher
Tony Stewart

TUESDAY, Dec. 20:
Austin Dillon
Jamie McMurray

Brad Keselowski
Martin Truex, Jr.

THURSDAY, Dec. 22:
Chase Elliott
Kyle Larson

FRIDAY, Dec. 23:
Kevin Harvick
Kurt Busch

TUESDAY, Dec. 27:
Denny Hamlin
Matt Kenseth

Carl Edwards
Kyle Busch

THURSDAY, Dec. 29:
Joey Logano
Jimmie Johnson

We'll have driver reviews and any news that breaks this week at Frontstretch.

This week's TV Schedule can be found here.

Top News
by the Frontstretch Staff

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Approved to Race in 2017

On Thursday morning, Hendrick Motorsports announced that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has officially been approved to return to racing.  He will re-assume driving duties of the No. 88 Chevrolet in February at Daytona.  Read more

Alex Bowman to Drive for Hendrick Motorsports in Clash

Tucked into Hendrick Motorsports' announcement on Earnhardt Jr.'s return was an announcement that Alex Bowman will race the Nationwide Insurance-sponsored No. 88 in the Clash at Daytona.  Bowman is eligible by virtue of winning the pole at Phoenix in November.  Read more

David Ragan, Matt DiBenedetto Leaving BK Racing

It appears that the 2017 season will see BK Racing completely start over.  Both Matt DiBenedetto and David Ragan have left the team and are currently seeking new opportunities.  Read more

BMW Team RLL Announces 2017 Driver Lineup

On Friday, BMW Motorsport announced BMW Team RLL's drivers for 2017.  The No. 19 (formerly No. 100) will be driven full-time by Bill Auberlen and Alexander Sims, while the No. 25 will have John Edwards and Martin Tomczyk.  Read more

Ryan Hunter-Reay, Graham Rahal Join Michael Shank Racing for Rolex 24

On Thursday, Michael Shank Racing announced their final two drivers for the Rolex 24.  INDYCAR regulars Ryan Hunter-Reay and Graham Rahal will join the team for Daytona only.  Read more

IMSA Makes CTSC Adjustments for 2017

On Tuesday, IMSA announced some changes for the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge in 2017.  These changes involved the introduction of a points fund and increased practice time on race weekends.  Read more

Have news for The Frontstretch?  Don't hesitate to let us know; email us at with a promising lead or tip.

The Critic's Annex: Snowball Derby
by Phil Allaway

Last week, after three attempts, Five Flags Speedway was finally able to get the Snowball Derby on Tuesday night.  It was quite the race with Christian Eckes edging out John Hunter Nemechek for the victory.  Also, no one got DQ'd.

The race was aired live on's Pay-per-view service.  How did they handle the days of A-main coverage?

I only purchased the Sunday race broadcast.  No offense to Speed51, but the weekend's a little pricey for me (you're paying the equivalent of what Lucas Oil Racing TV charges for a full year for four days of coverage).  I'd go to the race, but Pensacola is a long way from here.

Since the race never got started on Sunday or Monday, Speed51 informed viewers to stay tuned to their RaceView setup in order to get updates.  The RaceView in and of itself was controversial because it was considered to be the only approved race update stream on the internet.  That whole thing was a mess and no one comes Think of that like a CoverItLive setup, only with no fan input.  We used to run CoverItLive chat discussions of Cup races ourselves back around 2010 with myself and Mike Lovecchio (now with NASCAR) running the show.  You did see some live shots on Sunday of the track all day until the race was called.

On Monday, the race was postponed well before the online stream would have started, and for good reason.  As a result, there was no coverage.

Tuesday saw the coverage begin at 4:30 p.m. EST with pre-race coverage in front of a fairly small audience at the track.  Can't do much when you're starting it before a lot of people get out of work.

Once the race started, there was a decent amount of good racing for position.  This wasn't just up front, but throughout the field.  I felt that Speed51 did a good job bringing fans that action.

I did find it a little difficult early on to find where people were running in the race.  It was lap 56 before a position scroll showed up.  That was nearly an entire green-flag run.  If you're going to wait that long before bringing that up, then I think Bob Dillner (as play-by-play man) needs to do a better job providing aural leaderboards in real time (meaning, say the rundown on the broadcast).  I know it sounds downright old-school by today's standards, but I feel that it needs to be done.

The "controlled cautions" that were instituted for the race prolonged the event by likely 45 minutes.  That race should not have taken three hours and 45 minutes to run.  My thoughts on it is that the track officials should have used the rules that NASCAR used in Busch Grand National races at places like South Boston and Hickory in the mid to late 1990's.  Back then, they would throw competition cautions on laps 100 and 200, open the pits, stop the lap counter and allow everyone to take three laps to make their stops.  No red flags needed.

During what seemed like a half dozen red flags or more, there were multiple interviews (via radio) with drivers.  That was a great way to pass the time and allowed viewers to gain some insight.

Replays were admittedly a little sparse during the broadcast, but there was only so much available production-wise.  The race getting pushed back two days and change resulted in a number of people having to leave early to go back to work.

For the most part, the quality of the stream was pretty good.  However, there was one cut out at a really inopportune time.  That was when Christopher Bell had his big wreck.  Speed51's Jana Wimmer was able to get over to Bell and get a good interview with him.  I have no clue what Bell said because that's when the feed cut.  It took nearly five minutes to get it back.  By that time, it was long since over.

The coverage of the Stephen Nasse-William Byron wreck was pretty good.  There was no way they were going to get time with Byron since Kyle Busch Motorsports kept him in the car until long after his car had been retired.  However, they did get Nasse.  Nasse was ticked, referring to Byron as a rich kid and something referring to genitals.  We're not going into details here.

When I hear things like that, the first person I think of is a driver named Billy Tanner that used to race in ARCA.  While he didn't reference anyone's sexual organs, he did talk about the notion of rich kids after he got wrecked in Talladega back in 2007.  We've basically not heard from Tanner since.  Rule of thumb is: Don't say that if you want to go anywhere in racing.  Seeing as that Nasse doubled down on Twitter after the race, I think he's fine right where he is because no one's touching him anytime soon.

Speed51 provided great coverage of that whole mess (for lack of better words), but given the relationship between Speed51 and Five Flags Speedway, I felt like the track could be in a position to force Speed51 to de-emphasize any coverage of the incident if actual fisticuffs broke out.  The idea here is that a big fight in the infield could make Five Flags Speedway look bad if Speed51 showed it.  If you've seen what happens when random morons run out onto the field during NFL games (last week's game between the New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts on ESPN is an example), that's what I think could have happened.  Luckily, the actual fist fighting never happened, mainly because KBM protected Byron.  For those wondering, Byron has only briefly mentioned the mess on Twitter since the race, and only to state that he "hated what happened at the end," and that he wasn't trying to intentionally wreck Nasse.

Post-race coverage was actually kind of brief.  Viewers got interviews with the top finishers (Eckes, Nemechek and Ty Majeski) in addition to a check of the unofficial results.  The coverage ended before the cars went to the "Room of Doom."  It took all of ten or so minutes to officially declare Eckes as the winner there (according to Speed51's RaceView, grandmaster of technical inspection Ricky Brooks stated that he focused a lot more on pre-race inspection this year).  I understand that live streaming a broadcast is expensive, but looking back at races like last year's Snowball Derby, I think the post-race tech should be streamed.

Overall, I did enjoy watching the action from Pensacola on Tuesday.  The race took way the deuce too long, but that's not Speed51's fault.  The on-track product was pretty good, but the actual super late model bodies are quite dated today.  They need to come up with something that's more relevant to today's cars available.

Phil Allaway is the Newsletter Manager and a Senior Writer for  He can be reached via e-mail at



by Michael Finley

by Clayton Caldwell

by Dustin Albino

by the Frontstretch Staff


Q: The 1996 Rolex 24 at Daytona is best known for Max Papis' charge to within 65 seconds of the overall win in the final hour of the race. In the GTS-1 class, a number of teams were in the hunt early.  Champion Racing's Porsche 911 GT2 Evo shared by Hans Stuck, Thierry Boutsen and Bill Adam was one of those teams.  However, in the dark of night, disaster struck.  What happened?

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

Friday's Answer:

Q:  In 1983, A.J. Foyt was part of the race winning Swap Shop team at the 24 Hour Pepsi Challenge along with Bob Wollek, Claude Ballot-Lena and team owner Preston Henn.  However, Foyt was not originally assigned to the Swap Shop No. 6.  What was he originally scheduled to race that day?

A: Foyt was originally scheduled to race the No. 11 Aston Martin-powered Nimrod chassis.  This car, sponsored by Pepsi, was shared by Foyt, Darrell Waltrip and Guillermo Maldonado.  The car ended up dropping out early due to an engine failure.

After the failure, Preston Henn tapped Foyt to drive the No. 6, much to the consternation of Bob Wollek.  The Porsche 935L used in the race has been displayed all around the world.  Here's a picture of the winning car, taken in 2012.

Credit: Phil Allaway

We will continue with our driver rewind pieces.  In addition, we'll have breaking news from inside the world of motorsports.
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