AUTO PACKAGE: Jeff Gordon likes the idea of NASCAR holding midweek races

  • Article by: JENNA FRYER , AP Auto Racing Writer
  • Updated: July 11, 2013 - 8:09 AM
hide

Jeff Gordon

Photo: Rainier Ehrhardt, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ahhh, the dog days of summer — and those nights when there's nothing exciting on television.

Four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon believes auto racing could fill that void. Gordon grew up in the "Thursday Night Thunder" era when he raced at tracks that hosted USAC races across the country that were televised on ESPN2.

NASCAR doesn't venture into that territory with the elite Sprint Cup Series, but the addition of Eldora Speedway to the Truck Series will mark three midweek races. The trucks ran on a Thursday night at Kentucky in June, are scheduled to run Wednesday, July 24, at Eldora and Wednesday, Aug. 21, at Bristol.

Gordon thinks maybe it's time for other series to try a midweek date.

"I think when 'Monday Night Football' ends, we should start 'Monday Night Racing,'" Gordon said. "But that's just me. Of course I came from 'Thursday Night Thunder,' and 'Thursday Night Thunder' was ridiculously successful back in the day."

Alas, Gordon says NASCAR officials have been cold to the idea.

"It seems like every time I talk to NASCAR about doing a weekly race or one midweek, they say 'Oh well if you do it on this day, you won't get as many people coming to the track, so the track suffers, and if you do it on this day, then maybe the track does well but then the people at home won't watch it because of this', so it always seems to be some kind of obstacle," he said.

"I am not saying we need to do it every week, but if we could find the right week in the schedule and mix it up, make it special, and make it make sense for the fans at home as well as the ones that could attend, then I think it would be awesome."

There was a buzz last weekend at Daytona about returning the night race back to its traditional early morning start, when teams were at the track for breakfast and on the beach by lunch. But Gordon believes running the race on July 4, regardless of what day it falls during the week, is a better solution and could start the midweek trend.

"I think July 4th might make sense because everybody is off on that day and looking for something to do," he said. "Of course, we are not off, but I think that is why it could work."

_____

POSITIVE POCONO: For years, about the only thing in NASCAR as popular as Dale Earnhardt Jr. was bashing Pocono Raceway.

The track wasn't safe. The races were too long. The facility was outdated. On and on it went.

But, slowly, the track has won over Sprint Cup drivers with a series of upgrades to the track — everything from additional SAFER barriers to a repave of the 2½-mile surface — that left them raving about the new look the last two years.

Of course, slicing the two Cup races from 500 to 400 miles in 2012 certainly helped.

Pocono Raceway CEO and president Brandon Igdalsky has led the push for the overdue makeover.

"I got tired of people talking bad about us, plain and simple," he said. "If you have drivers and people in the industry that aren't talking positive, that translates to what the fans hear and how they react. Last year, drivers started talking about how great things here are now. It changes the mentality of the fans."

Igdalsky's latest gamble appears to have paid off: He brought the IndyCar Series back to Pocono after a 24-year absence and the first race last Sunday was considered a success. The grandstands weren't completely full, but the estimated crowd of 30,000 did exceed most expectations. Unlike the NASCAR stars, IndyCar drivers didn't have to warm up to Pocono. They loved it from the first test session.

"I love this place. Pocono, the fans, just everyone has been fantastic," race winner Scott Dixon said. "It's great to be back."

There's more to come. Igdalsky said he wanted to "dress up" Pocono by improving everything from the seats, traffic patterns and adding permanent or temporary videoboards to enhance the fan experience.

The fans did clog the single-lane roads entering the track and many of them complained about heavy traffic on social media. Igdalsky said he would meet with state and local officials about the issue and made a "solemn promise" to fix the traffic woes.

Of course, it's better than the alternative — fans not showing up at all.

With at least two more years of IndyCar racing at Pocono on the schedule, there's time to fix everything. Igdalsky has proved in a short time he's eager to please.

"It makes me feel awesome, but it's not about how I feel," he said. "It's about the perception of the facility. We are a great facility for motor sports in America. Are we the best? No. Do I want to be the best? Hell no. It would cost us a fortune. I don't want to be the best. But I don't want to be at the bottom of the barrel. I'm happy about being at the top of the middle."

_____

DRIVER STANDINGS IndyCar is standing pat.

The open-wheel series is set to introduce standing starts for this weekend's doubleheader in Toronto.

Drivers will take their starting positions with the front wheels of the car remaining within its designated orange grid line. The starts are similar to the format in Formula 1. IndyCar traditionally uses rolling starts, but is experimenting with the standing starts in Toronto and Houston.

Four-time series champion Dario Franchitti said he wasn't looking forward to the change.

"Not particularly," he said. "I like the traditional rolling starts. We'll see. It might be good. Who knows? I might be completely wrong. But it's going to be bloody interesting, let's put it that way."

___

GOODWOOD: Michael Waltrip Racing co-owners Michael Waltrip and Rob Kauffman are headed to Europe this weekend for the 20th annual Goodwood Festival of Speed in England.

It will be Waltrip's second appearance at Goodwood, which features a hill climb in historic motor racing vehicles in front of 150,000 global motorsports enthusiasts.

Waltrip, the two-time Daytona 500 winner, will drive a 2012 Toyota Camry that Clint Bowyer won three races in last season while finishing second in the Sprint Cup standings.

"It is so cool to fire up a NASCAR Sprint Cup car and see the reaction on the faces of everyone there," said Waltrip, who also visited Goodwood in 2010. "You wouldn't believe all of the people who are interested in NASCAR in jolly old England.

"For many of them, this is as close as they'll ever be to a Sprint Cup race. I'm honored they asked me to make a few runs and it's also cool that Rob Kauffman will make some runs too."

The Goodwood Festival includes everything from modern concept cars to historical vehicles dating back to 1902, along with racecars from all disciplines. NASCAR stock cars, Formula 1 Grand Prix racers, Le Mans style cars and various forms of motorcycles will all make their run up the hill at Goodwood.

The Goodwood Festival includes everything from modern concept cars to historical vehicles dating back to 1902, along with racecars from all disciplines. NASCAR stock cars, Formula 1 Grand Prix racers, Le Mans style cars and various forms of motorcycles will all make their run up the hill at Goodwood.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Team Irvin 19 3rd Qtr
Team Carter 20
Miami 96 FINAL
Chicago 84
Oklahoma City 98 FINAL
Cleveland 108
Dallas 106 FINAL
New Orleans 109
Indiana 106 FINAL
Orlando 99
LA Clippers 120 FINAL
Phoenix 100
Minnesota 100 FINAL
Atlanta 112
Detroit 110 FINAL
Toronto 114
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
San Antonio 101
Boston 83 4th Qtr 9:39
Golden State 95
Washington 89 4th Qtr 8:55
Denver 87
Houston 21 1st Qtr 3:39
LA Lakers 10
Team Toews 17 FINAL
Team Foligno 12
South Florida 53 FINAL
Connecticut 66
Boston College 64 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Virginia 50 FINAL
Virginia Tech 47
Indiana 70 FINAL
Ohio State 82
Stony Brook 61 FINAL
Binghamton 54
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
UCF 46
Maine 70 FINAL
Hartford 61
Monmouth 64 FINAL
Manhattan 71
Fairfield 67 FINAL
Marist 73
Rowan 48 FINAL
Princeton 96
St Bonaventure 48 FINAL
Rhode Island 53
Duke 77 FINAL
St Johns 68
Saint Peters 69 FINAL
Siena 55
Drake 40 FINAL
Wichita State 74
Vermont 61 FINAL
UMass Lowell 50
Seton Hall 57 FINAL
Butler 77
NJIT 72 FINAL
South Alabama 55
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Illinois State 53
Louisville 80 FINAL
Pittsburgh 68
UMBC 55 FINAL
Albany 69
Niagara 64 FINAL
Iona 87
Notre Dame 81 FINAL
NC State 78
Belmont 63 FINAL
Tennessee St 55
Creighton 50 FINAL
Villanova 71
Northwestern 67 FINAL
Maryland 68
Washington 39 2nd Half 10:45
Utah 60
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 99 FINAL
Georgetown 85
St Johns 69 FINAL
Villanova 81
Arkansas 58 FINAL
Florida 72
Maine 56 FINAL
UMBC 42
Vanderbilt 55 FINAL
Alabama 52
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Lehigh 65
UCF 61 FINAL
SMU 57
Utah 51 FINAL
Washington 63
James Madison 73 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 53
Delaware 56 FINAL
Drexel 61
Hofstra 56 FINAL
William & Mary 57
Hartford 58 FINAL
Albany 82
Binghamton 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Towson 63 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 71
Wake Forest 80 FINAL
(17) Florida State 110
Georgia Tech 68 FINAL
Virginia 62
(22) Georgia 51 FINAL
(5) Tennessee 59
Drake 79 FINAL
Evansville 62
Iona 80 FINAL
Canisius 62
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Monmouth 59
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Penn State 76
Wisconsin 71 FINAL
Michigan State 77
Ohio State 79 FINAL
Purdue 71
Northern Iowa 57 FINAL
Indiana State 55
Butler 58 FINAL
Xavier 54
Creighton 93 FINAL
Marquette 75
Providence 42 FINAL
DePaul 90
Northeastern 77 FINAL
Elon 80
(2) Connecticut 96 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Oregon 78 FINAL
Arizona 81
Bradley 46 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
NC State 49 FINAL
(23) Syracuse 66
(7) Maryland 84 FINAL
Indiana 74
Illinois State 35 FINAL
Missouri State 58
Colorado 68 FINAL
Washington St 73
Tulane 45 FINAL
South Florida 64
(14) Kentucky 83 FINAL
Missouri 69
(9) Oregon State 68 FINAL
(13) Arizona State 57
Vermont 63 FINAL
UMass Lowell 72
Iowa State 58 FINAL
(8) Texas 57
Southern Ill 61 FINAL
Wichita State 80
(15) Duke 74 FINAL
(12) North Carolina 67
Miami-Florida 55 FINAL
(4) Louisville 68
(21) Minnesota 61 FINAL
(25) Rutgers 66
California 72 FINAL
UCLA 57
(11) Stanford 67 2nd Half 1:35
USC 56
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close