2011-02-17 / Sports

Kurt Busch Is Bud Shootout Winner

By Gerald Hodges

Kurth Busch Kurth Busch DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Kurt Busch was declared the winner of Saturday night’s Bud Shootout, the season-opening exhibition race, when Denny Hamlin was given the black flag for passing below the yellow outof bounds line as the cars approached the finish.

“What an unbelievable experience, this two-car draft,” Busch said. “I had no idea what to expect going in. I was just going to take it one lap at a time and see how it played out. I wanted to learn as the race went on.”

Jamie McMurray came home second, narrowly edging Ryan Newman, who led the race off the final corner, only to have Hamlin slingshot past him in the dogleg.

“It’s completely different plate racing than we’ve ever had,” McMurray said. “I hope it was exciting for the fans to watch. But from the driver’s seat, it was actually really exciting to push two-by-two and do the side draft. It is awesome the runs you were able to get, so I hope the fans enjoyed it.”

Newman was third, followed by Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle.

“Well, I knew I was a sitting duck,” said Newman. “I wish it would’ve been just a two-car battle instead of a four-car battle, but that’s selfish of me.”

“I didn’t know what to expect other than the fact that I knew it was going to happen off of (turn) four. I didn’t know if he (Hamlin) was going to go high or low, and I didn’t know if I was going the right way, pointed in the right direction that the No. 22 (Busch) and the No.1 (Mc- Murray) were going to go. It’s a unique race and I’m glad we got back to the finish line in the way we did.”

Hamlin, who was inches ahead at the stripe, was demoted to 12th for the infraction and scored as the last car on the lead lap.

Hamlin said he chose to dip below the yellow line, rather than knock Newman into the fence.

“That yellow line is there to protect us and the fans in the stands, and I just chose to take the safer route,” Hamlin said. “A win in the Shootout is not worth sending the 39 ( Newman) through the grandstands. For me, as fast as we’re running, if I got into his left rear, that car will go airborne.”

Polesitter Dale Earnhardt Jr. was involved in a multicar crash on the backstretch on Lap 28. Contact from Regan Smith’s No. 78 Chevrolet turned Carl Edwards’ No. 99 Ford into Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevy and spun it into the outside wall. The chain-reaction crash also collected Joey Logano, Juan Pablo Montoya and Kevin Conway.

NASCAR fans are getting older

Those of us who have followed NASCAR for years don’t have to be told that we are getting older. An article on www.scenedaily.com said the average fan age is rising, but the real reason behind the jump in the age increase isn’t that we are getting older, the younger generation is leaving the sport.

Last year, Fox’s ratings for Cup races dropped 29 percent among males 18-34. The tracks have seen it, too, in terms of attendance.

“The biggest problem facing NASCAR is that the young males have left the sport,” Fox Sports Chairman David Hill said.

Advertisers want the 18- 34 male demographic because they either have or will have money to spend and represent potential customers for a long time. The tracks want them for the same reason – a young fan today may turn into an adult fan tomorrow.

“The younger you get people engaged, that’s when they’re flexible, and by the time they’re older, they’re more entrenched in their ways,” Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage says. “If we get them to become a fan now, they’re going to be a fan 25 years down the road.

“NASCAR also needs to market its younger drivers to young fans. Drivers such as 25-year-old Kyle Busch, who is sponsored by M&M’s, would be perfect to market to kids. Joey Logano, with his Nationwide sponsor GameStop, already does sponsor appearances at stores. As other young drivers like Trevor Bayne work their way up, encourage them to engage with younger fans.”

Here’s the rub.

The vast majority of older fans don’t identify with either of these drivers. First, Kyle Busch is a smart aleck, and most older folks resent that. Joey Logano is strictly a Corporate America driver. He knows the right answer before he’s asked the question. And Trevor Bayne. What has he achieved in order to merit the attention of us older folks?

Texas Motor Speedway has kicked off a campaign that features sexy young women and fast cars.

The Texas campaign borders on the limits of sex and taste, in trying to expand and broaden the fan base.

Will more young adults be attracted to NASCAR because of the marketing campaigns featuring hot women? Even Gossage wonders why the sport has not resonated with the young males.

“Did we lose them to action sports?” Gossage said. “Well, this is the ultimate extreme sport. You can bust your tail on a half-pipe but you’re still not hitting a wall at 200 miles an hour. ... Somewhere along the line, we kind of lost touch with the younger crowd. I don’t know why.”

I personally resent NASCAR or any track that tries to turn its back on the generation that brought them to where they are. They should dance with the fans that brought them to the dance, not try to change the dancing style, so we no longer enjoy the party.

Dale Jr. on pole for Daytona 500

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start on the pole in Sunday’s Daytona 500. Jeff Gordon earned the outside pole position during Sunday’s qualifying trials. The remainder of the 43-car starting field will be determined by two Gatorade Duel races on Thursday.

NASCAR plans to switch from old style carburetors fuel injection in 2012. They announced a partnership last week with two companies to develop and integrate fuel injection systems into the Sprint Cup Series, beginning with the 2012 season.

Freescale Semiconductor will provide the processors for McLaren Engine System control units that will be used to manage the fuel and ignition systems in the engines for all Cup Series cars, replacing carburetors that have been used in the series since its inception in 1949. NASCAR and its top series teams will test the technology during the 2011 season with the anticipation of the systems being rolled out for the 2012 season.

Weekend racing: Everyone is focused on the Daytona International Speedway this week for NASCAR’s first and biggest race of the season on Sunday. But there is plenty of other racing during the traditional period known as Speedweek.

Thursday, February 17: Gatorade Duels at Daytona. These are two 125-lap qualifying races. The first begins at 2 p.m., and the second starts at approximately 4 p.m. Both will be televised on Speed Channel.

Friday, February 18, Camping World Truck race, 1 of 25, starting time: 7:30 p.m.; TV: Speed.

Saturday, February 19, Nationwide series race, 1 of 34, starting time: 1:15 p.m.; TV: ESPN2.

Sunday, February 20, Sprint Cup Daytona 500, race 1 of 36, starting time: 2 p.m. TV: Fox.

All times are Eastern.

Racing trivia question: Lee Petty won the first Daytona 500. How many times did he win the series driving championship?

Last week’s question: Who was the oldest driver to win the Daytona 500? Answer. Bobby Allison in 1988. He was 50 years, 2 months, 11 days. The youngest was Jeff Gordon in 1995. He was 23 years, 10 months, 27 days.

You may contact the Racing Reporter at: hodges@race500.com.

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