NASCAR Drivers Delivering Drama, Ratings With Dust-Ups In Early Races
NASCAR drivers five races into the season are “feuding, fighting and wrecking,” which is “exactly what NASCAR has been looking for,” according to Jeff Gluck of USA TODAY. This is what NASCAR officials “have been asking the drivers to do in recent years.” The “verbal barbs, on-track bumping and a few punches" seen at Sunday's Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 are "all things NASCAR hopes can help inject some excitement into the sport.” The fans at the track on Sunday “roared when the screens showed” Tony Stewart’s altercation with Joey Logano. Overnight ratings for the race on Sunday were up 32% “one week after Logano feuded" with Denny Hamlin following the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Driver Brad Keselowski said of the fans, “They want to see us be human, and humans are emotional” (USA TODAY, 3/26). In Daytona Beach, Godwin Kelly wrote, “All the stars are in alignment for NASCAR.” There have been “five different race winners, each manufacturer has picked up at least one victory and there’s been plenty of controversy, everything from safety issues to drivers showing true dislike for each other” (NEWS-JOURNALONLINE.com, 3/25). NBC Sports Network’s Michelle Beadle said, “NASCAR has put together some really fun weekends the last few weeks. ... This is the kind of stuff they need.” But NBC Sports Net's Dave Briggs said, “I don’t know if this is good for the sport. Does anyone know who won this weekend? No one’s talking about that.” Beadle: “That’s the thing, we’re talking about NASCAR though” (“The Crossover,” NBCSN, 3/25). ESPN’s J.A. Adande said, “The bad blood is all people are talking about. Meanwhile, Dale Earnhardt Jr., the biggest name in the sport, is atop the Sprint Cup (standings) and nobody’s talking about that. That should be the big story” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 3/25).
CLUB PRIVILEGES: In Charlotte, Jim Utter wrote this was a "spectacular weekend" for Auto Club Speedway, a track that "has been much-maligned in the past.” One of the biggest crowds in recent years was “on hand for a very entertaining race during one of the most beautiful race weekends weather-wise this track has seen in a long time” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/25). In Utah, Tom Zulewski wrote it was the “kind of race that definitely gave Auto Club Speedway, which has had a history of very little racing action and many empty seats, a big-time jolt of excitement.” The empty seats were “still there,” but those who “showed up left with an experience they won’t soon forget” (THESPECTRUM.com, 3/24).