Matt Kenseth won but the biggest thing to come from Sunday’s race at Dover was Fox’s experiment in showing the race and commercials together late in the event. Fox had never done that before during a NASCAR race broadcast.
UPDATE: NASCAR issues statement on Monday about Fox's split-screen test:
“NASCAR has always encouraged its media partners to explore new and exciting ways of delivering our product to the fans. FOX, Turner and ESPN have all tested and implemented various commercial format presentations over the years and based on the very early feedback through social media on Sunday, the fans really liked what they saw late in the FOX broadcast from Dover. We will continue to evaluate this option with all of our partners with the goal of finding the ultimate viewing experience for our millions of loyal fans.”
ESPN provides statement Monday (see later in this section)
NASCAR fans have been wondering for years why they couldn’t see the race and commercials together. Only TNT does that for the July Daytona race.
Sunday, fans got their wish. Fox showed a split the screen during the last commercial break before the checkered flag with the commercials in a larger box than the racing action. That break was the only time in the race the split-screen format was done.
“The idea re-surfaced earlier this week and after some discussions it was decided we would experiment with it if we could get enough advertisers to go along with it,’’ a Fox Sports spokesman said Sunday night.
Fox found three sponsors in Sprint, Fed Ex and Pizza Hut willing to share part of the TV screen with the race as their commercials aired.
Tim Considine, director of sports marketing for Sprint, said the series sponsor liked the idea.
“Certainly something that fans are interested in carries a lot of weight,’’ Considine said Sunday. “We like the concept. If it’s something that enhances the experience for fans, it’s something we certainly want to support. (Fox) asked if we would be willing to support the test.’’
Considine was pleased with what he saw.
“Just as a fan looking at it, I thought it was well done,’’ he said. “I feel like as the sponsor and the company running the ad, I felt we got some good exposure. My gut (feeling) on the experience is positive.’’
Said a Fox Sports spokesman: “At this point, the fan feedback we’ve seen via social media has been very positive.’’
So, what happens next?
“The plan now is to evaluate the execution with the advertisers before we decide whether to try it again this season,’’ a Fox Sports spokesman said.
Fox has only two Cup races remaining _ the Coca-Cola 600 on May 29 and the Kansas race on June 5. TNT than takes over for six races before ESPN/ABC broadcast the last part of the season starting July 31 at Indianapolis.
A spokesman for Speed Channel, which is broadcasting this weekend’s Sprint All-Star race, said he was unaware of any plans for Speed to show a split-screen of commercials and racing action. Of course, the all-star race is divided into segments, making it easier to place commercials in those breaks.
ESPN invented the form of splitting the screen to show racing and commercials at the same time back in 2005 with its IndyCar broadcasts. An ESPN spokesman said Monday that the network "has wanted to do it with NASCAR. We're continuing to have discussions with NASCAR. We're not contractually permitted to do it.''
Back in February in Daytona, ESPN and NASCAR explained the issues with this side-by-side coverage.
KENSETH WINS AGAIN
Matt Kenseth scored his second win of the year and pit strategy played a key role. Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards had the dominant cars, combining to lead 314 of the 400 laps run, but were nowhere near the front at the end because of pit decisions.
A caution 38 laps from the finish sent most of the field to pit road for tires. Mark Martin was the only driver on the lead lap not to pit, moving up to the lead with the call. The next six drivers all changed only two tires, including Matt Kenseth’s team, allowing him to exit the pits first and restart second to Martin. Kenseth had been fourth before the caution.
Clint Bowyer, who had been the leader before the caution, took four tires and restarted eighth. Edwards, who was second before the caution, took four tires and restarted ninth. Johnson, who was third before the caution, also had four tires changed and restarted 11th.
So, how did Kenseth’s team decide to change two tires instead of four tires?
“I know we were both thinking about the same thing,’’ Kenseth said, referring to crew chief Jimmy Fennig. “In the back of my head, I was thinking, ‘Man, I should almost just drive by pit road and start in the front, see what happens.’ But I saw the guys in front of me. “I looked at everybody in the mirror, I saw everybody on the apron, I thought it wasn't going to be good for me if I did that and restarted and finished about 15th.
We came down pit road. As I slid into the stall, I said, Jimmy, are you sure you don't want to try two?
“He didn't even hesitate. He's like, ‘Two tires, two tires,’ in plenty of time before the guys took off. It was not a problem. It went smooth, almost like we planned it.’’
By being at the front of a group of cars that took two tires, Kenseth had sort of a buffer between himself and the cars that took four tires.
“That definitely helps,’’ Kenseth said. “You know, I think that was probably part of our thinking with four, is we were going to come out, most likely, behind the three or four guys we were running behind. A few guys were going to sprinkle in there on two. That would have been tough to do in that many laps.
“It's always nice to have a little buffer because the other guys that got two were all running behind us. I felt like we probably had a better car than most guys that got two if I could just get a clean restart.’’
Once Kenseth got past Martin for the lead with 32 laps to go, he was gone and on the way to his 20th career Cup victory.
WHAT THEY SAID
Mark Martin (2nd): “It was another great race at Dover. Golly, I love this place. I always get excited about coming here to race. You know, we had a really fast racecar. Today we finally got a finish. Looked like we were going to get 15th again with a really fast race car. We've had a racecar this good a lot this year. Seems like for some reason or another we wind up in the back of the pack and we just don't have enough to climb our way back to the front. This was a good race for us, great call by Lance, great teamwork. We've had great teamwork all year. I'm proud of this race team. I'm proud of these guys.
Marcos Ambrose (3rd): “I have good feel on these concrete tracks. Some of these issues for me when I am having a bad day I have trouble feeling each tires. I feel like the car is slipping around and I can’t really feel which one it is. On concrete I think it is the steeper banking that helps me feel the tires. Today was a tough day though. The track was changing every run throughout the run. The car was getting really slick on that rubber. It wasn’t much you could do. You couldn’t ask for much change on the car because you knew it would be that way all day. You just had to change your line and keep searching. … Today I am really excited about. We had a really good day at Darlington but it didn’t work out at the end. We had some terrible luck. We have had two top-10s on the 1.5 mile speedways this year and I am really excited that our team is learning. They are learning me and I am learning them. I am learning how these cars work. This result today I am really excited about because I think it is going to lead to a great Charlotte, Pocono, Indy, Kansas, all those tracks coming up.’’
Kyle Busch (4th): “We took four tires on that last (pit) stop and then we kind of worked our way up and passed most of those guys on the restart. You just had to get as much as you could right then and there on the first two laps of the restart because after that you were pretty much single-file. It was a tough race for us, but we ended up looking really good considering how our weekend was. … We definitely started behind this weekend with the engine failure and getting knocked into the wall there. All my fault there, I got the guys behind. They persevered and worked through it and did what they could to give me a good piece. I don’t know that it was very good out there for anybody, really. It seemed like it was really, really hard to pass and a lot of guys really struggled with the rubber build up on the surface and we did including. If you can make up ground on restarts, man you had to try to do the best you could. Fortunately for me, I was in the right lane and I could do that. I made the outside work. We gave it all we got. We came from a long ways back and the guys on pit road helped me out, too. All in all, we’re happy to get out of here with a fourth
Brian Vickers (5th): “I have to thank the Red Bull guys _ they did a great job with the car. It was definitely a team effort this weekend, both of the teams were working really close together. Ryan (Pemberton, crew chief) and the guys made good calls all day in the pits. Good stops all day. All we needed was track position and that’s why you fought so hard for every spot.”
Clint Bowyer (6th): “Our guys worked really hard getting our car fixed up. We got up and led the race. I mean, we’re really working well together. Getting a little bit of confidence. Shane (Wilson, crew chief) is getting a little bit of confidence in himself. I’m getting some more confidence in myself. Just making better decisions. Obviously, probably two tires may have won the race right there, but, when he said four and that many guys stayed out or were on two, I really thought we would be able to get back up through them, especially, as greasy and slimy as the track was on restarts. But it just didn’t. … (on racing with Edwards) “Aw, man, I just (got) loose in that slick stuff and he got in the back of me and about lost it. It is just racing. I mean, like I said, everybody was sliding around.”
Carl Edwards (7th): “I didn’t have any choice in it really, that is up to the guys up on the box (on the pit call at the end to take four tires). That is too tough of a choice to make right there and I don’t blame Bob Osborne one bit. I thought we would be able to march up through there and I thought the race would be between Clint and I. I did see a couple cars go fast early on two tires, but I really felt we were going to have something. If we had had a caution who know what would have happened. You can’t look back, you have to look forward. We still have the points lead and the fastest car here today. Everybody did a good job … and a teammate won, so that is good.”
Martin Truex Jr. (8th): “I’m satisfied. I’m not happy. I was looking for more. We got up to third about the mid-point (of the race). We just lost the handle a little bit. I think some guys got a little bit better. We didn’t really fight a major balance issue, we just didn’t have the overall grip and the car was bouncing back and forth between loose and tight, and it was hard to tell them what I needed. One lap it would try to spin out and the next lap it plows. So, it was just real hard to hit it just right. It was very, very hard to drive. It was hard to know what to ask for other than more grip, and a little bit of a smoother ride. It just got real bouncy out there on the rubber build-up.”
Jimmie Johnson (9th): “I guess in our minds we didn’t think that would take place, so many guys taking two (tires). It was certainly the call. I knew basically from the numbers we were in trouble when we left pit road and there were so many guys in front of us. It is just the way it is. We had a great race all day. Led a lot of laps but unfortunately, not the one at the end that counted. But solid day; in the pits and on the track. We couldn’t really get a hold of the track the longer the day went on, but we got some good ideas coming back. There at the end, I really think that it was just dirty air and track position was the issue why the four-tire guys couldn’t get through. You are just going so fast around here, even though it is just a one-mile track, that clean air, just cleaner air towards the front makes a huge difference.”
Gil Martin, crew chief for Kevin Harvick (10th): “We came in and got four and obviously, it is easy to say we should have stayed out right there. But, I really thought with 35 laps to go and the guys that were going to be up front like that, the tires were going to blow through them and it would have caused a caution if you didn’t have tires and you were going to be in big trouble. But the way it played out, it was again, a perfect storm for the guys that stayed out. You live and learn and sometimes you gamble different ways. But, today, the (car) was good all day so I’m happy with it.”
Brad Keselowski (13th): “We started off the race really well. I think we were probably about a fifth-place car. We worked on it a little bit, felt confident about it, but kind of lost the handle there around the mid-part of the race and fell back to about 15th. We kept working on it and got back to where we were a fifth-place car, but had lost track position. We were working our way through the field and that last yellow came out. I stalled the car on the pit stop and lost our track position again. I fought hard on the restart and got some of it back and we finished 13th. At the end of the day, I think we were a legit eighth-place car. I didn’t execute and we got off in the mid-part of the race. We’ve got room to work all the way around, but overall, I think it was a solid day.”
Kurt Busch (14th): “We fought really tight in the center for the first half of the race and threw everything we could at it – wedge, track bar, air pressures and took rubber out of the left rear. When the track got rubbered in, the car just went totally loose. We put a half-rubber in the right rear during the caution with 60 to go, hoping it might get us closer to where we needed to be. I never could lean on the right rear tire like we need to be able to do and that killed our exit off the turns. We went with rights (tires) only on that last stop trying to tighten it up. We probably would have been better off if we just stayed out like the 5 (Mark Martin) did. We just couldn’t get any grip at the end. The lucky dogs helped us out. We finished on the lead lap and it’s been several races since we’ve been able to do that.”
David Ragan (28th): “I just locked up the rear brakes a little bit coming into the pits during that green flag stop. It’s definitely something I need to look at and adjust for the next time we race here. That’s the first time I’ve ever wrecked like that getting on pit road. And I’m usually the conservative one, but I guess I pushed it a little too hard today and it’s very unfortunate for our team.’’
Regan Smith (34th): “What a difference a week makes. The frustrating thing is that our (car) was coming to life when the track bar mount broke during a caution (Lap 334). Our car really picked up steam during the second half of the green flag run before the caution came out. We were definitely in position to make a late-race charge and get a nice finish out of this race. I think we were running 16th when the mount broke. It hurts because we had a good car and wanted to continue the momentum from last week's win in Darlington.’’
Kasey Kahne (36th): “We had a great Red Bull Toyota. The car was fast. I was really loose, and we kept working on it. We got up there and then would fall back on the runs. Early on, it was like there was something wrong on restarts. I over revved it one time, trying to get it to go. I think that had something to do with why the engine let go, and it was probably a little bit my fault. But it wasn’t running. Kind of a bad deal.”
AJ Allmendinger (37th): “I don’t know, it was weird because it all happened at once and there was no sign of it. I was getting under the 6 car to lap them and we were running the leaders down. The track had gotten really slick. It was fun and you had to work really hard on finding the right line. It showed what drivers had to do. We were going to run them down and all of a sudden off of two it went. It was getting steadily worse. Doug Yates and all the guys at the engine shop do a great job. We had a ton of horsepower and this rarely happens. Honestly it sucks. I really wanted this for us and Ford and Best Buy and everybody, the King especially. I hate this.”
ODDS AND ENDS
# With the expectation that two wins should all but guarantee a driver who finishes between 11th and 20th in points a spot in the Chase, it seems a good bet that Matt Kenseth has earned a spot in the Chase after his second win of the year, joining Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.
# Jimmie Johnson led 207 laps _ the fifth consecutive race he’s led at least 191 laps at that track (scoring three wins in that time).
# Carl Edwards’ 7th-place finish marked his fifth consecutive top-10 finish.
SOMETHING TO MAKE YOU GO HMMMMM
Matt Kenseth’s victory marked the sixth time this season (in 11 races) that the winner started 20th or worse _ equaling the number of times all of last season that the winner started 20th or worse.
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