Friday, March 30, 2012

It isn't ONLY the economy or ONLY the type of racing affecting attendance at Bristol

What really drives me nuts is the people who suggest that the racing at the track isn't what is keeping the fans away. They say it is the combination of the economy, the cost of fuel & the price gouging that occurs at area restaurants, hotels, motels & campgrounds. While this almost certainly has some effect, it most certainly isn't the only reason that attendance has dropped in half at the spring race in the span of 4 years. Compare Bristol to the other tracks within a 5 1/2 hour drive. I think it is safe to assume that the residents living within this area are the main supporters of NASCAR racing and are the majority of fans in the stands at the races. Attendance figures at Martinsville, Charlotte, Richmond, Darlington & Atlanta have all dropped from where they were in 2008. Martinsville's low is 16.5% less than the fall race of 2008, Richmond's is 21.5% off the spring race in 2008, Darlington is 18.5%, Atlanta is off 15 % from the spring race in 2008. Using the NASCAR estimate of attendance at the Bristol race two weeks ago, 102000 attended the race (other estimates had the crowd as low as 80000) 102000 is off 36.5% from Bristol's peak of 160000. This is a track that sold out the races for over 25 consecutive years! The only track in this geographical area that has suffered attendance figures that are off this much is the fall race at Charlotte which is off 35.5%. (Is this a result of moving the fall race weekend back a week in 2009 or a result of the 1000's of NASCAR team personell layoffs that occured and the trickle down effect on the local economy in Charlotte creating more of a depression in this immediate area than a recession?) It makes sense that attendance figures will be hurt by as much as 20% as a result of a poor economy in places such as Martinsville, Richmond, Darlington, Atlanta & Bristol. That would figure to be the trend for this economic region. I don't think it would be that much of a stretch to argue that while the economy has almost certainly had some impact on the attendance at Bristol, there is something else keeping the fans away. No one can deny that the type of racing at Bristol has changed since they reconfigured the racetrack. The reconfiguration occured in the same time frame as a severe economic recession. I think it is safe to say, the attendance at Bristol has been impacted by both events. By making changes to the track, hopefully the racing at Bristol becomes a must see event once again. If that happens, they may not get back to a sellout under the current economic conditions, but I think an improvement to be only 15% off of sellout is well within reach.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bristol - Back to "Racin the way it ought to be"?

In 2007 those in charge of Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) reconfigured the racetrack. No longer was the half mile track at Bristol a single groove racetrack, as progressive banking was introduced. Instead of running into the back of the slower driver ahead to get him loose and up out of the groove to make a pass, drivers could race side by side all the way around. Reconfiguring the track sounded like a great idea at first, after all at tracks such as Homestead-Miami Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway had been reconfigured to have progressive banking & the racing went from being a line of cars driving in circles to exciting side-by-side racing action. Imagine, side-by-side racing at Bristol - wouldn't that be something to see? Turns out, it was only something 80,000 people wanted to see at the race there two weeks ago. 80,000 people. This is a track that once had 55 consecutive sellouts. Fifty Five! 160,000 people filled this staduim twice a year for over 25 years. Season tickets rights were willed to heirs as people passed on. It was the most popular race to see. I never did manage to make it to a Bristol race prior to the reconfiguration, yet I always maintained that if I ever got an opportunity to go to a NASCAR race, Bristol would be the race I would go see. I got that opportunity in the summer of 2010. I got to go see the night race at Bristol! Whats more is that I got to go see the race with my Dad. The Father/Son trip of a lifetime! I will always cherish that trip. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the noise. It was an incredible experience to be there and a once in a lifetime opportunity to bond with my Father. The race itself? It was ok. Sadly I can remember looking up at the scoring tower and seeing there were still 300 laps to go and thinking: Wow... my butt is sore... holy cow we've been here for 2 hours and I've got to sit here for at least another 3? Better go to the concession stand to walk for a bit... Sure, they were racing side by side - but they weren't beating and banging & rooting each other up out of the way in the way they always had. There was still some good action on the track, Kasey Khane's car rode up the wall and drove along on its side through turn 1. But it wasn't the kind of racing I'd always dreamed of seeing at that track. It wasn't 'on the edge of your seat' excitement. It certainly wasn't what had come to be known as "racin the way it ought to be". I'd always kept that little bit of the story to myself - I guess I was afraid that by being upset with the race itself, it would take away from what was an otherwise amazing experience that I wouldn't trade for anything. Truth be told, I'm glad that I was able to fufil my dream of seeing a race at Bristol. However, with the track in its current configuration, I'd never go back to see a race there. I'd go to Martinsville, Richmond, Darlington or Dover. I'd tour the entire NASCAR circuit before going back to Bristol. That was my thought up until today. Today I read that Bruton Smith, owner & CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc (SMI) - the company which owns Bristol Motor Speedway - announced yesterday afternoon that he would again be changing the surface at BMS. What the changes are has not yet been announced, however Bruton did say that the fans had spoken and in the majority of the responses he recieved were in favour of changes, and therefore changes will be made. Equipment will begin work within the next two weeks to allow for the changes to be made prior to this August's night race.  I doubt that it is possible for them to make changes that will bring Bristol back to its previous configuration, but I hope that the changes made do allow for a style of racing similar to that of which we used to see. I await the details and the results with baited breath. Hoping for more "racin the way it ought to be".

Haven't blogged in a long time - this isn't even NASCAR related - For my friends who are fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs!

The Leafs are like eating at Taco Bell.
A wise man sees the indigestion coming, regardless of the good start.

What do you call a Leafs player with a Stanley Cup ring?
A theif.

Whats the difference between a cigarette vending machine & the Toronto
Maple Leafs?
A cigarette vending machine has Players.

What do the Toronto Maple Leafs & Canada Post have in common?
They both wear uniforms & don't deliver.

Does 7 years without playoffs = a plague of Biblical proportions?

What do the Toronto Raptors & the Toronto Maple Leafs have in common?
Neither one can play hockey.

Why doesn't Hamilton have an NHL hockey team yet?
Because then Toronto would want one too!

It's the first day of school and the teacher thought she'd get to know
the kids by asking them their name and what their father does for a
living. Jimmy says: My father is a loser who prefers to lay on the
couch all day and watch TV, while Mom goes off to work to support us."
The teacher gasps and quickly changes the subject, but later in the
schoolyard the teacher approaches Jimmy privately and asks if it was
really true what he had said about his father. He blushed and said,
"I'm sorry but my dad plays hockey for the Toronto Maple Leafs and I
was just too embarrassed to say so."

What to the Toronto Maple Leafs & the titanic have in common?
They both look good till they hit the ice.

What do the Toronto Maple Leafs & a college dropout have in common?
They're both young, have no goals and no prospects.

What is the difference between an AirMiles collector & the Toronto Maple Leafs?
An AirMiles collector earns points.

What do the Toronto Maple Leafs & a fine wine have in common?
They both spend a lot of time in the cellar, cost too much and are
only enjoyed on select occasions.

What does a pace car at Daytona & the Toronto Maple Leafs have in common?
They both go around in cirlces, aren't involved in the race & get
passed by all the competitors.

What do College students & the Toronto Maple Leafs have in common?
They are both finished the year by April..

Enjoy the golf course boys! FORE!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Enough is Enough. Dale Earnhardt Jr is NOT his Father!!!

This isn't much of a blog today, I just read a couple of articles over the last couple weeks that annoyed me. Today I decided to spout about it. I just want to say that I'm sick and tired of Dale Jr's fans wanting Dale Jr to be more like Dale Sr. Dale Jr is his own person.
I'd like you to answer some questions if you would.
Is the reason you are a Dale Jr fan is because you needed someone to cheer for after Dale Sr passed on, and Junior seemed to be the only option you could think of?
Is the reason you were a fan of Dale Sr because of the way he drove his car? Is the reason you were a fan of Dale Sr because of his wreckers or checkers attitude? Is it because of the way he'd run over his own Grandmother to finish the race first? Is the reason you were a fan of Dale Sr because of his 'Intimidator' persona and the swagger in which he walked? Is the reason you were a fan of Dale Sr because he was the most dominant guy out on the track and there wasn't anything that was going to stop him from getting to the front?
If any of the above is true. I believe it is time to reconsider your allegiance to Dale Jr. That is not who Dale Jr is, and it is not how Dale Jr drives. Dale Jr wants to compete hard, he wants to race clean and he wants to earn his victories. He simply isn't going to root a guy up out of his way. He'll pass him clean or he'll finish where he's running. If you're looking for otherwise, I'd suggest cheering for Kevin Harvick or Kyle Busch. I think you'll find their style much more to you liking.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Danica Patrick Looking Good When Leaving LAS VEGAS!!!!

I did some surfing today during lunch and was astounded to see how many negative articles and comments there were in regards to the success of Danica Patrick over the weekend at LasVegas Motor Speedway.
During Saturday's Sam's Town 300 Danica overcame a rough start and an ill timed caution that combined to see her down two laps and ended up with a fuel mileage run and a 4th place finish.
Danica went down a lap early to Kyle Busch after starting towards the rear of the field. Later in the run, she pitted under green for tires and fuel. Shortly after her pit stop the caution flag flew trapping her down 2 laps. She took a wave around when the leaders took to the pits under caution to restart at the rear of the field still one lap down. Danica missed a couple of opportunities, but eventually fought her way into the lucky dog position which put her back on the lead lap. In what ended up being a fuel mileage race where many of the leaders were forced to pit for fuel, Danica had enough to see her through to a forth place finish.
Many of Danica's detractors claim that she only got the finish she did because of fuel mileage and if it weren't for that then she would not have finished as high as she did. They claim that she only has a ride because of her marketing potential, and that the JR Motorsports team that fields her #7 Go Chevrolet Impala in NASCAR's Nationwide Series favours her equipment and that anyone could end up with similar results if put in the same situation.
Firstly, it could easily be said that if only the drivers who had to pit for fuel would have had enough to get to the finish they wouldn't have finished as poorly as they did. Frankly that is a dumb argument. Danica fought back from a tough situation being down two laps and was able to put herself in a position where they didn't need to stop for fuel while other drivers did.
It also merits mention Danica would not have made it through all the feeder series to reach the IRL or NASCAR if she didn't have talent, desire and opportunity just like every other driver out there. I would argue she has been afforded opportunities similar to any of the other 42 drivers on the track over the thousands of drivers that run regional series throughout North America. Danica has talent and desire, she happens to be marketable, and was therefore given opportunity and she appears to be making the most of it, just like every other driver on the track. Danica wants to be successful and she wants to win races and championships. If you doubt that, look no further than her post race comments after Saturday's race when she was asked what it means to her to have set a record achieving the highest finish ever for a woman in NASCAR. Danica's response? 'It really isn't that big of a deal to me, I'm hoping to do a lot more'.
As for the argument that the #7 car is favoured over the #88 car, I seem to remember a number of drivers take the wheel of the #7 car last year when Danica wasn't running, and I don't remember their results being that much better than what Danica was achieving.
In two weeks Danica will be making her first start at a track less than 1 mile in length at Bristol Motor Speedway. Given that it is her first visit to this track, or anything resembling this type of track, I fully expect Danica to struggle and finish a number of laps down to the leader, however should Danica decide to continue running in NASCAR, I fully expect her to be much improved on her second visit to the track.
She has shown a commitment to improving herself as a driver, patience behind the wheel and the ability to learn from her mistakes. Not to mention she isn't afraid to stick up for herself should she get rubbed the wrong way out on the track.
I think we should give some credit where credit is due. Not only did she overcome adversity on Saturday, but she has also been good enough through 3 races to be scored 4th overall in the Nationwide Series standings. Good on Danica for keeping with it and showing improvement despite all of her detractors, and I wish her good luck at Bristol.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

What a Great NASCAR Race at Phoenix, I Can Not Believe it is Going to be REPAVED!!!

Many of the comments from the drivers over the races at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) on the weekend was how bumpy the track was, and how difficult it was to drive. The turns at PIR make the cars tight through the corner, and the cars tend to get loose coming off the corner, and these conditions caused some tire wear. All of this combined to make for some great racing. Some of the best racing we tend to see is when the cars are hard to drive due to the track conditions and tire wear. There always seems to be beating and banging and inevitably some wrecks due to these conditions. Unfortunately these conditions have lead to many of the drivers who were predicted to be contenders this year way back in the points. It is doubtful that anyone would predict that Jeff Burton, Joey Logano, Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer would all be 20th on back in points two races into the season. Unlike last year when finishing dead last was worth seventeen percent of 1st place points, this year dead last is worth two percent of 1st place, and therefore gaining in the standings is going to be much harder to do. Count on it taking a few races before guys like McMurray, Biffle, Logano and Burton can fight there way up to the top 15 in points. It should be interesting to see the type of racing that we are going to see in the fall when we return to PIR during the chase as PIR had the bulldozers on the track within hours of the conclusion of the race preparing for a repave and reconfiguration of the track.

That's right, PIR will have a new surface and configuration when NASCAR returns in the fall during the chase. It really is too bad, I think that the track probably would have withstood a few more years with the current pavement and lead to some very exciting racing. The track promoters are saying however, that the new configuration will lead to a lot of side by side racing right away as they are instituting progressive banking at the track. This means that the outer lane of the track will be banked about one degree steeper than the inside lane which will allow the car on the outside a little better grip through the corners, meaning the car on the outside should be as fast as the car on the inside taking the shorter way around the track.  The configuration of the track will also change as they will push the 'dog leg' up the track about 100' which will shorten the radius of the dogleg. In the past drivers have been able to make a late entrance to the dogleg turn which allows them to have a straight shot into turn 3 from the centre of the dog leg. By moving the dogleg back the track it will force the drivers to turn more going down the back stretch of the track and is supposed to make the track more difficult to drive. It will be interesting to see what type of tire compound Goodyear brings to PIR in the fall, hopefully it will be one that gives up easily. We'll know more once Goodyear conducts a tire test there in the fall. I hope that we don't see a tire similar to what we saw on the new pavement at Daytona this year. The tire at Daytona was so durable that handling at the track wasn't an issue and teams hardly had to change tires all weekend long. The common refrain was that the tires had so much grip it was incredible. It seems to me that the less grip a tire has, the harder the cars are to drive and the more exciting the racing is. So here's hoping that the repave and reconfiguration works out and that Goodyear brings a tire that gives up throughout a run and that the 2nd last race of the season is just as exciting as the 2nd race was.

This weekend NASCAR goes to Las Vegas, home of the Brothers Busch. Kyle has a great record at Las Vegas, so look for him to have another dominating weekend. Kurt's record is a little more spotty, though he has been running well this year, and he tends to have some decent success on the intermediate tracks. When picking your fantasy teams this weekend, the usual suspects on the intermediate tracks are the guys to pick, but don't forget about some of the new guys. This year so far has been full of surprises, I look for a couple of guys to have top ten runs that maybe nobody has been looking at so far. Good luck and viva Las Vegas!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

If You Are Not a Fan of the Two Car Breakaway Draft, Be Hopeful for Next Year When NASCAR goes FUEL INJECTION!!!

I've been reading some complaints about the new FR9 Ford engine and how the Ford teams had an unfair advantage because they could push longer than the Chevy or Toyota or Dodge engines. To be honest, I disagree. Despite being a Chevy man, I say good for Ford (Jack Roush/Yates) for building a better engine. The old Ford motor sucked! What I do have a problem with is that the rules NASCAR put in place gave the Fords opportunity to have greater advantage over speedweeks than they would have at any other track save for Talladega.
I understand that it is dangerous to the drivers and the fans for cars to go over 200mph. But I do not believe the restrictor plate is the answer. Changing the size of the plate does virtually nothing to limit the speeds of a two car draft, however it does plenty to change the speed of a single car. If they removed the plate, there would be no reason to run a two car draft because it wouldn't necessarily be any faster than a single car with a run. What removing the restrictor plates would also do is give the drivers some throttle response back. So when they are drafting and running 3/4 throttle, as they pull out to slingshot and put the throttle down, they would actually be able to complete the pass and overcome the 'wall of air' that was keeping guys from being able to complete passes all weekend long.
Now, those complaints aside, I do have to admit that the race we saw this year at Daytona, and will see again 3 more times this year is somewhat exciting and provided for a good finish. Because I don't enjoy how the cars are racing did not prevent me from enjoying what turned out to be a pretty good race. The majority of fan response to the racing seems to be positive from what I can tell, so I doubt there will be any changes to the plate racing for the rest of the season.
However, next year NASCAR will have fuel injection, which means there will no longer be a carbourator to place a restrictor plate or a tapered spacer on. This means that NASCAR will have to come up with a different way to limit the speeds that these cars are reaching on the Superspeedway tracks of Daytona and Talladega. My hope is that they will come up with something that will allow single cars to run as fast as multiple cars and give the drivers back a little throttle response so that we can get back to the kind of racing that we used to see at Daytona and Talladega.