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.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ok, Now That We Have Daytona Out of the Way, Let the Real Racing begin at PHOENIX!!!

Not much of an article this week, just some random thoughts on the week that was.

- Granted, we PVR'd the race and began with the pre-race show @ 1:30 and fast forwarded through the commercials, however, the commercials did not seem too frequent, and it seemed like FOX has reduced the amount of time that we have to see Tim Brewer on the screen, so I'll say that the coverage of the race seemed better than it has been, though I think there is still enough they can improve upon.
- All the articles seem to be about Trevor Bayne yesterday and today. I'm prepared to give him props for keeping his car clean in what ended up being quite a wreckfest, however at Daytona, when Brian Keselowski can finish 5th in his 150 mile qualifier anything can happen. Trevor's got some skill and a bright future, but I think the Jeff Gordon comparison's might be a tad bit premature. Let's see how Trevor does over the next 6 races (he is only running a partial schedule, but he is running the first 7 races of the season) before we anoint him the next '4-time'.
- Previous paragraph aside, congrats to Danica Patrick for her 14th place run at Daytona. She seemed tentative in hooking up with others and unsure how to do that, however still managed to keep the fenders on the car and drive it to a good finish. No thanks to her teammates - Dale Jr & Aric Almirola in the #5 & #88 car who had the opportunity to help her out and instead drove around her. Seems to me she could have been given a little more help in practice and early on in the race to prepare her for running the two car draft. The fact that Danica had two teammates in the race this weekend makes it inexcusable that in the race on the radio she stated "I don't know what he wants me to do, someone has to help me out here" in reference to Clint Bowyer when he had been pushing her and was looking to change positions to get some air into his engine to cool things down a bit. How did that she not know what he was looking to do, and how did that situation not come up in practice???
- Congratulations to Michael Waltrip for winning what was probably the best race of the weekend in the Camping World Truck series. Seeing his emotions in victory lane makes me think that win likely meant more to him than any of his NASCAR wins at any level. Great to see the black 15 truck in victory lane. The racing was what we are used to at Daytona with a big pack shuffling back and forth with the trucks bouncing around and off of one another.
- The Nationwide and Sprint Cup races were both better than what I anticipated, it's just a shame to see single cars get a run like they used to be able to do and pull ahead of 5 or 6 cars, only to drop 30 positions in the next 30 seconds because there wasn't a second car pushing them. Hopefully NASCAR will take a look at the rules package at the Superspeedway's before we make a return to Talladega and Daytona.
- Pre season, everyone was talking about how people were not going to like how Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski would likely win the majority of Nationwide Series races this season, but not see their names at the top of the standings, no one really mentioned how odd it would look if someone not competing for the Sprint Cup Series Championship won the first race and his name wasn't at the top of the standings, but that is exactly what we have today.
- Who would have thought that the top three in points leaving Daytona would not include the race winner and would include David Gilliland and Bobby Labonte?
- Next up is Phoenix where Juan Pablo Montoya, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch dominated the spring race last year, only to have the caution fly and see Ryan Newman pick up only his second win since 2005. Note that this race was not till April 10th last year. Will weather have an impact with the race being 45 days earlier this year?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Doesn't Matter What You Thought of the Shootout, the 500 Race is Going to be DIFFERENT!!!

After the Goodyear tire test in December at the newly paved Daytona track, teams discovered that two cars running in tandem were running 20 miles an hour faster than single cars. However, they discovered another problem. They could only run two cars in tandem for a lap or two before having to break the two car draft because the rear car wasn't getting enough air into the engine to cool it. Since the tire test, teams have been focusing on how to get more air into the car that is doing the pushing in the 2 car draft. The theory had been that the longer 2 cars could stay locked up, the further ahead of the field they can get, and if possible, swtich positions to prevent overheating without losing the lead, and in the end battle it out with only a couple other cars for the win. After the Shootout practice, NASCAR forced teams to remove the extra cooling hoses to limit the amount of laps teams could run in tandem. Unfortunately the engineers did such a good job of setting the cars up so that the engine could remain cool that it didn't matter they didn't have the extra hoses. Once cars got locked up in the Budwieser Shootout on Saturday night, they were running 8, 10 and 12 laps hooked up without overheating. The strategy worked out well for Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin, Jamie McMurray & winner Kurt Busch, as the 4 cars did break away from the rest of the field and were left to settle things exactly how they had intended. (Controversial penalty to Denny Hamlin not withstanding). Personally, I do not care for this method of racing, I believe that a driver should not need to depend on another car pushing them to be able to be competitve. I feel I have reason to be optomistic however looking forward to the racing in the 500 itself, and here is why.

First and foremost, the racing on saturday occurred at night with little rubber on the track and with very cool temperatures. Almost ideal conditions for speed. However, as a result of the speeds acheived during the race due to the 2 car draft, NASCAR has instituted a new rules package mandating the diamater of the water hoses hooked to the cars radiators be kept to a specified limit, and the installation of a pressure relief valve that will trip at 230 degrees of water temperature. In the shootout and practices, cars were running their water temperatures right up to 280 degrees before backing out of the two car draft. These changes will make for an entirely different twin 150 races as the air temperatures are forecast to be much warmer on Thursday afternoon. This means that the cars will not be able to lock up for much more than 2 laps before the water temperature starts to climb. Once the water temperature in the engine hits 230 degrees, the pressure valve opens up and the water that is keeping the engine cool starts blowing out of the motor. If you lose too much water you'll cook the engine and blow up. This will keep the cars from breaking away and having a 4 car breakaway battle it out for the win like we saw Saturday night. Further, there is no rain forecast for the next week and plenty of activity on the track. We've got practice for the 150's on Wednesday, the 150's themselves on Thursday. Friday and Saturday will see practice and racing for the Camping World Truck Series, Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup Series. This is going to work the surface of the track much more than it has been, and also add a whole lot of rubber to the tracks surface.
What this means for Sunday's 500 race is that with an afternoon race under sunny and warm conditions, there will be a lot more heat in the track than we've seen up to that point, and there will also be a lot more rubber. Heat & rubber make for slick conditions, which is going to make drafting that much more precarious.

So not only will cars not be able to run in tandem for as many laps as what we have seen so far, but the cars are also going to be much more difficult to control because conditions are going to be much slicker than what we have seen to date. And all of this is assuming that NASCAR is not going to make any further changes after the 150 races. (A change to the restrictor plates is still a possibility). So although the cars are likely still to use the two car draft to race for the win, it should be a different race than what we saw Saturday night, with the potential for a few more cars to be in the mix when it comes down to the end. It may not be perfect, but I'm hopful it will be better. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

No Rants or Raves today, but I've got some PREDICTIONS!!!!!

Ok, so nothing has really happened in the past week related to NASCAR that has set me off, so I figure I may as well make some predictions for the upcoming year. I didn't put much thought into this, and some of it I'm pulling out of my .... hat ... as I'm typing. So let's get started.
#1. Jimmie Johnson will NOT have six championships at the end of this year. Why? Because I just don't believe that anyone can win six championships in a row. Call it law of averages, or whatever else you want, something just has to give.
#2. I believe that one of Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards or Kevin Harvick will win the Championship. I won't name which one, I just believe that these three are in the best position to put a championship season together.
#3. Dale Earnhardt Jr will return to victory lane in the Sprint Cup Series this year. I don't know if it'll be on a plate track, a short track or an intermediate track. I don't know if he'll do it on strategy (fuel mileage/rained shortened). But he will win.
#4. Dale Earnhardt Jr will end the regular season in 11th or 12th position in points but will not make the Chase because someone else in the top 20 had more wins than him. NASCAR will again change something trying to get Dale Jr into the chase again going into 2012.
#5. Jamie McMurray will not win a race and will not make the chase. Sorry Jamie, you had a good year last year, and I think you're a great person. I just don't believe that you are that good.
#6. Juan Pablo Montoya will win on an oval this year (likely Indy, Pocono or Michigan) and finish top 5 in the Chase.
#7. Marcos Ambrose will win one of the road course races.
#8. AJ Allmendinger will get one of the Chase 'wildcards' for winning the most races and running in the top 20 in points.
#9. Mark Martin will get the other Chase 'wildcard'.
#10. Chasers in no particular order: Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, David Reutimann, Joey Logano, Mark Martin(wildcard), AJ Allmendinger(wildcard)

So, that about wraps it up for my predictions for the year. I'm shooting for 10% accuracy. Can't wait till it all kicks off tomorrow night!
Good luck to all the competitors this season, be safe, drive hard & have fun and give 'em the old chrome horn if you've got to!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

There are a couple of potential moves that could make for a crazy SILLY SEASON!!!!

The list of big name free agents this year is huge! Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Juan Pablo Montoya, Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton, Ryan Newman, Brian Vickers and Mark Martin. All great racers with tons of talent. When I first glanced at this list I thought there probably wouldn't be much movement among these drivers as they are all in pretty good positions. Each driver has a competitive team and a good relationship with their sponser. Moving would not likely give any one of these drivers a better shot at being competitive. That being said, when I considered the situation a little closer, there are a couple potential occurances that would open the door to a flurry of activity among the free agent players.

The most obvious is Red Bull. They have an open ride at the end of the year with Kasey Kahne moving to Hendrick, and though Brian Vickers has been cleared to race, there are still questions as to his health. Red Bull has tons of money to throw around, and if Kasey and Brian prove to be competitive, they could have some drawing power to pull in a driver such as Carl Edwards or Clint Bowyer. Make no mistake, if Roush Fenway Racing (RFR) or Richard Childress Racing (RCR) loses one of their big name drivers, they will be out to replace that driver with someone who can land a sponser. That means someone established and marketable.

Another possibility is at Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). With military spending slowing, it is possible that the US Army will be pulling the reins back on their sponsership money. If it is looking like Ryan Newman may not make the chase again this year, SHR may be on the lookout for a driver that can make the chase on a more consistent basis and thus has more sponsership draw.

The third possibility that I see has some potential involves UPS. UPS is a big money sponser, and their contract with RFR is up at the end of the year. Depending on RFR's other commitments and David Ragan's performance, there will either have to be a sponser shuffle among the RFR group or David will be released from his ride (David has a contract with RFR through 2014) and RFR will pursue a driver that UPS feels will better represent them.

The only other move that I really see out there is probably the least likely to occur. At 43, Jeff Burton's best driving days are likely behind him. If RCR sees an opportunity to land a big fish and put him in the 31 car will he? My guess is probably not, given that the late Dale Earnhardt suggested to Richard that Jeff was the guy to bring into the organization to succeed him. Also, Jeff has shown he can still be competitve and CAT seems very happy to sponser Jeff.

All in all, there are a lot of free agents out there for 2012. If I were RFR or RCR, and I'm looking to keep the key guys I have, I want to get them locked up sooner rather than later. If one of the other teams is looking to upgrade and nabs one of the available guys, look for the dominoes to start falling randomly and in short order. Could make for an exciting silly season!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Peanalize the winner but he keeps the win? How would that affect the CHAMPIONSHIP????

So here is an issue that has been bothering me since the conclusion of the New Hampshire race last fall. As you all remember, Clint Bowyer & his RCR team won the New Hampshire race. Clint's car went through post race inspection and passed. However, NASCAR brought the car back to their R&D centre and tore the car apart and determined it to be illegal. Clint was stripped of 150 points in penalty for using an illegal car, however, NASCAR has a policy in place that ensures that when the fans leave the track, they know who the winner of the race is. Therefore, Clint was allowed to keep credit for the win.

One would then assume, if the fan knows who the winner is when they leave the track after the final race of the year, the fans should also know who the winner of the championship is when they leave Homestead after the final race of the season. What would have happend had it been the 48 car that was randomly selected to go back to the NASCAR R&D centre for a teardown after having passed post race inspection after the Homestead race in which Jimmie Johnson won the championship over Denny Hamlin by only 15 points? What if the 48 car was found to be out of NASCAR's tolerances. Remember, they have a template, and their tolerance to be outside of that template is less than 1/2 the thickness of a quarter. Think of all the movement of a car throughout the duration of a race week. From the time it was last measured in a controlled atmosphere in the garage, to being set down from jacks, wheeled onto the hauler, driven hundreds of miles in the back of a truck, unloaded, turned 600 miles throughout practice and qualifying and the race, bumped into 3 or 4 or more different cars, dropped off the jack etc. I'm just saying, stuff is going to get moved around. 1/2 the thickness of a quarter is not much.

So, Jimmie wins the championship, NASCAR gets his car back to the R&D centre. His car is out of tolerance. So how does NASCAR explain that Jimmie is going to recieve a penatly of 150 points (they have already established the precedent by peanalizing Clint 150 points) which gives Denny Hamlin has 135 point lead on Jimmie in the final standings, but Jimmie gets to be the champion and keep the trophy because the fans need to know who the championship winner is when they leave the track.

The point I am making is, if you are going to inspect cars for being within the tolerances set out by NASCAR post race, all cars should be treated equal. If you are going to take them back to the R&D centre, all 43 cars should be going back to the R&D centre. If you need to take some cars back to the R&D centre, it should only be for exploratory purposes. Any penalties levied against teams should be as a result of what happens at the track. If a team is getting close to their tolerances, bring the equipment to the track to inspect each and every car if that is what needs to be done.

NASCAR has already set the standard for penalties and letting the winner keep the win and trophy, despite points penalties afterwards? I wonder what their explaination will be when it happens in the final race and has an impact on the championship?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Shorten the races? The race length isn't the problem, it is the SHOW!!!!

Ok, so big changes to the points, see previous post to know how I feel about that. Still not enough emphasis on winning. I do like the changes made to qualifying.

What I would like to address today is television coverage and race/season length. Fox Sports Media Group Chair David Hill, along with Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. among others have stated their desire to see race length and season length shortened.

Not suprisingly, I am not a fan of this propostion. I believe that if things are done properly races and the season do not need to be shortened. Is it true that people may have short attention spans? Sure, when what they are doing is boring! If the racing is exciting, people are going to watch. Provided that they actually get the opportunity to see it. Why are tv ratings down? It is a pretty simple answer actually. It is because half of the event isn't actually occuring in front of our eyes. There are simply way too many commercials, and if the network hasn't broken away for commercial, they are busy showing me a pit reporter or the people in the booth or Tim Brewer/Jeff Hammond with the cutaway car showing me how tape works to fix a broken nose piece on the car. Go back and watch tape from the 90's race coverage. You'll see cars on the track and you'll hear the announcers voice, rarely will you see them. Never do you see the camera's pan away from coverage for a 'race break' with an obscure duck or gopher animation dominating your attention. The broadcast has become the show and the race is only a part of it. How sad, becuase it is the race that we are tuning in to see. So lets cut down on the side shows, and show more racing.

As for the amount of commercials during a race, David Hill has stated that the sponsers have spoken, and they do not want to do side by side commercial and race similar to what Versus is doing for their Indy car coverage. I say if the sales department at Versus can sell the sponsers on it, so can Fox/TNT/ESPN. Tell them this is what we are offering, becuase it is what the fans want. If the fans want it, we are going to give it to them. Why? Because if fans don't like what they are seeing, fans won't tune in. If fans aren't tuning in, then ratings are dropping. If ratings are dropping, then fewer people are seeing the traditional commercials which is causing a drop in brand exposure. If a brand would like more exposure, they have the opportunity to be sponsers of the sport, the cars, and the track. Sell TV spot sponsership. Instead of a commercial, sell segments of the race with the company logo featured on the screen during the broadcast. 'This 20 lap segment brought to you by _____________' from the announcers. The sponsers can only buy what you are selling, be a little creative. You still have the opportunity to go to commercial when the caution flies.

So why are tv ratings down? It is because the racing isn't compelling until the last 100 laps of the race. So some people are saying, lets shorten the length then. I say NO. The races currently aren't about battling each and every lap for the lead or to improve your position. The races are about taking care of your equipment, playing strategy, trying to put yourself in the best position at the end of the day to maximize points. This shouldn't be what racing is about. It should be about compete and desire and rubbing being racing, for all laps of the race. It shouldn't be about guys riding around, taking care of their stuff until its 'time to go'. Go from the start! How do you accomplish this? Give bonus points for leading at different intervals of the race. If you're leading at the 20%, 40%, 50%, 60%, & 80% laps complete point of the race, you get 5 bonus points. You can bet with that amount of points on the line, running at or near the front throughout the race is going to become a lot more important to a lot more people! So no, the races don't need to be shorter to keep my attention. They need to be exciting.

So I can see why people are saying the races are too long, if you told me that you were going to sit me down and show me an event for 4 or 5 hours, and the cars are going 200 mph, beating fenders and constantly battling for the lead, driving on the edge each and every lap of course I'm going to watch that. But if I sit down to see that, and what I see instead is 200 of 400 miles of follow the leader racing, with the other 200 miles dominated by commercials and talking heads and cut away cars and cartoon animation and then only see 75 mile of the final 100 that are actually exciting. I'm pretty sure that I would think that the races are too long and the season is too long and I would also only tune in for the last 100 miles. Fix the product and you bring back the fans.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Trying to appeal to 18 - 34 year old males? Start YOUNG!!!

In browsing through various articles in regards to NASCAR this month I have found a consistent theme. It seems that there is a serious shortage of fans in the 18-34 year old male demographic. NASCAR is focused on trying to appeal to this demographic. I read one article that stated the 200'x80' giant TV they were having installed at Charlotte Motor Speedway was in effort to appeal to that demographic. Fair enough, I'm sure a 200' TV screen is quite the spectacle, but if I'm not impressed enough by cars racing at 200mph to come out to the track to see the event live, I'm not sure that a 200' screen is going to seal the deal. Beyond the TV screen, I haven't heard much on strategies for appealing to this demographic. I just know that I'm part of it, and I love NASCAR. The question is why? I believe I have the answer.

 Growing up, NASCAR wasn't televised much in Canada, at least not over network TV that we had out in the country side. So the only races we got to see were the Daytona 500 & the former Pepsi 400. I remember for a number of years we always seemed to be at my Grandparents during the Daytona 500. In 1993, shortly after coming up with #3 as my favourite number using some convoluted formula that I made up using who knows what for who knows what reason. We were at my Grandparents and someone turned the race on, and on the screen was the black number 3 car leading the race, and it happened to be a Chevrolet. It was a match made in heaven and I was hooked. I could imagine racing that car, leading the race! There happened to be quite a number of spins and wrecks in that race and I found that fascinating. Now, not having cable TV and therefore, only getting to watch 2 races a year, you would think that probably isn't a good way to gain fans. But give me a little taste of what I want, and when I have the ability to get more, I'll jump in with both feet. You can imagine where I was on Sunday afternoons when I went away to college and found out the common rooms had cable TV. Yep, right there in front of that TV, each and every Sunday!

So how did I become a fan in this crucial 18 - 34 year old male demographic? I got hooked when I was 12! So how does NASCAR fix the decline in ratings among this demographic? It isn't a quick fix, it'll take a number of years but I guarantee that it works. Advertise to kids! Put NASCAR ads on all the social media that kids are using these days. Fortunately NASCAR has a video game coming out again. Get NASCAR in the face of youth, get games and apps developed. Lets get Lego & Harry Potter & Spongebob & Xbox etc advertising on the cars. If a childs favourite superhero driver were sponsered by Disney World, I'm pretty sure he'd pick up a bunch of youth in that move right there! Get the tracks to let anyone under the age of 12 get a ticket for free! They're going to spend piles of money at the concession stands anyways, you'll still get your money out of them!

Did R.J. Reynolds teach NASCAR nothing? Get 'em hooked young and you'll have 'em for life! If you want to appeal to the 18 - 34 demographic, you have to first appeal to the youth demographic. When they get to the age NASCAR is looking to appeal to, they'll still be fans!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Daytona 500 has the potential to be BRUTAL!!!

Currently teams are working on how to make the 2 car draft work without the pushing car having to get clean air due to overheating.  Currently the two car draft is 2.5 mph faster than what the pack is projected to be. So there will be cars laying back to avoid ‘the big one’ because it is so easy to catch the pack and move to the front. Stewart-Haas is actually designing one car to be the pusher and Brian Pattie from EGR figures the pushing car can go 10 laps before having to duck out for clean air. Click here for article … That + no real variation in points = follow the leader racing. Watch the last 25 laps, I’m sure they’ll be exciting…  
Personally i just really hate two cars getting together and running away from it all. I'd rather see a last lap mad dash like Jr made last year, not two cars breaking away to decide it between the two of them.

We don't need simple points system, we need one that WORKS!!!

Jamie McMurray made some interesting comments the other day regarding the importance of getting off to a good start to the season. His references to finishing position were in regards to the existing points system. To read the entire article, click here. Here are Jamie's comments:

"On our bad days, we ran 20th, which is not great. But if you finish 20th on your bad days, you still accumulate enough points to make the Chase, if you have enough good days. When you finish 30th, you just can't make up the difference. It's a deep hole.

"If you finish 30th, it literally takes a month of good races just to get even again. On our bad days, we would finish 16th to 20th, and those were days when you went home miserable."

This is before the bad days when finishing 43rd is 17.4% of the winner’s max points. Under the proposed new point system, getting 1 point for finishing 43rd now is only 2.3% of the winner’s points (43), and that’s before bonuses. Here we go, putting too high a value on consistency! If it took a month to recover from a 30th place finish in the old system, one DNF under the new points system means missing the chase. Here’s hoping your favourite driver doesn’t wreck in the Daytona 500. Can you imagine Mr. Five Time himself wrecking at Daytona and missing the chase because of it, never having a shot at the championship? Think 36 races is a long season now? Wait till you’re already practicing for next year in race #2!

What is the incentive to race for the next position if it means only gaining one point in the standings? Sure, if they put a big bonus on the win, second will try for first. But why would you risk a wreck to get to 4th from 5th and going from a 37 point day to a 14 point day? Especially if you're closing in on the chase or the championship and you've built yourself a bit of a cushion? The risk out weighs the reward! Not to mention how much more emphasis is on consistency with this system. Imagine with the new proposed system a driver winning 6 races with no bonus points also has 5 DNF's & pulls a 12.0 average finish the rest of the 'regular' season. He'd have earned approxamately 743 points under the proposed new system. Now imagine a driver finishes in 13th position in all 26 races. He'd have 806 points. Does this make sense to you?

I've put some thought into it, and came up with the following point system which I believe fairly rewards finishing higher in the standings, but does not punish a blown engine or getting caught up in someone else's wreck so severely.

1st -   100
2nd -  90
3rd -   81
4th -   73
5th -   66
6th -   60
7th -   55
8th -   51
9th -   48
10th - 46
11th - 45...
30th - 26
31st - 43rd - 25

5 Bonus points for leading at each 50 lap interval except for the final lap, i.e. 50,100,150...
5 Bonus points for leading the most laps
5 Bonus points for sitting on the pole
No cars are locked in to the top 35
Every race is impound
Fastest 43 cars qualify

With this method of scoring, it keeps competition up throughout the entire race with competitors trying to get to the front to lead at each 50 lap interval (5points) and it rewards running at the front (most laps 5 points) & it rewards improving your position (points pay more and more per position the closer you get to the lead) & it ensures that the best race cars make the race (Impound & fastest 43).
Max points with this system is 155 - (500 laps @ Bristol = 9 x 50 lap intervals @ 5 points each + 5 for the most laps and 5 for the pole) Finishing 31 - 43rd pays 25 points which is 16.1% of the winners points, with no incentive to return a wrecked car to the race track.

I believe if NASCAR is going to mess with the points system, this is the way to do it. What has been proposed will only go back to having someone win the championship with 1 win ala Matt Kenseth 2002. It is important to be consistent, but it's also important to go for the win each and every week. The 43 - 1 points system is not the way to make that happen!