It was the onside kick heard 'round the world. With the New Orleans Saints' shocking decision at the start of the second half, the Super Bowl reached historic status as their risk-taking paid off with a shocking upset. It's the type of game that leaves people talking for weeks to come, and it was the most-watched TV show in history.
Why mention an onside kick to start a racing column? Because on the eve of NASCAR's Super Bowl, that outside-the-box aggression is what the sport of stock car racing desperately needs. Yes, the Bud Shootout last Saturday was good, but name one memorable moment that stands out. No,
As someone looking for NASCAR to reverse its downward spiral, here's hoping that in this space next week we're talking about a three-wide pass for the win, or a move on the track that we've never seen before. Those kind of things will win fans back quicker than any rule change, driver hire or ticket price reduction.
Before we begin, don't forget how to reach me with your questions or comments:
Let's get this show on the road ...
It's always fun to start a mailbag by talking to yourself, right? I'll be brief on Danica because everyone and their mother has already smothered her with mounds of press. (In fact, garage insiders were angry that Danica was followed by a mob all weekend while all other ARCA drivers were ignored, as if the race was the "Danica 200" with no one else entered). But that save in ARCA did a lot to change the perception of those who felt she can't wheel a stock car.
Based on conversations I've had after the race, the tide of popular opinion shifted instantly from "she can't do it" to "wait a second ... let's withhold judgment until after the next few races and see how she does in the Nationwide Series."
It's amazing how Danica instinctively knew the moves to make that would keep her car in one piece. But while her comeback to sixth after the spin was impressive, the Nationwide Series race is a different beast. With a dozen Cup drivers entered, she'll be hung out to dry by the big boys, although I expect teammate
By the way, you have to feel bad for
I'll address starting and parking first, Dee. Owners will pull unsponsored cars in before the first pit stop because they don't have the money to pay for tires and running an engine the full distance. A top quality engine for 500 miles can cost you over $100,000 at the Cup level. But if you only run it, say, about 100 miles, that costs you just $20k, well within a $75k budget for last-place purse money.
There's an argument for both sides of the start-and-park debate. In a down economy, insiders claim the practice keeps teams in business and crewmen employed. Without it, we'd have less than a full field in almost every race of NASCAR's top three series. But is racking up a bunch of 43rd-place finishes really a way to woo a potential sponsor? And how about the fans? One could argue that these teams are stealing ticket money, because no one comes to a track to watch a car run slowly at the back for a handful of laps before pulling in. That's not racing. That's business, and there's an important difference.
As far as title sponsorship, it all boils down to brand exclusivity. Sprint's argument, back when AT&T was forced out of the sport, was that having other cell phone companies involved would dilute their brand awareness within NASCAR. In theory, an AT&T car could win five races in a row, getting more publicity than the words "Sprint Cup" and giving their competitor in the marketplace an advantage.
While I don't agree with the practice, it's not going to change; but there is a way around it. Right now, Verizon sponsors the No. 12 Cup car of Keselowski along with the Nationwide car of
Messing with the engine is the ultimate no-no. More cubic inches gives you more horsepower. Can you imagine if
The ARCA series pays points for qualifying, Tom, and they proved to be the difference in
The top 35 is really the root cause of the problem, though. Could you imagine if all 54 drivers entered for the Daytona 500 had to make it in on speed or in the 150-mile Duels on Thursday? Some say it would cost NASCAR millions if a poor Speedweeks by
And finally ...
Wow. If you're ever in need of money at a gas station, don't ask Dave for cash! In case you missed last week's Tweet,