A rather tame Silly Season finally lived up to its name this week, with driver swaps, scheduling changes and rumors of financial ruin inducing the busiest NASCAR news cycle of the year. It's a deluge of racing drama that's left fans with plenty on their minds, so let's not waste any time. Remember, firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter at NASCARBowles are the way to make your voices heard.
Let's start with the big story: Kasey Kahne moving over to Red Bull for 2011 before joining Hendrick Motorsports' No. 5 car in 2012.
There seems to be plenty of negative reaction concerning Hendrick on this deal. But for frustrated fans, it's important to remember HMS hasn't exactly rolled over the competition this season:
If anything, these e-mails prove the perception of Hendrick as all-powerful force won't be broken until someone outside the team breaks Johnson's streak of four straight titles. The argument could be made that type of dominance isn't all bad for the sport; after all, fans in baseball have a love-hate relationship with the Yankees' Evil Empire. But the difference there is the Yankees winning still puts fans in the seats. Others truly believe that even with unlimited spending, the Steinbrenners can be beaten under the right circumstances.
That's not the case, it seems, with Hendrick, who even supplies chassis and engines for a major competitor: Stewart-Haas Racing. While Stewart maintains his company is a separate entity from HMS, the fact fans feel like Hendrick has control over the operation is telling. But just because Kahne is signed by Red Bull doesn't mean it'll follow suit. Keep in mind it has an agreement with Toyota until 2012, one it would have to break when it moves to Chevy. So it's not like anyone can snap fingers and make it happen, although I've been told a transition could be possible under the right circumstances.
Let's settle the UPS to No. 5 rumor right now; I've heard nothing to suggest they're moving over to sponsor Kahne in 2012. Their contract runs with Roush through the end of 2011, and there's still time for
But clearly, David does have it nailed; the Kahne move comes down to Hendrick's inability to raise money anywhere else. For him to land at Finch, TRG, or any of the small Chevy programs, the driver needed to come as a package deal with extra cash. It's hard to believe this rich owner's pockets were empty, and Hendrick claims sponsors would be hesitant to work a one-year deal elsewhere only to be shut out of the No. 5 car in 2012. I don't know how true that really is, the economy combining with sagging ratings and attendance to pare down NASCAR sponsorship like never before.
Johnathan, you'll be surprised. RBR has a great infrastructure in place, an outstanding GM in
One person we shouldn't worry about is Vickers. Unless there's a shocking revelation from the doctors over the next few months, I fully expect him to be driving for Red Bull in the Daytona 500. All along, there's been a six-month recovery timetable, and there's no way RBR would release the driver most responsible for it growing into one of NASCAR's more competitive teams.
Agreed, Deborah. As I wrote in another column recently, my biggest problem with Evernham is his getting involved in a deal that could have him getting directly involved. Rumors run rampant Evernham could be a part of Kahne's transition to Hendrick in 2012, filling some sort of management role. Sure, rumors are different from fact, but simply having his name thrown about as a possible consultant, GM, or anything involving the No. 5 in the future makes it a direct conflict of interest to comment. As a television analyst, the right thing to do was sidestep the Kahne controversy; instead, for him to publicly try to push Martin out of the seat, a move that could have landed him another job, is unfair.
Another person who's owed an apology is SPEED's
Moving on to the schedule...
Allen, I understand why NASCAR made the move. Attendance is sagging -- listed at less than 70,000 for its July date -- and it needed to make a splash that would boost attendance in a top-3 market. But a 1.5-mile cookie-cutter opening your 10-race playoff? Seriously? On a weekend where one Bears home game could drown out attendance? That's not the way to hook someone for a 10-week stretch. Bristol, Richmond, heck almost any track out there would have worked better.
I think Kentucky will easily sell out for years to come, Robert. It's a new market, in a NASCAR hotbed of the Southeast with a track that provides better racing than most of the 1.5-mile "cookie-cutter" tracks we have on the circuit. Plus, you just said it best: in mid-July, colleges are out of session and there's no other major sport in the area to compete with it. Of all the scheduling moves NASCAR made, adding Kentucky was easily the best.
I still would have preferred more movement with the schedule overall, though. Definitely nothing for 2011 that makes you drool ... more like shrug your shoulders at best. And that's not the desired effect they were looking for...
I notice fans have a very love/hate relationship with road courses. Count me on the "love" side, on the edge of my seat during every moment of the
And finally, taking "out of left field" literally...
I haven't seen the exact numbers, Dee Dee, but I can tell you it's the hardest ever recorded since NASCAR started recording through the "black box" system earlier this decade. But as hard a hit as that crash was, we can all be thankful Sadler's 100 percent, and even won his rec softball championship the other day. It's all a testament to the safety of these cars and how much NASCAR has improved them the last decade.