The problem with a 24/7 news cycle nowadays is that waiting for an "official" announcement becomes a little anti-climactic. Ten years ago, today would be a NASCAR news bonanza: Richard Childress Racing unveiled Budweiser as a primary sponsor for
Internally, this trio of big-time briefings has an immense future impact on the sport. But for the public at large, these changes happened weeks, even months ago, with Facebook, Twitter and bloggers already breaking the news. Sure, making it official carries with it some degree of increased interest, but they pale in comparison to
How do you reclaim the element of surprise instead of having a Debbie Downer "info you already know" press conference two weeks later? I don't have the answer in this age of instant gratification. But for NASCAR, changes are few and far between for a sport that typically enjoys relative stability over the course of a season. When they do happen, a little marketing genius goes a long way toward bumping them up the news cycle.
For example, almost every individual NASCAR Sprint Cup track took the time to announce the two dates on their schedule for 2011. Why couldn't they all pull together and have
The majority of your emails this week show your thoughts are already headed elsewhere. There's a hodge-podge of topics to discuss, a little "summer cleaning" if you will in this mid-August edition.
Time to get started. As always, firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter at
Nowhere was this point better illustrated than at Sunday's race in Michigan.
Why could both men throw caution to the wind? They're virtual locks to make the playoffs (Harvick has actually clinched), leaving them twiddling thumbs, instead of working toward that top-10 finish to lock down a spot, between now and when the postseason starts in September. It's funny, right, how aggression comes back out of a driver when the incentives no longer exist for finishing sixth? The same theory applies to
"You could tell we weren't running for the championship, the way we battled," Ambrose said. "I poured everything into it."
So let me get this straight; a series marketed around the Chase has its drivers give 110 percent when the championship's not at stake? Something, somewhere is wrong with this system.
This email is more relevant than ever after a disappointing 19th-place at Michigan -- a track where Earnhardt had two straight top-10 finishes -- left him a whopping 129 points outside NASCAR's playoff with three races left. Now down to 17th in the standings, the No. 88 driver would need an outright miracle of his closest challengers blowing engines, wrecking, etc. not once but twice in order to catch up.
So what happens now? I still think Earnhardt knows how to drive, but it seems like the same confidence, self-esteem and motivation issues which plagued him throughout 2009 are popping up again. Under a five-year contract, there's no way he bolts at the end of the season, but crew chief
Jay, I'm torn on this idea. I think it's a great way to keep Mother Nature from interfering and handing an unlikely win by Reutimann,
At the same time, aren't pit strategy and the way you play it an essential part of this team sport? Reutimann benefited from other crew chiefs not studying the weather radar correctly, taking a gamble with a damaged race car knowing that's the only chance they had to win the race. That unpredictability is a part of what NASCAR's all about. I could be mistaken, but I think people were more upset at the Logano and Hornish situations simply because neither driver deserved to be on the lead lap. In both cases, the wave around rule indirectly gave them a chance to succeed through free passes that had nothing to do with their performance on the race track.
Bottom line, I think you're taking a part of the sport away if you don't let crew chiefs decide their own strategy when the rain comes. But if everyone keeps magically finishing on the lead lap, you're going to have more of these "surprise victories" that'll make fans angry over drivers that shouldn't even be in position to win.
Dick, I just did a nice
The one thing from that interview I disagree with is Danica's season slump helping the plight of women racers. She's supposedly the best woman ever to step into a race car; so if she finishes 25th, four laps down in a "AAA" series with top-notch equipment you wonder if already-hesitant owners will let prejudice seep in and figure other possible candidates will do worse. With the long list of changes injected into the sport, though, I think you'll see a swing toward female participants within the next five years. To move forward, NASCAR needs to address its shaky past and become one of the emerging leaders in the modern sports multicultural movement. It's going to take a lot of pushing, but I think they're headed in the right direction.
Great call, Eric; I urge everyone to read Austin's article. This type of innovative thinking is what led to IndyCar opening up their chassis rules for 2012 as a way to increase fan interest and overall owner participation.
It's a longer topic for another column I plan to do sometime this fall; for in many ways, the development of NASCAR has stalled. Through the concept of "parity," all the technology is filtered through the same four to six owners, one tire company and a common template you need to latch onto for any chance at success. The same basic model of success is offered, restricted by NASCAR rules that let you adjust about 10 percent of what you could a decade ago. It may bring competition closer together, but it also keeps the same people in the same places without any sort of natural evolution.
Just look at this year's Rookie of the Year race.
Among those drivers on the way up include
If I had to bet, you'll see Kligerman up in the Cup Series by 2013 at the latest. So in the meantime, grin and bear Joey, root for Park's return and hey, at least you have those NAPA Know-How commercials!
Thanks for the story, Rodney. A quick update on Carl for those who are interested; he still hasn't paid the $200,000 NASCAR fine, which makes him ineligible for he or his team to return to the Sprint Cup Series. However, he's found himself back in the sport, taking odd jobs down at the minor league level that run anywhere from spotter, to consultant, to even driving a handful of races. He's got a deal to run a limited schedule for Fleur-de-lis Motorsports in the Nationwide Series (No. 68) and occasionally drives for start-and-park or backmarker teams in the Truck Series. He'll be qualifying the No. 00
Finally, our "out of left field" email of the week:
See, Dick Brown? Good women drivers are popping up in race cars all over the country. It's only a matter of time ... just don't try messing with them on the highway.
"SPEED needs a nascar deathmatch series kinda like MTV used to have..." -