The Chase heads west this week for a little racing action, California style. While we dream of surf and sun, here are more of our answers to your NASCAR questions. If you don’t know what this post is, we answer any and all reader questions every Wednesday, right here. So if you’ve got one, click on the ”Ask the Insiders” tab at the top of the page and send one to us. On to the questions…
1. From Christa:
I don’t normally bash the race broadcast, but the coverage by ESPN on Sunday was HORRIBLE!! Cutting to commercial during green with 10 to go is inexcusable. My question is this, any chance NASCAR can pressure them to put on a decent show? Or do you think outcry from the fans is the only solution? I’ve already sent them an angry email to do my part, but I’d like to hear your thoughts. Thanks!
NASCAR can certainly put pressure on them to change things, but at the end of the day it’s ESPN’s call. I really hate to say this, and I’m not necessarily advocating it, but the best way to show ESPN you don’t like their product is to tune out (or DVR it). The emails and letters don’t hurt. They’re looking at it right now anyway thanks to the large ratings declines over the last three races. You aren’t alone in your feelings on this – if you ever check out The Daly Planet this has been a constant complaint from many viewers. In fact JD did a writeup on the ESPN ratings issue today. – Journo
2. From Jeanette:
Hi guys. Perhaps you can settle a discussion that took place while my boyfriend and I were watching qualifying recently. When a crew chief tells the driver after his lap “P-4″ or “P-whatever”, does the P stand for position? provisional?
Whoever said it stood for position is the winner. The crew chief, or spotter will tell the driver p whatever to let them know where they stand in qualifying, practice, or the race. – Journo
3. From Anonymous:
Hey guys, love the website! Keep doing what you’re doing! This may seem like a silly question but I often notice after a race that when pit reporters are doing postrace interviews, many times the drivers are already changed into street clothes. Are the drivers fast in the shower in addition to being fast on the track or do the TV producers ‘collapse time’ and make things look like they are happening quicker than they really are? Many thanks!
Thanks! No silly questions here. No time collapse, the drivers you see who have changed have enough time to go back to the hauler (generally they do it in the lounge) to change out of their firesuits. – Journo
4. From brian:
Years ago Petty put Wilson in the 44 car after he retired. He had to change the number back to #43 b/c the NASCAR rule was if you don’t use it you lose it. Why isn’t the same with the #3. It is always said Childress has the #, but if he isn’t using it why can’t someone else use it?
Technically, no team owns a number. NASCAR owns all the numbers and grants permission to the teams to use them. So really, if somebody wanted to use the number, they could petition NASCAR to get it. However, I think nobody asking to use it is more of a respect thing than anything else. – T.C.
5. From Michael in SoCal:
Hi guys. I just watched this week’s Whelen Southern Modified race on Versus and there was mention of Langley Speedway winner, Tim Brown, who was going to race at Tri-County Speedway. Jack Arute & Jimmy Spencer mentioned that Brown, who works for Michael Waltrip Racing, was called out to Phoenix by MWR for testing there. I thought testing was banned at any track where the top three series race? Any insight as to what this was all about? Thanks.
Just because he was called to Phoenix to do a test doesn’t necessarily mean they were at Phoenix International Raceway. I don’t recall any Goodyear tire tests there this season, so I doubt that’s where they went. I would imagine that the test was at the Toyota Proving Grounds in Wittman, AZ. The facility is about an hour and a half outside of Phoenix. – T.C.
6. From David:
With all the Nationwide series rookies getting the boot do you think that NASCAR needs to have contracts like the NFL or NBA???
You’ve got to feel for these guys, but the structure of NASCAR makes it difficult to have a labor union like you see in the NFL or the NBA. The drivers are independent contractors in NASCAR – they work individually for teams, who at the end of the day have no stake in the sport as a whole – which is quite different than other major American sports leagues where the owners make up the league. I think there is an argument to be made that these guys need more protections, but how exactly to do that I don’t know. – Journo
7. From Jon:
I have a few questions… but before I begin first I wanna say I love the blog, I’ve written in a few times and you guys always answer my questions! You guys do a 100x better job than NASCAR PR LOL. 1. I was looking at some old race results at racing-reference.info and noticed in ’95 and ’96, both races (when phx featured just 1 event) had 44 cars. why? when/how did nascar decide on the 43 car field # and what dictated the # before? 2. i’m pretty sure i’ve read this somewhere/heard it on a broadcast, but i’m not 100% sure. let’s say two guys tie at the end of the season w/ the same # of points. the driver with the most wins gets the better spot in the points, right? do they have tiebreakers to determine who takes the higher spot in points after wins (if they are still tied)? 3. why hasn’t nascar considered running more nationwide one-off events? if they want to get cup regulars out, woudln’t it make more sense to run the events in tandem with say a truck or arca or IRL event, at a venue where the cup series isn’t? if they did this more than just the 3 times a year (i think?) that they do this now, to say like, 9-10, wouldn’t it be way more likely a regular would win rather than a cup series regular? i’m just looking for slightly easier “fixes” for the Nationwide series, as opposed to some ridiculous idea of leaving Cup regulars out of the points championship.
For a much better explanation of why we have 43 car fields, and the situation you mention at Phoenix, check out this piece by Dave Rodman from the 2002 season. In regards to ties in the point system, the NASCAR rule book says that if two drivers are tied, the tie will be broken by which driver has the most first place finishes. If they are still tied, it then goes to second place finishes, third places finish, and so on and so forth. If a tie still remains after that, “the driver having the highest finishing position first during the current season prevails.” And to your question about more standalone events, I honestly have no idea. The Nationwide/Busch Series did used to run more events by itself, but over the course of the last decade or so, most of the schedule has been changed to run in conjunction with the Cup Series. It’s probably more about drawing more fans to the track and offering more entertainment for a weekend than anything else. – T.C.
8. From Craig:
Does NASCAR give directives to the broadcast teams about what to talk about or what not to criticize? Example, when it comes to 1.5 mile tracks, fans call them “cookie-cutters”, but I’ve seen broadcasters go out of their way to attack that term. I saw that again today with John Roberts on Speed saying “don’t call them cookie-cutters”. Is there some NASCAR PR campaign to defend 1.5 tracks, since they’re a focus of fan criticism?
If NASCAR hears something they don’t like they’re probably going to let the broadcast teams know, but there is no edict from on high telling the broadcast teams how to behave. I think more of what you’re seeing is the teams being hyper-vigilant about what they’re saying so as not to diminish the product that their employer is paying a lot of money to broadcast. With the way ratings are ESPN knows better than anyone they don’t need a negative narrative from their broadcast team. – Journo
9. From Robert:
If KBM closes, where do you think Rick Ren will go? No one in NASCAR, would let a crew chief like this go to waste.
It really depends on Rick Ren. I don’t know what his motivations are, or what type of position he would want (crew chief or director of competition like he is now), but I’m sure he could probably have any job in the Truck Series that he wanted. There would certainly be no shortage of teams beating down his door to get him. Don’t be so certain that KBM is closing next season though. Even if they don’t run every race, I wouldn’t be surprised if KBM still existed in some form next year. – T.C.
10. From Billy:
How does NASCAR’s approval process for new drivers work?
Drivers must submit a resume to NASCAR for consideration. Brett Bodine, who works as NASCAR’s Director of Cost Research makes most of the decisions about who gets approved for what. Usually, drivers must start out in a lower series on tracks a mile and under, then they will get approved for 1.5 to two mile tracks, and finally the superspeedways. It’s totally a judgement call on NASCAR’s part however – drivers like Juan Pablo Montoya and Danica Patrick were approved for bigger races much quicker because of their past experience. – T.C.
11. From Robert:
Any rumors or ideas as to what is going on at RCR in regards to a second truck team? Rumors had it for awhile that his other grandson, TY, would sit in a truck next season.
As far as we have heard, RCR is working toward having two Truck Series teams next season, one for Austin and one for Ty. It’s interesting to note though, that Ty won’t turn 18 in time to run Daytona. His birthday is February 27th, so he wouldn’t be able to make his series debut until the March 12th race at Darlington. – T.C.
And that brings yet another “Ask The Insiders Wednesday” to a close. Thanks to everyone who sent in questions. And remember, if you’d like to be a part of next week, click on the ”Ask the Insiders” tab at the top of the page and send your question in!
The NASCAR teams have a home game this week, as both the Nationwide and Cup Series will take to Charlotte this weekend. As the teams look forward to sleeping in their own beds this week, we’ve got the 96th round of reader questions and answers. If you don’t know what this post is, we answer any and all reader questions every Wednesday, right here. So if you’ve got one, click on the ”Ask the Insiders” tab at the top of the page and send one to us. On to the questions…
1. From Dan:
Great web site and lots of inside information a must every day. The question that I have is the following. Why on the TV broadcast after the race I notice that the teams are removing the new shark fin spoilers from the roof, rear window and trunk lid. Why remove these items at the track and before loading the cars into the haulers? I have seen it several times?
To be honest, I’m not 100% sure on this answer, but I believe it’s because the shark fin is too tall for the trailers. The fin on the rear window sticks up above the roof line, and the cars just barely fit into the trailers as they are. – T.C.
2. From Rowan:
Hi guys, great site, love it. Do you think Kenny Francis will stay with the number 9 team @ RPM next season? In Australia we have series called the Masters for cars that raced back in sixties and seventies. Do you think NASCAR would introduce a series similiar where we could see those old Dodges, Plymouths, Torino s and Chevys back on the track again in battle? And last question Owen Kelly drove the Road America race is he still racing in the U.S.?
Thanks Rowan! It was all but announced this weekend Kenny Francis would go to Red Bull with Kasey Kahne (you probably already saw that). How exactly that’s going to work beyond next season remains to be seen. To your second question, I don’t think so. It would be entertaining for sure, but I’m not sure where they would get equipment. There are actually people who have classic race cars and race them in exhibition races – it’s not sanctioned by NASCAR though. As far as Owen Kelly, he drove for Baker Curb Racing at Road America, but I’m not sure if he’s done any other racing in the US since then. Maybe someone else knows? – Journo
3. From Steve:
I know you’ve said that all drivers at the Sprint Cup level have talent. But in your view, which drivers have the talent to get more out of their car than a so-called average driver? And which drivers seem to get less out of their car than would seem right given their equipment, support, etc.?
I think it’s a two fold thing: what can a driver get out of their car, and what they can communicate about their car. Kyle Busch is very good at both of these things. And look at Kasey Kahne and Kenny Francis as a team that is good at both of these things (given their situation). In my opinion, Martin Truex is a guy who struggles to communicate and get everything out of his car (in comparison to his peers). – Journo
4. From Kim:
I don’t know what a crew chief makes, but seeing fines of $150000 takes my breath away. When a crew chief is fined for an infraction, do they have to pay it in one lump sum?. Do they pay it personally? Does the team pay it? Does it have to be paid before they come to the track for the next race?
Those fines are generally paid by the teams. NASCAR does allow for payment plans to be set up though should a team not be willing (or able) to pay a fine. As far as when fines have to be paid, as I understand it (section 12-3 in the rulebook) fines are to be paid promptly, but if that’s not possible they must be paid before NASCAR will approve the following year’s license for the person who received the fine. – Journo
5. From Thenewme:
Is ESPN TV trying to create the feeling that we are live at NASCAR races? They are doing a good job because we cannot hear the announcers. The mix of track noise is killing the commentary. We just turn the sound off.
Among the issues in an ESPN broadcast I’ve noticed that too. It’s called ‘nat sound’ – and I agree it is often too loud. It is kind of like you’re at a race though, you can’t hear the PA announcer over the cars – you can’t hear the broadcasters over the race. – Journo
6. From Mike:
Do you have a real idea how the 6 man over the wall crew is going to work next season? Have you talked to any of the truck guys about it? Does the fuel can act differently? Who is making the adjustments now?
It won’t be drastically different than what we have now. Stop times may slow down some early on, partially through inexperience and partially because the new cans don’t dump as quickly. But give the teams some time with it, and improvements will be made. You will still have five guys changing the tires, and adjustments will be made by the rear tire carrier. – T.C.
7. From dwiltone:
Something I have thought of a few times before. Is there at any time, short of loading and unloading, any reason for anyone other than the drivers to actually drive the race car? How about an older car? I mean. Ya’ll do what you do because of your love of racing. Ever have two seats in the car just to give the guys a spin so to speak? Thanks you 2.
There are times when cars will be driven around the shop complexes, but usually not at the race track. When cars are moved at the track, they are always just pushed around by the teams. For those guys who really want to experience a race car, most just go out and race. There is pretty good percentage of guys who either raced previously or still race, whether it be latemodels, go carts, or something similar. – T.C.
8. From Gabriella:
A newbie question: I’ve figured out that there’s a sub-race off pit road, but what I don’t understand is how those drivers flying out of pit road merge? E.g., what if the leader at the caution is the mighty Jimmie Johnson, who decides NOT to pit: where does he fit in the restart? Thanks!
They don’t really have to merge. At the end of pit road is a line, and the cars are put in order by who gets to the line first, second, third, etc. And if there are cars that are on the lead lap, but don’t pit, they stay behind the pace car and any cars that pitted line up behind them. So if JJ is running 5th, but he stays out and everyone else pits, JJ is the leader. – T.C.
9. From Denny:
I know every year we have all of these great rumors throughout the season. I was wondering if you are hearing any rumors of a major Cup/Cup Lite team making a manufacture-swap for 2011? Also been meaning to ask this question and this goes back to Chicago’s Cup Race. I am sure I heard one of the announcers mention either during or after the race that winner, David Reutimann’s #00 was running a new, improved intake manifold from TRD. Wouldn’t this take a long approval process from NASCAR? What was the deal with this?
The only team in either the Cup or Nationwide Series that I am fairly certain will switch manufacturers is the new Turner Motorsports. From what we’ve heard, the team will switch all the old Braun Toyotas over to Chevrolets. Other than that, I believe all the other teams are sticking with what they’ve got. To your second question, I didn’t hear anything about Reutimann using a new intake, but it’s certainly possible. Any new engine part would definitely have to go through an approval process by NASCAR, but I doubt it would be overly lengthy. – T.C.
10. From Fireball:
Are you aware of any team trying a four or three stud wheel. This would seem to speed up pit stops, but obviously less redundancy if a nut were missed?
I’ve never heard of a team trying a wheel with less studs. It’s certainly against NASCAR’s rules to use something like that, and I highly doubt NASCAR would ever approve something like that for competition. Outside of faster pit stops, I don’t really think there is an advantage to using a four or three stud wheel. – T.C.
11. From Mike:
Two questions: 1. What do you think are the chances we’ll see NASCAR at the new F1 track in Austin? 2. Have you heard anything about the future of Robby Gordon Motorsports or Robby’s career in NASCAR?
I would say probably not too likely (if they do actually get it built). It would require ISC, SMI, Dovor Motorsports, the Mattiolis, or Indianapolis to give up a date. I don’t see any of that happening. I’ve heard (I don’t know how good the info is) Robby is close on a sponsorship deal for all of his racing endeavors, but nothing is done. We’ll see. – Journo
12. From markh:
I noticed at Fontana the 18 team working on Kyle’s car under a canopy next to the hauler. What’s up with that? I’ve seen that on the Nationwide side before, but never on the Cup side.
They do that with a few of the Cup teams on their side of the garage, and I’m not really sure why. According to the Auto Club Speedway website, they have 100 garage stalls, so you’d think they could fit them all. For whatever reason though, the way they have the Cup garage area set up, that’s just what they have to do to to fit everyone in. -T.C.
And that brings yet another “Ask The Insiders Wednesday” to a close. Thanks to everyone who sent in questions. And remember, if you’d like to be a part of next week, click on the ”Ask the Insiders” tab at the top of the page and send your question in!
Whitney Poole (l) practices her #00 Chevrolet Taylor Racing Products Pro-Truck at Orlando Speedworld (Photo by Karen Pistone)
by Karen Pistone
Editor’s note: Karen Pistone is the force behind the Racingal’s Fan2Fan blog (http://racingal.com), a NASCAR fan blog which is an exceptional resource for race fans. For instance, after the past weekend’s events at Daytona, Karen posted six suggestions that would help to make the experience an even better one for fans.
Fan2Fan is an outgrowth of Pistone’s original The Fifth Turn blog, which was a part of the race page on the website of the OrlandoSentinel, where Karen works as a production artist. Production duties recently changed. causing Karen to shift her focus and move her blog to the current location.
A professed race fan for the past 25 years, Karen attended many races at Dover until relocating to Orlando in 2002 where she currently attends races at Daytona International Speedway and Miami-Homstead Speedway.
Karen’s racing heritage is impressive- she is reticent to talk about it, but I think it deserves mention: Her grandfather-in-law is former NASCAR driver “Tiger Tom” Pistone. There’s also her brother-in-law, Tom Pistone, who has his own chassis building warehouse in Statesville, NC – Performancenter Pistone LTO — and who also races, as well as cousins Tommy III, Nick and Chase. All four family members will be racing against each other at the Legends Million Dollar Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway next week, July 15-17.
And as a true race fan, Karen goes anywhere the action is to be found–whether it’s out to Daytona International Speedway for the Coke Zero 400 or to the local track at Orlando Speedworld for Friday night racin’ with friends.
The following post Karen wrote about a particular Orlando Speedworld driver who looks to be on the right track for the big time. Karen graciously agreed to have it reprinted here.
* * *
At times, I think local racing is more exciting than a NASCAR Cup or Nationwide race. You know how it is: Less rules for the drivers, and they actually let ’em race! Local tracks are also great breeding grounds; some pretty awesome drivers can emerge. They have to start somewhere, right? And nothing beats watching all those young guns (and then some) racing, bumping and grinding, doing whatever it takes trying to get that victory!
Recently I headed out to Orlando Speedworld (where I’ve become a regular) for some “local” racing under the lights. I had also invited my Orlando Sentinel “posse” along, and we all met out at the track.
I asked them to watch this one driver and to let me know what they thought. This driver had caught my attention earlier last year during the Orlando Speedworld season opener, finishing second. I wanted confirmation from other fans about what I’d been wondering: Did I want to support this driver just because she was the only female currently racing at that track — or was it because she could really race and kick some butt, holding her own up front racing with the guys, taking no BS from anyone?
The driver I’m talking about is 19-year old Whitney Poole from Vero Beach, FL. Whitney started her racing career at the age of 8 racing Go-Karts. Over the years she accomplished 104 wins, 155 Top-5’s and 162 Top-10 finishes in that league.
By the age of 17, Whitney worked her way up to motorsports driving in the Sportsman class. In 2007 she grabbed 2 wins, 6 top-5 and 17 top-10 finishes, and was named Orlando Speedworld’s Winter Series Sportsman Champion.
Whitney also participated in the Grand Slam of Trucks “Touring Series,” completing the four-race series 5th in points out of 34 teams and wining 2009 Rookie of the Year honors.
Whitney is in her second year of racing in the Taylor Racing Products Pro-Truck Series. Last year she drove the #00 ’95 Chevy to 2 top-5 and 8 top-10 finishes and finished fifth in points for the Orlando SpeedWorld 2009 season.
Whitney getting ready to run some practice laps as Dad Randy pats her helmet for luck. (Photo: Karen Pistone)
Poole’s crew consists of her Dad (and Crew Chief) Randy Poole, and Mom Kimberly Poole, who takes photos and video and is also an associate sponsor. Her pit crew includes Don Abrams, Brian Lynch Sr., Brian Lynch Jr., Bob Hall, Darrell Hubler, Eddie St. Angelo, James Barrett (spotter) and her best friend Sam Myberg (team scorer).
For the past couple of years, Whitney has been racing against some top teams – including Daytona’s and NASCAR’s France-Kennedy clan, Ben Kennedy (son of Lisa France Kennedy). To date, Whitney has yet to win a Taylor Racing Products Pro-Truck Series race.
Whitney Poole (#00) running ahead of the #96 of Ben Kennedy at Orlando Speedworld. (Photo: Karen Pistone)
Here’s a recap of some Poole racing action, excerpted from the Orlando Speedworld race program:
… Orlando Speedworld had a full race for the second straight Friday night. Without question, the race of the night belonged to the Taylor Racing Products Pro-Trucks. … After a brief caution with just 3 laps remaining, the restart saw Scott Reeves (#55) going from the top spot with Whitney Poole (#00) alongside. Row two was Anthony Sergi (#20) and Ben Kennedy (#96). … Reeves got the jump and quickly regained the lead while Sergi and Poole went side-by-side for second and after a little rubbing in Turn 1, Sergi cleared Poole, who then, following suit, took third with just two laps to go… as they raced side-by-side, Reeves got sideways…Kennedy crossed the finished line, winning, Reeves took second and Poole, third…
As it turned out, my workplace “posse” confirmed my thoughts about Whitney — they were all as impressed with her as I was. “She can drive the wheels off that truck,” said one. “She wasn’t scared of anything!!”
I asked Whitney what the significance was to having the #00 on her truck. She replied, “When I was a little kid, my dad worked on the crew (tire changer) of the #00 Hooters Pro Cup Team of Curtis Davis, so that had an influence. But when I was 8 years old, I thought it (the number) was cool because my last name was “Poole” and we would put P(00)LE on my go karts.”
Currently, Whitney’s sponsors include Advance Auto Parts, Terri O’Connell (GoTerrioGo.com) and Kimberly Poole Photography. She is currently looking for a main sponsor for the remainder of the 2010 season as well as for 2011. Orlando Speedworld is considered her “home track;” However, Whitney has competed in some select races at New Smyrna Speedway in New Smyrna Beach, FL and is currently racing a limited schedule there as well as at Orlando Speedworld and Punta Gorda Speedway.
Poole applied for NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity in 2009 but didn’t quite make the cut. It’s a tough program to get into, but Whitney isn’t giving up. She says she will keep on racing, and hopes the experience she gains will help her into Drive for Diversity.
Whitney is currently a full-time student at Keiser University, majoring in Business Marketing. She currently holds a 3.5 GPA after five semesters. She is also enrolled in online schooling so she can continue with her racing career.
As with everyone else trying to meet the demands of our sluggish economy, 2010 has been a tough year for Whitney. Her main sponsor had to pull out for reasons that were beyond her control.
One thing that had me laughing as we were sitting in the stands shooting the breeze was Whitney’s reply when asked if her truck was hard to drive.
“Compared to a car that has a manual transmission, oh yeah, my truck is easy to drive!”
Whitney Poole takes time to sign autographs for her fans out at Orlando Speedworld. Right: Whitney Poole has fans of all ages – as seen here with Gavin Koors, 6. (photos: Karen Pistone)
Having finished her race, Whitney headed down to the track where all the other drivers had gathered with their rides, to talk to and sign autographs for fans.
In addition to having a wonderful, warm and outgoing personality, Whitney handles herself like a professional and takes her racing very seriously. Racing is what she loves to do and will continue to be her focus, and maybe, just maybe, Whitney Poole will someday have her dream come true and find herself as the first female driver to win a race in NASCAR.
If you’d like to support Whitney Poole and her racing efforts, you can now buy Whitney Poole Motorsports team shirts for only $12 through her Facebook Fan Page – Whitney Poole Motorsports – or by email at Poole00@gmail.com. You can also keep up with Whitney’s racing through her website at WhitneyPoole.us.
Whitney Poole with Karen Pistone. Keep up the great work, gals!
On Friday, I got out of the shower. I do that most days, typically after getting in it. Most of the time, I wind up getting dressed in the bedroom and turn on the TV while I’m rubbing lotion into my ailing feet, then putting on my socks, pants, shoes, etc.
“Let’s Make a Deal” was on. I didn’t realize there was such a show anymore. Monty Hall recently turned 89 years old. Wayne Brady hosts it now.
So I’m watching this reworked version of a game show I grew up watching. Suddenly it occurred to me: NASCAR, over the past decade, has been a metaphor. For “Let’s Make a Deal.” NASCAR constantly turns down the money and opts for Door No. 2. Or the box.
Wayne Brady: “All right, you’ve got millions and millions of dollars. You can take that right now. Or you can give me the money and take what’s behind … that door.”
Brian Z. France: “I’m going for the door, Wayne.”
WB: “You’re already running a mainstream sport. You’re sure about this?”
BZF (dressed as a huge wedge of cheese): “I’m sure, Wayne. Who wants to be in the mainstream? I want to run the NFL out of business!”
Wayne takes the money. “What’s behind Door No. 2?”
Announcer’s voice (with buxom lass displaying merchandise): “Congratulations, Brian France, you’ll enjoy the breathtaking excitement of the Chase for the Nextel Cup! You’ll be there as the 10 best drivers in the world battle it out over 10 weeks to decide the championship of America’s Fastest Growing Sport!”
A few years later, BZF wangles another invitation to the show.
WB: “OK, Brian, you’ve earned untold millions more. You’ve implemented a new race car. You’ve moved races around. You can keep all this money, all these ticket sales, all these TV ratings, or you can risk it all on what’s in that box?”
The audience screams, “Go for it! Go For it!” Audiences always want the contestants to gamble. It’s not their money.
BZF: “Let’s see, Wayne, I could keep what I’ve got and be comfortable forever. But that’s just not good enough. I don’t want to be comfortable. No, I want to be even bigger than the NFL. I want to run the World Cup out of business. I’m going for the box!”
WB: “OK, it’s up to you. Show us what’s behind … the box!”
Announcer: “The Chase for the Sprint Cup is going to undergo changes, Mr. France! Instead of the 10 best drivers, now it’ll be the 12 best drivers!”
(Audience squeals as if Beatles just walked onto stage of “Ed Sullivan Show.”)
“But that’s not all. Oh, no, it won’t just be 10 races. It’ll be 10 races loaded with dazzling, wreck-spackled finishes … in overtime. Dozens of cars will not be allowed to remain anywhere but on the lead lap. And when the Chase begins, Mr. France, the regular-season point standings won’t have anything to do with it! The order will be determined by … that’s right … bonus points for winning!”
“How will this affect the outcome?” BZF asks in a tone of wonder, punching at the air with both fists?”
“Jimmie Johnson will still win!”
Aaaaaaaahhhhhhh. A bit of a downer from the audience.
BZF just can’t give up these occasional appearances on “Let’s Make a Deal.” He is an inveterate gambler, always willing to let everything ride. He just knows that next door will be loaded down with riches that will reverse the declining attendance and ratings.
Fortunately, BZF isn’t on the show every week or even every year. Otherwise, the utter predictability of his actions would be more obvious.
NASCAR spin doctors say the slump is all economy. The fans still love everything about NASCAR – generic cars, lucky dogs, Giggywucks, wave-arounds, etc., etc., etc. – but some of them are hurting, and they just can’t afford it. If they could afford it, they’d be there every week. This is what NASCAR says it gets from its fan councils and focus groups and marketing surveys.
If that’s true, why keep changing everything willy-nilly?
Even though everything is might-nigh perfect, says BZF, it can still be better. So he’s going to stand on that imaginary stage alongside imaginary Wayne Grady again and let everything ride, hoping Door No. 3 doesn’t have a mule and a scarecrow behind it.
In the effort to “protect the brand,” NASCAR is treating its elite class like they were frat hellions from “Animal House”– and the drivers are playing along.
Years ago, it seemed as if prominent NASCAR figures – drivers, crew chiefs, owners, sponsor reps – were always leaking things to me.
They’d pass along some piece of juicy information, invariably preceded by, “You didn’t get this from me, but …”
At one point, I responded to one of these bits of gossip by telling the source, “You know, for years and years, black people were treated badly … but eventually, Dr. Martin Luther King did come along.”
These folks wanted me to fight their battles for them.
The NASCAR equivalent of Dr. King is still nowhere to be found. Earlier this week, the news broke that the absolute ruler of stock car racing had been fining some drivers secretly. Apparently, they were guilty of “damaging the NASCAR brand.”
Isn’t it funny when men whose job involves stock cars racing one another for hundreds of laps/miles use words like “brand.” It’s a softer way of saying, basically, “Don’t you dare say something bad about us.”
The game is known as “spin.” A group of prominent figures get together, agonize over being caught doing something they didn’t want anyone to know about and discuss just how they can possibly talk their way out of a mess.
“They fine coaches in basketball for criticizing the officials.” Yeah, and they announce it when they do.
Of all people, Ryan Newman, who happens to be one of the drivers fined not-so-secretly-after-all, actually said on Friday, at Michigan International Speedway, that he was OK with such subterfuge.
“It’s no different than any other sport,” he insisted on Sirius XM satellite radio. “It’s just that we don’t want to publicize the fact that we’re penalizing people for what they say. And other sports do it non-stop, continuously, and you have repeat offenders just like you do other crimes. It’s nothing that anybody wants to be a part of, but unfortunately it’s something that we have to, a part of our sport that we have to address.”
Gee whiz. Remember the line from “Animal House”? “Thank, you, sir, may I have another?”
Jeff Burton, of whom the adjective “statesmanlike” is often used, said he didn’t think he’d ever said anything that merited a fine, so he wasn’t worried about it. It was unusual to see Burton reduced to “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.”
Tony Stewart, as usual, blamed the media. There is no truth, however, to the rumor that he blames the media for oil in the gulf, water on the knee and soap scum in the shower.
What could be worse for an allegedly mainstream sport than to punish people without admission or explanation? For years, people have joked about “double secret probation.” (Gosh, I’ll be darned. Another “Animal House” reference.) Apparently, it wasn’t a joke.
“I look at this being a private matter and think that it’s actually a good thing,” said Jimmie Johnson, even though, apparently, there were no electrodes attached to shock him if he departed from the company line. “The fact that they went to the drivers that they didn’t like what they were saying, and penalized them and fined them and talked to them about the comments they made and how it could hurt our sport was good.
“I don’t think that it’s good to have everything out in the press because all we continue to do is focus on negative things time and time again, and the circus builds around it and it goes on and on and on.”
Brian France isn’t merely the chairman. He is apparently a monarch by divine right: omnipotent, omniscient and, by his own admission, multifaceted.
Here’s the bottom line from the flip side of the equation: Fans have a right to the whole story. Start whitewashing everything, and it ruins the luster of the wood. This is just a fairy tale, and NASCAR has been playing Chicken Little to its drivers by claiming the sky is falling.
Unlike the aforementioned Mr. Little, the drivers still believe it. And they get what they deserve.
Yes, I have promised to start writing again in the past, and I am going to do it again. Maybe I will actually keep my promise this time. Life for me has gone through many changes since I was getting 10-20 articles a month here, some for the better and some not so much for the better.
Ideas for articles are always floating around in my head. Some of the ideas are the best ever written, but they never seem to get flushed out of the cerebral spheres to the digital media. That is a pattern that has to change for the better. There is too much pent up frustration in keeping good articles about racing in my head.
Tonight, my favorite racing news show, Wind Tunnel had a special episode for the week of the NASCAR All-Star race. The Jarretts, Ned and Dale, were special guests. They had the usual questions about their careers, and Dale’s impending last race of his career. But the thing that got my attention was the comment about Ned’s broadcasting with ESPN. Dave Despain said that the years of Ned, Benny Parsons, and Bob Jenkins were thought by most of the hardcore racing fans to be the best broadcasts ever done for a race.
This comment made me start thinking. I had always felt that way, but why? In prior years there had been teams that were usually made up of an “expert” and a couple of professional broadcasters. What was better about Ned, Benny, and Bob? The thing I liked about it was the fact that they realized this was a “series”. Prior to the ESPN years of the ’80’s and ’90’s racing was occasionally covered on mixed in with figure skating on ABC’s Wide World or Sports. The sport had to be “sold” to fans of stick and ball sports. That meant that every race had to have a presentation of the art of drafting, the examination of pit crew members jobs, and more crashes in the tape delay post production than laps of good racing. Saying it simply, we were being treated as 5 year olds every race.
With the growth of cable TV in the early days, the creation of 24 hour sports networks, and dedicated sports fans all came together to make the most of a special opportunity. Racing was an easy fit in that many of the races could be cheaply covered, and sponsor opportunities were everywhere. The influx of money gave the production team the opportunities to develop new ideas with moving scoring, in-car cameras at all angles, and reporters that were participants in the race.
Soon rather than coverage of 3-5 races a year, we had coverage of every race, live flag to flag. Instead of targeting a baseball fan, that only knew how to put gas in his/her daily commuter, now the broadcast was aimed at people who watched from week to week. The fans now knew all of drivers, they knew how drafting worked at Daytona and Talladega, and they were tired of being treated like 5 year olds. The broadcast team now could target a true fan for a change. They could discuss one car being stronger in the middle of a turn, and another being better at corner entry. They could handle discussions of camber and caster angles at Charlotte being different than Pocono. The fans could be treated like RACING fans.
The other big factor was the fact that the costs involved with the coverage were still fairly low. There were relatively few commercials. We got to watch racing… not graphics shows, constant repeats of the “best parts”. It was just good simple racing coverage. Just what the doctor ordered.
Today, the broadcast seems to be aimed more at entertainment, which honestly the racing has been geared more in that direction as well. The graphics and cyber replays are nice, but the true fan would probably rather see the battle going on for 14th place than an analysis of if Dale Jr. moved down or Kyle Bush moved up. The true racing fan appreciates what the sponsors had given then free of charge (at least directly) but there are as many commercials in a hundred laps now as there were in the whole race back then.
Thanks for what you gave us Ned, Benny, and Bob. It was something we will never see again.