JUST WHAT IS NASCAR’S CHALLENGE?

Writing in his NASCAR.com column last week, David Caraviello shared his views on “NASCAR’s real challenge” — not TV ratings or ticket sales. Rather, “fan base” is the real problem: the disparity between “traditional fans” (spell that “old timers”) and the “new fans” (see “chardonnay” in your dictionary).

Caraviello suggests that the traditional fans need to understand the need for NASCAR to change in order to continue to grow while new fans need to realize that those who came before see NASCAR not simply as a sport but as a “prized heirloom passed from one generation to the next”. Thus, traditional fans need to accept the “car of today” and that NASCAR will continue to evolve and new fans must understand that a Saturday evening or Sunday afternoon is more than just entertaining clients.

I would like to inject my opinion on what else constitutes the “NASCAR challenge”: NASCAR’s inability to reconcile its desire to “keep racin’” with placating its financial supporters. What do I mean, you ask? A couple of days ago Juan Pablo Montoya was fined $10,000 and placed on Busch Series probation until December 31 for making an obscene gesture during Busch Series practice. NASCAR stated that he was in violation of Section 12-4-A of the Busch Series rules book: “actions detrimental to stock car racing”.

Let’s get real here children! Anyone reading this blog is probably guilty of “actions detrimental” to their offspring riding in the family car when someone cut them off in traffic!

I doubt most followers of NASCAR were even aware of JPB’s adolescent behavior — or care! The problem is NASCAR’s inability to understand that driving 160 mph oftentimes leads to tempers flaring. NASCAR’s desire to be non-controversial in order to keep sponsors happy has led to “too much grease on the squeaky wheels” and way-to-many trips to the wood shed. If NASCAR wants to fill the grandstands and increase TV viewership, it needs to be less concerned with “regulatin’” and more concerned with “good ol’ racin’”. What do you think?

(By the way, I prefer cabernet.)

Jon

Phoenix: A Bird Story

This is a story about a bird…

It was nice to see a good, competitive 500 KM (kilometers for you non-metric types) race
even if DW and the gang kept waiting for total brake failure (I see those rotors glowing red!).
However, even this early in the season it is painfully obvious that the ‘competition’ has devolved
into three clear levels. Let’s call them A, B and C (clever, huh?). I think there is also a D level
but I grade on the curve so…

With that said it was clearly JG’s day/night. His 76 wins is quite an accomplishment and if he races about another 22 years he will finally catch King Richard. Not bad for someone who will be nearly 60 by then. But I kid in jest. With JG’s winning percentage he should have no trouble catching the Silver Fox. So,love him or hate him, he will go down as one of the greats when he hangs up his driving shoes. Plus I think some fans that were at best ambivalent to him are warming to his gestures (witness the #3 flag tribute).

Now back to my bird story…

The bird in question is not a real one, rather a mythical one.
In ancient mythology, the phoenix was a mythical sacred firebird whose tears could heal wounds.

There were many wounded hearts this past week — I know the Phoenix has shed many tears.

As it was stated in A Christmas Carol by Tiny Tim

“God bless us, every one!”

Yes, indeed, God bless us all.

That’s the view from (The Hokie Nation) here…

Michael

No indigestion here, so let’s all go to Billy Bob’s (after all we have the Prilosec)

Well a two-peat. Perhaps it is time to shuffle the rules? Nah, it was a fine race with plenty of sunny weather (finally) and dented sheet metal from the frontrunners. So, in the end, JB had the right stuff and the Prilosec (good stuff – I use it) purple ruled the day (Hey, even TUMS was there.)

So let’s review …

Little E — Gentleman. After all he “Cheezed-It” after Kyle pulled a Houdini.

JPM — Lurking, lurking (just outside the top 12)

Army of One — Back in the Top 12 and running great. Arkansas and no COT makes for a refreshed driver.

Me :( — No Toyota in the winners circle. Hope no one put any $$ on my prognostication! (I sure didn’t).

But the fortunate soul of the week award goes to …

Michael W. — While upside down in too many ways, he’s still alive to talk about it.

So the road show leaves Cowtown and heads for Hoozdo. As I understand it, in Navajo, it means ‘the place is hot’.

I certainly hope so.

That’s the view from here.

Michael

BTW — If I had driven my car from, say, Charlotte to Ft.Worth and wasn’t in the top 43, I think I’d be…

NASCAR and the Academic World — Coming Together?

Academic interest in NASCAR continues to grow.
When Mike and I started teaching our “Business of NASCAR” Honors module, we couldn’t find anyone doing anything similar, although the “techies” were offering courses. Now a program has been developed at Belmont Abbey College in Charlotte, North Carolina, that has some support from Lowe’s Motor Speedway. The program is a business concentration in Motor Sports Management (check it out here).

In addition, Keith Green, director of public relations at Richmond International Raceway, is teaching a course on the “Business and Marketing of NASCAR” at Virginia State University, located between Richmond and Petersburg. Keith has spoken to our class on several occasions and told me that the course Mike and I teach was the inspiration for his course.

Clearly, academia has begun to recognize that motorsports, especially NASCAR, is not just “sports” but big business as well. Maybe Mike and I really did know what we were doing!

See you next week — and again we welcome your comments.

Jon

Resurrection: A Halloween story for the middle of April

“I heard the voices of friends vanished and gone”
Bruce Springsteen

This is a timely blog. Read it in the daylight.

Ghosts. Do you believe in them? Have you ever felt a chill down your neck or the hairs raise on your arm? If so, I wonder what the chill nighttime must feel like around graveyards* with such names as:

Darlington (The Lady in Black)

Greenville-Pickens

Hickory

Nashville (now Music City Motorplex)

North Carolina Speedway (Rockingham)

North Wilkesboro

Road America

South Boston

A legion of others……

I wonder what the pits are like in the deadlights of the moon. Do surreal crew members appear from the mist and then vanish with the first rays of the sun? Do fenders grind in the night as cars run as if possessed?

We have the “Car of Tomorrow,” but where is yesterday?

I have a modest proposal for NASCAR. Let’s resurrect yesterday.

Each year choose one or two (old) track(s) for a special ‘rewind of time’ race. You can work out the details. After all our roots run deep, don’t they?

The moon is rising so I must vanish. For now.

That’s the view from 1963….

Michael

*Yes, I know some still run either a partial NEXTEL schedule or other NASCAR events.

A QUIET WEEK IN NASCARVILLE

To paraphrase Garrison Keillor, it was a quiet week in NASCARville.

Not many rumblings about the COT (CoRN, etc.) from those in the trenches. No loud racing sounds on Sunday past, although Saturday was somewhat interesting.

A reminder that Mike and I predicted a victory by Toyota within the first seven races — we never said which series, though. Putting Toyotas in three of the first four places on Saturday does demonstrate that Toyota is a reality, regardless of the series. Still, I must admit that Mike and I were really speaking of the Nextel Cup series with our prediction.

More resurfacing (Darlington after the May race preceded by Bristol’s resurfacing now) suggests that the COT might still require some “tweaking” through most of the season given the continuing “unknowns.”

It was interesting, though, when several drivers spoke out after Bristol and Martinsville, stating that they (all the drivers) needed to “quit griping, get over it, and start racing.” The COT is here and it is here to stay! Unlike the NBA players complaining about their new basketball, all the complaining in the world won’t change the direction that NASCAR has taken in terms of the COT.

Whether the fans embrace the COT remains to be seen but I doubt that even a loud noise from the grandstands will make much difference. The key is the previously mentioned “tweaking” that teams and NASCAR engineers do to make the racing more interesting.

That’s it for now — keep the comments coming and let’s go racing Texas style.

Jon

JUST MAYBE THE SKY IS, INDEED, FALLING!

I hate to be a “Chicken Licken” but maybe the sky in NASCAR Country is indeed falling. Consider the following:

The resistance by the public and government officials in New York and Washington results in ISC dropping its quest to build tracks there.

The request by AT&T for an injunction against NASCAR so that the AT&T logo can appear on #31.

The continuing lawsuit by Kentucky Speedway against NASCAR and ISC in order to be given a race date.

Continuing falling television ratings — viewership for Martinsville was down nearly 4 percent from last year (which also wasn’t a stellar ratings season).

Seats still not sold out at various venues (even Richmond International Raceway is advertising tickets for sale for the Nextel Cup race in May).

Disgruntled Nextel drivers dealing with the CoRN (Car of Right Now, as some have begun calling it).

Hardcore fans lamenting the fact that NASCAR seems to be opting for more and more $$$$ at the expense of good racing.

As my colleague Mike would say, it sure would be more fun to have Jocko Flocko back in the race. That would take our minds off looking up at the sky to check on what’s dropping next.

Jon

Bizarro world and then the rains came….

In the Superman comics, the Man of Steel occasionally came up against the Bizarro world – a world in which it is a crime to make anything perfect. As I watch today, I wonder if we are seeing the COT’s Bizarro doppelgänger, the COBF2&BP (Car of Broken Fuel Lines, Burning Foam and Brake Problems)?
To me, the big news today wasn’t the race – it was OK (alright I am writing this during the rain delay – so penalize me 25 points already) – rather the continuing ‘shake out ” towards perfecting the COT. Learning curves happen and it does take time to figure problems out but this is getting old – quickly. Frankly, I was bored by the race and more interested in what problems would next be manifested (re: flaming interior foam anyone? Note: Supposedly this cannot happen).
While truly loyal fans will root for little E or Tony etc. even if they were racing donkeys (or cockroaches – see last week’s blog) they shouldn’t have cars that drive like donkeys. So I say give the teams some room and let them advance some solutions or ….
Well, the rain is done and the race resumes …
Post-race comment:
OK, OK. The last 10 or so laps were pretty good but still how about five or six cars banging for the checker instead of two? Let’s see if the COT/COBF2&BP can do that!
Bring on “Htrae”!! “This am part of genius Bizarro self-improvement plan”*
Let’s just hope Superman arrives before it is too late.
That’s the (somewhat rainy) view from here…
Michael
*Thanks for Wikipedia note on Bizarro.