It’s Time to Redo the Schedule

If last weekend’s fiasco in California did anything, it showed everyone — including NASCAR — that the current Sprint Cup schedule simply needs the same major overhaul that NASCAR gave its cars with the COT(oday).

OK, weather notwithstanding, look at the fallout of racing on Monday in California and having to be in Las Vegas by Friday morning (make that realistically Thursday late afternoon). And that’s after nearly two weeks in Daytona.

Look deeper into the schedule — Texas, Phoenix and Talladega start April. Then in June, there are back-to-back races at Pocono, Michigan and California (Infineon), ending the month in New Hampshire. Doesn’t get much better at the end of July and beginning of August with Indianapolis, then Pocono, Watkins Glen and Michigan. Then the season ends with Texas, Phoenix, and Homestead-Miami.

Bottom line is that any one of these venues is susceptible to terrible weather over a weekend that could disrupt travel schedules — and yes, attendance and TV viewership. But more importantly — especially in times of high gas prices — can’t NASCAR cut these teams some breaks by setting a schedule that doesn’t have them criss-crossing the U.S. week after week?

It’s possible but frankly NASCAR doesn’t seem interested in teams, drivers, or fans.

And that’s the view from here!

Jon

FIRST ROBOTICS — Theme: Overdrive

Although I’m tempted to talk about how to spell “team” with an “I”, I’ll let that go.

Instead I’d like to share some interesting and relevant information about an upcoming national competition — even more relevant given Ryan Newman’s engineering background.

FIRST Robotics is an annual competition for high school kids around the country. We at VCU, most notably our School of Engineering, have hosted the NASA/VCU regional event for the past eight years. This year’s competition, March 6-8, will include high school teams from Virginia, DC, five other states, and Canada and highlights a new themed challenge — “Overdrive,” featuring a checkered-flag logo.

Competition is rough and tumble. In fact, the “pit” area where teams work on their robots mirrors a NASCAR pit — each student/pit crew member has a specific responsibility as he or she develops the robots. The competition is timed, and ultimately the teams’ robots will compete head-to-head in robot strategy, design, and fabrication. The event represents the culmination of six weeks of intense design and construction activity by students and their professional mentors.

FIRST was founded in 1980 by inventor Dean Kamen, who is best known as the inventor of the Segway, and is a nonprofit organization. Robots and teams are made possible through their sponsorship donations, with logos proudly displayed on the robots and students (for example, uniforms).

It would have been great to have Ryan in attendance, given his engineering background. Nevertheless, since this is a nationwide competition, check out your immediate area for this exciting competition. Details can be found at http://www.usfirst.org/. A video about the competition is here.

If NASCAR is looking for diversity, here’s a great place to start!

Jon

Links

NASCAR unveils brand message targeting the core fans whose passion for the sport has cooled.
Brian Vickers is pushing NASCAR’s environmental efforts.
Daytona 500 TV ratings were slightly up over last year.
For all of its historical importance, the Daytona 500 is still just another race in the schedule.
NASCAR loosening its leash will help it restore its popularity. Also good for the sport: rivalries.
NASCAR’s history in California is rich.

Positions 6 thru 1 in the Daytona Countdown

As we approach the start of a historic race, here is the full list of the 10 greatest to ever drive at Daytona.

(To review: the results are based on statistics – not a subjective approach to the term “greatest.” The top 10 is based on a statistic of wins per miles raced at Daytona in all “money” races, such as qualifiers, the Daytona 500 and the Pepsi 400. For instance, 12,000 laps with 3 wins amounts to 1 win per 4,000 miles raced.)

10. Jimmie Johnson (5117.5 miles : 1 win total)

9. Dale Jarrett (1 win every 4166.88 miles / 4 wins total)

8. Jamie McMurray (1 win every 3770 miles / 1 win total)

7. Tony Stewart (1 win every 3473.75 miles / 2 wins total)

6. Dale Earnhardt,Jr. (1 win every 3416.25 miles / 2 wins total)

5. Bobby Allison (1 win every 2955.83 miles / 6 wins total)

4. Richard Petty (1 win every 2354.25 miles / 10 wins total)

3. David Pearson (1 win every 2184.38 miles / 8 wins total)

2. Jeff Gordon (1 win every 2103.75 miles / 6 wins total)

And finally the all-time king (sorry Richard) of Daytona is:

1.Cale Yarborough (1 win every 1745.55 miles / 9 wins total)

Now, let’s go racing …

– Mike

NASCAR’s Wish List for 2008 (Part 4)

Well, within hours of my writing this, the green flag will fall on the Gatorade Duels, marking the true beginning of the Greatest Race week. We finish with our four remaining NASCAR wishes for 2008. For wishes 10 through 8, see here. For wishes 7 through 5, see here.

Wish #4: Toyota wins. Many will hate that but many, especially in NASCAR, will love it. Why? Because it adds to the fans’ interest in the sport, to the possibility of increasing TV audiences who want to see history made, and simply because NASCAR needs something other than “Dale Jr.” to save its season. If Mikey can pull off something on Sunday, what a turn-around. If hippie-looking Tony wins, he redeems himself for the “fat punch.” Gotta love it!

Wish #3: A New Venue. NASCAR’s efforts the past four to five years shows that it still has intentions of becoming a true national sport, entering all “lucrative” markets. But will a track in Denver be the answer — given the competition with baseball, basketball, and football? Even Seattle doesn’t look promising. So where? Don’t be fooled — NASCAR’s investigating other possibilities. When it didn’t get into New York, it had Seattle and Denver in the wings!

Wish #2: Less boring races. Given last Saturday’s Shoot-out, we may just see more exciting races, even on restrictor-plate tracks. We’ll know much more after today and Sunday, that’s for sure. And, there will probably be far fewer references to the COT — just what NASCAR would like. Suggestion: DW — tone it down; we’re fans. You don’t need to sell us!!!

Wish #1: Danica sees the light. You want new faces, diversity, controversy (see last year’s ending Indy race), and someone who takes away Kasey’s sex appeal. Besides, despite what NASCAR says, it’s still a man’s sport inside the track. If the open-wheelers have the success that some are predicting, and Indy doesn’t hold onto its own drivers, Danica’s move over — especially if she wins an Indy race this year — isn’t certain but can’t be counted out.

Links

The Busch-Stewart dustup gave NASCAR some attention for reasons other than racing — apparently it was not unwelcome. At least one columnist thinks NASCAR “blew it” and Busch deserved to sit out a race.
The fight got many talking about the good ol’ days, particularly with NASCAR asking drivers before the season to loosen up a bit. But were those days better?
With so many open-wheel stars moving to NASCAR, and the popularity shift long since complete, reunification talks between Indy and Champ appear to be gaining traction. But the open-wheel defectors aren’t interested.
Coke Zero signs up to sponsor the summer Daytona race.
Former Warner Bros. exec new NASCAR VP of entertainment marketing.
So far, so good for COT.

Links

The U.S. economy’s fortunes will likely impact NASCAR’s for the worse this year.
Claim: Image tweak will not help NASCAR’s sagging popularity.
Some newspapers are making changes to the way they cover NASCAR.
Questions await COT before its first Daytona appearance.
AT&T hopes to continue its NASCAR sponsorship presence beyond 2008.
Harvick says open-wheelers taking wrong approach and will struggle this year.
Gillet Evernham names CEO.

NASCAR’s Wish List for 2008 (Part 3)

Continuing the examination of our “NASCAR’s Wish List for 2008, we explain wishes 5 through 7, keeping in mind the “business” emphasis of the wishes. (Details on 8-10 are here.)

#7: Everyone loves the COT: The Car of Tomorrow is certainly now the Car of Today, at least in the Sprint Cup series. Tests at various locations last week showed that times were fairly comparable to those of the former cars. Most drivers had kind words for the COT as well. If success and happy drivers come out of Daytona, NASCAR’s efforts to create a safer car while minimizing team costs will be an overwhelming success. The fear of IROC style racing will be dissipated, and the fans can turn their attention back to racing and not controversy. It’s a win-win-win for NASCAR, teams and fans.

#6: One of the open-wheel drivers – preferably Montoya – makes the Chase: What better way to show the world that NASCAR racing is truly the best racing than to have an open-wheeler make the Chase. The new arrivals are adding to the diversity of the sport (at least “international diversity”) and can only help to entice open wheel fans to the NASCAR scene. That translates to fuller grandstands and larger TV audiences. And that makes NASCAR happy.

#5: An end to bickering over the 35 rule: We all know the 35 rule was instituted to ensure that major sponsors — doling out lots of change from their pockets — would have representation each week of racing. Despite the many calls — and there have been many calls from a variety of sectors — NASCAR isn’t about the scrap the rule. It’s still about the business of NASCAR, and ensuring happy sponsors is a primary goal. So, let’s get over it and go back to racing.

Remaining four wishes next week.

Can’t wait for Saturday—it’s been a long winter!

Jon