LOYALTY!

I’ve been struck by some events recently that speak to the concept of “loyalty”. Now, loyalty is defined in part as “faithfulness to commitment” and in this political year, various candidates’ loyalty to party, principle, or country will be repeatedly attacked. Yet, in NASCAR we’ve witnessed what “loyalty” is about. Let me explain my thesis.

Tony Stewart decided, and in part I agree with his decision, to leave the owner and team that gave him the opportunity to be the driver in NASCAR that he is. He had an opportunity to “go on his own” (and I predicted he would) because of the opportunity. Violation of “loyalty”? Not hardly. And Tony asked Ryan Newman to join him, which he did. Violation of “loyalty”? Again, not guilty. Both had opportunities to “move on” (as we’re so fond of saying.)

Now comes my point—Joe Gibbs Racing showed its loyalty and commitment to an 18-year old (Joey Logano, in case you haven’t been following). Joe Gibbs is probably one of, if not the most, upstanding owner in NASCAR circles. His willingness to take on, first, Denny Hamlin (not a really proven entity) and then Kyle Busch (with his baggage) and turning them both into winners shows how smart he is. And he’ll continue to support them—spell that “l-o-y-a-l-t-y” as they continue to develop.

And add Greg Zipadelli to that list of loyalists! He didn’t run off with Tony but stayed with JGR and Logano. He even believes that Joey has a chance to make the Chase next year—and his efforts will reflect his loyalty to Logano and JGR!

And finally, congratulations to Home Depot for hanging in with JGR during this uncertain change in drivers. Frank Bifulco, senior VP for HD, indicated that there was serious discussion about whether to go with Joey, but in the long run Home Depot showed its “loyalty” to Joe Gibbs Racing by accepting JGR’s decision to put Joey in the #20. “Loyalty”—in sports it seems that that term is spelled in dollars most of the time. This week we found out what it really means. And given the political times, I certainly wish some politicians would reflect on that word.

And that’s the view from here.

Jon

THE “F WORD” RAISES ITS HEAD—AGAIN!

I’ve been on vacation for the past few weeks and thus haven’t been submitting any blog entries, but now it’s back to work.

And, with the Race for the Chase nearing its end, everyone’s attention is on who will make the Chase—and it’s close. But rather than ramble on that topic, I’d like to address recent comments by #31 regarding the “long-term health of NASCAR”.

It seems that Jeff Burton believes it’s in the best interest of NASCAR, the teams, and the sponsors if the number of cars attempting to qualify for a race is limited to the 43 slots.

“The philosophy of having 48 cars all vying for 43 sports, I know that’s cool and everything. Or the thought that if you’re not good enough, you just go home because you don’t deserve to be in the race. But that’s not economically sound,” said Burton in an interview at Michigan last week.

He believes that spreading the sponsorship dollars over more cars de-values the sponsor—and even hurts teams because the sponsors will, in the current economic climate, not be as willing to risk backing a team that possibly will not make the race.

“Forty-three cars that are assured of being in the field is the best scenario for our sport,” Burton stated.

I’m not even saying the “F-word” (and here’s more on the “F word”) but to me it certainly sounds like that’s what Jeff is saying. And how does a team get to be one of the 43?

Here’s a thought for you — if the number of cars attempting to qualify for a race is limited to 43, how do we get new drivers, new teams, and new sponsors into the sport? Yes, the sponsors of those 43 teams are quite happy knowing their driver will be in the race but I think it’s short-sighted in the long run.

But that’s simply the view from here.

Jon

House of Cards?

I remember as a youngster that we had to come up with games to play (especially during summer vacation when it rained). One of those was taking a deck of cards and building a “house of cards”. Of course, the foundation was very strong–often several cards long. But as the “house” was built, tensions mounted. Ultimately, the house collapsed, not because of a weak foundation but because of trembling hands as we added to the levels of the “house”.

I’m struck by how much NASCAR might be experiencing the “trembling of hands”. First, the fall-off of attendance at races. Then, the diminished TV viewership (albeit, better this year–Gas Prices?). Then, the lawsuit brought by a NASCAR official for sexual and racial discrimination and unlawful employment termination. Now, the economy, which has affected so many aspects of NASCAR–attendance at races, gas prices for teams traveling here and there, termination of the Nationwide series race in Mexico City in 2009, loss of sponsors–including auto manufacturers of races at a couple of tracks. And the list goes on. Add to it the debacle at the Brickyard (those in the “know” are still writing about it).

So, is the “trembling hand” perched above NASCAR? Is the “house” about to crumble? Or worse, for NASCAR to lose its ability to say it’s the “second most popular sport” in the Usof A?

I don’t agree with “Chicken-licken”–the sky’s not falling–YET. And that’s the view from here. Jon