Do Sprint Cup Owners Put Too Much Pressure on Drivers?

In an October 1 Jeremy Dunn article titled Red Bull Racing releases A.J. Allmendinger, NASCAR proves once again how brutal and short lived the life of a Sprint Cup driver really is. It was announced that Scott Speed and Mike Skinner would replace Allmendinger for the rest of the season. Unfortunately for Allmendinger he was just starting to show progress in his sophomore year in the stock car series although he had barely any previous experience. Just a rookie last year he missed 19 of the 36 races. But can Red Bull and NASCAR really be so hard on him. What can really be expected of a rookie driver climbing into a brand new car with a rookie team in support of a new manufacturer? Is he supposed to be making a run for the Cup in his first season? After being replaced by Mike Skinner at the beginning of the season, Allmendinger returned to the seat of the Red Bull Toyota and began to show a great deal of progress. Red Bull, making another glorious move, decided to put Formula One Star Scott Speed in the 84 Toyota in 2009. Allmendinger, a young driver showing a great deal of promise in only his second year, now has his future up in the air and Red Bull is banking on an untested Formula One Star.

NASCAR Sprint Cup owners rush drivers into the biggest stock car series in the world. With the lights, the cameras, millions of fans, and most of all pressure, is it really fair to say new drivers might take a few years to get the hang of this thing. Drivers are released and left out to dry when they don’t become instant super stars or something more appealing comes along. This is not the first time this scenario has happened and most certainly won’t be the last. In 2001, Ray Evernham’s young star, Casey Atwood, struggled through most of his rookies season and just like Allmendinger began to show a great deal of improvement towards the end of the season. Atwood won a pole and led laps at Phoenix and a week later almost won at Homestead. Unfortunately it was again not enough and Evernham replaced him with veteran Jeremy Mayfield.

We will see what the future holds for Allmendinger as well as Scott Speed. And that’s the view from here.

“Declining Economy May Be the Finish Line for NASCAR”

Scary times are ahead as the US dollar declines and the economy goes with it. Almost all businesses are feeling the pain of the economy going into arrest, and NASCAR is a business that is no different. Retail markets are drying up, and in response, big businesses that double as race sponsors are starting to tighten their belts to insulate their assets. On the NASCAR circuit, the drivers and their teams are the ones feeling the impact as sponsors cut back heavily on their usual spending and advertising.
NASCAR may be in trouble as its main source of income, seventy-five percent of its budget, comes from sponsorship dollars. Compared to even this time last year, large companies that are regulars in the NASCAR world have considered cut backs if not already cutting their spending. Current NASCAR stakeholders worry that the near future may bring widespread layoffs throughout its business structure, and even fielding all 43 cars may become an issue. Drivers are implementing split sponsorships to cope with the changing times and to pay their incurred expenses. “Tip to tail” sponsorship is becoming a thing of the past as most cars that race now are littered with logos from several sponsors, and almost all space on the cars are prime sales for advertisers. Even popular drivers such as Tony Stewart are having trouble finding funding, not just for themselves, but for their teammates.
Drivers are also acquiring sponsors for only a certain number of races per season, instead of the entire season, and are now becoming pressured to constantly find cash investors. The hardest hit are those who are independent car owners that solely depend on sponsorship.
Smaller sponsors are now starting to join NASCAR, and are creating a new stream of revenue that is helping relieve financial plight. But if most of the original larger investors pull out, will these new investors be enough to support the NASCAR business? Outside of NASCAR, how are other motorsports being affected by weakening economies?
Recently the Canadian Grand Prix has been dropped from the 2009 schedule, cancelling all races in North America, and the French Grand Prix has been cancelled as well. It is not only the US that is struggling at this current time; rather, declining economies, increased operating cost and reduced sponsorship are hurting NASCAR and even greater, motorsports as a whole.
And that’s the view from here.

Song of the South No More

There has been discussion about what the future holds for NASCAR. Will it expand into more markets in the United States? Will it go into Mexico or Canada or perhaps overseas? First and foremost, NASCAR is a business and there is no question that it wants to increase its market size. I don’t think, however, that NASCAR can expand while hanging onto the Southern image.

When people who aren’t fans hear about NASCAR, an image of drunken, redneck, good ol’ boys pops into their heads. People don’t want to associate themselves with that type of lifestyle, especially the wealthier ones, if that is the image conveyed to them. If people don’t want to associate themselves, there is no fan base in that area and thus no expansion into that market.

What NASCAR needs to do is figure out a way to portray the American values, which are found in the South, to these potential new fan bases. These values include hard work, dedication, and passion, to name a few. In reality, however, many people worldwide possess these core values. They are able to relate to the sport thus increasing NASCAR’s fan base. These values are just as easily virtues that everyone wants to strive for.

The key for NASCAR is to separate the American/Southern values from the Southern image. That is the only way for new domestic and international markets to embrace this sport. People may not be able to relate to corporate sponsorships or the business of the sport but NASCAR can hook them with an image of being a dedicated hard worker just as cigarette ads got teenagers hooked by sending a message it was cool.

Internationally, NASCAR needs to make the sport seem so universal that it is easy for people to accept it. Not many Europeans would want to associate themselves with a sport whose American fans’ lifestyle they dislike. Everyone can relate to the values, not everyone can or wants to relate to the image.

In closing, the southern image cannot survive in NASCAR if NASCAR wants to expand. NASCAR can’t expand if it wants to keep the Southern image. Emphasize the American/Southern values if NASCAR wants to grow and eradicate the image. NASCAR management needs to decide which way it wants to go because it can’t do both.
And that’s the view from here.

So It’s Not All Going in Circles

So these NASCAR drivers are supposed to be some of the best drivers in the world? Why don’t we throw a few more road races into the Sprint Cup Series season to see who really is the “best driver?”
I know one problem as to why some people resist watching NASCAR is because all they think the drivers do is go left. If you follow the sport closely, you know that there is a lot more to it than that. So I pose the question, why not add more road races to show a different aspect of NASCAR? Adding more of these races could capture more fans because road races show these impressive machines going in and out of both right and left hand turns instead of just going in circles.
Fans love the road stuff and even the drivers like a challenge every once in a while. It would be a change of scenery for drivers, instead of going left every weekend. The oval tracks seem to have fewer close finishes than the road courses, unless of course there is a late yellow flag artificially stacking the field. NASCAR is missing a huge opportunity in expanding its fan base by not having more of these exciting road races. Heck, maybe more road races will attract fans of similar racing styles like Formula I and IndyCar.
And that’s the view from here.


The other day in class, we had a guest speaker and the topic of sponsorships came up. I never really thought about local sponsors until this discussion. Nowadays, NASCAR is such a big promotional campaign that a lot of people forget about the “little man.” I understand that NASCAR sponsorships are very expensive and not many local companies can afford to put their logo on a car. Lately, NASCAR has grown to be a huge sport and now the fans can’t really relate to their favorite drivers anymore.
When I was growing up, NASCAR was all about “good ol’ boys” trying to make a dollar and many fans could relate to their drivers. Now, drivers are making millions upon millions and the fans are separating from the relationship with their drivers. I think one way that NASCAR can bring back that relationship between the drivers and fans is by offering a discount to local companies wanting to put their logo on a car or even at the track. One way I think this could be done is by having sponsors for certain races. For instance, when the drivers come to Richmond International Raceway, RIR should try to promote the race name to local companies. (i.e., Ukrop’s 400—a large, local supermarket). Even some teams could offer one race sponsors for local companies at the certain track they are racing at. I also think that this would increase the fan base because people that don’t know too much about racing would see local companies on cars and would be able to relate to the drivers. This, I think, would bring more fans to NASCAR.
It just disappoints me sometimes to see that NASCAR is turning to that outlook of “it’s all about the money.” I think that NASCAR, race teams, and race tracks could afford to allow local small companies to become a sponsor at a race. I just hope that NASCAR won’t grow so much that it loses its fan base that started it all.
And that’s my view from here.

NASCAR’s New Drug Policy- – Too Broad?

NASCAR officials introduced a new drug test policy that will begin on January 1, 2009. Drug testing will be conducted by AEIGIS Sciences Corporation beginning with all drivers at races in January. Random testing will include drivers, crewmembers, and NASCAR officials. NASCAR is declaring the right to test for any drug, from prescription medicines to steroids.
Overall, the policy is more in line with those of other sports. However, the new policy does not include a specific list of banned substances. Is this new policy going to be too broad? Some feel as though this policy opens the door for legal problems and that it can give somebody a pass to something.
Steve O’Donnell stated that he wants to keep the policy broad because it allows NASCAR to test for abuse of all substances. Most sports have lists of banned drugs because they focus on preventing illegal and performance enhancing drugs. NASCAR wants to leave it more open-ended because it knows that NASCAR has large safety issues. Something that may be legal in other sports could be harmful when racing. As Kyle Petty stated, “Look, a drug is a drug is a drug. This is not shooting hoops; this is not hitting a fastball. This is life and death. In a sport like this, everything should be off limits unless there is a medical reason.”

Three failed tests will result in an automatic lifetime ban from the sport and the governing body also reserves judgment to impose a lifetime ban after one failed test. Drivers must notify NASCAR when they are taking a prescribed medicine before they are tested. The drivers agree with NASCAR and feel as though there should be a tougher testing program and are happy to know that it will be applied throughout the entire sport. NASCAR has always been perceived as a clean sport, and this is its way of backing it up.

I feel that it is important that NASCAR is introducing a new policy. This is one step closer for NASCAR to be like the other major sports that have strict drug policies. Even though NASCAR is already perceived as a clean sport, it is important that the organization is able to back it up with results to prove it. Also, it is probably a good thing that the list isn’t specific because it would probably have to be constantly changed. This way will know that all drugs are banned because no drug is safe. Drivers shouldn’t have to worry about if the other drivers or crewmembers are on a drug or not. This is NASCAR’s way of making sure that the drivers are always safe. If you don’t play by NASCAR’s rules, then you don’t play at all.

And that’s the view from here.


Diversity in NASCAR

When I think of diversity in NASCAR, three primary topics come to mind: age, race, and gender (in that order). Since the fundamental idea behind the business of NASCAR is to make money, team owners are looking to recruit younger drivers each day. The older drivers are beginning to phase out, while the owners are looking for long-term investments.

Joe Gibbs Racing is the easiest target right now; they just signed 18-year-old Joey Lagano to a long-term contract reportedly up to 5 years, an added bonus to the normal 3-year contract. An 18-year-old signs a very lucrative sports contract, sounds like I have heard of this before. NASCAR seems to be more like other sports than many people give them credit.

Do we really know how much this kid has to offer? There is the question of experience: is he ready to move up the ranks of racing? Well, Joe Gibbs answered that question by replacing Tony Stewart. Being a Hall of Fame NFL Football coach and accomplished “investor”, what does he have left to do but find ways to make more money? Many people think Lagano has the talent, and we will soon find out whether that holds true.

Age, then what? Ah, Joe Gibbs Racing is also working with 18-year-old African-American Marc Davis as a developmental driver. He already made his truck debut with Randy Moss Racing this past month and will be making his Nationwide Series debut on October 25 in Memphis, TN. This situation embodies the diversity of age and race, implying that Gibbs is looking for all young talent.
As far as gender goes, female drivers date back to 1949 with Sara Christian, the year after NASCAR was formed. Most recently the names Patty Moise, Shawna Robinson, and Danica Patrick have been in the mix. It is obvious that female drivers have made appearances on the circuit, but were not able to make a successful run in the NASCAR world. The looming question is whether women can compete with men in this business.

What will be the next minority group to take a shot at NASCAR?

And that’s my view from here.