CONCUSSIONS IN NASCAR

Concussions have been talked about in depth recently in the sports world. Thousands of players are suing the NFL because of the way it handled concussions in the past. Concussions may have led to two suicides this year of former NFL players Ray Easterling and Junior Seau who took their lives possibly because of the long term effects of suffering from multiple concussions. But it was not until a few weeks ago that concussions made headlines in another sport, NASCAR. This is when the sport’s biggest superstar, Dale Earnhardt Jr., announced that he would be sitting out two races because of a concussion that he sustained in a crash at Talladega Superspeedway on October 7. By doing this, he was essentially giving up any chance at winning the championship this year. But unlike the NFL, NASCAR has no way of testing for concussions or any protocol for sitting drivers if they have a concussion. Dale Jr. was sat down by his doctor because he went to him with headaches. Would other drivers that are in the Chase for a championship suffering from the same thing sit and lose any hope of winning? Two of the most popular drivers, Denny Hamlin and Jeff Gordon, say that they would not sit. “If I was in my position, I’d probably hide it,” said Denny Hamlin, who is fifth in the standings, 49 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson. “I’d race on, or at worst, I’d run a lap, get the points, get out and let someone else do it.” “Honestly, I hate to say this, but no, I wouldn’t (see a doctor),” Gordon said. “If I have a shot at the championship, there are two races to go, my head is hurting, and I just came through a wreck, and I am feeling signs of it, but I’m still leading the points, or second in the points, I’m not going to say anything. I’m sorry.” This may cause NASCAR to look at the way, or lack of a way, they handle concussions. There could be baseline testing done on each driver and the same test administered after a crash to see if the driver sustained any head trauma during the wreck. You can read about the specifics of baseline testing here: http://www.sportsconcussions.org/ibaseline/2011-07-08-05-45-58/testing-baseline. To implement such procedures would not only help with the safety of the injured driver, but the safety of all drivers on the track. I know if I was out there racing at speeds over 200 mph, the last thing I would want is the driver beside or in front of me getting dizzy and wrecking other cars because he is impaired by the effects of a concussion. DH

WHO WILL TAKE HOME THE 2012 SPRINT CUP?

Jimmie Johnson pulled out a victory at the Tums Fast Relief 500 in Martinsville; the race for the cup now is between two drivers. The 5-time champion Jimmie Johnson, and Brad Keselowski, who is trailing by only two points in the standings. Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne are 26 and 29 points behind, respectively. After an unfortunate turn of events for Denny Hamlin, he is now 49 points behind.

The next race is at a 1.5 mile track in Texas. In the past five races at Texas Motor Speedway, Jimmie Johnson has averaged a 7th place finish, including two 2nd place finishes while Keselowski only averages a 25th finish with his highest being 14th. One would argue that statistically, Johnson has the strong advantage in this race.

The second of the three races left is in Phoenix, where Jimmie Johnson has had tremendous success. In the past five races there, he averages a 5.8th place finish, including 4 top 5 finishes. Keselowski is averaging a 19.2nd place finish, with only 1 top 10 finish. The statistics for this race can be somewhat misleading, though, because this past March at Phoenix, Jimmie finished in 4th and Keselowski in 5th.

The final race of the Sprint Cup another 1.5 mile track, at Miami. This race seems to be statistically even. Over the past three races in Miami, Johnson has achieved two top 5 finishes averaging a 13th place finish. For Keselowski, in the past three races he is averaging a 19.33rd place finish with 0 top 10 finishes. However, last year Keselowski finished in 20th and led 11 laps, while Johnson finished in 32nd and only led 2 laps.
After looking at the past results over the past couple years, we have a pretty consistent veteran 5-time champion, Jimmie Johnson. Opposing Johnson will be up-and-coming Brad Keselowski who is definitely having a breakout year. He has 5 wins and 21 top 10 finishes this year compared to Johnson’s 4 wins and 23 top 10 finishes.
I believe these next three races will be very close and provide a lot of excitement for fans. While Keselowski is having the best year of his career, I believe that Johnson will eventually be crowned the champion for the sixth time in his career, placing him ONE title away from NASCAR greats Dale Earnhardt & Richard Petty. Who do you think will come out victorious at the end of the season? TH

[stats taken from http://www.driveraverages.com]

The Fox Hole

After negotiations ended this past Monday between NASCAR and FOX TV, the television station may consider ducking for cover as fans are left hanging with many questions. When Fox TV signed contracts on Monday giving it the right to air the Sprint Cup Races through year 2022, it failed to give fans and consumers the lowdown on how it will go about televising the races starting in 2013, with the first races during Speed Weeks at Daytona. Their new network, Fox Sports One, will be the rebranded name of the SPEED network, but will it provide the same satisfaction for fans?

In relation to the benefits for the motor sports industry, this deal with FOX TV will boost NASCAR’s income, as well as the income for tracks and teams. This income, in turn, will help maintain lower ticket prices for fans and increase race winnings for teams, which possibly reduces the level of corporate sponsorship. However, this scenario may be at cost to the fans watching at home. Not only will Fox have rights to air the first 13 Sprint Cup races and the entire Camping World Truck Series, but it also gets the digital rights for online streaming yet it is unclear whether fans will have to pay for online access. With FOX also announcing that the new deal will take some of Sprint Cup races off network television, internet access for fans will be even more crucial than before.

The next big issue for fans is the question of how FOX will go about televising the practices and qualifiers. With no official word on the status of televising these events, it leaves fans with the possibility of not being able to watch at all. Even though Fox could air those events on its subordinate stations like Fuel TV or FX, the fans at home will not be pleased having to watch multiple channels to get their fix, especially when they could previously watch everything on the SPEED network.

The biggest issue comes from the clash between what commercial sponsors want and what the fans want. Considering that Fox TV is such a highly rated network, commercial sponsors will be fighting to place their ads during as many NASCAR events as possible. Unfortunately for fans, this means more interruptions that could prevent viewers from seeing their favorite racer cross the finish line or catching the wreck they’ve been waiting for the whole race to see. With the amount of money spent on ads by sponsors, the proposal for a split screen for commercials will not go over lightly. In the end, Fox has a lot of people to please, and it’s a sure thing that not everyone will walk away happy. JH

NASCAR: AMERICAN MADE

NASCAR has been an American sporting icon for decades. Thousands of American families of all ages and sizes enjoy NASCAR events on a weekly basis. Nothing helps create a fond family memory of these experiences like a piece of official NASCAR memorabilia such as a T-shirt or baseball cap. Unfortunately, the vast majority of NASCAR memorabilia is manufactured outside of the United States. Recently, a renewed effort has been made to bring manufacturing of these items back to within the United States of America.

Charlotte Motor Speedway has identified this issue and is taking strides to adjust the situation. Charlotte Motor Speedway is located in North Carolina and is owned by parent company Speedway Motorsports Inc. SMI currently has a 50 percent share in the rights to a majority of NASCAR and team specific merchandise. Marcus Smith, president of Speedway Motorsports Inc., has begun to direct the company to order as much “Made in the USA” merchandise as possible. Smaller items such as pens, key chains, and other similar trinkets will continue to be manufactured overseas. However, larger items such as sweatshirts and jackets will begin production inside the US.

Smith recognizes that this new operation will involve more cost but states that it is only right to have American-made merchandise for such a traditionally patriotic sport. Smith believes that American NASCAR patrons will be more inclined to purchase merchandise if they are visually assured that items are made here in the United States of America. HR

NASCAR REINSTATES ALLMENDINGER

A.J. Allmendinger was recently reinstated by NASCAR after completing his drug program, which NASCAR calls the “Road to Recovery Program.” In my opinion this may have been a bad decision by NASCAR because it seems like they didn’t take his situation seriously enough. NASCAR should have taken time to more fully examine what was going on in Allmendinger’s life, such as looking into Allmendinger’s history and lifestyle. Originally, two drug tests were conducted by NASCAR and both were positive for an amphetamine, which means he definitely had something in him that wasn’t supposed to be there. Yet, Allmendinger claimed he didn’t know what or how it got in his body. If he got through NASCAR’s program in only a matter of a few months, then he might possibly be more likely to “do” drugs again later in his life. Prior drug use could also lead to drug use in the future even after he is retired from racing. An addict will always be an addict even after they quit using drugs and A.J. Allmendinger is no exception. NASCAR’s drug program is important for all drivers and teams in NASCAR because stock car racing is a dangerous sport and drivers and teams do not need anyone in the sport who is using drugs and racing cars at 150 mph. RA

THE COST TALLY OF THE FINISH AT TALLADEGA

The finish of this past weekend’s Sprint Cup race at Talladega was mayhem. The 25-car pileup, which resulted from Tony Stewart’s careless maneuvers to try to block his way to a win, was a spectacle to the fans on the front stretch but could have been deadly for all of the drivers involved.
The Richmond Times Dispatch quotes Dale Earnhardt, Jr. as saying, “If this is what we did every week, I wouldn’t be doing it, I’ll just put it to you that way. If this was how we raced every week, I’d find another job… It’s really not racing. It’s a little disappointing. It cost a lot of money right there. If this is how we are going to continue to race and nothing is going to change, how about NASCAR build the cars? It’ll save us a lot of money.”
While watching the final turns into the front stretch and the pileup occur, I could only imagine how frustrated and outraged many teams would be that their cars would have to be dragged off the track as a twisted heap of metal.
I am curious to know, in a dollar amount, how much the teams could salvage from their car given the severity of the damage. I know that the price in salvaged parts would be nowhere close to the total cost of running the race, but each team must be concerned with getting the maximum amount of money out of its investment. Talk about a risky investment.
With increasing costs in racing, saving money has to be at the top of every team’s “To-Do List”. The point that Jr. made about having NASCAR build all the cars brings up a great point that may be heavily considered in the near future.
One may be surprised how much money could be saved by individual teams if NASCAR had a factory that churned out a pre-built models and then distributed them to each team to finish off. I am not sure if this is a concept that has been considered before but it would appear to be fair and cost effective. If NASCAR could save each team $100,000 a week then that would add up to a hefty chunk of change at the end of the 36-week race season.
At this point in time the money invested in each car may not be a big deal to the larger teams such as Hendrick Motorsports or Joe Gibbs Racing, but to many of the smaller teams it could be a huge step in helping reduce costs. If teams were able to reduce costs each week, possibly new opportunities would be opened up for sponsors. NASCAR may not like the idea of having to build the cars for each team. Many teams may be completely against the concept, but something will have to change in the future. Something must be done when a major figure head of the sport openly says that if something does not change, he plans to find another job. SP

NASCAR REVISES TESTING LOCATIONS

Among the excitement of the unexpected win by Keselowski at Dover this past weekend, NASCAR officials confirmed that in the 2013, season teams will be allowed to practice at four Sprint Cup tracks of their choosing, in addition to the preseason test at Daytona.

In an effort to cut costs, NASCAR teams were banned in November of 2008 from testing on sanctioned tracks. During the ban, teams have continued testing on non-sanctioned tracks such as the Nashville Superspeedway. Testing on non-sanctioned tracks appears to be futile for teams, and ironically cost the teams more money, as the data obtained is often considered ineffective or irrelevant for the Sprint Cup series. As driver Jimmie Johnson said, “We’re all testing at tracks that don’t relate. So in a way we’re spinning our wheels and kind of wasting funds.” (USA Today).

The new policy is met with optimism across the NASCAR community as it will not only redirect the funds being wasted on “spinning wheels” to more useful data, but should prove to be advantageous for the entire sport. With more access to sanctioned tracks for practice, rookie drivers will be able to gain experience, teams will improve their strategies and newcomers will have a chance to enter the sport. This policy has huge implications for the future of NASCAR and the ability of the sport to improve, as practice makes perfect, after all. AM

Ryan, Nate. “NASCAR’s New Rule Could Help Rookies Stenhouse, Patrick.” USA Today. Gannett, 29 Sept. 2012. Web. 01 Oct. 2012.

DODGE LEAVING SPRINT CUP AND NATIONWIDE SERIES IN 2013

After being absent from NASCAR for over a quarter century, Dodge came back to NASCAR in 2001. However Dodge is making this 2012 season its last in both Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series.

Dodge’s departure from the two series leaves only three car manufacturers participating: Ford, Chevrolet, and Toyota. Toyota is, of course, the most recent manufacturer to join NASCAR but was greeted with much controversy from fans because it was the first foreign car manufacturer to be allowed to join NASCAR. With the departure of Dodge, NASCAR now only has two American manufacturers and many fans are wondering if the exit of Dodge leaves a vacancy for a second foreign manufacture to enter.

There is a silver lining to this story since Brad Keselowski, a Dodge driver, is first (as of this entry) in the Chase, and has the opportunity to send Dodge packing with a Sprint Cup Championship. SF

The “Business of NASCAR” Is Back!

Although our class, “The Business of NASCAR” was not offered in the fall of 2011, the class is back on track for this year. Unfortunately, my colleague Mike Pitts is unable to be with us because of his teaching schedule. Assisting with the class is the Director of Public Relations at Richmond International Raceway, Ms. Aimee Turner. Ms. Turner will bring an entirely different perspective to our class discussions that will be even more beneficial to our students as they explore the “business of NASCAR”.

We’re now two races into the “Chase” and several different issues have arisen — forget about the fiasco with NFL replacement refs! Rule change for race cars, recent off-track issues with drug use, and another close end to the season come together for the end of the season. Our students have had the opportunity to attend the races at RIR, courtesy of the track, and have witnessed firsthand (for some) the excitement of what we call the “greatest sport in the U.S.”

Please feel comfortable to comment on the students’ blog entries throughout the next couple of months. I’m certain they will bring new perspectives to our sport. And that’s the view from here. Jon

Hall of Fame Attendance and Sponsorships Spur Cuts

In a tough economy cutting costs is always at the top of discussion, but how does the economy affect the motor sports market? Moreover, how do you avoid cutting costs to the point where people are not losing jobs? Unfortunately, the NASCAR Hall of Fame (HOF) is looking to cut between $2.5 million and $3 million annually in order to balance its budget. The reason for cutting costs is that attendance figures have not reached the level anticipated in Charlotte’s bid for the HOF. However, Tim Newman, CEO of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA), stated in a recent NASCAR.com article that cutting costs at NASCAR’s HOF will not impact plans for any current or future exhibits nor the laying off of 27 ful-time employees. Nevertheless, the NASCAR Hall of Fame has witnessed a decline in the number of people visiting due to a poor and sluggish economy.
Subsequently, when trying to win the business of Hall of Fame participants, NASCAR finds itself competing with places like the Rock and Roll and the Country Music Hall of Fame, two other good attendance draws. Surprisingly, other sources reported that attendance at NASCAR was lower than expected during the summer months. The sluggish turnouts have resulted in a net loss of around $3 million for NASCAR. However, NASCAR is on par with anticipated attendance figures between 250,000 and 350,000 running close to Baseball’s Hall but just ahead of Pro Football’s Hall attendance according to this year’s projected forecast. Meanwhile, Country Music and Rock and Roll Hall’s first year’s attendance for both venues was estimated at around 800,000 respectively compared to the 800,000 respectively for the NASCAR Hall. In spite of a slow economy, NASCAR’s Hall of Fame was still the leader with around 300,000 as compared to baseball’s 280,000 and football’s 196,000. In retrospect, football’s highest attendance ever in the early 70’s was around 247,000. In conclusion, the NASCAR Hall is planning a new advertising campaign to help boost attendance.
It’s important to understand the dynamics of a sluggish economy whether it’s a lack of interest from tourists or the fact that people are just not flocking to the Hall of Fame on which millions were spent building. Ultimately, it’s important to remember that some individuals are able to visit the NASCAR Hall only by dipping into their discretionary income. Tim Newman suggested that there are several local promotions in the works; if successful, the local attendance could make budgets cuts less severe. AS