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.

Danica to the Rescue?

If Jimmie Johnson and Danica Patrick were walking down the street, who would be more recognized? Personally, I have the slightest idea what Jimmie Johnson looks like but I know I could easily point out Danica Patrick in a sea of people. Although her racing accolades pale in comparison to Jimmie Johnson’s, her face is known by millions of non-NASCAR fans worldwide primarily due to her appearances in several television commercials and print advertisements. Why is Patrick so popular? Is it because she is a woman? Is it because she is an attractive woman? Or is it because she has the potential to be one of the most successful drivers in the NASCAR Universe? No matter what the true answer is, executives in the business world have recognized her ability to sell tickets and increase TV viewership and are trying to cash in.

Recently, Danica announced that she will be participating in the 2011 Nationwide series; however, she is only contracted for half of the races. Is this a sign that her team, JR Motorsports, is merely testing the waters or just teasing their male fans? It is unclear how helpful Danica Patrick will be to the sport of NASCAR. Some experts say that she is purely a showboat designed to bring in money and others claim that she is the real deal who is ready to win races and break records. It will be interesting to see how the world reacts to the addition of Danica to the Nationwide races. We can assume she will make money for the sport in the short run; however, NASCAR should be looking ahead to the future and hoping that Patrick will be the gal who wins races and breaks records. While her physical appearance will initially bring in viewers, once her luster wears off only her talent will be able to save her in the end. TD

The Rise and Fall (and Almost Rise Again) of Shane Hmiel

First some background, young Shane Hmiel began his NASCAR career in what was then known as the Goody’s Dash Series, where he won rookie of the year honors in 2001. In 2002 he joined what is now known as the Nationwide Series, there he impressed many of his fellow competitors and showed great promise in his future and for the sport. However in 2003 Shane hit the first of his many future road blocks. In September of 2003 he was suspended from NASCAR following a drug test in which he tested positive for marijuana use. After following NASCAR’s demands he was reinstated in January of 2004. The 2005 season showed a lot of promise for Shane, he had rides in all three of NASCAR’s top touring series (Nextel, Busch, and Craftsman Truck). His efforts were mainly concentrated in the Busch Series where Shane was driving for Braun Racing’s #32. Shane was known for his aggressive driving style which seemed to be out in force in a now infamously documented (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXH_dSO-Hn0) incident between himself and Winston Cup champion Dale Jarrett during a Busch series race at Bristol in which Hmeil wrecked Jarrett. The end result of this incident was Shane being fined $10,000 and being docked 25 drivers points for his gesture towards Jarrett (which as seen in the link was caught on television). It wasn’t long after this incident in 2005 that Shane had once again tested positively for marijuana and cocaine and as a result was suspended indefinitely in May of 2005. He was offered an opportunity to be reinstated but failed another drug test during this process and was banned for life from NASCAR.

After that, everyone pretty much thought it was the end of Shane Hmiel and his racing career. However, Shane never gave up; in fact today he races in the United States Auto Club (USAC) in all three of its national divisions (Silver Crown, Sprint Car, and Midget Series). He has been on a personal mission to redeem himself, and was well on his way to a successful open wheel career. In a July 2010 television appearance on “Wind Tunnel”, hosted by well-known auto racing journalist Dave Despain, Hmiel stated that his ban was “the best thing that’s happened” for him. Sadly Shane’s road to redemption has hit yet another major roadblock. On October 9, 2010 Shane was involved in a serious accident while qualifying a USAC Sprint Car; the roll cage of his vehicle collapsed on top of him after he hit the wall. It was last reported that he suffered two compression fractures in his neck and two in his back and as of this blog post is still in a medically induced coma but in stable condition and expected to survive. His mother has created a Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Shane-Hmiel-Road-to-Recovery/156856564346848) in order for fans and well wishers to keep track of his progress. I along with many others hope that this accident is only a minor setback for Shane; he’s been through a lot (granted most of his own doing) but he has since proven that he has changed for the better. I’m sure once he fully recovers it won’t be long before we see Shane competing in the IZOD Indy Car Series. GA

South Park “Poor and Stupid”

In a time when NASCAR is diligently fighting against the image of stock car racing as a “redneck” sport, the airing of South Park episode “Poor and Stupid” may set it back. The episode portrays a young boy (Eric Cartman) as wanting to race in NASCAR but he feels that he is not poor or stupid enough to compete. South Park has been making parodies for many years about popular events, sports, and people, but at a time when NASCAR is struggling to keep viewership and fan levels high, is this parody going to have a negative effect on the sport?

In the episode Cartman and his pit boss, Butters, portray themselves as stereotypical “rednecks”, using racist language, anti-gay phrases, and anti-Obama remarks. This is the image that NASCAR has been trying to escape as it continues to push for diversity in the sport. I believe that most people who have an understanding of NASCAR as a sport will not be fooled by the negative persona South Park gives to the fans and drivers, but others may not view the episode as being too far removed from the truth. This could create a problem for NASCAR as it reachs out to different venues for new fans who already perceive the sport in a stereotypical way.
Beyond what is being said in the episode, the actual images of the fans are also stereotypical; the infield is littered with confederate flags and a fan wears a shirt that says, “Big Doggy.”
A few drivers have commented on the episode, and do not feel that it will have a negative impact on the sport. In fact, there is a consensus that any publicity is good publicity for NASCAR. Let’s hope that these drivers are right and the episode will not further hinder NASCAR viewership, because as we all know the sport is far from “Poor and Stupid” as the second most watched sport in America. TQ

Is it fair for drivers to pay back one another in races?

The Kyle Busch and David Reutimann incident at Kansas City was interesting. Should Reutimann be fined for costing Busch points? Should Busch have been punished for wrecking him earlier? They have been dealing with questions like these since 2004. Is it ok to pay back a driver who is racing for a championship? I don’t think you should get special privileges since you are racing for a championship. If a driver intentionally wrecks someone to get ahead and the second party has the potential to pay back, I think it’s fine. I agree with Reutimann that you should have respect for all drivers and you shouldn’t run over the top of them because of who you are. I believe it was rude of Busch to do what he did and then when Reutimann retaliated it was a problem. I always believe in the saying “Do unto others as you want them do unto you.”

David Reutimann’s sportsmanship record is flawless. So I don’t believe he really meant to do all that he did. I think he just wanted to tap him a little and not cause all the controversy. But he said something had to be done. He had come to a point where he couldn’t take any more. I agree but I think it’s unfortunate that Busch dropped from 3rd to 7th in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship standings. That is heartbreaking for Busch but I guess all is fair in the world of NASCAR. JC

DIVERSITY AND NASCAR

When I originally thought of NASCAR, I saw it as a white sport, but I also thought they wanted to keep it that way as well. Recently I signed up for a NASCAR business course VCU offers in its program. In that class we discussed that NASCAR has actually developed a diversity program that involves not only trying to attract more fans, but attract more minority drivers as well. In fact, we met two of the drivers currently involved with the show “Changing Lanes”, which is a reality series shown on BET. If this is not a major step in the direction of diversifying the sport, then I don’t know what is.
We also discussed how Juan Pablo Montoya alone has led to NASCAR being aired and translated in over twenty different countries. He alone has attracted not only a large Hispanic following, but other minorities look to him as well. I believe they do this because they see him as someone other than the typical white or “Southern” guy. This is a positive thing for the sport, both for the business side as well as the ethics side. More fans means more sales. WJ

Run the Race or Go Home

Of all the topics covered so far about NASCAR in our Business of NASCAR class, the one that confuses me the most is the “Start and Park” racers. These are racers like Joe Nemechek, Dave Blaney, Todd Bodine, and Michael McDowell who will qualify for a race, run maybe fifteen to thirty laps, and then park their car due to “engine trouble.” They then collect a big fat paycheck for showing up and go home. These racers are a hotly debated topic in the world of NASCAR racing. On one hand, allowing these guys in the races keeps forty-three cars on the track, which makes for more exciting races overall. They also aren’t hurting anything or anybody, even making the later laps safer for the teams who stay in, who no longer have to contend with so many cars on the track.

The other half of the argument is the one I agree with more. Why are you letting racers who have no intention of even trying to win be allowed to run in the race? Granted, many times, it’s not the racer’s fault. Some teams just don’t have the money to run a full race. With the economy the way it is, sponsorship dollars aren’t exactly flowing freely. My irritation comes from more of a managerial, business person standpoint. Letting these racers start and park is like letting an employee stay in the company who only does a quarter of the work you expect him to, and then paying him six figures to do it. It’s ridiculous and frustrating, but most of NASCAR seems to think of it as a necessary evil. Heaven forbid they race with less than forty- three cars.

Some articles I read on the subject stated that NASCAR has started pulling the first car to start and park in each race as one of the vehicles they do random inspections on. Maybe that’s a sign that NASCAR, though allowing it, certainly doesn’t condone it. AT

No Gas!

During this time of rising gas prices, how will NASCAR adjust to the cost of one of its most costly resources? Also, how will NASCAR evolve or adapt when its most important resources (gas) begins to be replaced by “green” fuels? If NASCAR doesn’t begin to adapt to changing environmental situations, will NASCAR will be no more?
One more thing, I believe NASCAR should either retire certain drivers’ numbers or allow owners or drivers from different teams bid for legendary drivers numbers. NASCAR would receive a lot of money from the profit they will make during the auction for the numbers, for example, the legendary #3 AC