SPEED WEEK STARTS NASCAR ON RIGHT FOOT!

Although TV viewership was down slightly for the Bud Shoot-out and Dual 125s from last year, both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup TV ratings were up from a year ago. Sunday’s Daytona 500 scored increased average audience, total audience, and household ratings compared to 2008. Still, these ratings are only about 1% above last year. Supposedly, the race was a sell-out but one must wonder how many tickets might have been “freebies” just before the race started.

Still, NASCAR has to be pleased with both the TV and track numbers. But I continue to hold to the belief that California next week and Atlanta two weeks later will be a more correct reading of how NASCAR might fare this season. Also, it will be interesting to see how many teams attempt to make the show at California and Las Vegas, both long commutes for the underfunded teams.

My prediction is for full fields because the season is young and those teams without full-season sponsors need to show their merit on the track to entice additional sponsor dollars. But if those sponsor dollars don’t appear, the view from here is that the fields will not be full before arriving in Richmond on May 1.

Jon

TO “PROGNOSTICATE”: TO FORECAST FROM PRESENT INDICATIONS

A lot has transpired since we left Homestead last November — much of it unsettling. However, after finishing my cup of tea, I looked down at the tea leaves to see what they might be saying. So here are my five prognostications for 2009. All deal in some respect with the current economic times and what Mike and I fondly call THE BUSINESS OF NASCAR.

#5: Success breeds success — but small success. For example, Juan Montoya appears to be on most everyone’s radar screen as possibly breaking through this year. If he does, his success will pale compared to the top contenders for the Sprint title. Still, if JPM does well, it might encourage other second-tier teams. And don’t forget Tony and Ryan.

#4: After the first few races, the starting grid will not be full. True, “field fillers” will be around but with costs spiraling, the field fillers won’t have deep enough pockets to hang around all season (see the Camping World Truck Series for proof).

#3: The dearth of big-time sponsors provides a fertile field for short-term, smaller sponsors who can get in on the action at a much lower cost. And, if they’re savvy, they’ll arrange contracts that allow them to stay on at the same price in the following year or two. Problem: keeping track of your driver because the paint scheme changes after other week to accommodate these new sponsors.

#2: Rich get richer: Any way you spell Hendrick, Childress, Roush, and Gibbs, you come up with dollar signs. Because they have the deep pockets, they have all the toys at their shops that continue to give them the advantage over the other guys. It’s doubtful anyone from outside these four shops will be in the Chase come September.

#1: Greed takes second place. Even the high rollers in Beverly Hills are reported to be shopping quietly and not flaunting their wealth. NASCAR will also stop talking $$$. When Kyle Petty says that NASCAR is 3.5 hours of weekly racing and the rest of the time is business, NASCAR will quickly recognize the need to tone down its business hype.

And that’s the view from here.

Jon

HEY! — WE MADE THE HALL OF FAME!!!

Back on June 28 I wrote a blog that referred to our predictions for this year.

Seems that we had hit our second prediction (JPM wins a race) and I said that we only needed one more correct prediction to make the Hall of Fame (batting .333, which is far better than the Mets did the last two weeks!).

Well, looks like we got the third prediction correct — we predicted at least two open-wheel drivers coming over to NASCAR. And that’s going to happen, apparently.

Jacques Villeneuve and Dario Franchitti will be driving Sprint Cup next year! Both will be driving at Talladega this weekend — Jacques in Nextel Cup and Dario in ARCA.

Oh, if only Toyota could pull out a win!!

Jon

The New Season

Top 10 Fearless (but not ones we are betting any cash on ) Predictions for 2007:

10. Staten Island – DOA; Hello, Seattle!

9. The rising cost of attending a race drives fans away.

8. Introduction of Toyota–what will be the reaction, one like Jack Roush or more like Brian France? (We know, we know, it is more of a question than a prediction)

7. New demographics– Montoya’s entree into Nextel and Busch’s points race in Canada lead to new viewers

6. COT confuses fans who don’t want IROC-style racing.

5. JPM finishes well and two more F1/INDY drivers follow.
4. New Busch Series Sponsor — big deal or non-story, and will there be a “target” on the new sponsor?

3. The fines just keep on a coming
2. Toyota wins by seventh race. (Ensuing controversy good for solving item # 9).

1. No one can replace Benny.

Big stories of the Week:
“Just in time for Valentines…The Candymen deliver”

1. David and Lazarus are appropriate monikers for the front row holders of this year’s Daytona 500. By providing Yates Racing and Masterfoods, Inc., the front row for this Sunday’s classic, perhaps the folks at Snickers can place into their rearview mirror their strange Super Bowl commercial.

2. The only question left to be answered is the “water into wine” miracle for Michael Waltrip (perhaps we should say “mystery liquid into ‘oil’ “). Hey Matt, that should show you that a few misplaced holes are not that exciting.

3. On the other front we are guaranteed that for the first time since 1963 — when Smokey Cook ran an MG (yes, you read that correctly) at Bowman-Gray stadium in a 200 lap event won by Junior Johnson — a foreign entry will run in a NASCAR points race. Wonder what took them so long?

4. James Hylton age 72 looking relaxed and … well, need we say more ?

5. New life for Chip Gnassi !

Overall: Score a -3 for the Toyotas and a +1 for candy.

— Jon and Mike