Dealing with Change in A Global World

Change can be hard for folks. We have so much that has been ingrained into our psyche that
any issue, concept, or new item that challenges our core beliefs poses a threat — either real or imagined.

Either way they take on importance in our lives.

Changes in NASCAR are no different. As someone who has watched this sport grow for 45 years, change has been the proverbial only constant. And sometimes the changes can shake your loyalty to a person, place, or company in this business.

For example, I remember when Richard Petty ‘defected’ to Ford for the 1969 season (he had even taken up drag racing, with tragic results, in 1965). And yet the sport survived as it is larger than any one company, brand, or even, dare I say it, person.

So all the Toyota bashing is to be expected. It has happened before to others who supposedly ‘buy’ wins or maybe even supposedly do something more sinister.

And it won’t be the last time.

As a recent Wall Street Journal article indicated only 6% of fans seem to care enough about Toyota’s arrival in NASCAR to be angry. Now while that sounds small, it could represent as many as 4.5-5 million fans so I won’t easily dismiss that statistic. But I will much more easily dismiss any conspiracy theorists, etc. who see Toyota as an ‘invader’ or a firm who has no economic impact on our country. Let’s look at a few numbers:

* Toyota employs approximately 36,000 US workers
* With a payroll of nearly 3 Billion USD
* Has invested nearly 16 Billion USD in America
* Donated 340 million USD to charities
* And has purchased 28 billion USD of parts from US suppliers

While Toyota’s US-based workforce is smaller than either Ford (about 55,000) or GM (about 74,000) let us not lose sight of the fact that neither
GM, Ford, (or Chrysler) employ 100% of the workforce, nor have 100% of their sales, within our borders. So those who worry about the repatriation of profits, lighten up — at least they have profits.

That’s (taking) the (long) view from here.

Michael

PS: I drive a Saturn Aura. (But we also have an older VW made in Mexico).

My theme for Charlotte?

1.A night of firsts on a Day of Memory?

Kyle Petty’s first top 5 in 10 years
Casey Mears first win
Toyota’s first top 5

2. Brother Can You Spare a Gallon?

“Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” was one of the best-known American songs of
the Great Depression.

Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time.
Once I built a railroad; now it’s done. Brother, can you spare a dime?
Once I built a tower, up to the sun, brick, and rivet, and lime;
Once I built a tower, now it’s done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

(Written in 1931 by lyricist E.Y. “Yip” Harburg and composer Jay Gorney.)

Charlotte is usually the marathon of the season but it was well worth the nearly
6 hours. At first I thought my theme would have to be “The Junkman Cometh.”
But, amazingly, most of the wrecks (and there were plenty) were still running at
the end. I think that is a tribute to the unsung crews of NASCAR (and to a 600-
mile race).The season is just beginning to warm up and as we head into the summer heat
let’s see who has staying power, because as we all know , ‘it isn’t over until … ‘

3. Now for the concrete of Dover?

Michael

A QUIET WEEK IN NASCARVILLE

To paraphrase Garrison Keillor, it was a quiet week in NASCARville.

Not many rumblings about the COT (CoRN, etc.) from those in the trenches. No loud racing sounds on Sunday past, although Saturday was somewhat interesting.

A reminder that Mike and I predicted a victory by Toyota within the first seven races — we never said which series, though. Putting Toyotas in three of the first four places on Saturday does demonstrate that Toyota is a reality, regardless of the series. Still, I must admit that Mike and I were really speaking of the Nextel Cup series with our prediction.

More resurfacing (Darlington after the May race preceded by Bristol’s resurfacing now) suggests that the COT might still require some “tweaking” through most of the season given the continuing “unknowns.”

It was interesting, though, when several drivers spoke out after Bristol and Martinsville, stating that they (all the drivers) needed to “quit griping, get over it, and start racing.” The COT is here and it is here to stay! Unlike the NBA players complaining about their new basketball, all the complaining in the world won’t change the direction that NASCAR has taken in terms of the COT.

Whether the fans embrace the COT remains to be seen but I doubt that even a loud noise from the grandstands will make much difference. The key is the previously mentioned “tweaking” that teams and NASCAR engineers do to make the racing more interesting.

That’s it for now — keep the comments coming and let’s go racing Texas style.

Jon

Battle of the Home Improvement Houses

It was a better day for one big orange team (my alma mater Tennessee) than another.

There may be some gnashing of teeth at 2455 Paces Ferry Rd. NW in Atlanta (Home Depot’s HQ) as their rivals from Mooresville win again in a fairly ho-hum race. Guess sales of wood and washers will be better tomorrow in the land of the blue and gray houses … but second isn’t bad and it keeps you in the points race (think Top 12 boys, think Top 12) as Mr. Army decides to stand down for awhile.

So strategy is the name of the game and we see some beginning to develop.

Now we go for the thunder — not down under, but in the valley in my home state. And COT gets its debut — could be a ‘slammer’ in Bristol. (I think there are several good junkyards nearby.)

Rock on, Rocky Top, rock on ….

That’s the View From Here

Michael

Other Notes:

1. JPM can do the oval. Bristol should be a real fun time for him.

2. I give Toyota a score of “minus-4″ — two off for continuing to fail in qualifying and two more for poor race performance. But let’s have good memories and remember this is kinda like the late 50′s and their intro to the US — they failed but they came back.

This blogist still believes we have only seen the tip of the iceberg — both in Toyota’s abilities and in other future foreign nameplates. After all it’s strategy, boys, strategy and we haven’t seen the long run … yet.

Cheating and Toyota’s Welcome

As we all know, several teams were cited for rules infractions (AKA, cheating) at various times during the days leading up to the Daytona 500. Some of the infractions seemed to have had minimal impact and, indeed, be unintentional.

Yet, NASCAR felt obligated to penalize — and penalize heavily — five of the teams, with Michael Waltrip receiving a brutal penalty as well as being the only team specifically identified by auto manufacturer in most news outlets. In addition, no specific sponsors of the various penalized teams were identified by most outlets.

The questions that beg to be answered are (1) why mention only the fifth “cheater’s‿ auto make but not mention the others; and (2) what’s the effect on loyal followers of race drivers/teams/manufacturers when these parties are found to be in violation of rules — regardless of the severity of the infraction?

My guess?—NONE!
On a related note, a lot has been written about the negative reaction of fans (and drivers and owners) to Toyota’s entry into the Nextel series (see Dustin Long’s article on Feb. 18 in the Virginian-Pilot — http://content.hamptonroads.com/story.cfm?story=119660&ran=106342).

Doesn’t it seem (at least) a little contradictory that we purchase DW’s banner and die casts made in China, baseball caps made in Bangladesh emblazoned with American race team sponsors’ names, Ford Fusions made in Mexico, etc., and then react negatively to the entry into Nextel racing of an automobile made in the US of A?

Can we spell “hypocritical‿?
– 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