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 “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

AN EPIC SEASON?

“Epic” is defined as “extending beyond the usual or ordinary, especially in size or scope; undertaken on a grand scale” (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary). Did we witness an “epic” NASCAR season this past year? Opinions certainly vary on the answer to that question. However, we saw an “epic” first-time “four-peat” Sprint Cup champion; an “epic” old-timer finish second in the championship batter for the fourth time in his career; two “epic” crashes at Talledaga; and an “epic” drop in race track attendance and TV viewership across the board throughout the season.

“Epic” indeed! Length of races epic in scale; TV preview shows epic in length; a bouncing bobblehead gopher held in epic distaste by viewers yet a popular concession item; “start and park” drivers epic in number–and the “epics” continue. And “epic” disappointment for drivers and fans: no wins by last year’s race win leader; the most popular driver finishing behind a rookie-of-the-year in points; legal battles in courts that tarnish the respectability of the sport; and continued grumbling by fans about, you name it–COT, lack of competition, boring races, and so on and so on.

Well, now we’ll close the season with an “epic” banquet in Sin City, including a drive down the Las Vegas strip with casinos turning night into day with their glittering lights while black jack players and one-armed bandit aficionados stand by looking distracted!

Well, maybe next year won’t be so “epic”–we can only hope.

And that’s the view from here.
Jon

Thank Goodness It’s Over

This blog will be what I wished the season had been – short and sweet. Of course I do not wish to say “Bah,Humbug” or take anything away from the accomplishments of the season, but for me it was “the season of blandness.”

Maybe the economy has some of us singing the blues, but I found most of the racing uninspired and, well, just full of what I call “Yak.” At least we will have standardized times next year but, please, we are not the NFL so do not give us hours of pre-race filler and hype — we “get it,” but we do not need it to excess (this is my “Leave me alone” sentence).

Let’s just race.

So 2010 can not be worse. Scratch that — let’s be positive: 2010 will be better.

And that is the last 2009 view from here.

Michael

BANKRUPTCY CLOUDS ON THE HORIZON WILL AFFECT NASCAR!

The big news about GM and Chrysler that erupted on Monday morning must be sending shock waves through the NASCAR headquarters, owners’ shops, and track garages. My friend, Brian Tarcy (see “Free Cheezeburgerz” blog at right), asked me what I thought would happen if Chrysler wasn’t able to make a deal with Fiat and went into bankruptcy–would that affect the Dodge teams? I think the bigger concern is that the new CEO at GM has not ruled out filing for bankruptcy in order to restructure its debt. How would that affect teams running Chevys? Certainly the Hendricks and Childresses of NASCAR would feel some pain of losing support of GM. I can’t believe any bankruptcy plan would allow for inclusion of $$ set-asides for race teams (let alone sponsoring a Sprint race at RIR). Even Toyota will be cutting back despite Kyle B’s showing in both Sprint and Camping World (and don’t forget Todd Bodine as well).

On another note, how about them field-fillers last week? At least that’s one way for NASCAR to have a full field. Lucky for Bodine that Sprint qualifying was rained out or he would have stayed around for Monday about $69K poorer.
And that’s the view from here.
Jon

DON’T LIKE NASCAR? THEN DON’T READ ABOUT IT!

I didn’t plan to write this blog—I wanted to talk about Kyle Busch, Dale Jr., Jimmy, and Jeff. But, a column by Dustin Long in this week’s Virginian-Pilot (Landmark Communications) with subsequent comments has forced me to spout off.

Dustin was writing about Fox’s decision NOT to put the long-running Las Vegas race on another Fox channel in order to air the Simpsons at its regularly scheduled time. He (and I) thought it was the right decision. Well, from many of the comments from readers of that column, you would have thought Fox Sports was un-American by keeping viewers from a new episode of the Simpsons.

It simply cracks me up—people commenting on an article in which they indicate they hate NASCAR, don’t watch it on TV, think it’s a stupid waste of time yet write about a column that they have read that deals with NASCAR even though they despise the sport. I don’t watch the NBA and thus do not read sports columns and reports about the NBA. I don’t watch MLB and thus do not read sports columns about MLB (can’t avoid the steroid articles, though). I seldom watch golf (Master’s maybe) or tennis (I once coached at the high school level) and thus seldom read sports columns dealing with these sports. And, I don’t write comments that denigrate these sports simply because I don’t care about them. People who don’t like NASCAR yet feel compelled to spew their venom simply need to get a life.

And that’s the view from here.

Jon

THE WASTING OF GAS BY NASCAR

About a week ago I was reading something — blog, newspaper, online — and there was a “letter to the editor” type of item. The author was criticizing NASCAR for wasting gas, given the current economic situation, energy consumption, and gas prices. The writer’s major contention was the NASCAR race cars were wasting gas and even more important, all the fans were wasting gas traveling to the races. At best, it was a rather short-sighted view of the sport; at the very least, it showed a total lack of understanding of the American consumer/driver.

We know in Richmond that the two NASCAR weekends bring millions of dollars into the economy. NASCAR is indeed a multi-billion dollar industry/sport/entertainment enterprise. But if we were to close down NASCAR, we would have very little effect on gasoline consumption. We’d also have to close down the NFL, MLB, NBA, and all college sporting events because fans have to drive to get to those venues as well. We might then be making some impact on gasoline consumption. But we’d also have to throw in trips to theatres and concerts, as well as our kids’ soccer match or baseball game. We now see the short-sightedness of the writer above.

Why do I even bring this up, you ask? Well, on the way to work this morning I was driving my usual 70 mph on the interstate. I never passed one car but was passed by about 50 in the span of 20 miles. And, almost without exception, every car had ONE DRIVER. So, let’s back off complaining about NASCAR’s wasteful ways; it’s a case of the pot and kettle. And that’s the view from here.

Jon

SILLY SEASON IS UPON US!

Everyone who follows NASCAR, especially Sprint Cup, knows what is meant by the “silly season”—the time when owners, drivers, and sponsors consider what their options are for the coming year(s).

To date, we have Chip Ganassi closing one team, leaving Dario Franchitti (last year’s IndyCars champion) out in the cold (yes, he can drive in Nationwide but is that where he wants to be, especially given the “kiss-and-make-up” with the two open-wheel factions). Then we had Tony Stewart getting his release from JGR (a good move on JGR’s part given Tony’s unhappiness with his performance and the owner’s decision to move to Toyota). Recently, Ryan Newman announced he wouldn’t return to Penske next year (and forget Penske’s problem with ALLTEL since Verizon (soon to take over ALLTEL) isn’t grandfathered in the series).

What’s especially interesting from a business standpoint is how owners, drivers, and sponsors make their decisions — the criteria used. For example, why would Tony give up a great ride and team simply to have half-ownership in a third-tier team? When one makes that decision, there has to be more than ego involved.

And consider Ryan’s departure with, according to him, more options than simply joining his pal Tony.

And consider sponsors: Office Depot to Stewart-Haas, Kobalt possibly taking over the Truck series and Lowe’s perhaps becoming the “official home improvement store” as Home Depot’s contract with NASCAR expires this year.

So as Mike and I prepare for our upcoming “The Business of NASCAR” full-semester course, we have lots of interesting assignments for the students, not the least of which is determining how owners, drivers, and sponsors make multi-million dollar decisions. And that’s the view from here.

Jon