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

Lap of Luxury!

As I sat in a corporate suite at Richmond International Raceway during a memorable weekend, I was thankful for another opportunity to experience “The Suite Life.” My mother’s employer has been a sponsor of NASCAR for years, as a way to network with their employees and clients.

The suite is located on the third floor of a glass building that sits just behind the start/finish line at RIR. It features TV’s with live race coverage, a bar area with plenty of food and beverages and comfortable seating for about 65 guests. A satellite radio allowed me to tune into a specific driver of my choice throughout the race. The front wall of the suite is smoked glass, affording a great view of the track. Pit passes are also available. The pits are less than a hundred feet away. Many of the pits are within easy viewing. Directly in front of the suite is victory lane. Although my favorite driver didn’t participate in that Friday’s race, Carl Edwards, #33 won the race. Once you experience NASCAR life in a suite, you won’t want to experience it no other way! AS

Have NASCAR Rules Become Too Stringent?

Have officials in NASCAR become too tough on drivers and car specifications? If you were to ask Clint Bowyer, I’m sure he would say absolutely. After his win in New Hampshire, Clint Bowyer thought he was one step closer to his first Sprint Cup championship, but during a post race inspection at the NASCAR Research and Development Center, officials found that the backend of the car did not meet regulations. Instead of being second in points after the win, Bowyer was docked 150 points and wound up in twelfth. Bowyer and owner Richard Childress had been warned about issues with the rear of the car after the Richmond race, but no further action was taken until his win at New Hampshire. Bowyer was certain that the car was legal before the race and thinks it must have been damaged when the car was pushed into the winner’s circle or during the cool down lap after the race, according to ESPN.
It seems that the officials should consider the damage that happens to the cars during a race. With bump drafting rules being lightened, cars are receiving more damage than the past few years. I think that if NASCAR wants to add more excitement by allowing more bumping and banging around, it should adjust the rules and templates to match. I think that if NASCAR is worried about car tolerances and specifications, it should do more pre-race inspections. While this may not be feasible, it would add more to the fairness of the current rules. It would also alleviate the issue of cars not meeting specifications after receiving damage during or after a race. TL

Sponsors–An Integral Part of NASCAR

Through the first part of the semester we have come to realize that sponsorship is integral to the efficient operation of any major NASCAR team. The movement of sponsors and drivers from team to team is called “silly season” within the sport and liken to free agency in others sports; when sponsors and drivers change teams it becomes big news. We’ve seen this all season with the announcements of many heavy hitting corporate sponsors leaving teams that they have been associated with for years. When DuPont, the long time sponsor of Jeff Gordon, announced that it would no longer sponsor the number 24 in Sprint Cup, questions were raised about whether Gordon would return to the sport or call it a career. When these sponsors decide to take their money elsewhere or leave the sport altogether, it leaves teams searching for anyone who will pick up the tab for the next season and beyond. NASCAR is a multi-million dollar sport, both in earnings and expense, so when a company such as Budweiser leaves Richard Petty Motorsports, it leaves some teams thinking if they will be able to field their team the next season.
So much of this sport is linked to corporate money and the ability to sell your image to highest possible bidder. As it was stated on the first day of class, NASCAR is one day of racing and six days of business. If you are unable to attract the big bucks during the week, you have a hard time keeping up on the track on Sunday. MP

NASCAR’s Drop in Attendance and TV Viewership

NASCAR doesn’t seem like it would be a very popular sport to many people, but it is. The NFL and MLB have not been lacking in viewership and attendance but recently NASCAR has seen a drop in viewership and attendance. Why is this? What is the cause for people not wanting to see the second most popular sport in America? Is NASCAR really losing fans or are the fans just not caring as much?

I think NASCAR TV viewership has decreased for two main reasons. The first reason is due to the fact that more popular drivers are not racing as well as they did in the past. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Mark Martin, and Jeff Gordon are some of the drivers I grew up watching and who always seemed to win. Although these drivers are still winning, they are not exactly at the top of the list as they were in the past. Drivers such as Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, and Kevin Harvick are beginning to climb the ladder. This change has actually caused me to stop watching the races. The second reason, which I believe is the more important, is due to the economy. The economy is down, people are losing jobs, people are trying to find jobs, and no one wants to spend a lot of money. One would think people would sit down and watch TV since they are not working, but it seems like they are doing the opposite. Even though people may not have a heavy budget, they seem to spend time doing things they didn’t have the time to do when they were working. Instead of watching TV, like a NASCAR race, people are out cleaning up the yard or straightening out the garage. They still may be huge fans, but the significance of watching the race has been overturned by something of greater importance. BW

LIFE ON THE ROAD (From a vendor’s perspective)

When walking around the Midway at RIR during last weekend’s race, one can easily become overwhelmed when trying to “dig” through the thousands of options when it comes to NASCAR merchandise. Trailer after trailer lined the midway, tucked in nose to bumper. Each trailer is filled to capacity with a huge range of merchandise ranging from women’s earrings to ornate leather jackets. It’s easy enough to squeeze your way up to the gleaming glass counters and pick out that special t-shirt you’ve been wanting, but do you ever think of how much work is involved in running and setting up these shops on wheels?
Many of these vendors have been on the road for the entire racing season. Most never get a break from being on the road all the way from February through November. In every city, the displays in these trailers have to be rebuilt, mostly from scratch. The bumpy road makes keeping merchandise in the trailer’s glass display cases and on the counter tops impossible during travel. Upon arrival at the track, the trailers must be meticulously cleaned, which may take hours in the blistering heat of the summer. New shipments of merchandise must be retrieved from the track’s warehouse, counted out and then verified and recorded onto a spreadsheet. All of this needs to be completed before the fans start to arrive.
After the race, long after the fans clear the stands, the vendors must count out every single piece of merchandise in the trailers. If they are lucky, the total gross in cash will equal the total gross according to merchandise sold. All too often this is not the case, and the entire trailer has to be recounted to find the merchandise that was miscounted, which can take several hours.
After the finances have been settled, the exhausted vendors must then re-pack all of the merchandise and prepare the trailer for the road. At this point, it is usually the wee hours of the morning and the vending crew has now been on the job for 24 hours straight with no break and possibly faced with an overnight drive straight to the next city where the job will begin all over again. Better grab a coffee! KS

Current Events

There appears to be a lot of buzz surrounding this season of NASCAR. There also seems to be a lot of disappointment as far as sponsorship goes.

For instance, Wal-Mart just recently passed on sponsoring Jeff Gordon, who is arguably one of the better known names to the casual fans of NASCAR. Apparently Wal-Mart is seeking to have its presence felt across the sport among many drivers instead of just one. With Wal-Mart playing this financial game of lolligagging, the No. 24 still remains without a sponsor beginning in 2011.

On a lighter note, M&Ms host company, Mars Chocolate North America just got done holding its third annual “NASCAR’s Most Colorful Fan” contest. Entering was fairly simple: all you had to do was send a colorful racing themed photo. The incentive for entering was brilliant, as all participants received 15% off an online order on NASCAR.com’s superstore. Expect a winner to surface soon, as the contest just ended September 6!

CG

The Car of When?

The Car of Tomorrow is causing several different waves through the world of NASCAR. The Car of Tomorrow or CoT has been a working prototype for the last seven years, after Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s crash in 2001. Many believe that new regulations and perfection is needed to help make these mandated vehicles to a level of working performance for the drivers. First the intent of this car was very genuine and well thought. Wikipedia explains, via NASCAR.com, “[t]he primary design considerations were ‘safety innovations, performance and competition, and cost efficiency for teams.’” These are all important factors for a team to be able to race safely, efficiently and for less money. However there are many concerns that these are not enough considerations and cause larger problems.

Just a few of the complaints are the dimensions of the vehicle itself. The bigger, boxier, and less aerodynamic body shapes are creditable causes for less speed and moving agility on the track. These are valid concerns with drivers. The speed and performance of the vehicles is more labored and harder to control for a long amount of time going at speeds we can not fathom, though we would like too. However, there are people who will praise the vehicle for different features such as safety, but will criticize for size and lack of maneuverability.

As a spectator I want to see the effort that a team can put into a car within the guidelines. Each team has mechanical geniuses willing to work hard and promote originality within the cars. This is a sign of the times, everything is standardized and boring. Though it does depend on the driver and how they handle the car, it is also about the team and how far they can get the driver.

No room for design ability, just rules.
That’s the unfortunate view from here.

H.F.

IS IT DALE JR.’S FAULT – OR DIGGER’S?

A serious issue in NASCAR is the decline of ticket sales and television viewership. Everyone has their own theory, from the new cars to the economy to Digger. Digger, an animated gopher that pops up on Fox broadcasts, has taken the most flak. Digger only shows up on the turn camera; it pops up and screams when cars go by so it is not featured that often in a race. Still, many people despise it. In fact, in a USA Today article, Fox Sports Chairman David Hill stated that a NASCAR executive sent him an e-mail blaming Digger for the drop in viewers, that every time he shows up, people turn off their television sets. Hill had another reason, stating that “if Dale won, more people would watch”. This statement actually makes a lot of sense.

People go to sporting events to cheer for their driver/team/ horse/player, etc. When their favorite starts doing badly, they gradually start to lose interest. Although there are always die-hard fans (such as Detroit Lions fans), there are those who will just stop watching, period. Dale Jr. has not won a race all season, and in the last race at New Hampshire on Sunday, he was doing very well and was looking at a top three finish when he hit the wall. The lackluster performance he’s had the previous season, while not that bad as he did make the Chase, has really hurt his fan base. People are not going to show up if they know Jr. is going to place 12th and Kyle Busch is going to get another win. They go to see Jr. win and do well, much like how they go to see Tony Stewart be a jerk and Jeff Gordon (hopefully) hit the wall.

How can NASCAR get these viewers back? Really, there is not that much they can do unless Jr. (or whoever the driver is) starts winning or at least starts doing better. I, however, would like to think if they made Ward Burton a commentator, then ratings would skyrocket, but that’s just me.

And that’s the view from here.
AS