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]

NASCAR: AMERICAN MADE

NASCAR has been an American sporting icon for decades. Thousands of American families of all ages and sizes enjoy NASCAR events on a weekly basis. Nothing helps create a fond family memory of these experiences like a piece of official NASCAR memorabilia such as a T-shirt or baseball cap. Unfortunately, the vast majority of NASCAR memorabilia is manufactured outside of the United States. Recently, a renewed effort has been made to bring manufacturing of these items back to within the United States of America.

Charlotte Motor Speedway has identified this issue and is taking strides to adjust the situation. Charlotte Motor Speedway is located in North Carolina and is owned by parent company Speedway Motorsports Inc. SMI currently has a 50 percent share in the rights to a majority of NASCAR and team specific merchandise. Marcus Smith, president of Speedway Motorsports Inc., has begun to direct the company to order as much “Made in the USA” merchandise as possible. Smaller items such as pens, key chains, and other similar trinkets will continue to be manufactured overseas. However, larger items such as sweatshirts and jackets will begin production inside the US.

Smith recognizes that this new operation will involve more cost but states that it is only right to have American-made merchandise for such a traditionally patriotic sport. Smith believes that American NASCAR patrons will be more inclined to purchase merchandise if they are visually assured that items are made here in the United States of America. HR

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.

NASCAR Education

There is a negative stereotype that circles the world of NASCAR. It is sometimes hard to get people to break their stubbornness and watch a NASCAR race. I feel that there are still many people who do not have the desire to experience what NASCAR has to offer to the sports world. I recently had a conversation with one of my co-workers. I was discussing with her my enrollment in the Business of NASCAR class and she was stunned but also somewhat bothered by the fact that there is a class offered on NASCAR. The questions she presented were “What is so great about NASCAR that they would go as far as to have a class about it? What is the point? It is a boring thing to watch and is not a sport at all.” To the defense of the sport, I generously shared with her the information obtained from class.

What she learned from our discussion made her think that just maybe there is more to NASCAR then 43 cars driving fast in circles. There is an actual business behind the sport. She seemed to become curious about other aspects of NASCAR, which leads me to the reason of the need for NASCAR education for people that have no knowledge of the sport. I think that not only would that be a great way to grow the interest in the sport, but also the viewership, sponsorships and the overall excitement of the sport itself. I talked to one person and answered her questions and left a positive impression on her; imagine what could happen if everyone had that same opportunity that she had to learn about NASCAR. RP

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

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

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

Will NASCAR go Green?

The rising concern for our environment along with the fear of gas prices has lead more drivers to purchase hybrid cars. Overall, the latest move towards purchasing “green” products has increased sales for a variety of markets, the car industry in particular. Leading car manufacturers such as Toyota, Honda, Ford, Lexus, Nissan, Chevrolet, and many more understand the importance of developing a hybrid line for consumers and the environment.
Many corporate firms have joined the movement by supporting hybrid driving. Today, companies are investing in the popular Smart Cars, as part of their promotional strategy to represent support for the environment. Companies that are following this trend include Mobile 1, Verizon, Little Debbie, Lindt Chocolate, Target, McDonalds and many more. The SMART Car owned by Mobil 1 is an exact replica of the race car Sam Hornish Jr. drives during NASCAR races. From an article on businesswire.com, it is explained that Mobil 1’s motives are to express ExxonMobil’s support for the Alliance to Save Energy and its Drive Smarter Challenge.
How does this all relate to NASCAR? This multi-billion dollar industry is notorious for its speed, but with speed comes gasoline. The average race car gets 2-6 miles per gallon, whereas a hybrid car’s gas mileage ranges from 30-50 miles per gallon. Hopefully, you have noticed the discrepancy in mileage. Many environmentalists have criticized NASCAR as being a gas guzzling industry, and I am sure oil companies across the globe are proud to have race teams around for their own economic benefit. Considering the benefits of hybrid technology, will the leading racing industry be next to join this movement? HK

Is the thrill of NASCAR gone?

After attending my first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond International Raceway, I made an observation about the empty seats at the track. Other sports organizations such as NFL and MLB have been seeing an increase in viewership and attendance. So, why is there a decline in attendance at the race tracks and viewership on TV? I speculate that the recent economical crisis has had a significant impact. In this financial environment, people have been lucky to keep their roof over their heads since money is tight. One thing is for certain: it becomes clear that what one wants and what one can do financially may not be the same. I also speculate that the interest of NASCAR is declining due to the lack of rivalries among the NASCAR drivers and the lack of rear car bumping leading to spinouts and accidents, which really draws attention and gets the adrenaline flowing. How many times this season have you notice feuding among drivers? I’m pretty sure you can count them on one hand.

Another thing that is rarely seen in recent competition is the bickering among drivers and the pushing and shoving while on the track. Maybe having good sportsmanship or not wanting to cause conflict has taken all the action away. Another speculation of why the interest of NASCAR has declined is the fact that Jimmie Johnson has won the “Race for the Chase Sprint Cup Series” for the last four consecutive years. The fact that Jimmie Johnson has won the Chase have some wondering if the Chase is rigged, if he has an advantage over everyone else, or if he’s just that good. People are tired of the same old same old results occurring; they want change, but not too much change. Finally, the alternative ways of tuning into NASCAR is another speculation as to why popularity is declining. NASCAR no longer has to be watched on TV; it can be watched online through computers or other electronic devices, listened to on the satellite radio, recorded on DVR or TIVO, or watched by catching the recap of ESPN SportsCenter when it airs. It can be speculated that all of these factors are impacting the declining interest of NASCAR. So, what can be done to get the adrenaline running again in NASCAR? CB