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]

FAN LOYALTY TO SPONSORS VERSUS DRIVER LOYALTY

Everyone who follows NASCAR knows that fan loyalty to NASCAR sponsors is the highest for any major sport. We shop at The Home Depot, drink Coca Cola and drive Chevys.

So what about the drivers? How much loyalty do they have for their sponsors? I would suppose a great deal.

So let’s look at a situation where a driver chooses to NOT race in support of his sponsor. Everyone likes Mark Martin, the current “dean” of drivers. After announcing his retirement last year, he turned around and signed a deal to drive for Ginn Racing — although on a limited basis. Well, as luck would have it, Mark sits in first place in the standings after the first four races. Yet, rather than continue to drive his 01 U.S. Army car, he has chosen to sit out the next two races and allow a rookie to take over.

I wonder if Joe Gibbs would allow Tony Stewart to continue driving if Tony decided to take a couple of weeks off?

Although not driving full time was part of the agreement with Ginn Racing, Martin seems not to recognize the responsibility to his sponsor and team owner that others would deem required, especially given his place in the standings. It appears Martin has placed himself as “01” instead of the U.S. Army and Ginn Racing. As a result, upon returning to the 01 car for the Texas race in April, he’ll be no better than 36th place.

So much for loyalty.

– Jon

Hey, how much do you make?

Recently while talking to a reporter I was asked if I had done any research on drivers’ salaries. My response was candid — no, most drivers’ salaries are not made public.

Then, after talking with my colleague, Mike, we started researching this issue. Mike found a couple of contracts for Kasey Kahne that were entered into court records several years ago. I followed up by contacting Dustin Long, a reporter for several newspapers. He confirmed that Kasey’s contract was reflective of the norm.

But I still wondered why the drivers’ contracts were so “hush-hush‿ — especially given how open the media is with contracts for players in the NFL, NBA, etc. So a little more research showed that in 2005 Jeff Gordon’s salary, winnings, and endorsements placed him 19th on Sports Illustrated’s list of the top 50 paid athletes, while Tony Stewart ranked 34th.

Darrell Waltrip has written that when owners are discussing deals with sponsors, the drivers might not even be discussed before the deal is sealed. Given how often we learn of salaries of professional athletes, CEOs, and even college professors (I’m at a state institution where my salary figure is readily available if anyone cares), why aren’t drivers’ salaries disclosed? Should they be? Do sponsors eventually know? Do we even care? Just a thought.

On another note, in case you missed it, Washington state House Representative Larry Seaquist made it clear he does not want NASCAR and its fans in his beloved home state:
“These people are not the kind of people you want living next to you,‿ he told a Fox television news station. “They’d be the ones with junky cars in their front yards and would try to slip around the law.‿

Guess he hasn’t seen the motor homes of fans at the race tracks!

– Jon

(More on the Washington racetrack debate: (1) http://www.nascar.com/2007/news/headlines/cup/03/05/gbiffle.washington.track.support/; (2) http://www.nascar.com/2007/news/opinion/03/06/jmenzer.washington.track/)