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 Fox Hole

After negotiations ended this past Monday between NASCAR and FOX TV, the television station may consider ducking for cover as fans are left hanging with many questions. When Fox TV signed contracts on Monday giving it the right to air the Sprint Cup Races through year 2022, it failed to give fans and consumers the lowdown on how it will go about televising the races starting in 2013, with the first races during Speed Weeks at Daytona. Their new network, Fox Sports One, will be the rebranded name of the SPEED network, but will it provide the same satisfaction for fans?

In relation to the benefits for the motor sports industry, this deal with FOX TV will boost NASCAR’s income, as well as the income for tracks and teams. This income, in turn, will help maintain lower ticket prices for fans and increase race winnings for teams, which possibly reduces the level of corporate sponsorship. However, this scenario may be at cost to the fans watching at home. Not only will Fox have rights to air the first 13 Sprint Cup races and the entire Camping World Truck Series, but it also gets the digital rights for online streaming yet it is unclear whether fans will have to pay for online access. With FOX also announcing that the new deal will take some of Sprint Cup races off network television, internet access for fans will be even more crucial than before.

The next big issue for fans is the question of how FOX will go about televising the practices and qualifiers. With no official word on the status of televising these events, it leaves fans with the possibility of not being able to watch at all. Even though Fox could air those events on its subordinate stations like Fuel TV or FX, the fans at home will not be pleased having to watch multiple channels to get their fix, especially when they could previously watch everything on the SPEED network.

The biggest issue comes from the clash between what commercial sponsors want and what the fans want. Considering that Fox TV is such a highly rated network, commercial sponsors will be fighting to place their ads during as many NASCAR events as possible. Unfortunately for fans, this means more interruptions that could prevent viewers from seeing their favorite racer cross the finish line or catching the wreck they’ve been waiting for the whole race to see. With the amount of money spent on ads by sponsors, the proposal for a split screen for commercials will not go over lightly. In the end, Fox has a lot of people to please, and it’s a sure thing that not everyone will walk away happy. JH

NASCAR REINSTATES ALLMENDINGER

A.J. Allmendinger was recently reinstated by NASCAR after completing his drug program, which NASCAR calls the “Road to Recovery Program.” In my opinion this may have been a bad decision by NASCAR because it seems like they didn’t take his situation seriously enough. NASCAR should have taken time to more fully examine what was going on in Allmendinger’s life, such as looking into Allmendinger’s history and lifestyle. Originally, two drug tests were conducted by NASCAR and both were positive for an amphetamine, which means he definitely had something in him that wasn’t supposed to be there. Yet, Allmendinger claimed he didn’t know what or how it got in his body. If he got through NASCAR’s program in only a matter of a few months, then he might possibly be more likely to “do” drugs again later in his life. Prior drug use could also lead to drug use in the future even after he is retired from racing. An addict will always be an addict even after they quit using drugs and A.J. Allmendinger is no exception. NASCAR’s drug program is important for all drivers and teams in NASCAR because stock car racing is a dangerous sport and drivers and teams do not need anyone in the sport who is using drugs and racing cars at 150 mph. RA

DODGE LEAVING SPRINT CUP AND NATIONWIDE SERIES IN 2013

After being absent from NASCAR for over a quarter century, Dodge came back to NASCAR in 2001. However Dodge is making this 2012 season its last in both Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series.

Dodge’s departure from the two series leaves only three car manufacturers participating: Ford, Chevrolet, and Toyota. Toyota is, of course, the most recent manufacturer to join NASCAR but was greeted with much controversy from fans because it was the first foreign car manufacturer to be allowed to join NASCAR. With the departure of Dodge, NASCAR now only has two American manufacturers and many fans are wondering if the exit of Dodge leaves a vacancy for a second foreign manufacture to enter.

There is a silver lining to this story since Brad Keselowski, a Dodge driver, is first (as of this entry) in the Chase, and has the opportunity to send Dodge packing with a Sprint Cup Championship. SF

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

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

Is it fair for drivers to pay back one another in races?

The Kyle Busch and David Reutimann incident at Kansas City was interesting. Should Reutimann be fined for costing Busch points? Should Busch have been punished for wrecking him earlier? They have been dealing with questions like these since 2004. Is it ok to pay back a driver who is racing for a championship? I don’t think you should get special privileges since you are racing for a championship. If a driver intentionally wrecks someone to get ahead and the second party has the potential to pay back, I think it’s fine. I agree with Reutimann that you should have respect for all drivers and you shouldn’t run over the top of them because of who you are. I believe it was rude of Busch to do what he did and then when Reutimann retaliated it was a problem. I always believe in the saying “Do unto others as you want them do unto you.”

David Reutimann’s sportsmanship record is flawless. So I don’t believe he really meant to do all that he did. I think he just wanted to tap him a little and not cause all the controversy. But he said something had to be done. He had come to a point where he couldn’t take any more. I agree but I think it’s unfortunate that Busch dropped from 3rd to 7th in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship standings. That is heartbreaking for Busch but I guess all is fair in the world of NASCAR. JC