Monday, February 23, 2015

The 2015 DAYTONA 500: A Review With A Boring Finish

Well, the 2015 Daytona 500 has come and gone. Speedweeks has come and gone. Testing, the Duels and qualifying and the race itself has finally started the 2015 NASCAR TV season.

Up until the 500 itself, the race coverage was over on FoxSports 1. IT was interesting over there. We'd watch about 30 minutes of event then swap to their sports desk where these two guys would reiterate what had just happened and tell us what will be coming up.

That sports desk thing needs work. It felt awkward, like they felt like they were out of their element covering events in NASCAR. My favorite flub was after Kurt Busch got suspended from NASCAR, it was between 9 and 10 at night, when these two guys told us about Kurt, and how they would give us live updates throughout the night on the situation. I was thinking to myself that if there are live updates at 1 AM, well... OK?

All the races except the cup race were on FoxSports 1, and as many have said in various sources, having most of the coverage taking place on a cable channel many folks don't receive if they can't afford it, is an unfortunate development.

But then TV is about marketing and the advertising, and advertisers want viewers with money, so in the long run, they don't care about the free or basic cable packages. At least the 500 was on FOX itself.

Throughout the weekend we learned various aspects about new rules that are in place for the drivers. One of them is that there are no officials standing on pit road watching teams change right side lugnuts.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

DANICA PATRICK's Unfair Advantage On Pit Road


Danica Patrick, for all the hype that she generates, despite her middle-of-the-road performance, has a serious advantage in NASCAR, and that's when she tries to start shit after a race.

During all the practices and events leading up the Daytona 500, Danica Patrick and Denny Hamlin had a few on-track incidents. But after the Duel where Denny tapped her out in a corner, wrecking her, well, she had something to say to Mr. Hamlin.

She charged right up through the crowd on pit road, and double fist grabbed Hamlin's firesuit and started yelling at him, inquiring as to why he wrecked her.

All the while, her boss Tony Stewart, was in the background muttering something about seeing the replay first.

TELL ME: How many other drivers do you whink would be allowed to charge through the crowd towards another driver? How many drivers would be allowed to grab someone's firesuit, fist clutching their material, and yell at them?

How many drivers would have shrugged their shoulders and with arms outstretched and palms up, trying to "talk their way" through this disagreement?  Well, now we can say at least one.

(I am not saying physical contact is the way to resolve arguments, but that's never really been the way in sports when tempers flare, particularly in NASCAR.)


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Group Qualifying For Daytona - Good, Scary or Questionable Decision for TV?

Until I watched the qualifying process for the Xfinity Series race at Daytona, a restrictor-plate track, I wasn't sure what I thought about the group qualifying process that NASCAR instituted for this 2015 racing season.

Now that I've seen it, I can wholeheartedly say that it's bad enough that racing at Daytona is a crap shoot of luck with pack racing combined with poor decisions on anyone's part. That's part of the show IN THE RACE. And there's this need to put on a show during qualifying, because single car runs are not that appealing to the generic TV viewer.

That's the TV studio talking.

But when someone makes a bad call in one of the group sessions that impacts drivers that are fully capable of getting in the race, well, sure, TV gets more of the exciting wrecks that appeal to the casual TV viewer, but seems completely unfair to the drivers who get caught up in the noise of the wreck. I don't know what the right answer is to make qualifying more "exciting" to the casual viewer, but the probability of screwing up a contender from getting in the race seems to be a steep price to pay for any one team.

 Even though I am no expert, it looks like the groups need to be broken up into even more groups for smaller qualifying crowds, minimizing how many cars can be impacted when a driver makes a bad call in the pack. Just saying.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

JEFF GORDON Retires

The 2015 is purported to be Jeff Gordon's last season in NASCAR... or as it was quietly put, his last full-time season. What are the odds he starts his own garage somewhere?

via NASCAR Press Release

“Jeff Gordon transcends NASCAR and will be celebrated as one of the greatest drivers to ever race. We have all enjoyed watching his legend grow for more than two decades, and will continue to do so during his final full-time season. His prolonged excellence and unmatched class continue to earn him the admiration of fans across the globe. Today’s announcement is a bittersweet one. I’ll miss his competitive fire on a weekly basis, but I am also happy for Jeff and his family as they start a new chapter. On behalf of the entire NASCAR family, I thank Jeff for his years of dedication and genuine love for this sport, and wish him the very best in his final season.”


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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

There's a New Track Side Retailer

via press release

NASCAR and NASCAR Team Properties Select Fanatics
to Operate At-Track Merchandise Business
New At-Track Shopping Environment to Provide Fans with Convenience and Wide Selection of High-Quality NASCAR-Branded Merchandise

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 21, 2015) – NASCAR, NASCAR Team Properties (NTP) and Fanatics jointly announced today a 10-year agreement for the sport’s at-track merchandise business that will deliver fans an enhanced, experiential shopping environment. As part of the agreement, Fanatics has acquired certain exclusive rights from NASCAR and NTP that will make the company the primary retailer of NASCAR, team and driver merchandise at all 38 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race weekends.
Fanatics, the market leader for officially licensed sports merchandise, powers the e-stores for hundreds of the top sports leagues, teams and schools, including a long history running NASCAR’s e-commerce business (NASCAR.com). The NASCAR at-track deal expands Fanatics’ growing in-venue partnerships.

The new trackside retail model will be phased in at NASCAR events over the course of 2015. It will evolve from using solely haulers for each specific team or driver to displaying all merchandise in a climate-controlled superstore retail environment supported by, in instances, smaller satellite retail touch points around the track. The new model will have the following enhanced benefits and added options for fans:

·         Ability to offer the largest at-track selection of NASCAR merchandise ever
·         Selection to include a major expansion of women’s and kids’ items
·         A more functional way to browse, shop and interact with merchandise
·         Separate stores within the footprint for teams, drivers, memorabilia and collectibles
·         Dedicated area for driver appearances
·         An interactive customization center where fans can create their own personal NASCAR gear

Fanatics Apparel, the company’s manufacturing and customization division, will also produce merchandise to complement the already extensive product line that will be offered by authorized licensees.
“A merchandise center will provide a more personal, organized, comfortable and convenient shopping environment for our fans,” said Steve Phelps, NASCAR executive vice president and chief marketing officer. “Partnering with an industry leader in Fanatics allows us to offer a comprehensive and seamless shopping experience for our fans – whether it is in-venue, online or on mobile devices.”

The new trackside retail model will utilize the latest innovations and initiatives in retail promotional design. According to a study conducted by Experian Marketing Services (Simmons National Consumer Survey, Fall Full Year 2013), NASCAR fans are at least 20 percent more likely than non-fans to notice various types of promotions while shopping, including: video monitor displays, signs on merchandise racks or shelves, and advertising on the floor – among others.
“Fanatics is extremely excited to partner with NASCAR and NASCAR Team Properties to greatly expand their at-track retail presence,” said Ross Tannenbaum, president of Fanatics Authentic. “We have taken the time to listen to what the fans, teams, drivers and NASCAR were asking for and look forward to using our market-leading scale, technology and production capabilities to deliver an improved and entertaining shopping experience for years to come.”
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NASCAR Statement on Brian Vickers Participation in 2015 Season

via press release

NASCAR Statement from Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice President & Chief Racing Development Officer on Brian Vickers Participation in 2015 Season 

“With the clearance from his physicians, Brian Vickers has satisfied all necessary NASCAR requirements to resume racing on March 5. Further, NASCAR has reviewed the circumstances surrounding his situation and has determined that he will maintain Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup eligibility despite neither entering nor attempting to qualify in the first two championship events, provided he meets all other necessary eligibility requirements.”

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Predicting the Winner of the 2014 NASCAR Cup Season

This year is a unique year for NASCAR. Instead of wondering if driver A will finish 15th or better, letting driver B maybe win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship if he finishes 4th or better, and other such convoluted NASCAR algebra, this year, we have a straight up, whoever finishes the highest in the field of the four contenders will be the champion.

That even means if all four get wrecked and finish 39th to 43rd, whom so ever is 39th, will be the champion. Or that the best driver of the four could be eliminated by a bad tire, bad call by another team, or just bad luck.

But who might it be, that will take advantage of this TV ratings induced, newly kludged elimination points system and become the season winner?

Looking at the Homestead driver ratings for Joey Logano, Ryan Neman, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick, the money is on Harvick!

Logano  71.2
Newman  84.8
Hamlin  93.4
Harvick 99.1

But I've seen Homestead throw wrenches in statistical performances in the past.

And the latest practice speeds, as I write this, are backing me up, where Harvick posted the faster speeds of the four contenders, followed by Newman, then Hamlin and Logano.

But practice time and race time are two very different beasts and despite the ranking right now, Hamlin has won here before.

If we look at the season's driver ratings for these four drivers,

Newman 86.1
Hamlin 90.7
Logano 106.7
Harvick 109.9

Things look different. But this is a different weekend with all the pressures of an all or nothing race weekend.

I think, pending more practice and qualifying sessions, that this will be between Harvick and Hamlin.  My worries are that Newman might not be quite up to snuff and will pull one of his all or nothing moves by not taking four tires or some such stunt. He tries these a lot and most of the time they don't pan out.

So for lack of any other substantial info, numbers and one practice session say that Kevin Harvick will be the champion come Sunday afternoon.

But too many things can happen in this new and idiotic process that NASCAR has instigated at the behest of the TV networks. So we will see. For now, suffice it to say, the mostly better drivers are at the top of the field and we will have ourselves a first-time champion.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

NASCAR Fines The Wrong People, Networks Are NASCAR Dumbasses

Last weekend after the NASCAR Sprint Cup at Charlotte Motor Speedway, there was quite the fracas between drivers.  Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski were playing car tag and spinning each other on the track during the warm down laps.  Matt Kenseth charged up behind Brad Keselowski, in front of cameras, blind siding him and getting him in a headlock.  Word was that Hamlin and Keselowski were having an angry car chase through the garages, inches from pedestrians.

And after all that, NASCAR fines Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski (BK).

Oh, yes, after BK was spun, he bumped into Tony Stewart's rear bumper. In reply, Stewart put it in reverse and "floored" it, nearly demolishing the front end of BK's car.

Where do I begin?

There was concern on the air from drivers about the car wars game that went on, on the track, between Hamlin and BK. The think was, they were talking about getting hit while they were removing their helmets and safety gear.

I for one, for years, have worried about when drivers start dismantling their safety gear while they're still on the track and would look forward to the day that they are required to retain all gear in place, until they're off the racing and pit stalls surface.

It is just too dangerous to be pulling off your gear when there's the potential for someone to pull an ass-hat move while a driver sits unprotected.

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There is that anger that is always just under the skin of Tony Stewart. I presumed it was his temper, combined with something BK did, considering everyone seemed mad at BK.

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Then there was Matt Kenseth. Very unlike him, but he was unraveled and wanted a piece of BK. This, after damaging BK's car during a caution flag, in retaliation for something BK did to him.

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And finally, there was Hamlin and BK, including the quickie car chase through the garages. THAT seemed dangerous.

But Hamlin and Kenseth skated somehow while Stewart and BK got the fines, looking like NASCAR was turning a blind eye towards the part that Hamlin played in the situation.

But then there was the media coverage of the event after the fact.

First things first... if you're going to cover an event, have your reporter watch the last 30 minutes of any telecast before the start reporting bulls*!


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Steve Byrnes Steps Aside From Broadcasting Again

It's been reported that the very likable sports commentator Steve Byrnes, has once again stepped down from his job as "NASCAR Race Hub co-hosting and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series play-by-play duties for FOX Sports 1" to once again deal with a recurrence of his cancer.

Back in 2013 he was diagnosed with "head and neck" cancer and had "defeated" it, but he's been informed that it has returned.

He's stepping down to deal with his health and to be with his family.

Once you get cancer, you're never fully over it, even if it is an emotional battle within you. It's been the and the fact that it showed up once makes one feel that it could return yet again.

As it has in the case of Steve Byrnes.

We wish him the best in this insidious fight and is a reminder that no matter what the cancer, any financial contribution to help aid the research and development of a cancer killing product is a worthy one.

Sure... it is breast cancer awareness month. But cancer is pretty much cancer, no matter where it occurs. So donating to any cancer society drive is a worthy one.

Keep this in mind...

Even if you think you do not have enough to help, do some math.

If there are around five million people watching a race, and every single one of those five million donated a mere dollar... well, I presume you see where I'm going with this.

So don't hesitate. Every bit helps.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

NASCARs (Or TVs) 2015 Rule Package

While we're in the midst of experiencing the new elimination race rules package for The Chase for the Cup we find ourselves looking at the new rules for the 2015 NASCAR race season. In the meantime, with regards to the elimination rounds, we wait and see if any solid contenders do not get eliminated by bad luck and undeserving drivers get to the front on sheer luck.

Side Thought: I heard a funny statement the other day on a radio program where where someone asked why half the field isn't allowed to contest for the Chase for the Cup. The answer was that half the field would devalue The Chase.  Where as 37% of the field (16 teams) does not?

But I digress.

NASCAR announced new rules for the upcoming 2015 season, rather than letting this year's new rule package settle out for a few racing seasons.

Some of the new rules include restricted testing.

--Only NASCAR or Goodyear can now conduct tests. Any team caught testing outside of this allowance will be penalized 150 points, a minimum $150,000 fine and a six-week suspension for the crew chief and other crew members.

Now, rather than testing for the Daytona 500, teams will be doing promotional tours.

--Daytona qualifying has its own change, where the front row will now be set via group qualifying sessions rather than single-car efforts.

--NASCAR is reducing horsepower from 850 to 725.

--NASCAR is cutting down the rear spoiler from 7.25 to 6 inches.

(These last two points are another attempt to create green flag passing. Apparently they haven't noticed that changes like this don't necessarily work.)

--Rain tires will now be used at Sonoma and Watkins Glen in the Sprint Cup Series.

--In qualifying, it has been noted that teams were always trying to time when to do their hot lap during the new sessions.  NASCAR will be shortening qualifying sessions to try and eliminate that.

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I am not sure about you, but over the years they continue to improve the competitive nature of the sport by making so many changes, like the ones above.

And yet each year, someone or two always stands out above the rest and dominates the new rules. It's a never ending battle where in a competitive sport, someone will always rise to the top and then NASCAR will try to equalize the field.

And yet, it never really seems to work. There will always be someone. Unless they put cost caps on teams to equal the budget of the least funded team, rules will be rules and nothing more.

Over the last few years, there's been a great car package that has created some pretty close checkered flag moments between competitors.  (With the exception of restrictor plate races, where their changes have created the scenario that who ever is our front with a few to go, will stay out there.) 

But to go and to continue and tweak things while teams are still acclimating to the changes that were implemented this year... feels like the networks are pulling the strings around the sport, not the guys who loved leaving well enough alone for many a decade.

But that's just me.

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