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Big Mo! Can NASCAR catch it? Talladega ratings down 10 percent...

  Greg Biffle had the car to beat in the spring at Texas Motor Speedway. Can he give Jack Roush his second straight tour win this weekend? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   FORT WORTH, Texas
   The U.S. economy has it again, finally.
   NASCAR apparently doesn't:
   ABC's live coverage of Talladega's AMP 500 Sunday Nov. 1 earned a final national household rating of 4.2, considerably lower than the race drew the last two seasons.
   Though the 4.2 was the highest rating among the seven championship chase races this season, it was below the 4.6 the event earned in 2008 and 2007.
   ABC says Sunday's 500 averaged 6,627,058 viewers.
   The fall Talladega race is typically the highest-rated of the 10 playoff races. (In contrast, the World Series just posted TV ratings nearly 40 percent above last year's mark, with the best scores since 2004.)
   So while the American economy seems to be gaining traction, the sport of stock car racing seems mired in muck.
   Remember the days of Ka-Boom! Cha-Ching! When NASCAR had the golden touch?
   What's happened here in stock car country? Have NASCAR execs squandered an opportunity? Maybe the question should be how many opportunities has NASCAR squandered this season? And can Jimmie Johnson, with his fourth straight NASCAR championship, help lead a recovery?
    At Atlanta Labor Day weekend NASCAR was looking fairly good, albeit in a fairly mediocre season. Since then, it's been a downhill slide, through Loudon, Dover, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Charlotte….
    And – we're still awaiting final TV ratings  – Talladega, which should is traditionally one of the high-point stops on NASCAR's fall tour, may fall short of too. How many people, couch fans even, stayed awake and tuned into the Talladega snooze-fest?
   NASCAR desperately needs good news on the TV battlefront for its Talladega event.
   Last year the excuse was that the weak economy was hurting everyone. The economy is still struggling, but others are doing well with TV now.
   And over in Abu Dhabi last weekend that new $1 billion Formula One track played to a sellout crowd at a dazzling facility that would make even Bruton Smith blanch with its visual opulence. Maybe George Gillett, Richard Petty's NASCAR business partner, is right about making a deal with the Saudis, maybe even creating a NASCAR Middle Eastern tour.
    Meanwhile, elsewhere in America retail sales are climbing, car sales are up for Ford and GM, profits up $1 billion at Ford.
   (Chrysler, though, crashed 30 percent in October. Maybe Robby Gordon can help -- if he doesn't try to put together a Hummer off-road deal with the Chinese, maybe the King of Baja can wrangle something with the Italians to run Chrysler Jeeps, which will apparently become one of the new company's business staples. New Dodge CEO Ralph Gilles said the entire NASCAR program was "under review," but that no changes would be made for 2010, and that the company's only NASCAR presence would be under the Roger Penske banner. Chrysler has reportedly been spending about $50 million a year in NASCAR but this season cut that to about $30 million. And  Toyota Wednesday announced, to no great surprise, that it was pulling out of Formula One; the company had been spending between $300 million and $500 million a year on that venture. Toyota joins Bridgestone and BMW in calling it quits in F1.)
   And high-profile wheeler-dealer Warren Buffet – right here in this legendary Chisholm Trail cow-town less than two weeks ago -- gave his thumbs-up to an economic recovery by buying the biggest railroad in America.
   Momentum, yes!
   America looks like it's on the charge back.
   But NASCAR?
   Well, sometimes it looks like things just go from bad to worse.
   That controversial and confusing Sunday at Talladega probably didn't help things, following a series of painful TV paydays low-lighted by that 2.9 Martinsville rating.
   So the good news from Wall Street and Main Street may not trickle down to Talladega Blvd or Bill France Blvd over in Daytona or Cherry Avenue out in Fontana, California, all those place where they're trying to sell tickets.
   Better believe that Daytona execs will be closely eying 2010 Sprint Cup tour ticket sales in the coming weeks. (And, really, wasn't that what the Monday-Tuesday Daytona tire test was really all about?)
    But what the heck to make of this Talladega 500?
   Hope it's no harbinger of what to expect in Sunday's Texas 500 at Bruton Smith's palace on the north Texas plains.
   Dale Earnhardt Jr. says NASCAR may need much smaller engines for Talladega, and a lot more drag on the cars: "If they have to slow us down, they have to make a smaller motor (than the venerable 358) -- make us run a smaller motor but be able to open it up so there is throttle response.
    "Then slow the cars down with a little more drag. Them old cars in the '80s didn't cut the wind like these things do.
    "It is probably the opposite of what needs to be going on. Probably need to open the motors back up and slow the cars down with the air.
    "We have sort of out-engineered this race track somehow. We over-engineered, and the technology has sort of passed what they were trying to accomplish here when they built this place.
    "But what we are doing now is okay but I don't think it is the best solution.
      "I don't think anybody wants to be involved in what happens at the end -- dodging cars, seeing people flip upside down.
     "Obviously there is something else that needs to be thought about.
     "I am sure NASCAR will figure it out….
      "(But) they are pretty hard-headed over there -- don't like to admit they wrong sometimes."
     No kidding.

The problem with what Dale

The problem with what Dale Jr. says about decreasing the Aero advantage of the modern car is that he's leaving out the fact that the engines today with restrictor plates make the same HP as the 1980's engines.

Just so you know, Mike, Abu

Just so you know, Mike, Abu Dhabi has a seating capacity of 50,000 (not counting the yachts in the Marina). And although the parade was shorter in length, it was just as soporific as most of Talladega was. Vettel won by 17 sec. Just sayin'.

oh, yep, i know -- but 50,000

oh, yep, i know -- but 50,000 fans in a country of just 600,000 people means that nearly 10 percent of the population was at that track (and it was a hellava good looking track, to me)...and if nascar could get 10 percent of the u.s. population to one of its races that would be one heck of a traffic jam.....(LOL)
sure, F1 is always boring, yadayada, but the point I was making was that there is something going on over in that part of the world as far as racing goes (wasn't it somebody in qatar that put together that speedcar series, with stock cars from north carolina?), and maybe nascar ought to get on board.....

Talladega's ratings were down

Talladega's ratings were down but as usual they outdo all the other Chase races - they're down because fans don't like the Chase concept.

Anonymous is partly right when he notes that the engines with today's restrictor plates make the same power as 1980s engines - what is left out is that those engines helped bring about the restrictor plates in 1988 to start with. And Junior's whole argument is flawed because the cars of the 1980s cut through the air so well that the draft disappeared, and what he's recommending they've pretty much done with the Trucks in terms of aerodynamics and taking out power without restrictor plates - and yet drivers were complaining in 2001-2 that they'd lost throttle response. At some point the sport needs to give up the myth about throttle response - it's gone for good and they've shown it's overrated in the big picture.

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