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We've got questions...does anyone have answers?

Jimmie Johnson's off to a mediocre start this season. Sound like a broken record for Mr. Five-Time? Maybe he needs Chad Knaus to refit his car with a little heavier artillery.....(Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   Hmmm. A few questions to ponder this weekend, as we await Danica Patrick's reaction to her first race at awesome Bristol:
   -- Why is Volkswagen apparently going to take a pass on NASCAR?
   Bad news for NASCAR clearly.

   More car makers, more sponsorship money, and the timing could be ripe, considering the free agents on the market.
   Missed opportunity?
    For both VW and NASCAR. If VW wants more visibility in the U.S., NASCAR is clearly the place. And VW does racing.
   The background here: The German car maker has set an audacious goal of becoming the top auto maker in the world and dethroning Toyota. But VW has long had an anemic marketing operation in the U.S. Which would make NASCAR seemingly a no-brainer.
   However Ulrich Hackenberg, who is head of technical development for VW, says of NASCAR: "Nothing for us. There is certainly the one or the other person out there in the world that would wish for that, but we don't have that on the program."
   VW's major marketing venue in racing is the Dakar Rally – the off-road world's version of the Tour de France – and VW wins the Dakar with regularity.
   One outsider looking in says "Even though NASCAR made no sense, with VW's past of linking on-track technology with street cars, I was kind of wondering if it was going to jump into NASCAR -- due to its massive redirection in the corporate strategy.
   "Since VW decided to be a world high-volume car maker like Toyota, building cars to directly challenge the Camry and Corolla, while opening a plant in Chattanooga to build the new Passat (the Camry challenger), I figured NASCAR was in the cards.
   "Sadly the new VWs have been cheapened, so Americanized, they are non-identifiably as VWs.  I don't even think VW of America employees like them.  VWOA corporate is in the same office park as me, and I see plenty of Audis and VW SUVs, but not a single new VW sedan."


   Mark Martin says it's time for fans to give Danica Patrick a break because she's working hard at this NASCAR thing....and judging from her first few Nationwide races, she is doing better. But how will she fare at Bristol? That could be worth the price of admission. Hmmm. Didn't Janet Guthrie run there a couple times? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   -- What's the deal with Kevin Harvick?
   He was mikemulhern.net's pick to win the Daytona 500, but blew up early. He was mikemulhern.net's pick to win this year's Sprint Cup championship, following up his strong run in 2010. But he's already in a deep hole, even deeper because of NASCAR's new points system, which makes 'bad days' even worse than under the long-standing Bob Latford championship system. After that 42nd at Daytona, a rebounding fourth at Phoenix, then a disappointing 17th at Las Vegas, Harvick sits a distant 20th in the stands -- he's 42 points down, but try to figure out just what that means under this new points system. Simple? Right.
   Well, if you want to judge Kevin's mood for yourself, steal a press pass and take him on mano e mano in some go-kart racing Wednesday March 16th at Dan River Grand Prix in Danville, Va. It's really a media event for the Martinsville 500, but you can gamble. And you might get better answers than we will....


  Who's running the NASCAR on Fox operation anyway? Ratings are up, replays are good, but overall coverage is pretty darned mediocre, too much missed action. Is David Hill (here) even watching NASCAR this season? Maybe he needs to check the replays...and shake up the on-air talent too. Tell let these guys take off the gloves and stop being so darned politically correct. And if the guys in the booth can't play that game, get some guys who can. (Photo: Fox)

   -- Will somebody wake up Fox' David Hill, please.
      Tell him to review the NASCAR races his network is carrying and start handing out report cards.
       Or maybe Hill needs to set up a NASCAR fans council of his own to offer suggestions.
      Ratings may be up this season, but the camera work and production work has been bad. Like bad.
     If it weren't for multiple-angle replays, the broadcasts themselves would barely rate a C.
     What's the problem with NASCAR's TV production men?
     Those at the track who can compare Fox' production to what they're actually seeing on the track can only shake their heads at all the action missed.
     If Fox had done a better job of production on the Daytona 150s, and put up better camera angles to explain the drama of the two-car drafting, the Daytona 500 itself might have had even better ratings. But Fox did a poor job of translating much of the Daytona drama to the viewers.
     Viewers complain about the announcers of course, whose babble has generally had little-added value, exception for promotional hype. It's long past time for Fox to revamp its roster of broadcasters. It's hard to complain about the ratings going back up. But with better product on the screen -- and an end to those long commercial strings that Fox appears disinterested in coming out of even for breaking action on the track – think how much better the ratings could be yet.
   Here's an idea: take both Larry McReynolds and Darrell Waltrip out of the booth, and put them down on pit road to work the pits and the garage.
   Mike Joy does a solid job in the booth, but he needs new running mates. How about moving Krista Voda and Steve Byrnes up to the booth, and lease Tim Brewer (from ESPN) for Sunday booth work too….and let the outspoken Brewer get fired up. After a couple of races with Voda, Byrnes and Brewer in charge of calling the action and dissecting the play – if TV would let them speak their peace without getting chewed out for not being politically correct – rating might be moving up even faster.
   Surprising that once-savvy David Hill, the Fox boss, has been asleep at the switch through all this. Or may be he's just working on a post-NASCAR game plan for when the current contract runs out.

    Old school versus new school? This guy (L), Kevin Conway, called the cops when confronted by Robby Gordon at Las Vegas. This guy (R), David Pearson, took matters into his owns hands, literally, that afternoon at Daytona in a pit road post-race showdown with Tim Richmond. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    -- And then there's the strangest story of the year so far: Kevin Conway complaining to the Las Vegas police after an altercation with Robby Gordon over those six races Conway drove Gordon's car last summer.
    Gordon says Conway owes him nearly $700,000, and that matter is in court, with depositions.
    But complaining to the police?
    Gordon had a succinct word for that. And it didn't have anything to do with 'manly.'
    The whole situation is somewhat reminiscent of that afternoon at Daytona when Tim Richmond called David Pearson 'an old man ' -- and Pearson responded by cold-cocking Richmond out on pit road in front of 100,000 fans. NASCAR penalty on Pearson? Nope. Back in the days when men were men, and they didn't have to be told 'Boys, have at it.'


  These guys are having a rough go of it so far, crew chief Gil Martin (L) and Kevin Harvick (R) . They were leading the NASCAR standings at this point last year. This spring they're mired in 20th. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

David Pearson

David Pearson - great observation, great driver, great guy!

i was there that day, and it

i was there that day, and it was the funniest thing. feisty newcomer feeling his oats, and an old-school veteran ready to put him back in his place....for a while at least. you know tim richmond lol.

Don't Get Rid of Darrell, Mike

I like Waltrip in the booth, but I agree Larry Mac needs to go. Watching the truck race tonight he annoyed me to death. He can't just say "they're putting a full tank of fuel in the truck", he has to mention "they're putting a full tank of Sunoco Racing fuel in the truck and slapped on four fresh Goodyears". We know who the sponsors are Larry, we don't need to hear it after the racing starts. Back to Darrell. I'll take him over any of the other color commentators that do Cup racing. Kyle Petty is the second best, a little bland, but the most likely analyst to call it like he sees it without the NASCAR approved polish. Rusty and Dale Jarrett also need the boot. Put Brad Daugherty in there. At least he's excited to be there and does not say the sponsor's name every time he makes a comment. We also haven't had somebody with an owner's point of view in the booth before.
Bad news about VW. Once Toyota was allowed in, and it was no longer an all-American brand series, I was hoping even more makes would enter the ring. Nissan is the next most likely, but they say they have no interest. Not sure that Honda will come in the series since they don't make a V8. I would love for 3-4 more makes to field cars and get a true manufacturer's battle going.

yes, these guys do overdo the

yes, these guys do overdo the commercials, but this sport has been like that for years...and at least Larry Mac doesnt wear a Sunoco or Goodyear shirt (remember DW wearing those blantant toyota shirts?). Darrell is good, yes; i've been listening to him for years. Cale didn't name him Jaws for nothing lol. But i'm thinking 3 to 4 hours of the same droning by the guys in the booth gets a little tiresome, particularly when they're not really adding at lot of big picture color stuff. too much nuts and bolts and rounds of wedge and pounds of tire pressure. there's a lot to talk about in this sport, but tv guys seems to shy away from some of it, for fear of mike helton leaving the command post and jumping in their case during the race. nascar does make some bad calls at times, some questionable calls, mostly good calls. but it's perfectly fair journalism to call them out. but tv journalism, nascar style, is too politically correct (guess that's the TV Pit Bulls got dropped). I'd like to see Mr. Politically Incorrect in the booth -- Jimmy Spencer, to call a spade a spade. Got to generate excite. this is supposed to be entertainment. and, really, mr. boogity, boogity, let's go racing, boys,' that's a little too prosaic, doncha think?

and on the VW thing: I thought that one reason NASCAR was pushing for fuel injection was to make the sport more appealing to other car makers. if the four in it now are satisfied with carburetors, why change? just more money -- your money, remember, as a fan -- in somebody's pocket for no real good reason.

my mantra continues to be 'if it ain't broke don't fix it.'
like the gas refueling system....and the points deal...
and my corollary: 'if you broke it, then you'd better fix it quick.'
like this new gas refueling system...and the points system

Fans have been complaining

Fans have been complaining for a long time about the 'coverage' from Fox. This week ESPN stepped up and gave great coverage of the Nationwide race. Fox is so enamored with in car and bumper cams that the racing is impossible to follow. If it weren't for the barely legible crawler that takes up 1/4 of the screen, fans would have no idea where there favorite driver is running (or not) unelss it happens to be one of the few drivers that Fox has decided is there 'storyline' for the day. We keep hearing that Nascar is having some of the best racing even on the track. If TV doesn't show that to fans at home, we have no way of knowing that. Good coverage can make even a mediocre race interesting. Fox doesn't seem capable of doing that. Maybe if more of the media had to watch a race on TV only, they would understand why fans are so unhappy.

Exactly my point: Fox

Exactly my point: Fox producers dont seem to understand the sport for some reason all of a sudden. they see pictures, they hear names, but they're not following the game itself very well. maybe they need some people in the booth to whisper in their ear -- like at vegas when tony stewart and greg biffle were stuck back in the pack and charging like heck through traffic to get back up front, while fox cameras all but missed the plays. and i agree fox tries too much high-tech crap. kill the gopher, cut out all that illegible crawling stuff at the top, clean up the screen itself -- it looks too goofy. what's wrong with sleek and neat, and let the camera work do the talking. i've talked with nascar about fox' poor camerawork at daytona, but they say there's not much they can do about that. maybe brian france and mike helton and steve odonnell and robin pemberton should spend a couple hours each monday going over the video product that actually went out over the air, commercials and all, and make suggestions to david hill at fox, or whoever the guy is over there running this part of the show. yes, i do both tv and the track action at the track, and while it's hard to just sit down and study the tv while i'm actually trying to cover the race itself, i agree that TV production is poor - i saw that most vividly at daytona and las vegas (i cant remember phoenix at the moment; my mind may still be lost somewhere in the northern arizona desert in that six hour ride up to vegas, through a heck of a lot of sagebrush.)
keep us up on how tv does this season. mikemulhern.net needs all the eyes it can get. thanks. (oh, and we do twitter the race as precisely as we can, and if you've got a question during race week, just tweet us up and we'll try to find the answer for you.)

waltrip needs to go

if any announcer needs to go its darrell waltrip. i have quit watching races he announces because of his boogity thing after 10 years it gets very old. larry mac is a much better announcer and not annoying like waltrip.


They both need to look real close at the truck race broadcast from Saturday night. That was an old school type broadcast. The booth guy's actually worked together. Wonder what the difference was? Oh that's right, nary a Waltrip to be seen or heard! SPEED, ya done good!


Assuming VW would be interested in entering Nascar, it would have to build a new engine (because they dont have any pushrod V8's), by either designing one from scratch, or like Toyota have Nascar give them the plans from one of the current engines.
Regardless, looks like it would make more sense to wait for the inevitable change to more modern technology. Thats got to come at some point.
Until then, they can continue to dominate various areas with Audi and Porsche, both of whom they own.

this whole nascar engine

this whole nascar engine thing has baffled me for years. 900 hp is too more hp, clearly; 600 to 650 is plenty, and slower speeds would put on a better show. 350 V-8s? they're dinosaurs....like the 429s and 428s and 427s and 426s the 350 replaced -- uh, 35 years ago, by the way. There are all sorts of engine options nascar could be looking at. maybe keep the 350 in trucks and nationwide but try something new in cup.

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