Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

With hundreds of jobs on the line this fall, and with multi-million-dollar sponsorships at stake, the NASCAR playoffs are crucial for everyone

 Points? The hell with the points, Tony Stewart says. It's still only Round Four (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   KANSAS CITY, Kansas
   Round Four of the NASCAR playoffs, and the storylines:
   First, how's the TV game going?

   Well, TV officials still aren't giving out many details, like what parts of the country are following the chase and what parts aren't, and what are the various demographic breakdowns.
   So about all we have to go on are the bottom-line figures:
   In short, let's go head-to-head-to-head for the New Hampshire and Dover races. (Chicago was the playoff leadoff, for the first time, but it was rain-delayed till Monday, and there are no comparable Chicago-NASCAR-September TV ratings for comparison.)
   Last fall New Hampshire's 300 pulled a disappointing 2.3 rating, and Dover's 400 pulled a disappointing 2.4.
   This season New Hampshire pulled a much better 3.1 rating, and Dover a much better 3.0.
   All of those events have been on ESPN.
   Perhaps a broader perspective would be to include the 2008 and 2009 events, which were broadcast on ABC:
   In 2009 New Hampshire on ABC pulled a 3.2, and in 2008 it pulled a 3.8. The 2008 chase race from Loudon drew more than six million viewers; this year's Loudon race drew about two million fewer viewers, about 4.2 million.
   In 2009 Dover on ABC pulled a 3.1 rating, with some five million viewers. The 2008 Dover chase race on ABC pulled a 3.3 rating. The 2008 and 2009 Dover chase races drew over five million viewers; this year's Dover race pulled about four million.
   (On the Nationwide side of the picture, Dover last weekend earned a 1.1 rating; the 2010 race earned a 1.2. Those numbers are pretty much typical for that tour on any given Saturday.)

Hope pole winner Greg Biffle has a little more horsepower than this for Sunday's Kansas 400 (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   Second, how's Jeff Gordon doing?
   There are nine title contenders within 19 points of each other…and Gordon is the guy 19 points down to leaders Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards.
   Just how much or how little 19 points, under this new system, really is still isn't that clear.
   "Obviously two of the first three races have not gone quite the way we had hoped," Gordon says. At New Hampshire he did run well, finishing fourth. "But we 'survived' the other two.
    "We knew Dover was going to be a tough race for us. We didn't anticipate Chicago being tough; that threw us off.
   "We know this (400) starts our real run at the championship…and we obviously can't afford to just survive any more races. We've got to get out there and put the numbers up, and this is a great weekend to do that.
    "It doesn't mean we have to win this race, but we need to come out of here with a strong performance."
    Chicago put Gordon in a hole.
   "We expected to be able to take something similar to what we have here and make it work in Chicago," Gordon said. "The difference is there is a different tire in Chicago -- that tire is also the Texas tire, and it just doesn't suit me very well. I have a really hard time reading that tire and getting the balance right.
   "This tire suits me a lot better. I feel I can lean on it and give better feedback."


Jeff Gordon: Under the gun at Kansas. He has to perform this weekend (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   At least Gordon is sitting better than Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin, who all appear all but out of it.
   "We are only three races in, and I'm surprised some are as far back as they are," Gordon says. "I'm 19 points back, and I don't think we're that close. We're still in it, but not as close as I hoped we would be.
   "So this is an important race for us, a race we can really capitalize on.
    "Charlotte (next weekend's stop), we've got to make some improvements.
    "Martinsville, we can do very well at.
    "We just tested at Phoenix, and that's a crapshoot for everybody.
     "We've got to get through Talladega; I have confidence, I'm looking forward to it, I've got a great teammate in Mark Martin, and we do really well together with how you have to team up there.
     "Homestead (the November finale) is a good track for us.
      "So Charlotte and Texas are the ones that are on our radar right now…and Texas primarily because that's the same tire as Chicago.
      "We've got to make some big, big changes to get good enough to go battle for this championship because we’ve got ourselves in a hole now.
     "We've got to make up points.
      "There are three or four tracks that we can make up points on the majority of the competition.
     "But to get an advantage on them we've got to go be very competitive at Texas."
      And Texas, remember, has long been one of Gordon's worst tracks.

   "I would like to hit the redo button," Newman says.
    "We started off running out of fuel (at Chicago) and finished eighth instead of third.
    "Then we had a tire go at Loudon, should have been ninth, but finished 25th .
     "And Dover was a struggle pretty much all weekend for us.
     "You get one 'mulligan,' but not two and a half.
      "By no means are we out of a shot at a championship, we just have a steep, uphill battle.
     "We are still capable of overcoming. I am not going to say that we're not…but it is not going to be easy."

    And teammate Tony Stewart, who won the first two playoff races?
    How does Stewart look at the points?
   "We don't," he says bluntly. "We have seven races to go.
    "You look at how much it changed in the first two weeks….
     "You can stare at the point standing until you are blue in the face, there is a long way to go still.
    "Everybody is worrying way too much about the points and where everybody is right now."


 Ryan Newman: How deep is that hole? And how deep is too deep? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)



While I dont understand the

While I dont understand the ratings system, it appears to me that total viewers is more important. Given that the decline in viewers in just four years (08-12) is shocking.

Undoubtedly that has a cause/effect relationship to the loss of sponsors.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

© 2010-2011 www.mikemulhern.net All rights reserved.
Web site by www.webdesigncarolinas.com