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Is NASCAR worried that Rick Hendrick is dominating this sport? Just what is NASCAR worried about?

  The buck stops here: NASCAR president Mike Helton (L) and NASCAR CEO Brian France (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Muscle cars are hot again.
  Remember the go-go era of the 1960s? Well, guess what the Camaro and Mustang are hot sellers again, even in a down car market – and the kicker: big buyers are the NASCAR's middle-age demographics, perhaps remembering themselves those heady car days of their youth, as well as the youth market, also a key NASCAR market and now enamored with the new pony cars.
   Maybe NASCAR itself needs to step up this new twist it's angling for the Saturday Nationwide tour, and not wait till next July to get on this bandwagon.
   NASCAR can't afford to slow to this table. In fact, it ought to step up the whole thing and ensure the new stock cars are ready for action at Daytona in February's SpeedWeeks.
   NASCAR is getting something of a rap for being too slow to adapt to the new. It looks like it's losing market share to other sports, and it needs to strike quickly, or that reputation may get too engrained.
   Indeed, the idea of debuting a new marketing campaign like this new Nationwide car in the middle of the summer is not only odd but it simply doesn't look like good business.
    NASCAR and its team owners need to get back in the game and take advantage of the situation. Twist Chevy's arm a little harder to get that Camaro out on the track with the Mustang and Charger.
   And, hey, where's that Toyota muscle car? Somebody in that camp needs to get on the stick.
   OBTW, there are signs that the surge in muscle-car buyers is coming from a rather unexpected rank – truck buyers.
   If muscle cars are the 'new trucks,' in Detroit, well, think marketing and if you were NASCAR prez what would you do?

   NASCAR's new Nationwide 'muscle cars,' testing at Talladega: the new racers should debut at Daytona in February, not Daytona in July. And NASCAR needs to twist Chevy's arm to get on board with the Camaro...or else (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Meanwhile, among the enigmas of 2009, few are more prominent than the strange case of Greg Biffle/Carl Edwards/Matt Kenseth, the lead Jack Roush trio, who have been at the head of the battle with the Chevy hordes for years.
    But not this year.
   Not even yet, in the final days.
   This season-long malaise – since April really – should have turned at Texas, the long-time Roush stronghold.
   Now Biffle and the guys may be getting tired of hearing the questions, but until we see some answers that make sense we've got to ask them again:
   What's going on here?
    "That's a great question," Biffle concedes….."because we’ve been looking at that and digesting all of the information we have. And with the lack of testing, we're putting a lot of importance on each race.
   "Looking to 2010, we know the spots are -- to figure out these front bump-stops, the front geometry, how to get our cars to turn around the center of the corner. Rotate so we can put the gas back down.
    "It's been a tough year…"
    However it is worrisome, to say the least, that Ford teams still aren't showing signs of the turning the corner. For one thing, usually teams that are strong down the stretch are strong when next season starts.

   What is really worrisome is that one operation, the Rick Hendrick camp, has dominated the sport all season, except for brief flurries by Joe Gibbs' guys.
   What has happened – if NASCAR execs would only realize it – is that NASCAR, with its tight new rules packages, has lost any wiggle-room with which to balance the playing field.
   So NASCAR is looking just like Formula One – in too many ways.
   By taking away downforce – which many believe to be an ill-advised move by NASCAR, or at least an idea whose time has come and gone – NASCAR wanted to put the driver back in the game more.
   Well, guess what? Jimmie Johnson is a darned good driver. Even Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin, with equal stuff, can only rarely keep up with him. And don't even ask about Dale Earnhardt Jr.
   So, hey, why not put more downforce back in these cars? Give more drivers something to work with.
   And open up testing so the game isn't won by the guy with the most engineers and the fastest computers.
   The bottom line – and don't think fans don't see this – is the gap between the Hendrick powerhouse and the rest of the NASCAR field has never been wider. If Jack Roush's guys are struggling, imagine what it's like over in Robby Gordon's camp and Eddie Wood's and even Richard Petty's.
   NASCAR officials have never seemed more powerless to try to level the playing field.
   Or more unwilling even to try.
   Odd, isn't it?
   Would Bill France Jr. put up with all this?
   When Jack Roush put five teams in the 10-team chase, NASCAR's Brian France got all up in arms.
   Well, Rick Hendrick is about to become the first car owner in NASCAR history to finish 1-2-3 in the championship chase. Should that provoke some NASCAR response?
   Or maybe it's just about so much luck -- bad luck for too many Hendrick rivals.
   To be perfectly blunt this sport has been dominated by three operations the past few years, and at least the Joe Gibbs guys have been able to match up against Hendrick at times this year. Even Richard Childress can't get traction. And for all the hoopla over Juan Pablo Montoya, he is still winless this year remember.

   So do we complain about some secret unfair advantage the Hendrick guys have found…or do we complain that Jimmie Johnson is just too good…or do we complain that NASCAR's no-testing policy has backfired…or do we complain that NASCAR's tight rules have put crew chiefs in such a box they feel handcuffed?
    Should we have raised eyebrows about that NASCAR movie production about Rick Hendrick? Haven't seen NASCAR do a Richard Childress movie yet, with a Hollywood premier. Or a Jack Roush movie for that matter.
    Or maybe we should all simply sit on our hands and wait for something to change.
    If not for that bobble by Sam Hornish at Texas, Johnson and Hendrick would already be celebrating four titles in a row.
    Should four straight titles be cause for alarm? Is this sport so unbalanced?
   Wasn't this supposed to be the year of the return of the little guy (at least as long as his name wasn't Jeremy Mayfield or Carl Long)?
   Sometimes it just seems that NASCAR doesn't care about the show any more, that it's taking its fans for granted…and fans, in response, are taking a hike.
    Maybe it's just time to start tearing down some more stadium seats and selling them for souvenirs.

   The only weak link in car owner Rick Hendrick's game is Dale Earnhardt Jr. (L). And where in the world did that National Enquirer article come from? And how will Hendrick's PR operation handle that one?   (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

I've also noticed the same

I've also noticed the same with F1 too. The one thing I have noticed is NASCAR is short-sighted. They don't do a good job of looking down the road, at least 3 years. When they reduced the "super" teams down to four, shouldn't they have consider the "satellite" concept developing? Auto racing first and foremost is a business, then a sport. With the amount of employees Hendrick has, do you really think with the COT that they were gonna build 3 or 4 cars per driver so that they can "recycle" them at other tracks? Money is to be made, so why not build for whoever?

For all intent and purposes, Stewart-Haas is another Hendrick team but on a "different" payroll. Instead of money going "out" from Hendrick, their money is going "in". The same with Roush/Yates/Petty and MWR-JTG, Earnhardt/Childress and others. In the good old days of the 70's/80's, you maybe had one or two multi car team, but they would consist of maybe "two" drivers/cars. It gave the field more of a variety and individuality. Back in the early 80's JD Stacy would flood the field with his cars and I believe he had between 5 - 7 in '83 Daytona 500.

Just reducing the multi-car effort down to two cars per team would bring some parity, but if NASCAR rules doesn't really allow you to "race" or be "creative" ,then what's the use of racing at all?

I for one can handle a few

I for one can handle a few drivers dominating the sport---that's how sports like this go sometimes. But when they all drive for the same owner,that just turns me off. Just throw that into the already full can of reasons I (being in the coveted 18-49 male demographic) dont watch anymore. Someone in the head office just must not care like they used to about their now floundering series.

Hey Mike, What does the crowd

Hey Mike,

What does the crowd look like this year? Same old, same old (but less of them) or are they losing certain groups (old fanbase or newer fans or Jr fans LOL) or a combination of all of them?

Parity will be when all teams

Parity will be when all teams are using the exact amount of money period. Better drivers attract better sponsors which brings in more budget money which allows for hiring of more people. Maybe restict the amount of people each organization can have... Either way, with Hendrick cars and Kyle Busch, a lot of fans turn off the tv and quit going to races.

It should tell you something when Jimmy Johnson's merchandise isn't flying off the shelves for being a three time champ. At one point a dead driver out sold him.

If NASCAR is not going to

If NASCAR is not going to address the problem with the Nationwide Series being a Cup Jr. series instead of a legitimate AAA/feeder series, then bringing in the Mustang, Challenger, and possibly the Camaro will be like putting mustard on a spoiled ham sandwich. Cup guys should not be able to run for points in a feeder series. I understand the need to have a few Cup regulars in the field so that Joe Ticketbuyer can see his beloved Cup driver run, but the series is dominated by Cup drivers now and is virtually unwatchable. Throwing in the muscle cars is great, but fix the real problem first and then I'll celebrate the new cars. Until there is once again a legitimate feeder series to Cup, NASCAR will continue to be stagnant.

Why disgrace the Camaro name

Why disgrace the Camaro name by putting it's name on a car that looks like a box. If I was GM I would tell Na$car to pound sand.

Last spring, Nascar Now

Last spring, Nascar Now started reporting that Tony Jr. was still making Jr.'s cars from DEI specs from 2007. Why was that allowed to go on...? At the Charlotte race a few weeks ago, I read in the prerace report they said that Jr. would be driving the car he finished 27th in Pocono in June. I knew then it would be an uphill battle for the weekend. Lance had made 2, 1 1/2 mile track cars for Jr. Why wasn't he given one of these cars? Was Brad driving one? With all of the money Jr. is bringing into HMS why isn't some of it being used to hire a top tier crew chief, like Addington, hired for him. Throughout the Texas race, the 88 was one of the first cars called in for green pitstops. At the end of the race and for the last green pitstop, he radioed in 10 laps before he finally was called in that he wanted to pit then. The 5 pitted, later the 24 pitted. Finally the 88 was called to the pit. He ran out of gas on pit road before he got to his pit. He took off and the car stalled. He was left out on pit road alone. He radioed “Isn’t anyone going to help me?” No one did. No one showed up with a can of ether, or whatever it is they spray in the top, no one came to push him. He ended up 3 laps down and 25th. Where was this Hendrick philosophy of teamwork for Junior…? Is he an orphan? On Nascar Now, Boris Said asked ‘why did they run him out of gas’? No one answered him. For all the money Jr. is bringing into HMS alone, he deserves better. I would really like to know what is going on…?

Mike, Here's some photos of


Here's some photos of a Camaro that would look similar to a Nationwide Series version if Chevy decides to field an entry.

Nationwide Camaro?

Nationwide Camaro?

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The change to the Chase

The change to the Chase format pushed me out of the sport. I was extremely glad that my driver decided to retire the year after it was introduced, it made leaving this "sport" behind so much easier. After reading several Q&A's with Brian France and seeing that he truly doesn't get what's wrong with the sport, I'm even more happy to be sitting on the sidelines watching the sport head towards the wall at 190MPH for one hell of a crash and burn.

France claimed that the previous way of determining a Champion was boring because the season was decided before the final race and that was the reason he created the "Chase for the Championship". Well guess what, it's still boring and the fact you can't admit it just proves how clueless you truly are. I'm glad that Big Bill Jr & Sr aren't around anymore to see what he turned their creation into, a parody of what it used to be.

Congrats Brian, in the 6 years you've been running NASCAR you have reduced it nothing more than cookie cutter cars, driven by cookie cutter drivers on cookie cutter tracks...unfornately your cookies leave a bad taste in more and more fans mouths.

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