Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

NASCAR/TV execs: This sport has some problems and needs some tweaks....but can the big guys really handle the truth?

 (L-R) Kyle Busch, with Marc Fein, Larry McReynolds and Kyle Petty (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Wow, looks like TV analyst Larry McReynolds and those other TV guys, Jimmy Spencer and Kyle Petty, who were talking to the media last week about some of the problems facing stock car racing this season are in Dutch with the sports execs in Daytona and New York City.
   And McReynolds now wants to throw the writers under the bus?
   Wait a minute here.
   McReynolds is usually known for calling it like he sees it, within reason; he is a major color commentator for Fox TV during the Daytona 500 to Charlotte 600 part of the season, and a Speed (Fox) TV guy too throughout the entire season.
   During his days as Cup tour crew chief McReynolds was well known for helping Dale Earnhardt finally win the Daytona 500 in 1998 and for his work with the late Davey Allison. He is one of the hardest working of the TV guys in the garage, and he does his homework, unlike most of those other guys. And McReynolds wears his emotions on his sleeves.
   And when McReynolds pointed out some of the crucial issues facing this sport at the moment – slumping TV ratings for two years now, sluggish crowds – he was saying precisely what many fans have been saying: that some things need changing.
   McReynolds, Spencer and Petty should be praised for making the case.
   However, apparently some of the sport's powers preferred he take a more positive approach.
   After all this is World Series week, and NASCAR racing is already getting a pretty good TV drubbing from the National Football League, and Sunday's crowd at Martinsville Speedway, in the heart of stock car country, was pretty weak…..

   So maybe the sport does need a boost – and that new report from Washington, D. C., that the nation's economy is suddenly on a dramatic rebound (with third quarter GDP, gross domestic product, up at an annual 3.5 percent) has to be good news, not only for track owners desperate to sell tickets but also for team owners trying to land sponsorship…and for TV moguls trying to sell advertising for NASCAR races.
   And if NASCAR wants more good publicity, it ought to have president Mike Helton up in Washington, D.C. – where the House is grilling the NFL over head injury issues – to have Helton make the case about how well NASCAR is doing on that safety issue.

    And the bottom line is McReynolds is right: some things need changing in NASCAR, and it's not really clear if everyone in Daytona understands the full situation.
   The downside is now McReynolds is upset about the way his comments were reported.
   For a veteran newsman now, that's surprising.
   But in the NASCAR political world that TV men have to negotiate, it is perhaps only to be expected.
   NASCAR execs should remind themselves not to shoot the messenger but rather to listen more carefully to the message.
   There are two ways for NASCAR bosses to take this situation – That if they just keep going on the course they're on, things will eventually get better. Or that they need to change direction to make things get better.
   So far it looks like NASCAR is trying to wish away the problems.
   However that California 500 three weeks ago has to stand as a clear point that something has to change: when track president Gillian Zucker conceded that ticket renewals for the Los Angeles track continue to be 'very low,' despite wide-ranging sports promotions in Southern California, that should have been a wake-up call in Daytona: Zucker keeps working her tail off to get 60,000 or so to the 92,000-seat track twice as season….and yet many of those 60,000 who do show up once, don't come back.
    That is NASCAR's problem, to put it bluntly.
   NASCAR needs to put a better product on the track at many of these venues.
    That's the point McReynolds, Spencer and Petty were trying to make.

    Here's the series of stories that have created all the furor: http://bit.ly/UJT0y

   Of course Jimmie Johnson's championship runaway isn't making things any easier on men in the sport. It would be nice if the playoffs were tighter.
   So will the Wild Card 500 – Sunday's 500-miler at Talladega Superspeedway – turn the stock car racing playoffs around and give runaway tour leader Johnson some worries for the Sprint Cup series' stretch run from Texas to Phoenix to Homestead?
   Or is it simply too late for anyone, other than Hendrick teammates Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon, to even make a bid?
   Yes, an early out by Johnson could prove to be a 150-point turnaround.
   But it looks like all Johnson has to do in these final four races is lead at least one lap and log a fourth-place finish. Since he's averaging a 3.0 finish, with three wins and a second, in the first six races of the chase, he's looking pretty good.
   A bit of trivia here: while Johnson has made the chase his personal playground the last few years, as he heads toward a fourth straight title, back  in 2003 – the year of the great Matt Kenseth runaway, which led NASCAR's Brian France to create this 10-race chase format – if you looked at the final 10 races of the 2003 season (before the chase became law), Jimmie Johnson would have won that championship, beating teammate Jeff Gordon by just 55 points.
   Meanwhile, as Johnson continues his runaway, it's already 2010 for most of the rest of these guys. And two men to watch here this weekend are David Regan and Matt Kenseth, who are to debut Ford's new FR9 engine, a purpose-built racing engine, following Dodge, Toyota and Chevrolet down that road.
   That it has taken so long to get this new Ford engine on the track is still a bit of a mystery.
   "There is a lot to be done when you bring a new engine out," Yates says. "We were ready to go to Daytona in July, and we had some parts that came in wrong, so that got pushed back. 
    "When we did further testing, we found we were not as ready as we thought….so that was a bit of a blessing. 
    "Then we were set to go to an 'open' race and found some things a little bit concerning on the valve train."
   And then Ford hasn't been getting beat this season under the hood, but in chassis design, so there hasn't really been any sense of urgency.
   But sooner or later this thing has to get on the track somewhere.
   So it's here.
   Brian Wolf, Ford's racing boss, calls the new motor "a great engineering feat."
   Yet why a plate motor debut rather than a mid-sized track debut? After all there are only four plate races a season while there are 32 non-plate races.
   First, the Daytona 500 is coming up quickly. In fact teams are to test at Daytona, in a Goodyear tire test next week, which could be the only chance Cup teams get to test there for the sport's biggest race. (Is anyone in Daytona having second thoughts about this testing ban yet, particularly since last July that track didn't even bother opening its vast backstretch grandstands because it couldn't sell those tickets?)
   Curiously Yates says none of the Fords testing next week at Daytona will run the new engine…..
   "Talladega is a great test for the new engine, because you're basically wide-open the entire race," Yates said. "It's a lot of RPM.
   "These engines at Talladega, in restricted format, turn 9,000 RPM, which is amazing. 
    "When NASCAR brought the COT (car-of-tomorrow) on, they put more gear in the car so the drivers would have better throttle response. As an engine builder, it was really concerning…we have to take an engine that turned 7,000 RPM and make it turn 9,000 RPM.
    "So this is a very demanding track, and it'll be a good test for the engine."
   Texas, Phoenix, Homestead-Miami? "We'd like to get it in some 'open' competition before the end of the year," Yates says. "Then we'll evaluate the parts and make some good decisions on moving into 2010. 
   "But we probably won't start out across the board next year.  The beginning of the season is so critical to gaining points and to securing your position (and not fall so far behind that a team doesn't even make the chase)."
   Yates said he anticipated finally changing over completely to the new motor "mid-season."
  A key aspect to the new engine is its improved internal cooling system, which will effectively allow teams to improve aerodynamics on the nose and make the car turn better in the corners. (Does anyone in Daytona yet see the bizarre engineering here – that, because of NASCAR's imposed low-downforce rules, teams are actually designing engines into order to improve aerodynamics and create more downforce? Engineers in this sport readily concede that is a backwards approach to solving an aerodynamic problem – which could be more easily solved, and more cheaply solved, with aerodynamic solutions.)
   And those are just some of the issues that McReynolds, Spencer and Petty are referring to.
   Doug Yates, part of the design team that create the new FR9, says "the engine really looks great in both open and plate format.
   "But we're looking at starting at Daytona racing the FR9, or at least qualifying with the FR9, and for that reason we felt like Talladega was an important date for us.
    "There's always the nervousness about anything new, whether it's a new piston or a new camshaft…not to mention a whole new engine.
    "We're fortunate to have a dyno in-house you can program any race track in the world and let it run.  The thing it can't do is the centrifugal load -- so fueling and some oiling in the valve-train area are hard to simulate."

Ahhhh, something's missing....Oh, yeah MONEY!!!!

I wonder how much is NA$CAR on the take as a corporate entity? Obviously TV is paying them to be Chief Execs Of Sports Advertising. So, if the sponsors can be seen, ads run for 2-3 hours during a race day/night, plus the drubbin' of those same ads during the week in interviews, special programming, etc. Do they really care about racing? If they do, maybe it's too much. From following this sport over the past 33 years, the one thing today's NA$CAR is too much of is playing FATE. The Chase. The Lucky Dog. The phantom cautions. The COT. All this does is take away from the competitive nature of the sport. Case in point. With today's electronic scoring, why should a driver get the benefit of staying on the lead lap when they got beat fair and square on the track? Isn't that true nature of racing or is it the true nature of squeezing in another tv plug for a sponsor?

Talladega The One Chase Race That Competes In TV Ratings

Every NFL season the one race that competes with them in ratings is Talladega, and it's blatantly obvious why - 56 lead changes among 25 drivers is the norm here and is competitive ferocity times three or four. Talladega is the one race where the title chase becomes irrelevant because here it's all about going for the lead. There is no reason to think competitive ferocity of this level would not boost ratings and attendance at other tracks - people would come out of the woodworks to see passing galore.

As for the Chase, it's way too late in the game for Johnson to lose - he'd have to flip into the fencing and then see his season collapse pretty much as Carl Edwards did for the title to escape him now.

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