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So it's a 30? Already? But we've only just begun....

   What a long strange ride it's been....and remember how 2009 began, at rain-soaked Daytona, ages ago? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   So Jimmie Johnson's the champ, again, and the 2009 stock car racing season is finally, finally in the books, and there's champagne to come for the Rick Hendrick guys out in Las Vegas in a few days, after Johnson winds up the New York City championship whirlwind.
   But before we turn out the lights and head for the door, singing The Party's Over, reflect for a few moments on one of the strangest NASCAR seasons in several years.
   Yes, Jimmie and Chad made history with that fourth straight championship, over clearly demoralized rivals, who all but gave up the title chase even before it began back in September.
   But has this championship playoff system run its course, run out of steam? Is it time for something new? It hasn't done much of what it was supposed to do, judging from fan reaction, in those empty seats in the stands and those empty TV couches.
   There were some flurries of excitement over the year – the emergence of Juan Pablo Montoya as a legitimate championship contender has to be one of the biggest positives….and that Homestead tussling with Tony Stewart was fun to watch.
   And who couldn't help but love Mark Martin in that heartwarming story of yet another championship run, this time at age 50, nearly 30 years after his NASCAR tour debut.
   Then, what to make of hard-driving Brad Keselowski, the rookie who doesn't mind ruffling feathers? Maybe it's about time this sport found somebody with some gumption like that. Of course don't ask Denny Hamlin about all that….
   Too, what to make of Kyle Busch, NASCAR's 'bad boy.' He may be the most talented driver in NASCAR right now, but too inconsistent and too immature to contend for the Cup championship without a major attitude change.  
   Maybe Busch should check out Dale Earnhardt Sr.'s approach to this sport – keep your cool, never let them see you sweat, never show a weakness, and make your point quickly and sharply, and go on down the road with a wickedly disarming smile.
   Busch's petulance isn't helping the sport or himself. Classy players don't storm off the field in hissy fits like he does. Busch is 24; men younger than him are dying on the battlefield in Afghanistan. His brother Kurt has matured; it's time Kyle did too.
   Why can't Joe Gibbs and J. D. Gibbs get this act straight? And if the Gibbs don't watch out, newcomer Joey Logano will start adopting the same chip-on-my-shoulder attitude that Busch and Hamlin appear to have.

   And all the action wasn't on the track.
  General Motors and Chrysler had to go through bankruptcy, in a painful, strange and still on-going story. Hopefully John McCain's prediction two weeks ago that Dodge wouldn't survived doesn't come true.
   And what will happen next in the never-ending Jeremy Mayfield drama?
   NASCAR suspended him back in the spring for what it says its drug testing people say was a positive test for drug abuse.
   Mayfield has vigorously denied that, filed suit against NASCAR, and since then it's been a simmering battle between the now all-but broke independent racer and the powerful sanctioning body with its deep, deep pockets.
    NASCAR brought out Mayfield's step-mom – the two clearly don't get along very well at all, judging what they've said about each other – to back up its case. Then Mayfield charged his step-mom for trespassing in a very bizarre late-night showdown at his home.
   Mayfield brought in high-profile attorney Bill Diehl, but then Diehl bailed, saying he hasn't been paid. Then just a few weeks ago celebrated attorney Mark Geragos jumped in the fray as Mayfield's new lawyer….and now it looks like Geragos wants to try to ramp things up even more by trying to bring some of Brian France's personal life into this….and NASCAR is asking the court to shut all that part of it down.
   That increasingly nasty NASCAR-vs-Mayfield battle took an even more bizarre twist when Grand-Am racer J.C. France, grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., was arrested in October for racing through the streets of Daytona late at night, and charged with possession of crack cocaine, according to the local newspaper.
   As CIA black-ops' David Strathairn said of Jason-Bourne-world: "You can't make this stuff up."
   And the slumping U.S. economy continues to be a drag on NASCAR teams, who rely so heavily on corporate sponsorship (in the tens of millions of dollars a year).
   As many as five 2009 Sprint Cup teams may not be back for a full run in 2010, and several top-name drivers are scrambling to find rides.
   The 2009 season featured a number of "start-and-park" teams, not just in Cup but the other series, teams that showed up each weekend just to make last place money and pull off early in the race. NASCAR, which has apparently guaranteed its TV partners, full fields for each event, has done little to deal with the start-and-parkers, and whether that changes in 2010 isn't clear.
   One of the strangest stories the past two years – new team owner George Gillett, the multi-millionaire sportsman who has boasted sports franchises from international soccer to the Montreal Canadiens to NASCAR. Gillett has put Richard Petty's name on his team, a team that started out several years ago as Dodge's lead dog, under legendary Ray Evernham. How much of a figurehead Petty himself now is, how much of player, is unknown. But Gillett clearly has the money and calls the shots. And after being rebuffed in overtures to Toyota (including that August photo-shoot with Kasey Kahne in Kamry), Gillett is jumping to Ford and merging with slumping Doug Yates.
   How the Gillett-Petty-Yates-Jack Roush thing works out eventually is anyone's guess.
   And then Gillett last month raised the intriguing prospect of what he termed a Middle Eastern NASCAR-type series, maybe as many as 13 stock car races, and he has been talking with some high-ranking Saudis about backing the venture. But just what the venture really is is still unclear.
   And if Gillett has so much money at his fingertips, then why all the pink slips? Virtually the entire engine department has been canned, adding more to the burgeoning unemployment rolls of crewmen….while many of those hundreds let go at the end of 2008 are still looking for jobs.
   Throw in dwindling crowds this season – Jeff Byrd was the only track boss to manage to sell out both of his Cup races, at Bristol – and surprisingly low TV ratings (the Homestead finale was down 10 percent from 2008, to a weak 3.6 on ABC). TV ratings were down in 2008, but even Fox was down in 2009, and it appears the sport was overall down about 10 percent in TV viewers.
   It's easy to see why the empty seats, given the cost of attending a race, which is far more than just the $55 ticket.
   But why the empty couches? If fans aren't going to the races themselves, certainly they should be watching them for free on TV, but they're not.
   And NASCAR's response?
   Curious – it has stubbornly refused to do much at all….though it seems to be listening at least.
   Maybe if the Daytona 500 hadn't started at 3:30 p.m., with rain on the way, and all that pressure, and then the big crash, and the rain-ending finish, the season might have gone differently...the year might have gotten off on a better footing.
   At least starting times in 2010 should be a little more user-friend. Maybe.
   Fans, in forums, are pointing to the car-of-tomorrow as something they simply don't like, and drivers have – despite vigorous arm-twisting by NASCAR executives – agreed. But NASCAR hasn't done much at all to make the new car drive any better. Or at least nothing very visible.
   One of the big changes NASCAR has made is to have double-file restarts, which created interested situations, a positive.
   And through it all Goodyear has been one of the few players on top of its game all season, with solid tires, and a vigorous testing program. Another positive.
   However NASCAR's testing ban – no testing at any NASCAR tour tracks, even including Daytona in January – has created more problems than it's solved. Ostensibly a cost-cutting measure, the test ban has, to put it bluntly, been a dud.
   Maybe if someone with the stature of Dale Earnhardt Jr. were willing to stand up and tell NASCAR how it really is – like his father was always willing to do – then maybe something might really change.
   Actually Dale Jr. did make some hard points publically about NASCAR this season…to little avail.
   Of course Earnhardt's own problems have kept him sidetracked. Without an Earnhardt in the headlines, well, if Dale Jr. were winning again (he's won only once in the last 3-1/2 years), would things be better?
   Hard to say.
   But then it's hard for Earnhardt himself to do anything but look in the mirror: his three teammates, Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon finished 1-2-3 in the Sprint Cup standings, and he, in the same equipment, didn't even crack the top-20.
   Maybe NASCAR should open up testing again.
   Instead of letting teams test on the real tour tracks with the real Goodyears, as teams would like, NASCAR with its new 'no' policy has pushed teams – or at least the few with fleets of planes and trucks that can afford it – into clandestine testing around the country, at enormous cost. And teams are also now ever more reliant on expensive computer simulation technology, and those ubiquitous seven-post shaker rigs, and all sorts of high-priced equipment – which has radically changed the competitive balance in the sport and all but driven a number of teams to the sidelines.
   Even someone like Robby Gordon and the Woods, who ought to be able to make a go of it in this sport, are being driven out by NASCAR's stubbornness.
   And to judge from Brian France's rather lackluster 'state of the sport' press conference at Homestead last weekend, there either isn't much interest or desire in changing things, or any clear sense of direction of what to do next.
   What is needed is a shot of Billy France Jr.'s willingness to admit 'Hey, we made some mistakes, and we're going to change things.'
   However, what fans appear to see is almost arrogance by NASCAR executives, an unwillingness to concede the obvious.
   Take Talladega, for instance. In 2008 NASCAR made what many believe was a bad call in penalizing rookie Regan Smith the last lap when he apparently won the Talladega 500 by finishing first, though being forced below the yellow line by Tony Stewart, the man NASCAR called the winner. Then in the return to Talladega this past spring, when rookie Brad Keselowski faced the exact same situation as Smith….and he, unlike Smith, refused to give up his line when leader Carl Edwards tried to block. Edwards' car went flying into the catch fence, only barely missed becoming another Bobby Allison. And Ryan Newman, unfortunately the sponge under Edwards' car when it came back down – on Newman's windshield – angrily called on NASCAR to do something to keep these cars from flying.
   NASCAR's response – virtually nothing. For months NASCAR refused to even talk about Talladega; then the fences were finally raised (from 14 to 22 feet), and carburetor plates were cut slightly (one-64th of an inch in diameter smaller). The plate reduction, which some saw as more a PR ploy than any real solution, bunched the teams up more, drivers said.
   Then just hours before the start of the October race NASCAR officials made an unexpected rules change, to ban the new 'push-draft' tactic (a more subtle form of the 'bump-draft' that teams have been able to use at Talladega with the new 'matching bumpers' on the cars-of-tomorrow). That turned the pre-race drivers meeting into an angry tizzy, with drivers more vocal than ever at one of those things.
    And when the race started, it looked like drivers went on a two-hour sit-down strike, running single-file, making a few painless shuffles for the lead….and waiting till the final moments to finally start racing.
   And when they did start racing again, there were two big crashes – again Newman was a victim, and he hung upside down helpless in his crashed car while safety crews tried to figure out what to do to extract him. Fortunately Newman's car did not catch fire, but just imagine what it must be like to be upside down that long, your helmet jammed against the roll cage so you can't even move it, and the radio disconnected so you can't even communicate…..
   NASCAR's response?
   We're still waiting.
   However when a trio of TV commentators – ex-drivers Jimmy Spencer and Kyle Petty and ex-crew chief Larry McReynolds (who help the late Dale Earnhardt finally win the Daytona 500) – dared to raise some criticisms about this sport and raise warning flags (like about the new, expensive Nationwide car-of-tomorrow), NASCAR's response was a quick, angry retort at the TV men for having the temerity to criticize the sport.
   An attempt to intimidate the media?
   Well, the media itself has been one of the big NASCAR stories the past two years, with virtually every newspaper in the country dropping any semblance of personalized NASCAR coverage, firing reporters right and left. Even the AP has cut back its NASCAR beat to 25 Cup tour events a season, filling the rest of the 36 events with local reporters.
   The death of journalist David Poole after the spring Talladega race – his last column was to rip NASCAR for its continued inaction on the safety front at Talladega, in the wake of the Edwards-Keselowski crash – took out one of the last vigorously independent media voices in the sport.
   All that has left the sport generally at the mercy of TV-owned internet bloggers. And privately some of those will admit they're under orders not to talk or write about certain issues.

   When NASCAR was riding high a few years back, expanding to new markets (rightly so, and with some great facilities, if some in tough and dubious areas, like Fontana), it could afford to run roughshod over its long-time loyalists in the South. But dropping Rockingham, dropping North Wilkesboro, cutting the Southern 500 from Darlington, that's all backfired. For a while NASCAR could keep riding high with its rising interest among new fans in new areas….but now some of those fans have apparently grown tired of some aspects of the sport and are dropping out.
   The most damning word on the state of NASCAR came in October at California's Auto Club Speedway (where, yes, the 14-degree banking is way too low for these stock cars and should be raised at least to 18 or 23 degrees in the corners, and where, yes, the speeds are way too high, at 210 mph into the first turn) – Gillian Zucker can promote a crowd of 60,000 to the track for a race in that western LA area…but there are very few ticket renewals, which means she has to go out and sell another 60,000 for the next race too. If NASCAR officials can't provide a good product – and the race at that track is boring – then why should fans come back? And yet it's been like this ever since the track opened some 10 years ago, and still little has been done by NASCAR to address that issue.
   When asked about such fan reaction, NASCAR executives like to point to what they call their 'fan council,' though they refused to offer any more details about just what that is or who is on it or any specifics.
   On the positive side, NASCAR officials have held at least two major townhall meetings to let drivers and crew chiefs vent and offer suggestions. What, if anything, has actually come out of those sessions, however, is uncertain.
   So NASCAR executives are facing battles on a number of fronts, as 2009 moves toward 2010:
   First, they need to open testing.
   They need to loosen the handcuffs on crew chiefs and give them more tools to work with.
   They need to get more people interested in joining this sport, as team owners and sponsors.
   They need to start thinking outside the box.
   They need to do something about Talladega and flying race cars.
   They need to do something about California's Fontana track.
   They need to stop ignoring the technical issues facing this sport.
   They need to regain that Southern fan base which Daytona has all-but ruthlessly shoved aside.
   But, really, if NASCAR executives would simply show fans a little more humility, and be a little more user-friend, more willing to concede issues to study, rather than offer this arrogant, in-your-face, my-way-or-the-highway approach, maybe they could persuade some of those disgruntled fans to return to the sport.
    A kinder, gentler NASCAR? The ball is in Daytona's court…with just 70 days till Media/Driver Frenzy opens Daytona 500 SpeedWeeks.

   And that's the way it is, Thanksgiving Day 2009.
   Thanks for the ride. And here's a 30 to ya…
   But remember we're always just a click away. You know where the Send button is. Feel free to punch it any time.

   Mike Mulhern


Thank you! I was wondering

Thank you! I was wondering who was left with any cajones to point out what needed to be said. You rock man! Arrogance is too kind a word to describe a spoiled rich kid who has no passion for the sport that his family built. Even one of the Fords had enough respect for the business his family built to say it needed better direction that he could not provide. Oh, Ford didn't need a bailout, unlike the other "car" makers, thank you. How can anyone who loves the sport sit around and do nothing while teams disintegrate, ratings drop and seats go unsold?!? How can you watch wreck after wreck at a track and just raise the damn fence? I think France the Elder had a similar problem with tires blowing up. The COT is a POS and EVERYBODY knows it. How successful was IROC as a proof of concept? Idiots. Oh the COT is safe, so they are going to put more drivers at risk by making them start double-file now. Unbelievable! Pander to the wreck lovers for some more TV ratings? How's that working for you NASCAR? All this crap started when they ignored the fans and moved the NASCAR Preview in Winston-Salem, N.C. to the Fan Farce in Daytona. What a piece of work! When emailing about that I was met with a response that started with "Let me educate you..." That was your real Fan Council NASCAR, nationwide and international representation. I have 4 majors from a top 5 University, been to Law School and do consulting nationwide - I don't need to be educated by NASCAR, NEXTEL, SPRINT or any other failing business model. Chart the ratings, I would like to see a correlation between that, the points change, COT/POS as key indicators. Sorry, I am out in front by about 75 words, time to throw a caution......

Vent, dude, vent! That's

Vent, dude, vent!
That's what we're here for -- to toss up things to think about, and sit back and let you react....and see what NASCAR does in response.
keep those cards and letters coming.

Mike As a 44 year old

As a 44 year old southerner I cannot beleive the state of Nascar. Not to say that truly retro is the way to go, but i truly enjoyed a few years a go a marathon om ESPN classic where cars on bias ply tires were sliding side by side with excititing action and passing. An Olds was an Olds & a Chevy was a Chevy. I do not blame Chevy for not racing tha Camaro if you cant tell it from a mustang without the stickers.
They need to loosen up & give the companies their own identity. They need to allow the cars to handle not ride on bumpstops. Any driver with any personality gets neutered to corporate specs. Tony was a breath of fresh air until the corporates got ahold of him and unfortuneately Kyle is headed down the same path. The state of the print media has silenced a lot of criticism. I did enjoy you, Poole & Barker on Pit Bull until Daytona silenced you.
For these reasons I have quit attending races & watch less frequently.

How on earth can anyone

How on earth can anyone expect new car owners to come into Nascar? With the 35 guarenteed plus previous champions and owner provisionals what's left?
Nobody is willing to take that sucker bet. So you will continue toward 4 car teams by the favored and everyone else a start and park.
You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see how we are looking at a business that has lost its way the only important thing is maximizing profits.

I was a Nascar offical in

I was a Nascar offical in timing&scoring from 00 to 07.My dad took me to Bowman-Gray to watch Richard Petty win his 100th when Cup still ran there. After my 1st season on the inside, everything and every one was open and receptive to any and all ideas. After the chase started everything changed.You were told not to speak to anyone other than Nascar supervisors about anything. Then they hire a guy who worked for the Carolina Panthers gathering stats for the coaches to head up the Timing & Scoring dept.. What a joke!. He'd never seen a complete race before!. No kidding. He'd question the chief scorers and argue with them about who should be where after a green flag stop and he did not have a clue.I knew then I was jumping off this ship before it went under.Since then I've tried to watch but they,(Helton,Pemberton,Darby and France) have ruined the product.All the folk that I know who were fans are more sick of it than I am. These people are totally out of touch and inept. For the long term good of this sport I hope fans continue to stay away in droves and voice their displeasure with their wallets. Thanks Mike

Things won't change any time

Things won't change any time soon! ! ! ! B. France won't humble himself to say HE WAS WRONG ? ? ? NASCZAR & everyone else will have to lose a lot more $ $$ $$$$ Before any changes are made ! ! ! !

Well, I admit I have been

Well, I admit I have been surprised that France hasn't offered a more conciliatory approach...I was disappointed he didnt present a better state-of-the-sport speech at Homestead, the perfect opportunity. Maybe in Vegas, at the awards banquet, we'll see something different.
One issue -- and this could have been addressed a couple years ago -- is the size of these teams. The rush to have four teams was wrong-headed, but NASCAR-inspired, with that move to chop Jack Roush back from five teams. Rather than chop viable operations, NASCAR should have required Cup team owners to add a full-time Truck or Nationwide team if they wanted to have more than two Cup teams: You can have three Cup teams but only if you add a fulltime Truck or Nationwide team; you can have four Cup teams, but only if you add two full-time Truck and/or Nationwide teams....or tighten it all up even more and say 'you can have two cup teams only if you also have a Truck or Nationwide team.' That would force team owners to revamp their sponsorship marketing....but why not -- it would put (i think intuitively) some more marketing bang into the Nationwide and Truck tours.
What changes would you like to see?

As a long time NASCAR fan, I

As a long time NASCAR fan, I couldn't agree with you more. The one thing your article didn't mention which I think is another problem plaguing this sport is the length of the season. Let's look at the season as it is constructed. 36 races over 40+weeks in a 52 week year. Many of the tracks are duplicated throughout the year to satisfy some fans but mostly for track promoters(Humpy, Bruton and NASCAR) and some corporate sponsors.

NASCAR attempts to compete with just about every major stick and ball sport out there when it really could own just the summer months. In my opinion a 26 race season is plenty. It allows for some of the tracks on the circuit that people want to see races at(Richmond, Bristol, Martinsville, Daytona, etc.) to have two dates. It affords ample opportunity for sponsor dollars to drive the sport, yet provides competition that is not stale or repetitive. It would make each race more important and any races in the chase(if there was still a chase) to be equally or more important. It would allow a points construct that includes aspects of the old format and the chase format to determine a winner. There are some cons to shortening the season but all in all in terms of TV ratings, track attendance, and competition for the above with major sports, its win, win.

Don't think NASCAR would ever consider shortening the season. Economic times may drive that decision..I think 2010 will be the first season in a long time where we don't have 43 teams show up to race on Sunday afternoon and that is sad...not to mention the amount of 'start and parks' we'll see as teams struggle to finance even a partial race schedule. COT has backfired somewhat in the savings category, but also that has been driven by tough economic times...teams can't recover or realize the benefits of the COT from a cost benefit standpoint if they can't even buy tires.

Either way, I'll still follow the sport, just won't be following it like I used to until its worthwhile to sit and watch 4.5 hours of racing vs. cars going around a track on Sunday.

Keep up the good work Mike

Whew! Tell me -- damned

Whew! Tell me -- damned straight the season goes on too long. But it's not necessarily the length of the season, but the season should be divided up into three segments, I would say. The first part of the season ends with the 600 at Charlotte; the second part covered the summer and concludes Labor Day Weekend; the third part goes through the end of the year.
Yes, I think 28-31 races would make for a perfect season, with enough breaks for everyone to catch their breath and regroup. But NASCAR and TV have signed for this whole deal through 2014 I think.
Oh, we'll have 43 cars for every Cup race...because the TV contract demands that, hence the S&Ps. But NASCAR needs to manage the 'field filler' thing better. If I'm paying good, hard-earned money to go to a race, and then five or 10 cars just pull off in the opening laps, after making their S&P money, what kind of image for the sport is that? NASCAR imho should have jumped all over that in the opening weeks of 2009. (Instead what we got was this Jeremy Mayfield soap opera, and this Carl Long saga...and ugly PR and bad vibes all around). I still don't think NASCAR understands the impact of the Carl Long situation on fans -- the real fans who understand this sport.
It's not that the COT came along at just the wrong moment, but rather that NASCAR backed itself into a corner with that machine...no wiggle room. And we're about to see something the same happen in Nationwide, I'm afraid. You saw the Nationwide race at Michigan last summer, Brad K's outside sweep to win on the last lap. Great racing. So why change the cars? If it aint broke, don't fix it.
thanks for the good words. feel free to throw any advice our way you want to. we're good listeners. and when we screw up, we try -- like mike helton says -- to have broad shoulders.

You hit all the points. You

You hit all the points. You presented your case well. And you were right on in your analysis. The problem is that NASCAR has so many journalists either brainwashed or living in fear of losing their underpaid cushy job that they refuse to tell it like it is. The result will be more of the same until the fanbase is reduced to what it was in 1970. Only then will the lords of Daytona finally look at their leadership and make changes, even if it embarrasses the heir apparent--the junior France. In the meantime, we get crappy racing at venues like California while tracks, historical tracks, like Rockingham and Darlington sit idle and the fans in that area turn to football and other sports for entertainment.

Sometimes you have to burn a city to save it.

You're right, that there is a

You're right, that there is a major story here -- one that I have been on the frontlines for -- about journalists covering NASCAR.
There used to be a strong coterie of real journalists covering this sport -- like Gerald Martin of the Raleigh N&O, and Benny Phillips of the High Point Enterprise, and Ben Blake of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and Sandy McKee of the Baltimore Sun, and Brandt James of the St. Pete Times, and Terry Blount of the Dallas News, and Liz Clarke, first at the Charlotte O and then the Washington Post, and Shav Glick out at the LA Times, and Bill Center at San Diego, and several more....
But now virtually all of those newspapers -- as part of this strange 'lemmings jumping off the cliff' scenario being played out in so many cities and towns across the U.S.-- have cut the beat entirely.
So what do we have now covering the sport of NASCAR racing? basically TV-owned websites, a few independent bloggers, and the local 'bowling' writer.
Brainwashed? Well, that might be too strong a word. Call them 'insulated' from the real world outside the track.
Cushy? Uh, well, covering NASCAR is sometimes like making sausage......(LMAO). It aint the prettiest thing in the world.
Now we've seen and documented some of those attempts to, ah, browbeat TV people back into the company line (and why aren't Fox reporters and ABC/ESPN reporters and TNT reporters allowed to cover one of the sport's biggest stories -- declining TV ratings and less-than-sellout crowds anyway? Isn't that dereliction of duty?)
But NASCAR executives and officials really, genuinely want this whole thing to work, believe me. One big problem is this sport has become so huge, and each race weekend such a vast undertaking, that NASCAR has become like General Motors -- too big to govern. Billy Jr. realized this a while back and reorganized. It looks like it might be time for another reorganization -- the trick is to bring in people who understand racing, not just bring in good business people. NASCAR racing needs to be run by racers, real racers, not sports businessmen.
Is it too late to bring out a clean sheet of paper? where would you start?

Are you trying to start a war

Are you trying to start a war with the National Association of Local Bowling Writers?

Hey, (LOL) I am a

Hey, (LOL) I am a card-carrying member of the NALBW: that's how I got my start in all this....really. I even have a trophy cup from the Winston-Salem Classic bowling tournament, way back when......
Set 'em up, and knock 'em down....isn't that the earnhardt way?

I'm sorry but Kurt Busch has

I'm sorry but Kurt Busch has not matured. Yeah maybe he isn't running drivers into the wall, for who knows what reason [Spencer] but, I don't hear Kyle having hissy fits on the radio, for long periods of time. Heck, Kurt Busch's crew chief is leaving him, just because he doesn't want to deal with him anymore. Kyle didn't call out Tony, a week later after Daytona, did he? Kurt Busch wouldn't let Johnson go, after Johnson apologized, over and over, after Watkins Glen. Also, did Kurt really have to bury his crew chief after Homestead. Plus Kurt is 32! Kyle is only 24. Give him time. I'm not saying Kyle is an angel, but he's still young. Two people I do feel bad for are Mr. and Mrs. Busch. Both of their kids, acting like 12 years old, on national televison. Also yeah the 2009 season wasn't great, but 4 straight titles! Amazing.

okay, maybe i pushed the

okay, maybe i pushed the point (LOL). But Kurt has become more polished at least....me, I told him at Phoenix I prefered the 'old Kurt' and he just rolled his eyes and laughed.....
But, hey, when I see the Busch bros, I'm thinking Bobby and Donnie -- aren't you? And nobody ever said the Allisons were storybook marketing gems....but they sure could wheel a stock car....

Thanks Mike for saying what a

Thanks Mike for saying what a lot of us "older" (here before the "casuals") fans are thinking. The absolute arrogance, we don't give a damn attitude of Daytona & then add the POS car - it's so safe it flies! & garbage coverage of 1 tv partner & it's a recipe to drive away the most die hard fans. The double file restart was interesting but really now, can it make up for those horrendously long Pocono races? Or Fontana?

Oh I can't wait to see Jimmie go for 5. yuppers it's gonna be a real long season without some Major changes & frankly, Mike, Daytona don't give a damn!

Have a Merry Christmas! And Happy New Year

Yes, I think a lot of this is

Yes, I think a lot of this is simply in attitude -- like a little less 'tude would do us all good.
The double-files, great move by NASCAR. I need to go back and study all those restarts and see just what all was going on differently. But, again, a great move by NASCAR.
But Pocono is way, way too long....and Fontana, don't get me started on why are these cars going into a 14-degree banked corner at 210 mph....Gillian Zucker is right -- raise the banking to 23 degrees (just like Texas World Speedway), and give these drivers some banking to use.
oh, and don't worry about Jimmie making it five -- i'm out here (sssh, can't say where) scouting some great scuba shop locations for Chad....and maybe we can make him an offer he cant refuse....LOL
ah, yes....and as Jimmy Buffett would say 'Mele Kalikimaka!' Where's that salt shaker?

The state of racing can be

The state of racing can be summed up easily...drivers complaining that someone is racing them 'too hard'. Really? If that doesn't say it in a nutshell, nothing does. The COT and the testing ban have forced teams (as you pointed out) to use more expensive equipment and engineers to try to make a car that only performs on a knife edge of acceptability. I didn't renew my season tickets to Bristol this year. Never thought that would happen. My interest in Nascar is waning like a slow leak in a bad tire. Teams are spending a fortune criss crossing the country to tracks where interest is at best lukewarm. Meanwhile, the fans that helped Nascar grow are ignored. In his attempt to turn Nascar into the NFL, Brian France has left behind everything that made it appealing. I guess it never occurred to him that people watched it because it WASN'T a 'traditional' sport. A 'playoff' with every team on the field for every game? Ridiculous. While I can applaud the #48 team for winning 4 abreviated titles, it certainly doesn't impress me the way a championship won over an entire season would. Locking 12 drivers into a guaranteed finishing spot makes as much sense as guaranteeing 35 cars a starting spot. Nascar used to be a cat and mouse challenge between crew chiefs and inspectors to find a way to make their car better. Where is the adventure, the excitement, the challenge? That left with Bill Jr.

Thanks NASCAR for giving me

Thanks NASCAR for giving me back my sundays. Best racing now is trucks. Second is Nationwide. Now my girlfriend can watch football on sunday. Kyle Busch has unmeasured talent, but that snot-nosed attitude of his makes you want to spank him. Not just to complain without offering suggestions, cup cars need to be shaped like '85 Monte Carlos (without the big back glass). Tires need to be hard as chinese arithmatic. Then let's see who can drive. Keep up the good work MM.

I'm a member of the "fan

I'm a member of the "fan council", not sure how I got on it but I guess there are about 12,000 "fans" that receive a questionaire via email on the Monday after most of the races. I found it odd though that I didn't receive the questionaire after bad/boring races like a California or a Martinsville race or a rain shortened race, I assume NASCAR didn't want bad reviews on certain races. Most of the time the questions ask things like how much of the race did you watch? how did the race make you feel on a 1 to 10 scale? and how did you like the TV coverage?. Then they let you write in thoughts about anything related to the race. Early in the season they asked a few questions about your like or dislike of Digger, and what time of day would I like races to start, later in the year they asked how I felt about each ABC/ESPN announcer and whether or not I preferred the MRN/PRN guys over the TV guys. I think they definately ask the right questions and they have moved start times for a lot of races in 2010 so I do believe they really listen to the "fans". Hopefully improvements keep coming in 2010.

1. Some of the races are too

1. Some of the races are too long, especially Pocono, shorten it.
2. The Chase sucks, drivers points race instead of racing for the win.
3. Pre-race stuff is too long, shorten it.
4. The CoT is safer but butt ugly.
5. I like DW but hate Boogity Boogity Boogity.
6. Kill Digger.
7. Jerry Punch has no "punch", no voice, no excitement.
8. Race back to the flag, pussies.
9. Too many cautions.
10. Raise the speed limit on pit road to something more reasonable.
11. Bill Weber, who needs him?
12. Give Marty Smith more airtime.
13. Give more points for wins.
14. The TV director/producersneed to do a better job of showing the end of the race, show everyone crossing the line and the last passes for position. If I see one more zoom in shot of the flagman waving the checkered flag I'm gonna puke, show the action on the track!

Hey Mike - Great stuff, as

Hey Mike - Great stuff, as always.

NASCAR wants to fill more seats and couches with people watching races. Here's a pretty simple idea to increase fan enjoyment and maybe broaden the audience for NASCAR.

Here's a problem for casual spectators: People close to the sport have no trouble following the action. They could probably spot their favorites' colors in a K-Mart parking lot. But for the casual spectator, after the first 30 minutes or so, it starts to look - let's admit it - like a lot of cars just going around and around, especially when cars are beginning to be lapped. In other words, it no longer looks like a race, just heavy traffic going real fast.

For there to be The EXCITEMENT OF A RACE, the view must be able to easily tell who the leader is and how close followers are to overtaking him. (Those electronic tab attached to cars on the TV are an attempt to address this problem. But they get in the way, look artificial, and don't help fans at the race at all.) That's where my idea comes in. Put LIGHTS, aerodynamically incorporated into the roof of the racecar (as on Carbon Motors' new E7 police vehicle - Google it for a photo.

All cars have the lights, which are controlled by race officials. The lead car's lights are red. All the other cars still on the lead lap show white lights. As the lead car (the red-light car) catches scar and laps them, their white light turns off. So lead is red, and anybody also on the lead lap is white (or green or whatever color NASCAR decides). All other cars, the ones not on the lead lap, are dark. This way - at a glance - fans can see who's in the lead and, behind him, arrayed around the track IN THEIR ACTUAL RUNNING ORDER, any other cars that are still on the lead lap with him. If a "dark" car makes it back onto the lead lap, his white lights go back on. If second place overtakes the leader, the leader's lights go white and the new lead's lights go to red.

You can even hear the language this might produce, as a driver talks about how he's gonna "turn off so-and-so's lights," or about his race strategy being to "stay red the whole way." Maybe someday we'll even see a "red-only finish", where the winner has lapped the entire field. Pretty dramatic moment for a driver, and for the entire sport.

What do you think of the idea?

I like this idea. I don't

I like this idea. I don't know if lights would be very visible at an early afternoon race-start, but they'd get easy to see from around 3:00 on, which is when you'd really want them, so it'd work great for most of the day races and all nights. GOOD IDEA. Now the big hurdle - get NASCAR to go for it.

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