TV Times: Why Can’t Sprint Cup Drivers Do More To Put (Backsides) In Seats At The Track?
Why can’t drivers be a major factor once again in getting more Sprint Cup fans to attend races as they did before?
It’s obvious that there’s been lots of empty seats for those particular races at just about all of the venues that host them. At one time, NASCAR used to boast about that driver/fan connection when pitching to prospective sponsors.
Well, they can’t brag about that any more.
Back in July of ’79, there was a rain delay for the Firecracker 400, and the race was red-flagged due to a passing shower. The race cars were stopped on the front stretch of Daytona. As fans approached the fence, drivers climbed out of their cars and held congenial conversations with them as well as signing autographs One of the drivers was the controversial Tim Richmond.
Obviously, the late Richmond knew that it was important for fans to relate to him. Unlike today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers who praise the fans in conversation but their actions at the track seem to care less about the folks who buy tickets. The fans make it all possible for NASCAR and its venues to conduct those racing events. Back in the old NASCAR era, Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough and David Pearson could all connect with fans. Petty, as an example, signed autographs well into the night after the races were over and wouldn’t leave the track until the last person in line got his signature.
Bobby Allison told me, ”The biggest compliment that I could get was for a fan to ask me for my autograph.” We can recall seeing those drivers in restaurants taking time to be polite to their fans. That was in the early days before NASCAR hit the 12 years of phenomenal growth which could be attributed to fan access to drivers. Too bad there’s been a big change in drivers’ attitudes now while NASCAR seems preoccupied with other issues.
Due to busy schedules, drivers claim they are just too busy to interact with fans. Often times they’ve been observed just hanging out in the garage area keeping out of sight in their haulers or, more so, in their luxury motor homes within secure fenced-in areas of the infield. Claiming they’re too busy is just an excuse to insulate them from the good paying customers.
And it’s pretty much the same story at F1 races as well. That segment of motorsports has never sustained prominent success in the U.S., and it could be because of a similar fan disconnect. Another story to be discussed at some other time.
The NHRA National Full Throttle coast-to-coast series is looking at expanding into the New England market, specifically at the New England Dragway in Epping, N.H. There are published stories telling of that circuit awarding a date to that venue. NED management had to make some costly improvements to bring it to that sanction’s standards yet couldn’t get the rest finished in time for 2012. Couldn’t get a bank loan, according to a knowledgeable source.
We’ve been reading daily business pages that cite tight money policy within the banking industry. This example really hit home with the drag racing fans in the New England area. Now the sanction and the venue are shooting for 2013. If the economy improves, things in the banking industry should loosen up. The folks who operate NED sure hope that’ll happen pronto.
Two final on-track sessions at Daytona International Speedway closed out the third and final day of the Roar Before the Rolex 24 – the last test event leading into the 50thAnniversary of the Rolex 24 on January 28-29, 2012. For the 14 Daytona Prototypes and 43 GT cars, working out the bugs during this three-day testing weekend came down somewhere between pushing the cars as hard as possible to see what they could handle, or to hold back a little to peak for the main event at the end of the month.Two of the drivers to make their mark during the test event share at least one thing in common, both are nationals of Brazil: Felipe Nasr, the young driver who is in only his fourth season of racing, won a seat for the 50thAnniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona by virtue of winning the Sunoco Daytona Challenge; and Christian Fittipaldi, son of former Grand Prix driver and team owner Wilson Fittipaldi, who won the Rolex 24 At Daytona in 2004 with Terry Borcheller, Forest Barber and Andy Pilgrim.With five cars in the GT field, TRG team owner Kevin Buckler has a unique perspective on the test event. “Friday was one of the best first days we have ever had,” said Buckler. “These first days can be a little rough but the guys have been working really hard back at the shop. All the drivers cycled through the cars and were usually at the top of the time charts with one of the Porsches. We have a whole group of international drivers as well as some buddies of mine in the #65 car and they all did a good job.”
The Rolex 24 At Daytona will get underway on Saturday, January 28, at 3:30 p.m. when Grand Marshal A.J. Foyt will issue the command, “Drivers, start your engines.” A number of special events are planned to celebrate the 50th Anniversary, including the Rolex 50 Years of Champions display which will feature over 30 of the championship winners at a charity gala to benefit the Halifax Health Foundation on the evening of Thursday, January 26, at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach; a procession of the championship cars to Daytona International Speedway on at 9:00 a.m. on Friday morning, January 27, after which the cars will be on display throughout the weekend.
Randy Hill, owner of Randy Hill Racing, announced the contract extension of NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Casey Roderick that will parlay into the 2012 season. Roderick, a former winner in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, joined RHR last June and has made three NNS starts at Watkins Glen, Dover and Homestead-Miami. Roderick’s best finish occurred at Watkins Glen where he finished 25th.
The Lawrenceville, Georgia, native turned an impressive career-best qualifying effort of 20th in the season finale at HMS. The duo hopes to contend for the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship in 2012 beginning with the season opener at Daytona next month.
With the holidays officially over, January racing is here, meaning the running of the 26th annual Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire to be held at the Quik Trip Center Expo Square. Tanner Berryhill, a turned stock car enthusiast with some open wheel experience, is eager to compete. Berryhill, 18, who quickly gained attention for his presence in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, has teamed up with Cory Kruseman Racing to make his third attempt in the event. In addition to joining a potent operation like CKR, he will be able to lean on the advice and compete with P.J. Jones, Kruseman and Freestyle Dirtbike rider Brian Deegan.
In addition to USAC, Berryhill also has competed in Late Models, the CARS Pro Cup Series (formally known as the USARacing Pro Cup Series), the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards and seven starts in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Series. Following the 26th annual Chili Bowl National presented by General Tire, Berryhill’s stock-car team, Vision Racing will make an announcement pertaining to its 2012 season.
The International Motorsport Federation confirmed that it had terminated North One Sport’s deal to promote the World Rally Championship after claiming the troubled company had breached its contract. The FIA scraped North One Sport’s One World Rally Championship contract. This came from SportsBusinessInternational.
NASCAR is back in full gear as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams hit the pavement at Daytona International Speedway this week for three days of preseason testing. The main focus of the test is for teams to work on their final preparations for 2012 Speedweeks – in particular, the 54th running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 26. “This is an opportunity we are providing to the competitors to implement and test the new Daytona rules package for 2012,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition. “It’s a chance for them to get comfortable with the cooling package, the smaller spoiler and to practice drafting for next month’s Daytona 500.”
The new rules package is a result of information gathered during recent tests at Talladega last October and at Daytona last November.
“While we have had other tests with these set-ups, this is the first opportunity for the entire field to test together and get more comfortable with this package as it relates to their cars,” Pemberton said. “This three-day test will allow the engine tuners for these teams to be able to work with their engine packages and see how they relate and react to the new cooling regulations.”
Next month’s Daytona 500 will be only the third NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points event ran on the repaved Daytona International Speedway. This year’s Preseason Thunder will continue to be an opportunity for teams and drivers to test their skills on a relatively fresh surface in addition to the new rules. Complementing the testing portion of this weekend’s festivities, the track is also offering fans an opportunity to be part of a special two-day Fan Fest event.
Perhaps the Fan Fest sessions, scheduled for Thursday, January 12, and Friday, January 13, which will include autograph sessions, driver question and answer sessions, show cars and displays, music and a photo opportunity with the 2012 Harley J. Earl Daytona 500 trophy, will help the driver/fan connection as mentioned above. In addition, fans can ride the high banks under the lights by purchasing a Richard Petty Driving Experience ride along.
Check Jayski.com to see what’s happening on TV for motorsports action. (END)
NOTE: INFORMATION FOR THIS STORY CAME FROM PRESS RELEASES AND PERSONAL NOTES.
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