Thanks to all of you who participated in dialogue after my last article. Sounds like many of you are still fed up with NASCAR and don’t see much a future in it for yourself.
That was a sentiment I found mirrored in a Forbes article recently that claimed NASCAR was low on gas and needed a spark (http://bit.ly/2CzoSpS). The most telling part of the article for me was near the end. Set aside the retiring drivers and the Cup series is ready to kick off 2018 pretty much the same as it was in 2017.
What’s different? Chevy will have the Camaro, some pit road changes, a few mechanical tweaks but all in all, it is the same tracks, most of the same drivers that made a difference on track (only Kenseth won a race, Danica and Earnhardt, Jr. did not) and all of the same tracks. Earnhardt will jump to the booth and hopefully provide some insight and genuine likeability to a broadcast team that has become stale and sounds more like a NASCAR PR machine than it does unbiased commentary.
What does that give us? Same old NASCAR. Unless NASCAR can start measuring how many people are watching on mobile devices, and I don’t mean just following on race buddy but actually streaming the race, and turn that into a positive monetary flow nothing is going to change. Sponsors will be hard to get. Money will be tight. Teams may fold.
What is good news is that the competitive spirit has never been higher. Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex, Jr, and Jimmie Johnson are all still there and more determined than ever to win a title.
But is that enough to get eyeballs back on the sport and stop this annual, double digit decline?
I heard from some folks that Martin Truex, Jr was not a real champion since they came out of nowhere. The fact is, that team and that driver have been steadily improving over the years and proved that 2016 was no fluke. NASCAR has always been about a driver or team catching fire at the right time and just going out and spanking the field race after race. When Dale Earnhardt, Sr showed up he was a rough and tumble nobody who went on to win Rookie of the Year and his first title right after that.
Truex and his team found consistency the likes of Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus and used that to spank the field in 2017. While the new format rewards wins, it rewards consistency just as well. If you perform well you can make it to the final race at Homestead and have a shot at the whole ball of wax.
What else has been happening? Richard Petty Motorsports has changed to, gasp, Chevy in an alliance with Richard Childress Racing. And the Air Force has signed on as a sponsor to the 43 car. That seems a bit odd to me after the Washington DC kerfuffle a few years ago about the military spending money on NASCAR sponsorships, which essentially ended Dale Jr’s National Guard sponsorship.
And in the most shocking news, Danica and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr called it quits after 5 years of dating. Actually, it didn’t surprise m that much. I thought it was an odd pairing and with Danica going through some major life changes, it was just a matter of time.
And in Silly Season, Michael McDowell will join David Ragan at Front Row Motorsports. Both drivers perform well on the super speedways and while Ragan didn’t perform very well in 2017, the tandem give Front Row its best shot at another race win in 2018. The team has increased its alliance with Ford and Roush Fenway Racing. These alliances have become critical for many small teams and are the only way around NASCARs mandated team ownership limit.
That’s it for now, enjoy the holidays and keep the shiny side up.