Sunday, January 25, 2009

Vegas - NHL gets it. Why doesn't NASCAR?

Looks like the NHL is going to move its annual awards ceremony from Toronto to Las Vegas. Admittedly, this is a bit of risky move because the NHL's closest team to Vegas is its troubled franchise in Phoenix. But at least they are trying something different.

Meanwhile, NASCAR still plans to have its season-ending banquet in December 2009 in New York City as they have for about the last 20 years or so.

NYC is often billed as the "city that never sleeps". Apparently that moniker was created before NASCAR came to town because New Yawkers don't give a rip about the Cup guys coming to town.

I understand the importance to NASCAR and its participants of corporate America, big business, sponsor representatives, Madison Avenue ad agencies, blah, blah, blah. But don't those groups all hob-knob enough as it is throughout the year? The rest of the city simply DOES NOT CARE, and the banquet festivities don't move the needle amongst the city's residents or fans in any other part of the country.

Meanwhile, Vegas folks and others from the southwestern U.S. have shown up in strong numbers to the races out there. If planned properly, I think NASCAR could reinvent its annual banquet program - including moving it to Vegas just as the NHL is doing.

I'm not much of a Vegas guy myself - don't gamble, don't pay $200 to see washed-up pop singers, and prefer a bit of moisture in my breathable air. I'm likely in the minority though. I think the sponsor-laden cars, the flourescent decals and paint, loud V-8s, and driver personalities are much better suited to parade around the Vegas strip and various casino autograph sessions than they are at the Waldorf Astoria, reading a top 10 list on Letterman, or ringing a bell on Wall Street.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

ESPN - NASCAR Friend or Foe?

Anyone checked out the changes to the front page of lately?

Notice anything missing? How about a direct link to NASCAR? This change is courtesy of 1 of the 2 major supporting networks for NASCAR TV coverage. Actually, I'm not so much offended by the dropping of NASCAR from the main sports bar as I am by their inclusion of SOCCER. Are you kidding me? Are we gonna have THAT debate again?

To link to NASCAR coverage, the user needs to click All Sports and then NASCAR in the 2nd column. Yes - there it is - in the same column as prep sports, MMA, and the WNBA. But at least it didn't land in column "C" amongst poker and bass fishing so the France family at least has that going for them.

I visited - NASCAR's other major TV partner - to see what it looked like these days. NASCAR still merits real estate amongst the big boys of sports at their site. They also had some story about "Change We Need". I didn't read it, but I've got a pretty good hunch its not about's re-design.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Circuit City collapse

Anyone remember this threesome from 1997-1998? Hut Stricklin in a Stavola Brothers Ford sponsored by Circuit City. Visual evidence that there was a red 8 car before Dale Jr and Budweiser.

The Stavola Brothers disappeared after 1998 after about 15 years in the sport with a handful of pretty good drivers (Bobby Allison, Jeff Burton, and Sterling Marlin) and their share of backmarkers (Rick Wilson, Bobby Hillin Jr, Hut Stricklin). Hillin shocked everyone with a "who did you say won?" victory in 1986 at Talladega. Allison posted the 3 other wins for the Stavolas - including the 1988 Daytona 500 - his final win.

Hut also somehow eked out a 15 year career finally calling it a day in 2002. I've never been quite sure how he got in or how he stayed. I still remember laughing when reading the Jacksonville FL newspaper's driver-by-driver prediction of who would fare well in the Pepsi 400. When I got to Stricklin, the writer's analysis simply said "What's a Hut?" and then moved on to the next guy.

Circuit City is now the last of this threesome to disappear. I've never been a big CC fan, although I have bought a handful of stuff there over a 20 year period. Nonetheless, its a sad day when companies lose their edge and focus, folks lose their jobs, and competitors lose...well, their competition. Best Buy, another consonant-alliterative big box electronics store is surely smiling at the thoughts of increasing market share while also increasing prices.


NASCAR's new math

Just as sure as the sun will rise in the east tomorrow, I'll guarantee one of the announcers will say something to the effect of "you'll need a score sheet to keep up with all the driver and team changes in the off-season" early in the broadcast of next month's Daytona 500.

What I think FOX needs to do this year differently this year, however, is to spare us the traditional cliches like the one above or "the Daytona 500 is the Super Bowl of stock car racing" and take a few moments to educate its audience on NASCAR's new math.

Check out these case studies. I simply present them. I don't pretend to understand them. I'm not even sure Will Hunting can solve these arithmetic challenges.

Gillett Evernham Motorsports + Petty Enterprises = Richard Petty Motorsports

GEM had 3 teams at the end of last season - 9, 10, and 19. Petty Enterprises had two - 43 and 45. GEM and Petty announced a merger this month forming Richard Petty Motorsports.

With the merger, RPM will now field 5 teams, right? Wrong. 3 GEM + 2 PE = 3-1/2 RPM. Kyle Petty's 45 team was shelved, and GEM's #10 car will now race part-time as #44 which was reclaimed from Michael Waltrip Racing.

Dale Earnhardt Inc. + Chip Ganassi Racing = Earnhardt Ganassi Racing

DEI had 4 teams at the end of last season - 01, 1, 8, and 15. Ganassi had 3 for half the year but only 2 by end of the year. These two teams merged in December to create Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (EGR) - or as I've begun calling it - Chip-N-Dale.

With the merger, CND will now field 6 teams, right? Wrong. 4 DEI + 2 CGR = 3 CND. Or maybe 4 + 2 = 2. The DEI 01? Gone. The DEI 15? Gone. CGR 40 and 41? Gone. The DEI 8 - made famous by Dale Jr when flanked with Bud colors - was abandoned by Mark Martin, has Aric Almirola as a driver, but is unsponsored. Likely future? Gone. This leaves CND with Truex in the 1 and Juan Pablo Montoya in the 42 - and maybe the 8 if Aric is lucky.

Teresa Earnhardt apparently has a PhD in NASCAR New Math. The 2008 merger is her second illustration of 2+2 = 5. In summer 2007, DEI merged with Ginn Racing. At the time, DEI had 3 teams - 1 of Truex, 8 of Dale Jr, and 15 of Paul Menard. Ginn Racing also had 3 teams - 01 of Mark Martin, 14 of Sterling Marlin, and 13 of Joe Nemechek. With the merger, DEI fielded 6 teams, right? Wrong. 3 DEI + 3 Ginn = 4 DEI. The 3 pre-existing DEI teams continued with 01 as the only carryover from Ginn.

Just as New Coke failed miserably compared to what became known as Coke Classic, the new DEI was downright dreadful when compared to the old DEI. Many wondered at the time - and still do - who would benefit from such a merger. In the 18 months post merger, Dale Jr. has gone to Hendrick, Paul Menard and his daddy's wallet bolted for Yates Racing, the Army sponsorship is gone, the 8 is unsponsored, NASCAR's 2008 rookie of the year - Regan Smith - was let go from the 01 car, and the careers of Sterling Marlin and Joe Nemechek were effectively ended. And I thought the Kmart/Sears merger was a debacle...

Hendrick Motorsports -

The 800 pound gorilla of NASCAR escaped the winter turmoil pretty well unscathed. Its 4 teams will return in 2009 - 48 of Jimmie Johnson, 24 of Jeff Gordon, 25 of Mark Martin, and 88 of Dale Jr.

So 4 HMS + 0 merged = 4, right? Wrong. Tony Stewart's revamped Stewart-Haas team featuring he and Ryan Newman are essentially satellite teams of Hendrick. So 4 HMS + 0 = 6.

Yates Racing + Hall of Fame Racing = To be determined

DYR ended 2008 with 2 underfunded teams - the 28 and 38. As noted earlier, Paul Menard ran from the soap opera that is DEI (or now CND) to the safer, history-laden race shops of Yates. In doing so, he gave Doug Yates an abundant supply of of his dad's home improvement stores sponsorship money and a thimbleful of his own driving talent.

So 2 + 1 = 3, right? Basic kindergarten math. Wrong again my friend because along comes Hall of Fame Racing and its new driver, Bobby Labonte. Through a new affiliation agreement, HOF is now a satellite team of Yates much as SHR is an affiliate of HMS - with one notable exception. NASCAR is for some reason allowing Yates' owner points to be transferred to the HOF car. From what I've read, the relationship between Yates and HOF is one of technology, parts, and information sharing - NOT equity. So how 28=96 is beyond me - particularly when the car owner isn't the same.

I enjoyed math all throughout school. I enjoyed and appreciated the logic of it. But this kind of math makes my head hurt, and its enough to make me think about turning to the liberal arts and all those humanities I didn't like back then for any future learning.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bud Shootout...or Flat Beer Flameout

During the 80s, Anheuser-Busch and NASCAR had a pretty good thing going. Each week's pole winner was awarded the Busch Pole Award, and all of the annual pole winners raced in the Busch Clash the following February to open Speedweeks at Daytona.

Then screw-up #1 happened. A-B decided to ramp up the marketing of its already ubitiquous, over-exposed Budweiser brand. The Busch Pole Award became the Bud Pole Award, and the almost-rhyming, battle-sounding Busch Clash became the stupidly-named Bud Shootout.

Then screw-up #2 happened. NASCAR, as is always its tendency, got greedy. So greedy in fact that it took new beer money on a short-sighted basis. Coors Light became the new pole sponsor for 2008 to replace Bud. However, the Golden CO brewer did NOT sign on for an annual pole winners race the following February.

Then screw-up #3 happened. A-B renewed its sponsorship of the Bud Shootout, and the latest version is scheduled for February 7, 2009. Rather than acknowledge the prior year pole winners as sponsored by a competing beer, A-B completely disregarded winning a pole as a requirement for the race. Instead, they've chosen to take the top 6 cars from each of the 4 manufacturers based on 2008 CAR OWNER (not driver) points. With the topsy-turvey off-season we've had in NASCAR from November until now, the plans are blowing up in their face.

Check out what seems to be the eligible cars for this race as of today. (With all the driver-team changes and mergers, corporate sponsor changes, and gub'munt bailouts for the manufacturers, no one really knows who will show up with whom at the beach.)

  1. Jimmie Johnson
  2. Kevin Harvick
  3. Casey Mears
  4. Jeff Burton
  5. Jeff Gordon
  6. Dale Jr.
  1. Cuzzin Carl
  2. Greg Biffle
  3. Matt Kenseth
  4. David Ragan
  5. Jamie McMurray
  6. Travis Kvapil
  1. Kasey Kahne
  2. David Stremme
  3. Kurt Busch
  4. Reed Sorensen
  5. Elliott Sadler
  6. TBD for the 10 car - maybe A.J. Allmendinger? - not even known if the team still exists
  1. Opie Hamlin
  2. Sliced Bread Logano
  3. Shrub
  4. Brian Vickers
  5. David Reutimann
  6. Michael Waltrip

So this is how NASCAR plans to raise the curtain for its 2009 season? A race without Tony Stewart but with David Stremme? Without Ryan Newman but with David Reutimann? Without Bobby Labonte but with Travis Kvapil? With perhaps an incomplete field because Dodge may not be able to muster enough teams?

When the checkered flag falls, Dale Jr. will likely be the winner..again. And whenever that happens, the Mighty Red...errr...Green Nation will rise and roar in unison, the FOX booth will gush spittle all over their monitors, and the NASCAR execs will grin widely & declare our beloved sport is on solid footing - yet again ignoring the glaring, obvious-to-everyone-else troubles of it.


Update 2009-01-16

In a move of desperation, looks like A-B & NASCAR have decided to implement "The Smoke Rule" to add a 7th spot for each manufacturer. The net effect of it is to get Smoke and Labonte in the show.

Four Teams Added to Shootout

But the new arrangement still doesn't help some teams/manufacturers. The "wild card" slot for Toyota falls to Bill Davis Racing's #22 team - except that there is no longer a BDR. This team was sold to Triad Racing so I guess they bought the car owner points position too. But wait, Triad has neither employees, a driver, or a sponsor.

Based on the updated recap of the eligible cars at, the "wild card" Ford team is the #38 Doug Yates Racing entry - driven last year by David Gilliland. Rumor has it that Yates has shut down the 38 and let Gilliland go to make room for Yates' affiliation with Hall of Fame Racing and Bobby Labonte. NASCAR is saying that Bobby's 96 team will replace Yates' 38 team - except wait - I thought Yates didn't OWN the 96 but was merely affiliated with HOF Racing. So how does he get the points? Maybe its because Bobby is a past champion.

Finally, Dodge is in even more trouble now than they were before. From what I can tell, they barely have 6 guaranteed teams - much less a 7th one as a "wild card". I guess Hornish and his Penske #77 are still floating around out there somewhere.

Who knows. Label this as - what are we up to now? - oh yes, screw up #4.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Lay off the weed Mike Accavitti

My first car was a Dodge Dart. My wife drives a Dodge Grand Caravan. I drive a Dodge Dakota. Some of my favorite race cars were the big-bodied Dodge Chargers of the mid 1970s. But I'm not a Dodge loyalist - its just worked out that way.

Dodge is in a world of hurt in NASCAR. They have been heading this way for some time, but I'm not sure they've even hit rock bottom yet.

So I find this Scene Daily article (Dodge has smaller Sprint Cup lineup, 'high hopes' for 2009) more than just a bit funny - especially this quip.

“You want to have a portfolio of drivers that can at any given time deliver a top-five or a victory,” said Mike Accavitti, director of the Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep brands. “We feel with the lineup that we have remaining that we can do that. … The seven cars that we have – or eight cars or six cars or whatever it ends up to be – will be sufficient."

What??? Let's review shall we the line-up as we think we know it heading into the season.

#2 - Kurt Busch
#12 - David Stremme
#9 - Kasey Kahne
#10 - unknown - likely to be filled with one of those baseball-like "player to be named later" guys
#19 - A.J. Allmendinger, supposedly
#43 - Reed Sorensen, supposedly
#44 - unknown - former #45 team of Kyle Petty - rumored to be Chad McCumbee - but likely shelved
#77 - Sam Hornish, Jr., supposedly - unless he returns to IRL

This is the line-up "of drivers that can at any given time deliver a top-five or a victory"? This is the juggernaut that's ready to take on the A-teams of Hendrick, Roush, Gibbs, and Childress? It'll even be a challenge for this bunch to consistently beat the B-teams of Yates, Chip-N-Dale, or Red Bull. And on most Sundays, I'm afraid they may be beaten by fellow C-teams like MWR, Furniture Row, and whatever other one-off, rag-tag teams show up from time to time.

I'm beginning to believe Accavitti is the second coming of Jeff Spicoli with the role of Mr. Hand played by Chrysler CEO, Bob Nardelli.


State of the Union at Petty Enterprises

In David Newton's blog entry from Tuesday, he succinctly describes the sad state of affairs at Petty Enterprises. Not an obituary of PE just yet - but close.

The King in front of the desk, not behind it

I'm waiting for all the dust to settle before I launch into multiple blog posts about my feelings for Petty Enterprises, their place in the sport, and my admiration of the King as a life long hero.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Current state of NASCAR....from 20 years ago

First, make it through Kyle Petty's attempt to pull a Cole Trickle Days of Thunder trick during a 1988 race on Richmond's old half-mile configuration. Pretty creative way to make up some lost time and draw a desperately needed caution.

Second, pay particularly close attention to TBS's in-race feature on the state of the sport (starts at 2:03 mark). You would think the drivers are talking about the state of NASCAR today vs. 20 years ago.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

My Favorite Paint Schemes

Daytona 500 winning black 3 burning out a 3 on the tri oval grass. Nascar just isn't the same without that black car.

Coolest special paint scheme for the 3, reflecting both Dale and my passion for the outdoors.

8 tribute to 3 scheme that ran at talladega and gave us all chills. Sold a lot of shirts and diecasts too.

Daytona 500 winning 8 car. How cool is the Born on Date. (Note: this picture is the Shootout car, the Born on Date was changed to 15 Feb for the 500). Glad we went.

Major League Baseball All Star game car. Photo taken at Talladega where we got within a few feet of Jr, DW, Larry Mac and this car (and we have the pictures to prove it somewhere). Jr won the Pepsi 400 in 2001 in this car, the first race at Daytona after Dale's fatal crash. A moment for the ages that not even Nascar could script.

Great looking 22 Pontiac. Not the Daytona 500 winner which was a Dodge but looks cooler in a Pontiac. Plus it's more fun to say Catahpiwwar Pawntiac than Catahpiwwar Dodge. No trouble finding this car on the track.

The Skoal Bandit. The namesake of my first car a 1980 Chevy Citation II which suffered a DNF due to engine failure (I was 16, you do the math).

Cale. Hardee's. Old school. Nothing else to say.

Always cool looking Kodak car, in many variations and makes thru the years, with many different drivers. Couldn't find a decent Sterling Daytona 500 winner picture though, which was my preference. No straining to find this car on the track either.

The baddest muscle car in history, and this coming from a non-Mopar guy. In plain Petty blue, 43, and 426 c.i. To my knowledge, only Nascar car banned because it was too dominant. Wonder how you use the chrome horn with this one.

DW Mountain Dew Buick. Loved the 88 retro scheme of this car last year.

Special gold Winston car for Jimmy Spencer in the Winston. In honor of our friend the CPADawg.

Look out Stroker Ace, a purple ride for a part time driver country music legend.

The absurd State Fair Corn Dogs car. Also ran with Bryan, Jimmy Dean, and Rudy's Farm schemes in 1999. Pork anyone?

Woody Woodpecker car. What the.

New Year's Eve Daredevil

Only my son & I made it to midnight last night to see in the new year. Daughter was put to bed early in anticipation of a long night tonight at the Nashville Predators hockey game. Wife fell asleep on the couch around 10 PM never to return.

I've never enjoyed the NYE network shows - Dick Clark or anyone else who has taken his place. Bunches of people standing around in the cold in New York does not make for interesting television - nor do those terrible, awful, trendy musical "artist" they trot out annually. I always feel obligated; however, to watch the ball drop in Times Square because...well, just because. But again, its somewhat of a joke because the ball drops midnight eastern time, and we're in central time.

So for a change, I kept my eye on ESPN's much-hyped Robbie Madison motorcycle jump in Las Vegas. He raced up a long ramp, soared to the top of the 100 foot high replica Arc de Triomphe, landed perfectly, wheeled around, and then drove off the friggin' edge to free fall the 100 feet down to a landing ramp. Unbelievable.

I grew up as a big Evel Knievel fan. I got sucked in with the whole Snake River Canyon stunt, and I had my heart in my throat during some of those mega-crashes Evel had - especially at Wembley Stadium.

But this guy Robbie Madison - holy moley. It was much-hyped, but it was much-cool. I've been to Vegas and to the Paris casino resort. I've seen how high the Arc is, and to launch a bike to the top it and then drop back off of it is stunning.