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.


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