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.