Monday, June 15, 2015

NASCAR's Homeless Drivers

The first couple of Mötley Crüe albums were instant, hair-metal classics. Then commercial success set in, and we got schlock ballads such as Home Sweet Home.

Speaking of Home Sweet Home, the PR machine of NASCAR's multiple teams, sponsors, and media partners seem hellbent on forcing upon us the schlock idea every driver must have a home track.

At one time, one could argue this was a truism. Drivers who started their careers in late models on the bullrings of America often found themselves back at that track in a next-level NASCAR ride.

Some of those tracks included places such as:
  • Fairgrounds Speedway - Nashville
  • Birmingham Speedway
  • Hickory Motor Speedway
  • Soldier Field - Chicago
  • South Boston Speedway
  • Myrtle Beach Speedway
  • McCormick Field - Asheville, NC
  • Bowman Gray Stadium - Winston-Salem, NC
  • Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds - Spartanburg
  • Stateline Speedway - Busti, NY
NASCAR itself promotes a number of home tracks that host annual racing schedules under NASCAR sanctioning - none of which currently host a Cup race.

Matter of fact, I can't think of any race on NASCAR's top three series' schedules held at a track that also hosts a regular slate of racing for the locals. On the Cup side, I believe the last "home track" to host a Cup race was Nashville - and that relationship ended in 1984.

The home track branding has progressed from illogical to silly to now absurd.

I understand NASCAR wants to showcase the expanded range from which it now draws its drivers.
  • The Busch brothers are from Vegas
  • Denny Hamlin is from Virginia
  • Carl Edwards is from Missouri
  • Jimmie Johnson is from California
But Kyle and Kurt did not cut their teeth on the 1.5 mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Carl Edwards was a substitute school teacher and part-time racer in Missouri. He never raced at Kansas Speedway until he hit the big time.

I was elated when Richard Petty Motorsports visited victory lane again in July 2014 when Aric Almirola won the rain-shortened Coke Zero 400. But I hung my head when I read Daytona was his home track simply because it was a two-hour drive on I-4 from his Tampa home.

On Friday before qualifying for the 2015 Michigan race, Richard Petty Motorsports tried to have us believe Ohioan Sam Hornish, Jr. claims Michigan Speedway as his home track.

Jimmie Johnson raced off-road trucks before jumping into a Busch Series car in 2000. He didn't bang around on Saturday nights at California Speedway.

But what really blows my mind is that JJ's crew chief, Chad Knaus, apparently has a home track of his own: Chicagoland Speedway.

Dale Jr.'s home track is obviously Kannapolis Motor Speedway. Right? Wait. I'm pretty sure Cup ... and the X-Series ... and the trucks do not race in Kannapolis - and never have. So I guess it makes perfect sense Jr.'s home track would be Charlotte Motor Speedway an hour or so down the road. Hold on a sec - but then wouldn't that be the case for everyone who lived in the Charlotte / Lake Norman corridor?

Ahhh. Richmond International Raceway. Home of the multi-time track champ Denny Hamlin. No? Well, maybe he was a multi-time winner on those sweltering summer Saturday nights at RIR. Didn't happen either? Hmm. Hamlin began racing at the 3/4-mile Richmond track only after he joined Joe Gibbs Racing.

Oh Little Joey - ye Logano of Connecticut well-heeled lineage. Did you realize the 2015 Daytona 500 winner proudly claims New Hampshire Motor Speedway as his home track? Never mind JoLo - like Denny at Richmond - didn't race on the surface of his home track until joining Joe Gibbs Racing.

Tony Stewart's home track is of course the Brickyard. Why? Because he is from Columbus, Indiana - an hour south of Indy. And because he is among the double-handful of NASCAR drivers who have raced in the Indianapolis 500. What other reasons do you need?

Matt Kenseth claims Madison International Speedway in Wisconsin as his home track. What a prepost... Oh, never mind. Kenseth is a former track champ at MIS so this one is actually legit.

Jersey boy Martin Truex, Jr. is unique in that he has at least two home tracks according to the lemmings: 
  • Dover because Delaware is a few hours from Jersey.
  • Loudon because well ... you get the picture.
Even Busc ... I mean Nationw... err X-Series drivers get a home track. Chris Buescher's: Texas Motor Speedway. Number of races on the track: five.

Home tracks aren't limited to just drivers. Teams - corporate entities - equity ventures - apparently claim them too. Roush Fenway Racing's home track is Michigan. I'm not exactly sure why. I'm pretty sure Roush Fenway didn't grow up racing dirt late models or quarter-midgets. Perhaps the company's corporate charter is registered in Michigan. Umm, somehow I doubt that too.

Furniture Row Racing is based in Denver, Colorado. Their home track - logically of course - is Kansas Speedway. Wait. What?? Yes, it seems because NASCAR no longer sanctions a race in Colorado that FRR claims the next closest track: Kansas Speedway. Yes, the track that is 600 miles away with zero attachment to the team's owner, crew or driver gleefully raises its hand and proclaims "Yep, that one's ours!" I think whoever came up with that connection inhaled way too much on a trip to Boulder.

Is the home track phenomenon limited to NASCAR? Absolutely. Positively. Not. Even the straight-line crowd gets to cling to a track they never ran as their racing careers evolved. Take Antron Brown from the NHRA for example...

I expect the home town nonsense to continue. If you read it on Twitter, hear it on TV, see it in article, etc., feel free to borrow King Arthur's great line in replying to the individual.



  1. Ha, when I saw the article title I was ready to open my wallet and help the poor drivers with no home!

    Your piece is right on target, especially as we get more and more drivers in the "big time" who've never seen a weekly oval.

    That's a really novel thought to stage some major series races at some "weekly" tracks. Maybe that brand new NASCAR VP could run the idea past the stakeholders, intergalactic drivers council, the owners' strangely silent consortium and perhaps even a few fans.

  2. Right on. This crap goes hand in hand with some PR imbecile telling me who won the inaugural "Coors Light" pole award in 1949 at Martinsville. These clueless asses need a trip behind the woodshed with Lee Petty and Curtis Turner.