Monday, October 15, 2007

Miscellanea from the Marbles!

Post Lowes!

Bruton does not Gamble! (much!)

Is there anyone who doubted that Bruton Smith would hold the trump card in the face-off with the City of Concord? One does not become a billionaire unless one is ruthless, hard-charging, and can 'deal from the bottom of the deck.' I for one, cannot understand the mentality of people who buy houses within a stone's throw of a racetrack, an airport, or a military base, and then have the gall to complain about the noise.

Talented but in bad equipment-a Tale of Two Drivers.

Elliott Sadler migrated last year into a new car, new sponsor and new owner. He is currently sitting 26th in points, by far the worst status of his career since the year 2000, when he finished 29th in points. His average finish is 25.4. His worst average finish is 26.7, again in the year 2000. The year 2000 was Sadler's second year in Cup.

David Gilliland is currently sitting 3 spots behind Sadler, in 29th. His average finish is..... 26.7. David is in his .... second year. 29th, 26.7, second year....hmmm...some similarities there! Ahh, but David did not have a full year in year one, where Sadler appears to have missed a race in his second year.

What is the difference between the two? Sadler has 7 years experience in a Cup car, Gilliland has 1 year. One is a veteran driver in bad equipment, the other is a newbie driver in bad equipment. I find it curious that the veteran driver gets sympathy and support, while the new driver gets slammed repeatedly on various boards. Interesting indeed! And this is the same equipment that the veteran driver refused to drive anymore!

Speaking of David Gilliland

... and his team mate Ricky Rudd. (Welcome back, Ricky!) Those of us listening to the scanners for both of RYR's drivers heard a huge difference in the tone of conversation. For the first time all season, I heard what sounded like a love-fest between David and his crew chief, Todd Parrot! Todd was taking David's suggestions, and implementing them. David was giving good feedback, free from hearing the abrupt 10-4 in response. Todd even complimented David on his driving, more on Saturday than I have heard all season long. From what I have read from Rudd fans, they were experiencing something very similar on the #88 scanner.

I would like to think that both drivers, both crew chiefs, and both teams 'found something' in the way the cars were built, and the way they communicated. However, I heard David, during a red flag, comment that HE needed to talk to Jack about his top ten car. Hmmmm....Did Jack have a surplus of Car of Yesterday chassis left over? Has Doug already brought Jack Roush in to help? Or did the 'pink slips' sent to each RYR employee, with the 'you need to reapply for your job' direction cause a change of heart? Most certainly, both cars ran better today than all year, with DG finishing two laps down due only to a right front flat tire.

It Will Be Coming Around the Corner, When It Comes, When It Comes! (sorry for stealing from the old folk ditty!)

What is coming? How about One Really Huge F-bomb! No, not the one uttered under stress by Kyle Petty, but one with far more letters. FRANCHISING. With all of the big money newly added to NASCAR'S major teams, and some not so major.....Roush Fenway, Gillett Evernham, Waltrip and Robert Kauffman, HOF and the Diamondbacks, with several other teams rumored to be in discussion phases, all I can see for the future is Franchising. Add in the alliances being built, Roush-Yates, Hendrick-Haas, RCR-DEI, & Gibbs-HOF and you can see that the future will be with mega-teams. I get the feeling alot of today's big $$$ players want to get in before the price goes up!

With that, who says that NASCAR is failing! Ratings-schmatings!

NASCAR and the Political Movement:

It appears members of Congress underestimated the power of NASCAR fans. Or at least, they underestimated that the NASCAR fans, nor their representatives, do not take perceived slights well. The story showed that irritated NASCAR fans can be quite rabid. Perhaps rabies shots would have been in order. At this point, the posturing has turned into back-tracking!

Ginn a deadbeat?

Several months ago, I posted the above title on a message board, as soon as the first rumors started circulating about creditors not being paid. I was immediately flamed with "Ginn has plenty of money, he can afford his race teams." A week or two later, the bottom fell out of the Ginn operation, with drivers being released, and the "Fastest Merger of the Year." (substitute the term 'buy-out' for 'merger'), plus a whole bunch of folks who lost their jobs.

Apparantly, there is someone who is a bit peeved at the way Bobby Ginn has exited the sport. In this article it appears that an aircraft flew above the Lowes Motor Speedway with a sign trailing. The sign stated: ""How much does Bobby Ginn owe you?

Have a great week!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A "Clash" of Open-Wheel Drivers!

Several weeks ago, I discussed collective nouns, in relationship to the behaviors of NASCAR Fans. For the last few weeks, I have been watching the news, and the racing by the latest influx into NASCAR by open-wheel drivers. Judging from the reactions I have found on the internet, the only appropriate collective noun would be a "Clash."

Open-wheel drivers have been coming in to NASCAR since the 1960's. If we look back in our history, we will see names like Foyt and Andretti who competed a few times each year. Many of our current, most popular drivers have an open wheel background! Stewart, Gordon, Kahne, Mears, Allmendinger, Yeley, and so on! In recent years, we have also seen Andretti's and Foyt's competing! Even some of our team owners have an open wheel background, as in Ganassi and Penske.

There has been an attitude 'clash' between F-1 and NASCAR for years. They have been battling for popularity with fans. F-1 drivers have called the stock cars boring. NASCAR fans have felt that that Schumacher's comments were reflective of many, that NASCAR was to be largely ignored.

Then, Juan Pablo Montoya entered the scene! While Schmacher was disdainful, Jacques Villeneuve was applauding the move by JPM, but including the following:

However the Canadian doubted many more Grand Prix racers, most of them groomed from infancy in go-karts and European open-wheeled single-seater series, had the requisite skills to follow the Colombian.

"Juan Pablo raced in the States, he raced in ovals so I think it's quite different," said Villeneuve.

Once JPM was deep into NASCAR racing, he discovered that there was a much steeper learning curve. While he won a single race at Sonoma, he even admitted on a Sirius radio interview that he should be expected to win that, but thinks his first oval win will give him credibility. It certainly has not been a cakewalk for him!

My Blog-Buddy, fondly called Lugnut, has quoted many fans on their complaints about the new drivers coming in. Many fans of Elliott Sadler are most upset with Jacques, as the only real issue from JV at Talledega came at the expense of Sadler. On Ray's weekly inteview, JV was verbally lashed, with Ray being just as unhappy about JV's actions as was Sadler.

Then a few short days later, Ray's business partner, George Gillett announces the signing of Patrick Carpentier. Whoopsie, now even Sadler is ok with the influx of the drivers.

IS IT SURPRISING HOW FAST THE INTERNATIONAL DRIVERS ARE COMING IN TO NASCAR? “It is. Seems like they’re all here in one shot, but it’s like that in NASCAR. A couple years ago you had to have a World of Outlaw guy. A couple years before that you had to have a guy that had Busch experience. Now the guys are trying the IRL, CART, Formula One kinda background; it just kind of runs in cycles. I think it’s great for our sport; these guys are all coming over here to be a part of it. They’re coming to the best sport in the world. I think that says a lot for our fans, our sponsors and our teams. So, we’ll have to sit back and see how each one does.”

IS THE MIGRATION OF DRIVERS A RESPONSE TO THE WEAKNESS OF OPEN WHEEL RACING? “I think so and I hope we don’t ever get to that point. If we stay strong, we’ll be fine. Right now we have the highest TV ratings of any other motorsports in the United States. We have the most fans. We have the biggest sponsors. Right here is where you want to be if you want to race in America. Right here is where it’s at and I think these guys know that and they want to come be a part of it, test their feet and see how it is.

HOW DO YOU THINK THE TRADITIONAL NASCAR FAN IS GOING TO REACT TO THE FOREIGN DRIVERS? “That is a good question and I don’t have an answer to that. I know Juan Pablo gets a few boos here and there. That’s cool we have NASCAR fans that protect our NASCAR heritage. But, I also think it’s great for international guys to come into our sport. They’re bringing new fans to our sport, their bringing new sponsor and new people that would maybe were close minded about it before.”

So, now one of the popular drivers at GEM has decided it is great for the sport for the "Clash" to enter NASCAR. I agree with the reasons Sadler has given for them crossing the bridge, but there may a be a few more reason. Perhaps the open-wheelers want to enter our sport because it IS a challenge. Perhaps they are looking forward to interacting with fans. Perhaps, they are wanting to race with the best. Perhaps, they are looking to getting back to driving, rather than pointing a technological marvel. Perhaps, they want to be competitive, rather than following team orders.

And finally, I keep reading how the "Clash" is preventing able drivers from our own sport from progressing and getting rides. Well, let's see, we do have some interesting drivers looking....Mayfield, Nemechek, Marlin, Kenny Wallace, Mike Wallace, Stremme. Of that list, the only one who really should be given another chance is Stremme, as he was in equipment that may not have been up to par! The other drivers have been looking for rides in the past, long before the "Clash" arrived.

In my opinion, the Cup drivers who are Busch-wacking are a far greater detriment to the progress of our stock car drivers. When 6 of the Top Ten in the Busch series are Cup drivers, you can be sure that there are many able drivers in the Busch series who are being shut out of rides. In fact, Stephen Leicht, who is losing his job through no fault of his, currently is only able to find a partial ride for next year. And, he is 8th in the points. THAT is a shame!

Also, forcing the new drivers to run a set number of races in other series is patently unfair to the regulars in those other series. The competition in those series is tough enough, without turning them into the playground or training camp of the 'Clash."

I am sure the debate over the 'Clash' entering our sport will indeed continue to see a 'Clash" of opinions.