Monday, July 29, 2013

NASCAR at the Brickyard: 'Something is indeed wrong'

   Some thoughts on Sunday's Brickyard 400 from former Speedway Motorsports Inc. and Charlotte Motor Speedway president H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler:

   Sunday's pitiful crowd at Indy was a sore reminder that something is indeed wrong. Pocono, which is just a weird version of Indy, this Sunday will be similar except the crowd will look bigger since they only have 60,000 seats compared to Indy's 250,000.

   So, what is it?

   First, the economy is still lousy particularly for those working class people that made NASCAR what it is. I also think we have 'corporatized' the sport terribly and I blame the sponsors and some tracks for this. It has gotten too fancy and we need to get back to our roots.

   However, I believe a lot of this can be blamed on the much maligned aero push that enables the lead car on all tracks except Daytona and Talledega to simply take off and then you have a lead of 600 feet and that completely eliminates back and forth racing for the lead. The back-and-forth lead change is probably the second most exciting thing in racing (outside of the wreck) and we simply don't have that. Without it you have few if any rivalries and those intense rivalries sell more tickets than anything.

   I know that NASCAR is not only totally aware of this aero push dilemma and but their R&D department is working overtime to find the answer to this mystery. Will they? Of course, but it needs to be done with the speed of sound!

   If not, we will be running these races with "studio" crowds just for the sake of TV.

25 comments:

  1. Remember IROC series?...all those cars performed the same.

    Boring!

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  2. Alot of spectators are resorting to the General Admission (GA) tickets. They are only $30 and it provides a great way to spend the day in the infield. You can get up and walk wherever you want, whenever you want. The decline, pertaining to the reduced #'s in the stands, occurred when the GA tickets were introduced 3-4 years ago. The Indy 500 has had this ticket available for years, but it had never been granted for the Cup race. I believe, if the tickets for the stands were reduced from the 70's and 80's, to the 50's....the stands would look a little better on raceday. I love the race there every July and am already looking forward to next year's race. I just know that it's more enjoyable, knowing you didn't spend an arm-and-leg for a ticket, plus, i can usually interest more friends in coming to the race, if the price is right. I never hear anyone complain about $30 when i ask if they want to go. When i mention $75, they usually don't go. Also, most of the fans are not worried about aero pushes or passing. They are there for the spectactle. That is, speed, sound and pure enjoyment of being part of the event. When you have already spent alot of money to get there, it makes it harder to enjoy it. I love Indy and i'll be coming for years to come. I wrote this, to provide a fan's perspective. Nascar is doing a great job, and it's not the fault of the cars. It's the economy, providing the option for the GA tickets, and not adjusting rates for the grandstand seating. Thanks.

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    1. In regards to my previous post, i do agree with the article in regards to aerodynamics and not being able to pass, but in the grand scheme of things, i don't believe that's the reasoning behind the decline.

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  3. A lot of good points made by posters and Wheeler. As to the over "coporatization" of the sport I couldn't agree more. I get that we need the sponsors. Without them we're nothing. But I just about puked watching Newman kiss the bricks. Not once but a dozen times with the hat dance, and the Crown Royal cushions. They've taken something that was initially spontaneous and fun and turned it into something else to sell to the sponsors. If that's not reeking of what's wrong with the sport I don't know what is.

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  4. Of course the aero push problem is a big one (glad I'm not the only one that has noticed), but NASCAR needs a new business model. It's not 1999 anymore. There aren't 45-50 fully-funded teams and everyone isn't making money hand over fist. They need to change:
    -the field. Cut it back to 38 starting spots so we won't be subjected to 3-5 start & park cars that never should have been hauled to the track in the first place.
    -the schedule. There are 24 tracks with SCS races. Run 1 race at each track for the regular season. The Chase then is 6 races, one each at Daytona, Indy, Charlotte, Bristol and 2 races that rotate among the other 22 tracks.
    -the points. Award no points for finishing lower than 30th, so we won't be subjected to Sanford & Son junk yard cars barely running minimum speed for 100 laps to get 2 more points.

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  5. You really expect NASCAR to take business advice from a newspaper whose business model is failing miserably? "Observer Sports"? You aren't even willing to put your own name on the article and you expect to be taken seriously? Are there problems, of course there are... but the Observer has no business case to propose solutions! You guys are so bad at what you do that negative reporting is your last-ditch effort to drum up readers.

    John King
    Charlotte, NC

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    1. You didn't notice the name "Jim Utter" at the top? You're criticizing them and you can't even read? And the article is clearly an opinion piece based on the thoughts of Humphy Wheeler. Your ridiculous ranting is completely invalid.

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  6. Oh, note that while the writer cited the capacity of the track, they never cited the attendence! I don't know how many people were there, but I do know that comparing a 60,000 seat race with a 250,000 seat race without looking at percent of seats sold is statistically meaningless. That's not reporting, it's propaganda.

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    1. "Pocono, which is just a weird version of Indy, this Sunday will be similar except the crowd will look bigger since they only have 60,000 seats compared to Indy's 250,000."

      He doesn't have to cite attendance!!! He's saying that the two tracks will have similar attendance but because Pocono only has 60,000 seats compared to the 250,000 at Indy the crowd will look bigger. What part of that don't you understand? HIs comparison makes complete sense if you have any sort of reading comprehension.

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  7. IndyCar seems to have solved the aero problem of the lead car just driving away from the second place car. Perhaps NASCAR could talk to them.

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  8. Anyone who has followed the sport for a long time can tell you it's just not as interesting as it once was. Too many races, too few teams, too few different engine builders, and oversaturation of TV coverage. Supply seems to be greater than demand. As a fan that attended my first race in 1972 I can say I don't hang on every lap as I once did. Just my .02

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  9. Fellow race fans, let's all be brutally honest.

    Name another sport where a 71 year man is in the starting line-up. God love Morgan Shepherd, but aside from parlor darts where else is that even thinkable?

    It says alot to me. One, they actually need him to fill the field. Two, the quality of the competetiveness is so entirely lame that he's actually safe. Three, he quietly exits fairly early and no one says a thing as if it didn't just happen. As in, total denial.

    NBC airing them will further their decline. The Ice Capades, the Olympics and NASCAR. Not to mention endless airing of promos for their liberal and pathetic shows all race. Just what a NASCAR fan loves.

    The party's over as it stands now. Nothing but a total overhaul is in order. It's a perfect storm. Lame points racing. Only a handful of worthy drivers (p.s. Junior is not one of them). Lame cookie cutter tracks. Indifferent markets. Bailing sponsors. Etc.

    It will all be a historical business class soon.

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  10. Lots of good stuff here. Keywords; boring, cookie cutter tracks, cookie cutter cars, cookie cutter drivers, cookie cutter announcers and the list goes on. Yep. NASCAR is in great need of a rebirth. Typical Sunday for the last few years for me has been; church, home in time for about lap 50 (depending on event), put a movie in the DVD player and if Kyle Bush is leading, which is normal, watch the movie till nascar.com shows about 25 to go. If Kyle is still there, back to the movie till 5 or so to go. Watch the race only if Kyle isn't leading. I don't eat M&Ms anymore either. All things considered, NASCAR can do much better. Let cars be real and engines be real. Drivers need to knock the idiots out of the way and go for it like the old days. If NASCAR isn't careful, it will look like Indy cars and Indy tracks, 25 cars and 10,000 fans. They are getting there inspite of themselves trying to promote generation 6 cars. All the same except for decals. Maybe they can just put Ford decals on the IROC cars and rerun those.

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    1. The sad thing is that IndyCar is the best racing there is right now. All the racing NASCAR used to have is now in IndyCar.

      There's no doubt the Indy 500 was heads and shoulders a better race this year than the 400....and the 6 ovals the run at are all completely different from each other.(Indy, Texas, Iowa, Milwaukee, Pocono, California)

      Indycar has figured out racing packages but their marketing is a huge issue and that's why they don't draw the fans because the racing is there. The Brazil race this year is considered one of the best street races EVER.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVl2PuojmJg

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  11. The aero push has been a problem since the late 90's early 2000's. From the early days up until the late 90's the race cars were mostly about good mechanical grip. Then Nascar decided to make them more aerodynamic and the next thing you know Aero Push was part of our vocabulary. When Nascar first talked about the new Gen-6 car one of the ideas was to decrease downforce to help decrease the aero push. Genius Nascar ended up with a lot more downforce than the COT and aero push is here to stay. Sometimes Nascar comes off as pretty smart but yet they do some pretty stupid things.

    The second major problem started around 2003. Brian France took over the sport and has continued to make the sport less appealing every year both on the track and in their marketing. The racing product has suffered due to Nascar tinkering with the cars and not letting the crew chiefs do the tinkering. Hope Brian France doesn't fine me for saying the racing product isn't good. They also decided to take away the most historical and tradition race, the Southern 500 in Darlington, and move it to California. Someone is Nascar needs to be willing to speak up against Brian's decisions or else he will drive it more in to the ground. Yeah right, nobody under Brian has the balls to speak up and risk their seven figure salary.

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  12. Bring back Rockingham and North Wilkesboro and I will bet you that those two tracks will sellout!

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    1. Well until more than 10,000 show up for the Truck race no Sprint Cup is going back to the Rock. The Trucks put on a great race there and even that isn't supported. If the place was selling out then Nascar might look at it but the crowd the second year was worse than the first year so what does that tell you? And North Wilkesboro? C'mon man, get over it that ship sailed a long, long time ago and isn't coming back.

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  13. How about 5 1/2 clearance on the front bumper, with no splitter. That's more like the cars from the 80's and earlier. That will make the lead car push more and the trailing car have more front end downforce. Just pondering.

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  14. Humpy is right, the racing isn't good. sure the economy factors into things because people only have a limited amount of $ to spend on entertainment. Who wants to spend money to attend a race and be bored?

    Gary's comment about the IROC series is right on the nose.

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  15. Pretty much agree with Humpy and Utter. One factor about this too is that NASCAR tells Goodyear what tires they want and Goodyear bakes 'em up. The 2008 TireGate fiasco cost more fans than ticket prices ever did. I say give them a box to fit in, let them do it, reduce the rules to basics and run whatcha brung.

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    1. I love what Firestone does with IndyCar.

      They make a huge difference in racing. Better drivers can excel with the harder compounds(the blacks) and the more aggressive guys can get with they want with the softer compunds(the reds).

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  16. The sport is in a slow, steady, descent and it seems irreversible. NASCAR was to the 1997-2007 timeframe what Midget racing was in the immediate post-WWII years. Or similarly, the 1980's Indianapolis 500 years. Traditionally non-racing fans added it to their entertainment list and "got into it" for four or five years, a decade tops, and then went back to their normal sports and entertainment interests.

    Brian's error was not seeing the forest for the trees at the time, and buying into the notion that the change that came a decade ago was a national awakening to NASCAR and something permanent to build on. "Seventy-million NASCAR fans", "second only to the NFL", "the world's greatest drivers" , and other associated gobbeldy-gook was the norm and was as silly as NASCAR TV commentator panels made to look like NFL Game Day coverage hashing out minor details for hours on ened like they were dissecting a playbook, GWC finishes, "Lucky Dog", and race officials contrived to appear to have responsibilites like NFL refs. All silly. All things that truly have nothing to do with automobiel racing. Contrived like a Hollywood action movie.

    So when the people that stuff was all made up for moved on and back to movies, football, and baseball, concerts, and outdoor activities, who was left? The original NASCAR fans of the Rockingham and Southern 500 in September-era, the people who knew who J.D. McDuffie was and can name The Silver Fox. And those people know racing and are very authentic characters in our society. And they saw the sport they love all clowned up to be a made-for-tv soap opera on wheels, cast as an NFL-like sport, and they started walking away. They still are and will be for a good while.

    In in my opinion, about ten years from now, NASCAR in 2023 will look very much like NASCAR of 1973 on the national radar screen with crowds at places like Pocono and Fontana, Michigan, and Kansas City, in the 20,00 to 30,000 in attendance range, with 1.5 TV ratings, and solid third-tier status on the American sporting landscape. Teams will be smaller, some with major corporate sponsorships, but most with the old J.D. McDuffie and Jimmy Means sponsorships and teams that are just as tiny. There will probably be about ten fewer races on the schedule, and existing venues with smaller seating capacities. Some of that is already happening.

    In the major media, NASCAR will get national coverage for the Daytona 500, and small mentions on the evening sports reports and in the newspapers/internet news, however those models will look in a decade. Some races will come and go with barely a passing notice, like ARCA races do today. If something tragic happens, it will be headlines in the way Indy Car was struggling for recognition and coverage but saw Dan Wheldon's death make top news on the national evening broadcasts and first mention on the Monday morning shows.

    Maybe the top two or three NASCAR drivers will be household names, if that. The rest will just be racers out there racing in a once mega-popular, faded relic of a sport that rose up from the backwater clay tracks of the South, endured decades of second-class status, laughed at by the more "cultured" elite sports fans as a hillbilly, redneck endeavor, moved into a more mainstream, acceptable major league sport status in the 70's and 80's, due in large part to the 1979 Daytona 500 fight cable TV coverage later on, then took off into the stratosphere of mainstream interest when a colorful guy nicknamed "The Intimadator", a living super hero comic book character with John Wayne swagger, became a householf entity, then died in a made-for-Hollywood drama which then highlighted the sport even more and made it soar for another half a decade. Then it all unraveled and slowly but surely returned to a regional sport with mild national curiosity. Today's drivers will be remembered as greats of the era and old heroes of an era when NASCAR was big.

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  17. I know NASCAR is trying to attract new fans and the casual fan, but I think so much of a race weekend has little to do with racing: concerts, a midway-like atmosphere with petting zoos and rides and such. Spent some time thinking this week if cutting back on throwing a little bit of everything and seeing what sticks is the way to go. Let's get back to the main event: racing and the associated stars of the sport. While I am not on the ticket price bandwagon, as I find affordable tickets available, perhaps getting rid of all these extras could lead to more butts in the seats for the main event.

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