Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Jack Roush: "Clint (Bowyer) has been on my radar screen"

   In an interview Wednesday night with Claire B. Lang during her show "Dialed In" on SIRIUSXM Radio, team owner Jack Roush admitted he has had conversations with driver Clint Bowyer and that Bowyer "has been on my radar screen for a long, long time."

   "We'd certainly welcome him to the Ford camp if he accepted (Richard Petty Motorsports') offer. That would certainly be, I think, in Ford's interest and I would be very happy about that," Roush said. "If he decided to take a look at one of our programs, and we had room for him, that would also be of interest.

   "The way the sponsors are going to line up for next year and which cars they're going to be on and which opportunities you might have, is not clear. We're having discussions on many topics."

   Bowyer, who currently drives for Richard Childress Racing, is in the last year of his contract with the No. 33 Sprint Cup Series team. He has been in contract negotiations for months, leading to speculation he may end up elsewhere when all is said and done.

   Roush said Bowyer was "a lot out of the Carl Edwards mold."

   "He's a Midwest guy and he has good judgment on the race track. He's earned a lot of respect from his competitors as well as a lot of insiders like myself who have been watching him during his career," Roush said.

   Roush currently fields four Cup teams with drivers Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Edwards and David Ragan.

   Asked if he really had a spot available at Roush Fenway Racing, Roush said, "I don't know what kind of sponsor lineup I will have for next year. It's just not clear. It's not clear the way all of our programs are going to shake down."


NASCAR goes to college this fall

    As students head off to college this fall, many will encounter the work of one of NASCAR's newest marketing campaigns.

   UNC Charlotte and UNC Chapel Hill are among the schools NASCAR has targeted this fall with its College Brand Ambassador Program, which will utilize student ambassadors to host events including viewing parties and trips to loca tracks to watch NASCAR events.

   NASCAR U CREW, with the assistance of two brand ambassadors per school, will help integrate NASCAR into the college lifestyle of 12 colleges and universities in the 10 Chase for the Sprint Cup markets.

   “NASCAR, and the social component of watching and attending races, lends itself very nicely to the college lifestyle,” said NASCAR Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Steve Phelps.

   Besides the two North Carolina schools, the pilot program will also debut at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; University of New Hampshire; University of Delaware; University of Kansas; Auburn University; Virginia Tech; University of North Texas; Arizona State University; Florida International University; and the University of Miami (Fla.).

   Responsible for establishing and executing at least 10 unique NASCAR events and integrating the sport into existing campus events, each school’s ambassadors will also be charged with working closely with their respective track to create and promote a college ticket package as well as a designated hospitality/tailgate area for local students.

   “NASCAR is a fast-paced, high intensity, adrenalin rush, and that is exactly why it is already so popular with 18-34 year olds. It’s a sport for the young and adventurous, and we just have to open more college students’ eyes to it," said Madison Phillips, a NASCAR ambassador at UNC Chapel Hill.

Can fans accept the ever-changing landscape of NASCAR?

   In many respects, advances in technology bring positive, beneficial changes.

   That is also true in NASCAR, particularly in the area of driver safety. The use of the HANS device and extensive work done on car chassis to make them more durable and help prevent serious injury – or even death – has been seen in countless examples over the last 10 years.

   But at its heart, NASCAR was always a simple sport.

   Build a car and engine that’s durable, run fast, outrun your competitors. Try to find an advantage others don’t have or ‘slip’ something by the track officials.

   Hopefully, make enough at the race to pick up your stuff and take it to the next one.
   It’s worked for over 60 years.

   These days, however, NASCAR – at least in competition terms – has been battling technology more than it has benefited from it.

   With changes in competition, technology and even society, rules have been changed or added in the sport affecting how races are run or even how drivers may act.

   The addition of a multitude of millions of dollars in corporate sponsorship has imposed greater demands on drivers and teams and greater responsibility, sometimes to the detriment of the once rough-and-tumble operation of the sport.

   The development of car technology has made them far more durable – thus eliminating the attrition factor once a part of 500-mile races – and also created unexpected problems in areas like aerodynamics.

   There are more big tracks than short ones, a trend which only adds to the aero problem and thus the cost of correcting those issues.

   NASCAR tried to keep its engines in line with its origins, but next year carburetors will yield to fuel-injection. Is there anyone who doesn’t think a whole new line of unpredicted issues will develop as a result in the years ahead?

   Yes, technology has done wonders for NASCAR competitors and fans, who now have access to more information than ever before about the sport they love.

   Yet, technology has also changed that once simple sport forever. I do not doubt that in some ways that’s occurred in every sport, but in NASCAR – where many argue equipment has more influence than the competitor – it’s far greater.

   The question remains: In the long term, will that be for the better?

   The answer is likely yes, but only if the sport’s fans are willing to accept the ever-changing landscape.