A Lap Around: Hot Topics
Hi Race Fans! It's been a while since we did one of these, so we all got into the dusty old conference room here at RFF Central and knocked around a few topics we thought were relevant to the time in our favorite sport of NASCAR. Feel free to take them in and make your own comments as well!
Hot Topic No. 1: The Brickyard 400 is approaching. What one single change, if any, would you make to the schedule for the Brickyard weekend?
Kevin Abraham: I would move the Xfinity and the Truck race back to IRP. The racing at the short track is better than at Indy. I would also make the cars use the road course at Indy and make them race without a spoiler. Best solution would be to move the race from Indy to Eldora, but that will NEVER happen. I know you asked for one change, but one change would not fix the debacle that is Indy for stock cars.
Vivian: I would cancel the race at the Brickyard and run the road course or at Lucas Oil Raceway.
Dave Fulton: A single change to the Brickyard weekend schedule would return the Nationwide cars from the Speedway back to IRP, Lucas Oil or whatever its current name. A 2nd change would remove the Cup cars from competing at the Speedway altogether, taking that event completely off the NASCAR calendar. Since the very first one, its usually the worst, most boring race of the year.
Darrell Stoops: I can't think of any change I would make to the Brickyard 400. Except maybe telling Jimmie Johnson it is the following week.
Frank: Buhrman: This is a track that might put on truly awesome races without about 75% of the current "aero package" stuff. It would take a great driver to get around that unique shape, and nobody would notice how much slower the speeds were.
JL Steele: Besides giving that date to Rockingham or resurrecting North Wilkesboro, I don't know of any meaningful change that will improve that race weekend. With the current rules package and the type of track Indy is, this will continue to be the poster child for "track position" racing.
However, I realize your question asked about the "Brickyard weekend" and not the Brickyard race. In that case, to improve the weekend, move the Xfinity Series back to Lucas Oil Raceway, more commonly known as Indianapolis Raceway Park. At least then fans can see one competitive race that weekend.
Jim Fitzgerald: Easy answer. The fans want more road course racing. Either use the Indy road course or go somewhere new, like Laguna Seca or Road America.
PattyKay Lilley: This is by far the easiest of the four questions, and it’s my guess that you’ll get this same answer, repeated several times with only slight variation in wording. (Mine will probably have more words than the others.) Take those Xfinity cars off the Speedway and put them back at IRP, where the racing was great and folks actually came to watch. That is one of the worst decisions NASCAR has made in years, and one has only to look at the “crowd” that shows up for that little parade to know that. If you truly want to see that in perfect perspective, watch the crowd that assembles for the truck race three days earlier… at Eldora!
Hot Topic No. 2 : When Kyle Busch made his return at the All-Star Race, there was talk about how a win and an average 15th place weekly finish would be enough to earn him a spot in the Chase. In the four races since his return, Busch is averaging an almost-25th place finish, with only one top-ten. In your opinion, is there still time for Kyle and the M&Ms team to turn it around and make the Chase, assuming a win can be found as well. (Kyle had to go and ruin this one by winning at Sonoma...)
Kevin Abraham: Not at this current rate. A win can happen, but I don’t see Kyle making the top 30 by Richmond.
Vivian: Kyle Busch does not have time to make the chase as he is not running well so far. However, we still have Brian France in charge so he may put him in because he can!
Dave Fulton: I don't think Kyle B will finish with enough points to make the Chase, even with a win.
Darrell Stoops: I really doubt that Kyle Busch has enough time to make the Chase given his finishes the past few weeks.
Frank Buhrman: I have no idea if he'll make the Chase (the Gibbs cars all seem really erratic this year), but it would be a bonanza for NASCAR if he was still in contention up to the end.
JL Steele: Anything is possible but that is certainly a long shot. He's now 37th in points. Nothing against the drivers in positions 30-36 but Kyle should be able to outrace them and their teams every week. I think he does it. Kyle Busch will be in the Chase.
Jim Fitzgerald: It's going to take a win, and it needs to be soon. Momentum is a big thing in our sport and if they get that ball rolling down hill, they are going to have to get it done soon.
PattyKay Lilley: Logistically and mathematically, I guess there is still time, and being Kyle Busch, a win or even more is not beyond the realm of possibility and even might be likely. Making the top-30 in points however, is a monumental task, which Kyle has made tougher since his return. My advice would be to smile and hope, but don’t be too disappointed Kyle, if you’re left to watch this year. That is the most likely scenario at this late date.
Hot Topic No. 3 : Simple question: Yes or no, with explanation if you choose…should fans be allowed to fly the Confederate Flag while attending NASCAR events?
Vivian: Yes, fans should be allowed to fly the Rebel Flag is they choose. One needs to understand that different generations have different feelings about the meaning of that flag. Most people aged 50 and up have very different feelings than the younger, political correct generations. Some of the older ones see the flag as status of being from the South and it still carries the pride of those Americans. I don't think very many Southern bred, regardless of color, who are seniors (50+) think of slavery or color of skin when they fly it or even look at it. NASCAR is a Southern sport which has brought many people together to enjoy something they love. It is almost like a kindred spirit thing to look over at someone flying the flag and just thinking, "Yeah! We are together and we are one" or something to that effect. I think people should have the right to decide based on their beliefs and convictions. We have way too many who are just willing to jump on the bandwagon without even knowing what the whole story and truth is. I think we have way too few people who stand by what they believe. History is very important and we need to cling to it and pass this history on. It is your right so go out and FLY THE CONFEDERATE/REBEL FLAG.
Dave Fulton: I always supported fans' rights to fly the Confederate flag at events. Now, I'm not so sure.
Darrell Stoops: Yes they should be able to fly the flag if they please. I do not want to see NASCAR get wrapped up in politics nor do I feel they have the right to take away anybody's free speech.
Frank Buhrman: I'm hesitant to allow/disallow anything that doesn't present a clear and present danger to others, but if the guy with the flag runs out of beer, he probably shouldn't ask me to refill his cooler from my stash.
JL Steele: Absolutely, fans should be able to fly the Rebel flag or any other flag they choose to bring to the track.
Jim Fitzgerald: Flags, simply stated, are symbols, and very often they mean different things to different people. Me? Everyone who knows me knows I am a Red White and Blue, Stars and Stripes-waving fool. All you need to do is look at this site to figure that out. But let us not kid ourselves. If you wore red underwear today and white underwear yesterday, it doesn't change who you are. Some are taking a stand and saying "take down that flag," but what remains are the feelings behind it, whether you call it hatred or heritage. If it makes you feel better, take it down, by all means, but the flag is a symbol, and removing it doesn't change a damn thing about those would who fly it in the first place.
PattyKay Lilley: There is no simple yes or no answer to this one. “Allowed?” As long as some are “allowed” to burn the American Flag and claim it as a right of free speech, then of course, they should be “allowed” to fly the Confederate flag wherever they choose. To those that have such a huge problem with that flag… Brad Daugherty and others… please give this New York State born and raised lady a moment of your time. I was fortunate enough to have a teacher in 8th grade, Sister Mary Gervase of the Sisters of St. Joseph, who took the time to explain to those of us that cared, what the War Between the States was all about, and if you’ll do the research… you weren’t there, and neither was I, but I’m literate and still learning at almost 77… you’ll discover that somewhere over time, you have been misled. The war was never about slavery. That cry was picked up far more recently… about a hundred years after the war ended… by hate-mongers attempting to stir trouble between races. If that flag… there were four different flags during the time… represented hate in any fashion, it was hatred of the Yankee thinking that they could keep their steel, but also lay claim to the cotton in the Southland. It was a war of economics and never a war between or because of race. If folks would only learn before they speak, life for all of us would be so much easier. It’s all in the history books… the old ones, not those rewritten as revisionist history to suit someone’s particular purpose. Trust me here; there is nothing that serves one better than the truth.
Hot Topic No. 4: Here’s a thought and question from a fan- Jeremiah writes: I frequently read the articles on Race Fans Forever and I have one idea that could help the growth of NASCAR. I'm 27 and have been an avid NASCAR fan since 1992. I've attended MLB, NFL, and college football games and I can say without a doubt NASCAR treats the fans exponentially better. I regrettably missed the Dover Chase race in 2013 to attend a Houston Texans game and I will never do that again. All fans had to get searched on the way in and security made women throw their purses away. When I was growing up, I don't recall my family ever even buying concession food at NASCAR races because we always brought ours in. In terms of autographs, I don't even ask anymore because I have so many programs covered in them. Good luck getting an autograph at an NFL game.
This brings me to my issue: why won't NASCAR run with this in its advertising? I can't imagine all the NFL fans being happy to go thought airport-type security just to watch a game. For all the things people like to say NASCAR has done wrong, in my opinion they have always treated the fans well. I just wish the rest of the sports world knew.
Kevin Abraham: NASCAR is VERY fan friendly. They need to do better to market this.
Dave Fulton: Marketing relaxed security in their advertising for NASCAR events as compared to other professional sports would be a very disturbing thing for NASCAR and/or track operators to do. For sure, advertise the friendliness and availability of the drivers and crews to meet fans.
Frank Buhrman: I'll be cynical and say NASCAR's only nicer these days because it's the one with falling attendance, and being nice is kind of necessary. Nevertheless, it IS a distinction worth exploiting, and I could definitely see a commercial with fans saying the kinds of things Jeremiah mentioned.
JL Steele: It's no surprise NASCAR has missed a great opportunity to advertise this. It's certainly not the first thing they've screwed up in the past decade!
Jim Fitzgerald: I think NASCAR does an "okay" job of promoting itself, but Jeremiah brings up an interesting point. I can;t say I would start spouting off how relaxed the security policy is, but perhaps emphasizing how affordable going to a NASCAR race really is in comparison to other sports, and that's not only the ticket priced, but the concessions as well. Thanks for the question, Jeremiah!
PattyKay Lilley: There was a time Jeremiah, and you must have been around for some of it, when NASCAR did push that very sentiment. Race fans were openly thanked by drivers, car owners and all others involved in racing, including a couple of fellows named Bill France. That was their bread and butter… the fans. Both NASCAR and long-time Series sponsor R.J. Reynolds knew and acknowledged that the fans came first… because that’s where the money came from. And everyone reading this knows exactly where it’s going from here. The year was 2004. R.J. Reynolds was gone… forced to give up sponsorship by our P.C. Federal government. The second Bill France was in ill health and was obliged to hand over control of the business to his son, Brian. That gentleman had different ideas; ideas coming from folks that sit in board rooms in New York City. NEW YORK CITY??? (Insert proper accent and astonishment here) Old fans… what are now being called “core fans” were told quite plainly and emphatically that they were no longer needed or wanted. The target group became the coveted 18-34 demographic. Words such as “Redneck” were banned from the language of NASCAR. One driver, Derrike Cope, showed up for a race with a sponsor on the hood that read “Redneckjunk.com. (It was a site selling racing parts) Derrike was not allowed to race with that sponsor and was told it portrayed NASCAR in the wrong image. Traditions like the Southern 500 at Darlington on Labor Day were tossed out like moldy bread. A new point system was installed, which has changed annually, becoming more far-fetched with every change. Meanwhile, though fans have stopped coming in numbers too large to ignore, the price of seeing a race at many tracks just keeps on escalating. Go check the ticket prices for the new “Daytona Rising” project, being paid for with your tax dollars. $400 Million of them! Then, figure out how much it would cost for Mom, Dad and a couple of kids to go watch a race. You won’t be bringing food in if you want a cold drink. A small 14” Playmate cooler is all that’s going past that gate… no glass please, and yes, it will be checked. You can still get a $2 hotdog at Martinsville. That same hotdog is maybe 3-times that at Daytona. Better love what you brought in that tiny cooler, because a beer there is $12, so I’m told. And yet they’ll smile and tell you that your seat is bigger. Fan-friendly took a back seat in the past decade to money-hungry, and there is but one man to thank for it. Brian Z. France… still trying to prove that he is a better businessman than his Dad or Granddad. He is not… but he is in charge, and he is the one that should be asked your question. So many of us know what’s wrong, but are powerless to fix it. The one man that could, won’t. He sees no problem.