A Voice for the Fans ~ On Road Racing and Dirt Racing
I bid you welcome gentle readers, and as always a hearty Hi y’all to our assigned reader of all things NASCAR on this fine day. Road courses are now one down and one to go for the Cup series. Best races of the year… in my not-so-humble estimation. Near the end of the Sonoma race, Kevin Harvick put quite a convincing stomping on the rest of the field. Next in line to the checkers was SHR teammate Clint Bowyer. A third SHR driver, Kurt Busch finished 7th. Three out of four isn’t bad, and we’ll just say that Danica Patrick had a rough afternoon, but not as rough as Ricky Stenhouse. There were only 5 cautions, and two of those were planned. Two more involved Danica and the fifth was for debris from the meeting with Stenhouse. After that, it ran clean and green the final 56 laps. I love it when that happens!
One thing I did notice. The hot tickets, those fresh-faced young racers we’ve all come to love this year, found out that road racing is harder than it looks. One has to look all the way down the pylon to 8th and 9th place, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney respectively. All others were far back. This old gal just can’t wait to get to the Glen, which still has left and right turns, but done at far greater speed than Sonoma. The two are nothing alike, as the kids will learn for themselves a bit later in the summer.
Meanwhile, over in Iowa, the Trucks and Xfinity series ran stand-alone races on Friday and Saturday and each started a full field of 32 and 40 trucks/cars. No, not all of the entries were necessarily “real” but they did start a full complement of drivers both nights. John Hunter Nemechek took the checkers for a second consecutive race in the trucks, and on Saturday, William Byron proved that last week wasn’t a fluke and he really could win without Denny Hamlin there to rudely slam him out of the way… while driving a car that proved to be illegal in post-race inspection.
I know it won’t do any good to point this out, but NASCAR… when these series do stand-alone races, without those Cup drivers we’re told make the races more interesting and attract bigger crowds, they get bigger crowds and the races are intensely more interesting… because they’re real! Please, consider scheduling more of these races away from Cup. This was the cleanest and best weekend of racing of the year. The only thing that could have made it better would have been that it was on NBCSN, not FS1.
OK, I can’t go to Daytona without at least making mention of the elephant in the living room. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, FOX dropped the bomb while signing off… Eldora, top race of the year in the minds of many… will broadcast on FOX BUSINESS NETWORK!
Nope, it’s no joke; it’s as real as the ingredients in mayonnaise. There’s even more, as I’m now told they start out on FS1 in the afternoon, then move for a bit to FS2, and finally land on FBN for final qualifying and the race itself. Make sure your remote has a good battery. It’s gonna get a workout!
Of course, this has brought about conversations on every existing racing board and many and varied articles have been or are being written about it. One such appears on Race Fans Forever, as I type. Please, check it out and make our new writer feel welcome. Amid the conversations in the comments below the article, another of our writers seemed to lay the blame directly on the sanctioning body for “allowing” such a thing to transpire and I did my best to explain the lay of the land to him as it is today.
These TV Networks are paying NASCAR the combined sum of $8.2 BILLION for the dubious privilege of broadcasting NASCAR races. With a price tag that high, NASCAR is no longer calling the shots. They can't. The networks paid for that privilege, so while fans and journalists are going on and on, ranting about injustice and stupidity, the networks are gleaning exactly what they hoped for. They are gaining a huge boost for a pair of fledgling sports networks… well, 3 if you count FS1 and FS2 apart.
That is why they bought into the contracts… to promote their almost nonexistent sports networks… and it's working. Brian and the NASCAR brain trust didn't figure this out in time… or didn't care. I can't speak for NASCAR, except for name calling on occasion. The networks are getting more air for those new stations than they could anywhere else… and they have it exclusively over a 10-year period, which ends with the 2024 season.
Now, coverage for the top 2 series goes to NBC for the rest of the year. FOX still has the trucks… why, I don't know, but they do. The biggest seller on the truck schedule is Eldora, bar none. I'm sure no one will argue that. They've gotten all they're going to get this year from the other two, and they have this fairly unwatched channel sitting in solitude called Fox Business Network. For them, it makes perfect business sense to move this money-maker to that channel and give it a free boost. Well, free except for their part of that $8.2 Billion.
As for the fans, we have every right in the world to be mad about one of our best races being summarily consigned to a channel a lot of folks can’t get, and a lot more already have, but don’t know it. This scribe just wants to make sure we’re all mad at the guilty party. That party is FOX Sports, not NASCAR. Despite the fall in ratings, the fledgling channels, FS1 and NBCSN have experienced exponential growth they wouldn’t have achieved without NASCAR.
From Jayski.com Tuesday afternoon:
FS1 on Sunday afternoon drew a 1.9 overnight for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race from Sonoma Raceway, down 14% from a 2.2 last year. The 1.9 also is down 21% from FS1's 2.4 overnight in 2015. There were 3.240 million viewers.
Not a rosy picture, to be sure, but week in and week out, the races still seem to best almost all other sporting events on their given weekend. (That does not include selected NFL games. That remains the highest rated sport there is.) The only loser I see in that scenario is NASCAR. They might be trying, but going about it in a way that displeases a large percentage of what’s left of their fan base.
One more time, I have to return to the mantra that’s been repeated here until even I’m getting tired of hearing it. Almost all of the problems… low ratings, low attendance, fan unrest and just plain disinterest could be cured if NASCAR would just fix the CARS!
Go to YouTube and find any race you choose from the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s. What do you see under those cars? AIR! No splitters, no track scraping side skirts. The saying used to be that you could run a medium-sized dog under there without harm. Air under the car will do away with aero-push in a heartbeat. Raise ‘em up 5 inches all the way around and passing ability goes up exponentially! The dirty little secret is, NASCAR wants them hugging the ground. Someone over there has the mistaken idea that we are F1-Lite. We are not. We are… or were… a knock-down, drag-out, brawling contact sport. That’s how we started and that’s what the fans loved. Now it’s gone, and so, for the most part, are the fans. Still, does Brian France listen? Does he even care? No, in both cases.
This aged scribe is about ready to give up. It’s one thing to see the problems, but to see the sport dying because someone simply refuses to fix the obvious… that’s painful.
Time now for our Classic Country Closeout, before my blood pressure reaches untold and unhealthy levels. Nothing more soothing that looking at Carl Smith. Gals, am I alone in thinking that man has the sexiest eyes ever?
Please friends, take a moment to say a prayer for comfort for the wife and children of my brother Mike, who left this earthly plane on June 24, 2017.
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!