The Stuff Floating Around in Frank’s Head
Serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, norepinephrine… no, not that stuff.
And not beer, wine or bourbon, either.
This is a collection of thoughts that have popped up as the 2018 NASCAR season is entering its closing phase. Maybe some are your thoughts, too.
- Something about the demise of Furniture Row Racing still really bugs me. Here’s Toyota talking about planning to have five or more cars running next year, and everybody thinks Levine Family Racing will step into the role of #2 Toyota Organization, but that’s going to take a ton of money, and I don’t see where Levine is a more attractive sponsorship partner than Visser & Co. So if Toyota’s pocketbook has to open, why couldn’t it have put that money toward keeping Furniture Row going? It had taken Toyota a long time to get a really successful second team – remember, Furniture Row followed Michael Waltrip and Red Bull Racing. Why give that up? Just doesn’t make sense.
This team should NOT be going away. It’s just wrong.
- NASCAR President Steve Phelps talked the talk in his recent meeting with reporters, but there remain some paths where walking the walk is going to be really hard. Everybody’s talking about schedule changes, but in this brain it still says if the product is compelling, the schedule will work, but it the product sucks, you can tinker all you want, and seats will still be empty on race day. The cars MUST become less technologically complicated, much less aerodynamically sensitive, and much less expensive. Then more people can enter the sport, and the fans of those people will follow. The racing will be better, too.
- Here’s a thought: Remember how we used to brag about how racing led to many of the safety features in cars? The first Indy 500 winner pioneered the rear-view mirror, and racing tires helped make street tires better? What’s happened there? New cars now have blind-spot warning systems, rear and side cameras, even accident avoidance braking – where are those on race cars? We got splitters.
With the safety features we have on our passenger cars, this could have been avoided.
- I am SO happy to see Ryan Preece get a Cup ride, even if I worry that nobody can make JTG Daugherty consistently competitive. It’s just so refreshing to see a guy who built his reputation win by win get rewarded, instead of a driver whose family money got him a Legends ride, a K&N Series ride and a driver development deal. The next driver to get a shot should be Bubba Pollard. The Georgian is 31, but he’s won major late model races all over the country – his credentials are matchless. Put him in the trucks with Stewart Friesen and then move both of them up, showing that skill matters and that you’re not too old for your big break just because you’re over 30.
To hell with driver development programs, just look for winners like Bubba Pollard and give them a shot.
- Years ago, before the Xfinity (Busch) Series, we had Late Model Sportsman racing, which was both the top class at weekly tracks in NASCAR Land and a loose “series” of major races that drew top drivers from those weekly tracks and a variety of others. Sprint car racing still is sort-of that way, with the World of Outlaws sharing rules with weekly tracks and inviting weekly stars to join the party for Outlaw races. The lack of an arrangement like that in NASCAR has hurt the sport, I think, creating distance between “hometown” racing and the Cup Series. While the “Roval” was grabbing our attention, major short track races were being held at Martinsville (ValleyStar 300), Lake Erie, Pa. (Race of Champions for Modifieds), and Thunder Road, Vt. (Milk Bowl), not to mention the National Open sprint car race at Williams Grove. The All-American 400 at Nashville is the next weekend, then the Winchester 400 and other major shows. These races seem to be in another world from NASCAR, and we’re all losers for that.
- Fans at Dover will be able to bet on the races at the track’s casino, and I guess the same holds for Kansas. With sports betting laws having been shaken up nationally, there’s really nothing to keep legal betting from becoming part of a track’s planned weekend activity, and many people, notably Dale Earnhardt Jr., think that’s good. I’m not a gambler, so it doesn’t really matter to me, but we all know gambling kept horse racing alive when the “Age of the Horse” ended, so maybe we have to at least consider its role in the future of auto racing in a “Post-Car-Culture” world.
- Speaking of gambling, when I visited Grays Harbor Raceway in Washington State last month, I noted that two casinos were significant advertisers/sponsors there. That area is host to several American Indian reservations and at least four Indian casinos (those are just the ones I drove past). That seems a good revenue source for tracks. On the other hand, Grays Harbor had another revenue source not yet available to most tracks in other states: four marijuana dispensaries advertised on the track’s scoreboard, and three of them also had billboards. What better sponsor for the driver who’s highest in the standings?
Coming soon to a speedway near you?
Frank’s Loose Lug Nuts
There’s hope for me, yet! My racing hero, “Cowboy” Jim Kennedy scored top ten finishes at both Clinton County and Path Valley Speedways over the last few weeks. If my math is correct, the Cowboy is now 84 years old, so I guess I can hold onto the dream of racing stardom for a while, yet.
Three cheers for the Cowboy – still flying at 84.
Near the other end of the spectrum, Giovanni “Gio” Scelzi topped the best in the sprint car business when he won the opening night of the National Open World of Outlaws weekend at Williams Grove Speedway, just up the road in Mechanicsburg, Pa. Scelzi, from Fresno, Calif., is 16. Some young sprint car stars have successfully made the transition to NASCAR after making their name early in open wheel competition. Remember that one named Gordon?
I hate to be a killjoy about this, but in the lively discussion with NASCAR President Phelps about other manufacturers joining the party, the name Dodge dominated. Might everyone remember first that the Dodge nameplate is outsold in the U.S. by Honda, Nissan, Hyundai, Subaru and Kia? Thanks mostly to Jeep, Fiat-Chrysler tops those makes in total corporate sales, but Jeeps don’t race in NASCAR.
Hmm… and why shouldn’t Jeeps race? When trucks were big, NASCAR started the truck class, so isn’t it time for SUVs on the speedways? That might get even more brands involved.
Gotta go out and put contingency sponsor stickers on the Highlander.
If they can race across Africa, how hard could the Roval or Martinsville be?