Three Laws ~ Plus a New One
One of my early articles was entitled Three Laws. It was written on Election Night 2016. It was a racing piece not a political piece. With Impeachment proceedings just wrapping up against the man who was elected the 45th President that night, plus his attendance and being named Grand Marshal for the kickoff of a new Cup season at Daytona, the time just felt right to revisit those Three Laws and see if they still hold true. While in this time of reflection, are there any more laws whose time have come, whose time is right to be added?
Law #1- The buyer not the seller determines the worth of any product.
As stated in the original article this is applicable for any transaction from purchasing a racing organization down to the price of lug nuts at the shop to concession drinks in the stands and everything else in between. It still doesn’t matter what the seller thinks their product is worth; it’s the buyer who ultimately decides what gets paid, and the resultant transaction determines the worth of the product or service.
This one got a lot of play last season with NASCAR purchasing International Speedway Corporation, Sonic Financials and Speedway Motorsports, Incorporated, Roger Penske purchasing Indianapolis Motor Speedway and much, much more.
We saw the Cup series move from a single series sponsor like Winston, NEXTEL, Sprint and Monster Energy to an “innovative” tiered sponsorship model where “multiple marquee cornerstone partners already engaged with the sport” read Busch Beer, Coca-Cola, GEICO and Xfinity-would come on board to sponsor the Premier Series. Different-yes. innovative?-No as it’s little different from the sponsorship model race teams have been forced to resort to for years-their product is too expensive for any one company to sponsor for the entire year, so let’s go out and find a bunch of folks who will say, “what you say your worth is, is more than I’ll pay but I’ll give you this much for a piece.” Have enough pieces and find enough willing to do that and you have a season funded.
Drivers fit in there. Kevin Harvick just signed a new contract. Did what he ask for set the worth of his services? Only if that’s what Stewart-Haas Racing paid.
The last week or so has seen a flurry of activity over points/charter swapping. You can be sure there is some monetary exchanges going on there.
Last Sunday-18 cars valued at $250,000 before the Busch Clash per Fox Reporter Mike Waltrip took the starting grid. How many would fetch that now? Doubt many. So what happened to their worth? I’m sure the owners would like to get that, but when they come back to the garage on a haul-back there are few buyers willing to pay that price.
Then we have ticket prices. On SiriusXM a week or so ago we heard track President after track President sing about the reduced ticket prices, affordable packages and “if you want to see a race, we have a seat for you”. Be interesting to see how fans respond. Will they think the product, the experience is worth the price? Time will tell.
I’m not sure what it says though, as tracks are dropping ticket prices while at the same time still removing grandstands. Maybe its upcoming renovation, but on the surface the optics appear conflicted.
2020 will be an interesting season as the current generation of Cup car will be retired and replaced with the “NextGen.” NASCAR, essentially starting from scratch and going in a new direction on everything from the inventory of existing cars, to wheels, transmissions, suspensions, heck possibly even lug nuts obsolete for that Series. So what is that worth at the end of the season? With a market flooded, how much will owner’s get for any of their inventory?
But it doesn’t stop there. With entirely new suspensions and powertrain, how much is a crew chief’s notebook now worth? He’s starting from scratch now. Same with computer simulations and all that. Crew members with tons of experience with the current car... will all that translate to the new car? If not... what’s their value? Do they hold their value? Hope so. But in the highly competitive Cup world racing to get out front, can any organization afford to wait, can they deal with the learning curve or do they bring in crew members from other Series who already have experience with the technology to gain the advantage?
With “non-competitive” Pit Stops at six stand-alone races, what happened to Pit Crew Members worth? They can demand what they want for those races, but do teams have to pay that price now that seconds saved no longer matter?
2020 will be an interesting year on so many fronts. As all the transactions come down, don’t forget Law #1.
Law #2 - A body either remains at rest or continues to move, unless acted upon by an outside force.
Newton’s First Law of Motion is as applicable to NASCAR fans as it was in Mrs. Johnson’s Fourth period Eighth Grade Class. The sport has lots of fans in motion and NASCAR is doing everything they know how to, to keep them in motion. Unfortunately, the sport has a lot of fans at rest-they no longer attend races, they no longer watch races. They are fans at rest. NASCAR is exerting all kinds of outside forces to try to get them back in some kind of motion. Just look at all the new stuff and changes coming down-
- New Series Sponsors
- New Drivers entering the Series as the Big Three from the Xfinity to Cup
- Something like 18 Schedule Changes
- Daytona Moves, Indy Moves, Homestead moves
- Pocono Double Header Weekend
- Martinsville under lights
- Daytona ends regular season
- Xfinity Road Race at Indy
- New Short Track and Road Course Aero Packages to improve competition
- Stage Length Changes
- New Camaro
- Lower Ticket prices
- Kids get in free at some tracks for Xfinity and Trucks
- Rainout Refunds at certain races
- Free Pit Pass to All-Star Race
- Expanded Playoff Field in Trucks
- New Championship Venue-Phoenix replaces Homestead
- New Hall of Fame selection format
- New Pit Stop Procedures
- Sports Betting enters the scene
- New NASCAR App with more info
- New FOX Broadcast Booth - two announcers instead of three
- More Pre-Race Concerts
- More Fan Experiences
- A chance for Kyle Busch to defend his Championship or be unseated
- Jimmie Johnson’s final full season
- NASCAR leadership changes
- Drivers and Crew Chiefs shuffling
- And much, much more…
And if that doesn’t get your motor running you have a season worth of talk about 2021 that includes-
- All New Cars!
- Possible Street Racing
- More Schedule Changes
- More Sports Betting
Is that enough force to get a fan at rest in motion? Only time will tell. My guess is an improved product would do more to get fans in motion, get them back in the stands, back in front of the tube than any of this other stuff. I’d sure like to see them give it a try.
Law #3 - Good Coverage can't make a bad race good, but Bad Coverage can make a good race bad.
Let’s face it, there may be many methods now available for fans or potential fans to enjoy the race and get race information but the primary delivery method for NASCAR racing is still television. And good or bad, it’s up to television to accurately cover the race. That’s their job-to cover the product. For too long I believe that instead of doing their jobs and covering the product, they thought their job was to cover for the product.
It shows in their broadcasts. It’s reflected in their numbers.
Racing is exciting, fluid, dynamic. No matter how hard any of us think we know how a race is going to play out there are forty competitors on the track trying their best to make this day their story. No one can script that. You can’t write the story line before the race is run. Too many races went “off script”, didn’t follow the pre-conceived story lines identified in the production meetings. Broadcast must be fluid enough, dynamic enough to follow and bring it to us. Racing is different than any sport out there today and the challenges to bring it to the viewers are enormous, but follow my Dad’s advice and “just show the damned race” (which should be racing broadcasting Rule #1) and see where it gets you.
If the race is great or if it is an absolute stinker it doesn’t matter. That product is NASCAR’s- Improving that is their job. As broadcasters your job is to bring exceptional coverage so that we the fans know exactly what we’re watching. Are we watching good coverage of a bad race, bad coverage of a good race or heaven forbid bad coverage of a bad race?
A race is what it is. Show it. To grow the sport, two things must be present-a good product and good coverage of the product. Broadcasters, do your part. Let NASCAR figure out the rest.
NASCAR is a microcosm of life. I think that is part of the appeal. In life, do we have more laws now than three years ago when the first article was written? Over the last three years, has your town taken down any STOP signs or have they added a few? In consideration of recent developments I feel it’s time to add a fourth Law.
Rule #4- “The law of unintended consequences is the only real law of history.” Distinguished historian Niall Ferguson spoke these words of wisdom after the U.S. drone strike that killed Iran’s most important military commander, Qassem Soleimani.
Unintended consequences are outcomes of a purposeful action that are not intended or foreseen. They can be positive or negative. It’s the negatives we tend to remember. A couple come to mind-
The Car of Tomorrow was touted as a single purpose platform that could successfully race at a variety of tracks due to its adjustability. A major adjustability component was the rear wing that replaced the spoiler. The wing worked well for what it was intended. Plus, the sporty “drifting look” appealed to some elements of the target demographic. The COT wing had one serious unintended consequence as we see here.
The wing held the car down going forward but turn the car around at speed and you were in for a ride... and where you stopped, nobody knew.
Another unintended COT consequence that has moved into the current generation of cars can be found on the other end of the car-the splitter. The intended purpose for this piece was to provide downforce to the front of the car. Works great while on the track. Get it off the track though it’s “Boogity, Boogity, Boogity, Let’s go sod-busting, boys.”
Stage racing was intended to make racing more exciting, with racing incentivized as points were paid for the top ten positions at the end of each Stage. That’s the intended purpose. In doing so it’s now a common occurrence that the race winner leaves Victory Lane second, third or worse in points if they didn’t accumulate Stage points and those other positions did. Sorry, but that’s just wrong. The Race Winner should leave with the trophy, the biggest payday AND the most points. Yeah, they get playoff points but it’s still wrong.
NextGen car is supposed to be a single purpose platform that can race at multiple types track (wait, I think I’ve heard this before). Use many components that are purchased rather than produced by the teams. Supposed to save the teams money or that’s the intended purpose. The unintended (or maybe intended) purpose is it looks like teams won’t need as many personnel as reported by ESPN’s Ryan McGee’s story “NASCAR readies for season-opening Daytona 500 with big changes just around the corner”
The sport is racing toward major change, which includes industry “downsizing” or a more palatable term that is supposed to make everyone feel better about it, “right-sizing.“.
Cup will be directly affected. Lower series could be as well as dismissed experienced Cup personnel could displace lower series personnel. Speaking from experience, industry “adjustments” have a “chilling” effect. Hopefully, all the momentum we been told the industry is gaining won’t get planted in the pavement with the downforce that layoffs exert like Cup car using the current aero package. Only time will tell. But hang on if you see press releases from the teams that read something like this
“We’re looking to take our remaining resources and focusing them on initiatives we already have in place that require dollars and that will help us grow.”
NASCAR used these words when they did their layoffs.
These are just a few things that just haven’t worked out the way things were intended. I’m sure you have your favorites (can you say knockout qualifying?)
With all the changes this year, with all the interacting, interdependent moving parts, the Sanctioning Body must pay particular attention to this one as the beast known as unintended consequences will eat them alive.
Here we are-2020, a lame duck year, a year of massive change. The sport is entering maybe it’s most important crossroad.
The sport may change but these four Laws don’t.
Please don’t forget that racing forward.