All Star Race!!

 

A little late in giving my take on the All Star race that was ran on Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

First of all I had a great time. I think being there at the race gives a far different perspective than someone watching from home. There is just a lot more to seed that you do not see at home. I thought the Open races were pretty good. The best two cars won the first two races. I think most people saw that coming. The third race might have been the best of the night. Erik Jones needed to exercise a little patience. The man had a great run coming off of turn 4 and if he would have had a couple extra feet of track he may have been able to pull off a great pass. Unfortunately for him there wasn’t and he dug the front splitter into the sod causing a few oil lines to break and what sounded like a tire blowing up as he navigated the corner with a smoking car. Chase might have been the best car of that race but he needed 5 laps or so for his car to come to life and with only a few laps left he could get by the #19 car. All in all I was pleased.

As for the All Star event there wasn’t a whole lot to write about and that is not necessarily a bad thing. I think everyone knows Larsen was the car to beat and when the car to beat gets the lead he will take off. That’s not a clean air issue. His pit crew didn’t have a horrible pit stop but some tames just did better going into the last 10 lap run. Kyle got a great jump on the lead and was better than Jimmy. Larsen might have been able to catch Kyle if he had another 10 laps or so. He was fast.

So I think there was nothing wrong with the race but somehow there is this outcry. I honestly think NASCAR fans are the hardest people to please in the world. They blame NASCAR for the decline in numbers but maybe they need to look at themselves. There were no crashes. So! There was almost a crash that took out the field when Larsen got into Keselowski. Brad made a great save. If he would have spun we would have heard how half the field was taken out making for a bad race. I don’t think the clean air issue was that big of a deal. Larsen was the best car of the night and showed it in the first two segments. Then he got shuffled back in the third but was coming. In the fourth segment Kyle got out in front and there may be nobody better in the lead than Kyle. You people need to get over yourselves and start looking at a sport that has more talent than ever.

I have to say I am excited for the 600! Not only because its one of my favorite races but the fact that I get to camp with my two oldest Friday till Monday. We will hit all the races going on including the dirt track. Might be my favorite weekend of the year. So if you are hanging around the track for the weekend let me know and I will let you know what site in the family campground we are staying at. Always nice to sit and chat over a drink about my favorite sport!

NB

P.S. What in the world was wrong with Jr’s car?

 

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Exciting Day

I just wanted to share how excited I am. I will be attending my 6th Coca Cola 600 next weekend but I have never made it to the All Star race. That ends today!! Going to be rooting on NASCAR’s finest from turn 1. 

This coming weeks blog post will be accompanied by some pictures. Go 88!!!

NB

The Safe Ending

The Go Bowling 400 ran Saturday night had everything for any type of NASCAR fan. It played out like the perfect written novel. It had the young guy dominating throughout the race. It had the drama with the crash started by what looked like a brake rotor flying through Logano’s hood, and it had the good guy winning in the end.

I think that is what Martin Truex Jr. is to NASCARF. He is the good guy. The safe guy. The guy who never gets too mad and you never hear him getting in trouble or legal battles off the track. He is the guy who helps the little old lady across the street. His wife battle serious medical issues. He is the type of guy every sport needs. I never mind seeing that guy win. That being said I am a sucker for a story. I was really pulling for Blaney to pull that out. He was the man all night but as the laps wore down I think most people had the feeling it would be hard to beat the Furniture Row Racing #78.

I feel for Danica. I really do. I have never been a huge fan of hers but again, I am a sucker for the good story. She actually has ran pretty good this year and was on her way to a pretty decent finish Saturday night. That was until Logano’s car decided to dosey doe to the left and clip the rear quarter panel of her car sending her into a fiery end. The raw emotion she expelled after the race was what this sport is all about. She desperately wants that good finish her and her team desperately deserve.

Jr, oh Jr! What a night it could have been. He actually had a very fast car Saturday night. Lost in the 20th place finish was the fact he drove through the field at one point running laps that were mirroring the leader. Just can’t get away from the bad luck that plagues him every week. I have said before it really isn’t a speed issue with him. He has had fast cars. He has just had poor pit road execution added to horrible luck. I have a feeling he will run very well at Charlotte though!

Our prayers go out to Aric Almirola. What a crash. One of the worst I have seen in a while. You never like seeing a driver needing to get cut out of a car. It is a amazing to see what NASCAR has done over the years to make these cars as safe as they are now days.

So we say what I described as the perfect novel. It was written safe though. It was the feel good ending that you see in Sleepless in Seattle type movies. It makes us feel good.

On a side note I have to say I am pretty dang excited. The 10 days of thunder at Charlotte Motor Speedway have always been my favorite as a fan. I will be in attendance for my 6th Coca Cola 600 on the 28th but new to me this year is I will also be attending the All Star Race Saturday night! I have to say I am super pumped for that. The 600 weekend is a nice family time for me. I will be spending 4 days camping with my two oldest in what started as a tradition last year. So if you happen to be around that weekend let me know and I will tell you what site is ours in the family campground area.

Till next week. (I will have pics included)

NB

A Lifeline or Concrete Shoes?

I pray the rumors are not true. I really hope the article I read about the delay of the 2018 NASCAR schedule is not true. Please let it be a cruel joke.

The Cleveland Browns have been bad for many years. The Patriots on the other hand have been on top for many years. The Browns have had the chance at the same players, coaches, schedules, and anything else that goes along with making a successful organization. But why have their courses been so different? It starts with leadership. I think leadership in any organization is key. A great leader can turn around a bad company. Likewise, a bad leader can tear down a great organization. The Patriots have had an uncanny ability to set themselves up for many years to come. They see what’s coming well before it happens (insert illegal taping and deflate gate jokes here). Yes they have Tom Brady but don’t forget he was a 7th round pick that was passed by many teams. Yes, they have Bill Belichick but don’t forget where he was fired from a few years before going to New England. You guessed it, Cleveland. While the Patriots have been great the Browns have been the a league bottom dweller. They have made poor decision after poor decision. Worse yet they make the same mistakes that continually hold them back and make them a door mat in the NFL. Luckily for them they are financially build up by the way the NFL distributes money. NASCAR is not so lucky.

So why do I bring this up? In 1994 NASCAR fans filled 250,000 seats inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That’s a lot of fans. In contrast estimates show about 50,000 fans bought a ticket for last years Brickyard race and that was with Gordon making an appearance in the 88 car. That is 200,000 empty seats. So why would NASCAR think the way to save the race is by going away from the oval and making it a road course? Do they honestly think that would change things? No way! So why would you do that? I at least watch the Brickyard 400. Will I watch the road course 400? Not a chance.

So what would you do Bill? Drop the race! Why not? If nobody is watching and nobody is buying a ticket why waste the time? You are in a market that has Michigan and newly added Kentucky and somewhat newly added Chicagoland. There are already too many races. Drop Indy, one Michigan race, one road course, and a couple more tracks with underperforming ticket sales. Knock the season down by 5-7 races. NASCAR ramps up toward the Chase as NFL starts ramping up. They start the Chase as the NFL regular season starts. That’s just not smart. Get a head start on the NFL by a month or so. On top of that end the season and crown a champ at home in Charlotte where it should end. Could you imagine how you could market that to the NASCAR roots!!!

In addition add a nostalgic race once a year in the Carolinas. I keep hearing that there are too many races and it wouldn’t work. I would put it in the summer. The Carolinas do not have a summer race. In fact they have nothing going on in the summer. No college sports. No NFL games. We don’t have a baseball team. So why not a race? Rotate between Rockingham, North Wilksboro, and maybe Nashville Speedway. I think NASCAR would rather have the image if 60,000 full seats vs 200,000 empty seats. We get so excited about the throwback schemes at Darlington. It is one of the great ideas than NASCAR has had over the past few years. But why stop there? I’m not convinced any of the tracks listed above can hold a yearly race but I bet my oldest child that they can fill the stand every couple years.

If one of the answers to the 14 time most popular driver leaving is by changing the Brickyard 400 into a road course race then I am very worried about the leadership that could move the sport forward and not further back.

 

Parity at it’s Best!!

I have never been a fan of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Not that I didn’t like him I just never found a reason to root for him. That is until Sunday came. With Dale Jr. out due to a loose wheel and other drivers I pull for caught in the “Big One” I had only one horse left in the game in Kyle Busch. As the laps wound down and he continued to lead I noticed the 17 car slowly picking his way up through the pack. For some reason I found myself silently pulling for Stenhouse to get up there and challenge the multi race winning front group. It felt a little weird but good.

I have argued over the past few years that Nascar is better now than it has ever been from a racing standpoint. I think certain moments from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s were better and that was what we remember. We remember the fight at Daytona, Dale taking out Labonte at Bristol, Dale winning Daytona, and so on. The moments were better but parity in those days were at a minimum. The top end of drivers during those years were fantastic. The middle and bottom drivers were not very good. I like to watch the old races on YouTube. A lot of those races had very little cautions, many cars retired due to mechanical issues, and very few cars finishing on the lead lap. If we are honest with each other the races just were not that good. You had 7 or 8 guys that could win a race from week to week. You now on any given week can have any one of 20 – 25 drivers who could win or compete for a win. You can argue me any day on the old vs new races but you will probably lose if you think the older races were better.

Yes, I am a Kyle fan. Not so much his personality at times but the way he drives. He is the modern day Dale Earnhardt Sr. He runs well at every track. He will push you out of the way to get in front of you. Off the track he needs work but on the track he is everything a Dale Sr. fan loved in their driver. But as the laps wore down Sunday I found myself rooting against him. Kyle will get his wins. In the end he will end up as one of the drivers with the most wins in NASCAR history. He will get another championship or 5. But the 17 needed to make the pass and hold on for the win. So as Stenhouse took the white flag I found myself standing up in the garage cheering the 17 on. I was elated as he held on for the win and the celebration that ensued.

Stenhouse winning was a great moment for the sport that was in dire need of something, anything to give it a boost. For the nostalgic people out there it was nice to hear the names of Jack Rousch and Doug Yates. We need to hear those names more. My hope is that Jr. fans don’t leave the sport and instead find someone to gravitate and pull for. We need moments to for people to realize it’s not just about a certain driver but more about great racing. We saw that Sunday. The finish was exciting. The happiness we saw from guys we haven’t heard of in a while was great to see. It was fun to be a fan Sunday. To pull for the moment over the driver.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

NB

The elephant in the room

The year was 2003. I was a year removed from going to my first NASCAR race, the Coca Cola 600. My friend and I talked about going to another track even though we loved going to Lowes Motor Speedway and all that it had to offer. Since we had friends who had season tickets available for us we decided to have the 600 as a backup in case other tracks didn’t pan out. We narrowed it down to a couple races that we really loved. The Bristol night race and the night races at Richmond. Much to my surprise we could not get a ticket to any of the three races. Even though we were calling months in advance the best we could do was to get on a season ticket wait list. So, we went to the rain filled 2003 Coca Cola 600.

Fast forward to 2017 and what I see is very troubling for the sport of NASCAR racing. Races that were hot ticket sold out shows now see stands with only 50% of the seats taken. Add to that a 45% decline in TV ratings and you really have a big problem.

Maybe the sport can survive on the amount of people that are coming to the track. I have absolutely zero data and numbers to go on. All I have is the eye test and the rumors that companies were not banging down the door to sponsor the series until Monster Energy sponsored it a greatly reduced price.

So where did things go wrong? First of all I think we all can agree that the popularity peak would not last. It seemed in the early 2000’s everyone was watching races and going to NASCAR tracks. Like anything popular it will cycles through a period of rising, peaking, declining, and leveling off. During the rise and peak tracks scrambled to put more stands up and NASCAR gravitated towards the larger more popular tracks in favor of the old school southern tracks. The deaths of Adam Petty and Dale Earnhardt did not help as Earnhardt held a large fan base and Adam Petty could have kept the Petty name in the sport for years to come. Another major issue was the lack of imagination when it came to new tracks. Gone were the tracks of old and in their place were tracks configured after tracks already on the circuit. For God’s sake do we really need another D shaped oval? Travel expenses also contribute to the problem. In the early 2000’s I could fly down to Charlotte for 5 days and go to everything for around $1200. The cost to fly from Wisconsin to Charlotte on a holiday weekend now eats up a lot of the original entire weekend cost of going to a race. Gone are the days of going on a vacation to a race track.

I write this because of the cycle mentioned above and the fact that I don’t think we have hit the bottom. If and when the bottom comes can the sport survive? The fact that 50+% of the fans on a Sunday are wearing the 14 time most popular driver  shirt makes me scared for next year and the years to come now that he is leaving the sport.

So what can they do to turn it around? I can tell you one thing that will not work and that is what Monster Energy is doing at the moment. Putting a girl in a round cage while motorcycles drive around her will not put people in the seats. Putting girls wearing skimpy outfits in victory lane will not get people watching the TV. But what will work?

Get back to your roots! Moving to North Carolina has changed some of my perspectives on the decline of the sport. I wish I had $1 for every person that used to go to Rockingham and North Wilksboro. They were unique tracks that the people in the south loved and fans in the south have not forgiven NASCAR for taking them off of the schedule. I know each track needs work. I know there is more to it than just putting those tracks on the schedule but the return on investment of adding a race weekend to those tracks would be worth it from a financial standpoint and for the fans. It would generate a massive amount of excitement within the south that I believe would extend well beyond the Carolina’s. I recently read an article stating the problem is we put tracks in poor markets like Chicago and Kansas. It stated that we needed to put a track in a market like New York. I doubt that would work. If their not watching why would they go?

Cater to the kids and families more! I LOVE what Charlotte is doing this year. $10 tickets for kids 13 and under. Having a 12, 11, and 7 year old this ticket pricing is huge for me. Last year I took my 11 year old son (10 at the time) to the Coca Cola 600. Tickets to the 600 cost me about $210 last year. This year I am taking him and my oldest daughter for a cost of about $160. Xfinity tickets are free for kids 13 and under! Other tracks like Martinsville have sections and tickets at a massively reduced price for children. Problem is it all ends at the age 13. Why? I will not be able to afford the full priced tickets once my kids hit 14. That will be a lot of money for a race. So, currently we get the kids excited then price them out of it after 13 years old. I bet a lot of other families are in the same boat. I propose upping it to 18 and under at all tracks. On top of that add a college discount. Kids in school have very little money to throw around. Traditions are build with people 21 and under. Don’t end the traditions at age 13! Get women involved also! Have tickets reduced for girlfriends and wives. Try hard to make it a family affair without doing the stupid family ticket pricing and offering those ticket packages in seats nobody wants to sit in like tracks do now.

Shorten the season. I’m not saying end it in August but drop some races. (Yes, I know I said add Rockingham and North Wilksboro). Do we really need to have 2 Pocono,  Michigan, road course, Dover, and New Hampshire races? Do we really need 4 restrictor plate races every year? In addition tweak the schedule a little. Shorten it up by a month or so and end at the home track of Charlotte Motor Speedway. 4 of the last 5 races are not even close to where the traditional NASCAR roots are. The champion should be crowned in Charlotte. Move races around a little too. I am sure there are a lot of guys like me who live in the Carolinas, love to go to races, but want to stay married. Why have Bristol, Darlington, and Richmond racing in three consecutive weeks. Instead of going to at least two I have to pick one. Would it hurt to space them out a little? And think about a dirt race like the trucks do. I know a lot of people who watch that race and that race only. It is awesome tv!

Quit messing with the points system. I am a fan of the new format. It has made the middle parts of the races better. So don’t mess with it! Leave it alone. Don’t mess with the chase. Leave it alone too. From going to the car of tomorrow to constant changes in the points there has been no consistency.

Somehow NASCAR needs to find a face to the sport. Yeah I know we have 7 time still racing but he’s not Dale Jr. People are not flocking to see him race. It further adds to my point about needing the south to build up the sport. If Jimmie was from Hickory, NC he would be huge! He’s just not marketable to the fan base. On a personal level I think it would help if Jr. ran a Mark Martins schedule. By that I mean 4 – 6 races a year in the #8 Budweiser Chevrolet. That would be cool!

Quit trying to be something you’re not. NASCAR is not Rob Gronkowski. It is not Monster Energy girls everywhere. It’s just not. You can’t do the prayer of invocation one minute and flash to the monster energy girls the next. It really rubs people in the bible belt the wrong way.

Anyone who watched the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Sunday knows something drastic needs to be done and NASCAR can’t wait to see the fallout from Dale Jr’s. retirement to do it. Being in manufacturing for 20 years I have been a part of a few companies that have gone under or have continued on at a drastically reduced level. One thing they all have in common is that the signs were there glaring everyone in the face. Drastic and obvious changes needed to be made but management waited for something to happen instead of recognizing the mistakes, addressing the changes that needed to be made, and moving forward. I see the same thing happening with the sport I love so much. I see a sport trying to stop a stab wound from bleeding by using a band aid.

I pray that NASCAR is talking to the fans. Get out and talk to people at the camp sites. See what will keep them coming. Ask them why friends of theirs quit coming or watching altogether. Have forums and invite people who don’t pay attention to the sport anymore. Try to figure it out by asking the people who left or are hanging on because of one driver. Something drastic needs to be done and I don’t think NASCAR can wait to do it.

NB

Right place right time for Logano

Logano led the final 16 laps and held off teammate Brad Keselowski to win the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway on Sunday. The final green flag of the day waved on lap 384 and Logano was able to weave his way through the field in front of him that stayed out on the track. Keselowski had the fastest car on the day but found it harder to navigate his way through traffic. By the time he did the 22 had enough of a lead to hold off the hard charging Keselowski.

Virginia native Denny Hamlin was able to take an up and down day to a 3rd place finish for the Joe Gibbs Racing team followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr in 4th and Kevin Harvick rounding out the top 5.

After the race a visibly upset Kyle Busch stormed away from reporters calling the Nascar ruling on his pit lane commitment penalty “balls and strikes”. Busch was ruled in violation of the pit lane commitment penalty that bit a number of drivers of Sunday. Busch was running second to Logano at the time and looked to be following the call by the 22 team. Logano made a late turn into the pits and clipped the commitment box by a few inches costing Busch a shot at the win.

The start of Dale Earnhardt Jr’s farewell tour did not start the way he would have liked. After moving up into the top 10 Earnhardt was hot with a pit road speeding penalty causing him to go to the rear of the field. He never fully recovered after that. While stretching a green flag run out in hopes for a caution he was side swiped by teammate Jimmy Johnson. Johnson either didn’t hear his spotter or his spotter failed to give the “car high” heads up.

Other notables from the day:

Ricky Stenhouse Jr has another strong showing on Sunday. This has been his best season since taking over the wheel of the #17 machine.

Best part of Ryan Blaney’s weekend was qualifying. Once the green flag waved his car dropped positions as he was fighting a very loose racecar. His day ended in the wall and a 36th place finish.

Matt Kenseth dominated the first third of the race only to lose grip on the bottom of the track. A cut tire ended his chances and he made it home in 23rd.

I love the call moving the race to the day. The track was super slick and the racing surface went through multiple changes in grip during the day. Gutsy call to move the race but the right call.

Many seats were available for the race. A track that once had a waiting list now has about 50% capacity. That is a trend that seems to be growing.

Kenseth looks like the man to beat. 

Kenseth set a blistering speed in the final segment to take the pole. Looks like he may have done enough in the first two segments to advance and then set the track on fire in the third. 

Nice to see the 21 car on the front row. For all the “I miss how it used to be people” this has to be a nice sight. 

Also a nice run for Stenhouse Jr after slapping the wall. Might have made the car better as he ran his best laps after that little kiss coming out of 4. 

My pick for the race? Two years ago was my first Richmond race. I watched Matt Kenseth dominate that race and win. I have no long run data on him but if he can replicate the lap he ran in qualifying during the race he will punch his ticket into the chase Sunday afternoon. 

Shocked but not surprised!

The most shocking moment for me in the history of my Nascar existence was when Mike Helton started a press conference with the words “This is undoubtedly one of the toughest announcements that I have personally ever had to make”. The death of Dale Earnhardt was a shock to me and to all of Nascar fans. The second most shocking moment for me was from his son.

This past Tuesday morning I woke up with a slight headache. The ride into work was tough. We are again dealing with massive flooding in the Eastern part of North Carolina. But altogether it was a pretty normal morning. That is until I sat down at my desk after our morning meeting. I decided to check the morning news cycle and glaring at me on the screen was “Dale Earnhardt Jr. to retire following 2017 season”. I was shocked. I knew the health issues were there. I knew he wasn’t really having that great of a year. I knew his contract was up at the end of the year. But still, I didn’t see it coming. I was sure he would sign a 2 – 3 year deal and that would be it. I was positive that is how it would go. I was wrong.

Growing up I hated Dale Earnhardt. I liked Cale, the Allison’s, Waltrip, and guys like that. Earnhardt was this cocky, brash, hard nosed driver that seemed to wreck all of my favorite guys. Then something changed. I guess as I grew older I wanted to be like my grandpa. He loved Dale. I also started to appreciate greatness. Dale was great. Best I have ever seen and ever will see. I became a huge fan. When his son came into the Busch ranks it was just obvious who I would root for every weekend from then on. Not only was he an Earnhardt but he was my age, brash, cocky, fun, and many other traits I loved and the sport needed. I was hooked. For the next number of years my main objective Sunday afternoons was to see what place Dale Jr was running in.

Not long ago something changed though. Up to 2 years ago I had to watch Nascar races from afar. Living in Northern Wisconsin it was a tough to make races in person. I was lucky enough to fly down to a few Coca Cola 600’s but as travel prices increased and the family grew it became tough. Fast forward to two years ago. My family and I migrated south to the great state of North Carolina. My love for Nascar was cranked up about 11 notches. But my excitement hoping to be around a ton of Nascar fans quickly waned. Yes. there are a lot of fans around here but not that much more than in Wisconsin. I run into more people who tell me the same line. I used to go to races and watch it on TV before “so and so” retired or passed away. That really changed my perspective on Dale Jr. I love the guy but I didn’t want it to define my love for Nascar. Through those conversations I learned to love the sport as a whole. I vowed not to be the guy who used to watch until Dale Jr. retired. I quickly embraced guys like Kyle Busch, Chase Elliot, Ryan Blaney, and others. That made the announcement of Tuesday a little bit easier.

I don’t know where the sport goes from here. I already hear the chants of who is going to fill the stands now that he is retiring. I personally think that is bull. I think the races are as good as they ever have been. I think the talent level of racing is as good as it has ever been. The race experience is the best it has ever been. My hope is that through the next 28 races Nascar puts the focus on the future. I believe Nascar has a great opportunity. Dale Jr’s retiring tour will put more people in the stands than they have had in a long time. Great races will keep them there. Controversies will keep them there. The story lines in general are what will drive the sport over the next 28 races and beyond. It’s a great opportunity to build the sport. Please don’t screw it up like the car of tomorrow did.

I’ll end with this. Whether its a relationship or an icon like Jr, you tend to look back and pick out the positives and make that what you remember. That’s not the case here. Of course I remember the Pepsi 400 win. The two Daytona wins. Wins like Texas, Richmond, and the Pocono wins. All those are great memories. What I am most proud of in Dale Jr. and his body of work is who he has become. He went from this brash young kid to a grown man that values the people around him more than himself. He is someone I don’t have to worry about my son looking up to. To me that is the biggest accomplishment of his career. To be able to go out on his own terms makes me happy. He is leaving a sport better than he found it. In the end that’s the goal!

Thanks Jr!