So I am traveling for work part of this week and it seems like all kinds of happenings occurred during the race Sunday, and news galore to talk about in the various racing leagues. I will try to focus on some big stories and what I think about them for this posting. Also, we have no racing from the big boys this week as we have one of the rare weekends off for Sprint Cup. We will provide coverage this weekend of the Camping World Truck Series from Darlington, so please check back for that.
Danica Patrick this season has caught the eye of many hardcore racing fans, as well as the casual observers of NASCAR racing. Danica has held a pretty wheel in all three of the races she has competed in. In my humble opinion, Danica is making great strides in the series and should continue to have strong finishes come the checkered flag. If you read our website, or check out any of the previous articles where Danica is mentioned, you know that I normally refer to her as Herdanicaship. Now that she has proven herself to be competent in the Nationwide Series, I will refer to has as Danica when discussing that series. This is at least until she does something that causes me to refer to her as Herdanicaship again. We will truly get an idea of how far she has come along when she gets to the blender that is known as Bristol a week from Saturday. She actually has to find her way there first. If memory serves me correctly, during speed weeks in Daytona she had ask where Bristol was located.
Speaking of Danica, we must now address the IZOD IndyCar series. IndyCar has announced with the exception of the Indy 500 and the final race of the season at Las Vegas, a full field of cars will be 26 strong. I am a little suspect of the series making this announcement. I do not have a problem with the number of cars they have selected. What I do have a problem with is the timing. I have a feeling the IndyCar series is trying to head off articles and talk of extremely short fields for their races. The excuses given were that many of the tracks could not accommodate more than 26 cars on the track. Again, the caution flag is waving on this excuse. Take Texas Motor Speedway for example. It is a mile and a half track. They could have more than 26 cars on that track. Las Vegas is the same distance and they are going to allow more cars if they show up, especially for the bonus being offered.
I think the limit to the number of cars in the field points to a bigger problem with the series. Firestone announced this week that this will be the last season they will be the official tire supplier to the series. Look between the lines on the five million dollar bonus to a winner of the season finale by a driver outside the series, you start to see some gimmicks being used by the series to increase viewership, attendance, and media coverage. This lends me to believe some desperation is setting in to turn the financials around in the series. IndyCar is also under pressure as well with Danica running well in NASCAR. Should Danica make the jump over to stock cars full time next year, the series will lose its most prominent marketing name and face. If you asked a casual fan to name drivers from IndyCar, they are probably going to name Danica and maybe another driver or two. After that, the series does not have great star power to get people excited about the series. Lose Danica from the series, who is going to fill that role? Unfortunately, we may be looking at the end of the IndyCar series as we know it within the next couple of seasons. Hopefully people will be excited about the series and they will have great races that will bring increased viewership, attendance, and revenue for the series.
We have now seen three races in the Sprint Cup series that have featured the entire grandstand seats occupied with race fans. We all have the concern of spending more money on gasoline to get through our daily lives. The talk has been will NASCAR be able to keep up the momentum by seeing higher capacity of fans in the stands as the weeks click by. I am really not sure, and I am not sure if Bristol is going to be sold out. I bought my tickets to the Bristol race a couple of weeks ago and pretty much had my pick of seats in the Waltrip grandstand (turn three and four area of the track). I also received an email from Bristol that said local hotels had removed their requirements to have race fans stay multiple nights during the race weekend, as well as a reduction in price of hotel rooms. The question of whether fans will continue to come out in higher numbers will be dependent on how the on track action is. Although gas prices are high, generally speaking people plan at least a few weeks, if not months, in advance to go to a race. If you live 200 to 300 miles from the next race on the schedule at Bristol, you are probably not going to suddenly decide to go to the race. My belief is that people attend events, NASCAR and IndyCar included, because they want an escape from daily hustle and bustle of daily life. People want to go have fun and escape the world for at least a day. Fans will continue to attend the events and gas prices will be a smoke screen if attendance is down. If you plan to go, you are going to go attend the event. You may not buy souvenirs or other items because of the high gas prices. This will be interesting to watch as the weeks go by as well. One caveat as well, if gas goes out of control and becomes insanely high, then yes people will not attend the races even if they live locally. This means people are only driving if the ultimately have to, and we have much bigger economic issues at that point.
Wreck of the week is brought to us by a good o’le boy, Josh Wise, never meanin’ no harm in the Nationwide series:
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