The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finds it way to the final road race of the year one of the most exciting races in recent memory. The famed Watkins Glen International track has set the bar for excitement and drama, and this weekend figures to continue that when the Cheez-It 355 at the Glen is run. Continue reading “5 Questions Going Into Watkins Glen”
The season opening Daytona 500 is over, but there will be many questions to answer in the coming days for the next event on the schedule. Ironically it involves both of the Busch brothers and polar opposite reasons. Continue reading “Question Marks Heading Into Atlanta Over Replacement Drivers”
As Kyle Busch crossed the finish line yesterday in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge, many fans let out a collective sigh of disappointment. Once again a Sprint Cup Series regular won a Nationwide Series race. Add to that Busch just won the night prior in the Camping World Truck Series.
Based on new rules for the Sprint Cup Series, this should be a sight to see in each Nationwide (soon to be XFINITY) Series and Camping World Truck Series races, Cup drivers dominating. Starting in 2015, the Sprint Cup Series cars will have less horsepower, putting them in line with the Nationwide Series cars. Add to that talk about a ban on testing and many teams will be putting in work on Saturdays for use on Sundays.
To underscore the point of Cup Series drivers dominating the Nationwide Series, Joe Gibbs Racing got their 100th win with Busch’s triumph in the series. Of those 100 wins, 94 have been Cup drivers winning for them. Only Mike McLaughlin (2001), Mike Bliss (2004), Aric Almirola (2007 big asterisk on this because Denny Hamlin relived Almirola for this race), Joey Logano (2008 before he went to Cup in 2009), Elliott Sadler (2014), and Sam Hornish, Jr. (2014) have been the lone exceptions. And even then some have question marks on how to count them.
If fans thought it was bad before, it is going to get a lot worse. The only silver lining is NASCAR’s rule about getting points for one series will keep the Cup drivers from winning the championship, but we should be seeing more no win champions like Austin Dillon last season.
For the past two years, I have accompanied Mike to the NASCAR race at Watkins Glen with media credentials and cold garage and pit passes. Each year, as we walk around the track and I take in all the sites, Mike explains to me what is like to come to the track strictly as a fan. I have been very spoiled (and thankful) of the opportunities to participate as a member of the media to cover the race, but I also feel like I have missed out on certain passage rights of NASCAR fans.
A few weeks ago, some friends and I came to Watkins Glen to attend their annual Wine Festival; my absolute favorite festival of all time! We decided that the easiest and most responsible way to ensure our safety and continued fun would be to camp at the track. Do not be fooled! I guarantee it was a very comparable experience to camping during race weekend – the late night drinking fests, blaring music until 3 am, toga party, bon fire and fireworks. There was little sleep acquired, which was okay with us since that was not the intent of our stay. My imagination (and from leisurely walking around the track at 8am and seeing all the beer cans strewn about) tells me that race weekend is not much different. So I have checked camping at the track off my list this year.
This weekend (yesterday), Mike was very motivated to be out of the Media Center as much as possible in order to freshen our horizons and spark creativity by experiencing the garages before and during practices. This may sound boring or naïve to some, but for me, it was absolutely amazing!
First, we casually walked past the cars and their appropriate teams working diligently to perfect them for the races. I am accustomed to watching these guys work from my living room couch. I know they work fast and there are constant sounds of power tools and engines, but to smell the exhaust (and other fumes) and feel the rumble of the cars travel through my body as they light up the garage area really brought my attention to how much this is new to me… and I love it!
Mike successfully set up a few interviews yesterday, including Jeremy Clements and Chase Elliott. Normally, I do not attend the interviews. Initially I figured I would be a nervous mess that would rub off onto Mike, so I would just let him go on these adventures by himself. This year he insisted I come along and I am so appreciative. Though I probably did not say more than three words to either driver from what I remember, it was a remarkable experience for me because it yet again reminded me that this is real, these people are real, and it is not as easy as it looks on TV.
Thanks to Can-Am Spyder, Mike and I received Hot Passes this year which has allowed us the freedom of wandering the garage and admiring the atmosphere to my heart’s content. During the Sprint Cup practice, my adrenaline surged as I watched the cars go in and out and crews work speedily from inside the garage area. Because I like paying attention to small details that probably means nothing to anyone else, I was fascinated focusing on when drivers choose to get out of their cars. Jimmie Johnson caught my attention a few times when he jumped out and immediately began working on the car with his crew. Kyle Busch was another one I watched relatively closely and was a little surprised at the speeds he used while literally pulling his car into the actual garage. The roar of the cars was phenomenal; I cannot think of words that truly justify an explanation of exhilaration.
I am excited to see what I experience today and cannot wait to report back!
It’s debatable what was more predictable about last night’s Camping World Truck Series race, that Kyle Busch won, or that as soon as he won Twitter blew up with fans calling for Sprint Cup Series drivers to be banned from the series.
While it is annoying that Busch now has five wins in five Truck Series starts, he isn’t going anywhere. A conversation with NASCAR President Mike Helton laid out that they will not be limiting drivers from participating in any series. Basically it’s a free country, and they can run where ever they want, be it Truck Series, Nationwide Series, IndyCar, or your local race track.
Add to it that Busch’s presence in the series is one to race, but also to provide additional funding for his Kyle Busch Motorsports team. Sponsors are on teammates Darrell Wallace, Jr. and Erik Jones’ trucks because they get a piece of Busch. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be a Kyle Busch Motorsports to run 1-2 last night.
This brings this conversation back to something that has been preached before on StartNParkBlog.com, the costs and effectiveness of the Truck Series schedule needs to be adjusted. If star drivers can’t simply own teams without having to run races, there’s an issue. When around 30 teams show up, there’s an issue.
And it is not just isolated to the Truck Series, the Nationwide Series finds itself in the same situation each week. Not only are they short on cars for the field, but the divide between the have’s (Cup affiliated teams) and have not’s (everyone else) is staggering.
This weekend this trend finally hit the Sprint Cup Series, as they will have only 42 cars for Saturday’s race for the first time since 2001. The list will go on, when Roush Fenway Racing struggles to find sponsors, there’s an issue. When stands and ratings are declining, there’s an issue.
Here’s to hoping that the summer stretch makes it painfully obvious that NASCAR has to do something to help teams, lower costs, and put on a better show for the fans.
The newest rumor pegging Carl Edwards to Joe Gibbs Racing has a bit of an interesting twist. Motorsports.com’s Lee Spencer is reporting in order to get the funds to create a fourth team at JGR, they would take M&M’s away from Kyle Busch and put them with Edwards. For Busch, Monster Energy would move up and sponsor his car.
On the surface a few questions arise, the first being what Spencer mentions in her article, Edwards being a health nut being sponsored by a candy company does not make much sense. Sure a driver needs to endorse a product, but I can’t tell you if I’ve ever seen Kyle Busch actually eat M&M’s on camera. It might be a slight conflict of personal interests, but I’m sure Edwards wouldn’t say no to the opportunity to drive for Gibbs.
Even with Kyle Busch, M&M’s tries to be family oriented, and Busch’s actions sometimes clashed with that. Edwards has shown he’s a “good guy” of the sport, run ins with Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth aside, and could push the family values side M&M’s probably wants.
Having Monster Energy sponsor Busch would make sense as they could embrace the image the Busch has. Such as when they embrace Kyle and brother Kurt starting a few years back. I’m just surprised that Monster would be willing to put up that money to be in the Cup Series, as I assumed they were in Nationwide because of the lowered costs.
If Joe Gibbs Racing loses that Monster sponsorship in the Nationwide Series, would we see an end of Kyle Busch running down there? The team has struggled to get sponsorship over the past few years, including putting the #18 team as strictly part-time. I’m sure they could find some sponsors to run Busch, but would those companies put up enough funds to keep the #54 going all year long like how Monster has the past few years?
It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but you won’t hear much for right now as all parties involved have no comment to share.
The old adage goes take one step forward, take two steps back. While the Camping World Truck Series hasn’t taken that second step backward, it seems it is inevitable that something else is coming down the pipe line.
Just 16 days ago NASCAR and Camping World announced that the company was extending its entitlement sponsorship through the 2022 season, marking 14 years of sponsoring the series. There was much promoting of the series as the place where young talent is found and pushed along to succeed in NASCAR. Camping World gushed about how it has helped their RV sales since joining NASCAR.
That is good PR spinning on the state of the sport, but the reality is it is struggling. After starting the season with full fields, 36 trucks, at Daytona and Martinsville, the number of trucks has dropped off. Only 31 raced at Kansas, just four days after the announcement, and only 33 raced this last weekend at Charlotte.
Of those trucks, only 18 drivers have attempted all four races, with Sprint Cup Series star Kyle Busch winning three of those races. That number will drop when the series next goes to Dover because of Tuesday’s news that Red Horse Racing was ceasing operations of their #7 team driven by Brian Ickler to this point.
Without much sponsorship, the team did not want to pull down the performance of its other two teams to keep Ickler on the track. That says a lot that a team that currently has the second and third place teams in the standings can’t find sponsorship for a third team. Go a step further and Timothy Peters, who sits second in points, has run the past two races without sponsorship on his car.
The sponsorship woes didn’t begin this year, numerous teams folded including on of Busch’s teams despite his on track success. In fact, Busch has stated that he runs the series as a means of funding his teams, although adding trophies to his collection can’t hurt.
For the long-time health of the series the schedule needs to be lengthened to at least 25 races to get maximum value for sponsorships and cost reduction is needed. While it was great to see underfunded teams running higher than they ever have, it shouldn’t be because of short fields and start and park entries.
Expanding the schedule to 25 races could be seen as adding costs for teams. The rationale to adding the three (or I’d be open to a few more) is to bridge the large gaps that start the season. They open the season on February 21st, but then it’s not until March 29th that there is a second race.
From there it’s not until May 9th do we see the third race of the season. That is just enough time for everyone to forget about the Truck Series and for drivers to be off their game. This was evident with the number of accidents seen in the third race Kansas.
What sponsor would invest in a product that disappears for a month right after its season kicks off? Brendan Gaughan told me as much at Watkins Glen last season. He’s seen the Truck Series from the side of owner and driver during his career.
“The Truck Series needs more races, 22 races is not enough to give value to a sponsor. And it doesn’t save us any money having less than 25 races. Get us back to 25 races,” explained Gaughan.
He indicated he didn’t care where those races were added, as long as they were venues that deserved the series and were up to par on safety around the track. I would take that one step further and say you need to hit locations with this series you don’t go to now with the Sprint Cup Series.
This would go back to the origins of the Truck Series which saw it go to tracks such as Masa Marin Raceway, Milwaukee Mile, Indianapolis Raceway Park (now Lucas Oil Raceway), Heartland Park Topeka, Flemington Speedway, and others.
To cut costs, make the events one day shows if possible by running night races. That way teams can save on external costs, such as hotels, and fans get the ultimate bang for their buck. They don’t have to worry about coming back for qualifying or a practice another day.
NASCAR and Camping World need to build on the momentum that was found last season by running at Eldora Speedway and Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. Both venues, that had not run another other series until then, were praised as being successes by fans and media from not only the show the Trucks put on, but the facilities themselves.
It is too late to do anything about 2014, but it’s not too early to start planning changes for 2015. With rumblings of a major shakeup in the Sprint Cup Series scheduling for next season there is hope there will be a trickledown effect that will benefit the Truck Series. If not, this model of doing the same old, same old will slowly kill the series.