Today, “Silly Season” no longer just applies to NASCAR teams. The scramble to complete the personnel and funding picture now applies to the governing body itself. At least the funding part. This will get interesting as we see whether or not the coming paradigm shift will affect finding sponsors for individual teams. It no doubt will on some level.
With the information we have so far, the notion of a single title sponsor seems to be going away once Monster Energy concludes its current run. On the table is the idea of a handful of NASCAR sponsors at varying tiers. So we’re looking at something like four to six major sponsors, and yet more at lower tiers requiring less of an investment. It’s something I used to see a lot in the advertising game. A kind of a “gold, silver, bronze” system where the more you spend, the more you get.
It’s a sure sign that NASCAR really isn’t what it was for a brief period of time in it’s popularity. To their credit, instead of cursing the wind, or hoping the winds will change, they’re adjusting the sails. Essentially, it’s a matter of getting the perceived value to meet the proposed cost where NASCAR sponsors are concerned. Going forward, as sponsors come and go, replacing a 10 million dollar sponsor is easier than replacing a 20 million dollar sponsor. Put another way, many hands make lighter work.
Names like Monster, Coca-Cola and Mobil are being bandied about for major involvement. Ok, so that will work. The question now is one of how will get new NASCAR sponsors affect individual teams in their pursuit of corporate funding.
There’s a finite number of dollars to go around. If Coca-Cola becomes a top tier sponsor, how will it affect the “Coca-Cola family of drivers?” Sponsorship value is very much predicated on the number of eyeballs drawn to the sport. What would behoove a Monster to be a NASCAR sponsor AND a sponsor of a driver at the same time? You see where this is going?
Most every answer raises with it new questions. The tricky part is that as NASCAR has lost popularity, sponsors have been lost as well. We’re not saying it can’t work, but it may mean one adjustment will be followed by several more.
1969 Charger R/T pic.twitter.com/BB0ijTx3AE
In some racing museum somewhere, you may find an endangered species. Typically, this species had its origins in sports cars series or perhaps some form of open wheel racing. Critics would argue that NASCAR racing on road courses is like a pig doing ballet.
Among the old time legends of the sport, you would struggle to find one proficient at road course racing. Dale Earnhardt won only once on a road course- at Watkins Glen. By comparison- Richard Petty had six, Bobby Allison five, and David Pearson four. To be fair, short tracks ruled during the salad days of most of these drivers.
When road courses appeared on the schedule, the now endangered specie known as the “road course ringer” appeared. Dan Gurney was one of the originals. In more recent lore, there was Boris Said, Scott Pruett and Ron Fellows. Even though he never won in the Cup series, Said has long been considered a road course racing guru to the full-timers.
While some modern day drivers have not embraced racing on tracks of right and left turns, many top contenders now consider a win at a track like Sonoma or Watkins Glen a badge of honor. Heck, one recent article reveals that Clint Bowyer calls Sonoma his “favorite track.” Yes, Clint Bowyer- hardly your stereotypical road course guy.
Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart were among the best at road courses with their open wheel backgrounds. Kyle Busch has multiple wins at such tracks. Kevin Harvick is usually a contender. AJ Allmendinger- a former champ car driver- is a journeyman who emerges from the crowd when road courses pop up on the schedule.
Nowadays, being a top driver on a road course is a sign you’re a true championship contender. It means you’re in a position to win anywhere. Because of aerodynamics being what they are, a number of fans who wouldn’t ordinarily consider themselves road course fans suddenly love it for the quality of racing.
It’s one more sign that this isn’t your daddy’s NASCAR.
“Merry Christmas, Clint Bowyer.” I’m sure many of you were thinking just that after last Sunday’s race at Michigan. By virtue of being in the right place at the right time, Kansas Clint walks away a winner for the second time this season. Some would say the win was pure luck. Really? Let’s talk about this.
Before we dismiss this win as somehow tainted, consider this: that in order to finish first, you must first finish. NASCAR races and racing in general is test of survival. Otherwise, they would just do 10 lap sprints. If Bowyer pancakes the wall earlier in the race, he’s not there for the opportunity at the end.
How about this? How does such a winner get there? To be a winner, you have to be up front. Teamwork came into play for Bowyer’s win. Crew chief Mike Bugarewicz made the call for a two tire stop instead of four after stage two. The gamble paid off. It could very well have gone the other way. That last stop has to be properly executed to make it work. A fumbled lug nut or pit road speeding makes it all moot.
Speaking of which, it took driving talent on the part of Bowyer to make it work on the track. If he overdrives the car, the whatever good is left on the older tires is run off and Kevin Harvick passes his teammate. You ever thought about the balancing a driver must do in terms of airing it out and not overdriving the car? It’s not as easy as you think.
Luck is where preparation meets opportunity. That’s what Seneca said. In other words, to be lucky, you must first be good. A winner make their own luck. Every once in a while, a blind squirrel finds a nut. In 2018, Clint Bowyer is no blind and the gang at Stewart-Haas Racing are sure getting lucky a lot.
No, no stuttering here. Dominance in NASCAR is a good thing….once in a while. Am I sure about that? Yes, and here’s why.
Though he’s still among the greats, the mustard is off of Jimmie Johnson’s hot dog. He’s not through being a quality competitor, but it’s no given he’ll get that record-breaking eighth championship. He and Hendrick Motorsports have looked pretty mortal this season. That leaves something of a void.
So, follow along here, the dominance in NASCAR of Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch has established who the current greats are. Winning one race may be the result of good fortune. Maybe you’re the lead car when the rain ends a race early. Perhaps you get the needed push in a plate race. Dominance in NASCAR shows your team has its stuff together. Getting lucky is one thing, but can you get lucky five times in a season?
Fans love underdogs. Think about the folk heroism of Alan Kulwicki back in 1992; the days when Earnhardt ruled the NASCAR earth. This slightly odd, cerebral independent became a legend. It doesn’t look the same if he’s not trying to slay the dragons of The Intimidator, Million Dollar Bill, Davey and Rusty.
Doubt the point being made here? Fine. Here’s the good news regarding dominance in NASCAR: it’s fleeting. Do you remember when we were all sick of Jimmie Johnson winning all the time? No one roots for Goliath. He doesn’t rise to tht status if he doesn’t dominate for a time.
What is a sport if you don’t have someone to root AGAINST. What’s also compelling is the rivalry between Harvick and Busch. Remember this? (video). There’s no reason to believe this hasn’t changed. It could make life interesting if the current trajectory holds up. Speaking from a fan’s perspective, it’s even more amusing when it occurs between two you have no rooting interest in.