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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Nascar Swings at 'wide Whacking; Kills Series Instead

Complaints about Bush-whacking or 'wide Whacking as it is now known (at least in my lexicon) have been legion for years.

According to the complaints, every year, Sprint Cup racers win the series championships in the Nationwide series.  Sprint Cup racers cherry pick the biggest purses in the Nationwide series and win them, starving the smaller teams.  Cup racers take driving jobs from other drivers in the lower series.

While some of the complaints are legitimate, Nascar has benefited greatly from the practice of Cup drivers racing in the Nationwide and truck series.  But Nascar has determined to change this starting immediately.  This year, drivers must select which series they accrue points in:  in other words, if a driver runs both Cup and Nationwide, point will only be awarded in one series.


{It remains to be seen how this affects the rookie rule - which says a driver cannot have more than 6 starts in the Cup series to remain eligible for rookie status the next year.  If you don't get points in Cup, it shouldn't matter if you run 20 Cup races, right?}

The new rule has problems, as far as I can tell.  First, while it doesn't remove the monetary incentive to Cup drivers, it does remove some of it.  Money collected from points fund payouts in lower series do subsidize driver's, owner's and team's coffers.  The extra money for wins still will apply, so that will lure a few Cup drivers in.

Second, the rule will have severe implications in sponsorship deals.  If Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, or Brad Keselowski do not have the option to win a championship, will they run?  If they don't run, will their sponsors leave the sport?  Sponsors select drivers and teams to get the most bang for their buck.  Kyle Busch can practically guarantee that he will get TV coverage - regardless whether he wins or finishes last.  Can Shelby Howard, Jennifer Cobb or Kelly Bires deliver that?  There are sponsors who are willing to sponsor Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Mark Martin or Kevin Harvick who will not sponsors a driver named Trevor Bayne, Ricky Stenhouse, Danny O'Quinn or Brett Moffitt.

If Dale Earnhardt Jr, the most popular driver in Nascar, has sponsorship woes with his teams, what hope do the rest of the teams have??

Third, the tracks will suffer.  If the Cup drivers aren't at the track, will the fans show up?  While this may not matter at tracks where the race is paired with a Cup race, it will impact tracks like Iowa Speedway, Nashville, Montreal, Road America, Memphis, etc.  Will drivers make the cross-country trip to the Nationwide race from a Cup race?  Why bother if a championship isn't on the line?

More importantly, if the fans think Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano are not coming, will the fans bother going to the race?

I suspect the rule has a bit more sinister purpose: kill the tracks without a Cup race.  A look at those tracks reveals that those tracks are largely owned by Non-ISC corporations.  Remember that ISC is owned by the France family.  If the Non-ISC owned tracks have to close (a la Gateway or Memphis), then those races can go to other tracks, say ones ISC owns.

The simple math is: France family money from Nascar + France family money from ISC = $$$$$$

The problem is that this rule will affect more than tracks, as it will likely drive out sponsors, teams and fans in addition to the Cup drivers.


6 comments:

Tsfanpc said...

Must say I am going to hold off my opinion until I see how it is going to work. But since I have said in the past that something needed to be done to make it easier for those who run in the Nationwide Series full time.

I think this is a step in the right direction to give the series its own identity. Right now it is just another extension of the Cup series. So while it may distract some sponsors short term. But it might bring in other sponsors who can afford the series better.

Gene Haddock said...

I have to agree with most of this, although I still believe that the same Cup stars and sponsors will continue to dominate NW.

With this rule in place in 2010, Justin Allgaier would be the NW Champ... 900+ points behind Keselowski. And, NASCAR wonders why the national sports media doesn't take them seriously.

Annette said...

TS - I understand what they are trying to do, but I think there are other ways to accomplish it.

I'm not sure that getting rid of all the Cup drivers is a good decision. This becomes like the East or West series, where no one watches except family and friends!

I don't think this will get rid of all of them, but it may kill enough fan interest and sponsorship to create problems for team and tracks.

Gene -

I doubt it will hurt the Cup drivers or teams immediately. But the tracks could be hurt - with the economy still plodding along, and the ticket prices still high, people looking to save a buck may skip the Nationwide Races.

Oddly enough, the decline in track attendance has not led to an increase in TV watchers.

Annette

klvalus said...

I still haven't thought all the implications of this thru yet but was also of the mind that NASCAR needed to do something.

I think Cup drivers in the NW races raise the level of competition that NW drivers need to learn from, attract the crowds and bring money in but they also cherry pick $, get extra testing time and are usually fighting for the championship amongst themselves.

I still think Cup drivers miss the NW cars and like the new pony cars and will drive for fun esp at the tracks with Cup races but it will test how much they drive for the love of it.

Not sure how much I believe Jr is dying for sponsorship either - his beautiful face is already gracing my TV by the hour with TaxSlayer...

Good stuff Iowa! Get yourself to Sonoma this year girl!

photogr said...

Time will tell. Considering the economy, I don't see more seats filled at the tracks any time soon. I am sure there will be major changes money wise, sponsor wise, and race wise.

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