Is it time to shorten Nascar Sprint Cup races?

Everyone is trying to find an answer to Nascar’s declining television ratings. Some point to a dull Chase format, some to boring races and some to bad television production of Nascar races.

One idea that I like has actually been suggested by Fox Sports Chairman David Hill. (Here’s the story) His idea? Shorten all Sprint Cup races to fit into a 3 hour window with another one hour set aside for pre-race and post-race combined.

California finally caught on that 500 miles was too long there and shortened their race to 400 miles.  It turned into a better race.

Do we really need 500 miles twice at Pocono? 500 laps at a Bristol?

I would keep Daytona obviously at 500 miles, the 600 at Charlotte but everything else would be negotiable.

A NFL football game runs approximately 3 hours, a college football game about the same.  NBA game?  A little over two hours.  NHL? Two-and-a-half hours.

America’s attention span keeps getting shorter and shorter and maybe it’s time to fit the product to the audience.

One idea I’m not in favor of that Hill suggested is that many of the races move to Saturday night to stay away from going up against the NFL.

To me that forgets the person who is paying their hard earned money to attend the race as opposed to someone sitting in their La-Z-Boy at home.

Would I really want fans driving hours to go back home after a race ended at 10:30 at night? No matter what, fans that buy tickets must come first in any decision. They have earned that right by giving up not only money but their time to attend a race in person.

As I’ve said before, Nascar and its television partners can market the hell out of the racing but it still comes down to the product every week on the race track. Come up with a great solution to that and all will be well.

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What will 2011 bring?

Unfortunately I do not have a crystal ball nor can I read the future.  If I could, I’d be on a beach sipping those umbrella drinks after hitting the lottery. I do have some questions though as the 2011 racing season is about to get underway.

The top question, as it has been now for five years, can anyone dethrone Jimmie Johnson as the Nascar Sprint Cup Champion? The answer of course is yes they can but the second question is WILL they!

Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle would have to be my top four choices to have the best chance to do what seems impossible anymore. There are several others that could also come through.

Next, will the changes at Hendrick payoff in Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finally being competitive every week and break his two plus year victory drought? Don’t have a clue.

Over in IndyCar, will someone other than Penske and Ganassi battle for the series title?  The other teams are improving but have yet to prove they are in the league of the Big Two.

Speaking of Ganassi, does he dominate the Grand-Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototype class again? Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas were almost untouchable in 2010 and testing at Daytona for the Rolex 24 is showing they are just as strong right now.

Over in ALMS, I’m just having trouble keeping track of all the classes. Will it be Patron Highcroft for a third straight year taking the LMP crown?

The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series had two great stories in 2010.  60 plus year old John Force coming from behind to claim his 15th Funny Car title and rookie L.E. Tonglet going from almost done for the season to taking the Pro Bike title. 

NHRA also had three tragic stories with the death of a fan and two drivers.

I have no clue who is going to claim the title in any of the 4 pro divisions but hopefully all four will be as competitive as Funny Car has been.

I am looking forward to kicking off the season taking in all the action at Daytona from the Rolex 24 through the Daytona 500 as I’m privileged to be part of the PA crew there.

Let’s just all hope that each and every racing series that we enjoy keeps us on the edge of our seats until the final checkered flag falls.

Ringing out the old year

2010 was definitely an interesting year in auto racing.  Jimmie Johnson comes from behind to win Nascar Sprint Cup title #5 in a row. Dario Franchitti not only wins the Indianapolis 500 but he comes from behind to claim the IndyCar title. Chip Ganassi won the Indianapolis 500 as a team owner with Franchitti plus the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 with Jamie McMurray.  Oh, Chip also took the Grand-Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototype crown in dominating fashion with ageless Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas.  Those were just the top of the list in outstanding racing moments of the year in the United States.

The lowest moment may have been the pothole problem during the Daytona 500.  When your biggest event of the year turns into a stretch of Michigan highway (I believe we are the pothole capital of the world) that is not a good thing.

All in all, it was an enjoyable year.

Personally, I’d like to thank Daytona International Speedway, Michigan International Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway for hiring me in 2010 to be part of the their “at-track” voice.  Doing the PA work at those facilities allows me to have the best seat in the house, right above the start finish line and to be able to see every bit of race track.  It doesn’t hurt I also get plenty to eat and drink and I have air conditioning on those hot and muggy days.

Most of all, I’d like to thank all the race fans.  Without you, those three race tracks wouldn’t need my services nor would they provide the great racing we see each and every year. Considering the economy, many of you made a sacrifice to make it to the race track and for that I tip my hat.

I hope all of you have a great 2011 and we’ll see you at Daytona in four weeks with the smell of burning rubber and the roar of racing engines!

Time to end Driver of the Year in Nascar & IndyCar

Getty ImagesCongrats to five-time Nascar Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson for winning the “Driver of the Year” award for the fourth time in his career. However, he should never have gotten the award.

Here’s my thinking on this. Could Johnson have done anything he did on the race track without his team?

How many times during the year did we see his pit crew led by Crew Chief Chad Knaus make adjustments and repairs to his car that gave him either a chance for victory or a solid finish?

What about the engine builders, fabricators, engineers and a myriad of others back at the race shop that put in hours and hours of work to give Johnson a championship winning car?

The same can be said about those in the IndyCar series.  I’ve yet to see a driver win with a poorly handling machine in that series, especially on an oval.

I’m not saying that Jimmie Johnson in Nascar or Dario Franchitti the IndyCar Champion aren’t great drivers.  What I am saying is that they weren’t head and shoulders above everyone else.  What gave them their championship was the team.

Let’s change “Driver of the Year” to “Team of the Year.” As the saying goes “There is no I in team.”

Can Nascar be “fixed?”

A giant topic of discussion for the last several months has been the declining attendance and television audience for Nascar.

Attendance could be a direct correlation to the economy but the television ratings is the mystery.

Some point to the struggles of live television taking an event that has no time outs such as other sports do and trying to fit in those pesky but necessary commercials.  You will miss action on the track.

Others say it’s the pictures that television is putting on the screen.  That they focus too much on one car going round-and-round or maybe two cars thus not showing the real racing that is going on.

There is the lament that only a few drivers become the focus of the television broadcasts leaving over half the field with no mention what so ever unless they crash or retire from the race.

My Techie friends point to the lack of online video streaming, integration more of Twitter and Facebook during the race along with other technological enhancements.

Many have pointed to the Nascar Chase format in the Sprint Cup Series.

All play a role but I think the bigger problem is who really wants to watch a four hour race on TV?

Wait, you say a NFL game or a college football game runs at least three hours.  True but there is a new play every 30 seconds.  In Nascar, such as at Daytona and Talladega, they can play follow-the-leader for 30 laps or more.  Exciting stuff huh!

Danica Patrick brought some new fans to Nascar but how long are they going to stay as she continues to run at the back of the field?

Extreme motorsports star Travis Pastrana is about to make the jump to Nascar and even he admits that his fans probably won’t stay if he doesn’t do well.

Attention spans of the public are short. (140 characters on Twitter need I say more?) Nascar can be boring.  I many times watch the first 50 laps, go do something else, and catch the last 30. It is the nature of the beast.

So what is the answer on how to fix Nascar?  I don’t have a clue. Maybe, just maybe, the “newness” has worn off on the American sports fan and Nascar is reverting back to its original fan base and is that really a bad thing?

Nascar it’s time to give Pocono Speedway an ultimatum!

Twice this year fate has been tempted at Pocono Speedway because of a lack of safety improvements.

b4fd305c51sh-420.jpg

In June, Kasey Kahne almost went out of the track when turned at high speed.

 

 

 

sadleruse This past Sunday, Elliott Sadler went head first into a wall in front of a dirt embankment that tore the engine from his car. That same incident saw Kurt Busch hit an inside wall at high speed ripping an entire wheel assembly off the car. Those incidents show the horrendous safety shortcomings of Pocono.

 

I believe Nascar needs to take a stand and tell Pocono ALL safety concerns must be addressed and fixed to Nascar and most importantly driver standards before one more wheel will turn at the track in a Nascar machine but will they?

No more talking the talk of safety.  It is past time to walk the walk especially at Pocono.

ARCA-The “little” series that can!

ARCA Logo I make no apologies. I am bullish on the ARCA Racing Series presented by Re/Max and Menards. Part of it is that I’ve gotten to know many of the officials and drivers in the Michigan headquartered series but a big reason is that the racing is exciting with a ton of great young drivers.

This past Friday I saw the series in action at MIS. Although Craig Goess, the winner from the previous week dominated, a late caution during green flag pit stops put him a lap down and allowed Mikey Kyle to gain his first victory.  Ironically, it was Goess that had beaten him just 8 days earlier at Pocono.

kilevlmis10 For ARCA, Kyle was the sixth different first-time winner in the 8 races run so far in 2010. Besides Kyle and Goess, Justin Marks, high-schooler Dakoda Armstrong, Chris Buescher and Steve Arpin also gained that first victory.

Arpin has already raced in the Nationwide Series for JR Motorsports and the others may not be far behind.

DaytonaDanicaPatrick-1.jpg Danica Patrick made her stock car debut with the series at Daytona in February bringing media attention to the series that is still paying off with increased television viewing.

piquet jr The son of three-time Formula One Champion Nelson Piquet, Nelson Piquet, Jr. is racing in ARCA and is beginning to show he will be competing for a victory soon.

But while the series is drawing more attention, it hasn’t lost that Saturday night local track feel.

You can talk to the drivers and crews in the garage area and I’m not just talking about the media but also the fans.  They willingly sign autographs just about anytime.  It’s a family atmosphere that embraces the best of auto racing. 

Ron Drager Ron Drager is the President of ARCA and his staff along with all the teams are showing you don’t have to be the “big boys” to have great racing and be ultra fan friendly.

Why not find out for yourself about ARCA?  If they are in your area, go to a race.  If no races are close, catch them on one of their Speed broadcasts.  I think you’ll be hooked once you do!

**Note-ARCA President Ron Drager was a guest on Pit Pass USA with Larry Henry Tuesday June 15th.  You can hear that interview by going to www.PitPassUSA.com and clicking on the archived show for that date.**

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