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.”

Is Nascar suffering media overexposure?

Last time I asked if Nascar can be fixed.  Now I ask if part of Nascar’s problem is that it is overexposed.

Let me ask you this.  Is there anything that a fan DOESN’T know about Jimmy Johnson, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards or any other top Nascar driver?

Between all the media that is out there these days especially with the growth of social media, I think fans even know when their favorite driver has a bowel movement!  (Okay, that was a little more graphic than I probably needed to be.)

While some believe that to be great and want EVEN MORE information, I feel less might be the key.

There is no mystique left about today’s Nascar drivers.

Back in the day (okay, I admit I’m a fossil) we knew little about Richard Petty, Fireball Roberts, the Allisons, the Yarboroughs and many more away from the race track.

We knew just the basic details about their personal lives. However what we did know and that mattered most to us was that they could drive the hell out of a race car. It was that simple.

There was a mystique that surrounded them.  These men were tempting fate each time they got into a race car. We didn’t need to know they were going to the Caribbean to snorkel for a week of R&R!

If you need 24-hours a day of Nascar news and to know every little tidbit of information there is, then have at it. For me, I’ll just stay living in the Dark Ages.

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?

X-Games move over! Ken Block out does you on his own!

I must admit I’m not much of an X-games kind of guy probably do to my age.  I’m just not into extreme sports.  However, when I see something that is jaw-dropping, I do pay attention.

Rally Car driver Ken Block has a series of Gymkhana videos. (The name is explained at the beginning of each video.)  His latest Gymkhana THREE, Part 2; Ultimate Playground; l’Autodrome, France is absolutely off the wall! I could describe this video but words do not do it justice.

Check out the video yourself.  I bet you watch it several times and tell everyone you know about it. I have and did.

Education, education, education! Lieutenant General Ben Freakley U.S. Army

I want to follow-up on my earlier post about what I saw and heard during my time with the U.S. Army, Don Schumacher Racing and the NHRA at the 56th Mac Tools U.S. Nationals.

One word sums up the focus I saw in many of their events.  Education.

I had a chance to sit down with Lieutenant General Ben Freakley to discuss today’s Army and why they are involved in NHRA.

 Here is that interview.  I think you’ll hear some surprising information.  Judge for yourself as I did.

**As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have spent this Labor Day weekend at the NHRA Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis as a guest of the U.S. Army. Although they paid my transportation costs, no editorial direction was given. I was allowed access to all events and personnel surrounding the Army’s 10th anniversary of partnering with the NHRA and Don Schumacher Racing.***

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