Catching up with stuff I'm falling behind on...
Carl Edwards collected $1,218,597 from the points fund for winning this year's Busch Series championship at Friday night's banquet, bringing his total winnings for 2007 in that series to $2,485,582.
That's not the $15 million plus Jimmie Johnson won for winning the Nextel Cup title, but it's nice money. David Reutimann got $714,350 in points money for finishing second, and the top 10 drivers in the final standings all won more than $1 million in total earnings this year.
Some fans are tired of seeing guys like Edwards, who is also of course one of the sport's top Cup drivers, come in to what the fans see as a proving ground for young drivers and cherry-picking off the big money.
But one track president thinks it needs to be pointed out that the reason that big money is there in the first place is that drivers with the kind of notoriety that Edwards are competing in the series.
"If the (Busch) Series wants to run in front of big crowds, on national television and for big purses, you have to have names people recognize and want to see," said Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage. "There was a time when drivers like Bobby Labonte, Dale Jarrett and Jeff Burton were racing in (Busch) Series events with stands capable of holding 8,000 people and paying total purses of $100,000. They were learning their craft and making their name."
Gossage compared it to seeing Bruce Springsteen play earlier in his career in front of 1,000 in some small venue in New Jersey. He said NASCAR needs to decide what it wants the series that will be called the Nationwide Series beginning next year to be.
"If they want it to be major league, they have to have names that will cause people to buy tickets and television networks to televise the races," Gossage said. "...Or they can go back to being a minor-league series and run at 6,000 to 8,000 seat speedways for $100,000."
The man makes a heck of a point.
Coca-Cola has extended its marketing partnership with NASCAR through 2017, which means that it's not about to roll over now that Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a deal with Pepsi brands. Look for Coke Zero to have a bigger presence in the sport as part of the new deal. Coke also has a new 10-year deal for pouring rights at International Speedway Corporation's tracks, and that will include naming rights to July's Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races at Daytona.
Three of the six men elected to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame's 2008 class have strong NASCAR ties. Red Byron was the first champion in the strictly stock (now Sprint Cup) series in 1949. Everett "Cotton" Owens won more than 100 modified races in the 1950s and then became one of stock car racing's great team owners. And Ralph Seagraves helped begin R.J. Reynolds Tobacco's long-time involvement in motorsports sponsorships. Also elected were Art Arfons, who set the land speed record three times and worked for five decades in drag and powerboat racing; drag racing legend Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins, who is known as the father of the National Hot Rod Association's pro stock series, and Frank Kurtis, whose Kurtis-Kraft company produced some of the greatest midget race cars ever built.
The Chili Bowl from Tulsa, Okla., one of the great events in all of motorsports and the highlight of the winter months, will be available for viewers on pay-per-view for the first time this year. The Jan. 12 event brings in around 250 midget cars to compete indoors. Tony Stewart is the defending champion and he and Kasey Kahne are expected to be among this year's entrants. It will be shown on HBO Pay-Per-View, beginning at 8 p.m. Ordering information is available at www.hbo.com. Viewers will need digital cable or satellite service to order, but you don't have to have HBO to get the telecast.
Tommy Johnson Sr. does his best to keep me up to date with stuff going on in the National Hot Rod Association, especially when it involves his family.
Johnson's son, Tommy Jr., got some big news this week when drag racing legend Kenny Bernstein announced he would step out as a driver in a funny car sponsored by Monster Energy Drink and Lucas Oil and put Tommy Johnson Jr. in that ride.
Bernstein, a six-time champion in top fuel, drove the funny car last year and planned to drive it again in 2008.
"I was only contemplating driving one more year," Bernstein said, "but when Tommy became available at the end of the '07 season, we started to give the situation a lot of thought. ... I guess we can always look to win one more race or one more championship, but in reality, I've had a great career and many talented crewmembers who have helped mold my success through the years. For me at this stage of my life, the right decision is to step away from the cockpit."
Johnson has NHRA victories in funny car and top fuel. Next year, he will compete against his wife, Melanie Troxel, who is making the move from top fuel to funny cars in 2008.