Friday, September 07, 2007

As news days go, Friday was another big one

Good grief.

Every once in a while you have a slow news day when you're covering NASCAR racing. Friday was not one of those days.

There's something about this race track in Richmond. Every time we come here, all heck breaks loose.

Maybe it's just the time of the year. In early May, the season has been going long enough for stuff to start shaking out. In late September, we're about to start the Chase and some teams are starting to turn the page on next year.

But it's strange. When they announced the settlement of the Texas lawsuit that led to "modernizing tradition" with changes to the schedule, that was announced here.

When they announced they were going to put restrictor plates on cars for a race at New Hampshire, that came out here. Dale Earnhardt held court about that in his hauler that day for more than an hour, but only about 10 minutes worth of what he said was printable.

Early Friday morning, DEI confirmed what everybody had been zeroed in on in saying that Mark Martin and Aric Almirola will drive the No. 8 and Regan Smith will get into what's now the No. 01.

A little while later, we noticed people scurrying about around the No. 31 Chevrolet. AT&T logos were being brought back out and slapped on the car. Something was afoot, and we later learned there had been a settlement in that legal battle involving NASCAR and Sprint Nextel along with AT&T and Richard Childress Racing.

Oh yeah, it looks like Dario Franchitti is coming to NASCAR to replace David Stremme at United Nations Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. That's big - Ashley Judd in the Cup garage!

Jimmie Johnson won the pole for Saturday night's race and hardly anybody noticed. But as everybody tried to wind up their day, an e-mail blast announced that Robert Yates is retiring, selling his team to his son, Doug, canceling the announced partnership with
Newman/Haas/Lanigan and naming Travis Kvapil to replace Ricky Rudd in the No. 88 next year.

Other than that, as an old friend of mine once said, ain't much happening.


scrounger said...

As an old friend of mine used to say : "ain't much happening, think I'll start a rumor". So, David, start something.

Monkeesfan said...

"Dale Earnhardt held court about (the 2000 NHIS restrictor plate deal) in his hauler for more than an hour, but only about ten minutes worth of what he said was printable." David, anything Two-Face Earnhardt ever said about restrictor plates was not worth the paper it was written down on.

The AT&T compromise will only settle things for next season - the core issue, that NASCAR is bullying sponsors out of the sport or bullying them to sponsor races and contingency awards (with fees going to NASCAR, natch) well on top of what they originally signed up for, remains in place. The whole issue of sponsor exclusivity remains an exercise in absurdity because it violates one of Big Bill France's reality-based dictums - sponsors are partners to NASCAR, not rivals.

Ganassi/SABCO obviously never gave one thought to hiring an American short tracker for the #40 - that Dario Franchitti was basically the only choice shows anew that the F1-ization and mild de-Americanization of the sport is proceeding along because the drivers needed for today's cars cannot be seat-of-the-pants drivers, they have to be technology-savvy drivers who can work with engineers.

Robert Yates' retirement is a case of a hands-on team owner throwing in the towel. His son Doug will continue the team, but it will be swallowed up by Roush Fenway because the yates effort now is nothing but a satellite for Roush, having ceded all control over its equipment to Roush, and we don't have to look far to see how unsuccessful satellites are in Winston Cup - name me the races in this decade won by cars whose teams did not build their own engines.

The off-hand answer is three - Ricky Craven at Martinsville, and both wins by Morton-Bowers Racing before it was bought by Robert Ginn and then dissolved into DEI.

Nice going, Brian France - you've presided over a decade in which the sport's growth hit a wall and began eroding as it has been swallowed up by technology and billionaire guys instead of racers, its competition has eroded thanks to taking away downforce, bump stops, and sway bars, then forcing the Car of Tomorrow onto the sport, and consigning the one aero rule that works - the roof wicker - to the Busch Series.

Anonymous said...

I guess they had to let the lawyers fatten their wallets before someone actually used some common sense to settle the AT&T should be interesting to see how it was settled.....Yates now just becomes Roush - lite..I guess Robert just got tired of fighting an uphill battle...He invited Newman -Haas in through the front door and Doug and Jack just pushed them out the back...I wonder how they felt about being shuffled out of the deck

Anonymous said...

Brian France continues in his efforts to emulate the NFL (National Felon League) and thus the downward spiral continues. Must be that over a billion in income annually isn't enough for his ego. The races are abysmal and the grandstands continue to empty. Brian, be happy with what you have and stick to the sport's roots. New York City doesn't want you, neither does the state of Washington. The East and Southeast want you and always have. Reverse the trend before it's too late!!

Monkeesfan said...

anonymous, they'll reverse course eventually because they'll have to - the problem is what damage they'll have done to the sport before they do.

Anonymous said...

This over-hyping of NASCAR, coupled with dwindling audiences in respect to both TV and attendance; reminds of the old CART before the split. I am throwing it out there that the top level of NASCAR as we know it (at least until another sponsorship deal), will cease to exist in ten years. No brand identity, artificially inflated operating costs (thanks to the massive team operations), scarce sponsorship, lack of cohesive driver development , confusing station and airing times; all leave the fan in a state of anomie. By the way, did everyone enjoy the Little E 400 on Sat? Anyone with an ounce of logic could tell you he was out before the race started. Didn't the COT concept already fail with IROC. Speaking of which, that is exactly what next years driver lineup looks like.

Monkeesfan said...

There definately is far less to enjoy about the sport today than was the case many years ago. Other than Talladega and occassionally Daytona, what race offers any kind of sustained competitive excellence? Where are the wins by the new teams? Where are the comeback wins by Petty, Morgan-McClure, Yates, and the other backbones of the sport? Where is the hard spending cap on race teams? Where are the auctions for the cars and parts of teams disbanded by the Roush and Hendrick racing empires forced to disband teams to get down to three cars?

I didn't enjoy the Junior 400 at Richmond, just like I cringed when the crowd went nuts for Junior when he led briefly at Pocono in August; why does any one driver deserve such an absurd level of fan love?

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