Saturday, December 08, 2007

Could Busch series prosper without big names?

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 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.


Anonymous said...

NO he doesnt make a heck of a point. In 1999-2000 when Busch series regulars were winning races at Daytona, Talladega and Charlotte, they werent racing in front of 6000-8000 people. The sport is bigger now, all across the board. The Nationwide series isnt going to disintegrate if they only let 6 or 7 cup regulars run against the busch regulars. The Nationwide series will disapear if they continue to let 20-25 cup regulars run each week while running the busch regualrs out of business.

Dont you find it pathetic when one of the "biggest moments" in 2006 was when a busch regular in a busch team won a race??

Anonymous said...

Amazing the doom & gloom predictions, touted as fact, by people who dont approve of cup drivers in the Busch/Nationwide series...

NASCAR hasnt called that series the minor leagues or a developmental series, they are treating it as a true major league sport... the Busch East & West regional series are more a developmental series than anything.

I like the cup drivers in the Nationwide series, and if I were a cup team owner, thats exactly where I would want my developmental driver - racing against guys like Harvick, Edwards, Stewart - but without the high stakes that are found in the Cup series... yeah, they may get their butts whipped, but its great experience.

Yes, there is room for improvement, but without the big names, major TV coverage and large crowds will disappear.

Going to a Busch race is a great, economical option for guys like me who want to bring my kids to see cup drivers race, but without having to pay $125/ticket...

Anonymous said...

Permitting anyone who can show up with a legal car and a driver lisenced to run at that track to attempt to make the field is the oldest tradition in racing. Anyone who wants to mess with that loses all right to ever complain about Nascar upsetting traditions.

If the Busch/Nationwide were a development series drivers would be REQUIRED to run in that series and achieve certain milestones before advancing to Cup. They not and it is not -- it is simply a racing series with certain equipment specs (that, IMO, have been allowed to converge too closely to Cup specs).

Fix the problem of equipment specs that make "testing in the Busch series" worthwhile and the problem of excessive Cup drivers will go away without needing silly, arbitrary rules defining who may race how many times in what series.

And yes, the Big Names are needed. Some of us will watch any race just because its a race. But many are driver fans who will only watch when they can see a driver who interests them. No fans, no sponsors. No sponsors, no series.

That's the bottom line.

Monkeesfan said...

Gossage is a fool, a total and utter fool. The Sportsman Series was able to stand on its own for decades, and as meeklo braca notes, they raced superspeedways before superb crowds when there were far fewer WC interlopers - in fact I recall Randy LaJoie's 1999 Daytona win off the top of my head where only a few WC guys ran, crashed out, and the finish was between LaJoie, Jeff Green, Mike McLaughlin, Andy Hillenberg - the hero of Rockingham - Casey Atwood, and Adam Petty, and nobody minded that there wasn't a WC regular to be seen. Such was also the case in the Talladega 300s of 1995-6 when only a few Cuppers entered; the 1995 race, one of the wildest and nastiest races ever seen, was between such "worthless" names as Chad Little, LaJoie, Jeff Fuller, Dale Fischlein (Dave Marcis' crew chief), Jeff Green, Elton Sawyer, and that's off the top of my head as far as BGN regulars.

The series was quite popular and healthy with little WC intervention. It was when NASCAR allowed more and more WC intervention that the ability for a series regular to run there was destroyed, and the argument that the regulars can learn to become better racers by competing against the Cup guys has never proven to be true.

Just what are people who support WC guys in support races afraid of if NASCAR actually flexes some leadership and bans WC participation?

Anonymous said...

Where is the excitement for the fans if you get the same thing on Saturday as on Sunday? Nextel Cup is overexposed as it is, and the value on cup tickets is dwindling with each passing race, why on earth would you, if you were Nascar, want your superstars racing on a day where the ticket prices are cheaper and the racing audience is less? I think its a problem when the casual fan says, hey I can goto the Saturday race and see my drivers for less than on Sunday.

And oh yeah, I agree with Gossage being a fool. There had to be 75,000 people in the stands when Lajoie won the Busch race at Daytona in 99. There certainly werent 6000 people in the stands when Jeff Green won the Busch title in 2000. The Busch series didnt get to where it is today because it had 20 cup guys in each race.

I asked Dave Moody this and he gave me a drunken BS response and ill ask it here. What is so damn exciting about cup guys, in cup equipment dominating a Triple A series?

Another question ill ask again...

Dont you find it pathetic when one of the "biggest moments" in 2006 was when a busch regular in a busch team won a race??

germancarsonly said...

The Nationwide Series will do just fine if they don't have the Cup drivers in it every week. There has always been plenty of driving talent to fill the series with good people and put on great races. Hopefully the rumors are true and this will become a series for the Mustangs and other smaller bodied cars. I think that will also keep the interest of the fans focused on this series. Personally, I hope they keep adding more road courses to it too.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe the problem in the Busch (now Nationwide)series is the's the OWNERS! Few regular teams can compete with Hendricks, Roush, and Gibb's teams. They have too many other resources and basically their Nationwide cars are scaled down Cup cars. The solution is to keep them from furnishing cars to the series and allow their drivers to compete in other owner's cars (regulars in the series). Another option would be to let the owners "in" but they couldn't run the brand they normally run. Hendricks would have to run a Ford Dodge or Toyota, Roush couldn't run Ford, etc. This takes the engineering and excessive wind tunnel time out of it and provides no advantage to the owner as extra practice time on the track, but it still allows the big name drivers to compete. Food for thought!

Monkeesfan said...

hughdogg is right in that the influx of Grand National superteams into the Sportsman Series has done more than anything to bankrupt the series. I think, though, that his solution is impractical, as it ignores that the big name drivers would still bring realtime track knowledge to races that are companion to Grand National events, knowledge greater than the series regulars could bring because the Cup regulars would have run the track far more in their Cup cars that weekend.

Anonymous said...

What's the point of worrying 'bout the Grand National / Busch / Nationwide series as a feeder series. As of late, Cup has only been interested in untested foriegners and yankees.

RevJim said...

The folks who complain about the Cup drivers in Nationwide, want the Nationwide series to be like ARCA. What would ARCA be then?

Anonymous said...

Foolish to watch a series fall apart because greedy promoters and greedy owners do not want to change. I would give no points to anyone in the top 35 owners or drivers in cup teams.Limit each team to ten races only and no points.Same with cup owners.Brian get a pair of balls and fixed the nationwide junk series. It plain sucks to watch 20 drivers from sprint cup dominate each week._frankee