Friday, November 28, 2008

Hits, misses in preseason predictions

Now that the season is over, I guess it's only fair for us to look back at how I thought 2008 would go and see how I did with my preseason predictions.

These predictions ran two days before this year's Daytona 500 on the That's Racin' weekly page that appears in the Observer and other publications.

My first prediction worked out pretty well. Here's what I wrote:

SPRINT CUP CHAMPION: It's hard to pick against Jimmie Johnson, so I won't. The third consecutive championship will be the hardest, but somebody is going to have to prove to me the No. 48 team can be defeated.

OK, so far so good.

My next pick was who would be a surprise to either make or not make the Chase. I said Casey Mears would have a big year and Clint Bowyer "might take a half step backward." Well, Mears and Bowyer did wind up being linked -- Mears will move into Bowyer's former ride in 2009 -- but I still have to admit I was wrong twice there.

I also said that NASCAR had "painted itself into a corner with this business about letting drivers show their emotions. Somebody WILL go too far." I can't really say that happened, either.

But I did get another one right. I said, "A lot of big-time driver contracts are, to varying degrees, not locked up long-term as tight as you might think they would be. Don't think Dale Earnhardt Jr. is going to be the last top-tier driver to change jobs."

OK, so I didn't really go way out on a limb there. But Tony Stewart leaving Joe Gibbs Racing certainly qualifies as making that a good call.

Fellow Observer reporter Jim Utter said Kyle Busch would be champion, but he also said the biggest issue facing NASCAR would be "the impending budget crunch on the economy, which affects everything from the reporters sent by media to cover the sport, to the lack of big-money sponsors for teams, to the cost fans face to watch races."

So he was dead on the money there. He also correctly said the best championship battle would be in the Truck Series.

Jim Pedley of the Kansas City Star picked Jeff Gordon as his champion, said Earnhardt Jr. would win four races and predicted that a driver from Canada would win a Cup race this year. But he was right in saying all three Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas would make the Chase.


Anonymous said...

Here's a "hit" about something that might end up being "missed"....

Presently, the troubles and problems in the world, our country, the economy, and the frightening amount of uncertainty facing most people today almost relegate the subject of NASCAR to an insignifant blip on "the grand scheme of things radar".

For goodness sakes, if a person has a shaky job, can't afford to save, pay rent, heat his or her dwelling, buy food and gasoline or even ride the bus, let alone have a Christmas celebration, how in the world can the idea of a NASCAR ticket even be addressed?

Right now, there are not many souls who have the luxury of even wondering who will win races next year or remembering who lost races last year.

A hit? That's what NASCAR used to be.

Missed? That's what NASCAR might well be in the future.

Monkeesfan said...

Anonymous, the economy is not as dire as a lot of people think it is. We need to stop pretending we're dying in a depression or some such nonsense.

As far as David's preseason predictions go, don't give up on the "driver going to far with his emotions" pick because it's going to happen - the whole idea of letting drivers show emotions instead of growing the hell up and acting as professionals is an idea that inevitably will fail.

Mike Hutton said...

Monkee is right. This too shall pass.

On the other hand, I just scored a HUGE upgrade on my Brickyard 400 tickets after 15 years as a customer (and 30 for the Indy 500).

The ticket office said that renewals are at the lowest level ever, which obviously allowed many folks to upgrade. They're even shipping a DVD of last year's race to all renewing customers...not that yellow flags every 10 laps will make for exciting viewing, but at least it was some sort of gesture.

Monkeesfan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Monkeesfan said...

Darn it, I had to erase that last post because it didn't come out right.

This is to Anonymous - "Black Friday" retail sales shot up three percent this year and business delinquencies are at an all-time low. All the complaints about the economy need to get real.

red said...

monkeesfan: just a differing opinion from someone who has worked retail for 30 years: this 3% comp figure isn't all that impressive to me. i worked book and multimedia retail and i would have never made my business plan with only a 3% comp over thanksgiving weekend. my plan was often set at 7-12% comp. so while 3% is better than flat or negative comps, it's just not that terrific.

it's important to keep in mind that all stores were offering deep discounts and loss leaders to get people into the stores. however, the idea that "if we get them in, they will buy more" doesn't hold when $$ is tight. and, if a store is aggressively offering loss leaders, the store ISN'T making money: they lose money on each and every loss leader sold. for example, the average discount that a book retail merchant receives from the vendor is about 42%: if the retailer offers a 45 or 50% discount, they actually LOSE money with each sale of that item. the discount margin is even worse for music and dvd so offering a 40% discount on all dvd boxed sets ( a common practice) really destroys the bottom lne. i've lived it, i know it to be true.

yes, people turned out this past weekend and yes, spending was at a 3% comp. but the real story will be told over the longer haul: how the retail segment does right thru the second week of january.

you and mike hutton may be correct and the economy isn't as bad as it seems. but i have long experience in retail and for me, the story isn't told until we get past the holiday itself and i can see those gift cards being redeemed and the items/transaction number moving up. the next big challenge will come in february and march of '09: watch the retail numbers then for a better indication of whether the economy is recovering or not. (and retail isn't necessarily a good indicator anyway: durable goods might be a better snapshot.)

Monkeesfan said...

red, the retail segment won't suffer as much as a lot of people think it will because all the stories about the economy are exaggerating trouble badly.

red said...

monkeesfan: i'm not getting into a "no, it isn't", "yes, it is" argument with you on this. i'm in retail, i see it daily, i deal with the numbers and i've been in the business 30 years so i know the patterns and what to look for. i've been thru three "recessions" in this industry and this one is having more of an impact than any of the earlier three. i can outline all the factors i'm seeing as well as add anecdotal information. all of that tells me that your statement simply isn't being reflected in the retail world right now.

bottom line: fewer people coming in to bricks and mortar stores, fewer people adding on to the loss leader purchase, fewer gift cards being purchased (which means fewer gift card redemptions post-holiday), more postponing of purchasing until the crunch period 72 hours before the holiday. even more telling: significantly more credit card use far earlier in the season than ever before.

i have the tools at hand to compare traffic pattern and hour by hour sales over the past three years. regardless of what you're reading/hearing (and definitively stating), the numbers are down across the board, in my store and across my company. and my colleagues in other retail businesses are telling me the same in their businesses.

the raw numbers are up b/c we've all offered deep discount loss leaders. but a look at the bottom line, where profit and EBIT are calculated is telling a far different story. and that bottom line is NOT what's being reported: the gross (top line) is what you're hearing and accepting.

i'm out here on the front line and it is not a good place to be right now. you can choose to declare otherwise and maintain that everything is not as bad as reported but i'm living a different reality on a daily basis. it is arrogant to dismiss my position in favor of what one reads or hears from the media. i don't need links to what's being written: i'm living the reality daily, i'm listening to the customers, i'm on the weekly conference calls. are you?