Monday, February 23, 2009

An update or two from the Left Coast

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. -- Monday was laundry day for your correspondent, who'll make the drive back over the mountains to Las Vegas Tuesday to move into position for the season's third Sprint Cup/Nationwide weekend at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

That means I won't be back in Charlotte for the press conference and noon Tuesday formally announcing the plans for an United States-based Formula One team. That press conference will be held at the Speed cable television network's studios and carried live on that channel.

I've talked to Ken Anderson, who along with Peter Windsor are to be the "principals" of that team in F1 terminology, one time on the telephone when he confirmed the rumors that this announcement was coming up. That was two weeks ago while I was in Daytona and since then I've had probably 10 e-mails from people who want me to get them in touch with Anderson so they can go to work for the F1 team. I also had a couple of people who sell real estate looking for contacts so they could offer buildings that now stand idle.

I don't think they believed me when I tell them that I've only had that one conversation and everything I know I've put in the paper. Today's announcement should provide at least a few more details.

What it will more likely do is set off more speculation about who might be chosen to drive for an American F1 team. The focus of this new team, Anderson told me, was going to be American and that would mean American drivers. Danica Patrick's name, predictably, already came up and she shot that down. I asked AJ Allmendinger about it Friday at California and he seemed amused by the question, but he also said that he'd be a fool to say absolutely not when as of right now he doesn't have a full-time ride for 2009.

By 5 p.m. Tuesday, I suspect somebody will have spun up a rumor about a prominent Cup driver or two. Kyle Busch was supposed to go to Japan late last year to take one of Toyota's F1 cars for a spin. That fell through, but the fact that Busch would be interested in touching the wheel might be enough to set some people off.

Inside the NASCAR circles this week, I heard a lot of skepticism about the USF1 idea. These guys know how tough it is to find sponsorship for NASCAR teams right now and scoff at the notion that Anderson and Windsor can find the money -- upwards of $100 million -- and the sheer number of smart racers it would take to get a team from idea to reality in time to go racing in 2010.

I guess we'll have to see about all of that, won't we?

On another quick matter, people listening to The Morning Drive on Sirius NASCAR Radio Monday morning got a little "bonus" coverage when one of our commercials didn't fire as it should and co-host Mike Bagley and I were still on the air when we didn't know we were.

We were continuing a conversation we'd had with a caller about the idea of pulling races away from Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. Mike was saying how fans out here don't have as many places they can choose to go as fans back east, and I was telling him that I have no problem with the fans out here. I think they're good fans, but they just know better than to expect good racing at a track which hasn't given them that.

At one point when I thought we were off-air, I said, "This track sucks. It stinks. It blows chunks." When the show was over, I got calls warning me that went out over the air. My reaction was "So?" It's not like I didn't write that two or three times over the weekend.

During Sunday night's Cup race, Darrell Waltrip was talking about how an engineer once told him he dealt with drivers who had multiple complaints about their race cars. "Fix the first problem first," was what DW said. The idea is that the first thing the driver complains about is the problem that needs to be addressed first. Fix that, and some of the other problems might go away, too.

In terms of racing in Southern California, NASCAR faces several challenges. The crowds have not been good. There has been difficulty finding the right marketing message. But the "first" problem here is this track is wrong. It's a 2-mile track and it seems like it's almost a mile wide. A driver can spin here and not find anything to hit. The leader becomes Superman in clean air.

Fix the race track. No, don't bank what you've got and put restrictor plates on the cars. That's dumb. Make the track 1 or 1-1/4 miles and put progressive banking in it. Put on a decent race or two and then see if that doesn't help you fill up the seats and get more attention from the SoCal media.

Fix the first problem first.


Anonymous said...

Why are you having your "driver back over the mountains to Las Vegas Tuesday?" Wouldn't driving the regular way be quicker?

Anonymous said...

You are 100% right. I keep going to the track thinking with age the racing will get better.... not so much. It looks like the backstretch is in another zip code and forget about it when the air is not clear. A Phoenix style track would have absolutely nailed it... but then I guess the guys in suits who own the track would not be able to sell hundreds of infield camping spots for a grand a clip.

Another question, why are you the ONLY reporter I read saying ANYTHING negative about the racing in California? All I hear (gag) is what a beautiful facility it is and how much the drivers really like racing here.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it fair to say the Fontana track has become out of date? When Roger Penske built the track wasn't it built with the idea of also being useable for indy cars, and, thus, had only slight banking? Wasn't it built basically copy Michigan?

Unknown said...

Anonymous: Thanks, as typos go that one was pretty funny. Fixed now.

Doug: I can only account for myself.

Richard: It was built as a multiuse facility but it's too fast for IndyCars now and doesn't work for stock cars, either. That's why I say it's time to try something else.

Anonymous said...

David, this was part of the story about yesterday's race from the LA Times...

"Despite fears that the economic recession, the Academy Awards telecast and other factors might limit attendance to 60,000 or fewer, NASCAR estimated that the race drew about 78,000 people -- 8,000 more than it said attended the Fontana race last Labor Day weekend."

Apparently, NASCAR's new drug testing policy doesn't include the NASCAR/ISC spin doctors.

You were there. How bad was truth stretched in this case?

Anonymous said...

Do the thing the talked about in Bristol Cover it!!
Truthfully who's got the bucks to risk on any thing big right now? We are stuck with whut we got!

Unknown said...

That's a very gracious estimate, in my mind.

Tony Solorzano said...

Hey Dave, sorry I didn't see you this weekend, but that happens from time to time. I'll see you in OCtober for sure and at Sonoma later this year.

Your post today is the second one regarding Fontana's problems in getting the place sold out. I'd point out one important thing that no one seems to want to address.

Who's stupid idea was it to schedule the race against the Academy Awards the same night. Correct me if I'm wrong but this has been the problem ever since they added the second race.

You know from talking with Louis and Damian and Keith and the rest of us in the "SoCal Battalion" that this place is an entertainment town first and foremost. So if you're going to counter-program against a "900-pound Gorilla" that's watched the world over, you're gonna get burned.

Remind me again how many sporting events take place the same day as the Super Bowl? Exactly my point. So maybe it's not the track's fault per se, but in the lack of thinking by the schedulers who set out the next season's schedule while we're still midway through the current one.

Monkeesfan said...

David, progressive banking doesn't work. They did that at Miami and that place doesn't have the level of good racing some people hype it to have; all they did was make it a joke. Shortening the track is STUPIDITY SQUARED, because racing at this level is about superspeedways. "Don't b ank what you got and put restrictor plates on the cars. That's dumb." Is it? The plates works, David, they always have. "The leader is Superman in clean air." So attack what dirty air is actually doing - get rid of the ducktailing effect dirty air has and make it a true drafting vacuum again.

Anonymous said...

Wanna make It exciting & tighten up points? Make the top ten in points run a figure 8 while the others do the oval. Long as fantasize that there's money to rebuild tracks...

Anonymous said...

You want racing back it is simple Make the front nose and the front cross member the same height. Go back to old school and put 2 inch spoilers on the cars. Yes there will be tears but it will be from the panty waist millionaire's club. Those of us in the real world have to WORK,Time for them to do the same while remembering the objective is to entertain us the paying fans

Anonymous said...

Spanky Got it!! For the cost of a few hacksaw blades...

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know how many teams didn't send racecars back to east coast after Sundays race?

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