Dennis Michelsen · Tuesday March 1, 2005
Missing RPM2Night More Than Ever
Has anyone ever satisfied the racing junky better than John Kernan on ESPN’s defunct racing show RPM2Night? As I was suffering through another so-so edition of “NASCAR Nation” last night I realized just how much I miss RPM2Night. For those of you new to this thing called NASCAR you are probably saying, “Who is John Kernan?” The old time fans will say, “John is THE man!” In a snappy thirty minutes chock full of video highlights race fans had their adrenaline rush and racing fix for another day. Then along came the switch of television contracts and the abysmal treatment of ESPN by the new NASCAR television partners. ESPN decided that NASCAR fans didn’t need them any more and pulled the plug on RPM2Night. I wonder after a couple seasons to miss the show how many old RPM2Night junkies like me exist? While NASCAR is my number one racing fix I also loved catching up on the NHRA Drag Racing gang and the famous “Open Wheel Wednesday” features to catch up on spring car action. This is how we first learned about some of the rising stars that would invade NASCAR in the years to come. My VCR was set to record RPM2Night every night"¦the same can’t be said about the defunct “Totally NASCAR” or its replacement “NASCAR Nation.” Oh sure they might give you spiffy graphics and interview segments but RPM2Night gave the dedicated race fan just what they wanted without the other BS. Oh well I guess I will have to reminisce or as Tim McGraw might have sung, “Back When a Racing Show was a Racing Show.” I sure miss John Kernan and all the gang at the old RPM2Night"¦thanks for the memories!
Every year in the Busch series we see a few teams that split the races between two or more drivers. But this year the unusual part of this “Team Racing” trend is that more than one team has a legitimate shot at winning the Owner’s points title with more than one driver behind the wheel. You can credit this trend to the continued expansion of the “Developmental Driver” phenomenon. Big money sponsors might not be so quick to support a Boston Reid or a Brandon Miller, but toss in drives by Nextel Cup stars and they sign up for the big money! The established teams get to develop their new guys and the sponsors get to promote names such as Kyle Busch or Kevin Harvick. Also some of these new guys just don’t have the experience at the big tracks and this gives the teams a chance to bring them up to speed easier without trashing a lot of great equipment. One of the more intriguing team racing efforts involves the Evernham development team of the number six car. Paul Wolfe raced a few times last season and is joined this year by short track ace Joey Miller and female World of Outlaws star Erin Crocker. Crocker especially is an interesting choice having impressed Tony Stewart at a recent midget race in Fort Wayne, Indiana last month. The team is led by a familiar name to long time Busch racing fans, Elton Sawyer. While this team is not expected to contend for the championship they might be the most interesting story to follow this year. Meanwhile up front the number five car from Hendricks and the number thirty-three car from Kevin Harvick Racing will battle for the title. Look for the “Team Racing” concept to expand in the years to come as money for fully sponsored teams gets even harder to come by.
Will NASCAR’s Popularity Lead to It’s Demise?
Everyone wants a piece of the NASCAR pie. This is America’s fastest growing sport and communities have helped developers sprout racetracks to get in on the big money. But will NASCAR’s sudden increase in popularity lead to its demise? Gone are old tracks that die-hard fans loved. The sport outgrew places like Hickory, South Boston, and the old Nashville Fair Grounds. Local economies and bad race dates took away great racing venues such as Rockingham and North Wilkesboro. Darlington is holding on to its date barely and progress might soon doom Martinsville too. These are more than just links to NASCAR’s past, these are the kind of tracks that always put on great shows. In their place are palaces built more for the media, fans, and sponsors. The race product is a secondary concern. Yes if the racing is bad enough tracks get an extreme makeover but they won’t lose their dates if they sell tickets. So what if the race is a boring follow-the-leader parade. But in the long run the racing product will bring more and more fans watching on television. That’s where the REAL money is"¦television rights! NASCAR is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the new fans that have discovered this new sport that us old die-hards have loved for years. But those same new fans tend to gravitate to new adrenaline rushes and then go on to the new fad. If the racing product suffers in the meantime how many diehard fans will remain? NASCAR sold many more seats last week at California Speedway but that race will NEVER be shown as a NASCAR classic, unlike last years second race of the season at Rockingham. There were options such as adding lights and awarding a better date that could have turned Rockingham into a gold mine! It wasn’t too long ago that Bristol struggled to sell 40,000 tickets. After adding lights and making every race there an instant classic Bruton Smith can’t build enough seats at a track that used to be a loser at the gate. Once the historic tracks are gone NASCAR’s history will be gone too. Maybe someday, just like baseball did, we will see the rise of “Classic New Racetracks” patterned after the Darlingtons and Rockinghams of the world. But how many diehard fans will be left after the new wears off of NASCAR in the eyes of the new fans.
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