The Frontstretch: Five Points to Ponder: All-Star Race Edition by Danny Peters -- Tuesday May 15, 2012

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Five Points to Ponder: All-Star Race Edition

Danny Peters · Tuesday May 15, 2012

 

After relatively lackluster trips to three of the best tracks in the sport – Richmond, Talladega and Darlington – in the last three weeks, the Sprint Cup circus heads back to the home base of Charlotte for a week of festivities prior to this Saturday night’s All-Star race. And that’s where I’ll start this week’s edition of Five Points to Ponder.

Will the Million Dollar Winner Takes All prize be enough to stir up some excitement in the Cup Series?

ONE: Next up – The All-Star Race: No Points, Just One Big Prize.

I’m not even going to attempt to understand whatever format it is this season or how the system has been gerrymandered this year to ensure Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is in the starting field, but I am excited to see some no-points racing under the lights at Charlotte Motor Speedway this Saturday night. With just the one juicy prize to speak of – first place pays over a million bucks – we should see drivers take some risks they wouldn’t in a regular Cup Series race as they go for all the marbles. Given the way this long dreary green flag of a season has gone so far, that sounds like manna from heaven for the NASCAR faithful. Let’s hope the wheelmen who have qualified see it the same way, and if they do maybe some luster will be restored to an event that in recent years has become something of an afterthought as the prelude to the Coke 600, the sport’s longest race. Most of all, though, we really need something to talk about (and I’m not just saying that as a journalist, honest.) Here’s hoping the All-Star event once again lives up to the “One Hot Night” moniker first established in 1992 when it was run under the lights for the first time.

TWO: The Double Century Arrives At Last.

Given some of the voluminous commentary I’ve read on the quest for a 200th victory for the mega-team that is Hendrick Motorsports, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a delay longer than Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s personal quest to find Victory Lane. It is, that being said, apropos that Jimmie Johnson won the 200th race, snapping his own hideous winless streak of a massive 16 events.

Fact is, the win should have come a lot sooner than it did – Martinsville being a good example, where Johnson and Jeff Gordon were both taken out by a dive-bomb move courtesy Clint Bowyer at the end of the race. The good news is that at least win number 200 is now scribed in the history books; the commemorative caps have finally seen the light of day after being lugged thousands of miles around the country since HMS’s 199th win, and the world can go back to spinning on its axis. Most of all, though, I’m just glad I don’t have to read or hear about it anymore… well, that is until the next big milestone comes along for NASCAR’s biggest team.

NASCAR’s over-the-wall men and women take center stage this Thursday with the sport’s annual Pit Crew Challenge.

THREE: The Pit Crews Take Center Stage on Thursday

One of the best aspects of the All-Star week festivities is this Thursday’s Pit Crew Challenge. It’s a chance for some of the unsung heroes of pit road to step blinking into the limelight and show exactly why they are so good at what they do, and for the lucky winners a chance to line their pockets some. For the last two years, Denny Hamlin’s No. 11 FedEx Toyota crew has finished as top dogs, and you can be sure that team will be busting a proverbial gut to make it a three-peat.

Hamlin wryly noted last year, after his team repeated their 2010 victory, “We know where the weakest link is, obviously.”

It’s also a great event for families and friends of the crew members; a rare chance for them to celebrate their loved ones as they go about their “day jobs” with the focus firmly on them and, for once, not the actual driver. The other crucial facet of the Pit Crew Challenge is that the results help define pit stalls on pit road at Charlotte for the All-Star race. Rolling off pit road in the premier spot could make all the difference when it comes to crunch time in the final segment of the event.

FOUR: Great news! Only two more races on FOX

And now, for some really great news; with eleven races of the Sprint Cup campaign in the books, we only have to endure two more NASCAR on FOX broadcasts. Granted, one of those is the sport’s longest race – the Coke 600 a week from Sunday – but after that race and a trip to the Monster Mile in Dover, we make the switch to TNT for six races before ESPN and their pre-planned storylines take over for the remainder of the schedule. I’ve long been an advocate of TNT and it’s my opinion that they are the best broadcasters of NASCAR by a country mile. Of course, the competition doesn’t set the bar high and nowhere is that more the case than FOX.

Look, I love old DW, but a great TV broadcaster he most certainly isn’t. I’ll give him a pass over his incessant love festival toward June Bug, but when he grades Danica Patrick as an A+ for finishing six laps down in 31st — remember, six cars started and parked –- frankly, it beggars belief. This is not the analysis you expect, not by any stretch of the imagination and to put it bluntly, it’s just embarrassing. Having his brother Mikey alongside him just compounds matters. How FOX can’t see that having the younger and tremendously less successful brother is a huge conflict of interest (being a current team owner) is beyond me. And as for Jeff Hammond (a man so orange he should be banned from the tanning salons,) well it’s clear that not even FOX is sure what to do with him. His hodge-podge, mish-mash of a role this season has not done anyone any favors.

I’ll grit my teeth for the next two races and look forward to TNT’s midseason segment with great gusto.

FIVE: Hoping for Better After a Poor First Third of the Year

Following on from my previous point about substandard broadcasting, the same basic theme could also be applied to the season so far. With caution flags rarer than members of the Kurt Busch fan club, TV ratings that are slipping or at best sluggish, and a paucity of excitement on track, 2012 has not been a season to stir the blood of even the most avid fan. In short, (I almost feel bad typing this) it’s been boring. Now don’t get me wrong, look back at my four and a half years of columns and you’ll see that I almost always accentuate the positives. I try to look on the bright side, but I’ve got to be honest when I say I’m struggling to keep interested this year.

Perhaps a sign of the times was the hoopla surrounding Matt Kenseth’s new partial sponsor press announcement. It’s crazy that a driver of his caliber, a past champion and the current Daytona 500 winner is struggling so badly to put together a sponsorship package and when his team has to resort to gimmicks (the press release alluded to a number change) to get interest for what amounts to a four-race deal, well… that tells you what you need to know.

I’m not blind to the fact that NASCAR can’t always be phenomenal, but I’m really hoping that things trend upwards from here. If not, come Chase time, there might not be many watching.

Contact Danny Peters

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Swan Racing Announces Restructuring, No. 26 & No. 30 ‘Sold’ Off
Tech Talk with Tony Gibson: Taking Stock Of Danica Patrick In Year Two
Vexing Vito: Three Drivers In Need of a Role Reversal
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Truckin’ Thursdays: Lessons Learned Just Two Races In
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23520000349597
05/15/2012 10:59 AM
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What – no mention of Mr. Joy? He is the one I have the biggest problem with – slobbering all over DW every week. He’s also the reason I can’t watch the automobile auctions that he is also “Mr Auto Expert” on!

grumpiestoldman
05/15/2012 11:18 AM
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Sorry, but most fans still love DW. The tv broadcasts go downhill after Fox. Mike Joy is fantastic.
Mikey Waltrip on the other hand, has to go away.

Michael in SoCal
05/15/2012 11:43 AM
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TNT’s terrible graphics showing where pt road is or the lights they superimpose over the picture are terrible. Other than that, their broadcast is pretty strong.

pepper
05/15/2012 01:44 PM
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grumpiestoldman
I hate to break it to you, but most fans cannot stand DW. Between his ego and his mouth, he sucks all the oxygen out of a NASCAR broadcast.

Don Mei
05/15/2012 02:30 PM
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I could live with DW as part of a three man team so I dont have to listen to him constantly…he is wearing…but toss his brother into the mix and i just click the mute button or turn the race off. Weathers turning…time to get the toys out of the garage and catch the highlights at night.

john
05/15/2012 03:28 PM
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Larry Mac is easily the worst part of the three, the man can’t complete a sentence in English to save his life.

Mikey and Darrel are both actually not too bad—depending WHERE they’re working. Mikey is almost tolerable during the Truck broadcasts, because Rick actually DOES the job of a play-by-play guy, FORCING Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip to talk less. As such, they have more important things to say when they say them. Mike Joy just lets them blather on.

Unfortunately, Waltrip still takes every chance he gets to plug Aaron’s.

Same with DW… On the occasional small broadcast he works (like the V8 Supercars at Bathurst last year) he came off relatively humble, and his insight was great.

It just seems like a combination of FOX, Larry and Mike and each other bring out the worst in them. Probably mostly to do with their List of Talking Points and their Script every week. DW is a “good employee” following all the points FOX wants him to talk about incessantly…. Take that list away, and suddenly he becomes a good commentator again.

Why do I get the feeling if the network came up to Ned Jarrett or Benny Parsons with a script, they’d tell them where to stick it?

reeper
05/15/2012 03:52 PM
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FOX is fine as long as they eliminate one Michael Waltrip. I also do not see how Nascar, the other team owners can allow a cup owner of 3 Toyota’s, is in all the sponsors commercials, be part of a non partisan broadcast. IT is absolutely ludicrous. IF I was GM, Ford or any of the other major sponsors, I’d be loudly complaining to have Mr M Waltrip out of the broadcasts and put where he belongs in the pit area with all the other owners, PERIOD.

Brian France Sucks
05/15/2012 05:38 PM
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If Fox was smart they give the Mikey the boot and bring in Dale Jarret. Or better yet, boot boot the entire broadcast crew and replace them with DJ, Kyle Petty, and convincing Ken Squier to come out of retirement, with a few cameo Ned Jarret appearances. The current Fox Crew is easily the single worst announcing crew that has ever been assembled for any type of major auto racing. If Brian France stays on as Boss Hog of NA$CAR, it won’t be a major series after another 10 years, maybe less.

Doug
05/15/2012 09:21 PM
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I’m not so sure Kyle Petty would be any better than Darrell or Mikey. Like DW giving Danica an A+, Kyle picked her to win on Raceday! Kyle seems like a good announcer, but I think he is falling into the TV trap.

Contact Danny Peters