The Frontstretch: Mirror Driving: Is Jimmie's Success NASCAR Suicide? Grading Danica, And... by Frontstretch Staff -- Wednesday March 3, 2010

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Welcome to “Mirror Driving.” Every Wednesday this season, your favorite columnists sit down and give their opinion about the latest NASCAR news. Love us or hate us, make a comment below and tell us how you feel about what we’ve said!

This Week’s Participants:
Tom Bowles (Editor-In-Chief; Wednesdays / Did You Notice)
Beth Lunkenheimer (Fridays / Frontstretch Truck Series Reporter)
Phil Allaway (Tuesdays / Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter)
Amy Henderson (Fridays / Holding A Pretty Wheel)
Toni Montgomery (Fridays / Marcos Ambrose Driver Diary)
Kurt Allen Smith (Fridays/ Happy Hour)

Editor’s Note: Due to a computer glitch, Phil and Kurt were only able to be with us for the first question this week.

Jimmie Johnson won his second race of the season Sunday, with ratings plummeting 25 percent along with it. Many fans say that one driver winning so much is bad for NASCAR, but can one athlete winning really be that bad for an entire sport?

Beth: Look at the last three years … of course it can. It doesn’t matter who it is, but in this day of instant gratification, fans aren’t going to want to sit around and wait for everyone else to catch up.
Amy: I disagree. That’s just an excuse. The Yankees don’t hurt all of baseball.
Beth: You can’t compare racing to baseball. When the Yankees play, there are other games to watch.  When Jimmie Johnson dominates, there’s not another race we can switch to.
Amy: But one driver can’t hurt an entire sport.  If fans aren’t watching because their guy isn’t winning, that’s just sour grapes.
Phil: I don’t think Johnson winning is so bad for the sport that it would cannibalize ratings that much. Keep in mind that this race was up against the Gold Medal game for Ice Hockey, which earned a 17.6 rating. After the game ended, there was a 20 percent increase in viewers. So there is other stuff out there that people can watch. 

Tom: As we’ve talked about many times, Jimmie Johnson is like the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA. He’s vanilla. But look at Tiger Woods: when he comes back to golf, it will be the highest-rated golf tournament in history because people want to see how he reacts to scandal. People in this day and age, like it or not, are attracted to uniqueness, aggression, something outside the norm – and Johnson is Mr. Everyman USA. That’s an automatic rejection.
Kurt: Jimmie just isn’t a polarizing driver. That’s the problem; he doesn’t generate a reaction like Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt did. People want to dislike Jimmie because he wins, but he never gives people any ammo. He generally races pretty clean, and doesn’t say things that enrage people.
Beth: And because of that, the dislike grows.  Odd but true.
Tom: Amazing, isn’t it? People like to point to athletes and go, “Did you see what he just did?” Not, “Did you see him just work 9 to 5?” Because that’s what Jimmie Johnson does. He’s a typical 9-to-5er: comes in, works hard, gets the job done, goes home.
Amy: The talent he has shown is outside the norm. Personality-wise, no.  But Richard Petty didn’t hurt the sport. David Pearson either.  Or Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, or Tony Stewart. To say Johnson is hurting NASCAR is giving him too much credit for one man.
Beth: I’m not trying to bash on his talent. There is undoubtedly plenty there, but Tony Stewart had a personality! And just as many people hated Jeff Gordon as they do Jimmie Johnson. NASCAR fans love to hate drivers.
Amy: Yet the sport didn’t collapse, Beth. And it won’t now.
Beth: Tony Stewart didn’t win four championships in a row.
Amy: Then everyone else needs to get better.
Tom: Amy, I’d have to disagree with you. I don’t get emails about Tony Stewart and how much he’s hurting the sport when he’s winning races and championships. What are we, three weeks into the season? My inbox was flooded Monday with “I’m not watching anymore because Jimmie’s going to win it all again” emails. And we’re only three weeks in!
Beth: There’s just little to get excited about when there’s no competition.  That’s why people don’t like it.
Kurt: Right. There aren’t any rivalries right now, because the No. 48 team beats everyone.
Tom: The perception that Chad is cheating never went away either, and neither did Jimmie’s political correctness. So that’s a double whammy combination … with Tiger, at least we could overlook his cookie cutter personality because he was setting records people believed in.
Amy: Everyone whined about Gordon 10 years ago.  Johnson isn’t going to win forever, and people will get over it.  If people are leaving the sport because their guy isn’t winning, well, that sounds like five-year-olds in the sandbox to me.
Tom: But with Jimmie, people think he’s cookie-cutter AND he’s cheating. So they get pissed.
Amy: Are they pissed because of that, really?  Or is it because their guy can’t beat him and, in reality, his cars tech clean every week? I just think that saying one driver can hurt or save NASCAR is giving one person too much power.
Tom: I agree with the “save” part, but hurting the sport isn’t about power, Amy. It’s about despising the success of someone or something else … and that’s why one driver can bring the whole house down.
Beth: Jimmie Johnson isn’t the only reason ratings have decreased, but he is a part of it.  There’s just so little competition for the win so far this season…
Amy: Exactly, Beth.
Tom: You know what would really help Jimmie? Kurt said it: a rival. Problem is, he doesn’t piss anyone off. People get mad at the Yankees because they “buy” championships. But at least there’s other teams that spend just as much money to compete … the Red Sox, for example. Jeff Gordon vs. Jimmie Johnson? That’s not Yankees/Red Sox. That’s like a rivalry within a team itself. No other team comes close to Hendrick right now, making Johnson the face of a “Yankees” team that is so head and shoulders above everyone else, it’s like they’re playing in their own league.
Amy: I agree, but who’s going to be that rival?  It has to be about more than winning, and I don’t see that happening. Most of the other drivers like Jimmie.
Tom: You’re right. Just like most fans like the Spurs … but they don’t get attached to them. They just get bored.
Beth: Yes, Jimmie Johnson’s dominance is affecting whether or not people watch the races, but like Phil said earlier, this race suffered a ratings decrease because of a huge hockey game on NBC as well.
Amy: I just don’t think one driver can hurt the sport unless fans are watching for the wrong reasons. People pull for drivers who haven’t won in nearly a decade at any level … yet that doesn’t turn them off from the entire sport.
Beth: You can’t start bashing on fans and why they’re watching. Everyone has their own tastes and enjoy things for different reasons.
Amy: I’m not bashing fans for what they’re watching. I’m just saying that letting one driver ruin the sport for you is fruitless.
Tom: People can buy into a feel-good story in sports if someone’s been through adversity. Case in point, that figure skater whose mom died of a heart attack. She came back and won the bronze for Canada. Joanie Rochette … people watched her performance by the millions. Or New Orleans in the Super Bowl, Amy. That was such a popular game because people could understand what the team has been through with the hurricane. But with Johnson, the perception is he’s been handed all this success on a silver platter. I’m not saying that’s true … but that’s what people think. And until they stop thinking that, or have someone to battle against him every week they can root for, it’s a lost cause.
Amy: Yet when Jimmie won Atlanta after the Hendrick plane crash, NASCAR fans called it a fix. 
Beth: Not this NASCAR fan.  I sat there in tears when he took the checkered flag.
Tom: The difference there and with Dale Earnhardt, Jr.‘s Daytona win in ’01 is that most people called “fix,” but they also watched in record numbers, didn’t they? Like it or not, that adversity brought them right to the television set. They wanted to see what would happen. And there’s no adversity in Jimmie Johnson winning. It’s just a talented driver on a rich team executing with the “A”-level equipment he’s handed.
Amy: Well, I don’t know what else he could do to reverse that perception. Anyone can see for themselves it isn’t true.

While Auto Club Speedway struggled to fill half of its seats a week ago, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, less than four hours away, recorded its ninth straight sellout in a less than stellar economy.  Why is Vegas so different, and what can ISC do about it?

Toni: Casinos. It has little to do with the racing and much to do with the fact that Vegas is a great vacation in addition to the race.
Amy: Vegas has marginally better racing, SMI treats the fans way better than ISC… and yes, people would way rather vacation in Vegas.
Beth: It’s all about the entertainment value.  You make a week of it, and there’s so much to do in a small area in Vegas.
Tom: Especially compared to Fontana. Or should we say: “Pretend L.A.” — which is actually 60 miles from L.A. and nothing like it.
Amy: Exactly, and LVMS is close enough to L.A. that fans can go to Vegas instead. Oversaturation of the market, perhaps?
Toni: Oversaturation is a good point. People who live in the area and can choose would probably choose Vegas, too. And there might be something to the SMI vs. ISC thing. I’d much rather go to an SMI track, and if it’s in Vegas on top of it, well, it’s no contest in my mind.
Beth: I noticed on Twitter feeds from multiple drivers that very few of them went home after Fontana. If the drivers are sticking around, there’s no doubt in my mind that fans want to make that trip.

The excitement on the Las Vegas strip makes the city one of the most popular NASCAR destinations on the circuit – no matter how bad the racing may be at the track.

Amy: SMI is head and shoulders above ISC, because they put the fans first, whereas ISC puts the corporate sponsors first.
Tom: The only downside is traffic … because, you know, more than five people go to the Vegas race. And they’re all heading back to the same place.
Amy: Most of the hotels run shuttles, though. Shame on the fans for not taking them.
Tom: I was talking with several people in the media center this weekend, and the general consensus they had from Fontana (I didn’t travel out there this year) was that Gillian Zucker has started marketing to the wrong people. Instead of marketing to the people in and around Ontario — the inland empire of Southern California filled with people who like racing — she’s trying to get people to come out from L.A.
Toni: Really, it would require a philosophy change to the fan-first mentality that SMI has to get them, and I don’t see that happening.
Tom: Bingo. Hmmm … I’m a casual fan out in L.A. It’s a Saturday night. Would I: A) Want to see what’s happening at a Hollywood club B) Go to a Lakers game C) Go to a track with no passing in the middle of a dust bowl 60 miles away.
Amy: Exactly, Tom. Especially if I can go for a weekend in Vegas the next week, still see the race, and have some fun the rest of the weekend.
Tom: The great thing about Vegas is even when you have a stinker, people leave there feeling like they had a good time. And that’s what happened this weekend. Jeff Gordon stunk up the show, but there were still plenty of autograph sessions, Vegas local events, and other great things going on that all the fans left happy. That’s why you have nine consecutive sellouts. And the Neon Garage beats Daytona, hands down, as the best fan experience in the sport.
Toni: I’m just realizing I’ve been dumping on Kansas for thinking a casino made them a more desirable track. Hmm … I might need to rethink that given that I just said it was the casinos that makes Vegas much more appealing.
Amy: Kansas is still ISC, and it’s only one casino. Big difference.
Toni: True. One casino versus the Las Vegas Strip.
Tom: Kansas was built the right way, though. It’s the most fan-friendly ISC track there is, which is why it’s no surprise the casino will attract enough people to give them a second date. Traffic in and out of there is fantastic, as well. They have great restaurants and entertainment close to the speedway and now they’ll have gambling.
Toni: I have to be honest, when I went to Vegas, I almost felt like the race sucked up all my time. I wanted to see Vegas, and you have to know for me not to want to be at the track every second when I am on a race fan trip is not normal. The following year, I went to Phoenix, stayed in the infield, never left the track, and I was happy as could be.
Tom: The funny thing is the racing at Auto Club was better than Vegas this year. But fans’ perception is such Auto Club needs three lights-out races in a row for them to change their mind on which one’s better.
Amy: What has happened is the same thing that happened in the Southeast: too many races in the same area, so people choose the best entertainment value/date/whatever.
Tom: So I guess the irony in all this mess is even if NASCAR goes down the tubes, Vegas may keep being the one race that gets 100,000-plus every year no matter what.
Toni: I don’t think there is any way for an ISC track with a bad rep to compete with the Las Vegas Strip. I don’t think it would make much difference if they had a barn-burner every time out at this point.  Viva Las Vegas wins.
Tom: The fact the two dates are so close together just kills Fontana. Once you have a fall date for Fontana and a spring date for Vegas (once they lose the second Fontana date next year) things will be better.

Denny Hamlin got upset on Saturday when the media failed to ask him a question about his second-place Nationwide Series finish. He said, on his Twitter feed, “And people wonder why we can’t grow the sport.” Did the media fail in this instance, or are they just reacting to the difficulty of trying to cover Cup guys racing in AAA?

Amy: There are only so many questions to be asked when it’s the same people in there, week in and week out.
Beth: Well I can see his frustration with it, but Amy took the words right out of my mouth.
Toni: Right. A Cup guy finishes second in the Nationwide race. Big deal; it happens every week. Want to grow the series? Talk to the Nationwide guys who finished up front. Oh wait — never mind, there aren’t any because it’s all the same Cup guys just swapping positions.
Tom: When Denny and Carl came in, half the room was working on Danica Patrick stories because her wrecking was one of the big stories of the day. But I think Toni nailed it. These were two Cup guys that finished in the top 3 in a Nationwide race.
Amy: “Gee, Denny and Carl, how does it feel to beat the little guys again this week?”
Tom: Right. So we weren’t necessarily focused on them because we weren’t going to talk about them in our stories. What Denny doesn’t understand is how am I going to write a story about Roger Clemens striking out 28 people in AAA ball? How would any of us write that story and get people to read?
Toni: Bottom line, we don’t want to cover them because we’re not impressed. Finish second in your own series and then we’ll talk. Coming in with three times the budget — and in some cases experience — than the other drivers, you should beat them.
Amy: Tom’s right. The race recaps are practically written for the year: fill in the sound bites and you’re done. There is nothing more to say about Denny, Kyle, Carl, or Joey in the Nationwide Series.
Tom: And for that particular race, the storylines I saw were Kevin Harvick’s amazing recovery, Trevor Bayne driving the race of his life, and Justin Allgaier almost winning. I do think the media failed with Carl, though. We could have asked him about the championship, because like it or not, he is running for it and that is a story.
Amy: It is not a story. Or rather, might as well write the story now, because he’s got the championship bought, and there’s nothing more to say.

Denny Hamlin wants the media to pay attention to his Nationwide Series success; but considering he’s earned just two top 5 finishes in his last eight starts in “AAA,” there hasn’t been all that much success to speak of.

Toni: Exactly. The wins and championships are bought more than anything, and that’s annoying, not impressive. Besides, I don’t want to talk about the championship in week three.
Tom: Toni’s on point this week!
Toni: I’m also not keen on talking about a Cup guy winning it yet again, for that matter.
Beth: Now how in the heck am I supposed to add to this conversation when everyone keeps saying the same thing I’m thinking?
Tom: The Joe Gibbs guys dominating the Nationwide Series like no one else is a bit of a story. But usually, you tap that when they win … not when Denny finishes second. But there’s also another ramification from this, and that has to do with the people in the media center (or lack thereof). But you’ll have to turn to my Did You Notice? column for more on that …
Amy: It’s the same story every week, Tom. How much of a spin can be put on it after awhile? Race wins and championships in that series have become basically meaningless because there is no story. 
Toni: Denny was just jealous that the media was focused on Danica yet again rather than the Cup guys. But what we should be focused on is the Nationwide teams to start with.
Amy: Did you notice that there are no Cup champions racing for Nationwide championships?
Tom: Zing!
Amy: Pot, meet Kettle.
Beth: I get where Denny Hamlin is coming from, but the media has a responsibility to get readers to click on their stories. Another story about Denny Hamlin finishing second isn’t going to do the trick for anyone but a Hamlin fan.
Amy: It’s funny, because I don’t think that one guy winning a lot in Cup is a problem, but the same three Cup guys winning every week in Nationwide is a huge one. People are sick of talking about it.
Beth: Same thing, different series.
Toni: But the difference is… they don’t belong in that series to start with.

Danica Patrick finished up her three-race stint in stock cars with a wreck, making contact with Michael McDowell and totaling both cars. Give a grade for her first three races in stock cars, and tell us the one thing that needs to be done differently by either her, TV, or the other Nationwide drivers themselves when she returns.

Beth: She needs a little help staying out of messes on the track.
Tom: My grade for her is incomplete. Yeah, she wrecked twice, but she improved every run inside that car. She was headed for a top 20 in Vegas if she doesn’t spin.
Toni: I’ll give a D. And having said that, she performed about like I thought she would as a rookie with zero experience. Or like all the other open-wheelers in their first few races.
Amy: Grade: D. Now what needs to be done differently?  TV needs to stop the lovefest and broadcast races like real journalists.
Beth: You can’t blame Danica for what the media did, Amy. The way I saw it, she had a hard time avoiding each incident she was involved in. I didn’t expect much from her to start with, though.
Tom: What got me is she was trying to race conservatively at Vegas and still got caught up in someone else’s mess. So that was a double whammy for her … she tried not to push it and wrecked anyway.
Toni: Can I say, however, that wrecking and then dumping on the other guy for it being all his fault … yeah, I was just waiting for that. That’s classic Danica.  Get used to that — there will be more of it.
Tom: I felt bad for McDowell. It was like the Prom Queen tripped on the dance floor and needed someone to blame. And he took it like a champ.
Beth: I was impressed with Danica’s ARCA run, and I still think there’s potential there. The question will be whether or not she’s able to be patient enough to improve.
Toni: You know, I think she actually has the patience.
Amy: See, now we’re rid of her until June but here’s how it will go: March will be spent talking about Danica and her start, April and half of May will be spent talking about Kyle, Carl, Denny, and Joey, and then the rest of May and June will be spent on the Return of Danica.
Toni: To be honest, she did about like she figured she would. She wasn’t going out there to win races, and she knew it, even if others in the media didn’t seem to want to admit that. Lord knows I don’t want to take her side, but she never said she was going to go out there and contend for wins right away.
Amy: Her ARCA run was really no better than several other open-wheel drivers who then promptly bombed in NASCAR. It’s not like the real Nationwide teams will get any more airtime with her gone.

Tom: It’s almost like one of those $200 million blockbusters that gets crappy reviews to start. The first week it comes out, word-of-mouth is critical or it’s going to be a huge bust. The first three weeks, Danica’s gotten crappy reviews by the critics. It’s if she struggles these next three weeks where people will run out of patience. And by people, I mean the normal race fan. They’re already at their wits’ end … and the new ones won’t put up with her by the end of the year if she keeps sucking.
Toni: Of course they will, because everyone seemed to expect her to go out there and win in week one… media included. They painted her to be the savior of NASCAR and the best thing to ever hit the series. And I just don’t know why in the first place — she didn’t have the record in IndyCars to back it up. Well, I do know why … the swimsuit thing.
Amy: Give some equal time to the other rookies out there learning instead of praising her for every little thing she does, even when it’s nothing 42 other guys didn’t do.
Tom: I just don’t know how you’re going to learn it in 12 races, with four months in between starts. Tony Eury, Jr. has been fantastic, but he’s not a miracle worker.
Amy: How’s this for broadcast journalism at its finest: Kenny Wallace has gotten zero airtime this year, and he has finished ahead of Danica every week.
Beth: That’s not surprising, Amy.
Amy: Maybe some of these Nationwide guys need to break out the Speedos or something.
Toni: NASCAR tried to pin their hopes on her to save the Nationwide Series without caring that she didn’t have the talent to win on the track. That’s an insult to the fans, trying to sell them a bill of goods because she looks nice on TV.
Tom: And without realizing she’s only there for a handful of starts. What happens now that she’s gone, and that’s all ESPN has marketed? Oh, wait … forgot! They’ve got her coming up in IndyCar. So it’s a perfect transition for them.
Toni: And what did they get for it? A one-week bump in ratings, until the curiosity factor got old and everyone realized the performance wasn’t going to back up the hype.
Amy: ESPN has IndyCar?
Toni: ABC has five races. The rest are on Versus.
Amy: Face it, Danica is only the media darling she is because she’s pretty. She doesn’t back it up with talent.
Toni: Hornish and Franchitti are five times the IndyCar driver that Danica is, and look how they struggled in stock cars. She has one win and a best points finish of fifth in a series that only has maybe 22 full-time drivers. She’s an average driver, but she looks better in a bikini than Kenny Wallace.
Amy: Exactly. She’s average.

OK, predictions for Atlanta?

Toni: Jeff Gordon. He’s still pissed about last week.
Amy: I’m going to go with Kevin Harvick. He’s seriously due.
Tom: Jimmie Johnson. He wins three in a row and leaves NASCAR and its fans either panicking, fast asleep, or not caring depending on who you are.
Beth: Kurt Busch was pretty pissed when he got knocked out at his home track. I’m looking for a rebound in dominant fashion just like this race last season.

Email the Mirror Guys ‘N’ Gals!
Contact Amy Henderson
Contact Beth Lunkenheimer
Contact Kurt Allen Smith
Contact Phil Allaway
Contact Tom Bowles
Contact Toni Montgomery

Mirror Predictions 2010

Welcome to our fourth consecutive year of Mirror Predictions! Each week, our experts take the end of this column to tell us who the winner of each Cup race will be. But as we all know, predicting the future is difficult if not completely impossible … so how do you know which writer you can trust when you put your own reputation (or money) on the line?

That’s why we came up with our Mirror Predictions Chart. The scoring for this year is simple:

Prediction Scoring
+5 – Win
+3 – Top 5
+1 – Top 10
0 – 11th-20th
-1 – 21st-30th
-2 – 31st-40th
-3 – 41st-43rd

Through three races, here’s how our experts have fared so far:

Writer Points Behind Predictions (Starts) Wins Top 5s Top 10s
Amy Henderson 11 3 2 2 3
Phil Allaway 5 -6 3 0 1 3
Summer Dreyer 3 -8 3 0 1 1
Bryan Davis Keith 3 -8 2 0 1 1
Beth Lunkenheimer 1 -10 2 0 1 1
Jeff Meyer 0 -11 1 0 0 0
Tony Lumbis 0 -11 2 0 0 0
Matt Taliaferro 0 -11 1 0 0 0
Kurt Smith 0 -11 1 0 0 0
Tom Bowles 0 -11 0 0 0 0
Mike Neff 0 -11 0 0 0 0
Toni Montgomery 0 -11 0 0 0 0

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Kevin from PA
03/03/2010 09:53 AM
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I grew up in the midwest where baseball was everything. I no longer care for baseball as the Yankees / Red Sox and a few other teams spend in a year the GNP of most small countries.

I don’t mind if my local baseball team gets beat because the other team was better or smarter. I do get upset when my local team is beat because the other team has unlimited resources because they can charge $2k / game / seat.

There is a difference between getting beat on the field or race track and getting beat the almighty dollar.

I get the feeling that most NASCAR fans feel like their teams are getting beat not on the track but by the deep pockets of Hendricks – who can hire the best engineers; etc.

Of course even worse is when your team is beat (and loses sponsors; money; etc.) because they are an AA organization going against a pro driver. Hey Denny: The reason NASCAR can’t grow the Nationwide series is that you and your Cup brothers have turned this once great series into test sessions. And this from a guy who actually watched every lap of the Busch Series back when it was what it was supposed to be: training ground for new drivers (see late 90’s).

Lunar Tunes
03/03/2010 10:49 AM
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Amy is the Jimmie Johnson of Mirror Driving. The only reason I tune in is to see how far up JJ’s (insert anatomy part here) she will insert herself this week! Like JJ’s consistancy, she never fails to need to wripe her nose!!!

Johnboy60
03/03/2010 11:07 AM
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Another very popular reason to not be a fan of Jimmy is that many people, including me, do not, will never feel anything but hate for that entire team. As a law abiding person, I resent a convicted felon can BUY his freedom (pardon) for cash and so many people worship is crooked ass. Hendrick is a prison bitch and in my mind always will be…I may be in the minority on this but I am by far not alone!! Either you believe in the law or you don’t….don’t make excuses for a crook who runs crooked teams with crooked people and expect us to be in awe of them!!

Don Mei
03/03/2010 11:59 AM
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Two things; I just dont get the intense hatred here. How can you hate someone you dont even know? Its so sad that people need to take things down to that level. Im no Hendricks fan, in fact Im becoming less and less of a fan of anyone. Sad.

And as to Nationwide/Busch, I completely agree with Kevin. I used to prefer those events to cup events and regularly watched them. If it were up to me I would find a way to limit Cup regulars to 3 or 4 appearances in the Nationwide events.

DansMom
03/03/2010 12:49 PM
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Let’s blame Jimmie Johnson for the cup regulars dominating the Nationwide Series. I mean, they can’t win in cup – why not go somewhere they can be top dog. And Amy – could you point out again how many Cup Champions run in Nationwide?

Folks have bashed Kyle Busch for moonlighting in Nationwide, claiming that it cost him a run at the Cup series title. Mainly last year with a failed chase bid. But we give Denny Hamlin a break for the same thing?

Denny was the self proclaimed favorite to knock off Jimmie this year. Yet his two most noteworthy stories of the past 6 months are 1) crying about no one caring that he came in second in a series no one cares about anyway. and 2) A feud with a 2nd tier driver in Nationwide. Am i missing something, or shouldn’t he focus on running well in Cup???

The sad thing is, once people start asking Denny questions he’ll still be unhappy because they questions will go something like this:

“How do you plan to leapfrog 10 points in the standings to make it in the chase?”

“With the other 2 Gibbs drivers having success this year… where is your team lacking?”

Maybe we should modify the old Fed Ex add to give DH the attention he’s starving for:
“Oh Denny… we’re kinda proud of you”

DMan
03/03/2010 01:01 PM
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“The prom queen who tripped over her own dress”. Now that’s funny right there. And it isn’t far from the truth. She blamed her spotter and McDowell because she drove right into McDowell without even trying to avoid him. Doh! IMHO McDowell had nothing to apologize for. As for Jimmy…well, it ain’t much different than when Gordon or Stewart dominated. And whiney-baby Denny…jeez. that’s it, just “jeez”. Cup guys SHOULD be limited to “X” amount of races as Don says. Better yet, if you hold a Cup license you shouldn’t be allowed to run Nationwide.

Mike
03/03/2010 01:30 PM
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I can’t speak for all fans, but I’m just about at the end of my rope trying to remain a faithful watcher of Nascar races due to the domination of the 48 team. And most of my friends who watch have also had it. I don’t think of it as “sour grapes”, I think of it as to why would anyone continue to spend hours on a sunday watching a race that has an almost predictable outcome? It has nothing to do with the me not liking the 48 team, because I wouldn’t want to watch my own favorite driver dominate to that extreme, it hurts the sport. Every week there are 43 cars on the track and only a handful have a chance at pulling off a win, short of wins that come by fuel mileage or weather. I want to see some feelgood stories and some other drivers contending for wins. How does the 48 car roll off the truck each week at each track the dominant car 90% of the time? something is just not right. These are supposed to be the best drivers in the world and the cars are supposedly to be on a even playing field, but its obvious the deep pockets of Hendrick are bringing in resources and talent that the other teams cannot. And its obvious that Chad Knaus is the best crew chief out there. I think he is the far greater factor in the success of the 48 team. I can’t turn a blind eye to the fact that he’s been busted so many times in the past that this run of domination they have going isn’t “tainted” with some sort of advantage that Nascar hasn’t found, or is turning a blind eye at. Some will laugh at the so called “conspiracy theories”, but let’s get real, there is illegal activity in every sector of sports, businesses, government,etc. I don’t buy for a minute that NASCAR is running a squeaky clean operation, especially with Brian France Jr. at the helm. Another factor is I simply don’t buy into the fact that Johnson himself is that much better of a driver than the rest of his competitors, though his win totals would certainly make it look that way. Let’s face it, he has sat in the best car with the best crew chief since he came into the Cup series and until he drives another car or under another crew chief, we can’t truely measure his success. Most of the truely great drivers drove for multiple teams and crew chiefs. Until this johnson/knaus duo ceases, I question how JJ can be categorized. I certainly don’t doubt he’s a great driver, but he’s not better “pure talent wise” than the likes of Gordon, Stewart, Busch,etc. I certainly don’t expect the Johnson/Knaus run to end anytime soon, however, all good things come to an end. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I predict that as soon as their success falters and they are not winning races and championships, that driver/crew chief combo will disolve in a heartbeat. That’s the downside of success. If its all you have known since you have been in the CUP series, when you lose it, their relationship will self destruct as their ego’s won’t know how to handle “normalcy”

Kevin in SoCal
03/03/2010 01:31 PM
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Amy said: What has happened is the same thing that happened in the Southeast: too many races in the same area, so people choose the best entertainment value/date/whatever.

Well said Amy, but very ironic at the same time. People (like you) bash NASCAR and Fontana but the whole reason Fontana has two dates is because of the oversaturation of NASCAR races in the Southeast. It just sucks they removed a race from Darlington and two from Rockingham to do it.

And yes the Yankees ruin baseball for me, but I’ll still always root for the Angels.

Bobby Labonte runs a few Nationwide races every year, and Jimmie Johnson usually runs the Charlotte races, but he probably wont this year since its not Lowe’s Motor Speedway anymore.

clfenwi
03/03/2010 01:59 PM
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I am as far from being a Jimmy Johnson as can be, but I don’t support all of the “His success bad for the sport” commentary. Not sure what anyone’s supposed to do when his three (presumably) equally equipped teammates don’t perform at a similar level.

I am concerned with the lack of manufacturer parity. If Johnson were behind a Ford, Dodge, or Toyota, NASCAR would be on the case, stat. But he’s in a Chevy so all’s well from the governing body’s standpoint.

Cody
03/03/2010 02:02 PM
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I think you guys are missing the boat on the Danica story. The only woman to win in IRL is really the only woman in a realistic position to win in NASCAR (factoring in team, equipment and patient sponsors). Danica struggling really only adds to the narrative. No one who follows her really expects her to dominate and win a championship. The question if she can do what no other woman has done in NASCAR – win a race. Even an average driver can do that and as long as she can keep improving the curious will keep watching.

Fordfan
03/03/2010 02:34 PM
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Tom you made my point from an earlier post about Fontana. The track is marketing to the wrong people. It thinks by having D-list celebrities wave the green flag or give the race command it will attract more fans. That might work in Vegas, e.g. Kim Kardashian, but they have the whole city of Vegas that really is what brings them. Local marketing and community involvement would go a long ways to better attendance in Fontana.
Also, thanks for recognizing that Fontana had a better race than Las Vegas. Check out the video on Nascar.com “Sights and Sounds” Las Vegas race. It jumped from Lap 94 crash(#1,2&42) to Lap 237 (#37 caution). That tells about all you need to know about the quality of the racing! The only difference in most eyes is that “it’s Vegas baby.”

DisgruntledFan99
03/03/2010 02:41 PM
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Great column I look forward to Mirror Driving every week!

Mike above makes some very good points. Most drivers at many tracks are struggling with a bad handling race car. It seems like every week the #48 blazes right to the front of the pack to lead many laps as if he has 50 more bhp or special compound tires on his Impala. Honestly I hoped for the best but hearing him call out to Chad at Pocono last year when he was running right out side of the top 10 “should I pass these guys or just wait?” IIRC led me to believe he can pass at will at every track. I guess he is our generation’s Richard Petty/Darrell Waltrip. As Bobby Allison said in the NASCAR production “Ride of Their Lives” DVD/film Petty was able to “play by their own rule book”. Chip Ganassi was quoted a couple of seasons back “they (#48) are out there cheating every weekend”.

Graceann
03/03/2010 02:55 PM
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I could agree more with the post from Mike! JJ’s performance in the other series doesn’t hold a candle to his Sprint Cup performance. Yet other drivers are able to jump into the Nationwide cars or trucks and do quite well, you would think a 4 time champ could master these series too.

*Raceinsider*
03/03/2010 03:42 PM
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Absolutely bad for NASCAR. They’re having enough trouble keeping the TV fan base anyway. No one likes to see the same results week in and week out.
I’ve written many times that although Jimmy is a really nice guy, him winning too much will be a BAD omen for NASCAR.
With the personality of a choirboy, he just leaves most fans cold. They don’t know whether to love him or hate him. Truthfully, you almost can’t see Chad’s lips move whenever he Jimmy talks.
The other 42 teams need to step it up.

Opinions always Welcome
8^)

M.B. Voelker
03/03/2010 04:07 PM
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Amy, the desire to be entertained is the right reason to watch sports not the wrong reason. Jimmie Johnson is mind-numbingly boring. Therefore, …

I am really getting sick of media people trying to tell fans how we “ought” to like Jimmie because he’s so successful. Only bandwagon, follow the crowd fans root for drivers based solely on their success.

I have nothing in particular against Jimmie because he doesn’t interest me enough to drum up anything more than a mild resentment that he’s in front of my favorites again.

I like drivers with some color to them. I call them the hot-heads and hard-chargers. Guys like the Busch brothers, Greg Biffle, Ron Hornaday, Jimmy Spencer, and, of course, Big E himself. I wouldn’t recognize one of my guys if he wasn’t hip deep in hot water with at least one foot in his mouth.

Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick are a couple more out of that mold too. Though they aren’t on my personal list they help make the racing INTERESTING. Its their very flaws that create the interest because you never know if they will do something amazing or push too far and fail.

Jimmie’s robotic perfection of execution combined with an intentionally projected blandness of personality is the exact antithesis of excitement.

And if you think that my desire to be entertained by interesting personalities doing interesting things on and off the track is the wrong reason to watch Nascar I think you’re the one whose reasons for watching sports are messed up.

Tom, Danica wrecking was a “big story”? Since when is it news that a rookie wrecks? We’ve seen hundreds of rookies make that same exact mistake — misjudging closing rates and corner lines — hundreds of times.

Danica promises to keep her clothes on and earn her recognition based only on her racing skills would be a big story. Rookie suffered back to back wrecks in second and third races is barely worth a footnote.

Mike in Pittsburgh
03/03/2010 04:48 PM
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I don’t know how you blame the ratings on Johnson when Gordon was killing everyone for most of the race. I used to like the Busch series a lot more when it was that, not cup lite and now I enjoy the Grand-AM series and the V8 supercars more and I don’t know who half of those guys even are.

@Kevin, I don’t know where you are but here baseball died in the 80s now we have the equivalent of a start and park team, lowest budget in the league and they just take the money for themselves and don’t put it back in the team.

Mark
03/03/2010 04:59 PM
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comment to the last post from Mike. Gordon “appeared” to have the dominant car last week, but I think Jimmie’s was better. Everybody talks how well Gordon ran, but JJ was on his butt most of the day. I think he was saving his stuff, and I don’t think Gordon’s 2 tires lost him the race. Fact is I believe Johnson would have beat him on equal tires. They just seem to have an afterburner almost like flicking a switch. The 48 car is “extra” good at the end of races, once he gets up front, nobody’s catching him. something’s not quite right with that. Gordon has occasional days where he is strong, but the 48 ends up with the win usually. And you bring up a good point on the start and park teams, that is embarassing for the sport and they should not be allowed to do that. As I driver, I don’t know how you look at yourself in the mirror if that’s what has become of your career. Find another way to make a living that doesn’t involve humiliation. Have some pride. I give credit to Scott Riggs for jumping out of Tommy Baldwin’s start and park circus. I’ll take my pride over racing for 10 laps and going to the garage. Please, Bobby Labonte, walk away with dignity now because a start and park team is where your career is headed.

No Spin
03/03/2010 05:29 PM
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Johnboy60 you are NOT alone

jayinpa
03/04/2010 09:49 AM
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Why didnt anyone mention the EMPTY seats at Vegas?..obvious on tv..was not anywhere near a “sellout” !

Blu
03/04/2010 10:46 AM
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Johnboy and Mike. YOU guys are the men! MB, Disgruntled and Mark Im right there with ya.

You guys Took the words right outta my mouth! GREAT posts that sum up my feelings to a tee about the lifelong con artist “Mr” Hendrick ugggh AND that whole cheating organization.

As I think Mike said..There is NO WAY,
NO WAY that 48 car (and HMS as a whole) is THAT much better than EVERY other team and driver on a CONSISTANT basis. NO WAY!

SURE, Other drivers and teams do have runs of running very well for a few weeks or evena month or two… but this HMS consistancy thing is not even in the ballpark anymore. Almost every week we see at least 3 HMS cars in the Top 5. THAT is just highly improbable and near impossible IMHO on a level playing field. Id hate to even guess at the mathematical probablity of that happening and if theres some math wiz out there id love to hear it as im sure it could be figured out.

AND of course lets not forget all the “gray area” stuff HMS gets away with. I seem to recall Mike Helton say, and I quote,” If it aint in the rule book..you CAN’T do it!” THAT Pretty well eliminates any gray areas to me. But, doesnt seem to apply to HMS teams as they have “gray areas”. Riiiight…..

Also..It turns my stomach that HMS will use ANYTHING to garner a little sympathy or publicity. Were constantly reminded of “the plane crash” and “Mr’s” Leukemia that Im pretty sure theres NOBODY who doent know of it by now.
Its just sick IMHO.

Lets not even start with all the questionable caution and non caution calls that directly benefit HMS cars pretty much every week.

And then we have the pleasure of getting to listen to the official HMS brown noser DW talking up and keeping the focus on JJ and JG all race long, even if they happen not to be running particularly well that day.

Ive said it before France , Helton and Hendrick are like 3 peas in a pod.

Either that..or Hendrick has naked pictures of Helton and France with farm animals!

Just my $.02
Blu

P.S. Did I mention I have EXTREME dislike of all things HMS??

Steve
03/04/2010 12:18 PM
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People getting tired of Jimmie winning all the time is just part of it. The other part is that the races themselves are just not entertaining at all. Single file parades are the norm every week and once you add Jimmie winning, there really isn’t any reason to watch.

@Mark, you admire Scott Riggs for not starting and parking, but where is he now. These guys do it out of necessity, not because they want to. If a full sponsorship opportunity came about for these guys, do you think they would turn it down because they are much more successful starting and parking? Hogwash!!

I wonder when Gordon, Stewart et al decide to retire where nascar is going to get their next crop of talent from. They certainly aren’t developing it in the NW series. Get the Cup guys out of there and give that series an identity again.

*Raceinsider*
03/04/2010 01:38 PM
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Steve .. you make a valid point. $$$ is driving the NW racers to Sprint Cup before they’re ready, if they win one race, all of sa sudden they’re ready. (see Danica P). The only guys that remain in NW are those that can’t afford anything else and can’t make it in Cup. ‘BUSCH’ or ‘NATIONWIDEUSED to be the proving ground for Cup racers. They weren’t brough up until they proved they could win and drive. Now it’s just the $$$. RI

mkrcr
03/04/2010 11:58 PM
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One more time. If they want closer competition then NA$CAR has to allow open testing. This car is a POS and the only way to polish the turd is to allow teams a chance. Not all teams have the resources of off track testing like Hendrick (thanks Haas). Testing at tracks on the schedule give a level playing field. NA$CAR wants to “save the teams money” but it’s costing this sport far more in so many ways.

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