The Frontstretch: Mirror Driving: Talking Television, Indy's Rough Road And A Successful Season by Frontstretch Staff -- Thursday July 25, 2013

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

This Week’s Participants:

Phil Allaway (Tuesdays / Talking NASCAR TV & Frontstretch Newsletter Editor)
Summer Bedgood (Frontstretch NASCAR Senior Writer)
Allen Bedgood (Fan Contributor)
Michael Mehedin (Frontstretch Power Rankings Coordinator)

The talk of NASCAR Nation of this week is the announcement that NBC and FOX will share TV rights after the end of the 2014 season. While some of the details have yet to be announced, a return to broadcast television has been a change that many fans have been wanting for a while. Will this change be beneficial to the sport? Why or why not?

Allen: I have seen NBC’s coverage of their other sports and if they cover racing like they do everything else, this will be a big step in the right direction for NASCAR.
Summer: I always liked NBC’s coverage before and I really enjoy their IndyCar coverage. I think it will be positive, especially now that there will be more races on “free” TV.
Mike M.: NASCAR needs a bit more consistency with their broadcast channels. Switching between three networks for the past few years can get confusing. I never liked it. I wish they could stay with FOX all season. Definitely my favorite network of the three. Glad to see TNT go; they were my least favorite network. NBC has gotten a lot better the past few years and looks like they are really putting their best foot forward and putting a lot of focus on their motorsport package.
Phil: If the Sprint Cup and Nationwide coverage would be anything like what they currently do with the IZOD IndyCar Series, I would be very happy. I feel like it won’t be, though. It’s definitely a coup for the NBC Sports Network, though.
Summer: I agree with you, Mike. It doesn’t help ratings when the TV times and channels aren’t consistent. In terms of the networks switching though, this is a 10 year deal … so we’ll actually have a little more consistency.
Mike M.: Which is good Summer. I’m glad they signed something long term.
Phil: I don’t know how much they spent on this package, but it is a buttload. Hopefully not so much that it gets in the way of actually covering the race. Perhaps side-by-side can make it into the broadcasts.
Mike M.: Good to see so much focus and money going towards this deal. The past few years, with the attendance levels down, it made me worried how the networks would fare. Looks like there is a renewed interest in NASCAR.
Summer: Phil, that’s one thing I hope they incorporate into the NASCAR races that they have done so well with in IndyCar. NASCAR is at a disadvantage because they have such a long season that no one team is going to want to do it all year. And there aren’t several teams racing all over the country (like football, where there are several games going on at once). So the TV channel / times issue is one that will keep coming up for a long time.
Phil: NBC likes these long-term deals. Both the NHL and IndyCar are locked into 10 year deals.
Allen: I’m excited for this new change. 2015 needs to hurry up and get here! At the same time, I’m sort of sad to see TNT go, however … they were half decent even if everyone else disagreed.
Summer: During the press conference, NBC talked about how they wanted to fill the marketplace void that SPEED’s switch to Fox Sports 1 will create. I hope that also means some original programming. They already have one for IndyCar (IndyCar 360 or something like that), and it’s a really good show.
Mike M.: That’s a big void to fill. SPEED will be missed.
Summer: I didn’t see a lot of sadness that TNT was leaving. They were one of the least liked of all the networks, and viewers didn’t really get a chance to “bond” with them like the other two.
Mike M.: Agreed Summer. Only six weeks and that makes it hard to get attached when they’re gone before they even started. I couldn’t connect with the channel. Never looked forward to this summer stretch with TNT. Plus they’re in the middle of the season with not too much to look forward to. FOX has the Daytona 500, NBC has Championship weekend. TNT has Pocono and a road race. Ok, they have Indy but…
Phil: Tucked into the announcement is that K&N Pro Series, Whelen Modified and Mexico Series races will be on NBC Sports Network as well.
Summer: Yeah but technically they are “on” SPEED too…. they’re just delayed by days, if not weeks, and run during undesirable time slots. In other words, they are “filler” during the week. They might as well be paid programming. I hope they show them all live, or at least on a slight tape delay, but I doubt that will happen.
Phil: I don’t know how it’s going to work, but who knows. Seems like NBC Sports Network is going full-bore with racing. They’ve already got IndyCar and F1, now Sprint Cup, Nationwide and more. They’ll end up being the cable home of motorsports in a couple of years.
Summer: I hope so, Phil. I hate that SPEED is going away, but it won’t be a big deal if NBC fills that role, something it looks like they are really interested in doing.
Mike M.: It’ll be nice to have a home for all of motorsports. I hope NBC can do that.
Phil: There’s only one real domino left. Sports cars. I don’t know where they’ll be after this year when they fully merge.
Summer: I’m excited about the change because NBC really seems to care about NASCAR, and I imagine that will be reflected in their coverage. And FOX is always solid in their coverage.
Mike M.: A good step forward in the solidification of a network (or networks) for NASCAR and all of motorsports.
Phil: I’m looking forward to NBC returning in 2015. Could be quite interesting. I have to be a bit guarded here, but it’s probably better to have 2 entities instead of 3 covering the series.
Allen: I’m looking forward to having NBC involved with NASCAR. I have a feeling this is going to be a huge deal

Richard Childress mentioned during the week that they are wanting to run a fourth car next season and actually have partial sponsorship. Past history, however, says that four car teams just donít work that well. In fact, in 2009, Richard Childress Racingís four car team failed to make the Chase with even one team. Even Hendrick Motorsports struggles to keep all of their four cars competitive. Is expanding to a four car team a good idea for Childress, or any team for that matter?

Phil: I understand why they want to do it. Problem is, the two previous times RCR has done it, they may not have hired enough employees to do it right. Everyone gets stretched and the whole organization underperforms.
Summer: I guess if they have sponsorship, I don’t really blame them. Still, though, it never works out across the entire organization.
Allen: Bad idea. You lose your focus when you have that many teams / cars to worry about
Mike M.: Aside from Hendrick, I don’t think a team can/should have four cars. It’s too much strain on the organization and its employees. Plus with the reduction in sponsor dollars, it’s hard to keep the teams competitive. RCR should be the first to know how that feels. How many times do they need to try to see that it will not work. And even Hendrick is having trouble finding sponsorship for all four cars.
Summer: I’d make the argument that even Hendrick Motorsports shouldn’t have four cars. There is always at least one team, if not two, that struggles mightily. There are a few exceptions, but there is usually at least one.
Phil: True. Heck, no one even ran four cars full-time until 2001. Roush Racing went from 3 to 5 in 1998.
Allen: If I were an owner I’d want two cars. Good number and allows both drivers to have someone to fall back on for info, and less sponsorship to worry about. Funding two cars is easier than funding four. They couldn’t find a sponsor for the No. 16, so they scaled it back to part-time until Biffle came up with Grainger sponsorship a couple of years later.
Mike M.: RCR is losing Kevin Harvick, so it’s not like he needs to make room for someone. I don’t see the need to create a fourth team to bring on two drivers in the same year. Penske did pretty good last year with two cars. RPM, although they aren’t consistent contenders, are doing OK with two cars.
Summer: I agree, Phil. They can do just fine by just leaving a team un-filled. I guess they could always bring Newman in, but I don’t see the need for another full team.
Mike M.: In today’s NASCAR with declining attendance and less lucrative sponsorship deals, stick with what you have and focus your time/effort on those drivers/teams. Unless you have an A driver with a full sponsor lined up, why take the risk?
Summer: In other words, if it’s not broken, don’t try and fix it.
Phil: Heck, RCR isn’t the strongest right now.
Summer: Right, Phil, so what makes them think stretching their resources will benefit them?
It doesn’t help to have extra information from a team when they aren’t getting results.
Mike M.: And they haven’t been for a few season. Do they really think adding a new driver AND a new team will help!? Trust me…RCR has plenty of information to share. This isn’t a new team. They’ve been around the block a time or two.
Phil: Michael, I think that was the rationale behind the last move up to four for RCR. They had General Mills and Bowyer, while Menard came in with full backing.
Summer: Which at least somewhat made sense, Phil. I know they are saying they have partial sponsorship for a fourth team, and that might work. But if they won’t be competitive, what’s the point?
Mike M.: No offense to Menard, he isn’t an A driver. RCR brought that together knowing that the sponsorship was there and sort of let them take care of themselves for the first season while he focused on the other two drivers.
Allen: I think everyone knows Menard is just the spoiled child.
Mike M.: Like it was said earlier….if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Learn from your mistakes RCR…stick with three.
Summer: I’m not trying to tell Richard Childress how to run his team, but I just don’t understand the logic behind this move. Stick with what works … and if it doesn’t work, don’t do something that has NEVER worked.
Phil: Childress should tread carefully with the fourth team. Whoever he’s got lined up as a sponsor can help the other three teams.
Allen: If RC knows what is good for him he’ll leave it at three. They are struggling already, adding another team isn’t going to solve anything. It will only cause more problems.

It would be hard to argue that the excitement leading up to Eldora outpaced and outmatched that of the Brickyard. While part of that excitement was NASCAR returning to dirt for the first time since 1970, but it also begs the question… has the prestige of the Brickyard worn off?

Summer: The prestige of Indianapolis wore off a long time ago because the racing blows.
Phil: Well, the track will always be prestigious. Problem is, the racing there isn’t all that great. Sightlines are tough, and a lot of fans just don’t think the price is right. That’s trouble.
Allen: In my opinion, and this is going to piss off some people, the Brickyard just all around stinks. It’s not exciting in the least to me. Maybe the atmosphere, but that is about it.
Summer: If the racing was as amazing as the facility was, it would be the most loved track on the schedule.
Mike M.: Eldora will outshine any race at this point. But Eldora isn’t the reason that the Brickyard is being overshadowed. The tire issues at the track really destroyed its luster.
Phil: Yes. Same thing as Formula One.
Summer: Yeah, Mike, but I think it was already kind of going downhill before then. Like I said, the racing has never been amazing there.
Summer: Indy must be pissed. Even discussions that are supposed to be about Indianapolis turn right back to Eldora. Sorry, but you can’t beat dirt!
Mike M.: Lots of single-file racing at Indy means you quickly get strung out. That’s just the nature of the track. It was like that with IndyCar… until this year. Wow, what a race. Really upset it ended under caution.
Phil: Agreed, that was a good one. For NASCAR, it’s just not the same. The groove never widens out and the track repaves often enough that it never wears out.
Mike M.: Which makes for a boring race. It’s one of the most important tracks to qualify up front.
Summer: Anytime you hear a driver say “track position is key here”, you know the race is going to be terrible.
Phil: If you read Robin Miller’s IndyCar mailbags at SPEED’s website, you see that he constantly talks about the track needing to bring the apron back (eliminated in a turn re-profiling in 1993). If that happened, you’d have a more sweeping corner. Maybe that would help.
Summer: It would have to be a double effort, though. Goodyear would have to bring a softer tire. Even if the track was re-configured to support passing, the aero package and the tires would have to do the same. Unfortunatley, Goodyear is gun shy after what happened a few years ago.
Phil: They also want to keep speeds in check. From what I remember from the tire tests, we’re talking 215 at the end of the straightaways.
Summer: Indianapolis is an amazing facility, but the stock car racing leaves much to be desired.
Allen: The Brickyard just isn’t exciting to me. Would rather it be replaced with another track. I know I’ll be hung for saying that … but…
Mike M.: It doesn’t take much to overshadow Indy at this point. They really need to work on their NASCAR package if they want it to succeed.
Phil: I feel that the racing has fallen off at Indianapolis in recent years. It was better back in the ’90s. Now, it’s just a runaway.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series used up its last off week over the weekend, and the grind begins for the next 17 weeks. What do we know, what don’t we know, and what needs to happen for this season to be a success for the sport?

Mike M.: Well there’s a loaded question.
Allen: We know what Brian Vickers will be in the 55 car in 2014 after New Hampshire…
Summer: We need someone to beat Jimmie Johnson for it to be a success nationally. We don’t know if anyone can do that yet.
Phil: What we know right now is that Jimmie Johnson is quite strong.
Summer: And don’t say Matt Kenseth. If he could beat Johnson, he’d be higher in points. That’s not a shot at Jimmie Johnson. It’s just his title to lose right now.
Mike M.: Good point. Another JJ Championship, especially after his dominance so far this season… it’s getting boring.
Summer: I don’t think it’s boring, but I’m in the minority. Predictable, maybe, but not all of his championships were boring.
Allen: Mark my words — Jimmie Johnson won’t be your 2013 Sprint Cup Champion. But in order for the season to be a success, we need more exciting races. Viewership is an uphill battle.
Phil: I don’t think Johnson’s boring. Others think that he is, though.
Mike M.: I don’t think Jimmie has any legitimate competition right now to be a legitimate threat at this point.
Summer: I think we have had exciting races. I’m not handing the championship to Johnson either, by the way. With the points reset, anyone could come in and take it, a la Tony Stewart in 2011.
Mike M.: We also need less debris cautions. Why is so much stuff falling off the cars? Or plastic bottles laying on the apron out of the groove…come on.
Allen: More consistency from NASCAR as well would be nice.
Phil: Stuff always falls off vehicles. As for the bottles, that stuff could be thrown out of the stands.
Summer: I doubt people will look back at the 2013 season and say that debris cautions ruined it.
Mike M.: No, but the amount of them has gone up considerably over the years.
Phil: Oh no. The debris cautions cannot ruin an entire season. That’s crazy talk. Stuff’s gotten sharper in recent years as well. Now, we have carbon fiber hoods. Something chips off of that, you’ve got cut tire city. So those cautions don’t bother me.
Summer: It doesn’t bother me either. Yes they can be questionable at times, but sometimes the officials are out there picking debris off the track and the TV doesn’t show it.
Phil: Ye., I talk about how the broadcasters have to show the debris in my columns all the time. If they don’t, people get irritable, like they’re being lied to.
Summer: Because everything is a conspiracy.
Mike M.: Consistency would help, Summer. And I feel that NASCAR’s decision to make the rulebook more visible and clearer to everyone is a step in the right direction.
Summer: How do we know they’re not being consistent when the TV doesn’t show the decisions?
Phil: I agree. However, we won’t see the fruits of that until next year.
Summer: I know debris cautions aren’t the only issues, obviously. Penalties are a big area of inconsistency for them.
Mike M.: Drivers begged for electronic timing on pit road and they still cry conspiracy when they’re caught. It will never be perfect and everyone will not be happy.
Summer: I think that, for the season to be a success, we have to have a competitive Chase. I don’t know whether or not someone can sneak in and take it from Johnson, but I do know that there are some guys we can keep an eye on.
Allen: A competitive Chase would be great for this season. It gives viewers something to come back in 2014 for.

Predictions for Indy?

Summer: I’ll go with Jimmie Johnson because, well, he’s just the best.
Mike M.: We have a lot more drivers challenging this year. Kenseth is rejuvenated. There is at least one other Hendrick driver that can contend. Plus Bowyer. But I’m going with Kasey Kahne at Indy.
Phil: Johnson is not guaranteed another title. There is plenty that can go wrong over 10 weeks. He might not even start the Chase with the lead. Too many variables out there to just guarantee a trophy. I’m going with Juan Pablo Montoya. He’s been pretty good on flatter tracks and has had a lot of success at Indianapolis. Just hasn’t hit pay-dirt in the 400.
Allen: Kyle Busch.

Connect with Summer!

Contact Summer Bedgood

Connect with Phil!

Contact Phil Allaway

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Bill B
07/25/2013 12:51 PM
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I hope that more money for the tv contracts doesn’t mean more commercials for us.

sal
07/25/2013 01:02 PM
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The attraction of racing at Indy originally was that nothing but Indy cars had ever run there. That no longer applies, and with limited ability to see the track and the racing being less than exciting, I really don’t care if stock cars ever race there again. Just another track that doesn’t provide the conditions for good stock car races. More short tracks!

Bill B
07/25/2013 01:03 PM
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Actually, here is one fan that feels the fake debris cautions are not only ruining the season but ruining the sport. Soemtimes the fake debris cautions are so predictable – when there is a long green flag run early in the race and the less than 20 cars on the lead lap threshold is about to be breached. Sorry but NASCAR looks for any reason they can to throw a caution because the racing usually sucks so bad (due to aero, hard tires and repaved tracks) that they only way to keep the race from becoming a parade is to throw a caution and bunch them up. How can you all not see that?

GinaV24
07/25/2013 02:06 PM
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Totally disagree w/Mike that Fox is the best at broadcasting NASCAR. They USED to be until they became the DW show, which has morphed into the Waltrip Brothers show. Fox doesn’t broadcast the race, they have their cult of personality. I haven’t liked ESPN since they “returned” to NASCAR. Too much script, too much focus on the chase and those specific drivers, not enough substance.

The truck race at Eldora was fun to watch on TV. I thought speed did a great job of covering it. Sometimes less is more and I hope NBC will do a decent job when they take over in 2015. It can’t come soon enough.

NASCAR should take note (Helton WAS there after all). The fans want to see good racing. The fun factor has been missing for a while. The chase was supposed to help that but it hasn’t. I’m bored with the season now and the chase hasn’t started yet.

The Brickyard was fun once upon a time but NASCAR hasn’t put on an interesting race for a lot of years. I agree that the tire debacle didn’t help. I agree that any time the drivers say “track position is key” the race will NOT be interesting.

DonMei
07/25/2013 02:49 PM
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I agree; the Brickyard sucks. Its a completely boring race. Simple solution but don’t expect Nascar to figure it out; run the damn road course, call it the Brickyard 400 and run it for 400 kilometers, about 250 miles.

Michael in SoCal
07/25/2013 03:21 PM
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Hear here to Sal’s comment!!

Carl D.
07/26/2013 03:27 PM
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Nascar and Indy go together like broccoli and butterscotch. Time to drop the track from the schedule.

Allen… and you know that Paul Menard is a spoiled child because…? Oh that’s right, his family has money.

I’ll take Jamie McMurray to win his second Brickyard 400 this weekend. I’ll be back next week to collect.

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