The Frontstretch: Fanning the Flames: Schedule, Driver and Sponsor Changes Aplenty Coming in 2011 by Matt Taliaferro -- Thursday August 19, 2010

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Fanning the Flames: Schedule, Driver and Sponsor Changes Aplenty Coming in 2011

NASCAR Fan Q & A · Matt Taliaferro · Thursday August 19, 2010


The 2011 schedule was released yesterday afternoon. Unfortunately, there were no surprises, and if you’ve read this column the last week or two, you know how I feel about that. So without dragging us back down that dark alley, I’ll just post it so you can copy and paste it to your desktops or something…

Feb. 12 Budweiser Shootout (Daytona)
Feb. 20 Daytona International Speedway (Daytona 500)
Feb. 27 Phoenix International Raceway
March 6 Las Vegas Motor Speedway
March 20 Bristol Motor Speedway
March 27 Auto Club Speedway
April 3 Martinsville Speedway
April 9 Texas Motor Speedway
April 17 Talladega Superspeedway
April 30 Richmond International Raceway
May 7 Darlington Raceway
May 15 Dover International Speedway
May 21 All-Star Race (Charlotte)
May 29 Charlotte Motor Speedway
June 5 Kansas Speedway
June 12 Pocono Raceway
June 19 Michigan International Speedway
June 26 Infineon Raceway
July 2 Daytona International Speedway
July 9 Kentucky Speedway
July 17 New Hampshire Motor Speedway
July 31 Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Aug. 7 Pocono Raceway
Aug. 14 Watkins Glen International
Aug. 21 Michigan International Speedway
Aug. 27 Bristol Motor Speedway
Sept. 4 Atlanta Motor Speedway
Sept. 10 Richmond International Raceway
Sept. 18 Chicagoland Speedway
Sept. 25 New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Oct. 2 Dover International Speedway
Oct. 9 Kansas Speedway
Oct. 15 Charlotte Motor Speedway
Oct. 23 Talladega Superspeedway
Oct. 30 Martinsville Speedway
Nov. 6 Texas Motor Speedway
Nov. 13 Phoenix International Raceway
Nov. 20 Homestead-Miami Speedway

Thanks for the input this week. As always, it’s a great bunch of emails I get to tackle. Here’s your link to me. Use or lose it.

Every time NASCAR makes a change, they lose fans and attendance. What do you think will happen if they ban Cup drivers from Nationwide? I do think Cup drivers should not earn Nationwide points or the money. Some only use it as a means of testing the track anyway.
— Sharon Jones

A: I believe it’s a bad idea to ban Cuppers from Nationwide competition completely. If the Cup boys are to be limited in the starts they can make or are deemed ineligible to win the Nationwide title (as NASCAR has hinted may happen), it should naturally thin the herd a bit. There just won’t be the incentive for guys to dip down as much, particularly when cross-country travel is involved.

However, I do think some crossover is good for everyone involved. Sponsors pony-up, owners receive money to keep their program running, track promoters get a better gate, drivers have fun and — most important of all — fans are treated to a higher quality product, thus strengthening the series.

Has Jr. and Kelley FINALLY decided on a guy for the 88 JRM car? Almirola will bring stability and should win races. Good choice that may turn into a great choice if not as many Cup guys will run NNS next year. Aric could be championship material! We know Jr.’s other car isn’t.
— Jacqueline Timmel, Missouri

The selection of Aric Almirola by JR Motorsports will not only prove beneficial to Almirola, but to JRM as well.

A: I have to agree with the driver selection. That No. 88 car has seen nine, count ‘em, nine different drivers slide behind the wheel this season. Obviously, this is a team with no championship aspirations, but without driver stability, it’s impossible for it to mature into a title-winning team down the road.

After an agreement to run James Finch’s No. 09 full-time on the Cup circuit fell through earlier this year, when Finch lost his Miccosukee sponsorship at the eleventh hour, Almirola is turning heads in his Billy Ballew-owned truck. Running second in the standings with two wins in the Truck Series, Almirola garnered more attention with his third-place run for JR Motorsports in the No. 88 at ORP in July.

It’s difficult to predict what the Nationwide Series will look like next season with the aforementioned changes that are expected to limit Cup drivers’ championship eligibility. And I think, at least in part, that’s what prompted the principles at JRM to commit to one driver. Throw Almirola into a Nationwide-only group that will serve as a centerpiece to the series — along with Jason Leffler, Justin Allgaier, Reed Sorenson, Brendan Gaughan, Steven Wallace, Trevor Bayne and maybe Elliott Sadler — and it’ll make for a heckuva battle.

Hello Matt. We’ve often wondered — what do all the members of the many crews do between races? Do they all reside in the same general area, like near the shops that the cars are worked on? Do they have set practice days?

Thank you,
— Jean and Frank, So Cal. fans of and those that make it most interesting

A: Thanks guys. A lot of them do a lot of different things. Most of the “over the wall” guys for the bigger teams are hired only to service the car during pit stops on Sunday. They’re typically flown in on race morning. Engineers and mechanics do the heavy lifting during practice sessions, prepping and tuning until it’s time to race on Sunday.

The mechanics and engineers have jobs back at the race shops, but it’s different with the pit crew guys, depending on the team they work for. Some have what you and I would consider day jobs, while the bigger teams’ pit crews spend their days training in the weight room and in simulated pit stop practice sessions.

Most, if not all, live right around the Charlotte area.

What are the odds Dale Jr. makes the Chase still? Do you see a scenario he makes it at the three tracks coming up that he is really good at? I’m ready for the overrated Jr. comments in the comment section below.
— Red Dye No. 8

A: “I just want to go home,” Junior said after Sunday’s race at Michigan: “[The car] wasn’t good. We were junk all day … we weren’t good.”

Sound like a Chase contender to you? And don’t let what other fans think and say about your driver, whether it’s Junior, Jimmie or Tony Raines, get you down. Stick to your guns.

Harvick is part of the Coke family of drivers. So with Bud coming, does he have to leave that?
— Paul F., Philly

A: Yep. Beer Pong at Kevin’s!

USA Today ran a story in which Budweiser and Texas Motor Speedway are changing their strategies to attract a younger demo (the 21-34 year olds). I understand Texas rolling out skimply-clad models to sell its product, but why is Bud leaving a 30-year-old driver for Harvick, who will be 35 when the season starts in 2011? I’m not a diehard Harvick fan, but I do like his style and where the team is going. Just can’t understand Budweiser’s logic. Thanks Matt!
— Joey, Monteagle, Tn.

A: Bud’s logic is simple: Winning still trumps all. And perception doesn’t hurt, either. Harvick and RCR are moving in the right direction and, from what I understand, were impressed with Kevin’s willingness to “play the game” in Victory Lane at the Bud Shootout.

I really like the Harvick/RCR/Budweiser combination. RCR certainly fits the bill as an organization, having that rough ‘n’ tumble, buttoned-downed feel. Harvick, while in no way a Dale Jr.-type partier, has a take-no-crap charm about him that will represent the colors well. Nothing against Kasey Kahne, but Harvick is a much more natural fit.

I’ve always been fascinated with driver/sponsor pairings and how the image created permeated with the fans. The Earnhardt Sr./Wrangler partnership was dead-on, as was Tim Richmond/Old Mil, Rusty Wallace/Miller Lite and Harry Gant/Skoal. Truex/Bass Pro, Bowyer/Jack Daniel’s and Junior/Bud are a few more contemporary examples.

On the flip side are partners that never felt right. Did Geoff Bodine really chew Levi Garrett? Smoke and Old Spice? Ricky Rudd and Tide?

Of course, there are also combos that lasted so long they’ve just become ingrained in our subconscious. Petty/STP, Gordon/DuPont, Johnson/Lowe’s, Kenseth/DeWalt (I’m still not used to the purple), Montoya/Target dating back to his Indy days.

And with Silly Season comes the imagery of driver/sponsor pairings to come. How do you feel about Brad Keselowski in the Blue Deuce or Kurt Busch in Shell-Pennzoil gear? Are you used to Truex and NAPA yet? Or Logano, and not Stewart, in the Home Depot ride?

Good stuff. Sorry to stray, Joey, but some high octane fuel for thought for you there. Thanks for sticking around to the end. Catch ya on the other side of Bristol.

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08/19/2010 12:22 PM

When is NASCAR going to put mufflers on the cars? If there is no noise from the race track the new fans in the stands can spend all their time on their cell phones so their friends at home can let them know they are on TV and they can act like morons.

Kevin in SoCal
08/19/2010 12:33 PM

With Phoenix and Las Vegas on back-to-back weekends, one has to wonder if they (Phoenix) will suffer the same attendance problems that Fontana suffered when they were in the February date before Las Vegas. And yes Phoenix being a “short track” of sorts would make for better racing than Fontana, but lately I’ve read complaints here that Phoenix hasnt put on a good show in recent years. Its going to be very interesting next year, and I hope it works out for all involved.

Matt T. --
08/19/2010 12:40 PM

Deep Thoughts, by DoninAjax

08/19/2010 01:42 PM

More “Deep Thoughts” by Emperor Brian. See if you can figure out what he is saying.

Kevin in SoCal
08/19/2010 04:57 PM

If you’re going to complain about noise lets just race electric cars. Pit crews can practice changing batteries instead of adding fuel. And the enviro-wackjobs who complain about the pollution can instead worry about the stockpile of used batteries.

08/19/2010 06:04 PM

Kevin in SoCal


08/19/2010 06:07 PM

I still think there should be a week break after THE 500.


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