The Frontstretch: NASCAR Mailbox: Higher Bills, NASCAR In The Mainstream, And Senior Drivers by Summer Bedgood -- Thursday July 18, 2013

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This Kyle Busch vs. Ryan Newman saga that has been ongoing since Busch called Newman an “ogre” after the race on Sunday has been entertaining, but nonetheless frustrating. Both Newman and Busch had problems with each other on track, though the incident that knocked Newman out of the race did not involve Busch directly. Instead, it was Busch’s brother Kurt who was involved in a racing incident with Newman and Busch’s teammate Matt Kenseth.

Will Ryan Newman have his eyes on payback after some postrace insults from Kyle Busch?

“I thought Kurt and Matt and (our) incident was a racing incident,” said Newman. “I admit to dooring Kyle down the straightaway after he blasted me into the corner. I didn’t crash him, he didn’t crash me, so I don’t know what he’s got to be mad at. But evidentially, he’s got a bone to pick for some reason.”

Meanwhile, Busch faced some pushback from the public over his claim that he was glad Newman was “out of a job” (Newman is leaving Stewart Haas Racing at the end of the year). The personal shot was not necessary, but Busch defended the comment on Twitter saying in part: “I was upset because I felt RN raced me poorly, making contact and causing damage to my RF fender that affected the handling on my racecar. This isn’t the first time that I’ve been raced poorly by RN either, which added to my frustration. All this built up and allowed my emotions to spill over for how I felt. I’m not sorry for how I feel in those moments, but could have expressed it better and certainly my comments about someone’s livelihood went too far.”

…He raced you poorly? Really?

I’ve given fans a lot of flak for complaining that the races on track aren’t as good as short track racing or the way it was 20 to 30 years ago. My argument is usually along the lines of tune out or shut up.

However, comments like this add more validity to that argument than I really care to admit. Say all you want about the fact that, statistically, the competition is just as good now, if not better, than it has ever been. At least many of the drivers “back in the day” weren’t complaining that their competitors were racing too hard. If anything, they would have door slammed them right back and flipped the bird out the door as they cruised to victory lane. The other driver might get out of the car pissed, but you would never hear Cale Yarborough or Dale Earnhardt say, “He raced me too hard!’

Sadly, it happens all the time in today’s NASCAR. In this respect, longtime fans … I’m with you. It’s ridiculous, it’s stupid, and it’s downright embarrassing. Perhaps many of these drivers would benefit from a sit-down with one of the sport’s legends.

Now, on to your questions:

Hey Summer! The more I hear about this Fox Sports 1 change, the more concerned I get about losing more NASCAR coverage. SPEED has phased out a lot of NASCAR programming over the last few years, and I’m afraid it’s going to go away entirely now. Someone told me yesterday that I will now have to pay more for Fox Sports 1 than I do for SPEED. Why should I pay more for less coverage? It sounds like a bad deal all around. Robbie

The person who told you that you were going to have to pay more for Fox Sports 1 was partially right, though let me explain further what they were talking about.

Technically, it is the cable and satellite providers that will wind up paying more for the channel, though, for obvious reasons, you could see how that would impact your bill. FOX is asking the providers to pay 80 cents per month per subscriber, which is up from the 23 cents that the providers currently pay for SPEED, according to Sports Business Daily.

I wouldn’t expect much to change at first, as certain contracts with certain providers will be negotiated and expire over time. Depending on who your provider is, you won’t initially see a difference on your bill. Over time, however, if the increase does happen, it is certainly possible that you will see an increase in your bill for packages that carry that channel.

In terms of the amount of motorsports the network will cover, programming like Wind Tunnel will go by the wayside and Race Hub will more than likely be moved to a less convenient time slot and possibly cancelled altogether at some point. Whether or not some live motorsports programming such as ARCA and a few racing programs is worth keeping on your channel lineup is up to you, but Fox Sports 1 will still offer more motorsports programming than ESPN will.

It is possible that NBSCN or FUELTV could pick up the slack, but those channels don’t have the wide reach that Fox Sports 1 is expected to have. No matter what, it seems like NASCAR fans will wind up having to pay up sooner or later.

I watched Danica Patrick on Jay Leno last night and felt like it was a complete waste of time. It didn’t help NASCAR any, and Leno clearly didn’t know what he was talking about. I like Danica, but watching drivers on mainstream TV shows is almost always painful. Steven

Danica may be on television a lot, both on and off the track but is every appearance automatically good publicity?

Oh, I disagree that it didn’t bring any publicity to NASCAR. Surprisingly enough, they actually aired the replay of the crash that Patrick was in on Sunday, which would have been done on SPEED’s Race Hub or ESPN’s NASCAR Now had that been her choice of appearances. It was a relevant discussion to have, though Leno seemed to be too fixated on her boyfriend being in the crash to generate any real discussion (though I’m sure it was a surprise to Travis Kvapil that he has a new girlfriend).

Additionally, they also brought up the Kyle Petty comments which I don’t believe garnered a ton of mainstream attention. So they at least tried to discuss the relevant storylines.

However, I do agree that it’s generally painful to watch TV hosts try and talk to NASCAR drivers when they’ve clearly never watched a full NASCAR race in their entire lives. They come off as either disinterested or uninformed, if not both. It’s even worse when they try to be funny because, nine times out of 10, it’s some crap like “Oh but you have to go to the bathroom in the car, that’s gross, ewwww!!” or “do you ever turn right in your street car?”

It’s somewhat of a necessary evil, though. For NASCAR to become mainstream (and, right now, it’s not), they will have to continue to appear on “outsider” programming in front of an audience who normally doesn’t even give it a second thought. While you and I know that the TV host has no idea what’s going on, the audience doesn’t. They’re being introduced to a driver on an otherwise mainstream TV show. Perhaps, when the NASCAR races comes on, they’ll see the name of the driver they watched on The Tonight Show or Sullivan & Son in the race and stick around for a while. Maybe they will start cheering for that driver on a weekly basis and, voila, there is a new NASCAR fan in the sport.

I know it doesn’t always happen like that, but that’s the whole point of having drivers on mainstream programming. Otherwise, I’m sure the fans and drivers alike would be more than happy to stay in their own little NASCAR bubble.

And, by the way, there aren’t many more media savvy drivers than Danica Patrick, and she displayed a very witty, charming personality on the show. Even if the results aren’t there on the racetrack, she gave the sport a great stage and even made me chuckle a couple of times. Even if Leno’s “knowledge” was cringe-worthy, her demeanor was what mattered. I felt it was much more of a positive for the sport than a negative.

I was wondering what your opinion is of drivers like Morgan Shepherd continuing to race well into their senior years. I see both sides of the argument, but I’m undecided. Jennifer

I don’t see a problem with 71-year-old Morgan Shepherd still competing in NASCAR … as long as he isn’t a hazard on the racetrack.

Considering he was incredibly slow all day and finished 41st after completing only 41 laps might speak for itself, though you might partially be able to blame that on severely underfunded equipment. I don’t know that Shepherd really should still be in the car, but he has yet to show himself to be the rolling chicane that some of his younger counterparts have.

Additionally, he passed all of NASCAR’s requires test, which seemed to be enough for the other drivers. In fact, none of them really seemed to care.

The “other side of the argument” is that it makes the sport look bad because seniors aren’t able to compete in other more mainstream sports like baseball, basketball, or football. They just aren’t physically capable. What does it say about NASCAR that seniors are still perfectly capable of being in the car?

The thing is, I really don’t think it matters. There is not a person on this earth who is going to hear Shepherd (or whoever) is in the race and will say, “Well I’m NEVER watching NASCAR if that’s the case!” Anyway who laughs at the storyline was never going to tune into NASCAR anyway, and everyone else who keeps up with the sport knows why it’s really not that big of a deal and why seniors are still able to continue racing.

Point in case, it’s not age that matters. It’s capability. As long as Shepherd is still capable of racing without being a hazard to the other drivers, no one should see his presence as a problem.

Now it’s my turn. My question to you: Congratulations! You are now a talk show host. You are allowed one racing-related guest and one “mainstream” guest for the first show. Who do you choose and why?

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Bill B
07/18/2013 10:08 AM
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RE: “The “other side of the argument” is that it makes the sport look bad because seniors aren’t able to compete in other more mainstream sports like baseball, basketball, or football. They just aren’t physically capable. What does it say about NASCAR that seniors are still perfectly capable of being in the car? “

Hmmm. Those same people could say the same thing about females being able to compete in the sport.
Of the three sports you mentioned (and I’d include hockey as well), I don’t think we will ever see a female or a senior citizen in those professional sports. So take that however you want to but I feel it’s an accurate appraisal of people’s perceptions.

DonMei
07/18/2013 02:29 PM
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A couple of comments if I might. As long as Sheperd can pass his physical and doesn’t become a rolling chicane, his age is irrelevant. I take this one personally because I’m the same age and I’m still racing regularly with a Datsun 240z. Im rarely last and as often as not mid pack in a field of 35 or so. Granted its vintage sports car racing and my top speed is only about 125 or so but so long as I pass my physical and stay in reasonably good shape I intend to keep racing. It sure as hell beats playing golf!

Secondly, those of us who lobbied our cable companies to carry Speed back when they started felt sold out when they sold it to fox and all the interesting racing shows started to disappear and it became in effect, the NASCAR channel. Now its just going to morph into another Sports channel to compete with NBC and ESPN. Same BS, different day. Too bad.

Kevin in SoCal
07/18/2013 04:00 PM
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Its interesting to read the Speed pages on Facebook when they try to hype up their change to Fox Sports. 90% or more of the comments are negative and against the change.

I’m also surprised that Jay Leno did so poorly in interviewing Danica Patrick. Jay is a huge car fan, and should have more than a casual knowledge of NASCAR. My sports are NASCAR and NHRA, but if I were to meet a F1 driver for instance, I would hope I would ask questions that wouldnt embarrass myself.