The Frontstretch: NASCAR Mailbox: As The Stewart-Haas Turns... by Summer Bedgood -- Thursday August 29, 2013

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NASCAR Mailbox: As The Stewart-Haas Turns...

Summer Bedgood · Thursday August 29, 2013


It’s lonely at the top. You have to make tough decisions between business and personnel, you’re responsible for the livelihood of many people, and all failures are your fault. That’s why so many business owners make the point of having a partner to help make those tough decisions.

Unless you’re Gene Haas, apparently. Then you just go and do whatever the heck you want.

And Gene Haas really, really wanted Kurt Busch. A broken leg from co-owner Tony Stewart had never been so timely, and guess who jumped on the opportunity?

Here’s the thing. I don’t blame Haas for wanting his own company paired up with a team and driver in the way that other sponsors are most closely linked with other teams. When you think, you think Danica. When you think Lowe’s, you think Jimmie Johnson. When you think M&M’s, you think Kyle Busch.

Now, when you think Kurt Busch, you’ll think Haas Automation.

And, probably, “Man, that Ryan Newman sure got screwed…”

Now, onto your questions:

“It scares me that a mega-company like ESPN doesn’t want NASCAR anymore and Turner doesn’t seem to care much either. I’m afraid that over the next few years, NASCAR won’t be live on TV anymore. Maybe if NASCAR listened to their fans about what is wrong with the sport, they wouldn’t be having these problems!” Freddy

Then how do you explain the fact that NBC jumped on board and FOX continues to be a partner with the sport?

Yes, it is a little concerning that the self-proclaimed worldwide leader in sports doesn’t want NASCAR, but, let’s be honest, most sports fans don’t include NASCAR in their TV lineup each weekend. I’m sure most of you have friends, co-workers, family, etc. who have watched every preseason game yet still think you’re weird for watching every practice session, qualifying run, and race each weekend from February to November. For ESPN, motorsports just aren’t worth the investment that other sports are.

However, it should be encouraging that, your word, mega-companies like FOX and NBC not only see the value in motorsports, but want to be a part of this sport for a long time to come.

And spend “billions”, with a “b”, on this sport over the next 10 years.

I wouldn’t worry about NASCAR leaving your TV sets just yet. Despite the dreaded Fox Sports 1 programming, they still have more motorsports programming than ESPN will, and NBC will probably pick up some of the slack once they start broadcasting the races on a more regular basis.

It is rumored that ESPN may opt out of its NASCAR deal a season early. With attendance and ratings on the upswing, and the on-track product improving, are they jumping ship at precisely the wrong time?

So don’t get too worked up about who is leaving the sport. I find it more encouraging to see who is staying and who is jumping back on board.

“Martin Truex, Jr. Denny Hamlin. Michael Annett. It feels like there have been a lot of racing injuries this year, and that’s just in NASCAR. That’s not even mentioning all of the deaths this year. Is NASCAR getting more dangerous?” Jerry

I don’t think so. I just think racing is a dangerous sport.

I could even name a few more. Eric McClure had a concussion last year at Talladega. I’m sure you remember Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had to sit out a couple of races because of his own head injury in 2012.

This is as opposed to 10 or more years ago where drivers would have been severely injured, if not dead, in the exact same wrecks. Sorry to be blunt, but NASCAR is heads and shoulders above where it was in even the recent past.

All three drivers you mentioned are going to be in a car this weekend, by the way. Even Truex, who just broke his wrist last weekend in Bristol, will be able to race with a cast on this weekend in Atlanta. With the hard lick he took in that car on Saturday night, that’s a relatively minor injury. It probably wasn’t minor to him, but it certainly wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

If anything, NASCAR is becoming safer and injuries are the exception rather than the rule. But don’t hold your breath for NASCAR, or racing in general, to become an injury-free sport at any time in the near future. If you want to watch an injury free sport, maybe you should consider watching golf.

“SHR 2014: The PR nightmare straight from hell. AMIRITE?!” Dan

Yes, Harvick, Stewart, and Busch aren’t known for their cuddly relationship with the media. Or NASCAR for that matter.

With that said, though, all three drivers and Danica Patrick have significant fan bases and at least three of those four have a proven ability to win races.

Gene Haas traded Outback for The Outlaw when he hired Kurt Busch to drive for a yet to be built fourth team this week. Will the results warrant the risk?

I would argue that the worst of the trio (because, let’s be honest, Patrick has no problem with public relations) is Kurt Busch, and he hasn’t had any major run-ins with the media this season. In fact, he’s been, for the most part, tame. Whether it’s some behind-the-scenes training that Busch has received or he just realized this quest to change the media conversation was counter-productive, it doesn’t matter. It seems to be working well for him and, if he can keep it up, won’t do anything to embarrass the team.

You do have a point, though. I’m sure Busch’s patience will be tried at some point this year and Harvick and Stewart have never really tamed. In that sense, I’m sure all three of them will be in the news for all the wrong reasons in the future.

But what else is new? It will be fun to watch for the rest of us.

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Carl D.
08/29/2013 10:48 AM

Racing is safer today than it ever has been. Cycling, on the other hand, not so much. A better question would be “Has Bobby Labonte run his last cup race?”

One thing I will mention about Stewart, Harvick, and Busch is that even though they have all been known for their tempers, each one is a veteran of the sport, and with age comes some increased level of maturity. They mey still have some issues with the media from time to time, but none of them are quite the brats they were in their younger days.

08/29/2013 12:08 PM

Who does Haas think he is…Obama? Just doing whatever he wants regardless of whatever anybody else wants? LOL.

Even though I detest the Hendrick/Chevy/Nascar link, I truely hope for success for Kurt. And don’t blame Haas for making the call. It’s business and it’s Nascar’s playground.

08/29/2013 01:51 PM

Come on JP. Keep your politics out of this site. It’s about racing. With that said, I think The Stewart-Haas partnership is a time bomb waiting to explode. Grab a bowl of chips and a sixer of beer and wait for the show.

08/29/2013 02:07 PM

OK. We’re RACING towards disaster under Obama.

Oh wait….sorry.

08/29/2013 02:46 PM

If there is any silver lining with the rumour that TNT and ESPN want to bail early, FOX would most likely pick up the six Cup races that TNT had and move them to FS1, and the Nationwide races up to that point and move them to FS2. I would be ok with that, except for the increase in exposure to the Motormouth Brothers. Here in Canada, that would mean we would get them on Speed, which we still get up here! When the Trucks and modifieds were on last Wednesday, if I remember, the Truck qualifying and modified race was on FS2, with the Truck race itself on FS1. Up here, they were both on Speed. When the modified race ended, Mike Joy said to grab the remote and switch to FS1. We didn’t have to. There was about a three second pause, and lo-and-behold, the Truck race came on the same channel. And yes, the “SPEED” logo is in the upper right corner of the screen without the “FOX Sports” logo.

Speaking of Mike Joy, condolences to Mike and his family on the passing of Mike’s Mother on Monday!

08/29/2013 05:50 PM

first of all espn sux it treats nascar fans badly. second hass has as much right as tony to make a deal after all he has the money.

08/29/2013 07:35 PM

Do you think that if Kurt was at SH before Harvick would have left RCR ?????????

08/29/2013 10:51 PM

“Ratings and attendance on the upswing”. Excuse me, what did you say?

08/30/2013 06:30 AM

I was thinking the same thing Russ. Seems sumer has been drinking the cool-aid.

08/30/2013 10:19 AM

So because Newman is with SHR this year, Haas must put him in his car? How narrow minded. Newman did not get screwed. If he wanted the ride, he should have performed better. Its a “what have you done for me lately businesss”.

As far as Haas going over Stewarts head, its his money that he is ponying up, so I think he has more of a say than Tony does about who drives. Its no different than any other sponsor picking their driver. And this is coming from a Stewart fan. It doesn’t affect the other 3 cars, so if it doesn’t work, they can shut it down and still have their 3 car stable. You need 4 cars to compete with Hendrick. I say give it a shot.

If Kurt wins some races, this will all be forgotten. I don’t blame Haas for wanting Busch on board his team. This might have been the only opportunity to get him, so he capitalized before someone else snatched him up. I say good for him and hope it works out.

And those wondering if they are going to need padded rooms at SHR? They will all be just fine contrary to controversy the media is trying to drum up.