The Frontstretch: NASCAR Mailbox: Not-So-Sweet Tea And Edging Open Wheel by Summer Bedgood -- Thursday October 31, 2013

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NASCAR Mailbox: Not-So-Sweet Tea And Edging Open Wheel

Summer Bedgood · Thursday October 31, 2013


It’s not often that NASCAR makes national news within mainstream media such as CNN or ABC’s Good Morning America. If they do, it’s usually something negative such as a terrible crash, a dramatic fight, or a driver getting in trouble for doing something stupid. In other words, even when NASCAR does make national news headlines lately, it generally isn’t positive.

Enter Darrell Wallace, Jr. Last Saturday at Martinsville, Wallace took the checkered flag for the first time in his career in one of the top three major NASCAR Touring Series, beating out drivers like Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick in the process. It was no fuel mileage or rain-shortened win, either. Wallace was fast all day, leading 96 of the 200 laps, including the most important final circuit.

So what was so special about Wallace that he appeared on Good Morning America and The Arsenio Hall Show, becoming the subject of many headlines on news outlets that normally pay NASCAR no attention?

Wallace became the second African-American in NASCAR’s 64-year history to win a race, and the first since Wendell Scott’s win at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Fla. in 1964. In a sport that is still sadly and detestably stereotyped as having a redneck, white supremacist-type atmosphere, it was at least a shining moment for NASCAR. This industry has made great strides in its treatment of minorities, just as the entire American culture has over the past 50 years.

Though I’m not a huge advocate of treating someone differently just because of their race or gender — whether positively or negatively — it is nice to see NASCAR in the headlines for something that isn’t embarrassing to the sport. Those are the kinds of national crossovers NASCAR needs to get back to its popularity of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

And good job to “Bubba” Wallace. He truly is a great talent that deserves to be here.

Now, on to your questions:

“I saw in The Frontstretch Newsletter that Twisted Tea was sponsoring Marcos Ambrose next year. Isn’t he a driver for Richard Petty Motorsports? I thought they didn’t work with alcohol sponsors?” Mary

I’m sure you remember that Budweiser was a sponsor for Kasey Kahne when he drove for the organization, though that was labeled as a George Gillett car when he was still a co-owner of that race team. Technically, this backer will hop onto the No. 9, leaving Petty’s famed No. 43 “alcohol free” — a stance NASCAR’s “King” still reportedly takes.

But what gives? Though Petty has been with this specific team for awhile, I think the reason you are seeing this shift away from that staunch “no alcohol” policy — something that has been a staple of the Petty name going back decades — is for a couple of different reasons. First of all, financial support is hard to come by these days and, unfortunately, these multi-million dollar sponsorships are essential if these race teams are going to remain even remotely competitive.

Richard Petty’s racing teams have long eschewed sponsor relationships with alcohol-related companies… until now. RPM driver Marcos Ambrose will be sponsored, in part by Twisted Tea for the 2014 season. Hey, it can’t be any worse than Vegemite…

Secondly, as times change, so do the values of a community. The fundamentalist Christian values that NASCAR was built on — despite the fact that alcohol has been a part of this sport for awhile — just don’t make sense anymore. Though it is Petty’s name on the front door, the people in higher positions at that organization know where the money is, that the push-back on alcohol just doesn’t make sense.

Now, could Petty simply put his foot down and say “No, absolutely this will not happen at my race team…?” Yes, of course. But if the choice is between putting alcohol on the car, or saying no, potentially leaving several employees without jobs I don’t think that’s a difficult decision to make for a family man like Petty.

And good for him. After all, fans are going to continue to consume alcoholic beverages in the stands and at home whether he maintains that stance or not. So if a company/product like Twisted Tea wants to be a part of NASCAR, I would say that is a very good thing. Times are changing, meaning Petty and that race team will be forced to make changes that must go along with that.

Besides, if you happen to see the documentary Petty Blue, you’ll learn that at one time the family did have a bit of a relationship with – ahem – alcoholic beverages…

“Hey Summer, I know you write about NASCAR but I wanted to ask you an IndyCar question. I like NASCAR, but IndyCar is where my heart is at. However, the ratings are so bad this year I’m afraid it is dying a slow death. I know that NASCAR is going to have some races on NBCSN in a couple of years. If IndyCar still has the same TV package, like I think they will, do you think it will help IndyCar get better ratings if they have races on the same channel?” Ric

I think that might be a better question for my IndyCar colleagues Matt Stallknecht, Huston Ladner, or Toni Montgomery. However, despite the lack of my status as an IndyCar expert, I will give my opinion as someone who primarily watches NASCAR over any other form of IndyCar.

INDYCAR ROUNDTABLE: Why Are The Ratings So Bad?

First of all, IndyCar’s contract with NBC Sports Network and ABC runs through 2018, so, yes, things will remain as is with IndyCar’s TV package for awhile.

Secondly, I do think NASCAR will help, at least somewhat, and here’s why: When I see an IndyCar race advertised during a NASCAR event, I’m much more likely to remember to watch it. It’s not necessarily that I don’t like IndyCar. If it’s on and a NASCAR race isn’t, I’ll gladly turn it on and watch every lap. I have nothing bad to say about the series. However, most of the time, I don’t realize that they are even racing that weekend unless I happen to see someone tweeting about it.

However, IndyCar airs races on ABC as well, and I happen to remember those races more often. Why? Because when the Nationwide or Sprint Cup Series is on ESPN or ABC, they tend to heavily promote the other motorsports they have coming up on their networks. So, for instance, during the month of May, I know what time, what day, etc. the Indianapolis 500 will air because it is mentioned several times during every practice, qualifying, and race that ESPN has on with NASCAR.

This pattern is opposed to an IndyCar race on NBCSN, where I really don’t see anything about it… unless I happen to be watching a show on NBC for some reason. Even then, it’s not the same type of exposure.

So if I’m watching a race on NBCSN, in 2015 and I see an IndyCar commercial 15 times over the course of a race advertising their next event, I’m much more likely to remember to tune in. I’d imagine I’m not the only person like that. So for IndyCar to be exposed to NASCAR’s audience on a regular, weekly basis, I would say that it should help their standing tremendously.

I also hope that we get more motorsports-based programming on television again sometime soon, a la Wind Tunnel or SPEED Center. I really think not having that combined exposure to various racing series really hurts IndyCar’s ability to remain in the conversation of viewers who may not otherwise think about it. I know the only reason I know anything about IndyCar headlines this season is because I work for Frontstretch.

IndyCar is in a worse spot than NASCAR, mainly because of the lack of known and recognizable personalities within the sport, plus the absence of major media attention for any race other than the Indianapolis 500. I think that it would help both series quite a bit if they could carry much of the same audience.

“I don’t understand why that punk-ass Biffle thought he had the right to grab Johnson like that. Biffle isn’t even half the driver Johnson is, and he did nothing wrong anyway. It was the 88 that ripped his bumper off! Has he at least had the decency to apologize?” Dana

Well, he apologized on Twitter for the way he handled it, if it makes you feel any better. As of my typing this column, I don’t believe he has apologized to Johnson personally, but he has said he plans to . I cannot confirm rumors that the apology plans to come in the form of his front bumper, in Turn 4 on Sunday.

After horse-collaring him in the middle of post-race interviews, Greg Biffle took to Twitter to apologize. Rumor has it now Johnson has secured the services of Boris Said, making good on his promise to show up at The Biff’s house after their Watkins Glen dustup in 2011.

I tend to agree that it wasn’t actually Johnson who started Biffle’s troubles, considering his bumper was already starting to come apart before Johnson ever got to him. Biffle would contest that claim, but the camera doesn’t lie. Johnson may have helped tear the back end completely off; however, it was already hanging on by a thread.

I have to disagree with your claim, though, that Biffle doesn’t deserve to go after Johnson just because Johnson has more championships. That’s absurd. If Johnson did race Biffle aggressively — and let’s be honest, he did kinda run into him while they were racing for position — then Biffle has a right to defend himself. Johnson’s success in this series doesn’t give him a right to race anyone the way he wants to. On the flip side, Biffle’s lack of Sprint Cup Series championships doesn’t mean that he has to pull over for someone more successful than him.

This philosophy about racing people with “respect” is probably one of the most aggravating claims drivers and fans alike contest. Nobody on the track deserves to be raced any differently than anyone else. I don’t care if it’s a driver’s first race or 500th race. Everyone is racing for the same end goal in mind, and no one should be expected to pull over because someone else deserves it more. I don’t care if Richard Petty hopped in a car this weekend. He shouldn’t be raced any differently than any other competitor on the track.

That’s not to say everyone should wreck each other and be expected to just deal with it. Where “respect” comes in is that you also realize that crew members, who have nothing to do with what happens on track, will wind up having to fix that damage. Additionally, respect for the driver’s safety needs to come into play.

But racing someone with less effort because of experience or accomplishments? That’s a terrible idea. All competitors should race each other equally.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
NASCAR Easter Eggs: A Few Off-Week Nuggets to Chew On
Five Points To Ponder: NASCAR’s Take-A-Breath Moment
Truckin’ Thursdays: Top Five All-Time Truck Series Drivers
Going By the Numbers: A Week Without Racing Can Bring Relief But Kill Momentum


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10/31/2013 07:47 AM

I see the Biffle haters are out in full force this week! Personally, as a fan of Greg Biffle (well, more a fan of the brand of car he drives than just him), I am disappointed in Biffle over this. He should have not apologized to that phoney-baloney sleazebag Johnson. So what? It was Martinsville, a short track. Isn’t this what fans want, short tracks, short tempers and fights? Well, not me. Personally, I hope Biffle stuffs Johnson into the wall next time.

As for his apology, I am willing to bet there was a call to Greg from Brian about this. After all, he went after a “Chosen One”, a Hendrick driver. You must not do that, Greg! Don’t forget, Hendrick rules NASCAR, so you have to bow to all drivers in Hendrick’s stable, including the three cars under the phoney SHR banner.

10/31/2013 08:22 AM

The win by Wallace didn’t get any mention on any sports talk radio shows that I listen to. And I listen to sports talk all day, every day. That’s because Nascar doesn’t move the needle. Not even in the South. It’s sad what’s happened to Nascar under Brian France.

The news made some TV shows only because of their liberal bias and their usual “Nascar Redneck” slant. It’s the left that notices a persons skin color.

Carl D.
10/31/2013 09:51 AM

I don’t have a problem with drivers beating and banging on each other, especially at a bulllring like Martinsville. Tempers often flare, and it spills over after the race on pit road and in the garage. That’s part of stock car racing and it always has been. My guess is that both Biffle and Johnson have a decent amount of respect for each other on the track, and that this was a one-time short-track incident that will be forgotten before the season ends.

While I think all drivers should race each other the way they would want to be raced, a little “Welcome to the big-time” contact from veterans to rookies is usually a lesson that the rookies need to learn, especially the brash ones, as long as it doesn’t occur on super-speedways. I seems to recall Tony Stewart “schooling” Ricky Stenhouse earlier in the season.

Michael in SoCal
10/31/2013 10:52 AM

Look at Ken calling out the haters… as he dishes out a fresh steaming helping of hate all by himself.

10/31/2013 02:25 PM

As long as Wallace winning is a big deal due to colour it would appear racism is quite rampant at this time…A Young guy without a whole pile of experience won & congrats to him..the colour or gender really shouldn’t be part of it. Way to Go Darrel

10/31/2013 02:44 PM

Wow Ken! Talk about spewing hate! Trouble is, I agree with what you said. Why should Biffle have to apologize to Johnson? Heck, I wished Biffle had of drilled the 5-time chump right in his arrogant puss! But, as you said, Greg (and Jack) probably got a call from Brian on Monday morning, after Brian got his call from the man who is a convicted felon, but managed to pull a major con job to avoid prison. And don’t hand me the line that Ol’ Slick-Rick paid for his sins, as he has not! My father died from Leukaemia, and what I was told by the Doctors at the time has thoroughly convinced me that Tricky-Ricky is a fake where his disease is concerned. Hendrick spit on every leukaemia sufferer with his crap, and for that, I will never have any respect for him.

Hey Greg, Phoenix would be a good place to deal with Johnson, just like his whining, sniveling teammate did to Boywer last year!

10/31/2013 03:38 PM

Jeez Rufus you scolded Ken and then went on a rant of your own. What’s up with that?
@ JP What did you mean when you said “ it’s the left that notices a person’s skin color?

bud sudz
10/31/2013 04:14 PM

Come on Summer….$$$ is more important than standards and values??? While I don’t have a problem with the RPM decision, to simply say that having values doesn’t make sense in today’s world is a little bit flippant. Does journalistic integrity sacrifice for the almighty dollar as well?

10/31/2013 08:51 PM

Goodness, I agree with Summer again, what has gotten into me. Seriously, that “respect” line drives me nuts especially the ones who usually spew it are the biggest jerks out there. At what point does one get “respect”, come on..a very overused term.