The Frontstretch: Did You Notice? Offseason Edition by Thomas Bowles -- Monday November 26, 2007

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Did You Notice? Offseason Edition

Bowles - Eye View · Thomas Bowles · Monday November 26, 2007

 

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Did You Notice … How quickly everyone got the heck out of dodge as soon as the NASCAR season is over? You didn't hear a peep from much of anyone over the past week - because we were all on vacation! Yes, it's the holidays, but the sigh of relief uttered by everyone who's a part of the sport is yet another sign the Cup season is as lengthy as it's ever going to get.

Did You Notice … The gentlemanly way in which Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon interacted after Gordon lost the title at Homestead? The respect the two men have for one another seems to grow by the day; and truth be told, they did stage one of the more impressive battles for the title in recent history, regardless of how many fans chose to care. A rivalry the likes of Petty-Allison, it's not; but that doesn't mean it's not a healthy competition between the two nonetheless.

Did You Notice … The irony in Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s final race with DEI included damaging contact with the man he's replacing at Hendrick, Kyle Busch? The two may claim they don't consider themselves rivals; but they're not going to need to come together much more in order for that to change.

Did You Notice … That even with Matt Kenseth's win at Homestead, Roush Fenway cars have combined to win just a total of 13 Cup races over the last two seasons. That pales in comparison to the fifteen wins they spread around five cars back in '05. Of course, that year Roush had all five of its cars in the Chase; the past two years, they've managed just two. Oh, how far the Blue Oval hath fallen - the 13-win total for them is the worst two-year span since they won just eight times in Cup over the 1983-'84 seasons.

Did You Notice … That just seven teams combined to win this year's 36 races? Hendrick Motorsports won a season-high eighteen, Roush Fenway Racing won seven, and Joe Gibbs Racing took the checkered four times this season to lead the list. Other winning programs included Richard Childress Racing (3 wins), Penske Racing (2), Dale Earnhardt, Inc. (1) and Chip Ganassi Racing (1). That's not exactly the type of variety - and parity - NASCAR's looking for in its top series.

Did You Notice … That after all the threats, the whining, and scaring a town board to death, Bruton Smith will be keeping Lowe's Motor Speedway right where it is after all. In hindsight, no one should be surprised …

Did You Notice … That Robby Gordon has now lost three crew chiefs in the span of a year? First, Greg Erwin (to Roush Fenway), then Gene Nead … and now Peter Sospenzo. This comes on the heels of a second team falling through and the team still pursuing sponsorship for Robby's primary program. At least the team still has a Top 35 qualifying exemption for the first five races next season - but I'm beginning to worry about their future.

Did You Notice … All the new teams being announced for the Nextel Cup Series next year? There's the new third Penske team, and … and …

Still thinking …

Wasn't the Car of Tomorrow going to make joining Nextel Cup cost-effective?

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Jeff
11/27/2007 02:34 AM
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I highly doubt there will be any other new teams added for the 08 season, other than the 1 new 77 car for Penske with Hornish Jr. in it. There was a plethora of new teams this season that essentially made it 49 full time teams showing up to the track each and every week for only 43 spots in a Cup field. I think we’re gonna see the number of full time Cup teams start to dwindle some over the next couple years because of a somewhat slowed down economy. It’s possible that we’ll even see the days of 2003 and 2004 again, when we had field fillers show up just to make the races full with 43 cars. That’s when there was pretty much only 38 full time teams that showed up weekly with the big funding. Next year could have the 66 and 70 cars being underfunded due to their sponsors moving on. Best Buy has left the 66 of Mayfield and the Yellow car #70 might not have that sponsor as well. Not sure what the sponsorship issues will be for the 28(Kvapil) and 38(Gilliland) cars will be as well for the 08 season. Who’s supposed to sponsor the 40 car for Dario Franchitti? Will there be a 00 car after the 1st 5 races of the season if Mikey can’t keep Burger King and Domino’s? The 36 car(360 OTC) of Bill Davis appears done, but Jacques Villeneuve is supposed to be full time in the 27 car. Sponsor anyone? I don’t know it. So it’s possible the full time car count for the 08 season could conceivably be as low as 44 or 45 each week. Time will tell, but I believe boon time for sponsors in the Cup series is ending and that isn’t always a horrible thing for the sport. The top 35 rule makes it even harder for new sponsors to join new teams not in the top 35 because it’s so hard to make the 8 spots remaining in the races. I still wish qualifying would be fastest 43 race on Sunday, but if not that, then at least go back to the 2004 rules of top 38 on speed with only 5 provisionals. That’s just my take though. Here’s to the coming 2008 season. ;) Jeff

scottb
11/27/2007 01:24 PM
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I agree, the usual off-season optimism for launching new teams is lacking this year. When organizations such as Childress and Gibbs are putting off expansion plans, it should send up a red flag to anyone trying to do it with lower levels of funding and experience. Seeing fully sponsored teams (UPS, NAPA and others) miss multiple races due to the top-35 rule last season may have a big role in this. While I do agree with the intent of the rule (and appreciate the simplicity compared to previous provisional schemes), I think the number of protected teams should be rolled back to 30 and then to 25 in the future to spread the missed races out over more teams and make the sport more attractive to new sponsorships.

True Fan
11/27/2007 04:09 PM
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Did you also notice that people stopped hating Toyota when Skinner won in it? I imagine Tony Stewart COULD make Toyota rich and acceptable enough to forget about the dislike of “NATZEE” manufacturers.

Chris2
11/27/2007 06:15 PM
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ScottB brings up a good point..when you have big name sponsors such as UPS missing not one, but a whole lot of races that can’t be seen as a “good thing” to smaller teams that are working with much smaller budgets. I’m not exactly sure what the guys of NASCAR have planned but I have to say with all the changes that have been made, (COT, Top-35 rule, and so on), its hard to muster up enthusiasim at this point. While I still get a rush out hearing the sound of a race car I find that I don’t watch on tv nearly as much as I used to, (I keep up with all the goings on in NASCAR though). As far as Truefan’s comment regarding Toyota’s I never was all that bothered by them being in the sport as the COT is the same for everyone just swap the stickers around. Ugly thing it is. This time of year, till the start of the race season you can sometimes find on Speed or ESPN classic coverage of old races from the 60’s/70’s/80’s that are alot of fun to watch. If you do get a chance to watch one try and be aware of the differences in the coverage then to what you see now. I find some of the best coverage was just prior to what I call the big explosion of NASCAR..a year or so after JG came on the scene. After that period NASCAR it seemed was everywhere..and within NASCAR you had the advent of large multi-car teams, new drivers that were hired more for the sellablity verses driving records…things started to change rapidily and perhaps not for the better of the sport to get us to where we are today. Let’s hope the new season brings some positive changes..

True Fan
11/27/2007 07:30 PM
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What’s up Chris2? Glad you picked up on my loaded Toyota comment,I too have no problem with foreign “invasions” as it is healthy for the competition and the growth of N.A.S.C.A.R.

Chris2
11/28/2007 04:20 PM
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Truefan, I’d like to think your right in the concept of the entry of Toyota being healthy for the competition in NASCAR. My comments regarding Toyota are more based off the indroduction of the COT..add to that the rumors of an “engine of tomorrow” showing up at a race track near you and you can quickly see that you can slap any brand name you want on the car as in the end the brand really doesn’t have much to do with what is being rolled out of the hauler. Call it Chevy, Ford, Dodge, Toyota, Mack, Diamond Rio, Edsel..heck, why does it have to be a vehicle even..I’ll go with Radio Flyer…

True Fan
11/29/2007 09:26 PM
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Chris2 your comments about racing help me understand that you approach the sport from a strong independent perspective and I gather that you probrably appreciated Alan Kulwicki as much as Trickle.

Chris2
11/29/2007 10:23 PM
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Truefan, your probably right on that fact. Alan Kulwicki was an amazing guy, sort of like if you took Ray Everham and Dale Earnhardt and put them together. A great driver but also someone who understood the engineering end of it all, Earnhardt did as well but Alan was really an engineer in his approach. Very talented. But not just him, I think if you looked at the garage area say of the mid-80’s verses today drivers I think the difference would be that back then drivers were really guys that came up through the ranks of small local short tracks so they had a real understanding of a race car from the ground up as they were building them for themselves. That isn’t to say that drivers today are clueless about the building of a racecar just that with all the technology that teams travel with the driver is there mainly just to drive, (lets face it, the more you know of how its built the better you’ll understand what it is or isn’t doing when your driving it). I guess your right too in the respect that to me NASCAR has gone pretty corporate over the last decade starting with multiple-car teams…we’ve gone from the days of 43 teams out there with maybe 20 or so employees, some with less than that to these “teams” that are 400+ employees. Amazing growth but is it for the betterment of the sport? Even though the teams back then had varying degree’s of resources, have’s and have not’s, there was still that feeling that you were watching 43 individual teams slugging it out and maybe, just maybe your guy would have a good finish. Now the resources are just off the charts and small teams just don’t have that much of a chance it seems. think of it this way, go to your local short track and imagine when you see the field on the pace lap that of that field there are 3 four car teams, one 5-car team, a few 3-car teams..how exciting would that be to watch after awhile. As much as I love racing its hard for me to enjoy this multi-car team racing.

Ren Jonsin
11/30/2007 05:39 AM
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Hey guys, this discussion would be best served on our message board. Feel free to start a topic over at the Frontstretch Forums if you want to discuss a topic back and forth. It also allows others to respond in a more suitable environment. If you haven’t tried our boards, you can sign up and get involved in minutes! Just click the “Frontstretch Forums” link at the top of the page.

Thanks!

 

Contact Tom Bowles

Recent articles from Tom Bowles:

Did You Notice? ... A Return To Richmond, Post-Spingate And Quick Hits
Did You Notice? ... Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Did You Notice? ... Drivers Still Make A Difference... But Silly Cautions Don't
Did You Notice? ... NASCAR's Free Agent Lynchpin, Uncomfortable Reality And Gambling
Did You Notice? ... Toyota Trouble, Limping Into Action And Testing The Waters

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