So far this year, I have been surprisingly pleased overall with the quality of racing – when the Cup Series has raced, of course – that the new Brian France named “car” has produced. (Got to send kudos out to the Big BF for coming up with such a clever name for it!)
Regardless, the Daytona 500 was as close as they get; and this last weekend’s race, at the silliest-named track on the circuit, wasn’t as “all wet” as usual. Well, it was, actually – but it was in a physical sense, and not the usual boring racing sense. There have been, however, two disturbing trends I have noticed this season, ones which I pray will stop in their tracks as February fades into March.
The first deals with one of NASCAR’s most obnoxious and self-inflated “Official” sponsors, Sunoco.
Remember a year ago about this time? Kevin Harvick, driving the Shell car, had just won the Daytona 500. But instead of capitalizing on the fact that the Shell car had driven to a win on Sunoco Fuel, that company’s overpaid advertising executives threatened to sue instead because, as they pointed out, the emblem of the Shell logo was way too big on Kevin’s car. Sunoco didn’t feel that was fair because they had, in fact, paid millions of dollars to be the Official Fuel of NASCAR – even if it did have water in it every once in a while. Seems they had forgotten all about the Sunoco-emblazoned stock car they had sponsored in the early ’90s, when someone else was the Official Fuel. But I digress…
At any rate, here we are one year later – and once again, Sunoco has popped up in a bothersome way. Bound and determined not to let us forget that they’re the number one fuel padding NASCAR’s bank account, they’ve taken on a new and annoying tactic to ensure their name is heard.
At one point during the race in Daytona, just as the cars were about to come in for scheduled pit stops, it was pointed out by the FOX commentators that so and so would be coming to pit lane to get another tank full of “that Sunoco power.” At first, I thought it was a bit of an awkward way to say that they were getting fuel, but I chalked it up to the FOX crew just trying to be colorful. I was trying to be an optimistic chap, as I do at the start of every race season.
That, however, was not the case; the reference to “Sunoco” fuel continued to be made, just about every time pit stops were needed. That trend has continued on throughout the second race of the season, becoming even more obvious and annoying in the process. So, as we head to Las Vegas this weekend, I ask you, the reader, to listen closely and keep track of just how many times the FOX crew uses the name Sunoco before each time they say fuel; unless, of course, you’ve already heard enough like me, and take it as just one more excuse to hit the ‘mute’ button as you watch the race.
The other NASCAR induced subliminal message that fans were subjected to this last weekend was the blatant, albeit ridiculous, attempts during the broadcast to compare the California Speedway – oh, excuse me – Auto Club Speedway, to Darlington!
Several times it was suggested that this fantastic West Coast racetrack was the “new Darlington.” The announcers even went so far as to include a quote by the wise and wily racing veteran, Kyle Busch, (look up “sarcasm” in the dictionary now) that effectively said that this track was as good, if not better than, The Lady in Black. I suppose next year we will start hearing the phrase “Auto Club stripe” whenever a car scrapes the wall after driving through a “weeper.”
Well, no amount of money in the world will convince me that NASCAR has not directly told the commentators they must include such ridiculous subliminal attempts to sway fans on both accounts. Give it up, NASCAR! We ain’t that stupid.
In the meantime, I hope my mute button holds out!
Stay off the wall (you don’t need an “Auto Club Stripe” now, do ya!?),