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MPM2Nite: Sillier Than All Get Out

Mike Joy first introduced the term to the racing vernacular, but it was Jay of Jayski.com that put the term into common use. Yes, August is Silly Season. The term actually originated in England amongst political writers. In August, the Parliament was in recess, and with all the ministers on holiday (Europeans go on “holiday” not vacation because so many Europeans have trouble pronouncing their v’s or spit a lot doing so… silly bastards, you’d think at least the English would have learned to speak English by now) there was basically nothing to write about. Thus, those analysts were forced to invent content for their columns, speculating on what was about to happen or not about to happen, which party was in crises and which ministers wife was filing divorce papers after finding her hubby knocking the bottom out of the upstairs maid whilst wearing a pair of elk antlers roped to his head.

Within the media an absence of information leads to an excess of verbiage that basically says nothing, and this is my contribution to the August tradition. Such is the lot of a deadline NASCAR writer in the dog days of August and such is the reason the F1 circuit basically takes the month of August off at behest of the F1 media who doesn’t wish to be spat upon as folks discuss their vacations.

RCR has now officially announced that they’ve landed the coveted Budweiser sponsorship for Kevin Harvick in 2011. There will be great hoo-zahs and countless words wasted in trumpeting this “sudden” development; at least the scribes assembled to report this earth-shaking news should get a few free brews out of it.

Truth be told, the arranged marriage between Harvick and Bud seems like a good one. Harvick comes across as the sort of rough and tumble, blue-collar guy who enjoys a few cold ones from time to time. He married Delana, didn’t he? Nothing against Kasey Kahne, but he just didn’t fit the Bud driver mold. He still looks like he must get carded every time he grabs a six pack of suds on the ride home from the track.

I sometimes think that sometimes the marketing types who enter sponsorship agreements with teams and drivers have no idea what sort of quarry they are jumping into due to basic ignorance of the sport. Tony Stewart and Burger King? Brilliant! You look at Stewart and figure he’s a triple Whopper kind of guy. Stewart and Office Depot? Again, a nice match. He’s an enterprising young man who has started his own very successful business and could use a little help with the mechanics of running a business and discount prices. Tony Stewart and Old Spice? Not such a good match. The man doesn’t exactly exude magazine cover suave as much as he looks like an extra from Mickey Rourke’s “The Wrestler.” Jeff Gordon, who looks like he’d die of embarrassment if he were to sweat in front of a TV camera, might be a better match for Old Spice.

Mark Martin and GoDaddy? Perhaps the most awkward pairing of sponsor and driver in NASCAR history. Viagra was a better fit since the man looks older than dirt. The National Guard and Dale Earnhardt Jr.? Kids of rich dads don’t typically enter the military. Jimmie Johnson and Lowe’s? Yeah, that one works. Johnson looks like the kind of earnest, well-intended would-be-home craftsman who could use a little help from Lowe’s employees as far as which end of a hammer to grasp when driving a nail.

In short, what it comes down to, is for a sponsor you want your driver to look like the sort of guy your intended customer would like to pull up a barstool next to and enjoy a few beers in his company at the corner tavern… or a bunch of processed pig parts at a Formica booth if need be.

Harvick’s new sponsor was necessitated by Pennzoil (Shhh… don’t tell anyone we’re trying to slip this whole Shell gasoline thing under Sunoco’s nose) deciding to sponsor Kurt Busch next year. Busch’s current sponsor, Miller, will move onto Brad Keselowski’s team at Penske. Glove save and it’s a beauty! Busch sort of looks like a pinhead who can’t handle his brew as witnessed by his potential DUI stop at Phoenix a few years back that hurried his exit from Roush Racing. Keselowski acts like a guy who rolled out of the rack in yellowed BVDs and downed a six pack prior to driver introductions. Plus, with those choppers he can gnaw his way into a beer if the pull-tab breaks.

Left in the wilderness by the above developments is the RPM team at least titurally (note to the editors, that’s not a bad word) run by the King. While the announcement Kahne wouldn’t be back with the team next year is old news, the fact Bud definitely won’t be back deprives the team of their highest-profile sponsorship. (Although an awkward one in that Richard Petty doesn’t drink alcohol and at his mother’s request wouldn’t even run the Bud pole award contingency stickers on the Petty team cars over the decades.) Current RPM driver Paul Menard has recently announced he’ll be taking his family sponsorship to RCR next year, and Elliott Sadler won’t be back with RPM next year. Marcos Ambrose was announced as one replacement Tuesday, but that only fills up a second of four cars available. Who is going to drive for that team next year and who is going to sponsor them? It’s hard to believe one of the most storied teams in the sport’s history, the one that’s won more Cup races than any of them, might be on life support. The day a single Richard Petty Motorsports team starts and parks a race is the day I punch the time card out for the final time in this sport.

Also this week, NASCAR announced its official 2011 schedule, though most of it has been leaked by now. Kentucky has been added to the schedule at the expense of Atlanta, the first change since Chicagoland and Kansas came on board in 2001. Fontana loses its second race date (sacked from Darlington) to make room for a second race date for Kansas City. My thinking? “Out of the fire and into the frying pan.” A few other race dates will be shifted around, most notably Phoenix moving to the second race of the season, but all in all there’s no big news here. There won’t be a Southern 500 on Labor Day weekend at Darlington and Rockingham still won’t be on the lineup card. Damn Brian France for those facts.

One definition of insanity is to repeat behaviors at achieving a goal that have failed repeatedly and expecting a different result. If there were lights flashing over the heads of those in charge of the 2011 Cup schedule, they resembled a mayonnaise jar full of fireflies, not incandescent bulbs.

One thing that really troubles me is the loss of the late August off weekend we enjoy this year. As noted above, F1 takes the whole month off. I can’t speak for all of you, but I notice local business establishments and highways seem almost eerily deserted right now clear down to Breaker’s Point. Folks, even race fans need a weekend off to go on vacation so Europeans in Wildwood can spit all over them trying to pronounce Vs.

One week in August used to be the annual family vacation at the Jersey Shore prior to my mom’s death. But on Sunday, I would sneak out onto the front porch of my bedroom which was above Ocean Drive and turn on the race on MRN listening to my boom box. (Back in those days, even premium shore rental properties didn’t offer cable TV.) I had to keep the volume up fairly high to hear the race above traffic, the bells of the jitneys, and the roar of the surf 40 yards behind me. MRN broadcasts have their own sound and cadence and I recall guys, usually serving as the pack mules for their families hauling beach chairs, coolers, umbrellas, buckets and shovels, stopping below my perch to holler up and ask who was leading, how Dale Earnhardt was doing and how many laps were left. Occasionally some of the hardcore race fans would go AWOL on their families and hurry back to the sidewalk to listen to the end of the race.

I’d typically invite them up to sit with me on my little perch as long as they bought their own beer. We’d sit there and listen to the end of the race, hooting and hollering as each of us had our favorite driver take the lead or wreck out unexpectedly. Occasionally, even as good as MRN’s verbal pictures were, there’d be an incident where we’d all be cursing wanting to see a video feed to see if the No. 2 hit the No. 3 or if Dale had hit Rusty first. And the lament was always the same. I pay good money to get cable TV and ESPN and this is the first race I haven’t seen on TV all year! Friendships were forged that have now lasted for over a decade on those lazy hazy summer afternoons. And we’d discuss why NASCAR couldn’t take an off weekend during vacation season.

So please, NASCAR, give us back our off weekend in August. It will do wonders towards restoring family harmony for the hardcore fans whose loved ones aren’t initiated.

OK, so there’s 1,600 words on basically nothing at all. Like they say on the reality shows, kids, don’t try this at home. I’m a trained professional.

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