It’s Bristol week baby! Just when things on-track might be getting a little dull in terms of the aggressive driving and driver battles, we’ll see some short-track action from the World’s Fastest Half-Mile, Bristol Motor Speedway. This past week’s winner, Jimmie Johnson, and crew chief Chad Kanus, have been just OK at Bristol, posting an average finishing position of 15th and winning only once at the track back in 2010. But outside of Johnson, a few drivers who have been running well this season will be glad to jump back into their short-track cars this week, including last year’s winner, Joey Logano, Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski.
Out of the active Sprint Cup Series drivers, only Kyle Busch, Edwards and Keselowski have won in all three national premier series at Bristol (Sprint Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck series). Edwards has won at Bristol a total of three times in the Cup series, including in last year’s spring race, helping him reach the Chase for the Sprint Cup in his final year with Jack Roush. But when you compare Edwards’ 21 Cup starts at the track to Keselowski’s 10, the latter really stands out as the driver to watch this weekend. Keselowski has earned two victories at the famous half-mile, in back-to-back attempts in 2011 and 2012. He also finished second behind Logano in last season’s summer race at Bristol. Keep an eye on these two this weekend.
The dominance week in and week out that we’ve seen from the likes of multi-race winners like Kevin Harvick and Johnson will play a backseat role this week, as the Nos. 4 and 48 teams can gamble a little more, testing setups for the all-important Chase later on this season. No matter where your allegiance stands, it should be a good one this weekend folks!
Now onto this week’s Mailbox questions from you our readers….
Q: Hey Greg. Two questions I’m curious about. One, how many tires are teams allowed during a Cup race? And two, do you think NASCAR will ever pull the trigger on a race down in Mexico? Thanks. – Dustin R., Salem, N.H.
A: Dustin, thanks for writing in! First the tire question… Cup teams are typically allowed 16 sets (4 to a set) of tires per race, though NASCAR has adjusted those numbers at some tracks based on typical wear patterns. These aren’t cheap and cost the teams between $350 and $450 per set to lease each race weekend. That’s right, each team actually leases tires from Goodyear each race weekend. Goodyear handles the tires for the teams, and managing the tire supply helps Goodyear with valuable data each time Cup cars take the track. Things like wear on the treads, and the amount of laps a car can stay out at full-speed before needing a change are measured and recorded. Tire management is really more of a science than fans think.
Part two of your question, regarding Mexico and Cup racing. You may remember back from 2005 through 2008 NASCAR actually did host a race down in Mexico for the Nationwide Series. The location was in Mexico City at the 2.8-mile road course Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. That race, known as the Corona Mexico 200 presented by Banamex was one of the first races for the sanctioning body outside the U.S. and saw great crowds each year. But due to sponsorship, the cost of travel and logistics in getting the series to Mexico and the new 7/8-mile track opening in Iowa, the race was dropped from the schedule in 2009 and replaced with Iowa Speedway.
Do I think we’ll see another top-level NASCAR racing event in Mexico in the future? Due to the sheer logistics of getting everyone associated with the sport and the multiple teams out of the country and back for just one race, I wouldn’t rule it out. I think it was an experiment that went well, but that NASCAR wouldn’t invest in again. However, the NASCAR Mexico Series is something that is going well for the sport south of the border. We’ve even seen talent from the Mexico Series, like former Truck Series regular German Quiroga and Joe Gibbs Racing full-time Xfinity Series driver Daniel Suarez, move up to competing at a high-level in the sport here in the U.S. I think overall the future for Mexico and NASCAR is bright, but it just won’t involve a race being held down there any time again soon.
Q: Have you heard of any progress with the Sprint Cup title sponsorship deal this season? I know Sprint is done soon, who do you think will replace them? Thanks! – Ryan K., Nags Head, N.C.
A: Hey Ryan, good question. The quick answer is no new news on that front. Unfortunately for those of us who are excited about the future of the sport and who the next title sponsor will be to replace Sprint at the Cup level we’ll have to wait.
NASCAR and its marketing team, led by Brent Dewar and Steve Phelps, are really taking their time to evaluate the deal that they want to strike with a new partner, and narrow down a short-list of potential sponsors that would even be able to afford such a new deal.
According to an article in the Sports Business Journal last month, NASCAR is looking for a $1 billion investment over the course of 10 years for a new title sponsor of the top series in stock car racing. That’s not chump change, even for the largest corporations in today’s marketing and sponsorship landscape. Given the recent work that went into making the Xfinity Series deal happen with Comcast and NASCAR, I think they’ll take their time with this one as well.
As far as speculation on ‘who’ could replace Sprint atop the racing sponsorship crown jewel? Right now I’d have to say it’s going to be a company in the technology space. The work that Sprint (and formerly Nextel) has done in terms of introducing the sport to the 21st century and integrating technology into each and every race, track and fans alike has really taken NASCAR racing into the right direction. I can’t see them not continuing along this path with a new sponsor.