NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Beside the Rising Tide: A Heat Wave of NASCAR Random Thoughts

Today’s column (July 3) is based on empirical and indisputable fact. As I write this column at 10 o’clock Monday morning, it’s already 89 degrees and so humid you couldn’t strike a kitchen match. The G key on my keyboard sticks a little and my left index finger is sweating trying to type those Gs. And that’s not even the high; in fact, temperatures are supposed to keep rising into the triple digits here in what I like to call The Rainbow Gulch. (No one else calls it that. They look at me funny when I do.)

It’s the kind of weather David Letterman used to say causes fat guys to make their own gravy. Thus, by high noon I plan to be poolside holding a boat drink with a little umbrella in it checking out the girls in their summer clothes. So rather than try to produce the usual finely-crafted, pithy and insightful opus this week below are some random thoughts on a variety of topics, a few of which contain too many Gs.

What’s that old saying about the hockey game? Well, to paraphrase, Sunday NASCAR held an event at a mile-and-a-half track and, out of nowhere, a race broke out there at the end. From my vantage point, there was no harm, no foul as far as the beating and banging on the last lap. And that goes for either of the participants. This sport is, after all, stock car racing and not lawn croquet. If I recall, those old T-shirts read, “Do unto others and then split” though I think in the Bible the quote was “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” To torture the analogy still further, “those who use the bumper get the bumper.” Or maybe it was something about swords, but anyway….

I will say that, once again, race winner Kyle Busch seemed to want to intentionally antagonize those fans who had a less-than-positive reaction to his win. He did the old pantomiming crying gesture, took his sarcastic bow and said in Victory Lane he didn’t know what sort of problem people booing him might have. I also found it interesting they decided to stage said festivities in the garage area rather than Victory Lane itself. Hey, maybe they thought it would be cooler in the shade, that the thunderstorms would hit before the whole hat-changing photography routine was done. Or maybe they didn’t want to risk having the winner pelted with thrown trash, fireworks and beverages while celebrating. No matter how hot it is, a can of beer is a terrible thing to waste.

Editor’s Note: It’s happened before….

Now, very few stock car racers have ever come to me for PR advice. In fact, the number remains steadfast at zero. But if asked, I would pass along a pearl of wisdom spoken more than once by Dale Earnhardt Sr. (And for the record, Kyle Busch never competed in a single Cup Series event against Earnhardt. He remains unworthy to guide the Intimidator’s motorcoach as it backed into a spot in the garage area.)

Confronted by angry booing after an event (most notably after the Bristol night race of 1999) Earnhardt grinned and replied, “If they ain’t cheering, they damn well better be booing.” Nothing is worse than silence, I suppose.

Meanwhile, if I recall correctly Mars Candy is Busch’s sponsor and they produce Snickers candy bars as well as M&M’s. Maybe they could come up with a Snickers ad showing Busch during his lapses in etiquette with a tagline, “Have a Snickers, Kyle. You get cranky when you’re hungry.”

There’s one thing I noticed in all the aerial views NBC showed of Chicagoland Speedway. You can’t even see Chicago in the background. Heck, it’s so far away you can’t even hear the gunfire. Chicagoland Speedway, it should be noted is actually far closer to Joliet, best known as the hometown of Jake and Elwood Blues. (Man, is some sponsor, possibly the Geek Squad, missing out with not having a black on white paint scheme here. Too bad Dodge quit NASCAR racing.) As NASCAR is trying to court a younger, more urban and urbane, hipper fan base maybe it’s time to rename Pocono as Brooklyn-land Motor Speedway.

Denny Hamlin spoke out this week saying he was a member of a secret drivers’ council, not the one recognized by NASCAR. Hey, good luck with that. But as a hint, one of the tricks to having a “secret” council is not mentioning such a thing exists.

One of the quirks of a shortened, two-day Cup weekend schedule is that the cars don’t have to go through pre-qualifying inspection. If the car is found to be illegal in post-qualifying inspection, that driver and team lose their position and have to start at the rear of the field. The team then gets a chance to bring their car into compliance. If they fail tech a second time, a team member is ejected, usually the car chief. If the car fails a third time, the team loses 10 points.

Personally, I don’t think the punishment is severe enough. This weekend the cars of Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Chris Buescher and Martin Truex Jr. all failed post-qualifying tech. My guess is if those four drivers and teams had been told to take the rest of the weekend off, every car showing up at Daytona would be found to be within the rules without exception. What if NASCAR warned those four teams and any others who encountered the same inspection issues, if you get caught a second time in post-qualifying inspection not only will you miss the race because you didn’t compete in the event you are no longer eligible for the championship? Yep, I don’t think rules compliance would be an issue going forward.

You have to feel for Brett Moffitt. He and his pint-size team won the Camping World Truck Series race Friday night in a barnburner of an event. That’s Moffitt’s third win this season, which means that he ought to be sitting plush with a royal flush as far as the playoffs. But there’s still some question as to whether the team can run the full slate of races as required to be championship eligible. Up until last Tuesday, Moffitt and his team weren’t even certain they’d be able to make it to Chicagoland until a last-minute deal was put together with Fr8auctions.com.

Moffitt’s team is still looking for sponsorship for Eldora, Bristol and Homestead. Absent any additional funding, there’s been discussion that the team could start and park at those three races to keep Moffitt eligible. However, that would be a sad thing to see.

Either way, when a team that’s won three races and sits second in the standings is dependent on sponsorship money being found week to week, there’s something very wrong with the NASCAR series business model. How long until we’re talking about the Cup Series, saying a driver will definitely make the playoffs if the driver has a win and the team can find financing to make it to every event? Moffitt seems like a “Canary in the Coal Mine” moment here. It’s an old truism that very few race teams are started with the intention to lose money. Most of them do eventually, anyway but that wasn’t the intent.

It bothers me sometimes that rather than focus on racing as a sport, sometimes we have to focus on the entertainment side of the equation and, other times, we have to look at the business aspect of stock car racing. Information on the latter is increasingly hard to come by and when we do get a peek behind the curtain, it’s often as a result of legal action. This week, Brennan Poole filed suit claiming that the XFINITY Series team he drove for, Chip Ganassi Racing, did him dirty in a sponsorship deal he bought to the table. That’s part of the “Buy a Ride” culture of contemporary NASCAR racing, the same system that has countless drivers on the outside looking in because they are skilled at driving a race car, not bringing sponsor dollars to the game.

According to Poole, he brought DC Solar sponsorship to the party but CGR, plus the agency that represented him managed to steal the company away to back Kyle Larson in Cup despite a non-compete clause in the deal. CGR, upon the suit going public responded in a very nasty tweet that basically called Poole hapless and hopeless.

While allegedly written by lawyers defending CGR, the response lacked the usual legalese politeness and form. Instead, it appeared to be written by some enraged paralegal who stumbled across a Happy Hour featuring five dollar mugs of Bacardi 151 Rum while writing.

What did come out in the filing was the financial side of the deal for Poole, who was then a full-time XFINITY Series driver with a competitive, established NASCAR team. Poole’s base salary was $250,000 a year. (Nice work if you can find it and don’t have the chops to earn a living in the high-pressure, incredibly competitive but extremely lucrative NASCAR writing field.)

In addition, Poole would receive 50% of the prize money he earned for winning a race, 40% of prize money earned for a top-10 finish and 30% of the winnings for any top-20 result. If he finished outside the top 20, presumably Poole was forced to buy the team several buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken on Mondays and sit in the corner with a dunce cap on his head.

In 2017, Poole ran the full NXS schedule of 33 races with 17 top-10 results, plus eight additional finishes in the top 20. He finished sixth in points. In 2015 (the last year NASCAR published prize money statistics), Elliott Sadler finished sixth in the standings and earned total prize money amounting to 1.214 million dollars for him and his team. That year, Elliott also posted 17 top-10 finishes so Poole and Sadler’s seasons were comparable. Draw your own conclusions from there.

And finally….

Ask anyone who has been in a bad car accident and, in most instances, they’ll tell you they have limited recollections of the details of that wreck. I’d guess it’s the same for victims of train wrecks.

With that in mind, I’d completely forgotten Rutledge Wood existed… until he was a nonstop train wreck during the NASCAR on NBC race broadcast. It is nice to know that heavily tattooed and intoxicated people will still make asses of themselves to get on TV.

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About Matt McLaughlin

Avatar
Matt joined Frontstretch in 2007 after a decade of race-writing, paired with the first generation of racing internet sites like RaceComm and Racing One. Now semi-retired, he submits occasional special features while his retrospectives on drivers like Alan Kulwicki, Davey Allison, and other fallen NASCAR legends pop up every summer on Frontstretch. A motorcycle nut, look for the closest open road near you and you can catch him on the Harley during those bright, summer days in his beloved Pennsylvania.

16 comments

  1. Avatar

    Yes we had Rutledge Wood – but NO Waltrips.

  2. Avatar

    NASCAR inspection gets sillier by the moment. Lasers measuring to .001″ on cars. Inspection after, rather than before, qualifying.

    The purpose of all this inspection is to make sure the cars are identical, right? Well, look at the performance. The cars are clearly nowhere close to identical. What are we missing here?

  3. Avatar

    Put Parker Kligerman in the booth, he is awesome!

  4. Avatar

    Kyle Busch just has no class. Kyle Larsen congratulated him in Victory Lane, said he realized he was fair game after getting into Busch…and then KuBu has to go and do his pathetic ‘crying’ routine. Lots of drivers get booed. Earnhardt certainly did. But he had enough class not to ridicule or make fun of the very people you are relying on to fill the stands so you can earn a paycheck. Someone needs to let him know that it’s perfectly OK for fans not to like him or the way he behaves.

    • Avatar

      Between Rowdy Nation (in the hundreds of thousands) and those who hate Kyle. he is the most valuable commodity NASCAR has. Maybe if people like you had a little more class, you wouldn’t boo the best driver in the sport. It is fair to say that Tiger Woods has legions of haters, but they had the class to keep their feelings off the golf course during his heyday. I guess it takes a classless person to really hate as a hobby. And Kyle knows full well that his role is twofold: to win races nobody else could and to wear the black hat.

  5. Avatar

    Letarte, yelling during the race like it was the final lap of a close race. Is it my imagination that most of these guys have squeeky (sp) voices for announcing. Letarte most annoying. Got rid of DW now Letarte.

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    Continuing the theme of random thoughts. Matt, when you mentioned sayings on old t-shirts for some reason what popped into my mind was some t-shirts that I saw for sale at the North Wilkesboro First Union 400 in April, 1995. Major league baseball had been on strike since mid 1994 and in response someone had printed up shirts with the saying, NASCAR: all balls, no strikes! Ah, the good old days!

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    Why is it that people can you boo you, make fun of you and call you names and YOU just have to take it? That’s not how it is in gangsta land! GO Kyle and POTUS!

    • Avatar

      Tom, I am always amazed to find a reasonable and intelligent person on FS Comments. But we ARE getting more numerous.

  8. Avatar

    Matt, as any intelligent person knows, it is impossible to compare athletes across generations. (Especially when one killed himself by his own hubris and mistakes.)

    But Kyle Busch is every bit as worthy of the respect the media have foisted on us for Dale Earnhardt. As you pointed out, Dale never had the change to be beaten by Kyle. Busch is the best of his generation and only a fool would doubt that any longer.