(Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

Odds & Ends Around the Track: Pocono I

All this talk about NASCAR needing shorter races before the Coca-Cola 600, and yet afterward everyone had to be saying, “Give me more of that!”

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers put on one heck of a show as the final course in an all-day auto racing feast. The Grand Prix of Monaco was glitzy for breakfast. The Greatest Spectacle in Auto Racing, the Indianapolis 500, lived up to its nickname for lunch. A tasty dinner and dessert were provided by NASCAR in the Coke 600 to end the long day of racing, and it only seemed like it lasted 300 miles. Great racing never makes too much of a good thing anything but a good thing.

Reading Financial Tea Leaves

Unless you are a “Business of Speed” junky as I am, you might not have noticed all of the changes going on behind the scenes in NASCAR.

Both of the big track-owning corporations that have controlled a big majority of the races on the NASCAR schedule have been taken private by their original owners. Both entities went public many years ago to help finance their expansion when times were great in auto racing and new tracks were popping up all over, as America’s love affair with NASCAR grew and grew.

But in recent years, with attendance dropping so much that Daytona International Speedway tore out a huge percentage of their seats, a move followed by almost every speedway in the country, times have gotten tougher. Bruton and Marcus Smith took Speedway Motorsports, Inc., private and so has the France family with NASCAR making a formal offer for International Speedway Corporation shares.

If you read the financial tea leaves behind the scenes, these changes can mean only one thing: NASCAR and the race tracks will be sold soon in one huge package. Who has the money to make such a purchase? Or more accurately, who has the financial leverage to finance such a huge purchase? Maybe by this time next year, NASCAR and your favorite tracks will be owned by Comcast/NBC/Universal or by Disney/ABC or by Liberty, the company that recently bought F1.

What exactly this will mean for our favorite sport of NASCAR is anybody’s guess, but the tracks were not taken private for any other reason than a big sale. Nothing else makes logical sense. Sometimes the best way to bring positive change to any entity is to see a change in leadership at the top, and reading the financial tea leaves, it is obvious that some big changes are coming soon.

Great New Class for the Hall of Fame

While I am still carrying on my personal crusade to get Smokey Yunick nominated into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, that doesn’t take away from my joy of the new people earning votes to get in the HOF.

Why does Yunick belong? Have you watched any of the videos of drivers from the 1950s and 60s who have made it into the NASCAR Hall of Fame? Most of them had driven for and won big races with Yunick back in the day. Only NASCAR politics have kept him off the ballot, but I digress.

If there was a more deserving first-ballot Hall of Famer in NASCAR than Tony Stewart, other than the first class, of course, I haven’t seen them yet. Tony Stewart was not only a great three-time champion, but he was also involved in most of the big stories of that era. It almost brought a tear to my eye to see his team owner of so many years, Joe Gibbs, and Joe Gibbs Racing’s first champion Bobby Labonte joins Smoke in this class.

Waddell Wilson is also very deserving because he revolutionized the sport in so many ways from on top of the pit box and back in the engine shop. He got so much more power out of the same-sized engine, it was incredible.

The final member of the 2020 class is near and dear to my heart because he was my absolute favorite driver when I was growing up. Old Lead Foot Buddy Baker would either blow up his engine or win the race, but he was never boring on the track. Never quite living up to his legendary father, Buck Baker, as a driver, Buddy would solidify his spot in the NASCAR Hall of Fame by his fantastic work on television and radio for many years. The Gentle Giant would be one of the greatest ambassadors of NASCAR with his folksy wit and great storytelling ability.

One time at a race he was covering for The Nashville Network, I told Baker that I loved the stories he told during the broadcast. “Some of them are even true,” he said, adding a wink and a hearty handshake as we both went back to work. I just wish that Mr. Baker was still around to enjoy this honor in person. This is indeed a great new class of men worthy of being called the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2020.

Pocono-Fantasy Insight

Win: Martin Truex Jr.-WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER

Place: Denny Hamlin-Finished 17th

Show: Kevin Harvick-Finished 10th

Long Shot: Kurt Busch-Finished 27th

I thought my chances of picking the winner in the Coke 600 last weekend were doomed when Truex slapped the wall, but it shows you how strong that car and driver were to rebound with a slightly damaged race car. I felt very confident about my pick last week, but in a 600-mile race that goes from day to night on a finicky race track, anything is possible.

But this week, I am even more certain of my pick for the Tricky Triangle of Pocono Raceway. Harvick leads the way in the Fantasy Insight Ratings as the only driver to top 185 points this week. Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Truex and Brad Keselowski round out the remaining drivers over the key 180-point threshold this week for Pocono. How Harvick has failed to win in 36 career starts at Pocono despite posting the best average finish of any competitor over the last eight races is perplexing. Happy Harvick has been ultra consistent, recently posting finishes no worse than fourth in the last five races and no worse than ninth in eighth of the last nine races there. Harvick is ready to finally get a win at the Tricky Triangle this weekend.

Win: Harvick-Ultra consistent here recently, but still looking for win number one

Place: Keselowski-Penske power has been strong even while being restricted on the big tracks

Show: Truex-Only driver with 90 points or more in track and consistency ratings

Long Shot: Erik Jones (25-to-1 Odds) Solid 90-point rating at Pocono

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Dennis a.k.a. DMIC has been covering NASCAR racing since 1998. After spending 23 years as a professional weather forecaster, Dennis still didn't know what he wanted to be when he grew up, so he started covering auto racing full time. He is the moderator of the Race Track Business Conference - an all-day educational seminar covering the business of speed - and is the owner of DMIC Media & Marketing where he spends his time mouthing off about all kinds of sports. He is also the play-by-play voice for the professional Ultimate Disc team the Chicago Wildfire of the American Ultimate Disc League. Dennis can be heard every Saturday on The Final Inspection on 105.7FM The Fan in Milwaukee, Wis. talking NASCAR, and you can listen on the Radio.com app.

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4 comments

  1. Avatar

    Why is harvick not doing well this year? Because he got away with cheating last year. Now he is under microscopic scrutiny from nascar.

    • Avatar

      Harvick isn’t doing well this year? The man is running 4th in points and has scored 7 fewer points than last year at this time of the season. Every team in NASCAR is under intense scrutiny from the NASCAR inspectors if you haven’t noticed by the ever increasing number of penalties being given out!

      Thanks for your Feedback!

      DMIC

  2. Avatar

    Don’t you just love fox’s way of thanking its viewers for watching nascar? You have to go to fox sports 2 to find any televised practices.