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(Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

Odds & Ends Around the Track: My Old Kentucky Home Edition

Last Sunday was almost a big day for me, because after that big crash, I almost finished in the top 10 at Daytona International Speedway while sitting on my couch. Thank you, NASCAR, for never having a Firecracker 400 at the World Center of Racing ever again until you learn from Big Bill France and move the time back to an 11 a.m. start time.

Did you ever notice that before television took over dictating start times for races that Big Bill managed to never have a Daytona event rained out? While I am all about tradition in this sport, I will not miss the Rain Delay 400 every July 4 weekend!

Conflict of Interest My…

The unlikely win by Spire Motorsports led to a predictable and idiotic article suggesting there is a conflict of interest with a major sponsor procurement company and driver agent company owning a NASCAR team. If we removed all of the perceived conflicts of interest in this sport, we might be left with five cars racing every weekend. Spire worked for a team owner who, despite winning a championship, could not afford to stay in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racing. That is a conflict of interest worthy of complaining about that success isn’t enough to make a NASCAR Cup team financially viable any more.

Spire also has a responsibility to their other clients in the business to do what they can to keep the sport working financially. After failing to sell the Furniture Row Racing charter for anything close to “Market Share” for their client, they did something amazing and bought it themselves. They didn’t do this just out of the kindness of their hearts, they did it because they were betting on the sport’s rebound. How bad has it gotten at the Cup level? Not so long ago, when it was still called Sprint Cup, the teams enjoyed a presenting sponsorship value of around $75 million a year.

The usually reliable rumor mill says that amount has dropped to less than half this year and is expected to drop even more starting next year. Forecasts for the next NASCAR television deal range everywhere from a modest 15% increase to a double-digit drop due to the decline of television ratings. Some formerly loyal Fortune 500 companies have dropped their sponsorship in the sport.

Despite all of this information known to every team in the series, Spire paid $6 million for a team charter that nobody else would pay $3 million for so their client Furniture Row could leave the sport with a little going away present. They have taken a financial loss fielding the team all year with lower-than-market-rate rental drivers taking turns, and when they get their moment of glory, some two-bit critics rip them and NASCAR? Maybe the real conflict of interest is some people getting paid to write about NASCAR.

Watermelon Man

Raise your hand if you haven’t become a fan of the Watermelon Man Ross Chastain. That is exactly what I thought, there ain’t a single hand raised in NASCAR Nation. If you want a poster boy for how to handle yourself in public, win or lose, I think you can’t do much better than Chastain. The young man also has some amazing talent to get some great performances out of the equipment he drives.

No, I am not ripping the folks at Niece Motorsports or Kaulig Racing, but I am also pointing out they are not Kyle Busch Motorsports or Joe Gibbs Racing. Yet, they are getting it done with Chastain in the driver’s seat.

Back in the old days of NASCAR, a guy who performed this well for a smaller, less-financed team in the sport would find the big guys lining up to get him in their rides. But since Chastain can only bring some modest sponsorship along with him, he is left shopping for the best rides he can get — and he has found two great partners.

Chastain has already raced 44 times across the top three series of NASCAR this season, with three wins and 15 top-10 finishes. Have you ever heard him whine that he isn’t in top equipment? Have you ever heard him complain about his team or pit crew? No, and no. Here is to seeing more watermelon-smashing all season long and to celebrate a Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship in November too. Go get them, Watermelon Man.

Fantasy Insight: Kentucky

Looking Back to Last Week’s Picks

Win: Ryan Blaney– Finished 36th

Place: Joey Logano– Finished 25th

Show: Clint Bowyer– Finished 34th

Long Shot: Ryan Newman– Finished fifth

That last Big One at Daytona sure messed up my average finish statistics. Each one of my picks were in the running at one point or another until all but one of them crashed out.

Now, it’s a return to a more normal track where statistics do a better job of forecasting outcomes. The only change to deal with the next three weeks are the use of that grip compound stuff to try to artificially make a second grove, starting with the track this week in Kentucky. Three drivers have lead lap finishes in all eight of the Cup races held at Kentucky Speedway, and two of those three race for Joe Gibbs Racing — one of two teams to dominate Cup races this year. Only three active drivers — Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski — have won here. Once again, it looks like a battle between JGR and Team Penske for the win.

Win: Truex- Super smooth and likely to be up front all night long

Place: Logano- The other Penske driver with a strong average finish here, although winless

Show: Busch- Have to pick Kyle every week in the top three or my sanity might be questioned

Long Shot: Denny Hamlin (20-to-1 odds) JGR at 20-to-1 odds is always a good bet

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About Dennis Michelsen

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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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8 comments

  1. Avatar

    What if Kyle Busch had been given the win?

    • Avatar

      A win is a win is a win….sometimes you get lucky in this sport…I know I would have been fine about it. Thanks for the feedback!

  2. Avatar

    There are many ways to win. People complain if it’s fuel milage, that’s why the races are so long, to throw stuff like that in the equqsion. Sometimes Rain plays in, then you plan stratigy and hope for the best and it paid off for Spire motorsports. As far as I’m concerned, they did something few get to, they made the right call and good for them. I’m happy for them.

    • Avatar

      Me too!! Justin Haley is a cool guy who worked hard to get this chance. Thanks for the feedback!

  3. Avatar

    It must be killing Chastain to show what he can do in a good car and then have to drive a Cup car that couldn’t beat his grandmother in a one-leg race. Junior Johnson would want him in his car.

    • Avatar

      Ross has never once complained about anything he just goes out and does the best he can with what he has to work with at every level! Thanks for the feedback!! Dennis

  4. Avatar

    Your assessment of the Spire team victory is spot on! Awesome piece. Congrats to them on the win!