NASCAR Race Weekend Central

4 Burning Questions: Hard Pass on Trackpass

Another streaming service? Really?

NASCAR and NBC made a major announcement during media day for Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway: they are getting into the subscriber-based streaming game.

The idea of an OTT service for NASCAR has made sense for a while now; I even wrote about it happening this year last year. However, the way they have implemented it and the angle they are pitching the service on is going to make it an absolute bomb in an already crowded marketplace.

Disney+ just launched this past week to much fanfare. Most analysts were not expecting 10 million subscribers until after a year, let alone after a day.

Disney+ has a lot of new content for its audience, such as the new Star Wars television series, the Lady and the Tramp remake and some Pixar-produced shorts. One of its biggest appeals, however, is that Disney opened the vault on the thing. Almost everything in Disney’s history that isn’t tied down to another provider was available on day one, from Steamboat Willlie to Avengers: Endgame.

Let’s say, however, that Disney launched its streaming service a little differently. Let’s say Disney released all the new television series, movies and shorts on the basic Disney app a year prior to Disney + for absolutely free. Then, come Nov. 12 Disney announced that all of that going forward may now only be available on its $6.99 per month streaming service, and said service does not include the full Disney vault or anything else besides “documentaries and special features.”

Under that scenario, does Disney get 10 million subscribers on day one?

No. In fact, it probably doesn’t even get a tenth of that.

And guess what? This is how NASCAR has decided to launch its foray into a subscription-based streaming service: by killing FansChoice.tv and putting all of the live racing and not much else of value behind a paywall.

And the sad thing is there’s tremendous potential with a service like this. If NASCAR President Steve Phelps had gotten on that stage and announced that everything in the NASCAR Productions vault would be included as on-demand content, there would not be so much grumbling about FansChoice.tv going behind a paywall.

Imagine a service where with a swipe of the finger, you could watch the 1984 Miller High Life 400 in the best quality available at a moment’s notice. Want to only watch the last 20 laps? Enter a lap and the service takes you right there. This is all doable with today’s technology, on just about every device a person has at their disposal now.

NASCAR has 40 years now of lap-to-lap races sitting there in its vault wasting away. There’s no reason not to use it. It’d be able to sell so many more subscriptions to the service if it gave its customers something substantial. Instead, it’s decided to simply take free things away from people. And people do not like having free things taken away.

Who is saying goodbye in 2019?

There really aren’t a whole lot of known driver retirements this season. Paul Menard has chosen to step away from racing full time, while David Ragan has done the same. If Menard does race somewhere next season, my guess would be in a Team Penske Xfinity Series ride part time. Ragan has said that he would be interested in a part-time Cup ride, but it’s unlikely that any viable teams will make anybody that kind of offer.

This will be the final finale weekend at Homestead for the foreseeable future, which really is a shame. Homestead has become one of the best tracks on the circuit, with some great racing regardless of the rules package. It’s also in a good media market for a finale, in NASCAR’s hotbed the southeast no less. But NASCAR has decided that ISM Raceway in Phoenix, site of three of the worst national touring races all year last week, would make for a better finale than Homestead. Some people just never learn.

This will be the final weekend in Nationwide Insurance’s sponsorship in NASCAR. Nationwide’s relationship with the sport began in 2008, when it took over title sponsorship from Busch beer of what is now the Xfinity Series. After ending its title sponsorship, it moved up to Cup to sponsor Dale Earnhardt Jr. and later Alex Bowman as the No. 88’s primary sponsor since 2015. Hendrick Motorsports has not announced a new primary sponsor for Bowman.

Finally, this weekend marks the departure of Monster Energy as the title sponsor for the NASCAR Cup Series. Monster, just the third title sponsor in the 70-year history of the series, will remain heavily involved in the sport as the primary sponsor of Kurt Busch and perhaps as a second-tier sponsor in NASCAR’s new tier sponsorship program. Adam Stern reported that the energy drink brand had offered to sign a one-year extension of their sponsorship at the same price as the last three seasons, but NASCAR turned it down for its new, largely still unknown tier-based sponsorship program.

Who will win the 2019 Cup Series championship?

After a long 40-week season, it all has come down to this.

Martin Truex Jr. was able to win at the Martinsville Speedway a few weeks ago to clinch a spot in the championship four. After a bit of a rough start to his tenure with Joe Gibbs Racing, after the majority of the No. 19 team came over from the dying Furniture Row Racing team, Truex was able to adjust accordingly, getting the first short track win of his career at Richmond Raceway in April to virtually guarantee himself a spot in the playoffs.

This year, the move to JGR has turned Truex from the master of the mile-and-a-half racetrack to more of a jack of all trades. After that first short track win in April, Truex would follow up with wins in that discipline at Richmond again and Martinsville. Truex balanced it out with wins at Sonoma Raceway and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Kevin Harvick was the next to clinch a spot in the final round. It has been a relatively down year for Stewart-Haas Racing, with just one driver winning and said driver was the only one to make it to the Round of 8. Harvick had a down year, but that’s only because he had 29 top-10 finishes in 2018; a four-win season with an average finish of 10th is still pretty darn good.

The lone non-champion to make it to Homestead was Denny Hamlin. Hamlin has had his best season on record in Cup, with six wins and an average finish of 9.5. Hamlin, however, has never seemed to get over losing the championship in 2010 to Jimmie Johnson, and his emotions could very well remove him from the equation early on Sunday. Regardless of whether he falls to his memories or triumphs over them, it will be fascinating to watch Hamlin this weekend.

Finally, there’s Kyle Busch. It’s only appropriate that Busch is racing for a championship in the final race of the 2010s, a decade where he has more race victories in each individual national touring series than any other driver. Busch had a fantastic, record-setting year go to waste with a merely average playoff run, and the fact that he made it this far really speaks to how dominant he was in the regular season.

As hard as this is to figure out, my choice for the championship is Harvick. It’s for a very simple reason: I don’t like that there are three JGR drivers in the final four this season. All of SHR’s resources will be with the No. 4 team, while JGR’s best resources will be split between three teams. It would be a nice bow on a great decade for Harvick; although Busch has won more races, Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers have been incredibly consistent for six years now. The story of the decade, regardless of what goes down on Sunday, will be a Happy one.

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Bill B

Don’t really care who wins it but a more meaningful stat than “splitting resources between three drivers” is the fact that JGR has won over half the races this year. That makes it hard to see Harvick winning.

sb

Plus, most of the media has already declared that Denny is going to finally win his title.

Jeremy

I see they finally released ratings for Phoenix… 1.6 and 2.5 million. Lowest rated broadcast TV race since 2000 and least watched since 2001 according to info on the Jayski site. Track Pass will be a HUGE FAIL. People aren’t tuning in to watch this garbage for FREE, they sure aren’t going to PAY for it!

Agree totally with the article, it would be completely different and quite tempting if the pass opened up the entire historical race catalog. As it is, I don’t need any more scripted pre/post race hype. I NEED NASCAR to focus on the core of it’s business: RACING. Fix the cars, fix the racing, FIX BRISTOL!, get your fans back and THEN think about this extra crap when you have a product people might actually be willing to PAY for to support.

PN

I really got into FansChoice this past year, watched a lot of K&N West racing. Pretty sure I’m not going to watch Trackpass, but if they had a streaming service with past races I would sign up first day.

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