Friday, October 27, 2006

Team Red Bull Can't Catch a Break

With qualifying rained out this weekend at Atlanta, team Redbull once again finds itself on the outside looking in. First their car failed to qualify with Bill Elliott a couple races back. Because Terry Labonte was also qualifying for that field and failed, he got the past champion's provisional and Elliott and Redbull were sent home. So they obviously weren't ready.

Now during the teams second attempt, their lack of points has them on the outside again. Ironically, Bill Elliott is in the field thanks to his provisional - one Team Red Bull would have been able to take advantage of had they not asked him to step out of the car for this weekend in favor of their newly announced driver for next year, AJ Almendwhatever.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Was anyone else thinking...?

That Ken Schrader just snapped?

For that moment there, surveying the destroyed car that moments before was on its way to carrying him to his best legitimate finish in a long time - now fucked beyond repair by a many-laps-down rookie who would spin out three times in the course of the race, Ken Schrader went from jolly and "happy to be racing" to "I WILL KILL YOU!" Picking up a long pipe and wielding it in one hand as the cars go by, you could just imagine him throwing it like a javelin through David Ragan's side window, screaming obsceneities at the top of his lungs while years of frustration over bad luck and bad equipment hindering his skill came out in one horrendously violent act. I don't think anyone would have blamed him.

Then again, this is the guy who is sponsored by Little Debbie.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Quickie: Robby, 7, Ford, and Wrecks

So Robby Gordon is changing over to Fords next year. An Indipendent owner/driver. With the number 7. Driving a Ford.

If Hooters signs on for even one race, fans will lose their shit.


Looks like Denny Hamlin's Chase hopes are done:

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And WTF? Let's go to green with safety trucks still out!

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The reaction of Ray Evernham is classic:

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Week of Vickers

Well, a couple issues for this week. I've been delaying a blog post since Talladega because I wanted to give the Vickers story as much time to develop before I weighed in. I have to say I'm surprised he is still in the car. No, I don't blame him for what happened. The poor bastard has been abused by his teammates since he moved up to the Cup series. He pushes teammates around and they turn on him as soon as it benefits them. Yet they are shocked when he gets sick of being their whipping boy and leaves. The way his Hendrick teammates have treated him really speaks to their character - and its not saying anything good. Look, it was an accident. Vickers was doing what he has been doing all along, all through the race - pushing Jimmie Johnson around. Johnson seems to forget he wouldn't even be in a position to win in that race were it not for Vickers.

I'd love to say that this will develop into a cool rivalry between Team Redbull and Hendrick next year, but considering this weekend, I doubt TRB will even be up close enough to the front of the field enough to develop the rivalry. Bill Elliott has been doing research races for just about every development/second/third tier team in the sport this season. Hell, he finished 16th earlier this year for a team that hadn't even qualified this year. He beat Michael Waltrip with his own cars. But he couldn't qualify the Team Redbull car for this race -- his first failure to do so for a team this year. I think that shows how far that team has to go before it's even ready to compete, let alone win. If I were Vickers, I might be worried. (Though I wonder if he cares - being number 1 in a new, if struggling team must be liberating after years of being number 4 or 5 in a top tier team.)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

For Anyone Who Didn't Get It.

In my previous post I talked about the curse of the Talladega Tumble, cracking a joke that now we could see if it was Elliott Sadler who was cursed or just the 38 car now that Sadler has moved on to another team.

Here is what I was referencing:

Followed a year later by:

Mostly this was just an excuse to post the videos.


My formula of voting for the underdog demands that I root for David Gilliand this weekend. Or Derrick Cope.

I'm a realist, so I'll go with the former.

If this kid wins a cup race the same year he had his Cinderella story in the Busch series, it will be chaos. Awesome chaos that will assure him a long and lucrative career.

PS: It will also be interesting to see if the "curse of the Talladega tumble" can be attributed to driver Elliott Sadler (now in the 19) or the 38 M&M's car. This is a very scientific experiment, where the two factors have been separated out to examine the source.

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Goodwrench, Sponsors, and Sentimentality

Sponsoring a popular NASCAR team is the sort of smart business move that is severely underapreciated by the modern business world (but they are starting to catch on.)

There are some sponsors that have become endeared to fans because of their long association with a certain team or driver. This is the sort of emotionality and feelings of fondness towards a brand that many a heartless corporate entity could only dream of having. STP with Richard Petty and the 43. Miller with Rusty Wallace. Old school Davey Allison fans still love that Texaco Havoline paint scheme, no matter who is driving. (Why do you think they keep a style borne of the early 1990s, after having experimented with so many more modern themes?) Other sponsors have benefitted from multiple tie-ins just becomming an expected scheme in any given lineup: Kellogs, Tide, Budweiser (though they are working hard to be linked to Dale Jr's popularity.), etc.

Even after a favorite driver is gone, and even after a team has radically changed into something unfamiliar, a sponsorship with the right paint scheme can keep a fan from wandering off, and keep them rooting at least for the car that invokes memories of past racers.

I was confused why STP gave up on the Petty team, even with its dismal performance on the track. No matter how badly the 43 car does, just seeing it with an old school petty theme will set fans off. Note: I said I was confused. That was until I saw the fan reaction after its couple years absence when it returned for a special race or two. You couldn't buy more good will from people if you paid them directly.

That is why I'm not surprised by Goodwrench's recent announcement to scale back its sponsorship on the number 29 car. They're biding their time.. It's a brilliant corporate move on their part. They will stay associated with RCR while spending less money, waiting for the day when Childress decides to slap a number 3 on the side of one of his cars again and paint it black. The fan reaction will be insane. It is a physical impossibility for Goodwrench to not take advantage of that. Their move is a signal to fans - We're not here to be taken for granted. If you want your nostalgic "come full circle" moment, you better remember the part we played.

And if you think Dale Jr. won't be behind the wheel of that car, you're delusional. I only wonder how Budweiser will react when their investment eventually bends to fan pressure. Will they try and jump in as an associate sponsor to keep their tie to Dale, will they stay with DEI, or find another driver?

That this is even something worth discussion shows that a NASCAR primary sponsorship is the best advertising money can buy.

And Martin Too

So some people are looking at the Mark Martin move to MB2 in 2007 move and are scratching their heads. This folks, is nothing more than a lesson in having your own success bite you.

Mark decided he still wanted to race at the top level rather than beat other teams senseless in the Truck Series. Thus, he wanted to split a ride for the 2007 season with another driver. This is a trend we will see emerge over the next couple years as we enter a phase the exact opposite of the "field filler" dilemma we had a couple year or so back. There are going to be way more serious teams than spots in the field, and new drivers are trying to break in while old drivers are trying to phase out with some dignity. The only logical move is to share rides, as I've been yammering about on this blog as of late.

But Mark is a victim of his own success. He would love to split a Rousch Ride in 2007, I venture, but Rousch is already at the limit of the maximum amount of teams allowed in the series. With all those commitments apparently full, that leaves nowhere for Mark. That Mark is the major reason Rousch racing is at the current level of success it is now and had the opportunity to expand like it did in the 90's is just one of those little ironies of life.

But to tell the truth, I think Rousch is making the wrong move. McMurray hasn't been all that strong in the 26 (That number has never worked for Rousch cars, no matter how good the driver) and there still seems to be no viable candidate for the 6 car next year. So while this announcement is a boon for MB2, allowing them to take advantage of this trend before everyone starts doing it, I still see it as a mis-step for Rousch and Martin. One that they will probably rectify come 2008.

Unless, of course, they put Bill Elliott in the 6.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Schrader has it.

In my earlier post on retirement, I suggested that drivers looking to scale back their schedules in anticipation of their retirement should share driving duties with a developping driver, so the team could remain competetive on a weekly basis and give them a chance for greater success as their career reach their twilights. Without a full time run for a team, you suffer from the Bill Elliott problem - Either race with an inferior team or look elsewhere.

While I still think Mark Martin has the right idea with running a full time Truck Series schedule next year, I remain skeptical about his chances on the Cup Side. Perhaps if he splits duties with Boris Said, something interesting could happen. Splitting the driver duties has served many a Cup driver well in the Busch series, where one week a top tier car will see a big name star like Kevin Harvick or Matt Kenseth, and the next it will be piloted by an up and coming rookie. This meshes well with the developing trend of splitting up major sponsorship deals with the same car -- One sponsor picks it up when the star is driving, and another gets it while the rookie is in the same car. It works equally well with a full time sponsor. The popularity of the star helps endear fans to the rookie, making it easy to root for the rookie so long as the car looks the same as a fan's favorite driver's car.

I can't call myself prophetic - I assumed it was inevitable. But I can't help but smile at the announcement the Wood Brothers made this week.

Schrader will pilot the number 21 for about half the season. The other half will likely go to Wood. (Duh.) It's a good arrangement. It makes sense for Schrader and for the Wood brothers.

With so many legends trying to find a graceful way to exit the sport, and so many sponsorship demands on cars, I see this becoming a major trend over the next few years - one that could radically alter the dynamics of many races as competetive teams go for broke in individual races without (as) much care for points for a couple years.

EDIT: Of course, a Ken Schrader / Ricky Rudd combo for the 21 in 2007 would be an old school fan's wet dream.