Category Archives: NASCAR

What is wrong with NASCAR? – Nothing!

The last couple of years if you read any commentary about NASCAR you would read about declining attendance at the track and ratings on TV. It is sad to see the pictures of massive grand stands with very few fans. It’s also sad to see the TV ratings lower than the year before. It is easy to say there is something wrong with NASCAR and fans are leaving the sport. But are they? Can we know if they are?

NASCAR is a product of their own success; there are so many ways to keep in touch with the sport that going to the track is less important than it was years ago. NASCAR has apps, the networks have apps, we can keep in touch with the action no matter where we are. NASCAR embraced Twitter and Facebook; there are updates on the race there. Even the fans are engaged on Facebook and Twitter. If you wanted to know what was going on at a race and check in on it, you can and no one would know about it. It doesn’t show up in the ratings and you are not seen at the track. It literally looks like no one cares.

How about the racing, isn’t that what it is about. Well the racing is better than ever. Each and every week we have not one but about 15 drivers who can win a race. Sure there are some that seem to have a better shot than others but the days of 5 or fewer cars on the lead lap are over. Oh, the good old days where maybe five drivers had a shot and were on the lead lap but usually less. It’s hard to see people tweet and talk about the good old days.

Sure the “at the track” attendance is lacking. Much is said about the Xfinity and Truck race attendance being light but back in 2001 to 2005 even those series did not have great attendance unless they were at a stand-alone short track. Those series at a 70-90 thousand seat track never filled the seats. It was mind boggling going to one of those races, passing fans in the campground that were not. Now those tracks look even worse when shown on TV.

I stopped going to tracks as media because I felt I was losing touch with the sport. I don’t want to pick on any track but last year at Chicagoland Speedway I went for the first time ever as a fan for the whole race weekend. I bought the whole package and received a Fan Zone Pit Pass. On the first day, the ARCA race, I tried to go to the infield for the prerace. The security guard told me that I could not but he let me anyway but  he said you won’t be able to do that tomorrow. I did and I was the only “Fan” there other than friends and family of ARCA drivers. If you want people to think that there is a party that they need to be a part of, shouldn’t there be people on TV at the party. Why so exclusive?

On Friday for the Truck race and Saturday for the Xfinity race I could not only go to the prerace in the infield I couldn’t go on pit road and look at the trucks and cars? Again, If this should be a party you should be a part of shouldn’t we have people at the Party? TV is great at showing parties. They love that but if there is no one there then they have to fish a story. It won’t be about the party. In support of Chicagoland Speedway, they did give me access to the infield and pit road before the Cup race. It was the party I’m talking about.

This year I went to Charlotte Motor Speedway. Just like Chicagoland I was given pit passes. This time for the Xfinity race it was only good during the race. No prerace, no seeing the cars lined up before the race. For the Cup race, just like Chicagoland, it was what was expected. As I said above, why the limit, they should have a party and make it available for TV so that it appears that it is the place to be.

So what is wrong with NASCAR? Nothing is! NASCAR, the tracks and TV need to make it something you need to attend, something you need to watch. It has to be a party you have to be at.

Feature Photo Credit: 309149 Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Retires, This too Shall Pass

This week Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced that this year will be his last year driving in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. NASCARs most popular driver would no longer be driving next year.

I just wanted the opportunity to go out on my own terms.”, said Earnhardt.

Social Media and Sirius/XM NASCAR lit up with fans saying that NASCAR is over; it will never survive. Some claim that as much as 65% of all fans are Dale Jr. fans and most will not continue watching because he will not be there. We have been there before.

When Dale Earnhardt died, similar claims were made by fans. Afterword’s, I remember going to races and seeing Dale Earnhardt fans wearing the No. 3 Goodwrench gear at the track or in the campgrounds. I really enjoyed hearing the stories of what they saw him do on the track, how he put the bumper to someone. I enjoyed hearing how they met him one time, got to shake his hand, and get his autograph.

When the race was over these same fans would say; wow did you see what Harvick did. (Kevin Harvick was the driver of the No. 3 now renumbered 29 Goodwrench Chevy.)  Regardless, NASCAR went on. The years after were some of the most popular years of the sport.

Photo Credit: 348791 Jamie Squire/ALLSPORT
Photo Credit: 348791 Jamie Squire/ALLSPORT

I am certain that next year there will still be many members of “Junior Nation” in the campground and in the stands. They will also be recalling to all who will listen what Dale Earnhardt Jr. did on the track. They will also tell all who ask and some who don’t about when they got to meet him. I am certain that after the race they will say; did you see what Chase Elliott did in turn four? Kyle Larson was really tearing out the outside groove or “Insert new hot shoe driver here” in the 88 really took it to them this week.

One thing that’s made this career the incredible ride that it’s been is Junior Nation.” Earnhardt Jr. added, “The fan support that I received straight out of the gate was in large part because of my famous last name.  But throughout the ups and downs it occurred to me that the fans that stuck it out and the new ones that joined us, they were there because of the person I was and not who they wanted me to be.

If you are a member of “Junior Nation” you will still be one but you are in a position to broaden your experience. This is why we love NASCAR.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.

Feature Photo Credit: 348787 ISC Archives via Getty Images

NASCAR Racing Begins with ARCA Racing in More Ways Than One

The seemingly long off season for Stock Car racing is almost over. The season actually begins with the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards opening at Daytona International Speedway. The  Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with open with their exhibition race The Clash at Daytona several hours later. But in some ways NASCAR Cup racing begins with ARCA racing.

In years past many future Monster Energy NASCAR Cup stars got their start in the ARCA Racing Series. Ryan Newman won this race in 2001, Kyle Busch in 2004 and James Buescher in 2009 but many others got important experience by racing this race and in this series.

In 2014, Cup driver Chase Elliott started fifth and finished ninth in this race. Daniel Suarez was also in this race started third and finished fifth. Suarez was also in the race in 2015 starting sixth and finishing second.

Last year we had some future NASCAR stars in this race; NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers Cole Custer (10th) and William Byron (2nd), also NASCAR Camping World Truck driver Chase Briscoe (4th). Camping World Truck driver Grant Enfinger won this race in 2014 and 2015.

This year we have Xfinity Driver Matt Tifft in this race.  20 year old Tifft was a NASCAR Next driver in 2016.  17 year old Riley Herbst driving full time in the ARCA series for Joe Gibbs Racing will also be a rising star to watch.

John Wes Townley won this race last year and retired from all racing at the end of the season.

As always though these big money NASCAR teams will have to contend with the ARCA regulars like eight time winner of this race Bobby Gerhart in his legendary No. 5 Lucas Oil Machine.

If you cannot get to Daytona International Speedway for the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards; Lucas Oil Complete Engine Treatment 200 Driven by General Tire it will be shown on Fox Sports 1 on February 18th at 4 PM ET.

Feature Photo Credit ARCA Racing

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.

In NASCAR it is all about Rules, Embrace them!

As we enter the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series there are a lot of rules changes. Many will think that this series is totally different than it was in 2016. The biggest change is how points are awarded and carried into the Chase for the Cup. The other change is the running of races in segments and awarding points for leading those segments. Gone are points for leading a lap. If you are not up to speed with these changes read these from Dustin Long at NBC.

If you have watched NASCAR for a while you know that Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus are the gold standard to using the NASCAR rule book to their advantage. They have embraced the Chase format and taken advantage of it like no other team.

In football there is a reason there are 4 downs, a two minute warning, half time and each team has a limited amount of time outs. It is all about controlling TV time and the commercials that pay for it and keeping the fans attention. Whether you like it or not, Brian France has made these changes to balance the whole viewing experience.

People for years have argued that too many green flag laps were lost during commercials. Many have also criticized the sometimes monotonous green flag laps of single file racing that occurs at the larger tracks. Another criticism is that since some races are very long it appears that many drivers are just biding their time waiting for “Go Time” to actually race. Whether that is true or not only they know but some people think that.

Last year’s big change was the addition of a Caution Clock in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Yes it impacted racing but did it kill it. I think because it was apparent they were on the clock it made the racing better and didn’t detract from it. All in all it made the experience better.

Two years ago I was at Daytona for the 500. Approximately 1/3 of the way in I had to use the facilities and couldn’t wait for a caution flag. While I was behind the stands in the relative quiet I talked with some people and had a cocktail for ten minutes. If you know Daytona I missed perhaps 10 laps. It was refreshing to take a break, take the head phones off and chill. Why I never did that in 16 years of going to races I don’t know.

I’m looking at these segments as just that. A time to reflect on what’s happened, perhaps chat with friends you are with about it; charge back up and enjoy the race. Embrace the Change, you may just like it!

Feature Photo Credit: 305378 Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.

Loves Travel Stops Continues Sponsoring the No. 34 with Landon Cassill

Landon Cassill was spotted getting his new 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Ford Fusion serviced at a Loves in Salisbury North Carolina today.

Front Row Motorsports announced in December that Landon Cassill would be back driving for them this coming season but would switch from their number 38 Ford to the number 34. Cassill, in his first season driving for Front Row had seven top-20 finishes but more importantly finished 98% of the total laps.

Cassill posted an emotional farewell on his Facebook page saying his goodbye to the No. 38 and hello to change. Set to Toto’s song Africa he held up flash cards talking about this change.

It was my choice. A choice for my family, my team, my sponsors and my car owner. The original FRM legacy. The number that signifies a small team going to the big leagues. The number that has seen victory lane. Twice. It’s ok to cry. But remember were here to evolve and inspire. I can’t wait for 2017, and I know we will find a fun, new campaign even better than the 2016.” Landon Cassill via flash cards.

Front Row Motorsports is continuing their relationship with Roush Fenway and Roush Yates Engines. They are bringing David Ragan, who got their first win in the No. 34, back to drive the No. 38.

Loves Travel Stops sponsored the number 34 last year for 18 races with Chris Buescher. It appears from the picture that they are continuing their sponsorship for 2017. We will know how many races sometime in the coming weeks.

Feature Photo Credit: John Vass

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.