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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Season In Review: Attendance

Thanks to Jayski.com, I was able to shed some light upon a very common issue in the 2009 Sprint Cup season. This re-occurring problem is attendance.

Everyone seems to make a big deal if the races aren't sold out or not close to it. But, here's the thing, even in tough times, the attendance is not that bad. The first thing that people must consider, is the track size. If it is remembered that there are big tracks, with grandstands all around, it can be tough to fill all seats, especially when there are 100,000 to fill.

Another thing to remember, the attendance is still very large when it is not full to the max. Take the first Dover race for example. There were 147,000 available seats to be filled, however they did not sell out. In fact they had around 32 % of the seating empty. Yet, they still had 100,000 fans packed in at the track. That's more than most stadiums could ever fill.

Don't forget the infield either. In some cases this year, the attendance was higher than the seating, most likely because of the infield capacity. In the first Texas race, there were 176,300 people there, but the seating capacity was 158,000. That's pretty good.

Here's another booster. At the rain delay for the Watkins Glen race in August, the estimated crowd for Monday was only off 5,000 people from Sunday's race. It seems like a lot, but it really isn't. I was attending that race(even on Monday) and I was very impressed in the amount of people at the track. It wasn't even that noticeable.

My point here is this: there is not that big of a problem with NASCAR's attendance. Certainly, it is not exactly what it used to be, but it is still doing pretty good. Don't forget, NASCAR isn't the only thing struggling out there.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Can anyone stop HMS?

NASCAR has pretty much always had both haves and have-nots among its roster of competitors, but increasingly, Hendrick Motorsports seems to be becoming the one have heads and shoulders over the have-nots

Other traditional haves in the sport, like Roush Fenway Racing and especially Richard Childress Racing seem to have fallen off their thrones at least somewhat in 2009. Roush Fenway does have three wins across its five Sprint Cup Series entries, but two of those were Matt Kenseth's two victories in the first two races of the season. Roush hasn't really been heard of since, except for one win courtesy of Jamie McMurray a few weeks ago. And this is with last season's win leader on the Roush-Fenway roster -- Carl Edwards who visited victory lane nine times a year ago.

The five-car organization only has two cars in the Chase, and one of the three Roush drivers on the outside looking in is Matt Kenseth -- a driver who had been in the Chase every year since its inception until 2009.

Things over at RCR have been even more dismal. The four-car organization hasn't visited a Sprint Cup victory lane a single time this season, and the team was completely shut out of the Chase field in 2009 for the first time since the Chase was created.

Joe Gibbs Racing, on the other hand, does seem to be weathering the storm. All three of its drivers have visited Sprint Cup victory lane at least once this season, and a couple of its drivers have multiple wins -- Kyle Busch with five and Denny Hamlin with three. A third of the JGR organization is in the Chase (Hamlin), and one of its other two drivers (Busch) just barely missed out.

Even with Gibbs' success, the team doesn't seem to have anything to stop the Hendrick Motorsports juggernaut. Not only are three of the team's cars in the Chase, they hold the top-three positions in the points standings heading into the final race of the season -- Sunday's Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Only HMS drivers have a mathematical shot at the Sprint Cup trophy on Sunday -- leader Jimmie Johnson, second-place Mark Martin, and third-place Jeff Gordon. Gordon, however, will be eliminated from contention when Johnson starts the race on Sunday, leaving the other two HMS Chase drivers to battle it out for the champion's trophy.

"I think that having the two teams battling for the championship and then with the 24 car (Gordon) right there on our heels, I think it's raised the production of the whole company up a bunch," Johnson's crew chief, Chad Knaus said. "So we're real happy with that."

While it looks like Johnson pretty much has the 2009 title in the bag, whether or not Martin is able to overcome the odds to claim his first Cup, the 2009 title will go to Hendrick Motorsports for the fourth-consecutive year (Johnson has won the previous three, and his going for a record-breaking fourth-straight).

This year team owner Rick Hendrick will claim his fifth Sprint Cup this decade (Gordon won his fourth title in 2001).

Do the folks at Hendrick Motorsports know something nobody at any of the other teams does? Do they have that many more resources than everybody else? Is the tandem of driver Johnson and crew chief Knaus really that better than everyone else?

"We've had a really good season, obviously," Knaus said. "I think that with Alan and Mark running as competitive as they have this year, very similar to when the 24 car was running as well as what they were a couple years ago, having that internal competition I think has really helped our team and helped our company, actually, to rise to a better level."

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hey! We Might Have A Rivalry

After the Nationwide Series race at Phoenix International Raceway, we might just have a rivalry. Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski have been know for their love-to-hate relationship. It has gone on now for about one and a half years. The story even continued into the race on Saturday.

Denny Hamlin gave Brad Keselowski a little love tap on a restart, which was soon transformed into Denny's problem more than Brad's. The very next corner, Brad gave him a "what the heck!" tap, and then another one, the second one resulting into a little spin and scare for Hamlin.

Now it makes the media along with the fans wonder, is this finally the rivalry that NASCAR needs? The answer is yes.

Over the past few years, everybody seems to be making something of nothing. People keep trying to make something into a rivalry that doesn't exist. An example could be Dale Earnhardt Jr and Kyle Busch, or Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch, but none have seem to have had any flair. This time however, it is a little different.

The real major difference is that it has happened several times. They have gotten together on or off the track for several reasons as of late, which makes remids many fans of a rivalry. They also make it clear in all their interviews by saying how much they dislike each other, especially Denny Hamlin. They don't seem to want to call each other up and apologize to each other and then go out for some tea. They actually seem to keep the rivalry going, instead of making everyone excited just to be disappointed.

And it's not just Denny Hamlin who is upset with Keselowski. It seems to be Kyle Busch, along with many others who have noted Brad's aggressive driving. Even Kyle Busch's Nationwide Series crew chief had mentioned something about Keselowski in an in race interview. Sounds like a lot of attention has been put on this.

Now for some reason, drivers seem to be afraid of this. They don't like it at all. However, they need to get over it. This is exactly what NASCAR needs. It's time for some beating and banging, it's time for some good old racin'.

I applaud NASCAR for keeping Brad from any penalties. Maybe NASCAR has realized that the fans want this, well at least most of them. Obviously Denny Hamlin fans are not happy, but hey that's what a rivalry is about. If the fans get fired up and excited and into it, it's even better.

Now, let's look into the future. Will this continue? Will there be more rubbin and racing between the two of them? The answer seems to be yes. The two drivers never seem to get over their problems. And don't forget, they'll be racing a lot more now that Keselowski will move to the Cup series and Nationwide series full time in 2010. Now that's adding more fuel to the fire. Now, one last tip to NASCAR: Let em' race!!

So, you think the Chase is over?

By Paul Denton

Thursday, November 12, 2009

So, you think the Chase is over? Not yet

Jimmie Johnson's 38th-place finish at Texas was a godsend for Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon. That 184-point lead that the No. 48 rolled into the Lone Star State is now a mere 73 points (or one more wrecked race car during the final two races).
There's still hope ... for Martin's first Cup Series championship.
There's still hope ... that Gordon's Drive for Five -- now in its eighth year -- will come to an end.
Technically, to clinch at Phoenix, Johnson needs to:
• Lead by 195 points after the race.
Currently up 73 points, he'll need to gain 122 points at Phoenix. (Realistically, he only needs to lead by 161; he'll start the race and earn at least 43rd-place points.)
To clinch at Homestead, Johnson needs to:
• Average a fourth-place finish over the final two races;
• Fifth and a lap led in each of the final two races;
• Sixth and the most laps led in each of the final two races.
If he does that, he'll clinch no matter what any other driver does.

How Is The New Points System More Boring Than The Old One?

Okay, first of all, I just don't get it. I hear people complain all the time that the old points system is better than the new system. I just don't understand what stats those people are looking at.

If you do look at the stats, if the points were still the "old-fashioned way" Tony Stewart would be leading the points. Now I'm not saying anything against Stewart, what I'm trying to point out is the points lead. It would be 93 points over 2nd place. As I recall, the points lead is currently less than that right not.

The Chase was made to bunch things up and make it exciting, not lock the championship up 5 races sooner than it's supposed to be. Now, I'm not totally going to agree with every little detail of the Chase, because I believe there needs to be some tweaks. The thing that is just impossible to understand is how the heck can people say it's worse than the old system.

At some point people have got to give NASCAR some sort of credit. They are trying to make it exciting in some way, but yet the people are still not satisfied. Some people are never happy with NASCAR anymore but yet comtinue to watch it. The sport needs positive engergy from both the fans and the media. As of late, there is way too much negative energy.

So a little advice to people: Give it some time to be better. Let change be a good thing because either way, it will happen.

DO NOT Count Out Mark Martin Just Yet

Jimmie Johnson has lost his points lead drastically. Well, at least most of it. But he still has a well-cushioned lead of 73 points over Mark Martin with 2 races left in the 2009 season. The thing is, people still seem to think it is over but, it's not. However, it very well might be, and I even think it might be. But do not ever count out anybody in this sport, especially if it's Mark Martin.

Mark is very hungry for that first championship. Jimmie Johnson is also very hungry, although you would think that he would be full. Mark Martin even knows he still has a chance. In fact, he probably is the only one with the chance to beat Jimmie Johnson this year.

The only way Jimmie is to lose this one, is if he messes up. He already had one bad race, now the pressure is on. The pressure might just get to that team, even though they handle it well all the time. This pressure, is quite different, as there is probably no pressure like going into the history books. Mark Martin, he doesn't care about pressure, he just wants to go out and win it. He knows he is the underdog in the battle, so there is no need for pressure. Now if it tightens up even more going into Homestead, then the pressures on. At that point, it is just who handles it the best.

The championship will be going until the end or as some people might say, until the fat lay sings. And she will, don't you worry. She will not sing at Phoenix however.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Race Preview: Phoenix

Chase race number 9. It's almost over, but not exactly. The points lead shrank in half this past weekend at Texas, and Mark Martin is there to take it over. But who should everyone look out for this weekend? Well, let's take a look:

* Kurt Busch- He's got a crew chief that is going to be leaving at the end of the year. He wants to win as much as he can before they part ways. This also might be the last race for him and Pat Tryson. It was said that he would leave when they did not have a shot at the championship, and that could be after this race. He also just won at Texas. Now that makes it a little easier to feel happy and confident.

* Kyle Busch- He dominated the race last weekend along with his brother, and if he didn't run out of gas, he would have won. He also has a new crew chief. As they communicate more and more, it might just get even better, and besides, you can never under-estimate Kyle Busch.

* Mark Martin- How could you not include this guy as a favorite?! He won here in the spring, and he's always hungry for more wins! Plus, he's hungry to win that championship. He's hunting down Jimmie Johnson and is making up points. All he can do is win, and we know he can do that.

* Jimmie Johnson- He always runs well everywhere, duh!(well, unless he wrecks)

* Dale Earnhardt Jr- He's won here before, and he seems to be really clicking with Lance McGrew. Hope is back with that team, they just have to get rid of the bad luck. You might not want to look for a win, but a good run is very likely.

* Kevin Harvick- He always seems to do well at the short tracks, and the team really seems to be turning it around for next year. So what if he's not at RCR in 2011?

Maybe one of these guys will win, and maybe not. NASCAR is still very competitive, so know one can really know for sure. 34 down, 2 to go!

This Championship Might Not Be Over

Everyone has to rewrite their last few articles about the championship. Because things have changed drastically. At least according to Carl Edwards who mentioned something along the lines of that on the radio.

And he might be right. The championship is as close as it might ever be if your racing against Jimmie Johnson. The points might also change completely. 73 points can seem like a lot, but it really isn't. One bad race for the 48, one very good race for the 5, and they'll at least have to put on a show to decide the champion. And it IS possible for Jimmie to have a bad run. It just happened last week, even though I had to rub my eyes to make sure that I was seeing the write thing.

It's not over yet, and will not likely be over until the final race at Homestead. No matter what the points lead is, there will be a pretty good chance that it won't be locked up this weekend.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Where have all the Dodges gone?

It seems like just a few years ago when Dodge had a significant amount of representation in the Sprint Cup garage as far as numbers go. There was Chip Ganassi Racing, Evernharm Motorsports, Penske Racing, and Petty Enterprises to name a few.

With team mergers, Dodge seems to be the manufacturer that has fallen by the wayside. Evernham and Petty merged awhile back, making two Dodge teams one. Then the resulting team, Richard Petty Motorsports, announced a merger with Yates Racing, resulting in a switch to Ford.

Before the Petty-Yates merger, the Ganassi organization merged with Dale Earnhardt Inc. to form Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. With the former DEI fielding Chevrolets and CGR running Dodges, a common manufacturer had to be decided on upon the merger. The new team went to Chevrolet, meaning another decrease in Dodges on the racetrack.

As on now, it looks as if Penske Racing will be the only Sprint Cup Series team that will be putting Dodges on the track in 2010. Penske's three cars to be driven by Kurt Busch, Sam Hornish Jr., and Brad Keselowski appear to be the only ones that will be "grabbing life by the horns" when the green flag waves on the 2010 Sprint Cup season.

Pontiac pulled out of the sport several years ago by manufacturer's choice, General Motors making the move to focus on a single manufacturer -- Chevrolet. Is Dodge following by the wayside, because teams just don't want a Dodge anymore?

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