Sunday, December 04, 2016

NASCAR Going Forward In 2017

NASCAR finally secured sponsorship for the Winston Cup Grand National tour in the Monster energy drink brand.

So what to make of NASCAR going forward?

That it took so long for this sponsorship deal to get hammered out was not a positive sign for Brian France, and the details that have emerged are not as encouraging as securing of a new title series sponsor would otherwise entail - the figure is that Sprint telecommunications was providing $50 to $70 million per year (where RJ Reynolds was at $39 million when the government in essence killed its sponsorship) and that this deal entails only $20 million per year.

This is yet another sign that the spendaholism in racing requires serious countermeasure.   The series has declined in value and thus in revenue, and the spending in NASCAR - called "a bottomless pit of spending" by the former head of KMart when in 2002 he announced he was ending his company's NASCAR team sponsorship program - has been the force driving up costs.   At what point NASCAR and teams figure out there is need for a comprehensive spending control program remains a disturbing uncertainty, especially given that the warning signs have been there for over ten seasons.

Brian France talked about NASCAR's desire to reach younger fans with this Monster drink sponsorship, but it begs the question - just what entails "reaching out to younger fans"?   Brian France's net result of his leadership has been tilted toward dumbing down the sport, showcased in his justification of the failed Chase format as providing "Game Seven moments" for racing - and it shows in the sport's manifest decline in popularity.   And as the recent Presidential election showed, the myth of Millenials is just that - a myth; Millenials proved irrelevant.    So is the "younger fanbase" something NASCAR really should worry about?   It assumes those youngsters who don't get interested in racing now won't get interested later, which undersells people's adaptability and also ignores that a notable percentage of NASCAR's fans have been "late bloomers." 

Yet another sign of the sport's approaching austerity period is the disbanding of Roush Performance's #16 team following Greg Biffle's departure.   Once one of the three dominant teams in NASCAR, Roush Performance's irrelevance only becomes more graphic, to where it was effectively impossible to see even one win out of a Roush car; now with two drivers in Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse with no particular fighting potential it becomes even less likely any kind of success will come to the Roush outfit.


So with seemingly so little to look forward to - after a forgettable 2016 season with an unpopular champion and an illegitimate playoff format now made universal for NASCAR's major touring series, to go with a continuing lack of lead changes - one has to ask if there is anything worth looking forward to for 2017.

One of the few positives of 2016 was Toyota's defeat of Chevrolet in the manufacturer championship.   The controversy over the legitimacy of Chevrolet's participation in NASCAR has been the oldest gripe in the sport's history and seeing a rival brand shame Chevrolet everywhere except the driver title is only a positive.

The 2016 season also saw several new winners after going 25 months without one, and outside of Cup and the Xfinity Series the Truck Series saw memorable races at Daytona, Kansas, Texas, and Michigan; Xfinity's Firecracker 250 at Daytona and also its two Bristol races also resurrected some of the sport's competition vinegar; the same was true at Pocono in August.  

Then there is also the eye-opening interview with Sergio Marchionne, the head honcho of Fiat-Chrysler America, which now owns Dodge.   Marchionne stated that he wants Dodge to return to NASCAR, saying he had spoken to NASCAR  made the decision to disband the program in 2009 as the parent company had to work its way out of bankruptcy, with Dodge continuing with Penske Racing 2010-12.   Marchionne stated he has spoken to NASCAR executive VP Jim France. 

One has of course to see it to believe it - and it does beg the question of why Honda has shown no interest in the series.  

In any event, it is what it is to coin a football cliché, so NASCAR plods toward its 2017.

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