Preseason Desk Cleaning

Saturday Night’s All Right- Among the changes hinted at in the 2004 Winston Cup schedule is more races run on Saturday night. NASCAR is “strongly recommending” that tracks without lights add them. The standard argument against Saturday night racing is that it will hurt the local short tracks because patrons will stay home to watch “the big leagues.” There’s an element of truth to that argument, but there’s also two other things to consider. First off, a whole lot of local short tracks are already hurting without having to go up against Saturday night Winston Cup races. Secondly the networks are calling the shots now, and an appeal to common decency isn’t going to change their minds.

It’s time that the big leagues and the bullring promoters realize they need to work together. For the local track operator every new fan that gets turned onto Winston Cup racing is a potential new customer or even competitor. And the star drivers and wrenches of today’s Saturday night bullring are the future of Winston Cup, the Busch series and the truck series.

Some of sort of co-promotion ought to be possible. Maybe a short track promoter could work with his or her nearest Cup track to sponsor an occasional “Winston Cup Night”. (You don’t want to use the word “NASCAR”. They’ll make you pay for it.) Ticket stubs from that night’s event would be good for ten dollars off on a Winston Cup ticket. Maybe the Cup track would also allow the local track to hand out a five dollar off coupon good at the concession stands, a buy one-get two beer coupon or something similar. The notion is to tell Cup race fans, hey, come out to your local short track and it’s basically going to cost you nothing since you’re going to the Cup race anyway. Give us a shot on the house. Maybe the promoter could arrange for a couple Cup show cars to be on hand that night, or better yet a Winston Cup driver to sign autographs. After all most Cup drivers started out on the bullrings and now that they’re rich they ought to be willing to give something back to the spawning grounds that are responsible for their careers.

Cup promoters could help out the local short tracks simply by having a page in the programs pointing out what short tracks are in the area and where they’re located. I was amazed at my former address how many people living in the area didn’t know there was a dynamite local dirt track less than 20 minutes drive away. Similarly I was surprised how many fans at Pocono didn’t realize they could spend Saturday night at a local short track and still be back at the motel in plenty of time to get enough sleep prior to the next day’s Cup race.

Local track operators might want to consider an occasional Sunday afternoon race on weeks when the Cup guys race Saturday night. Local racing programs typically offer thrilling action, but they tend to run a little late for parents wanting to bring along younger kids. Those children are the race fans of the future so staging a matinee race with cheap admission for the kids is an investment in the track’s future.

If they’re serious about greater minority participation in the future, NASCAR should probably get involved with the co-promotion as well. A minority driver is not going to show up capable of running Winston Cup races overnight. Having the opportunity to race at the local level at a more moderate cost allows more people of any color, gender or ethnicity to participate. The winnowing process to separate the wheat from the chaff occurs at that level, and given time a more diverse crop of Cup racers will emerge in the future.

The Other McLaughlin- Less than three weeks prior to the season opening Busch race long time series competitor Mike McLaughlin and his championship winning crew chief Harold Holly got a nasty little surprise. It seems the race team they hooked their wagon to wasn’t paying the bills and as such Robert Yates wanted his cars and engines back. The team has folded and the future of both men is up in the air. This close to the big dance there’s not that many partners left free out there.

A lot of people jumped to the assumption that the team’s sponsor, Wired Flyer, was the cause of the chaos, because after all they are one of those dang dot com businesses and we all know what a den of thieves the Internet is. Truth be told, Wired Flyer lived up to their end of the deal, and in fact participated in efforts to keep the venture going once the team owners pulled out.

The Security Czar- NASCAR has hired a new czar of security to study and recommend changes necessary at all tracks for security’s sake. (Not safety, security.) NASCAR will use this gent’s report to come up with “some minimum standards of security” all tracks will have to adhere to. Maybe I’m too cynical but this sure does sound like a whole lot of effort just to tell non-ISC tracks they no longer have the option of allowing full size coolers onto the premises. I mean, dang, with all the dangers in the garage area, the possibility of terrorists in the grandstands disguised as beer drinking bubbas lugging Playmate coolers, and psychos laying in wait for our drivers, I’m beginning to think it’d be a lot safer to just stay home.

Going Digital- One unexpected benefit of my equally unexpected relocation was moving into an area where the Speed Channel is available. During my recuperation and with no NASCAR racing on TV I’ve spent a lot of hours catching up on what I missed. I watched all of the Barrett-Jackson auction, and watch most of the muscle car and hot rod stuff. (How come there’s no Car Craft TV?) Admittedly bored, beered and bemused I watched European semi trucks with water cooled brakes race in Finland. I watched the Dakar rally. (Is there some axiom that the uglier a car is the more likely it is to finish the Dakar? Damn, some of those circus wagons make a Honda Element look like a Duesenberg.) But I guess my favorite stuff is the Austrailian Touring car races. The cars have the right V8 rumble and the drivers have the proper “no quarter asked, no quarter given” attitude towards racing. It’s apparent that the Australians don’t quite have this stock car racing stuff figured out yet though. They only race on road courses. The memo K-Mart is Chapter 11 apparently hasn’t reached Australia yet. And stranger still, the Fords and Holdens look enough like their street counterparts you can tell the Falcons from the Monaros with a quick glance. How can you call that sort of thing “stock” car racing?

I’ll have to admit as much as I like watching those races however I’m baffled as to what’s going on at least half the time. They seem to repeat every race at least ten times. Does anyone know if any of the rebroadcasts are available with English subtitles for those of us who don’t speak Australian?

A Public Safety Warning- I hear Mariah Carey is going to sing the National Anthem prior to the Daytona 500. You might want to bolt the cat to the floor prior to Ms. Carey hitting the last word of the line “The home of the free.” Beats having to scrape him off the ceiling afterwards.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2003

Photos

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