Idle Thoughts: Midweek Musings

Sprint Cup

It’s still early in the Gen-6 car’s development and NASCAR appears satisfied at least for now on the overall product. (Photo: Getty Images)

The future of both the Brickyard 400 and Bobby Labonte as well as NASCAR considering slowing cars down for better racing are on Pete Pistone’s mind this week.

It’s always sad to watch an athlete’s career near its end but I’m afraid that’s exactly what Bobby Labonte is facing. The decision by JTG Daugherty to try out AJ Allmendinger this week in Michigan doesn’t bode well for Labonte’s immediate future with the team or in the Sprint Cup Series. While Allmendinger gets what for all intents and purposes is a tryout for the No. 47 ride, Labonte will ironically slide over to the Phoenix Racing entry where the "Dinger" has toiled periodically over the last few months. Labonte has done an admirable job working with the one car JTG effort, which continues to face the daunting challenge of being one of the sport’s Davids trying to somehow compete against a garage full of giants. What makes the Labonte situation even sadder is the fact some newer fans to the sport only know the recent story and not all the major accomplishments he’s had in an illustrious career. Labonte is a former Sprint Cup champion with 21 career wins, but will only be remembered by some for what went on during the latter years of his NASCAR career. Unfortunately it’s a frustrating part of all sports and most every athlete goes through it.

The reports of the Brickyard 400’s demise have been greatly exaggerated and if you’re one of those who think NASCAR will soon be gone from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, think again. According to an Indianapolis Star report, while attendance has dropped dramatically since 1994, the Brickyard is still a very profitable event for IMS. Despite overhead including millions of dollars in NASCAR sanction fees to bring in Sprint Cup, Nationwide and GRAND-AM Rolex events, Indianapolis still turns a tidy profit thanks to an estimated $12 million in television money, title sponsorship, ticket sales, concessions and merchandise. There continues to be a great deal of speculation lights will be installed at the historic facility leading to a prime time Brickyard 400 potentially by 2014. Plus a potential Chase schedule shake up may also lead to Indianapolis moving to the head of the playoff schedule to give NASCAR a chance to make a bigger publicity splash. While stock car racing isn’t the best at Indy, expect NASCAR to remain in the "Circle City" for some time to come.

Speaking of the racing, generally the first 14 races of the Sprint Cup season have been fairly competitive. But strung out events like last Sunday’s at Pocono and the more often than not lackluster 1.5-mile product has again sparked conversation about whether slowing the cars down in the name of competition should be considered. Let’s face it; there is no difference to the naked eye or those watching on television of a racecar going 200 mph or 175 mph. However there’s a huge difference on what a driver can do on the track at either of those speeds. It seems a logical conclusion there would be more side by side racing if drivers weren’t just hanging on for dear life trying to negotiate corner speeds north of 205 mph in some cases. It’s still early in the Gen-6 car’s development and NASCAR appears satisfied at least for now on the overall product. However there’s always room for improvement. Fast does not necessarily translate to furious racing, which is what all fans want on a more consistent basis.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

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NASCAR Sprint Cup

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