Year in review, In my opinion


Hello race fans. It’s been weeks since the last race and review. And a week since the Awards banquet in New York City. I want to do something about the twelve Chase drivers later, but today I’d like to do an In My Opinion post. I started watching NASCAR in 1996. So I may not be one of the longest running fans to the Sport, but I am by no means a newcomer. I started watching when, in my opinion, it was real racing. There was no Chase. So the Champion had to be great all 36 weeks, instead of just the last 10 races. The season was 36 races long, instead of 26, like it is now. Winston sponsored the Series, and they didn’t mind other cigarette companies being sponsors of other cars.

Television made the cigarette sponsors go away. As you know, today the Sponsor is Sprint. Of course when Winston went away in 2003, Nextel took over. They signed a ten year contract with NASCAR, starting in 2004. And no other telecommunications companies could sponsor a car if they didn’t already sponsor a car. AT&T was only a part time sponsor at the time, so they couldn’t stay. Altel could stay, and Cingular could stay. Last year, 2007 Sprint took over and it was Nextel Sprint. And in 2008 it was just Sprint.

Kurt Busch, in his #97 Ford became the first Nextel Cup Champion.  Matt Kenseth was the last Winston Cup Champion. Yet Jeff Gordon is credited with four Sprint Cup Championships. Even though Jimmy Johnson is the only actual Sprint Cup Champion, since he won this year, the first year with Sprint as the sponsor. I have a problem with that, as I’m sure many of you out there do as well. Nextel took over, and there never had been a Winston Cup Series. Winston Cup had a cup as a trophy. That was why the Series was called Winston Cup. Nextel comes along and keeps the Cup part of it, but designs their own trophy. It’s no longer a cup. So, I have to ask, why is it Cup racing when the trophy is no longer a cup? And when Sprint took over and it was Sprint Cup, they did the same thing. It has always been Sprint Cup and where does the Cup part of it fit in?
Cingular merged with AT&T, so Cingular is no longer a sponsor. But AT&T cannot be a sponsor because when Nextel took over they were not a sponsor. I don’t get it. Why can Nextel merge with Sprint and Sprint take over, but Cingular can’t merge with AT&T, and AT&T take over? Nextel signed a ten year contract in 2004, but in 2008 it was no longer Nextel.

In 2003 Matt Kenseth won the Championship with only one win. But he was consistently in the top ten and no one could catch him. Brian France took over for his father Bill France, Jr. and got rid of Winston and signed on Nextel. And started the Chase for the Nextel (now Sprint) Cup. Because Matt had only one win. He wanted a play off like in football. He wanted to get the football fans to watch NASCAR. But all that did, in my opinion, was alienate the long time fans. The football fans went back to watching football. And NASCAR is stuck with this version of playoffs. Because the media likes it.

Jimmy Johnson won two Nextel Championships in a row and this year he won the Sprint Cup Championship. That, according to the media, gives him three Sprint Cup Championships in a row. It’s actually three Series Championships in a row and quite a feat. He’s the only one to do it since Cale Yarborough did it thirty years ago. Jimmy Johnson and his Crew Chief Chad Knouse have figured out how to be good at the last ten tracks of the season. These days, all you have to do is get into the top twelve at the end of 26 races to be able to compete for the Championship. So, in my opinion, the season is now only ten races long. With all 43 cars competing in those last ten races. How is that a playoff? But that’s just my opinion.

Tv coverage isn’t very good, despite a new contract, in my opinion. Too much emphasis is on the Chase, as early as the first race at Daytona. We all know ABC moved the last laps to ESPN2 so they could show America’s funniest Home Videos. I have to ask if they would have done that with football. And my answer is no way. The network covers NASCAR, but it isn’t with the same passion as with football.

So, what do we fans do? Speaking for myself, I will continue to watch and follow NASCAR. Because that is my Passion. I love NASCAR.  But something is wrong here. And I don’t like it.  The new car makes it IROC. And who wants to see IROC every week? And who wants Sprint to take credit for all past Champions? Not me. The problem is Brian France and the media. They want more followers, but are unwilling to keep the fans they had. and the football fans aren’t willing to give up their football just because NASCAR has a Chase.

Brought to you by Sheila Hawley

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