Posts Tagged ‘Nextel Cup’

Chase For The Sprint Cup Finale: Two Drivers, One Race

November 20, 2011

Welcome NASCAR race fans to my NASCAR blog. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and the Chase for the Sprint Cup comes down to one final race, the Ford 400, at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. This will be a race between two drivers, three points apart. Let’s take a look at them.

Carl Edwards sits at the top of the points with his one win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the beginning of the year. That win gave him three points more than Tony Stewart heading into the Chase, as Tony had not won a race in the first 26 races of the regular season. Carl was Mr. Consistency all through the chase. Tony won four of the nine races in the chase so far. They both earned the same amount of points in the chase. The difference is the three points for winning in the regular season. Now it comes down to one race between these two drivers.

Tony has two championships, Carl has none as yet. Although Carl had the most wins in a year, Jimmie Johnson won the championship that year.

Tony won the 2002 Winston Cup championship, and at the time I felt he was undeserving of the Title, as there was much turmoil all year with him needing anger management a lot of the time. That was this fan’s opinion at the time. Nevertheless, he won the championship by being the best driver all year, collecting the most points. The chase started in 2004, with Kurt Busch winning the first Nextel Cup after starting the chase in seventh place. This fan had to wonder about the point of giving the championship to a seventh place team. The next year Tony won the Nextel Cup by being the best driver in the second half of the season. And this fan had to wonder if he was going to win them all just by being at his best in the last ten races. (I was proven wrong, as Jimmie won the next Nextel Cup and then the next four Sprint Cup championships. I was not proven wrong about the chase, as Jimmie managed this feat by being at his best in the chase.)

Now it comes down to one race and two drivers. (Although 41 other drivers will be racing in the Ford 400.) Carl has won the last two out of three races at Homestead-Miami Speedway. So he knows how to win here. He also sits on the Pole to start the race. Tony has won a championship in this format and he was the last champion to win whose name was not Johnson. He starts the race in fifteenth.

It should be a great race between these two drivers. However, I’m sure the fans of the other 41 drivers will be wanting to see how their driver is doing. Hopefully one or more of these other drivers will be leading the race so the fans will be able to see more of the race than just these two drivers.

This fan is not a fan of the chase. The system was not broken, so I fail to see the need to “fix” it. And many long time fans agree with me. For me, the champion should be the best all year (as Tony was in 2002), not the best in ten races (as Jimmie was). With the new points system of one point for each position, the points are close anyway. So, I don’t see the need for a “playoff” just for the sake of a “playoff”. I don’t see the need to give a 12th place team a better chance to win the Title. There are 36 races in the season and this fan does not like having the last ten races meaning more than the others. Each race is an individual race and they all should  be treated equally. Homestead hosts the final race, but this fan thinks it was more exciting watching the drivers race into and out of the top ten to get on stage at the banquet at years end in this race.

The Ford 400 starts Sunday afternoon and when the Checkered Flag falls, one of the two drivers will take home the Sprint Cup. (Although it is no longer a Cup, but Checkered Flags.) Here’s to an exciting finale to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Season.

Brought to you by Sheila Hawley. I love NASCAR racing.


NASCAR News: Changing the Points System

January 25, 2011

Welcome NASCAR fans to my NASCAR blog. I am not a reporter. I am simply a NASCAR fan. And have been a fan since I saw my first race in 1996. I am not a sports fan. I don’t care to watch football or baseball. But I love watching racing. And fell in love with NASCAR with that first race. I made it a point to learn everything about NASCAR, including how points were given in a race. I never cared how they were doing points-wise during the race. But I kept up with how points were earned and the system made perfect sense to me. If I were handing out points, I would give more to the driver who won. The driver with the most points at the end of the season, wins the trophy. Some years the points are closer than others. And at the end of the year, drivers raced in and out of the top ten in points. Only the top ten in points get to go to the banquet at the end of the year.

In 2003 Matt Kenseth collected the most points and was declared the Champion despite having only one win. At the last race of the year Terry Labonte raced into the top ten and Kurt Busch fell out of the top ten. And it was exciting watching Matt stay in the top ten every race and keep the points lead. Things changed after that 2003 season. And as a relatively long time and definitely Passionate fan, I don’t think the change was good for NASCAR.

In 2004, it was no longer Winston Cup, but Nextel Cup. And later became Sprint Cup. Despite the fact that the trophy was no longer a cup. And NASCAR fans were no longer good enough. More fans needed to be NASCAR fans. Football fans needed to be NASCAR fans. (I really have no idea what Brian’s thinking was. I just interpreted what he did in my own way.) NASCAR needed to have a playoff because all other sports have a playoff. And having a playoff was the only reason anyone watched sports to begin with.

So The Chase was born. The first 26 races were the “regular” season, where drivers raced to get into the chase. The last ten races were the chase where the best driver in those ten races was crowned Champion. Even if he didn’t have the most points in the season. Even if he didn’t have the most wins. It gave the tenth place team a chance to win it all. (My feelings were to ask why crowning a champion based on ten races and giving someone else a chance to win it all would be exciting.)

The first year Kurt Busch was crowned Champion. He was the driver the previous year who fell out of the top ten in that last race of the year. He had a good ten races and was champion. I thought, what a stupid way to crown a champion! Letting a tenth place team win. The next year Tony Stewart was champion. And I thought, what a stupid way to crown a champion – letting a driver who does good in the second half of the season win. And then came Jimmie Johnson. He figured out how to do well in the last ten races. He and crew chief, Chad Knous spend the first 26 races trying things out for the ten chase races. And he has won every championship since 2006.

Now I have to ask why this would be exciting. And I can’t think of why crowning a champion based on ten races would be more exciting than crowning a champion because he was the best all year.

Apparently, other fans felt the same way. The long time fans watched that first year. And thought it was stupid. NASCAR fans don’t want NASCAR to be like other sports. We were quite happy being a unique sport. This is racing, not stick and ball, after all. Television ratings have been going down since 2005 when the chase was now the way a champion was selected. And the ratings have been going down during those last chase races. NASCAR saw the ratings going down. They saw tracks not selling out any more for races. So they tweaked the chase. That didn’t help. Year after year it got worse and worse. The long time NASCAR fans were no longer watching. And the new fans aren’t NASCAR fans.

Now they want to keep the chase, but implement a new point system. The winner gets 43 points and last place gets 1 point. To make it easier for the fans to conceive how points are given. Only, the long time fans already liked the old points system. We all knew how they were given and were comfortable with it. No one had to explain to us how it went. We made a point of finding out because we were fans.

In NASCAR’s effort to gain more fans, they have forgotten  the fans that they once had. By manufacturing excitement. By deciding the last ten races needed to be more exciting than the rest of the season. By not letting the point leader actually win the championship. By making things easier for new fans, who aren’t going to stick around because NASCAR isn’t their Passion. Football fans call NASCAR the “roundy-rounds”. And I have to wonder why we need these fans watching instead of all the fans that were watching before the chase started.

My take on all this? I say put NASCAR back the way it was. It was well received the way it was. Those not in a playoff go home. Not so with NASCAR. All 43 drivers are still racing all the races. Except only 12 of them count. We are told who is in and who is out, after the Daytona 500, the first race of the year! The Daytona 500 used to be the Super Bowl of NASCAR. With the chase, I have to wonder what they are “chasing”. Certainly not to be in the Super Bowl. That was the first race.

What should NASCAR do? Get back to what NASCAR fans liked to begin with. What made the sport the best sport. Why NASCAR became so popular to begin with. Only give a lot more points for winning. That way Matt Kenseth can’t be champion with only one win. The chase is not working. It may be bringing in some fans. But it is chasing away the fans they already had. And shouldn’t those fans be more important than possible new fans? The system wasn’t broken when Brian tried to “fix” it. I say put it back so the long time fans can be Passionate again. Back to racing instead of hype. Dump the manufactured excitement and let us watch 43 drivers racing again. NASCAR is exciting. Racing has always been exciting. You can’t MAKE it so. It just is.

Brought to you by Sheila Hawley. I love NASCAR.

The Rise And Fall of NASCAR

January 15, 2010

Hello, race fans. Welcome to my NASCAR blog. I have been a Passionate follower of NASCAR ever since I saw my first race in 1996. Now, I realize this does not make me a big authority on NASCAR, since I wasn’t around when Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt got their seven championships. (In 1996, Dale already had them.) But, from the moment I first saw that first race, I was hooked. I crave information about the sport. I don’t go anywhere on weekends, because I need to be in front of the television. In fact, in 1998, my brother got married in Texas. While I was there, everyone but me went sight seeing in Houston. I had to stay there and watch Talladega!

I still crave the weekends so I can watch practice, qualifying and racing all weekend. I write a weekly review of the race that weekend and I tell everyone who wants me elsewhere that I have to watch so I can post.  The truth is that there is no where else that I’d rather be.

On Fridays there is qualifying and practice. And if I’m lucky, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is racing somewhere and I may be able to see something on Wed. and Thu. The Big race on Sunday. But a whole weekend of television telling me what is going on.

In the late 1990’s NASCAR was coming on strong. Apparently I was not the only on who “found” NASCAR. Bill France, Jr. was in charge and Winston was the sponsor, gaining fans all the time.  More and more fans were watching all the time. Maybe not as passionate as me, but NASCAR had quite a following back then.

These days, more and more fans are walking away. Many fans complain about the lack of racing in a race. Many fans complain that the racing is boring. (Racing, by definition, is NOT boring!) Ratings are going down. Attendance is falling way short. Sponsors are pulling out. No one wants to watch my beloved NASCAR any more. NASCAR Scene is no longer publishing their weekly newspaper. And my “Bible”  Official NASCAR Review and Press Guide is no longer being published! (What am I going to do?)

So, what happened? I have a few thoughts. Brian France brought in a new era. RJ Reynolds and their Winston brand would be no more. And I mean that literally. When Nextel came in, there was never another name for the series. At Daytona, the first race of the year, announcers were saying Jeff Gordon was a four time NASCAR Nextel Cup champion! NO ONE was a single Nextel Cup champion. It just started. Sprint came along and bought out Nextel and everyone was a NASCAR Sprint Cup champion. By the way, they changed the trophy to look like checkered flags. So, my question is, why did they keep “Cup” when the trophy isn’t even a cup? Apparently so as not to confuse the media.

Matt Kenseth won the last Winston Cup championship in 2003. And points were accumulated over 36 races. But Matt only had one win that year, while several others had multiple wins. It was decided NASCAR needed a playoff to let the driver with the most wins have a better chance to win the trophy, so the Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup was born. The top ten in points after the 26th race in Richmond were in the chase. The best anyone in eleventh place could do was eleventh. And no matter how badly anyone raced those last ten races, the ten could not do any worse than tenth in the final standings. The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is now 12 drivers. The top ten are still honored at the banquet.

The media loved the concept of a playoff. NASCAR had to compete with football those last races, so it was said that if NASCAR had a playoff during those last ten races, everyone would watch the NASCAR playoffs, instead of football. Everyone would tune in to see the playoffs. Fans would flock to those ten NASCAR tracks. A driver wouldn’t be able to run away with the Title and grab it before the last race, making for more excitement. In my opinion, you would get better ratings if the media was talking about the top 25, instead of just the top 12. The point system wasn’t broken, so why the need to “fix” it? Give more points for each win, and the driver with the most wins should win the championship. And everyone would be racing for the win, since second wouldn’t get nearly as many points.

In 2007 NASCAR came out with the COT. The Car Of Tomorrow. All cars will be exactly the same, following NASCAR rules. Many safety features are in the car. But all cars are created equal.  Anyone remember the IROC? (International Race Of Champions) The driver was supposed to make the difference in those races because all cars were prepared equally. As a fan, I loved those races. But they were just special races. Not 36 a year. The cars were hard to get used to because they wouldn’t turn. NASCAR declared that racing was supposed to be hard. What’s the point if it was easy?! Kyle Busch won the first race in the COT and the media asked how he liked the new car. His reply? “It sucks”.

Ratings started going down, but NASCAR was not alarmed. Attendance was down but NASCAR was not alarmed. Finally, someone started the NASCAR Fan Council and polled fans about what they thought. I am proud to say I am one of the members that they poll. NASCAR is now starting to listen. We got double-file restarts. Now they lineup double-file after a caution. So the leaders are ahead of those a lap down. Personally, I love it. It’s a brand new race after the caution.

This year NASCAR is talking about replacing the wing on the back to where it was before the COT. Starting time for the races are back to 1, 3 and 7:30 ET. So, NASCAR is listening. But is it too little, too late? NASCAR Scene is no longer publishing their weekly newspaper. And UMI is no longer publishing their Press Guide.

Sad times for NASCAR fans. I will still be reviewing the races. Leave a comment if you would like me to cover more than just the race on Sunday. You all can get info online. I’ll  miss my printed word, though. And I don’t know what I will do without my Press Guide!

Brought to you by Sheila Hawley

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Only a few more weeks to go! Take care.

NASCAR’s Top 12

January 7, 2009

Finishing ninth in points in 2008, is driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing #20 car, Tony Stewart. For Tony, 2008 was a milestone. After racing for JGR for his whole career, Tony decided to go off on his own. Haas/CNC Racing made him an offer of 51% of the team and a new name for 2009. And Tony found that a deal he could not refuse. The new Team will be Stewart/Haas Racing. Tony has two Cup Championships. The first in 2002 in Winston Cup, the second in 2005 in Nextel Cup. Let’s see if he can get one in Sprint Cup.

2008 was an unremarkable year for Tony. He had only one win, and that was controversial. In the last lap, near the start/finish line, the #20 car moved over to block the #01 car of Rookie Regan Smith. Smith went below the yellow line to get to the finish line first. NASCAR decided he couldn’t pass below the yellow line and was relegated an eighteenth place finish. Many drivers and fans felt this was wrong. In past years, the line no longer came into play that close to the finish line. And the other drivers had to wonder what, exactly constitutes pushing someone below the line, as opposed to just going down there to pass. In the replay, Tony clearly pushed Regan down there. And his only other choice was to go back onto the track into Tony. So, in the minds of many fans and drivers, Tony had no wins in 2008. Something that has never happened. And #01 Regan Smith should have had his first win.

Never the less, he was still in the Chase. And the outcome really had no baring on his ninth place finish. Kyle Busch, JGR team mate finished tenth and the other JGR team mate, #11 Denny Hamlin finished eighth. Not nearly as good as anyone had antisipated. And Tony is usually good at the last ten races.

Next up is eighth place Denny Hamlin. Stay tuned.

Brought to you by Sheila Hawley

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Year in review, In my opinion

December 7, 2008

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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