Race Weekend Central

Fanning the Flames: Greed or Business as Usual? With NASCAR, It’s Hard to Tell

Strong stuff in the inbox this week, guys ‘n’ gals. Thanks for the input once again. I wasn’t able to get to a few of you this week… but I haven’t thrown anything out. Keep the questions and opinions flowing in, and we’ll see this column through to its true purpose: To be a free-flowing dialogue of thoughts, concerns, questions, answers and solutions.

OK, then, let’s drop the green.

Q: So NA$CAR won’t let Alltel or Verizon sponsor a car, thus providing money to a race team, but they’ll gladly accept the money to sponsor an in-car camera feature. Greed will be the downfall of the sport I once loved so much. – Rose Ingham

A: I saw it too, Rose. For those that didn’t, an in-car camera on David Stremme’s No. 12 Penske Dodge during the Bud Shootout bore the Verizon Wireless logo on screen. This, in spite of the fact that NASCAR will not allow Verizon to replace Alltel on the No. 12 car due to the sport’s exclusivity contract with title sponsor Sprint.

And make no mistake, with the number of wrecks Stremme was involved in on Saturday night, Verizon got its money’s worth.

Honestly though, I’m not 100% clear on the terms of the agreement that allows for the Verizon-sponsored camera to exist. I’ve done my research, but keep hitting dead ends (maybe that should tell me something… hmmmm).

Is the deal a paid sponsor arrangement with FOX? If so, it would have to be done with NASCAR’s blessing. Is the deal with NASCAR compensation of sorts for not being allowed on a hood and quarterpanels? Is it an agreement with ISC? Either way, one entity or another is getting money for it – and all moneys that come into the sport eventually feed NASCAR’s bottom line.

So yes, from the surface it appears NASCAR has once again denied a team much-needed funds to feed its own beast. We saw something along the same lines in 2003, when Powerade – a Coca-Cola product – replaced Gatorade, a Pepsi product, as the “Official Sports Beverage of NASCAR.”

See, Gatorade lost that bidding war, but looked for a counter-move to stay in the sport. The International Speedway Corporation (we all know who runs that show) was more than happy to provide a solution: ISC sold its victory lanes to Gatorade, creating the familiar moniker, “Gatorade Victory Lane.”

Concurrently, the new Powerade deal called for a giant bottle of Powerade to be placed atop the winning car once it pulled into “Gatorade Victory Lane.” In essence, NASCAR managed to keep the two rival products as sponsors, despite the fact they were once again battling for the same piece of real estate. In the end, NASCAR got the Powerade money, Gatorade got the ISC money – same pants, two pockets.

That same strategy seems to have been applied once again, Rose. The sanctioning body is happy to make an extra buck anywhere it can, regardless of how that buck will affect the overall health of the sport itself. And regardless of how fair or unfair it is to a potential or current advertiser.

Q: Matt, my question is how many pole winners have gone on to win the Daytona 500? I hope my home state boy Martin Truex Jr. can do it this year! – Barry on the Shore

A: It’s been done 10 times in 50 years, Barry. The great Fireball Roberts was the first to win the pole and the 500. He did so in 1962, leading 144 laps in the process. The King followed shortly thereafter when, in 1966, Richard Petty overcame a lap-and-a-half deficit to win by a lap after having sat on the pole. It was two years later when one of Petty’s fiercest rivals, Cale Yarborough, made it happen. Cale won both the pole and the race in ’68, running in the No. 21 60 Minute Cleaners-sponsored Wood Brothers Mercury (which sounds like a sponsor Larry Gunselman or Derrike Cope would bring down these days).

While no one was able to win both in the 1970s, Buddy Baker got the ‘80s started off right with a pole and 500 win in 1980. Baker’s “Grey Ghost” dominated for 143 laps on point in the fastest 500 ever.

Later on in the decade, Cale rocked the comb-over once again in 1984, when he drove a backup car to the 500 win after a scary wreck on his second qualifying lap. Bill Elliott started off his magical season of 1985 with a pole and a win at Daytona. He did the same two years later when, in ’87, he set the Daytona 500 qualifying record with a scorching lap of 210.364 mph. That would be the last unrestricted race at the speedway, as Bobby Allison brought down the catchfence at Talladega three months later.

It would be 12 years before anyone was able to win the 500 from the pole again. In 1999, Jeff Gordon beat Dale Earnhardt in one of the most thrilling 500s of all time. Gordon made his famous “No Guts, No Glory” pass of Rusty Wallace with 10 laps to go, then held off a hard-charging Earnhardt on the white-flag lap to win.

In contrast, Dale Jarrett won from the pole the next season (2000) in one of the most boring Daytona 500s of all time; and in doing so, became the last to accomplish the Daytona Double.

Q: Can Jeff finally get a win this year, and will Jimmie Johnson win another championship? – Frank Newman

A: Yes and yes, in my estimation. Believe me, Gordon – you are referring to Gordon and not Jeff Burton, right? – won’t go too long into the season without picking up his first win in 41 races. And as for Johnson… well, all I can say is that until someone proves otherwise, he and that No. 48 team are the best thing going. And they’ve done it the last two years with a gigantic target on their bumpers, which is kinda unreal.

Before you skip on to the next article, I thought I’d add a couple things as an “FYI.” The first being a Daytona 500 draft done here at the Athlon Sports office amongst the editors. It’s a serpentine draft with 10 guys participating (and just enough cash on the line to make it interesting. Wait, can we print that?) There are payouts given for the driver who leads the most laps, the winning driver, and the drafter whose four-man team earns the most combined championship points.

I know I always enjoy viewing other league’s mock drafts in fantasy football, so I thought someone out there would find this useful:

Round 1: 1. Kyle Busch; 2. Junior; 3. Smoke; 4. Mark Martin; 5. Edwards; 6. Johnson; 7. Hamlin; 8. Jeff Gordon; 9. Harvick; 10. Truex.

Round 2: 11. Newman; 12. Kurt Busch; 13. Kenseth; 14. Biffle; 15. Montoya; 16. Ragan; 17. Kahne; 18. Vickers; 19. McMurray; 20. Jeff Burton.

Round 3: 21. Robby Gordon; 22. Bowyer; 23. Logano; 24. Sadler; 25. Mears; 26. Waltrip; 27. Reutimann; 28. Sorenson; 29. B. Labonte; 30. Menard.

Round 4: We haven’t made it through Round 4 just yet, but I figure the top 30 will work for you fantasy honks.

Lastly, I was asked to clarify last week – because of all the point-swapping craziness – what the Top 35 owner standings looked like. For the details, check out Mike Ravesi’s column printed today on Frontstretch; but if you’re looking for the basics, here’s your list – with rank, car number, driver and owner listed:

1. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon/Rick Hendrick
2. (99) Carl Edwards, Jack Roush
3. (16) Greg Biffle, Jack Roush
4. (29) Kevin Harvick, Richard Childress
5. (07) Casey Mears, Richard Childress
6. (31) Jeff Burton, Richard Childress
7. (24) Jeff Gordon, Rick Hendrick
8. (11) Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs
9. (20) Joey Logano, Joe Gibbs
10. (18) Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs
11. (17) Matt Kenseth, Jack Roush
12. (88) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Rick Hendrick
13. (6) David Ragan, Jack Roush
14. (42) Juan Pablo Montoya, Teresa Earnhardt
15. (9) Kasey Kahne, George Gillett Jr.
16. (1) Martin Truex Jr., Teresa Earnhardt
17. (26) Jamie McMurray, Jack Roush
18. (12) David Stremme, Roger Penske
19. (2) Kurt Busch, Walter Czarnecki/Roger Penske
20. (83) Brian Vickers, Dietrich Mateschitz
21. (5) Mark Martin, Rick Hendrick
22. (43) Reed Sorenson, Richard Petty/George Gillett Jr.
23. (98) Paul Menard, Doug Yates
24. (19) Elliott Sadler, George Gillett Jr.
25. (8) Aric Almirola, Chip Ganassi
26. (00) David Reutimann, Michael Waltrip/Rob Kauffman
27. (34) John Andretti, Bob Jenkins, Teresa Earnhardt
28. (96) Bobby Labonte, Max Jones/Jeff Moorad
29. (55) Michael Waltrip, Michael Waltrip
30. (39) Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart/Gene Haas
31. (77) Sam Hornish Jr., Bill Davis/Roger Penske
32. (33) Clint Bowyer, Richard Childress
33. (7) Robby Gordon, Robby Gordon
34. (82) Scott Speed, Dietrich Mateschitz
35. (47) Marcos Ambrose, Rob Kauffman
36. (44) AJ Allmendinger, Richard Petty
37. (21) Bill Elliott, Glen Wood

Until next week.

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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