Race Weekend Central

Voices From The Cheap Seats: How To Mix Predictable And Incredible All At Once

And now for something completely different — different, that is, from some of the fluff that’s been pouring from this very site! While one writer has a caption describing, almost verbatim what I heard from the FOX booth all afternoon Sunday, this writer is going to, as usual, point out some of the realities I trust some of you out there feel, too.

First off, just because you have a record number of lead changes at a track doesn’t make the racing all that spectacular — unless, of course, you happen to write for a NASCAR-owned media outlet. Lead changes happen for a variety of reasons. Remember the record number of lead changes we saw at Talladega a couple years ago? NASCAR heralded it as the best thing ever, when in fact it was the tandem draft that was responsible, not the usual racing. Anytime you have to find a partner to win, that’s not racing as we know it. But I digress…

NASCAR touted a sold-out weekend of racing at Fontana… but was it really?
NASCAR touted a sold-out weekend of racing at Fontana… but was it really?

This week, the competition at Fontana was affected by one big thing: tires. When it comes to the tires used in this week’s race, I can see both sides of the coin. Goodyear denies all responsibility for the failures — and to a point, it does have a valid argument. Teams were very aggressive with the low pressures and camber, so they deserve a part of the blame, too.

It’s NASCAR’s explanation that this car has more downforce which just doesn’t sit right with me. First of all, Goodyear knows that, when given more leeway by NASCAR, teams will push the limits — plus, with all the extensive R&D that NASCAR does/did on the new cars, it knew there would be more downforce and should have reacted with a more suitable product. To simply say, “we brought the same tire as last year, but the car has more downforce” is a cop-out.

Which brings us to my point of watching one of the most predictable races I have seen since the great Indy tire debacle a few years ago. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that every 25 laps or so, someone was going to blow a tire, which led to the next enormously predictable factor of this race: You could set your clock or your snack-grabbing schedule by the simple fact FOX would show perhaps 15 laps of racing and then cut to commercials. Almost every single time they came back, the race was under caution because — you guessed it — someone had blown a tire.

If a simpleton like myself could see that pattern early, early on in the race, why couldn’t FOX? If there is one thing viewers loathe, it’s feeling like they missed some of the action. Oh, sure, the broadcast would (usually) show a replay of whose tire had blown, but what’s the point of watching television if all you get are replays of the incident that caused a caution? That, my friends, is what DV-R is for.

Speaking of FOX, the network is solely responsible for my so-deemed incredible part of the race! I found it extremely incredulous that the announcers and producers had the balls to go on and on about how it was a sellout crowd and standing room only, all the while panning the Fontana stands from the blimp. Now, I am the first to admit that as I approach the half-century mark, my eyesight has gotten worse over the years — however, I am not so blind or senile to not see, with my own bad eyes, that it was not a sellout crowd and especially not standing room only. The caption to a picture in another article on this very site that reads “Empty seats are officially a crisis of the past at Fontana…” is about as NASCAR.com-esque as I have ever seen published.

(Damn! I did forget about all the attractions and supposed good food in the midway; that is probably where those folks were. I’m sorry I flew off the handle!)

A couple of weeks ago, one reader asked: “Where exactly are the cheap seats?” Well, my friend, they are to be found at Fontana! I read somewhere that NASCAR slashed the price of tickets to this last Sunday’s race by up to 26 percent off face value. They may have sold all the tickets, probably in block form, to some corporate sponsor or official partner of NASCAR; not all those tickets were used.

On a different note, the following excerpt, from FOX Sports also gives us a little something to ponder. It’s the perfect time to think about it since NASCAR just visited Toyota’s “hometown” track in the states.

Had the CART-IRL split of the mid-1990s never occurred, Toyota might still be racing open-wheelers instead of having a huge presence in NASCAR. But according to Toyota’s U.S. racing boss, the split diluted the value of IndyCar racing so badly that it ceased being of interest to the automaker. “To demonstrate the lack of value … in 2003, we won the Indy 500, we won the race in Japan, we won 13 out of 16 races that year, and that fall, we still had to sell to our management to stay in the sport,” said David Wilson, president and general manager of TRD. “As much as we loved it from an engineering standpoint, we also started realizing there were a lot of empty seats. And open-wheel in the United States was not exactly catching fire, so that started our … relationship with NASCAR.”

Empty seats, hard sell, not exactly catching fire (or in the case of NASCAR, gone from a raging bonfire to a flickering torch)… is Toyota trying to say something? Just food for thought!

Stay off the wall, (better yet, off Goodyears!)

Jeff Meyer

About the author

Jeff is one of the longest-tenured staffers at Frontstretch, starting his second decade as the resident humorist and pain-in-the-butt that keeps NASCAR (and his fellow co-workers) honest. Writing Voices From The Cheap Seats, every Tuesday, his BSNews! Segments along with alter ego “Stu Padasso” have developed a large following. Jeff makes his home in Tennessee and is a Bristol groupie, camping out for the August night race every year since he can remember.

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