Race Weekend Central

NASCAR Mailbox: Double Standards For The Deuce

Is it just me or is Brad Keselowski a “do as I say, not as I do” kind of racecar driver?

Brad Keselowski ruffled feathers at Talladega last weekend with his “do as I say, not as I do” attitude.
Brad Keselowski ruffled feathers at Talladega last weekend with his “do as I say, not as I do” attitude.

Sunday’s race at Talladega wasn’t very friendly to Keselowski and, in turn, he wasn’t all that friendly to the rest of the competition. While the No. 2 car was racing towards the front of the field at the beginning of the race, on lap 15, contact from Danica Patrick sent Keselowski through the infield grass. He found himself several laps down after making repairs on pit road, and it became pretty apparent to everyone that the 2012 series champ was out as a strong competitor in this race.

Someone apparently forgot to tell Keselowski that.

Around 140 laps into the race, the Penske Racing driver was six laps down, but you wouldn’t have known it watching him race around the leaders. Slicing and dicing his way through cars, Keselowski found himself three-wide, in the middle, in front of Trevor Bayne. A little wiggle, then light contact from Bayne’s front bumper (if any) upset the aero, then sent Keselowski around and several other cars into the wall… including the No. 2.

Keselowski was defensive of his decision to be so aggressive, saying, “I wanted to get my laps back and have a shot to win at the end. The only way I was gonna do that was by being really aggressive at the front half of the field.”

Now, this statement is coming from the same driver who criticized Matt Kenseth for racing him too hard for a top-5 position the week prior at Richmond. In fact, Kenseth weighed in on the Talladega wreck, saying that if anyone else had pulled the same thing, Keselowski would be just as upset as they were.

I understand Keselowski’s desire to get his lap back, but there is a fine line between racing with a mission and being reckless. And he hasn’t exactly been the most forgiving driver when he has been on the receiving end in the past. Hell, Keselowski isn’t even forgiving when another driver races him for position outside of his comfort zone.

Bottom line, we all want to see a driver go for it. But not in a way that takes away from the action. Nothing is fun about watching cars get torn up from someone who wasn’t even racing for position.

Now, on to your questions:

“Is Jimmie Johnson at a disadvantage now because he hasn’t won yet? I just don’t think this system is in their favor since they haven’t won yet.” Kurt

It is a little surprising that Johnson hasn’t been to victory lane at least once this year, considering at this point last year he already had two wins. In fact, in all six of Johnson’s championship seasons, the team had at least one win after ten races in the season, if not several.

However, I don’t know that it has anything to do with the new Chase system. It’s not as if there aren’t still many more tracks left where the No. 48 could win or that they don’t have a tendency to win later in the year anyway. In fact, I don’t think a system built on emphasizing wins is going to hurt a team known for winning a lot. Of course, Johnson excels at being consistent, but that race team also knows the best points day is leading the most laps and winning the race, period.

I don’t know if their lack of wins this late in the year will hurt them. I would say that it’s more likely that the lack of wins is evidence of a struggle for Johnson and the team to catch up to the competition. Three finishes outside of the top 20 in ten races is not good. Yes, I know bad luck has played a part, but it certainly is out of character for a team that has been nearly unbeatable over the better part of the last decade.

“I’ve really enjoyed the racing this year and think it has the best it has been in years, yet the TV ratings still suck. I don’t understand! Are there any other explanations other than people just quit watching?” Eric

Keep in mind that, as I’m writing this column, the final numbers for Talladega have not been released. They have a tendency to get better over time. However, as of Tuesday evening, the ratings for Talladega were down 9% from last year. Though the overnights might rise as the final numbers come in, I don’t expect them to get a whole lot better.

There is almost always more to the story though. The Aaron’s 499 was the fourth highest-rated sporting event from the weekend and highest non-NBA game. It’s not as if people aren’t tuning in or don’t care, but yet numbers are down by staggering amounts.

I know there are people reading this saying, “It’s the Chase!” Blah, blah, blah…. I’m not convinced that such a dramatic dive in viewership is solely because of the Chase. Are there some who quit watching because of it? Sure, I guess so. But I know plenty of fans who hate the Chase and are still watching because they love racing. They love the good racing that, like you said, has been a part of just about every event this year. You don’t have to love the way the champion is determined to enjoy a good race weekend, and that’s what a lot of fans have done.

I’m going to admit that I’m no expert on ratings, but I know enough to know that they don’t always tell the whole story. With DVRs, streaming services, and other options where people aren’t plopped in front of their TVs watching the race, I would anticipate that would have an impact on ratings. For instance, the Fox Sports Go app allows people to log in with their subscriber info and watch the race (or the game) on their mobile devices without ever turning on the television. I’m sure that doesn’t help the actual TV ratings.

Maybe asking people to dedicate an entire afternoon to a three-to-four hour race is no longer fair, especially with DVR capabilities and the Internet allowing them to catch up on their own time. As much as some people would love to live in denial, we are in an ADD generation, but everyone is a part of it. It’s why you still complain about waiting in line at the grocery store even though you’ve only been waiting three minutes.

I’m sure some fans don’t watch or spend as much time watching because of the Chase, the quality of the coverage, etc. But I don’t think that translates to drastic drops from year to year. At least not exclusively or by a majority. Rather, it seems ratings are more of a result of changing times, technology, and the way people view their entertainment more so than a mass exodus of people who love racing, Chase or no Chase.

“If Camping World has extended its title sponsorship for that long (through 2022), does that bode well for the Nationwide Series? I was concerned that with NASCAR’s popularity dwindling, it might be a struggle to get title sponsors.” Tina

Camping World is here to stay inNASCAR, signing a long-term extension to be the title sponsor of the Truck Series in 2022.
Camping World is here to stay inNASCAR, signing a long-term extension to be the title sponsor of the Truck Series in 2022.

Those are different series with different numbers, different identities, and different challenges. You would think the Nationwide Series would be a bigger draw, but there was nothing to indicate that Camping World was interested in taking over as the title sponsorship for the Nationwide Series.

I think Camping World finds Trucks to be a valuable investment because, according to a release from NASCAR, the company has grown by 35% since they began sponsoring the Truck Series. Now, correlation doesn’t exactly equal causation, but clearly the company thinks that NASCAR fans are at least partially to thank for that.

And why shouldn’t they? NASCAR fans aren’t known for being brand loyal by fluke, and camping is a pastime many fans are familiar with, both at and away from the track. So when fans see a Camping World next to literally any other store that sells camping equipment, where are they going to go? You all know the answer.

Honestly, I think the re-investment and the extension of the contract is promising forNASCAR and they realize this point. With all the struggles in numbers and attendance, there is obviously still a clear value for companies to invest in the sport.NASCAR may never reach the elite status of the NFL, but they will always have the most business-friendly fans.

With that said, I do think it spells well for the Nationwide Series. You can rest assured that Camping World’s interest in NASCAR’s third-tier series will be a selling point for companies interested in sponsoring the Nationwide Series. Another point toNASCAR is that Nationwide Insurance decided to stay in the sport and move up a rung into the Sprint Cup Series by sponsoring a driver (Dale Earnhardt, Jr. starting in 2015). So while the Camping World news has little to do with the Nationwide Series, it at least says good things are still in store for all of NASCAR if big-time companies continue to show interest.

About the author

Promoted to editor in 2013, Summer is one of Frontstretch’s fast-rising young talents. While contributing to social media efforts, she also writes the weekly "Up To Speed" column. A Kansas native, Summer graduated with a Bachelor's in Journalism and Mass Communications in 2015. She also contributes to other media outlets such as Kickin' The Tires.

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