Race Weekend Central

Friday Face-off: Can NASCAR Learn from Pokemon GO?

What variable from Saturday’s race at Kentucky stood out the most to you – the racetrack’s repave and reconfiguration, Goodyear’s conservative tire choice or the low-low downforce package? 

Bryan Gable, Staff Writer: I’ll go with the repave.  Goodyear’s decision to bring the super-hard tires probably contributed more to the state of the racing, but the repave was the root cause of that decision.  It really is hard to judge the latest aero package after Saturday night, but less downforce still looks like the way to go.

Clayton Caldwell, Staff Writer: I think just by drivers’ conversation it was the hard tires. A lot of drivers were unhappy with the way the cars handled during the race due to the hard tires. Goodyear was in a tough box but tires that fell off could have helped improve the quality of racing.

Vito Pugliese, Senior Writer: The tire chosen was less than ideal, though that’s always a tricky one when dealing with a repave. The insistence on using the multi tread tire has never paid the dividends NASCAR hopes to achieve. Low downforce is fine but repave or not, make a tire that gives up quicker to compliment the package.

Amy Henderson, Senior Editor: I think the hard tires, in that they kept us from getting a true read on how the package ran on a mile-and-a-half track.  Without another 1.5-miler before the Chase, I really hope NASCAR will at least run a couple days of testing at Charlotte this offseason before making a final decision, because in reality, we haven’t gotten the read we need on the tracks that make up most of the schedule.

Kyle Busch Motorsports earned a record-breaking 51st NCWTS win on Saturday. Is the organization truly the best truck team in history, or is it just the Kyle Busch effect? 

Phil Allaway, Newsletter Editor: Prior to a couple of years ago, it was almost all Kyle Busch.  Today, it is a much more balanced operation.  Because of the first few years for KBM, I cannot say that this is the greatest team in the history of the Camping World Truck Series.  Busch himself accounts for 29 of the 51 wins.  He has historically played too big of a role in the drivers’ seat to claim that award.  However, I will state that KBM is the best team in the series right now.

Pugliese: Ever see American Pharaoh run at your local donkey track? Well that’s about what you have in the Truck Series with KBM beating up on the competition as it has the last five years or so. Not to take anything away from the drivers but there hasn’t been much of a Ford presence until the last couple of seasons, Dodge pulled the plug well before it exited completely, and there’s only a smattering of Chevrolet teams in the field with little factory support. Toyota invests heavily into this series and with KBM. I guess for that, they should reap the rewards of their labor.

Henderson: Busch puts a ton of effort into his team, and to making it about the youngsters coming up rather than about him.  That’s impressive.  But a lot of those 51 wins did come with Busch or one of his Cup teammates at the wheel, and correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t they get a ton of support from JGR for several years (and some still)? I’d argue that the best true truck teams are the ones who have won races and titles entirely on their own, like Germain Racing, ThorSport, Jim Smith’s old team and the like.  To me, doing it as their own entity without benefit of top Cup drivers and affiliations with the biggest Cup teams, is a tick more impressive.

Gable: Busch’s talent and expertise has definitely made KBM what it is today.  However, that should not preclude the team from being considered one of the best ever in the Truck Series.  Busch is doing the same thing that Brad Keselowski is doing and that Dale Earnhardt, Kevin Harvick and Bobby Hamilton all did before him.  Those drivers built successful truck teams from the ground up and surrounded themselves with good people.  It is true that Busch has gotten a lot of support from Toyota, but those other drivers got plenty of manufacturer help too.  The question about the greatest Truck Series team in history is up for debate, but organizations like KBM, KHI and BHR always impressed me more than the offshoot truck teams from Cup organizations.

The battle for the final few open Chase spots continues to get closer as the playoff nears. Which teams on the bubble do you think will be among the 16 contenders come Chicagoland? 

(Photo: Nigel Kinrade/NKP)
Kyle Larson’s making waves by running prominent dirt races including the Aspen Dental Eldora Dirt Derby, but can he make his way into the Chase? (Photo: Nigel Kinrade/NKP)

Gable: Tony Stewart will easily stay in the top 30 in points, so he’s in.  Dale Earnhardt. Jr. and Austin Dillon have had very up and down seasons, but they will be in as well.  Ryan Newman will play the consistency game just well enough to make the postseason, and Chase Elliott is basically a lock.  That leaves one more spot, and I’m not giving up on Kyle Larson.  He must either win or make up 27 points in the next eight races.  Larson has been inconsistent this year, but the No. 42 team looks to be turning the corner and should perform well enough to make the Chase.  However, that would mean Jamie McMurray falls out of the postseason.  The No. 1 team has done okay thus far with the “Paul Menard approach” to making the Chase, but ultimately it will not be enough.

Caldwell: It’s a great question. I think the driver with the best opportunity to win a race will be AJ Allmendinger at Watkins Glen. Allmendinger is a stellar road racer, and the team spends a lot of time and money on the road racing because they know that’s their best opportunity to win. Other than Allmendinger, maybe Kyle Larson, but we’ve been waiting for Larson to win for awhile now and it hasn’t happened. Chip Ganassi Racing has won just one race in the last five and a half years. Larson has been fast recently, which makes him more likely to win as well. Hendrick Motorsports has been scuffling recently, which takes Kasey Kahne out of the picture.

Allaway: It’s a little hard to say.  Also, who is considered to be on the bubble at this point of the season?  Anyone who hasn’t won yet?  Obviously, I’m going to assume that drivers such as Jamie McMurray and Austin Dillon are on the bubble.  How far up does it go?  For the sake of this conversation, I’ll consider the bubble to be the last two spots in and five or so below the cutoff.  My guess is that Dillon can get in, but I don’t think McMurray’s going to make it.  If he can become more consistent, I think Kyle Larson could squeak in.  Ryan Blaney has the pace to get in, but has to stay out of trouble.  AJ Allmendinger could as well, but it might require winning at Watkins Glen next month.

Pugliese: Ryan Blaney will make it; Allmendinger won’t unless they win Watkins Glen. He had that hangdog look of a beaten man Saturday after his wreck. Newman will find a way to squeak his way in on points, and the No. 88 team might want to start getting a little concerned, as that ship has not yet righted itself.

Editor’s Note: These responses were penned ahead of the news that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will miss this weekend’s race at New Hampshire.

Pokemon GO has swept the nation over the last week. Is there anything from the app’s success that NASCAR can learn from, i.e. sponsorship opportunities or potentially branching out into augmented reality/VR? 

Caldwell: I think NASCAR could do a better job in the video game industry in general. They used to have a real fun game with a lot of different options and series in it and now they have sort of a modified version. I think that may help generate the younger fans a little bit.

Allaway: You’re already seeing the start of it with tracks trying to get Pokéstops placed at their facilities.  Just earlier this week, Charlotte Motor Speedway advertised Tuesday’s Summer Shootout event as an opportunity to come and catch some Pokémon and take in some of the actual racing on tap at the quarter-mile.  At the very least, something like Pokémon GO can be harnessed to help expose more young people to racing.  In many cases, that one time is all that it takes.  My guess is that CMS and Michigan will take the lead here.  Beyond that, NASCAR could expand its relationship with Nickelodeon to help draw in younger fans as well.

Pugliese: As with The Matrix, nearly 20 years later. I still have no clue what Pokemon is. It is an avenue that needs to be explored however. Case in point: the battery drain from the app means more recharging. One prominent retailer has seen the sale of phone chargers increase 500 percent week over week since the app’s introduction. There is opportunity abound here, as there are with all mobile device related ancillaries.

Henderson: As far as racing apps go, the NHRA app is absolutely excellent. The free version includes a ton of features, including live timing and scoring.  All in all, it gives the fan more, for free, in a simple format.  It’s probably the best series app out there. As for VR and other games?  Slippery slope.  NASCAR doesn’t need the reputation of encouraging terrible choices behind the wheel and the Pokemon app certainly does that, even if it has a disclaimer. iRacing is an excellent racing simulation that doesn’t take it to the street.

About the author

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Amy is an 20-year veteran NASCAR writer and a six-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found working on her bi-weekly columns Holding A Pretty Wheel (Tuesdays) and Only Yesterday (Wednesdays). A New Hampshire native whose heart is in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.

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What can BZF/nascrap learn from Pokémon Go? That young people are extremely fickle…by the time they figure out how to incorporate another gimmick, the fad will have passed.

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