Race Weekend Central

Did You Notice? … Ford Fighting Ford?, Earnhardt Illusion And NASCAR’s Spark

*Did You Notice?…* During a resurgent year for Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports as a whole has fallen behind the curve? That ugly fact is what’s spurring this move to bring on a top-quality crew chief, Mike Ford, more than anything else. Aric Almirola, in nine races, did not have a large quantity of time to work with Greg Erwin in order to show whether or not the pair could be a success; after all, the driver has just 44 career Cup starts to his credit.

But across the way, RPM’s marquee name, Marcos Ambrose, has been struggling just as much as Almirola. Combined, they’re outside the top 20 in points driving for an organization that surged to 15th last season with AJ Allmendinger, seemingly on the verge of making the Chase. That momentum should have been boosted, despite Allmendinger’s departure, by a Ford operation that’s come out of the box swinging in 2012. Consider…

Did You Notice? … Parity’s Pluses And Minuses, Rough “Starts” And Puzzling Pettys

*Did You Notice?…* Parity in the Cup Series only goes so far… and can hurt the sport as well as help it? This season, we’ve seen wins by four different organizations in eight races, with all four manufacturers represented. The sport’s “New York Yankees,” Hendrick Motorsports, is stuck at zero (and the well-documented 199 career trips to the Winner’s Circle) while the victories have come from Roush Fenway Racing (two), Penske Racing (one), Stewart-Haas Racing (three), and Joe Gibbs Racing (two). Overall, if the season ended now, seven different car owners would be represented in the Chase. That sounds pretty decent… right?

Tweet ‘n’ Greet – 4/17/2012

@KevinHarvick: Note to self: greeting your pregnant wife with a belly bump is frowned upon. @RCR31JeffBurton: Spent the morning running the late model at motor mile speedway,very nice facility. Ran there about 20 yrs ago. Won Busch race,then got DQed @31n2Spotter: Woke up at 5:45am. Pulled up NASCAR schedules for upcoming races. Two additional days …

Read more

Frustration Abounds For Five-Time

Jimmie Johnson is, in a word, frustrated.

Twice in two races, he’s had the lead or close and failed to close the deal. That’s not like the Jimmie Johnson we know, the Jimmie Johnson that won five straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships, the Jimmie Johnson that has been so good for so long it’s just sort of expected that he’s going to prevail in the end.

He still might. No one is suggesting he’s lost a step, or doesn’t have it anymore.

But he’s frustrated.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: O’Reilly 300

Even as a single-car operation, Roush Fenway Racing didn’t miss a beat after two weeks off. Overcoming a slow mid-race pit stop, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. passed polesitter Paul Menard and held off a furious charge from Denny Hamlin on the race’s final restart to score his second win of the 2012 campaign. Menard, Kasey Kahne, …

Read more

Dollars And Sense: Will NASCAR Ratings Rise Following An Off Weekend?

In comparison to the 2011 season, NASCAR’s Nielsen ratings have been down during every Sprint Cup event this season, with the exception of the March 18th race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Even with the excitement surrounding Texas Motor Speedway’s inaugural night race, the Samsung Mobile 500 had the lowest television rating of the first eight races on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule in 2011. Prior to that night race at TMS last spring, they were always scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

“We’ll be racing under the lights this weekend,” said Landon Cassill, driver of the No. 83 BK Racing Burger King Toyota Camry. “Who doesn’t love a night race? They’re so cool. The cars take on a whole new look when the lights shine down and the fans come alive when the sun goes down.

Did You Notice? … No News Is Bad News, NASCAR’s Hall Future And Quick Hits

*Did You Notice?* … No news is bad news? That’s the theme in NASCAR Nation this week, where some of the quietest off time we’ve ever seen has kept the sport out of the national consciousness. Baseball, with Opening Day festivities and beyond has gripped the headlines, along with the start of the NHL Playoffs and the upcoming push for the NBA’s. Football, too, despite being in its offseason continues to make the rounds atop _SportsCenter_ and keep fans focused on anything but cars going in circles.

Five Points to Ponder: Odds-On for Hendrick and Mayfield’s Improbable Return

*ONE: Expect Hendrick Motorsports’ Best Shot on Saturday Night*

The parade of hype surround Hendrick Motorsports’ inevitable 200th win got stalled for two more weeks last Sunday courtesy of another crazy Martinsville finish. But delaying the inevitable is one thing, having that accomplishment literally snatched away in a wreck that crashed two team cars in one corner is something else. That being said, it’s hard to imagine that any race team not under the Hendrick banner is going to walk away with Saturday night’s upcoming 500-miler.

Beyond the Livery: A Marketer’s Plan For Surviving NASCAR’s Economic State

It’s no secret that the financial landscape of NASCAR is quite different than it used to be a decade ago. At that time, the then Winston Cup Series was enjoying record popularity and companies were lining up to become involved in one of the nation’s hottest trends. Nowadays, following the worst economic recession since The Great Depression and with a fan base that is a fraction of what it once was, sponsors aren’t exactly knocking down the doors to spend their money in NASCAR. The result has been that some of the premier teams in the Sprint Cup series such as Roush Fenway Racing and Richard Childress Racing have consolidated teams. In fact, Jack Roush is occasionally forced to run a car out of his own pocket for select events.

MPM2Nite: For Christ’s Sake

_Writer’s Note: Some of you might want to sit this column out. With an off weekend ahead, there’s not much going on in racing and this column will deal with religion and politics in addition to what happened to a Nationwide team and their sponsor. If you’re looking for a story about fast loud cars and the greasy bits that they’re made of, move along. I don’t wish to offend anyone but I am going to speak my peace._

When it comes to advertisements during NASCAR races most fans have an opinion that there’s just too darn many of the things and all those commercials make it hard to keep up with the ebb and flow of the race. But there’s one commercial presented by a sponsor of a Nationwide team you won’t be seeing on ESPN or its sister networks.

Did You Notice? … NASCAR’s Chronic Underachiever, No Laps Up Front & Quick Hits

*Did You Notice?…* Ryan Newman’s wacky pattern of “upset” victories? In the last seven years, he has won only four times, with three of those the result of passes caused by circumstance, by luck tilting his way within the last five laps of a race. Consider…

*Daytona, February 2008.* Heading into the final restart, with three laps left Newman was fourth and a clear underdog with Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch up ahead. Those two had combined to lead 102 of 200 laps, but a move as the cars came up to speed “left them separated.”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcbNUA7x8P8 As Busch went low, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. went with him which allowed the teammates of Newman and Kurt Busch, not the JGR duo, to pair up.