NASCAR’s First Female Winner? If Not Danica Than Who?

It’s a question that needs to be asked. For several years it looked like NASCAR had found the answer to that question but with the recent news of Nature’s Bakery virtually backing off Danica Patrick’s racecar for the 2017 season, it looks like the answer may have not be so easy after all.

Who will be the first female driver to win a NASCAR race? Danica Patrick’s career now looks like it’s on the brink. Baring a drastically improved season from her previous four seasons in Cup, it’s unlikely we’ll see Danica Patrick’s career continue past the 2017 or 2018 season. In her 154 career starts in the Cup Series Patrick has recorded just six top ten finishes.

Is it likely we’ll see Patrick’s career take a sudden turn for the better? Not likely. Stewart Haas Racing recently made a transition to Ford and with that the team will make their own chassis, a drastic change than what they’ve done in years prior. You would have to think there would be some growing pains for the team and that’s something Patrick cannot afford. Her restrictor plate record has not proven that she can get it done on plate tracks.

So if not Patrick than who? Who will be NASCAR’s first female winner. Well the answer is not that obvious.

If you look at NASCAR’s top three divisions, Patrick and truck series driver Jennifer Jo Cobb are the only two females that ran the majority of the races in their respected divisions. Cobb is an independent who does a good job with what she has but has recorded just one top ten finish in 132 starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Other than those two the closet female closest to the Cup Series is probably Dominque Van Wieringen, a Canadian driver who finished third in the point standings in the K&N East Series. Julia Landauder and Nicole Behar are also on the list of female drivers who could potentially win in NASCAR but have yet to do so.

However, neither one of the drivers I listed have ever won a NASCAR race. It makes you wonder who will be NASCAR’s next female winner? Until we see a major culture change I don’t think female drivers will ever be successful in NASCAR’s elite division.

Let me state this, I do believe that we will have a female driver win in NASCAR. I just think that day is a lot further away than people think. It’s not that females can’t drive, I believe that stigma is totally untrue. It’s the fact that in NASCAR we judge our female drivers by the way they look instead of what they do on the racetrack.

A few months ago, I was in a conversation with racefans about female drivers. Most of the fans posted pictures of their favorite female drivers describing how attractive she was. Attractiveness? Who cares? In my mind, I reversed the role. What would happen if we were talking about male drivers? Would fans post pictures of them in their bathing suits on social media? Not a chance. All most fans care about is their performance on the racetrack, which is a perfectly fair way to evaluate a driver.

Just this past week I watched as a female driver who was recently in NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program post a picture on her social media platforms in nothing but a bikini sitting by a pool. I scratched my head. Then there was something more disturbing. The amount of engagement the photo received was incredible. It totally out did any other post she had on there. It’s no wonder why the young lady posted the photo.

There’s no doubt motorsports are a male dominated sport and males make up the majority of the fan base. So I understand the need to get recognized but shouldn’t their performance on the racetrack determine that? I believe there will be a woman who will win races but will she make it if she doesn’t look the way we want her to look?

Maybe that’s part of the problem with NASCAR’s group of female drivers. Maybe some have gained their popularity on how they looked, not how they drive. There’s no doubt that NASCAR’s ideal female star will be both attractive and can win races, but the driving must be the number one priority.

I think as racefans we’ve gotten away from that and until we as racefans chance the way we view female drivers, we’ll never see a female driver compete and win at NASCAR’s highest level.

Comparing Championships: Richard Petty’s Formats Not That Flattering

I’ve read it all. The Jimmie Johnson haters tell me that his six championships aren’t ‘legit’. They say the points formats used during Johnson’s era have ‘stupid.’ While the old-school fan in me prefers the Winston Cup format over the Chase format, Johnson shouldn’t get penalized for the era he’s raced in. Also, there was a time in history when the points format was way worse than what we see today.

Rewind back prior to 1975 the year which began the era commonly referred to as ‘the modern era.’ In 1975, NASCAR created a new points format something that was not uncommon in those days. NASCAR used several different points formats in their early years before settling on a points format that worked from 1975-2003, better known to fans as the Winston Cup era. The only drivers in NASCAR history to have as many championships in the Cup Series as Jimmie Johnson are Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty who have seven, one better than Johnson’s six. While Earnhardt won all his championships in the Winston Cup era, Richard Petty did not. Only two of Petty’s seven Winston Cup championships came after 1974.

If you ask many fans to explain to you what the points formats were prior to 1975 you’ll receive a lot of blank stares. This article is to point out the flaws in those systems.

In Richard Petty’s first championship run in 1964, there were 62 races counted towards the points. That’s right, 62! Only seven drivers that season started 50+ races: Petty, Ned Jarrett, David Pearson, Jimmy Pardue, Curtis Crider, Wendell Scott and Neil Castles. Petty beat runner-up Jarrett by an astounding 5,302 points. Petty took the points lead in following the Memorial Day World 600 and never looked back.

The following is an excerpt from the book NASCAR Chronicle:

“The points system in the 1950’s and 1960’s were awarded on a parallel scale based on total points awarded. For instance, the Daytona 500 usually carried the largest purse, and, in 1967, a total of 6500 points were designated for first place. Richard Petty won the ’67 NASCAR championship with a staggering 42,472 points. Under this points system, a part-time driver could rank high in the final tally by winning a major race. Johnny Mantz only entered three races in 1950, yes still finished sixth in the final point standings thanks to a win in the inaugural Southern 500 at Darlington.”

1967 was Petty’s second championship. Two down, still three more to go. NASCAR changed it’s system in 1968 to help most fans and drivers understand the format a little bit better. The format featured different points payouts for the different sizes of tracks. A winner in a Superspeedway event would receive 150 points with a drop of three points after. Winners on a major short track received 100 points with a drop of two points throughout the finishing order. Winners at a race that was 100-mile-or-less earned 50 points with a drop off of one point.

It was a complicated system that lasted until 1971. However, Petty won the championship in 1971, his third title. 1971 was also the final year that featured races 100-mile-or-less in the Cup Series. Winston would by into the sport for the start of the 1972 and cut those races off the schedule and the schedule was chopped from 48 races in 1971 to 31 races in 1972. That forced NASCAR to change to points format, yet again.

In 1972, NASCAR created a format that only last two years. It rewarded drivers points based on laps completed and featured fractions of points. Petty won his second consecutive title and the fourth of his career. However, he didn’t take the lead in the points until the 11th race of the season, even though he had finished higher than points leader James Hylton in nine of the first 10 races with four wins. Hylton had completed more laps than Petty and led the standings. Petty would regain the lead and beat Bobby Allison by, 127.9 points. Yes, that’s the actual number. The system would cause mass confusion in 1973 when no one knew when or if Benny Parsons had won the championship, even after he clinched. It was a mess and another points format was instituted for 1974.

That system was based on posted awards plus multiple determined by the number of starts a driver made. It resulted in NASCAR multiplying and remultiplying the points after each race. Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough finished 1-2 in the Daytona 500 and finished 1-2 in the final points standings. Petty and Yarborough had their Daytona points added to their point total after each event. In the 1974 Southern 500 at Darlington, Richard Petty crashed and finished 35 but scored more points for the event than Darrell Waltrip who finished 2nd. Petty cruised to his 5th championship finishing 567.45 points over Cale Yarborough in second and beating third place David Pearson by 2,648.50 points in third.

So let me get this straight- Petty’s first two championships consisted of a format that saw more points for the big races and encouraged teams to stay home for the small events and just run the big events. His third championship was won under a format that rewarded more points for the bigger tracks and less points for the smaller tracks and his fourth championship was under a format that was based off of laps completed and gave no real reward for winning races and leading laps. His fifth championship came under a format where a driver could score more points for finishing 35th in a race than 2nd in a race based on what they did in an earlier race- got it.

Yet, Richard Petty is still considered the “King of NASCAR,” and rightfully so. The guy won 200 races and is the Babe Ruth of stock car racing. I just don’t understand though why Jimmie Johnson’s championships aren’t looked at as ‘legit’ if Richard Petty’s are. Petty’s formats were EXTREMELY flawed and not have I ever heard won person say that Petty’s first five titles don’t hold the same merit as Earnhardt’s. Can’t we all agree, even though we don’t like the points format, that a champion is a champion. Everyone starts with the same format prior to the season and no one is given an advantage.

Let’s stop the Jimmie Johnson championship talk once and for all. Thanks.

Limiting Cup Drivers in XFINITY is NASCAR’s Only Choice

The NASCAR XFINITY Series has been a hot topic for discussion over the last several seasons and usually for all the wrong reasons. Very rarely do we talk about a great finish in the series and usually the race is dominated by Cup interlopers who come down to the XFINITY and completely dominate.

One of those drivers is Kyle Busch. Over the last four seasons Busch has averaged a win in every two of his starts in the series. That is what people in the NASCAR world would call “stinking up the show.” Busch and his fellow Cup companions have made the series almost unwatchable at times. Since 2011 Cup Series drivers have won almost 70% of the XFINITY Series races. That number has got to go down.

Which is part of the reason NASCAR is looking at limiting Cup drivers participation in the series. The decision has raised a lot of questions on Social Media and the truth is that this is NASCAR’s only decision. There are plenty of other ideas that could be in play but none of them will work for one reason or another.

One idea I personally love is less companion events for the XFINITY Series. If you look the 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series schedule 27 of the 33 races are on the same track during the same weekend as the Cup race, which makes it very convenient for the Cup drivers to race both races in the same weekend. If we saw four or five less companion events for the series, I think part of the problem would be fixed. There wouldn’t be too much of a cost issue and I think it would be the easiest fix this series could see without ruffling too many feathers.

However, that will never happen. The track owners love a Friday, Saturday and Sunday show. Giving up the XFINITY race on Saturday would cause the problem of loss revenue because there would be nothing to sell at the racetrack on Saturday other than Cup practice. Track owners would lose too much money. At the end of the day it’s a business and businesses never like to lose any income. Scratch that plan off the board.

I have also heard a theory about banning Cup owners from participating in the series and letting the Cup drivers race for non-cup teams. It’s an interesting theory because banning Cup owners would still allow the fans to see their favorite stars racing the majority of the races in the series and maybe make the racing more competitive.

However, there would be multiple problems with that too. First of all, how do you police it? What would stop Jack Roush from “selling” his XFINITY Series team to someone inside his organization like Robbie Reiser? The only thing that would change would be the name. Fans might feel better but Roush would still provide the chassis and engines for the team and his employees would still work on the car. It seems like a pointless move.

The other thing that would make that theory difficult is the fact that you would be lowering the quality of the teams in the series as well as costing the car owners millions and millions of dollars. Sure Roush could probably sell his engines and chassis to other organizations who could buy them but there would only be so much to go around. Also, if history has taught us anything, the parts would go for pennies of what they originally cost, costing the teams money.

All in all, limiting Cup drivers from the XFINITY Series is the correct move and the only feasible option. Personally, I’d like to see them completely out of the XFINITY Series but that’s a different debate for a different day.

A Defining Decision is in NASCAR’s Near Future

Here we are. 11 weeks to go or if you haven’t been paying much attention, one week until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. While the attention will be focused on who will make the Chase and who won’t there is a looming decision ahead for NASCAR as we get ready for the Chase in 2016 and I’m not talking about their search for a new title sponsor.

If you look at what has occurred in NASCAR the last few weeks, there are a few instances that would make you scratch your head and make you wonder if their winning at all costs attitude extends past just intentionally wrecking the leader going to the start-finish line.

Just take the last few weeks for example. The confusion started at Michigan when 23 year old driver Kyle Larson won the Pure Michigan 400. It was Larson’s first career victory in his 99th career start. After crossing the start-finish line, Larson was excited. So excited in fact that he did memorable burnouts on the front straightaway. His burnouts were so extensive that he ended up blowing the rear tires out, which eventually blew both rear corner panels off the car. It was a victory celebration for the ages.

Larson drives for Chip Ganassi Racing, a competitive team but certainly not one of the top echelon of teams in NASCAR. Prior to Larson’s victory the team had won just one race in the last 5.5 years. Many people thought that the team’s lack of success may have been holding Larson back. His win at Michigan proved that Larson and Chip Ganassi Racing can succeed together.

However, the win did raise some red flags for the most cynical race fan. It made those fans wonder about Larson’s post-race celebration and whether or not he blew out his tires and his fenders intentional to avoid a penalty going through post-race inspection. Their thoughts were not without merit.

Earlier in the season NASCAR raised the same concern when Denny Hamlin won at Watkins Glen. Hamlin, who won his 28th race in his career that afternoon, did the same thing as Larson. He blew out his tires and fenders during his post-race celebration. At the time, NASCAR’s Executive Vice President Steve O’Donnell told Sirius XM NASCAR Radio that NASCAR was looking to regulate post-race celebrations and that one like Hamlin’s may not be tolerated in the near future.

However, O’Donnell’s stance changed a bit after Larson’s victory, chalking his excessive celebration up to a driver simply celebrating their first career win. Larson’s car looked an awful lot like Hamlin’s car following Watkins Glen.

As we get ready for Richmond, NASCAR’s policing of their inspection process has never been more strict. Just this past weekend at Darlington, Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 team got penalized for leaning on the rear end of his car and pulling out a side skit. Ryan Newman’s team and Kyle Larson’s team failed post-race laser inspection, docking 15 driver points from both drivers.

The points won’t hurt Larson, who’s win at Michigan has locked him into the Chase. All Larson has to do on Sunday is start the race and he will run for the championship. Newman, meanwhile, had lost several points earlier in the season for a similar infraction and had to start in the rear of the field during Sunday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 for ‘unapproved adjustments’ to his car. The 15 points Newman was penalized dropped him from seven points back of the Chase to 22 points back. That leaves only one option for Newman and his team, win.

Winning is much easier said than done in NASCAR but you can’t help but wonder what is going through Newman and his team’s mind. With winning being their only option the team will do whatever it takes to win a race. That may mean, pushing someone into the wall and pinning them there (like we saw in Sunday’s truck race in Canada) or it could mean that Newman’s crew chief Luke Lambert will push the envelope ever so slightly to get his driver and his team into the Chase.

All Newman would have to do is burn the rear tires off the car, like Larson did at Michigan. If a first win is an excuse to blow tires out during a celebration, you would think a win locking a team into the Chase on the final day would be another exception to the rule.

That makes you wonder why Newman or any team wouldn’t do this when the win a race. With the Chase coming up NASCAR has to make a decision with burnouts and make one fast. If they don’t there will be a lot of head scratching and a lot of controversy following the celebrations.

 

Adding More Road Races Not the Answer

I love racing as much as the next guy. It’s my passion. I’ve watched NASCAR racing since I could remember. My heroes growing up were Bill Elliott, Mark Martin and Harry Gant. I loved stock car racing and while a lot has changed in the sport, no not all for the better, I still love it. That’s why it bothers me that some fans want to make NASCAR similar to IndyCar or Formula 1.

I’ll go on the record and said that I am not a big fan of road course racing. I understand where the modern fan comes from with wanting to see more road course racing in NASCAR. Recently, road racing has produced exciting and interesting racing, enough so that fans and some media members have come up with the idea of adding more road racing into the sport. I think this is a horrible idea.

As I look at the 2016 Verizon IndyCar schedule I realize something. Twelve of the 17 events on the schedule feature road course or street course racing. In Formula 1 all 22 events on their schedule feature road course or street course racing. What turned me onto NASCAR was the fact that it’s different than IndyCar and Formula 1. I do believe it has a place in NASCAR, but a small place. Two events a season is plenty of road course racing for me and I am not opposed to moving a road course into the Chase from one of our existing two road course events.

With that being said, NASCAR is different and that’s what makes it so great. I am a huge fan of short track racing. It’s part of how I grew up. Growing up in the 1990’s and 2000’s the product was on top of it’s game. Then the COT came along and completely changed everything. NASCAR teams had been running one style of racecars since the beginning and now had a new car to deal with. Five years later, the COT was shot dead after manufacturers didn’t believe that they were getting enough ‘brand identity.’ A new car was introduced in 2013, which was more similar to the car previous to the COT, but not exactly the same.

There’s no doubt that the product I’ve watched for the past few seasons in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has left a lot to be desired. Some of the issues are completely out of NASCAR’s control and cannot be fixed. For example, engine manufacturers. In the 1990’s and 2000’s each car and team usually had their own engine program. There were sometimes 30 different engine combinations in a race. Over the years, costs got out of control and engine programs have shut down, forcing teams to buy engines from the bigger powerhouse teams. As we currently sit in 2016, there are five major engine programs in NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, ECR Engines, Roush-Yates, Toyota Racing Development (TRD) and Triad Racing Technologies. That is an issue that has gotten out of control and is something NASCAR cannot fix. It’s something, we as race fans, are going to have to live with.

However, there are still a lot of areas NASCAR can play with to improve it’s product that would make it more appealing. In 2016, we moved to the low downforce package and while that has helped the racing at some places, at others, like this past weekend at Indianapolis, the package has fizzled. I believe a solution to the problem could be different templates for different style racetracks. For example, a template that works for Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be completely different than a template that works at Bristol or Michigan. Teams will still need to race inside the rules at each racetrack and will have clear guidelines of what the template entails at each racetrack. There would be no surprises.

Teams nowadays build new racecars just about every week so matching four of five different templates throughout the season, shouldn’t be an issue. Plus if NASCAR has to make a change with one of the templates, the teams only have to fix the one style of cars, instead of every car in their fleet. I think it’s something that could really help.

However, adding more road course racing to the schedule is not the answer. We have to keep NASCAR different from Formula 1 and IndyCar. There’s a reason why NASCAR leads all motorsports in this country in ratings and attendance, because it’s better. Adding more road courses makes it look a lot like open wheel racing and that’s not what NASCAR should be about. This sport was built on being different and it should stay that way. Plain and simple.

The All-Star Joke

Well here we are folks. It’s the week of the NASCAR Sprint Cup “All-Star” race, if you can call it that anymore. It’s a race that at one time was one of the most exciting and thrilling events in NASCAR, but has turned into a complete joke. This year there are new rules. I know, surprising. Those rules consist of two 50 lap segments followed by a 13 lap segment. Before the 13 lap segment, a random draw will determine whether or not there will be 9, 10 or 11 cars that will pit for four tires and gas. The rest of the cars will stay on the racetrack and get track position. Those rules, which were created by Brad Keselowski, should add a little bit more excitement to the race. The format isn’t the problem. It’s how you get into the All-star in which NASCAR has once again screwed up the event and makes it a complete joke.

What am I talking about? It’s simple. Overlooked by many in the NASCAR community due to the distraction that has been lugnuts over the past few weeks was a little wrinkle NASCAR put into the rules for this year’s All-Star race. While it may be hard to believe, it’s one of the worst wrinkles NASCAR has instituted in a long time.

Let’s take the term ‘All-Star’ and define what it means for a second. In NASCAR, it meant that if a driver had won a race in the last year and half, you were in the All-Star race. It also meant that if you were a previous Series champion or a previous winner of the event you were locked into the event. It meant you actually had to earn your way into the event. It was a true All-Star event.

By those rules there would be 15 drivers locked into the All-Star race in 2016. Plus in previous seasons, there would be two drivers taken from the Sprint Showdown (or the Winston Open as some of us old school fans like to refer to it.) That would push the number up to 17 with ONE driver voted into the race via the fan vote. That would bring the number to 18.

Ahh the fan vote, we finally got to it. The whole reason why this article was written. I was a fan of the thing when NASCAR instituted it back in 2004. It was only one driver and it was a cool way to keep give the fans a say in who they wanted to see in the event. For the first few seasons, it was an asset. Now, it has become a complete joke. Especially in 2016.

As I mentioned before the number of drivers in the race should be 18, if they went by last year’s rules. However, NASCAR’s new wrinkle for the event means that there has to be a minimum of 20 drivers in the event, no matter what. Keep in mind, this is an ‘All-Star’ race. This year there are three segments to the Sprint Showdown. Every segment winner will advance to the All-Star race. That would bring the total to 19, which means in order to get the minimum of 20 drivers into the event, there has to be 2 drivers who advance via the fan vote.

What in the world is going on? How can you call this event an ‘All-Star’ race when you have to take a minimum of 20 drivers? I think fans would be more comfortable taking four drivers from the Sprint Showdown than two from the fan vote. At least those drivers sort of ‘earned’ their way into the event.

Why would NASCAR make such a idiotic decision to allow 20 cars (half the field) to compete for the All-Star race. Why does their need to be a minimum of cars into the event? NASCAR has done the same thing with the Sprint Unlimited (Bud Shootout) in recent years. The only answer I can come up with is simple. Danica Patrick. Patrick usually gets voted into the All-Star race. Except for the 2014 season when Patrick lost to Josh Wise, who had a team of people from the website Reddit.com vote him into the All-Star race. Patrick, who hasn’t finished better than 9th in all three of her Sprint Showdown appearances, missed the race for the only time in her career. With two fan vote drivers being taken Patrick’s odds to make the event increase drastically.

I’ve called out NASCAR for several things in recent years but rarely do I say they favor one driver over the other. I think NASCAR does their best to keep it fair, in that regard. If they didn’t Dale Jr and Danica would win every event because those drivers are the most popular. However, in exhibition events, I believe NASCAR thinks the popularity of Patrick will help boost ratings and attendance. But in doing so they are watering down the event because Patrick lowers the quality of drivers in the field. She hasn’t ‘earned’ her way into the event and judging by her 2016 season so far, won’t do so this year either.

The ratings and the interest for the All-Star race have been declining in recent years. Not only has the format been ridiculous since the new regime took over, but now the procedure to get into the All-Star race is ridiculous. NASCAR had one of the best All-Star events in sports because they had a true format that rewarded winning and championships. Drivers were truly All-Stars and not determined by some kind of fan vote. Now fans get to see lesser talent get into the event because of a technically. That seems like fun. No?

Hard to Relate: NASCAR Drivers Don’t Relate with Fans

Another week and more news about NASCAR’s declining tv ratings. It’s unfortunate. The sport has worked hard over the past year to try and fix the product and it’s worked. There has been more passing throughout the field, and have had some dramatic finishes throughout the season, including the season-opening Daytona 500. It’s been sort of a stunning turn of circumstances especially for a sport looking to replace their title sponsor at the end of the season.

One has to wonder what is the problem? There’s been a lot of speculation, everywhere you read, people have their opinions on what is wrong with NASCAR. While the list and debates about what the exact issues are with the declining ratings and attendance there is one issue that could be more alarming than people think. It’s hard for the NASCAR fans to relate to some of the drivers these days.

Dale Earnhardt was an iconic figure in NASCAR. His presence is still felt in the NASCAR world. If you ask many fans, the sport has never been the same since his fatal death. You have to wonder what made Dale Earnhardt so iconic. There’s no doubt his success on the racetrack contributed but so did Earnhardt’s personality and where he came from.

Most fans could relate to Dale Earnhardt. Earnhardt was an avid hunter, a country boy from Kannapolis, North Carolina and never really strayed away from that. Earnhardt showed his personality countless times throughout his career and was one of the most passionate racers in the sport’s history. He was not afraid to show his emotions.  Even later in his career, when he was wealthy, Earnhardt was just a regular guy. He was interesting.

Same deal with Richard Petty. He was a guy many people could relate to. As was Cale Yarborough, David Pearson and Bobby Allison. They seemed like the guy down the street. That’s no longer the case in the sport.

Nowadays a lot of drivers are too corporate for fans to relate to. A lot of drivers come from money or their parents were in the sport and for the average race fan that’s a hard person to relate to. For example, it’s hard for the average fan to relate to a driver who’s father owns the third largest home improvement chain in the United States. Most fans didn’t have that life growing up. Most fans can’t relate to driver who’s father is worth over $9 billion.

He’s not alone. Several drivers have grown up differently than the average race fan. Several drivers fans cannot relate to. Gone are the days where a fan can watch their favorite local driver work his way up through the ranks and with a little help make it all the way up to NASCAR.

Nowadays, help is really all that matters. Several times in recent years we’ve seen drivers get rides based off the amount of sponsorship money they bring to the sport. David Ragan and Brian Scott were two of the final candidates for the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports ride over the off-season. It came down to who could find more sponsorship, which Scott, who’s father helps fund his racing operation as well, brought the dollars and was hired for the ride.

Scott’s not alone either. Public relations has become one of the most important things in racing, maybe even more important than on-track performance. Recently, I wrote a post about Danica Patrick. Patrick excels in Public Relations. Even though her on-track performance is nothing to be thrilled about most sponsors are not concerned with that. As long as you please the sponsorship off the track, you’re in good shape.

Even Dale Earnhardt Jr is great at PR. While it’s clear Earnhardt is more than capable of being a successful race car, he also makes his sponsors happy by appearing in countless commercials and doing all kinds of different appearances for his sponsorship. It’s now become ‘part of the job.’

I’m not blaming the drivers, I’m blaming the sport in general. When was the last time we saw a really big personality come into this sport. The closest thing we have to a big personality is either Brad Keselowski and/or Kyle Busch. Both drivers have ruffled NASCAR’s feathers and have ruffled fans feathers along the way. Gone are the days of the “Intimidator” and his friends “rubber head” (Rusty Wallace) and “Rooster” (Ricky Rudd) saying how they felt and making for great, entertaining television. That’s a shame.

Nowadays sponsors are the lifeblood of the sport and have too much say in what the driver does and doesn’t do. Also, it’s almost impossible for the average driver to compete with drivers who have big money behind them. The dream of the average kid racing in NASCAR has become a fairy tale. NASCAR can’t understand why they don’t hit the younger demographics. It’s simple. Make the dream of becoming a NASCAR driver a reality again for the average person and make the drivers relate-able. Those two things would help the sport immensely.