Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Loose Lugnuts by Mike Sanders

Jason Leffler's Passing...From A Slightly Different Angle

The recent death of Jason Leffler has been covered from just about every conceivable angle in the two weeks since it occurred. But I wanted to touch on it from a slightly different perspective, one that ties in to something I've spoken about before (it's not as important as life and death in the grand scheme of things, but still...). Jason made his 73rd and final Sprint Cup series start three days before his death, driving an unsponsored and underfunded 19 car for Humphrey Smith Racing at Pocono in place of Mike Bliss. As was expected, after he finished 8 laps he pulled the car into the garage for the rest of the day. As is the custom with start-and-park cars, the broadcast crew in the TNT booth never mentioned his name. A small picture of him was shown on screen above the car number and his starting spot during the parade laps, but because he was not starting in the top 20, his name wasn't actually spoken aloud. The ticker at the top of the screen showing driver names, car numbers, current position, and intervals showed his name a couple of times while he was still in the race. Then, after returning from the first commercial break of the race, the ticker showed that his car was "off", then "out", meaning it was not to return. And that was it, the end of his Cup racing career. In silence. Unnoticed by the race announcers. And this goes, somewhat, to something I have spoken about before: that more than any single thing, television coverage could bring about an end to start-and-park cars and possibly undersponsored cars in general. Think about it this way: if you're in charge of a small company with a limited budget for advertising, and you were thinking of putting up the money to have your company's name on the side and hood of a car, would you be willing to spend that money if there was a chance that the car it went to wouldn't be seen by the cameras or mentioned by the race announcers? What should happen, and probably won't, is that during the parade laps, every car in the field, from 1st to 43rd, should be shown on camera for at least 5 seconds, and the play-by-play announcer in the booth should say the driver's name, the car number, and the sponsor(s) of that car. Then, once the race starts, spend most of the first 5 to 10 laps showing the cars in the back of the field, the ones that most likely are the underfunded teams. Put them on camera and talk about them. You'll have plenty of time to show the cars up front later. Give the "little guys" a taste of the spotlight. Maybe you'll be able to convince some potential sponsors that their investment won't be wasted.

Okay, Once Again For You Stupid People

And by "stupid people", I mean, of course, the NASCAR media. Three days ago I read an article that said that Flipper's third place finish at Sonoma had narrowed the gap in the standings between him and Bent Sh!tcan to a "manageable 25 points" by making up 6 points on Sunday. Okay, Mr. Mensa, let me explain it to you (and your brethren out there) one more time, and you may take notes if you wish: after race number 26, the points get reset and the resulting point gaps (if any) are determined by the number of races a driver has won up to that point. That's it. It doesn't matter if Flipper was in 10th place and 225 points behind the points leader, or in 6th place, 118 points behind; if he's won the same number of races after race number 26, they're tied. So the only way Flipper can "narrow the gap" is to win more races between now and the start of the Chase. That's it. Get it? I doubt you do...

Quite A Contrast

I celebrated a Bimbo-free Indy 500 (there were actually four female drivers in the field, but none of them were Bimbos) this year by watching the entire thing for the first time in about 25 years. First, a slight departure: congratulations to Tony Kanaan for winning his first Indy 500. I'm not a real big IRL fan, but I saw a feature on Kanaan a few years back and he seemed to be not only a good driver but a real good guy, so I started rooting for him (and tell me that if they ever made a movie about his life, that Vin Diesel wouldn't be the perfect pick to play him). One reason I wanted to watch was to contrast the coverage that ABC provided for the Indy 500 and compare it to FOX's coverage of the Coca-Cola 600 later that night. Well, it wasn't close: ABC's coverage was vastly superior. First, the guys in the ABC booth didn't talk down to the audience; they talked as if the audience knew something about racing. Contrast that to FOX, and to DW in particular. DW always, and I mean ALWAYS, talks to the audience as if they have the collective IQ of a turnip. Yes DW, I know what "loose" means and I know what "tight" means. Etc, etc, etc. ABC had an advantage when it came to camera angles; the majority of the time, several cars were on the screen at the same time. Not so with FOX, who obviously has producers that believe that it's better to show one car at at time, for some reason. Now to the commercials: over the 200 laps of the Indy 500, ABC had 14 commercial breaks: 3 during cautions, 11 during green flag racing. 9 of the 11 green flag breaks were side-by-side; only 2 were full screen commercial breaks. In total, only 8 of 179 green flag laps were missed. Over the 400 laps of the Coca-Cola 600, FOX had 31 commercial breaks: 14 during cautions or red flags, 17 during green flag racing. Only 2 of the 17 green flag breaks were side-by-side, the other 15 were full screen commercial breaks. In total, 87 of 339 green flag laps were missed. So, let's recap: ABC showed, full screen or side-by-side, 95.5% of the green flag laps run; FOX showed 74.3% of the green flag laps run. Yep, just a little bit of a difference...

Be Careful What You Wish For

As bad as FOX's race coverage is, and as badly as we wanted them to go away, some aspects of TNT's coverage is just as bad or worse. First, the number of commercials and missed green flag laps seems to be higher. I haven't watched the tapes and crunched the numbers yet (I'll do it before the next Loose Lugnuts), but it can't be my imagination. It seems that the number one phrase uttered by Adam Alexander in each race is "while we were away". And if those are your most oft spoken words, you know your race coverage sucks. And while the booth bozos of TNT don't have the same love affair with Mini Douche or Princess Provisional that DW has, they certainly have a love affair with the 48 team (both Bent Sh!tcan and Cheating Weasel). I think Larry Mac brought that over with him from FOX. It was especially nauseating during the Michigan race. I had to watch that race with a barf bag at the ready.

I Think NASCAR Needs A New Savior

If Princess Provisional was supposed to be the sport's new savior (evidently, Junior has an expired shelf life, or something), well, Brain Dead needs to go back to the drawing board. Let's look at what has happened to TV ratings so far this year compared to 2012. Total viewers for the 16 races held so far in 2013: 114.439 million. For the first 16 races of 2012, total viewership was 114.210 million. The numbers are essentially flat from last year to this one. If you take away the numbers from the Daytona 500 in both years (this year's numbers were way up due to the bogus pole for The Princess), then this year's numbers are down 2.7% from last year. To make things worse, this year's numbers are down 9.6% compared to the same period in 2011. And if her merchandise sales are supposedly so huge, why aren't the fans attending the races wearing her gear? Now, I've only been to two races this year (the Daytona 500 and the Southern 500), but at both events her trailer wasn't exactly doing a lot of business, and the number of fans I saw actually wearing 10 gear at both races I could have counted on both hands and had a few fingers left over.

The Gen Sux...err, Six Car

Yes, we know the new gen six car is faster than the POSOT (and if we didn't know it, DW was there to tell us that about every 3.7 seconds during every practice session, qualifying session, and race), but clean air still rules, and therefore boring-as-hell, single-file-all-day races like Fontana, Pocono, and Michigan are still boring as hell single file races, but just a little faster. And most of the passing for the lead still occurs on pit road. So what exactly were the advantages of the new car supposed to be? Oh yeah, they look (somewhat) prettier than the POSOT. Of course, that's not saying much. That would be like saying that your new wife looks prettier than your old wife...but your old wife was Helen Thomas.

An Update

I haven't done this in a while. here is an updated list of the top 10 drivers as far as the number of columns, stories, articles, etc. in which their name appears in the title. This list is from the period of January 10th to June 26th (today). Guess who's still number one:

Princess Provisional: 445
The Hamster: 332
Bent Sh!tcan: 317
Mini Douche: 262
Junior: 255
Matty Ice: 246
B-ski: 244
Smokeless: 203
Burnt Toast: 160
Unhappy: 131

Splash And Go

Short takes on a variety of subjects:

1. It may be a very long time until Maxi Douche wins another race. If his car is good, he screws up; if he appears to have his head together, his car takes a crap.

2. The road race at Sonoma takes place in a perfect location for Princess Provisional: California "whine" country.

3. Maybe The Hamster should just give up trying to make the Chase this year, turn the 11 car over to someone else for the rest of the year, and have the back surgery he appears to need a few months early to ensure he's healthy and ready to go for 2014.

4. Bobby Labonte's consecutive races started streak comes to an end this week at 704. And it ends on a less than stellar note, with his two 43rd place finishes in the last two races.

5. Maybe now we can stop counting how many races it's been since Martin Truex, Jr. won a race. Because right now that count is at zero.

6. It appears that One Problem Wrecktoya most likely will be back in the 42 again next year. So where will No-Neck land in 2014? Well, Unhappy is taking his ride at SHR, so why not return the favor and get behind the wheel of the 29?