The hallmark of a really, really bad economy is seeing all the things we thought were recession-proof start to suffer. Professional sports as a whole has been a notable casualty. But seeing NASCAR, which makes more money than God and has unrivaled devotion among its fans, stumble in ticket sales, is a real kick in the teeth.
Next week’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway still hasn’t sold out, and if you’re not a NASCAR fan, you might not realize how big that is. Bristol has sold out the last 53 races, a streak dating back 27 years, the longest of any track. And hell, if you can’t get 160,000 people to trek to the Tennessee-Virginia border in March, you might as well just close up shop.
The self-appointed Super Bowl of stock car racing just finished, and it finished in controversy. Matt Kenseth won his first Daytona 500 when the race was called off because of a rain delay in central Florida. As far as we’re concerned, its the “race was called because of a rain delay” that marks the most important part of that sentence.
(Congratulations, dude. Now get back in your car and finish the race!)
How can NASCAR possibly justify awarding it’s biggest single event title before the race has actually finished? Would they call off the Super Bowl with 9 minutes on the clock in the fourth quarter because of horrible field conditions? No way. Would they award a win for a rain-shortened World Series game? No, they wouldn’t. In fact, we now know that empirically, thanks to last year’s weather-elongated theatrics between the Phillies and Rays.
(That’s not Jimmie Johnson en fuego … it’s GM rushing from Daytona.)
According to the DETROIT NEWS, the carmaker that has been the official car and truck provider of Daytona Speedway since the early 1970s is in talks about a new sponsorship deal to replace the current agreement that ends Dec. 31st. Yet there isn’t significant optimism about signing a new deal because of cash-strapped GM’s need to adhere to strict regulations in order to qualify for the federal funding they’ve been lobbying for over the past month as part of a financial bailout.
“We don’t comment about our business discussions,” GM spokeswoman Jan Thomas said.
If you thought that sounded ominous, listen to the quote from Daytona speedway spokesman Andrew Booth: “I know we’ve had some talks with them but right now, we are continuing to explore opportunities,” he said. “We don’t comment on our prospects.”
Larry “Chipper” Jones found himself in an awkward situation recently. No, not trying to explain how he can hit nearly .400 without the use of a whiffle bat or if he thinks a first baseman’s glove will make his hips look big or something. Instead, he found himself guilty of Celebrity Faux Pas #1: overestimating his ranking on the celebrity scale.
He approached young miss Kelly Clarkson at Daytona in 2007 after her performance (posted above) and… well, tell us in your own words, Larry, as recorded in ESPN THE MAGAZINE this month and captured by LARRY BROWN SPORTS:
“She walked my way, looking at me like she knew who I was, so I started to put out my hand. Then she pulls out a camera and asks me to take a photo of her and her friends. My buddy lost it…. I was so embarrassed that I just wanted to go get a beer.”
While LeBron James was earning kudos for his All-Star skills, SCOTT VAN PELT STYLE (via ESPN) finds one ex-NBA star dodging the dunks in New Orleans for the doings at Daytona.
John Salley spent his All-Star Weekend down in Florida, covering the 500 for Fox Sports’ “Best Damn Sports Show Period”. And it sounds like he’s happier at the racetrack than he would be hanging in the Big Easy: Read more…
The Daytona 500 is fixin’ to get started right about now (2 Eastern, and, um, 3:30 in Newfoundland), but it appears one of the biggest stories is off the track. Yes, Dale Jr. has a new line of merchandise that has fans all atwitter.
The iPhone of NASCAR?
Well, a shirt can’t tell me where the best adult bookstore in Detroit is, or play my favorite Spice Girls b-sides, but I guess if people want to be excited that’s up to them. Read more…
We’re sure NASCAR executives trying to lock down deals with upscale advertisers will be pleased with the ORLANDO SENTINEL’s breakdown of the infield denizens attending this year’s Daytona 500:
John Parker, a St. Petersburg carpenter, and his friends sleep in tents and shower with water piped from a garbage can heated by a turkey fryer. Hank Evitts, 48, of Leonardtown, Md., hangs a plastic deer head from a tiki bar at the front of his RV site. What startles passers-by is when the deer’s lips move and it starts talking to them — Evitts controls it through a wireless microphone.
The CHARLOTTE OBSERVER races over news that Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart were each given a 6-race probation over an altercation at Daytona last Friday.
NASCAR handed down the ruling on Tuesday, after Kurt & Tony came to blows on the track and reportedly off it.
During a practice race, Stewart hit Busch from behind and sent him into the wall. Busch then returned the favor in pit row by hitting Stewart twice in the side. Both racers then kept cutting each other off as they made their way to the garage.