Published November 20, 2014
As we all know, there is plenty of bad news out there in the world today. You don't have to look far to find natural disasters or terrorist threats. In racing however, we are fortunate to have some very positive things happening.
First off, as we have been saying since Daytona, we have a great product. The on-track component has just been incredible this year. With Darlington we had another increase in TV viewership and, obviously, that is a good trend. When you have great competition like we have enjoyed in 2010, and the unpredictability at the end of these races, folks tune in. They don't want to miss any of the action.
It should be pretty obvious that when you have close action like we have enjoyed, it makes our job on the TV side of things easier. It makes for a lot of storylines to follow. We have different leaders every week and different winners. Again, it's that unpredictability of the outcome of a race that has folks tuning in.
We had another great crowd in the grandstands last Saturday in Darlington. That's more good news. Sure, there are some empty seats at all the tracks, but it's nothing dramatic or anything near what the gloom and doomers were predicting. Another bright spot to me is some fresh faces in the spotlight this year.
Look at Jamie McMurray. During the offseason he didn't even know if he was going to have a job. He goes back to work for Chip Ganassi and wow, he comes right out of the box and wins the Daytona 500. This past weekend at Darlington he finished third on Friday in the Nationwide race and then second on Saturday in the Cup race.
I see Jamie's confidence growing. I see the relationship with his crew chief and his teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya, getting stronger and stronger. I honestly see Jamie working his way right into the Chase this year. To be honest, I thought his teammate had gotten himself too far behind to make the Chase for the second consecutive year, but now it looks really promising for Juan Pablo. The way both those cars are running, it wouldn't surprise me a bit to see both Jamie and Juan Pablo in the Chase.
Some folks are complaining about the tires and that they don't fall off enough. C'mon, give me a break. Tires are not supposed to be the deciding factor in a race. Tires are supposed to last a fuel run. That's what we always ask for and what we always want. It just seems like folks want to criticize Goodyear for whatever reason. Folks, those tires at Darlington were perfect.
Any time you see cars breaking the track record or even flirting with breaking the record, that's a clear indication Goodyear has the right tire. It tells you they have a fast tire there. After you get some laps on them, you see not only is it a fast tire, but also a competitive and dependable tire. So the good news is that following the debacle at the Brickyard two years ago, Goodyear has given these teams better tires at all the tracks.
The wave-around rule is working exactly as it's supposed to and that's also a positive. The reason for it is the double-file restarts. It cleans up the front of the field and puts the leader up behind the pace car where he should be. It makes it clean for green when they are ready to go back to racing. Personally I think it has really improved the quality of the racing.
There will always be debate on the green-white-checker rule. I happen to fall on the side of it's good to have. My only hesitation is about having three opportunities at it. I might just see one attempt maybe, but let's face the facts: It has increased the excitement at the end of these races. Isn't that what we all want? Doesn't everyone want unpredictable, nail-biting finishes? All these new rules in 2010 have made that possible.
The other great news is our brand new NASCAR Hall of Fame that opened Tuesday. We now have a place to preserve our history. All of us, owners, drivers, teams and probably even sponsors have parts, pieces and memorabilia that the fans would probably love to see. Unfortunately we probably all have it hoarded away somewhere. Now with our brand new Hall, it gives all of us a chance to put it on display.
NASCAR Hall of Fame curator Buz McKim has gone out and found so many historical pieces that it's unbelievable. We now have one central location for fans, old and new, to see, learn and remember about our sport. It's the new Grand Central Station of racing, folks. It's only going to get better, too, as the displays rotate through and more things get added. Having new, fresh displays will make the Hall a must-see every year.
The other great positive of 2010 so far is the resurgence of Joe Gibbs Racing. Coach Gibbs has a long history of picking quality individuals. His record on the football field and on the race track speaks for itself. He knows how to marry up the right people together who all pull together as a team should. That's why they are having such great success.
When Rick Hendrick comes out and says publicly that not only has Joe Gibbs Racing caught but also surpassed Hendrick Motorsports, well that's a huge endorsement for the Gibbs camp. Folks, that is one heck of a compliment that Rick paid to everyone over at Joe Gibbs Racing.
What Denny Hamlin is doing over at Joe Gibbs Racing right now is truly spectacular. This young man is winning races before and after knee surgery. They made the call not to wait to have surgery and to have him ready for the Chase. My gosh, he is winning races even during rehabilitation. Can you just imagine how strong he is going to be in the Chase when he is fully recovered?
I have to admit that I got really tickled the other day when a fan called him Hopalong Hamlin on the radio. I thought that was a really appropriate nickname considering the circumstances.
You've heard me say this ever since Martinsville, but it is worth repeating. NASCAR made a great call getting that ugly ol' wing off the Car of Tomorrow and going back to the spoiler. It's made the car look and handle better. In all honesty, I think it's also leveled the playing field.
So there is a lot of good news in NASCAR racing. I think it is something we need to all focus on. There are a lot of folks who automatically look for the negative and seem to enjoy trying to tear something down. You simply can't ignore all the positives in NASCAR racing today.
On the bad news side of the ledger, I have the Jeff's. Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton haven't been able to find a way to close the deal and get to Victory Lane this year. Combined, those two had opportunities to probably win six of the 11 races so far. Unfortunately they haven't and are still winless this year.
I also can't say this is a fact, but it sure is a coincidence to me that the No. 48 team of Jimmie Johnson came out smoking and won three races earlier this year. Then the switch from the wing to the spoiler happened, and they haven't won since. They haven't been junk, but they sure have had their share of problems since it happened. Right now, the switch to the spoiler seems to be the culprit.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. continues to run OK, but not great. His group needs to continue to work on his program and get him better. The Fords are still looking for a win in 2010. The bad news for Richard Petty Motorsports is it is losing its star driver at the end of the season. The team is going to have to do some shuffling to put together something good for next year. Unfortunately, coming off the unbelievable year he had in 2009, Mark Martin isn't running up to expectations in 2010. It sure isn't what we expected from him so far.
That's just some of the bad news. The good news within that is that it can be fixed.