My Thoughts on Series Sponsorships Vs TV Ratings

By David G. Firestone

One more TV rating and series sponsorship rant. The good news is that last week, Monster Energy agreed to a contract extension with NASCAR to sponsor the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The bad news is that this deal lasts until the end of the 2019, and according to Bob Pockrass “NASCAR COO Steve Phelps said it is “highly unlikely” that partnership would continue beyond that.” The sponsorship is worth $20,000,000 per year according to Pockrass.

This sums up NASCAR’s sponsorship woes perfectly. They can’t get a long term series sponsor for the Cup Series, and they keep signing these short term deals, which require a lot of work to keep going, and don’t inspire confidence. This also hurts future sponsorship opportunities, because other companies are watching this, and might not want to spend the kind of money that Monster spends on a short term deal.

Now while that sounds bad, for IndyCar, the situation is so much worse. IndyCar is losing Verizon as the series sponsor at the end of the season. They are on the hunt for a new series sponsor, which doesn’t sound bad, until some numbers are discussed.

First, the amount of money is suspect. According to Auto Week: “The IBJ[Indiana Business Journal] cited a source close to IndyCar that would like a new sponsor willing to pay $10 million to $15 million in cash and another $10 million to $15 million to advertise and promote the series per year.” Now that doesn’t sound so unreasonable, but then some more information comes to light, this time in the form of television ratings.

According to Sports Media Watch: The season opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg “earned a 0.8 rating and 1.14 million viewers on ABC, flat in ratings and down 5% in viewership from last year (0.8, 1.20M) and down 20% and 18% respectively from 2016 (1.0, 1.39M). Though barely, it was the least-watched IndyCar opener since 2015 (891K).” That doesn’t sound so bad, until you look at the race at Phoenix “…had just 253,000 viewers on NBCSN (-26%).”

If those numbers don’t show that IndyCar is asking for too much money, than I don’t know what does. A Saturday night race, with no real racing competition, at an established track only draws 253,000 television viewers? Those number could be justified if IndyCar was running opposition to NASCAR, but with no competition, those numbers are awful! Hell ESPN’s Formula 1 is drawing bigger numbers! The race at Bahrain drew over twice the audience than IndyCar, with 683,000 viewers.

$20-30 Million for 253,000 viewers is beyond unrealistic, and if these are the kind of ratings that IndyCar can draw, then maybe the season is going to be shortened even more. Television advertising is down, and I’m really wondering how much longer IndyCar can last in its current form. How much more money can the sport lose? I really don’t see how this can last.

One final note, I’m not going to discuss this anymore than I already have. I’m done, and I’ll pick up if and when IndyCar picks up a series sponsor.

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My Thoughts on 4-Wide Racing and Drag Racing Purists

By David G. Firestone

To the anonymous keyboard warriors who were whining about the NHRA using 4-wide racing for Las Vegas last weekend…do me a huge favor and get a life. One of the most idiotic things in the world is a sports purist. I can’t stand sports purists. Purists are the kind of people who love tradition, they hate change, and they can’t accept the fact that things change in life. Change in sports is going to happen, and if you can’t handle that, then go cry in the corner, take your ball, and go home. We won’t miss you.

For the last week, these drag racing purists were whining that “I won’t be watching” and “half the racing for the same cost” and “this isn’t drag racing.” Um…how isn’t this drag racing? You think that 4-wide racing is something that was invented recently as a marketing tool to bring in fans?

First off, 4-wide drag racing isn’t a new marketing tool, examples of 4-wide drag racing go back to the 1960’s. I live in Illinois. One of the older drag strips in Illinois is Byron Dragway, which has wide lanes. This was done to enable 4-wide racing, which was held at Byron for some time, though this has since been discontinued. 4-wide racing has proven popular through the ages, but it’s not been given a proper treatment until now.

Second off, I don’t know if you have been paying attention to television ratings and attendance numbers, but you might want to start. Saturday and Sunday were great days for The Strip at Las Vegas because both days were sold out. For a form of drag racing that “most fans hate,” ticket sales were very high. The stands were full, so people were watching the event. As of this writing, television ratings haven’t been released, but I’m willing to bet that they were good, since the NHRA didn’t have much competition last Sunday.

The NHRA is doing better business than ever. Ticket sales, and television ratings are up. More people are getting turned on to the NHRA. As such, change will come to the sport. In this case, the NHRA and Burton Smith took something that had been done historically in drag racing, and made it work for the 21st Century. If you can’t accept that the sport is going to have to try new things to bring in more people, and in turn, more sponsorship money, then grow up. The NHRA owes you nothing, and they don’t have to lose money and lose television ratings and ticket sales because some anonymous keyboard warriors want things to stay the same.

It should also be noted that both Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have expressed a fondness for 4-wide racing. I guess one of the greatest NASCAR drivers in history, and one of the most popular NASCAR drivers in history shouldn’t have a voice, but a bunch of loser douches that nobody has heard of or care about should have the loudest voice.

Another thing that needs to be noted is that if 4-wide racing isn’t working, and people don’t like it, then the NHRA would stop doing it. Mello Yello, Sunoco, Lucas Oil, Goodyear and FOX Sports have a lot of pull. If they thought that 4-wide racing wasn’t profitable, they would convince the NHRA to stop it. The fact that not one, but two drag strips have been reconfigured for 4-wide racing is quite telling, since the amount of money that is needed to make this change is a lot. If the strips weren’t confident it wouldn’t work, they would not reconfigure the track, and save themselves a lot of time and money.

The bottom line here is that 4-wide racing is working. If you can’t look at the evidence and see that, then you clearly can’t see the forest for the trees. I hate selfish sports purists, and I hate people who can’t handle the fact that the world is changing. Get off Twitter, get off Instagram, and get a real life…for many of you, that would be an improvement.

My Thoughts on The Clydesdale Effect, and Dewey Rider

By David G. Firestone

Got a couple of things to discuss this week, but before I get to the heart of the subject, I need to discuss a slight change to the proceedings this week. Due to the fact that there is no Cup series race this week, I’m not going to grade paint schemes this week. The Tracker is ready to go, but I will resume grading schemes next week.

Now onto something that, at least to me, makes no sense. I read Uni-Watch on a regular basis, and recently saw a link to a picture of Yale lacrosse players wearing headscarves as a way to block out peripheral vision. Now, this is not a new thing, because drag racing has been doing this for some time. Jack Beckman referred to it as “the Clydesdale Effect.” These are examples of how drivers modify their helmet visors:Now in drag racing, it makes sense, because this is a picture of what you need to focus on:That isn’t that much, since you really only need to focus on your lane. In lacrosse however, you need to be aware of everything around you. You need to know where your teammates are, as well as your opponents. You need to know where the ball is in relation to where you are, and where the goal is. Why would you cut down on peripheral vision? It doesn’t make any sense. No other sport besides drag racing needs The Clydesdale Effect, because in no other sport would ever need it. It makes even less sense when you realize that a lacrosse field has a 110 yards by 60 yards dimensions. Blocking players vision with The Clydesdale Effect could only lead to injury.

The other thing I want to discuss is Dewey Rider. For those who don’t know, Dewey Rider is Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s replacement in Mountain Dew commercials. He is supposed to be a funny character, but he is utterly humorless. He is not funny, the commercials are not good, Rider and Dale Jr. do not have good chemistry, and the ad campaign as a whole is forced. I hate Dewey Rider, and I hate Danny McBride, the actor who plays Dewey.

Dewey Rider is Mountain Dew’s version of Flo from Progressive, and the Geico Gecko. He’s a character that starts out small, but is forced on us, to the point that we all get sick of them, and the company won’t drop them. I get that Flo and the Gecko have their fan bases, but the majority of us are sick of them. I can only see Dewey ending up in the same boat.

The only character that really worked was The Most Interesting Man In The World. Dos Equis used Jonathan Goldsmith to portray The Most Interesting Man In The World. The commercials were interesting, Goldsmith played the character to perfection, the commercials seemed natural, and it worked. Plus, unlike Progressive and Geico, Dos Equis retired the character before it got too stale and over done.

The bottom line is that Dewey Rider is not a great character, people don’t like him, and I hope he goes away.

My Thoughts On Formula 1’s 2018 Debut

By David G. Firestone

Just a short one this week. So the first Formula 1 race of the season was last weekend. The big news was that the United States Formula 1 television contract had shifted from NBC to ABC/ESPN. This came as kind of a surprise, since ESPN had pretty much alienated many racing fans over the last few years. So on Sunday Morning at 12 AM I tuned in to ESPN2 for the first race.

ESPN’s Formula 1 “strategy” and I’m being generous with that term, is to simply simulcast Sky Sports’ Formula 1 telecast. They are putting no time, money, or effort in to the telecasts. Factor in that after this season, IndyCar will be leaving ESPN for BC, and you have a really bad situation for ESPN.

I liked Sky Sports’ coverage of Formula 1, don’t misunderstand me. That being said, ESPN had a chance to impress racing fans, and they whiffed on it so badly. It should also be noted that not all of the problems in this disaster of a racing telecast were ESPN’s fault. However, considering that key moments of the race were missed due to a poorly placed commercial break, and ESPN has since apologized for this fiasco, it’s just another example of the total lack of respect for racing fans that ESPN has. I hope the next telecast is better, but I won’t bet the farm on it.

My Thoughts On Some Racing News Stories

By David G. Firestone

As mentioned last week, I spent a few days in St. Louis. I’ll have more to say on Friday. In the meantime, I wanted to discuss a few racing things this last week.

We are going to start with the big news coming out of the NHRA. The last major barrier in drag racing has been broken. On Friday, Hector Arana Jr. officially broke the 200 MPH barrier, with a 200.23 MPH run. This has been coming for some time, and it finally happened on Friday. Arana becomes the founding member of the Denso 200 MPH club, which was created prior to the Gatornationals. Congratulations to Hector Arana Jr.

While this is exciting, it’s also a little sad, because there are no real barriers in drag racing anymore. Kenny Bernstein hit 300 in a dragster at Gainesville in 1992. Jim Epler hit 300 in a Funny Car at Topeka in 1993. Warren Johnson hit 200 at Richmond in 1997. Realistically, there are no more major barriers. Could we see a 350 MPH run in Top Fuel or Funny Car? It’s possible, but I wouldn’t bet the farm just yet.

NASCAR had a good sponsorship announcement, and a bad situation. Earlier in the season, Coors Light announced that they would no longer sponsor the pole award. So for a while, there was no pole award sponsor. Last week, Busch announced that they would be sponsoring the pole award in NASCAR. That’s the good news, since Busch is more committed to NASCAR than Coors Light was.

The bad news for NASCAR is that as of this writing, Monster Energy hasn’t renewed their sponsorship contract with NASCAR. The contract, set to expire at the end of the year, has been in discussion for some time now. Recently, an unconfirmed report stated that there is optimism for a renewal, however, no details besides that have been discussed.

In other sponsorship news, Lowe’s has announced that after this season, they will not be returning to Hendrick Motorsports after this season. Since the #48 is the only team in NASCAR that has only one primary sponsor, this puts them in a bad situation. I’m surprised that the #48 only has one primary sponsor, and now it’s coming back to bite them. Now I’m sure that they will pick up a few sponsors this year, it doesn’t look good when the only sponsor you have leaves.

In the last news item, Goodyear announced recently that the option tire won’t be returning to the All-Star Race. The problem with the option tire was that any advantage it provided in terms of speed was nullified when the lights came out. Goodyear says it isn’t a dead issue, despite the fact it was a failure, and nothing has been said about it since. I think it is dead, based on NASCAR’s lack of enthusiasm for the option tire, both from fans and drivers.

An Announcement For This Week

By David G. Firestone

Just a real brief one this week. It’s more of an announcement. I’ve been working on a project that has come to fruition. This week, I’m going to spend a few days in St. Louis working on a few projects. I’m going to go on a few tours, shoot a few videos, and have some fun. I’m going to talk about my trip next Friday.

Unlike in past years, when I’ve gone to Tuscon, I’m going to keep the regular rotation going. There will be a Tracker, and Grades this week. I can do this because I’m only on the train for 5 hours, as opposed to three days. I’m going to be able to watch the races, and I’ll be able to work on the website without much hassle.

I’ve been working on this for a while, and I’m going to have some fun with it. See you next week!

My Thoughts On One Of The Worst Moves In NBA History

By David G. Firestone

On June 5, 1981, a seemingly insignificant trade between the Indiana Pacers and the Portland Trailblazers took place. The trade of Tom Owens to the Pacers from the Blazers in exchange for a first-round draft pick a few years later would unintentionally set in to motion a moment of infamy that, 30 years later Blazer fans are still fuming over. When that draft pick in question came to pass, it shocked the sports world, and changed the NBA forever. This change would involve the Owens trade, a stand out center from Kentucky, two front office heads who would play critical roles in the beginning of the situation, and a point guard from UNC who would change the sports world forever.

Let’s look at the center of the trade first, Tom Owens played from 1971-1983 in the ABA and NBA for a number of teams. He had a rather unremarkable career, never playing in an all-star game, but he did end up winning a championship in 1977 for the Trailblazers. His season in 1981, prior to the trade was just as unremarkable. The Blazers traded Owens to the Indiana Pacers on June 5, four days prior to the 1981 NBA Draft. The Blazers got a pick in the 1984 NBA Draft, the Pacers got Tom Owens, who played one season, got traded to Detroit, and then retired.

During the 1980-81 Kentucky Wildcats season, a center had attracted a lot of attention, and was quickly added to the 1980 United States Olympic Basketball team, but the United States would boycott the Olympics, and he would never see Olympic competition. He would return for a second season, and he was still an impressive player for his sophomore season. What happened next would have a major impact on the events to come, and would help leave Blazer fans with terrible nightmares for decades to come. He began to suffer injuries to his shin bone, including a stress fracture. In total, he missed two seasons with this injury. He would come back for the 1983-84 season where his stats were somewhat less impressive, but he did earn a cover on Sports Illustrated. After that, he decided to turn pro, and enter the draft.

Two of the key players are General Managers for the two NBA teams that would make decisions that would make the legend, and destroy the franchise. The first GM, for the Chicago Bulls, was a former player who had been a stand-out rookie, and worked his way to GM by the histocial event. The second GM at the time was the Trailblazers not great in the draft. He was drafted by the Chicago Stags, but never played in the NBA. He helped bring the Trailblazers into existence, and helped draft players from the ABA after the league folded. He is not remembered for the right moves he made, but he is remembered for the move that we are discussing.

The final player in our cast of characters is a young point guard from UNC, who would change basketball and sports forever. He was a standout at UNC, a first-team All-American, who during the summer of 1984, went to the Olympics, and won a gold medal. His stats were amazing and he won numerous awards as well has having numerous accolades, and memorable moments in his college career.

With the cast of characters in place, the stage was set for one of the most infamous events in sports history, the date: June 19,1984, the location: Madison Square Garden in New York City, the event: The1984 NBA Draft. As a direct result of the Tom Owens trade 3 years prior, the Blazers had the 2nd pick in the draft, and the Bulls had the 3rd pick. The first selection went to the Atlanta Hawks, who selected Hakeem Olajuwon. The stage is now set for the event that would change basketball. The 2nd pick goes to Portland, where GM Stu Inman used this pick to select the Kentucky center who was plagued by injuries, Sam Bowie. The Chicago Bulls GM Rod Thorn had really wanted Bowie, and had to select a different player for the third pick. In a move that ensures that he never has to buy a drink in the city of Chicago again, Thorn selects the UNC standout and former Olympic Gold Medalist, Michael Jordan. The Blazers were thrilled with their pick, Sam Bowie who wound up being named the worst first-round draft pick in American sports history, and is really nothing more than the answer to a trivia question. Jordan is one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA, and has become a living legend.

But there is one more twist to this story…a twist that would make M. Night Shyamalan happy. Speaking to reporters after the draft, Rod Thorn, the Bulls GM made a comment that has been lost to history, but would prove a point that before the season started Bowie was still the coveted pick. Speaking to a group of reporters, Thorn said that “I only wish he were 7-1. The fans will enjoy watching him play and we expect we’ll have an easier time signing him than we have had in signing other draft choices.  We would like to sign him as soon as possible. If we had received good offers for a trade we would have made it, but it would have taken an overpowering offer.”

The trade requests never materialized, and the Bulls had a dynasty, whereas the Trailblazers still to this day are bitter. And to think, it all began with a trade on June 5,1981 between the Trailblazers and the Pacers!