By David G. Firestone
The Contender Round is behind us, the Eliminator Round is upon us, and to my great surprise, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Jr., Kyle Busch, and Kasey Kahne were eliminated, and Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth remain. When it comes to these drivers, I’ll give you Denny and Matt, they are both hard nosed drivers with a lot of talent, granted Toyota does not, for whatever reason, seem to have the horsepower it needs. Carl is the only non-Penske Ford left in the Chase, but I don’t think he can win it all, I just don’t think he has the horsepower either. My bet at this point is either Joey Logano or Brad Keselowski, since Penske has gelled as a team, both drivers are great friends, get along well, and work well as teammates. I can’t wait until Homestead to see how this ends.
I don’t pay attention to TV ratings when it comes to racing. I say this as I have a degree in media studies, and I focused on TV production in college. That said, I’m going to be paying attention to the TV ratings on November 2 for the AAA Texas 500 and the US Grand Prix. I’m fascinated by the fact that F1 and NASCAR are racing in the same state at the same time. I don’t know who pulled the trigger on this, but F1 will never be able to win a popularity contest against NASCAR in the United States. It’s just not going to happen. F1 didn’t race in America between 1981-1988, 1992-1999, and 2007-2011. They never had a fan base in the US to begin with, and now, for some reason, Bernie Ecclestone now thinks that F1 can beat NASCAR in a ratings battle, good luck with that.
Formula 1 is used to being the big shot in every country they race at. The minute they come to the US, they are a second banana to NASCAR. They aren’t publicly stating that, but that’s what they are thinking. You know it and I know it. Every other country they go to in a season is a major event. At the Grand Prix of Russia, Vladimir Putin was in the audience. Hell, he gave the trophies to the podium. If F1 expects a politician to attend the race, they’d better expect someone like Anthony Foxx, the Secretary of Transportation, because that is the best they can expect. F1 is irrelevant in the United States. They expect to be the big racing story in the country, they won’t even be the biggest racing story in their state! Above that, both the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans are playing at home so at best they will be the fourth biggest sports story in Texas. Also, the NHRA is having Eliminations from the Toyota Nationals in Las Vegas, thus dropping F1 down to the third biggest racing story on November 2. I want to see the TV ratings for both races to see who won this battle for viewership, and I’m willing to bet it’s going to be NASCAR.
Do I blame F1 for wanting to be more aggressive in the American market? No, F1 wants to tap into American market to boost the sport, add new fans and increase the bottom line. Give Bernie Ecclestone credit for trying because he is very aggressive in forcing his way into the American market. You’ve got the US Grand Prix, there are plans for a street race in New York City for 2015, and he just announced this week that he wants to hold a street race in Las Vegas. Again, he won’t win the battle against NASCAR but give him credit for trying. One reason a lot of Americans don’t like F1, is that we have no vested interest in the sport. No American drivers or teams, so we have nobody to root for. Ask yourself this question, why would you follow a sport where you have no one to root for, and you are not represented? Can’t answer that? I thought so. F1 should focus more on the European and South American markets, where it is huge, and gets great TV ratings and grow the sport more with huge fan bases rather than try and fail to win a country that doesn’t care about it.
I’d like to say something else before I go. I’m a huge Dale Jr. fan, I was a fan of his father, and he is my favorite driver. That being said, can I just say to Junior Nation right now…SHUT UP! Although I like Dale Jr. I’m not myopic enough to expect him to win the Sprint Cup Championship this season, or any season for that matter. Junior is not a championship caliber driver. I will say that publicly, for the record, and I will not apologize or back down from that statement. Junior is the equivalent of the Chicago Cubs, the Cleveland Browns, the New York Knicks, and the St. Louis Blues, all these teams have great fan bases who are dedicated to their teams and follow them and support them, but these teams will never win championships, not now not ever. I’m tired of hearing Junior Nation cry about not winning the championship every year, get over it.