The Driver Suit Blog-My Thoughts On The Supreme Court Ruling

By David G. Firestone

Yesterday, the Supreme Court struck down the The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. The PASPA effectively outlawed sports gambling with a few exceptions. This ruling is going to have major ramifications for sports. Leagues have already come out and said that they oppose this law because, as the NFL argued “The NFL’s long-standing and unwavering commitment to protecting the integrity of our game remains absolute, Congress has long-recognized the potential harms posed by sports betting to the integrity of sporting contests and the public confidence in these events. Given that history, we intend to call on Congress again, this time to enact a core regulatory framework for legalized sports betting. We also will work closely with our clubs to ensure that any state efforts that move forward in the meantime protect our fans and the integrity of our game.”

Amazing how self-serving the NFL really is. Many states need the money that casinos generate to help fund their budgets. Illinois is certainly one of them. Schools, roads, and various other infrastructures need funding, and these new rules will allow them. The NFL doesn’t like that because they aren’t getting their cut. It has nothing to do with integrity, the NFL has proven that they don’t have any in recent years. The NFL wants their cut, but they don’t realize that in the long run, they will. Fans are going to come back, and bets will be placed.

The NBA has said that they are willing to support state efforts, but want federal regulation. The NHL released a vague statement about the future. Major League Baseball is against it, but that is defensible, because of what happened in 1919. I genuinely think that sports leagues will benefit in the long run, but for them to try and make it seem like sports betting is the end of the world is short-sighted, and it makes the leagues look like they put profits above fans…which they do. If the leagues start to embrace this…they will make much more money. Then again, I listen to economists, not talking heads on news shows.

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The Driver Suit Blog-My Thoughts on the ARCA Announcement

By David G. Firestone

In an article I did on a Frank Kimmel pit crew suit last year, I said this about ARCA: “Founded in 1953 in Toledo, Ohio the Midwest Association for Race Cars or MARC was created by John Marcum, who, at one point, was working with Bill France Sr. as an official in NASCAR. It operated from 1953 to 1964 as MARC, when it changed to the Auto Racing Club of America, or ARCA. Though an independent stock car organization, ARCA has had a long partnership with NASCAR.

While many racing fans see ARCA as a minor league racing organization, it has a dedicated fan base, and a dedicated series of drivers and teams. With a decent television contract, and good sponsorship, the ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menard’s has solid backing and will be a part of American auto racing for years to come.”

That’s what I thought at the time. However, that has changed drastically. On Friday, it was announced that NASCAR has bought out ARCA. ARCA, especially The ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards will continue until 2019 in its current format, but will change in 2020, though no changes have yet been announced.

ARCA President Ron Drager said during the press conference: “Our position in the industry over all these years, 67 years, has been really intertwined with NASCAR. Before there was a NASCAR, before there was an ARCA, there was a relationship between the Marcum and France families. And over all these years and over all this period of time, we at ARCA have been fortunate to carve out a spot in the industry and to be able to be a constructive part of our sport. I think this is really just coming back full circle to where things started out. This provides ARCA with sustainability. We’re all looking toward the future and trying to figure out where we need to be and how best to stabilize and come together to make the sport stronger. I think a coming-together is a good way to do it.”

This is not a good thing at all. ARCA’s fans are upset, and justifiably so. The ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menard’s will go from independent promotion which provides an alternative for stock car drivers who can’t get a ride in NASCAR to just another NASCAR series. Everything that differentiated ARCA from NASCAR, and made ARCA unique will disappear, and ARCA will become nothing more than another set of NASCAR driver development series.

While NASCAR is celebrating, this is a bad day for stock car racing. NASCAR has pretty much monopolized the American stock car racing market. The only major national competitor to NASCAR has been bought out, and the rest of American stock car sanctioning bodies don’t have the strength to take NASCAR on. I’m wondering if this could lead to antitrust lawsuits. I can’t believe that this merger doesn’t constitute a monopoly. It may, I can’t understand how it wouldn’t.

If I am an ARCA driver, I’m really worried right now. If NASCAR is going to use ARCA as a developmental series, where is my place in ARCA? That isn’t a minor issue. There are drivers who have raced their entire careers in ARCA, and now they might not have a place in the new ARCA. This is not a minor issue. Drivers getting forced out by this merger have no place to go. This whole deal is awful, and I hope that all involved realize that.

The Driver Suit Blog-My Thoughts on Can vs. Should

By David G. Firestone

Ok, this week, no series sponsor or TV ratings talk. I’m going to write about something much more important. One of the best pieces of advice one needs to learn is: Just because you CAN does not mean that you SHOULD. I say this because the internet, especially YouTube has done a lot to dissuade people from following this rule. For example, I recently watched a guy drink six beers through a pair of goggles, without using his mouth. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should

Anyone who follows me on YouTube knows that I do a beer review series. For fun, I try different kinds of beer, and give them grades. I decided to do a spring beer video last weekend, and one of the beers I tired was a gose with coriander, salt, and lactobacillus. According to Wikipedia: Lactobacillus is a genus of Gram-positive, facultative anaerobic or microaerophilic, rod-shaped, non-spore-forming bacteria.” It was the worst beer I have tried for that video series. I’m not saying the name of the brewery, I’m not giving them any promotion, nobody should drink this beer. But the rule here, again, is just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Now there are some ideas that seemed good at the time, but in retrospect, were terrible ideas. For example, the McDLT from McDonald’s. The premise of the McDLT is that it was sold in a unique package, which separated the meat and bottom bun from the lettuce, tomato, cheese, pickles, sauces, and top bun. The McDLT wasn’t exactly a hit, and was discontinued, in favor of the McLean Deluxe. Once that happened, the McDLT wasn’t such a bad idea, and was reintroduced as the Big N’ Tasty, and was part of the menu for many years.

One of the most infamous moments that falls in this cateogry was New Coke. Coca Cola spent years, and millions of dollars adapting their classice Coca Cola recipe for a new generation. The release was heavily promoted, and the result was a product that was so badly panned, Coke switched back to the original formula after less than three months.

There are hundreds of cautionary tales that just because you can doesn’t mean you should, and they stand as reminders that not all ideas are good.

The Driver Suit Blog-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.

The Driver Suit Blog-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.

The Driver Suit Blog-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.

The Driver Suit Blog-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.