Here we go. Buckle up, this could get ugly. I’ve unfortunately seen this script before and woefully it never ends well. There are two major forces here that NASCAR is going to have to address and the longer it goes, the worse it will downfall.
On one side, the drivers are furious with NASCAR over how this Next Gen roll out has gone. Between the rogue fires, to the cut tires to injuries suffered in a normal run of the mill crash, the drivers have never felt less safe inside of a stock car than they do now.
“I don’t feel like we should have ever been in this position to need to go forward. We should have gone forward with a new opportunity at a new car, in my opinion. You have all these years of experience and knowledge and time of racing and crashing these cars and teams working on them and building them, and it just blows me away that we can have something new in 2022 that offers all this technology and all this time and experience of so many just super talented people in this sport and we allow to go backward, especially with safety.
“I think it’s just super surprising to me that we allowed that to happen, but we did, and now it’s just about how do we go forward from here making sure we make the right choices to improve what we have and keep things like what happened to Alex this week from happening, and what happened to Kurt.
“We had time to test this car and crash it and do all the things we need to do to make sure some of these things aren’t happening that are happening now. We had a ton of time to do that, and this car was delayed an entire calendar year on top of that. You have to think, we had an extra year of time to work on it, and we’re still in this position. There’s no excuse for going backward. We have too many smart people, too much technology, too many years of crashing and racing at all these same racetracks to have some of these things that are going on that are. Test next week or no test next week, we should not be in the position that we are in. When you come out with a new product, you should take steps forward, not stay the same or go backward.
“There’s always an inherent risk in what we do and it’s always been that way. My frustration, as I’ve referenced here in the past few minutes, is I just hate that we put ourselves in the box that we’re in right now. It’s just disappointing that we’ve put ourselves here and we had the choice. We did this to ourselves as an industry and that just should have never been the case. We should not have put ourselves in the box that we’re in right now. So my disappointment lies in that, that we had years in time and opportunity to make this thing right before we put it on track and we didn’t. And now, we’re having to fix it and I just hate that we did that. Like I said, I think we’re smarter than that and I think there’s just a lot of men and women that work in this garage that know better and we shouldn’t have been here.”
Denny Hamlin said they got pointed in this backwards direction from “bad leadership.” How do they get out of it?
“New leadership,” he says.
As for the changes that need to be made in NASCAR leadership, Hamlin said: “I don’t know. You can start at the top and work your way down.
“I know a lot of young guys are just happy to be here, but they ain’t going to be happy when their brains are scrambled for the rest of their lives,” Hamlin said last Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.”
There’s a disconnect between the drivers and NASCAR. There’s no denying that.
Now, there’s another side of this too and that’s a disconnect between the owners and NASCAR as well. With a new TV deal supposed to take in effect for 2025, the teams are expecting to receive a larger piece of the pie than they currently have now. They’ve been saying this for months in hopes of being able to turn the TV money into a bigger revenue which in turn could flip the tide to where they can hire drivers on merit and not by how much money they can bring.
One problem, that’s not necessarily how NASCAR sees it. The two sides met months ago. The RTA said that they hadn’t heard from NASCAR since. Well, until this week that is. This recent meeting, well it didn’t go well. Not at all. It’s created some dysfunction and dissention.
The two sides are far apart from an agreement and that’s concerning because when you have drivers and owners against NASCAR, they could unite, and this thing gets even uglier that is presently is.
This has shades of 1994-1995 CART all over again. Granted, not entirely for the same reasons, but in the end, it’s all about control and dysfunction and that’s the path we’re heading down. When you start down this path, it’s hard to turn it back around.
Is it doom-and-gloom? Not yet. They can still be adults and work this out, but the question remains, will they? Most times, these deals end ugly. The RTA can say they don’t want to split but that may be their best leverage.
NASCAR needs these teams as much as these teams need NASCAR. Both can be true. Both can also get ugly because of that ego too.
Then, greed starts to set in because after years of downward trends, NASCAR is on the rise again. Tracks are selling more tickets than they had in years, the TV ratings are gaining year-to-year and as a result, sponsorship dollars are flowing back in.
The Next Gen is also supposed to in the long run make for a cheaper business model based on parity. While the early costs are higher in order to change your entire fleet, in the long term, the costs should be lower. NASCAR also thinks teams can cut out some more infrastructure which can help them gain in areas with the TV money uptick.
The teams say, “not so fast.” By doing so, they’d cut more jobs and by cutting more jobs, you’re affecting families. They wonder why they can’t get more revenue back and the tracks take less of the pie.
The tracks make millions whether anybody shows up or not. However, good luck taking money from them because they too could revolt. They make plans based off of what they bring in from NASCAR.
This has become a high-speed game of greed because one side wants more, another side doesn’t want to take less and NASCAR is stuck in the middle with having to be the bad guy to someone.
That plus an unsafe car is definitely making things difficult in the NASCAR world. Also coming up is how these penalties are being handled. William Byron should have never been penalized in the first place. NASCAR badly missed the call at Texas and instead of making things right, they made it worse.
Byron was handed a 25-point penalty and a $50k fine for his actions days after. How can a referee make up a missed call 48 hours after the game ended? I felt like it was wrong but still justified. Byron never hid behind the fact that he did spin Hamlin on purpose under caution. By rule, that is a penalty and one that is justified for what was levied. It’s just it was at the wrong time.
They still penalized him and moved on. Hendrick Motorsports appealed. That appeal was heard by 3 non NASCAR members and the points penalty was rescinded. The fine was as a result raised. That’s a massive win for Byron/HMS.
He moves above the cutline, still has his championship aspirations in place and HMS only had to pay $50k for it to happen per se. If Byron advances to the Championship 4, that $100k turns into a write off because they’d have made far more than that four a top 4 finish in points.
It was worth it.
But it also was a terrible instance to reward someone who didn’t need rewarding and inadvertently penalize Hamlin because he was running 2nd at the time and finished 10th. Does he get his points back? He was the only one truly penalized by this and he did nothing wrong.
That is a flawed system in my book. 4 times has a penalty been overturned this year alone. The process needs to be improved.
See why this is a major issue? A flawed car, a flawed penalty system, disconnect between the drivers and NASCAR as well as the owners and NASCAR with everyone wanting a bigger piece of the pie.
It’s part of NASCAR growing again. They’ve done a lot of good. They created a series people want to be in. Cheaper costs and a new car brings in a boatload of A-listers wanting a piece of the pie as car owners. Between that and charters, NASCAR has helped teams grow healthier. They’ve also helped tracks get richer because instead of 2 dates with split crowds, they’ve taken a lot of tracks to 1 race weekend per year and selling them out. In the date that was lost from those tracks, they’re going to bigger markets and places to where they’re wanted.
On the TV package, they’re desirable. Last Sunday netted them 3-million viewers on a Fall Sunday. We know CBS and FOX will for years to come have the NFL window from 1-7 p.m. ET. However NBC, ESPN/ABC and others aren’t going to punt on Sunday afternoon programming and air infomercials. NASCAR can get them at least 2 million viewers which does what? Sell advertising for those channels which as a result, gets NASCAR more money on this next deal.
So NASCAR and their leadership have done a lot of good. They’ve changed the landscape of this series in a positive direction.
That’s why these 3 main problems can be addressed and fixed. It’s going to take leadership to get this right and I trust Steve Phelps and the Kennedy’s can do so before this gets ugly because more times than not….
This never ends well…