Tag Archives: NASCAR

Remembering our Heroes (Past and Present) on Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day. I say that with confidence after checking a calendar to confirm my suspicions. Normally, I would have no trouble at all remembering that the last Monday of May is set aside as a day of remembrance, and a time to honor the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

However, in this newfound time when one day can just roll into the next and be called MonTueWedday, it never hurts to check a calendar for guidance as society charts new territory. This potential side effect of not knowing what day it is comes as much of the world is sheltering in place and honoring the calls to social distance as we unite as one in the battle against the COVID-19 virus which has killed nearly 100,000 Americans.

Large flags and camouflage hats mark Memorial Day across Major League Baseball each year.
Photo R. Anderson

In the past, Memorial Day weekend acted as the unofficial start to summer and involved packed beaches and an overabundance of sports to watch. The weekend also lent itself to copious amounts of meat to cook over an open flame.

While I enjoy baseball, beaches and barbecue, for me, the highlight of the extended Memorial Day weekend has always been as the announcer used to say “Sunday, Sunday Sunday.” I would awake before the sun to catch the Monaco Grand Prix, and then switch over to the Indianapolis 500 before ending my day of nonstop auto racing with the Coca Cola 600.

The times that I was not watching racing, I could catch numerous baseball games from coast to coast.

As a sign of unity during troubling times, the U.S. Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, and the Air Force’s Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds, flew over several U.S. cities to honor front line workers.
Photo R. Anderson

That all changed this year. Thanks to COIVD-19, the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500 were not run Memorial Day weekend.

The Coca Cola 600 did take place yesterday, but the stands were empty of the thousands of fans who usually soak in the action. Additionally, there is no joy in Mudville since baseball is still sidelined by the virus.

The NHL and the NBA suspended their seasons in March with no set timetable on when they will return to action. There will be increased drum beats in the coming weeks for sports to return. Leagues are hemorrhaging money and will want to try to recoup as much revenue as they can.

Owners will say that they are doing it for the fans, but many surveys have noted that a lot of sports fans will not feel comfortable heading to an event for a while. Athletes are also becoming more vocal in their opposition to returning to play until they can be assured that it is safe to do so.

So, it is on this Memorial Day that instead of rooting for one’s favorite team, the world has a common enemy to unite behind. The world is at its best when it works together, and there has perhaps been no greater battle than the one it currently finds itself in. Millions of Americans are working from home, alongside children who are learning from home.

Millions more Americans have lost their jobs and are questioning when things will return to the good old days known as before March 2020. It is entirely possible that the good old days as we knew them are years away from returning.

Veterans with underlying health conditions, and the Navajo Nation whose language was used as an unbreakable code in World War II are being hit especially hard by COVID-19, so it is fitting on this day of remembrance that we not only remember their sacrifice in time of war but that we pray for their safety in this battle against the virus.

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was commissioned in 1921 as a memorial to veterans of World War I.
Photo R. Anderson

States are starting to ease restrictions on what people can do in an effort to spark the economy. There will no doubt be temptation to push the limits and go out and have as normal of a Memorial Day as possible, and just hope for the best in terms of avoiding infection from COVID-19.

Some politicians will call this the need for people to exercise pent up demand to get out and do normal things. Other politicians will call such actions reckless and an endangerment to others around them. Countries that have reopened early have seen their number of cases go up in some instances. There is no magic formula for deciding when to roll out a “Mission Accomplished” banner.

Throughout all of this, it is crucial to remember that the power resides with individuals to decide when they want to rejoin the economy. Just because something is open, it does not mean that people are forced to go there. COIVD-19 is a relentless scourge that takes no notice of a person’s sports affiliation, political leanings, or any other factors in its path of destruction.

Uncle Sam knew back in World War II that the world needed more moxie. While it may have been a soda slogan back then, today the need for moxie is stronger than ever as the world tries to fight a common public health enemy.
Photo R. Anderson

In past challenges that are remembered on Memorial Day, like World War II, citizens rallied to do all they could to defeat the common enemy.

My grandmother built battleships in Georgia, and my grandfather fought at Pearl Harbor, among other battle sites. My grandparents, and millions of other people’s grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters have done similar things when called to duty.

Memorial Day reminds us that Americans owe their freedom to the sacrifice made by countless individuals who came before us, and to the people who are currently serving in the armed forces. The sacrifice of those who came before us who we remember on Memorial Day made us who we are. Sacrifices people make now to contain the virus, is a gift we can leave for the generations that come after us.

The COVID-19 virus has shown us that a pair of scrubs, a retail vest, or an apron can be just as heroic as camo. Sports on Memorial Day will return, but this year on this day of remembrance instead of complaining about a lack of live sports, stop to think about the health care workers, the police officers, the fire fighters, the grocery store workers, the meat packers, the restaurant cooks, the warehouse fulfillment workers, the delivery drivers, and every other person across the globe who is doing their best to keep the world going.

Many of us are taught as kids that super heroes wear capes and masks. That is true, but the capes are invisible lest they get in the way of the work being done by the people on the front lines, and the masks are there to both protect the identify of the super hero, as well as to protect those around them. Lucky for us our modern day heroes are working on Memorial Day, and every other day keeping us safe from enemies seen and unseen.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go pick up some groceries curbside and thank some front line workers.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

 

NASCAR Provides First Look at What the Return of Sports Could Look Like as Other Sports Sit Impatiently in Neutral

Brad Keselowski started on the pole on May 17, 2020 when NASCAR returned to live racing after a nearly two month hiatus.
photo R. Anderson

When the history books are written to describe the era of COVID-19, it is likely that yesterday, May 17, 2020, will be remembered as the day that sports returned to America.

Okay, to be fair, all sports did not return yesterday. Declaring the “all clear, come and play ball y’all” is likely months away from occurring. Factor in a return to wide open, stadium rockin’ sports as they were prior to March 2020, and some experts say that could be a year or more away.

Still, yesterday will be remembered as the day that NASCAR told their drivers to start their engines, and the fans to stay home and watch. It is easy to see how NASCAR was the first sport to draw up a game plan for a return to competition.

Kyle Busch is set to run seven races in 11 days in all three NASCAR series as part of the sport’s return to live competition.
photo R. Anderson

Drivers sit alone in their 3,000 plus pound octane 93 fueled chariots. So, even during rubbing and bump draftin’, social distancing can be maintained.

Throw in helmets, and protective gear for the pit crew members, and you have yourself a ready-made example of responsible sport in the COVID-19 era. At least that is how the plan is supposed to work.

While social distancing works in NASCAR, other sports leagues will find it harder to show that the athletes are separated by the recommended Center for Diseases Control (CDC) guidelines of six feet of separation. The next sport on the clock to try to return a fan-free viewing experience to the world is Major League Baseball.

Baseball has already returned in South Korea where the season opened in empty ballparks, followed by ballparks allowing up to 1,000 fans to attend from a safe social distance.

It is hard to imagine a scenario where Major League Baseball says the first 1,000 people to the ballpark are allowed inside. It is safer to say, that the only people sitting in the stands for the foreseeable future whenever baseball does return will be team employees.

While no exact timeline has been established for the return of baseball, when it does return it is likely that the pregame lineup exchange at home plate will be eliminated.
photo R. Anderson

I have said this before, and it bears repeating, I miss baseball. However, I do not miss baseball to the point that I want to see players, umpires, and other team personnel put at undue risk of exposure to a virus that currently has no cure just so I can have a few hours of live sports during my work from home time.

Blake Snell, the 2018 Cy Young Award-Winning pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays, made waves when he commented on his Twitch channel last week that playing an abbreviated baseball season with a pay cut was not worth the risk to his health for future seasons. Based on estimates of the proposals being negotiated between MLB management and the player’s union, Snell would earn around $2.3 million instead of $7 million in salary for playing what would amount to at best an 82-game season.

To be fair, athletes risk injury every time they take the field. However, one can certainly argue that risking your pitching arm and needing to miss a season because you are recovering from Tommy John surgery is entirely different than risking your health because of a virus.

Snell’s candid assessment of needing to look at his life after this season, versus playing this year and risking his health, drew the usual round of negative comments with people calling him “entitled,” and that he should just “shut up and play.”

After Blake Snell drew criticism for voicing concerns about returning to play baseball, fellow All-Star Bryce Harper noted that Snell made public feelings that many players are pondering in private in regards to the risk of playing baseball too soon to their long-term health.
photo R. Anderson

A pair of All-Stars, in Bryce Harper and Nolan Arenado, came to Snell’s defense by noting that Snell went public with what many players are thinking in private related to needing to look long and hard at the risks associated with returning to play baseball this year.

As part of a return to the ballpark plan reported by ESPN, players and all other people involved in the games would be tested for the COVID-19 virus several times a week to allow any potential outbreak to be snuffed out at the source. Under the plan to mitigate the spread of the virus , according to the ESPN report,  players, would also be banned by fist bumping, high fiving, and spitting.

However, it is unknown whether players will still be allowed to bang on trash cans in the dugout. Too soon Astros fans?

MLB is targeting a return to play in early July. It is highly likely that the return will feature fireworks and other festive celebrations as the “Boys of Summer” play the National Pastime once more. Any return to play scenario needs to allow players to choose whether they want to return, or if they are willing to forfeit their salary in order to focus on their health for future seasons.

MLB is targeting a return to play in early July. It is highly likely that the return will feature fireworks and other festive celebrations as the “Boys of Summer” play ball once more.
photo R. Anderson

Assuming that MLB does the right thing and allows players to choose to sit out the season, that creates the question of why not just wait until next year to play at all.

Can an 82-game season with some of the top players on each team choosing to not play really be considered legitimate?

Of course, the answer, as it usually does, centers on money. Even without fans in the stands team owners and broadcast networks can make money on games.

Another footnote in the year of COVID-19 history book should not only include the day live major sports returned with NASCAR, but should also include the day that the MLB potentially chose finances over safety. Of course, that financial risk versus personal risk calculus is being performed across the globe as multiple industries look to reopen in the middle of a pandemic.

Millionaire baseball players aren’t the only ones who will need to perform a risk trade when it comes to returning to work. Employers at all levels need to be sensitive to the concerns raised by workers, and where possible accommodations need to be made to protect both their health and their jobs.

I miss going to see Swatson and the rest of the Sugar Land Skeeters. I look forward to a time when I am once again watching them from inside the ballpark.
photo R. Anderson

I am eternally grateful to the men and women working at the grocery store who bring my order out to my car and allow me the opportunity to stay safely socially distanced. Too often, some elements of society look down on workers in retail, transportation, healthcare and hospitality.

Society owes a huge debt to all of the people on the front lines. When the pandemic is over, the people who kept us safe, fed, and tended to health-wise, should be the first ones allowed inside the sporting venues as a show of thanks from a grateful nation.

Until then, sports leagues need to temper their enthusiasm for returning to play. We all miss sports. However, it would just take the death of one player to show that the risk was not worth it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my work from home fury coworkers are meowing for some kibble.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

 

COVID-19 puts the Sports World in an Extended Timeout

The world of professional baseball has been dark since March. Discussions are underway to return players to the ballparks in a shortened, fan-free season. Photo R. Anderson

Thanks to the arrival of the COVID-19 virus, for many people right now it feels like up is down, and down is up. The virus has also introduced new terms like, social distancing and contact tracing into our vocabularies. As part of its destructive path into everyday life COVID-19 has caused the world of sports to grind to a halt as player and fan safety was given the proper level of respect.

The COVID-19 outbreak tested leagues in a way that many sports had never experienced. Social distancing requirements, as well as limits on crowd size, led to the cancellations of the XFL, NBA, NHL and almost all other sports leagues. On April 10, 2020 the XFL announced it had suspended operations indefinitely and laid off all league employees due in part to financial losses as a result of COVID-19.

The Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo were delayed by at least a year.  All NCAA spring sports tournaments, including the Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments were cancelled. Major League Baseball ended Spring Training early, and delayed the start of the season. The leagues that continued to hold competitions did so without fans in attendance as they tried to balance social responsibility with the public’s appetite for live sports.

With most major sports leagues shutdown due to COVID-19, sports fans looked for any port in the storm to quench their thirst for live competition. The American Cornhole League provided many fans with just such an outlet.
Photo R. Anderson

Before going any further, it is important to note that shutting down mass gatherings, like sporting events, was the right call.

One need only look at the amount of cases that spread out from a convention in Boston to know how quickly the virus can spread to know that mass gatherings are simply not prudent at this juncture. Even with social distancing, the number of cases, and the number of fatalities continue to rise. Were sports allowed to continue in full stadiums and arenas, there is little doubt that the case and death count would be much higher.

It should also be said that the inconvenience of not having live sports to watch is trivial compared to the real effects of COVID-19 that many people are facing across the world through losses of jobs and in extreme cases losses of loved ones.

Although the major sporting leagues have been shutdown for nearly two months, there are rumblings building to resume sports, albeit in empty stadiums without fans. NASCAR, which kept fans entertained through simulated races, is set to resume racing in empty tracks on May 17, 2020. Five years after the first game in Major League Baseball history was played in Baltimore without fans, MLB is negotiating with the player’s union to try to gain approval to host a truncated 82 game season in empty ballparks starting in July.

NASCAR is set to resume racing without fans in attendance on May 17, 2020. Time will tell whether the fans return for the Daytona 500 in February at Daytona International Speedway.
Photo R. Anderson

All of these efforts to resume sports without fans show a desire for the governing bodies of the respected sports to explore any and all means for the show to go on. This effort to resume is driven in large part so the leagues can recoup some sort of financial payday.

While a return to live sports on television, even sports without fans, would be welcomed by many, one has to ask whether leagues risk diminishing the product by forcing reduced schedules on fans and trying to call it a full season. Should a World Series Champion that only played an 82-game regular season be considered as talented as teams of the past who prevailed over the course of a season that was twice as long?

Additionally, as part of any discussion on the resumption of live sports one must also ask whether players are being put at undue risk by being asked to travel from city to city, and potential virus hot spot to hot spot, just so the show can go on in some form or fashion.

To be clear, like most sports fans, I miss being able to unwind at the end of the day by watching a game on television. However, I am not sure that I miss live sports enough that I am willing to support putting my favorite athletes potentially at risk of catching, or spreading, a virus that currently has no cure just so they can bring me a few hours of entertainment.

As professional sports look at ways to resume during the era of COVID-19 one has to wonder how exactly a football huddle with social distancing would look.
Photo R. Anderson

Aside from needing to address player safety as part of any path to resumed competition, leagues must also consider that airing games without fans leagues may hasten the trend of people choosing to watch games from the comfort of home versus battling thousands of people to get to a seat so far from the field that they are basically watching the game on the big screen anyway. Sure, the made for TV sports are better with screaming fans, but there is something to be said for watching at home where the snacks and the bathrooms are both a lot easier to get to.

With NASCAR and MLB looking to get their seasons going, the eyes of the world of sports turn their focus to football. Even if one accepts the prospect of empty football stadiums, it is hard to fathom how players could be in the trenches on the gridiron and not risk exposure to COVID-19.

Exactly how does one huddle with six-feet of separation? Even a scenario where players are wearing masks does not seem feasible. It is hard to think that a wide receiver can run full speed down the sideline wearing a N-95 mask under his face mask. The only possible solution would be to equip all player helmets with a clear shield that covers their mouth and nose, but even that is a stretch.

College Football is one of the sports on the bubble for a return based on a NCAA position on the need for students to be on campus before sports can resume.
Photo R. Anderson

College sports face their own hurdles for resuming in the fall. The NCAA has said that sports will not resume unless on campus classes have also resumed. The implication being that if the college is not deemed safe enough for students to be on, then the athletes should not be expected to have to play there.

There is too much money involved in college football to think that a work around of some sort will not be found to play games if the COVID-19 virus is still running rampant across the country come August. The topic of College Bowl Games and the College Football Playoffs  is another issue that is bound to get a lot of attention in the coming months based on the millions of dollars at stake.

It is entirely possible that the sports landscape will never return to the levels that it was at before the world of sports was shut down by COVID-19. By adopting an attitude that everyone is in this together, those most impacted by the global timeout in sport can better weather the storm. It is crucial to keep in mind that the current situation is also only temporary.

Perhaps James Earl Jones’ character Terence Mann in the movie Field of Dreams said it best when he said “People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again. Oh…people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”

Yes, baseball and other sports will resume at some point, and people will indeed come. How many people are allowed to come over the next few years based on social distancing remains to be seen.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some masked competitive cornhole to watch on the Ocho followed by some lawnmower racing.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

The King, the Intimidator, and the Jimmy?

Yesterday Jimmy Johnson won his sixth NASCAR championship.

Johnson won five straight titles from 2006 to 2010 before returning to his winning ways by capturing the 2013 title.

Aside from needing a second hand for all of the Championship rings, the sixth victory places Johnson one title away from tying two of the legends of the sport, Richard “The King” Petty and Dale “Intimidator” Earnhardt who both have seven championships.

It should also be noted that aside from having seven championships Petty and Earnhardt have something else that Jimmy Johnson does not have, nicknames.

Kyle Busch (rear) has a nickname and more wins in the Nationwide Series than any other driver in the history of the series. Jimmy Johnson does not have a nickname, but he does have six NASCAR Championships. Photo R. Anderson

Kyle Busch (rear) has a nickname and more wins in the Nationwide Series than any other driver in the history of the series. Jimmy Johnson does not have a nickname, but he does have six NASCAR Championships.
Photo R. Anderson

Throughout its storied history NASCAR has been a sport with colorful cars and even more colorful personalities who seemed larger than life and had the nickname to go with it.

In addition to “King” and “Intimidator” some of the other top nicknames throughout the ranks of NASCAR include, Glenn “Fireball” Roberts, David “The Silver Fox” Pearson, Ricky “Ironman” Rudd, Jimmy “Mr. Excitement” Spencer, Bill “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville” Elliott, Tony “Smoke” Stewart, Kyle “Rowdy” Busch, Kevin “Happy” Harvick and Darrell “Jaws” Waltrip.

Yes I know that people were calling Johnson “Five Time” when he had five titles and very well could call him “Six Pack” now but that does not really count in terms of a nickname.

And yes there are several drivers like Jimmy Johnson who seem to suffer from nickname deficiency. Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, Mark Martin, and Matt Kenseth are among the drivers in the garage area without nicknames.

The fact remains that a driver who is one Championship away from joining the upper elite ranks of NASCAR champions and two titles away from having the most ever does not have a nickname.

Call me crazy but a man with six titles going on seven, with Hall of Fame type credentials is the type of driver that should have a nickname.

Throughout Johnson’s career there have been several attempts to come up with a nickname but non aside from the “let’s say how many titles he has” variety have stuck.

Kevin "Happy" Harvick finished third in the Sprint Cup standings to Jimmy Johnson. Photo R. Anderson

Kevin “Happy” Harvick finished third in the Sprint Cup standings to Jimmy Johnson.
Photo R. Anderson

That is not to say that Jimmy Johnson is not a good driver. I think the fact that only two other drivers have more Championships shows that he is among the top to ever race in the sport but his lack of a nickname and the fact that he makes winning look so easy has certainly rubbed some fans the wrong way through the years.

I suppose one could combine those two areas and nickname him “Easy Driver” but that does not really seem like the type of nickname that would look good on a t-shirt in the infield.

One could try to come up with a nickname related to Johnson’s number and sponsor but “Lowe 48” sounds too much like lower 48 and might make fans in Alaska and Hawaii feel like the lower 48 states are picking on them again.

So number and sponsor does not work for a nickname and “JJ” is not really a nickname either which brings us back to the drawing board.

Of course since all of Johnson’s titles have been with crew chief Chad Knaus on the pit box people might go so far as to say that the nickname should be Jimmy “Thanks to Chad” Johnson but that does not seem to fit either.

So once again Jimmy Johnson will be at the head table at the NASCAR Awards banquet and once again no nickname will be announced when he is introduced to give his speech.

Between them Jeff Gordon and Jimmy Johnson have 10 NASCAR titles. One thing they don't have are nicknames proving that nicknames may make the driver more colorful but they don't necessary make them fast. Photo R. Anderson

Between them Jeff Gordon and Jimmy Johnson have 10 NASCAR titles. One thing they don’t have are nicknames proving that nicknames may make the driver more colorful but they don’t necessary make them fast.
Photo R. Anderson

Such is the nature of NASCAR these days when a man can win six titles and drive so fast in the process that he does not have time for a nickname.

Here’s to hoping that Jimmy Johnson can spend some time this off season after the usual rounds on the talk shows and Sports Center and come up with a nickname.

While a nickname certainly won’t convert me to the Johnson camp it may do a world of good for some of those other fans who are on the fence and like their drivers to have a nickname to go along with the ability to make left turns at a high rate of speed.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to plug some more words into the nickname generator to see what sticks.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Race Experience Offers Something for Everyone, Especially Corporate Sponsors

This past weekend all three of NASCAR’s top series came to Fort Worth, Texas.

From Friday night to Sunday afternoon, the track was a flurry of activity as thousands of fans came from far and wide to see their favorite drivers in the Camping World, Nationwide and Sprint series up close and personal.

And while it was the action on the race track that they were coming for, fans were given a veritable plethora of ways to get into the race experience before a single lap was run on the track.

The prerace week activities start with the arrival of the show cars. The show cars travel the country during race season on the back of trailers like a band of high octane gypsies parking in front of grocery stores and other outlets where fans can see the cars up close and occasionally get a poster with their favorite driver on it.

The annual parade of show cars hit the Walmart outside of Texas Motor Speedway over the weekend. Photo R. Anderson

The annual parade of show cars hit the Walmart outside of Texas Motor Speedway over the weekend.
Photo R. Anderson

One popular stop for show cars and fans alike heading to the Texas Motor Speedway is a Walmart located about five miles away from the speedway grounds.

Even though published reports stated that there would only be one show car at the Walmart this year it appears that car brought a few of its friends along as around a half dozen show cars were parked outside the Walmart Saturday morning.

Once a fan has their fill of show cars it is off to the race track where the entire front stretch is turned into a fan carnival of sorts with vendors of all shapes and sizes competing for the attention and in some cases money from the loyal fans.

And NASCAR fans are certainly loyal which is why so much is spent on sponsorship. Study after study has shown that fans will flock to certain products if they are endorsed by their favorite drivers.

While I have never ruled out a certain product just because it was endorsed by a driver I did not like, I did tend to buy Valvoline oil more than any other oil when Mark Martin drove the Valvoline sponsored car.

On race weekend the front stretch of Texas Motor Speedway, like all NASCAR tyracks, is turned into a carnival of sorts where vendors peddle their wares and fans look for a bargain on driver gear. Photo R. Anderson

On race weekend the front stretch of Texas Motor Speedway, like all NASCAR tracks, is turned into a carnival of sorts where vendors peddle their wares and fans look for a bargain on driver gear.
Photo R. Anderson

And with virtually every inch of both car and fire suit available for a sponsor’s logo it is a given that a sport built on commercial partnerships such as NASCAR would create an environment where their commercial partners can lure the fans in to marketing studies under the guise of a free hat or T-shirt.

One would be hard pressed to walk more than five feet in the fan experience zone without having someone “barking” at them to try to win something or to fill out a survey for this or that.

It should be noted that the midway at a NASCAR race is not just about product placement and giveaways.

The midway also includes numerous merchandise trailers where fans can get the latest driver gear and in some cases meet the driver’s during autograph sessions.

Of course drivers were not the only celebrities in town as part of the traveling circus that is NASCAR.

This weekend fans were treated to the opportunity to meet cast members of both “Fast and Loud” and “Duck Dynasty.”

John Godwin and Justin Martin of the television show "Duck Dynasty" take part in a game of tire plinko at the fan experience in front of Texas Motor Speedway. Photo R. Anderson

John Godwin and Justin Martin of the television show “Duck Dynasty” take part in a game of tire plinko at the fan experience in front of Texas Motor Speedway.
Photo R. Anderson

With the understanding that many fans of NASCAR are also fans of the two shows, it was a given that stars would want to meet and greet with some of their fans.

And all of that shopping and survey filling is bound to work up an appetite so there are various vendors selling food and drinks from all ends of the spectrum to help provide that needed nourishment.

So even before stepping foot inside the track itself fans have hours worth of entertainment in the shadow of the grandstands.

Oh yeah, there was also a race going on in side the track facility.

Once inside the track the parade of sponsors continues with name dropping of various sponsors that helped make the race possible.

Almost every inch of available space is adorned with a sponsor logo of some sort. In some cases one sponsor is the presenter of said event with another sponsor being called out as the primary sponsor.

While it can be easy to forget there is a race going on inside with all of the fun happening outside the track Brad Keselowski (second car from right) won the Saturday race. Photo R. Anderson

While it can be easy to forget there is a race going on inside with all of the fun happening outside the track Brad Keselowski (second car from right) won the Saturday race.
Photo R. Anderson

During a sports marketing class in college we discussed the person behind sponsoring the broom used to sweep up sweat on basketball courts and whether they were a genius for finding a new revenue stream or someone who was taking things to far.

In the years that have followed since that class and the new items that are now “sponsored” it appears that nothing is sacred if someone is willing to provide money to sponsor it.

NASCAR has a televised prayer before each race and I am waiting for the day when the person giving that prayer is given a list of sponsors that need to be mentioned during it a la Ricky Bobby in “Talladega Nights” who is contractually obligated to mention a certain sports drink in every pre meal prayer.

Once in awhile a minister will mention the name of the race in their prayer which does include the sponsor but it has not come to the full extreme of unnecessary sponsor name dropping while heads are bowed.

Let’s just hope that no driver goes so far as to sell advertising space on their windshields since that appears to be the only area of real estate still up for grabs..

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have the urge to purchase some products endorsed by some of my favorite drivers; soda cookies anyone?

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

I Wanna Go Fast

For as long as I can remember I have had a need for speed.

Of course as a reporter working on deadline speed is an essential job qualification.

In terms of breaking news there is the speed of needing to be first on the scene when the story is breaking to be able to interview all of the main subjects.

Once back in the office, speed is essential in order to get the story written by deadline to ensure that the story makes the next day’s paper.

There is no worse feeling as a journalist than to be scooped by one’s competition so the need to be first is critical.

During my journalism career I never missed a deadline and often scooped the competition.

This attention to deadlines and speed is a part of all of my endeavors and can be both a blessing and a curse.

Once in a while the speed manifests itself in going too fast on the highway which can sometimes result in a chat with local law enforcement and online defensive driving school.

Other times the speed manifests itself in reading something faster than those around me. Although I was never formally trained in speed reading I have found that I can read and comprehend things very quickly.

The sight and sound of 43 stock cars roaring towards you is something you don't quickly forget. Photo R. Anderson

The sight and sound of 43 stock cars roaring towards you is something you don’t quickly forget.
Photo R. Anderson

In school I was often the first student to complete their assignments which led to a lot of idle time waiting on my slower classmates to finish their work.

I was not necessarily trying to finish before everyone else but it just turned out that way.

So throughout my life the love of speed and the quest to go fast has been harnessed in mostly constructive ways.

While my speedy mannerisms have not always been embraced by those around me this weekend I will be around a group of people who also shares the need for speed when I attend a NASCAR race at Texas Motor Speedway outside of Fort Worth, TX.

The track is around four hours away from me and of course I try to break my personal best time to get up there whenever I make the drive.

Realistically I could probably make the drive in a lot shorter amount of time but there are so many cool places that I like to stop along the way so four hours is a good goal to meet.

For those who have never experienced a NASCAR race in person it is truly a sight to behold. If one were to go purely with the goal of people watching in the grandstands they would not be disappointed as there are so many things to see.

The fact that there is a race to watch as well is just icing on the cake.

From the sounds of the cars as they pass by at close to 200 miles per hour to the smell of the burning rubber there is just something about seeing a race in person.

Kevin Harvick shown during happier times is currently fueding with the grandsons of his soon to be ex boss showing how the competitive drive is never ending. Photo R. Anderson

Kevin Harvick shown during happier times is currently feuding with the grandsons of his soon to be ex boss showing how the competitive drive is never ending.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course, television still offers the best vantage point for seeing the entire race since views are limited when seated in person but I highly recommended that everyone experience a race in person at least once.

This will mark my fourth visit to this particular track since moving to Texas with the last visit occurring in 2011.

The race was delayed by rain the first year I tried to see it so I was unable to watch the cars go fast. I had better luck the second and third visits to the Texas Motor Speedway with sunny skies and fast cars as far as the eye could see.

The weather forecast this time calls for similar conditions come race time so I am hopeful that once again I will be able to see the cars go by at full speed.

Jamie McMurray will look to add to his win total this weekend when the Sprint Cup rolls into Texas Motor Speedway. Photo R. Anderson

Jamie McMurray will look to add to his win total this weekend when the Sprint Cup rolls into Texas Motor Speedway.
Photo R. Anderson

And as was the case during my last visit to the track in 2011 I will be sitting on the front row where I will likely have rubber that has worn from the tires and created “marbles” on the track land on me. Having actual debris from the cars land on you is definitely something that cannot be experienced by watching the race on the couch at home.

So if you happen to be watching the race this weekend and see a really happy person covered in tiny flecks of Goodyear Racing Eagles there is a strong possibility that it could be me.

Of course it could just as easily be one of my couple of thousand new friends who are checking out the scene as well.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a race to get to.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Danicky, Danicky, Danicky

It was recently announced that NASCAR Sprint Cup rookie drivers Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. were a couple.  While workplace romances have been going on for as long as there have been workplaces this particular high octane power couple marks somewhat of new territory for both sports writers and sports fans.  And, if the early media coverage of the power couple is any indication this is either the greatest thing to happen to racing since cars were first made to go fast, or it is the beginning of the end of racing as we know it like some sort of Danicky Apocalypse where the only thing left standing will be a few campers in the infield that were protected from the onslaught by a well-timed trip to the porta-potty.  I can see it now the reporters will gather in the media center and comment about how the Mayan calendar end of world talk was nothing compared to the coming terror that is Danicky.

(Editor’s Note: At the time of this writing I have not heard what the power couple’s nickname is, since if history has taught us anything it is that every power couple has to have a cute little nickname combining their names a la Branjelina, Benifer, etc. etc.  So with the field wide open on naming rights for the Danica/Ricky romance I maintain and have hence forth noted that they will be known as Danicky.  Remember kids, you heard it here first.)

Danica Patrick at TMS

Danica Patrick at Texas Motor Speedway in 2011.
Photo by R. Anderson

So let us examine both sides of the media coin since we all know there can be no middle ground in this 24-hour news cycle world where if it bleeds it leads and sex sells.  The sportswriters and gossip columnists will have a field day with tracking the comings and goings of this historic coupling among racing rivals.  Aside from the built in star power that comes with “the Brand” known as Danica Patrick there is the realization that this is the first time that two athletes that compete against each other regularly are openly dating.

To be fair NASCAR is the only major sport at the moment that has drivers of both sexes competing so the odds were stacked more in its favor to be the first sport to have this occur, but, it is equally plausible that there may come a day when two openly gay ballplayers enter into an equally high profile relationship.  But since that has not yet happened let us turn our sights back onto the track and Danicky.

Ricky Stenhouse at TMS

Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. climbing into his car before the 2011 Nationwide race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Photo by R. Anderson

While Danica Patrick is by far the more recognizable member of Danicky, the “icky” part is no slouch in racing circles having won consecutive Nationwide Titles prior to making the jump to the Sprint Cup.  So Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. has the racing trophies to back up his street cred.  Of course Danica has her one Indy Racing League win and lots and lots of Super Bowl commercials and other interests away from the track so she still has the more famous body of work.  So how exactly did Danicky come to be? Early indications of the newly minted power couple show that they were friends for years before making the leap to coupledom.  They also didn’t let a little thing like Danica still be married get in the way of announcing the happy news.  Remember boys and girls this is not your granddaddy’s NASCAR.  The Danicky pairing follows a slightly less covered event of a certain car owner marrying one of his drivers a few years back.  And there are many other examples of love at the track where people have been hooking up in the garage area and the pits for years. The previous pairings just normally involved a driver marrying his publicist or one of the women who hold the trophy and smile in victory lane.

So aside from the obvious issues of whether the romantic link off the track will lead to on track cooperation let us first in good faith get all of the potential jokes out of the system.  Danica herself stated in an Associated Press story when she confirmed the rumor that had been rampant for months that she was enjoying all of the jokes about bump drafting. While bump drafting is all fine and good let us not forget the other age old adage in NASCAR that “rubbin is racing.”  And of course one needs to remember to pull those belts tight prior to dropping the green flag.  There is also the little issue of who will stand at which car during the National Anthem since it is customary for the drivers and their significant others to stand together and give a little good luck kiss before climbing into their cars.  And will it be a shared motor home or separate motor home on racing weekends?  Maybe the sportswriters were right and this is the Danicky Apocalypse with so little time to answer all of these questions before the start of the Daytona 500. But alas. I digress.

When all the facts are weighed I tend to be in the camp that the racing will still be the same on the track as it would be with two teammates helping each other out.  Both sides of the Danicky coin are too competitive to have it any other way. Plus, there is that whole issue of keeping sponsors happy and so forth.  So, while two drivers dating is something the sport has not seen at this level before it is surely not the beginning of the end of the sport.  It does create the interesting question of who will do the driving when they aren’t on the track though.  Something tells me it will involve a lot of games of Ro-Sham-Bo.   I can see it now Danicky needs to go somewhere and they approach the car and one of them says, “Well, I guess we’ll have to Ro-Sam-Bo for it” and then the winner takes a victory lap while doing doughnuts and burn outs down the driveway before they head to the store.  And that boys and girls is how it’s done in this strange new world.   Now if you will excuse me I need to go see a man about a trademarking Danicky, otherwise all of these shirts and hats will surely go to waste.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson