Tag Archives: NASCAR

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