by Steve Wronkowicz
I am co-host of the syndicated radio show: ON PIT ROW. Over ten years on the air and three on the net; see what can happen when I don't let the facts get in the way of my opinions.March 24, 2011 6:34 am UTC 1 Comment
This race track like no other has mirrored what has become of the sport we love so much. Like the trip to the grandmothers house that is too clean, too organized and too filled with treasures; the trip to many of NASCAR’s venues just isn’t very comfortable.
Places like Fontana, Kansas City, Iowa and Chicago have all the amenities that a fan would seem to want. Everyone expects to have plenty of clean restrooms and lots of concession stands. Those are givens. Race tracks that don’t cater to those two basic needs will eventually fail. But some tracks do a better job of making race fans feel welcome and a part of the action.
Unlike the grandmother’s house that is too clean and organized; race tracks that give the feeling of gramma’s house where the kids are on the floor, the toys are everywhere and the aunts and uncles are hanging around in the back yard, makes you want to stay and come back.
NASCAR has done a good job over the last couple of decades of making their racing seem more like a trip to grandmother’s house than a trip to gramma’s. Going to grandmothers just isn’t as comfortable and fun as the trip to grammas.
Growing pains are always uncomfortable and NASCAR has had their share. Some say they lost sight of their roots and abandoned their core fans for the glitz and glamor of big numbers and questionable venues. What NASCAR lost as it’s fan base exploded was the comfort and intimacy that its long time fans had grown up with; a comfort and intimacy that gramma knew how to cultivate.
NASCAR has so wanted their product to be eaten on the good china with the good silver; but all the fans want is a damn good dog on a fresh bun served on a paper plate with a cold one to wash it down. NASCAR was ment to have some mustard dripped on the deck and hosed off; not worried about gravy on the table cloth.
Many reasons have been given for NASCAR’s decline in attendance and TV viewership over the past half-dozen years; but the most alarming sight was the lack of campers and the empty seats at Bristol this past week and the reason for it is quite simple. NASCAR fans want to feel a part of the racing event. They want to feel a connection to the sport and its participants; but that can’t happen as long as NASCAR continues to serve its product in a sanitized form.
The “good old days” have a short memory. Nobody really wants to go back to the days of two or three lap lead finishes or 2×10 pine plank seats; just like no one would want gramma’s to have an outhouse. What fans want is a connection with their sport and their heros that they feel they lost when NASCAR got rid of the back deck and built the dining room.
Lost somewhere in the growth of our sport was the realization that while the fans like to watch cars race and experience the on track show; what they really love more than anything else is their connection with their driver. Today’s driver has been so marketed by their sponsors and PR companies that they have lost the ability to get down on the floor and play with the kids.
Making sure the sponsors are mentioned in every interview has become more important than sitting on the pit wall signing autographs and having your pictures taken with fans. How did fans know in the seventies and eighties that Richard Petty was sponsored by STP? There are thousands–maybe millions of pictures in fans homes of him in his STP firesuit signing autographs for everyone.
Those pictures, whether they be on paper and displayed, or just in a fans memory was what was right with NASCAR and was what made new fans fall in love with the sport. Those memories of being down on the floor playing with the kids supercede polite conversation, using the proper fork and thanking a dizzying array of sponsors.
Sorry Grandmother–we’d rather hang out at Gramma’s this week.
by Charlie Turner
Thanks for stopping by OnPitRow.com and the Bench Racing with Steve and Charlie blog. The best NASCAR and IndyCar news and opinion, exclusive pictures and video. I'm Charlie Turner. Follow me on Twitter @onpitrowAugust 17, 2010 1:35 pm UTC No Comments
The move had been rumored since Ambrose announced he was leaving JTG Racing a few weeks ago. At the time, Ambrose said that the JTG ride had become comfortable, and that comfortable wasn’t necessarily fast enough. Not sure exactly what that says about the Petty ride. Here are some quotes from the press release.
“We are very happy to have Marcos Ambrose join our team,” said NASCAR Hall of Famer and team owner Richard Petty. “He’s a very talented and passionate driver and will be a great addition to our team.”
“We knew once Marcos became available that we wanted him to be a part of the RPM family,” said Foster Gillett, managing partner and team owner. “He’s a fan favorite and he’s proven to be a tough competitor on track. We’re thrilled to have Stanley continue their partnership with our team and believe that Marcos is a great fit for the Stanley Racing program.”
“Stanley is pleased to partner with Marcos,” said Scott Bannell, Vice President Brand Management and Licensing, Stanley Black & Decker. “We look forward to carrying the winning tradition of the No. 9 car into the 2011 season.”
So now we know the drivers who are tasked with saving RPM. And I don’t think that “saving” is too strong a word. With Best Buy and Stanley Tools on the quarter panels of the #43 and #9, RPM seems solidly sponsored. Dinger and Kangaroo Meat are plenty talented too. Can Foster Gillett, Richard Petty and Ford Racing give them what they need to succeed? We’ll see.
Photo credit: BethAnne Heisler for OnPitRow.com
by Steve Wronkowicz
I am co-host of the syndicated radio show: ON PIT ROW. Over ten years on the air and three on the net; see what can happen when I don't let the facts get in the way of my opinions.October 15, 2009 1:20 am UTC No Comments
NASCAR’s first Hall of Fame class has been announced.
There were no surprises. It would be impossible to find fault with any of the picks. The Bill France’s, Senior and Junior were included along with Richard Petty, Junior Johnson and Dale Earnhardt. All are deserving to be in The Hall. But were they the best choices as the inaugural class?
Big Bill France was a shoo-in; after all with out his vision and tenacity the rest would be irrelevant. Big Bill organized a bunch of rouge drivers and track owners and made a respectable show with them. No longer would drivers have to worry whether the track owner would be heading out the pit gate with the receipts two laps before the end of the feature.
Richard Petty was and is the most recognizable name and face in NASCAR. No one will ever come close to his two-hundred career wins. Yes, it was a different era; racing two or three nights a week. But that makes the feat even more impressive. The track variety in Petty’s early years proves his versatility.
Junior Johnson was the face of NASCAR in its earliest days. He was the true NASCAR pioneer; moving from the back roads with moonshine in his trunk to a true race car driver. Johnson’s wins as a driver and then as a car owner and crew chief makes his entry into the Hall of Fame a no-brainer.
Bill France, Jr. was instrumental in bringing the sport into the modern era. The pull out of manufacturer support in the early seventies could have put the sport into a tail spin that it may have never recovered from, but Junior was instrumental in bringing in a title sponsor and moving the sport into the television era.
The inductee with the most fan support is Dale Earnhardt. Earnhardt’s championships and his fan polarization made him a natural to be inducted into the first class of the Hall.
Cases could be made for others to have been in the first class, but it is impossible to find fault with this group. The next five classes of five each will be pretty easy to fill as well. Just look at the drivers who were in the sweet sixteen of ON PIT ROW’s 64 Greatest Driver Tournament to see the best of the best. Add in the off track contributors and there is no dearth of candidates to fill the classes to come.
photo credit: Icon Sports Media Inc.
by Charlie Turner
Thanks for stopping by OnPitRow.com and the Bench Racing with Steve and Charlie blog. The best NASCAR and IndyCar news and opinion, exclusive pictures and video. I'm Charlie Turner. Follow me on Twitter @onpitrowSeptember 30, 2009 2:09 pm UTC 3 Comments
In a tweet during On Pit Row this week, I asked…
“If George Gillett brings Saudi money into NASCAR and it rescues Richard Petty Motorsports, will NASCAR fans still love the King?”
The “King” being our king. Richard Petty, of course.
The rumors were flying on Tuesday about Saudis in the garage. Today, Scene Daily has this…
George Gillett, whose family is the majority owner of Richard Petty Motorsports, has entered into a “commercial collaboration” agreement with F6, a leading Saudi Arabia-based sports management firm founded and led by Saudi Arabian Prince Faisal bin Fahad bin Abdullah Al Saud.
Gillett’s earlier purchase of the bulk of Petty Enterprises from the Petty family made many Petty fans leery. The more recent announcement that there exists a letter of intent to merge RPM with Yates Racing has longtime Petty followers trying to justify a switch to Ford.
Most subjects of the Kingdom whom I’ve spoken with are OK with the switch. As long as it saves the 43 and keeps Richard involved. At least they aren’t going to race Toyotas, you know?
But what about the Saudis? How will that wash with the Level Cross crowd?
I don’t know.
But I have a favorite saying about money…
“It’s not the money. It the amount”
And the Kingdom of Saud has whatever it would take for the kingdom of Richard to compete.
How would you feel about this Petty fans?
by Charlie Turner
Thanks for stopping by OnPitRow.com and the Bench Racing with Steve and Charlie blog. The best NASCAR and IndyCar news and opinion, exclusive pictures and video. I'm Charlie Turner. Follow me on Twitter @onpitrowMay 31, 2009 10:40 am UTC 49 Comments
We’ve come a long way from the first brackets in the NASCAR 64 Greatest Drivers Tournament at Bench Racing with Steve and Charlie. The whole thing probably stretched out a bit too long. But we got here. And “here” in this case is a last lap, green-white-checker finish between The Silver Fox and the Intimidator.
Dale Earnhardt won 76 times in 676 Cup Series starts and was one of only two seven time series champions. His win total is seventh best all-time. He won consecutive titles three different times and was a series runner-up three times. Earnhardt only won the Daytona 500 once – in ’98 – but is the all-time leader in wins at Daytona International Speedway with 34. It was said that Earnhardt could “see the air” when he raced at the restrictor plate tracks at Daytona and Talladega. I don’t know about all that. But he sure saw the checkered flag plain enough at those two tracks.
Read a couple comments from Senior fans below.
Dale Earnhardt all the way. Dale is the only driver who went from rookie of the year to champion in consecutive seasons. In his second season Dale led the point standings all year long, except the first race when he finished second. His percentage of 1.02 average finish in one season (1980) is the best ever. – Gary Redd
Dale Senior by far. Regarding wrecks, Dale has the lowest DNF percentage by a driver with over 500 starts. Junior (Johnson) had over two and a half times more DNF’s than Dale and many more wrecks than Dale. Well over half of Dale’s DNF’s were engine failures not wrecks. You have to be running at the finish to win championship’s and Dale it seven times, Junior Zero. – Ben Shirley
David Pearson is second on the all-time Cup Series victory list with 105 and is a three time Winston Cup champ. He won the ’76 Daytona 500, set a record for super speedway qualifying by winning 11 straight poles at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In ’73, Pearson won 11 of the 18 Cup races that he entered. He did all this while rarely entering as many races as his contemporaries. Pearson missed alot of races. According to The Blount Report, NASCAR’s Most Overated & Underrated, The Fox raced is 75 percent of the races in only four seasons in his career. Pearson won the championship three of those years and finished third in the other.
Here are a couple of typical comments from Pearson fans.
I’m picking David Pearson for the upset, because from the old racing I’ve watched and old stories I’ve read and heard, he had more talent than Petty. Half the wins of Petty + running half the time = as good if not better than The King. I’m sending Pearson to the finals. – Matt Mercer
Had Pearson run a full schedule his entire career, he’d have won more championships than The King. Jeff Gordon, while probably one of the best of the current breed of drivers, doesn’t hold a candle to the Silver Fox. Under the current rules and schedule, Jeff won’t match his record. – themadman
To get to the Final Lap of the Tourney, Pearson’s fans voted him over the likes of Jeff Gordon and the King himself, Richard Petty. Earnhardt fans rallied after a close, first round match up with Bobby Isaac to sweep past Junior Johnson and then Darrell Waltrip in the Four Wide Final.
Dale Earnhardt against David Pearson – slamming doors and grinning all the while. That’s how I see this head-to-head battle in the final. Two of the Greatest NASCAR Drivers ever. We’ve had celebrities like Bobby Labonte, Geoffrey Bodine, Dave Despain and Dustin Long all vote in this thing. But we want to know who YOU think should win. Who will you choose? Please leave your comments.
by Charlie Turner
The two drivers with the most wins in NASCAR Cup series competition go head to head in the NASCAR 64 Greatest Drivers Tournament at Bench Racing with Steve and Charlie. One had 105 wins. The other won 95 more than that! From ’63 to ’77, they finished in the top two spots 63 times with the Silver Fox winning 33 to 30 victories by the King. This isn’t that easy you know?
Richard Petty. Maybe I’ll just stop there. I mean, he IS called the King. But I can’t, I have a contract. 200 Cup wins, seven Winston Cup championships and 123 poles. All records. So are the seven Daytona 500 victories, 10 consecutive wins and 27 wins in a single season. And he looks fabulous in a cowboy hat. Petty’s 200 wins have been down-graded by some recently. He did have more opportunities per year early on, than the modern era allows. But he still won ‘em and you didn’t.
David Pearson is second on the all-time Cup Series victory list with 105 and is a three timeWinston Cup champ. He won the ’76 Daytona 500, set a record for super speedway qualifying by winning 11 straight poles at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In ’73, Pearson won 11 of the 18 Cup races that he entered. He did all this while rarely entering as many races as his contemporaries. Pearson missed alot of races. According to The Blount Report, NASCAR’s Most Overated & Underrated, The Fox raced is 75 percent of the races in only four seasons in his career. Pearson won the championship three of those years and finished third in the other.
Pearson survived an On Pit Radio region match up with perhaps today’s best – Jeff Gordon in the last round. Richard Petty had to go up against an old nemesis – Bobby Allison - to get out of the Fast Lap bracket. Make no mistake though. This is the toughest test yet for these two. Tell us what you think in the comment section.