Sponsors pay for stuff. They pay enough cash that NASCAR and its track owners have sold their collective souls and it explains why they no longer promote a Firecracker 400, or a World 600, and why they actually dumped, for a time, the Southern 500. Money talks, tradition walks. It is an old story and as long as there is a can of soda to be sold, some tools to be used, a grocery chain with vittles on offer, a casino seeking guests, insurance to be flogged, tents up for grabs, or a car model to be promoted, it appears that will remain the case. Do the folks doing the advertising get their money’s worth? Who cares; that is their worry, not mine.
What an event is called matters little in the grand scheme of things, I guess. A race is a race, and if prestige is swapped for big bucks, I guess that is the price one is willing to pay. To watch the races on television, the price viewers pay is a slew of interruptions in order to make room for a word from a sponsor who is paying too much for a message most of us ignore.
That was not always the case. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Michael Waltrip were one hell of a team selling everything from pizza to car parts to beer. The boys from a day not so long ago sold razors, hardware, gum, insurance, cars, and who can forget about that Big Brown Truck? Hell, we watched those commercials and they were classic enough to be watched over and over without complaint. Today, it is a different story. They seem to think they can get away with little creativity, provide little entertainment value, yet apparently not bright enough to realize that a lot of us do not even watch the damn things long enough to even know what they are about.
Last Saturday night, 124 commercials got in the way. That is 28 more than what ran a year before. As it is, nearly 20 percent of the airtime over the course of this season has been devoted to commercials but they upped that for Daytona. It reached up to nearly a quarter of what you watched had nothing to do with the race. Then the idiots actually scratch their heads and wonder why the television numbers are down. Duh!
The current model is not working. While we realize everything comes with a cost, that somebody has to pay in order for us to watch the action, they should realize that either we pre-record the action to avoid the commercials, or we hit the head or the galley during such interruptions, or we wander off to do other things instead. Last week, we might have hung around just because of the action promised at Daytona. The sixth running of the Quaker State 400 from Sparta, Kentucky does not have the same pedigree. It is just another race.
You and I know why we watch. Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch have combined to win four of the first five run there at Kentucky. Will one of them take his fourth victory of the season on Saturday? We watch to see if Ryan Blaney can hold down that final Chase place, despite challenges from Jamie McMurray, Trevor Bayne, and Kasey Kahne. We watch to see if Tony Stewart can stay ahead of the two boys close behind in the battle for 30th in points. We watch because we like the sport, the action, and its athletes. We do not watch for the commercials.
The Hot 20 heading into Kentucky include…
1. BRAD KESELOWSKI – 3 WINS (551 Pts)
Winner last week, and he is two for five at Kentucky. Maybe more bubbly is in his future.
2. KYLE BUSCH – 3 WINS (492 Pts)
Won the first race at Kentucky, and won the last race there.
3. CARL EDWARDS – 2 WINS (527 Pts)
If being at the wrong place at the wrong time was a goal, Edwards attained it at Daytona.
4. JIMMIE JOHNSON – 2 WINS (475 Pts)
Thirty wins since 2010, but none at Kentucky though five for five in Top Tens is pretty good.
5. KEVIN HARVICK – 1 WIN (565 Pts)
If points still told the tale, he would be at the top, and still might when they finish in November.
6. KURT BUSCH – 1 WIN (545 Pts)
It seemed that Kurt was very understanding of Logano after Daytona. We shall see, we shall see.
7. JOEY LOGANO – 1 WIN (531 Pts)
Too bad this jerk is on this list. Too bad this jerk is also one hell of a driver.
8. MARTIN TRUEX JR. – 1 WIN (482 Pts)
He probably did not appreciate the 30 lap rest in the middle of last week’s race.
9. DENNY HAMLIN – 1 WIN (446 Pts)
We heard Denny was hungry for a Daytona sweep. I guess the boy must be starving today.
10. MATT KENSETH – 1 WIN (443 Pts)
Only three drivers have won the five races held thus far at Kentucky. Matt is one of them.
11. TONY STEWART – 1 WIN (212 Pts)
He is ba-ack…but can he stay here?
12. CHASE ELLIOTT – 482 PTS
The only winless Chaser who heads to Kentucky fairly relaxed. The rest hear footsteps.
13. AUSTIN DILLON – 434 PTS
A 29 point pad is good unless an engine goes south or he gets caught up in someone else’s mess.
14. DALE EARNHARDT JR. – 433 PTS
Biggest free agents in sports history include the names of Bobby, Reggie, Payton, LeBron, and Junior.
15. RYAN NEWMAN – 425 PTS
His Kentucky goal is to keep the likes of Blaney, McMurray, Bayne, and Kahne in the rear view.
16. RYAN BLANEY – 409 PTS
A Chase place would be a wonderful story, but not everyone likes wonderful stories.
17. JAMIE MCMURRAY – 405 PTS
Got a little loose, got a lot wrecked. Now his goal has to be to break a kid’s heart.
18. TREVOR BAYNE – 399 PTS
See a Blaney, catch a Blaney.
19. KASEY KAHNE – 396 PTS
Things were getting better, then Daytona happened.
20. A.J. ALLMENDINGER – 393 PTS
The Glen is coming up August 7th.
31. BRIAN SCOTT – 209 PTS
Stewart sits 30th in points, just three ahead of Scott. Talk about incentive.
32. REGAN SMITH – 203 PTS
If Scott falters, there is still another shark in the water close behind.