I’m Tired of All the Complaining! This is MY NASCAR

Contrary to what seems like popular belief, NASCAR did not die on February 18th, 2001.

It merely tried to evolve.

The introduction of the three-point line changed the way basketball was scored, but in actuality, the game never changed because the ball still goes into the hoop. Fundamentally, NASCAR never changed because going faster than the other drivers is still the primary goal.

I don’t know of any other sport that has taken the inputs of their fans to heart and tried to give them exactly what they wanted. Fans wanted the races to end on a green flag, so NASCAR introduced the green-white-checkered finish. Fans wanted the races to be more exciting, so NASCAR introduced stage racing. (I’m a huge fan of stage racing by the way) And, I don’t recall too many debris cautions after the introduction of the crash clock. Yeah, remember those inconveniences?

But yet, we continue to complain. Why?…

Because you’ve failed to take off the filter titled “good ole’ days.” I don’t know how to tell y’all this but those days are over. The data teams have learned about aerodynamics, engine tuning, and chassis building can not be unlearned. The word stock is now just a moniker to describe the class of cars but not the cars themselves.

I hardly remember watching Dale Earnhardt race, but I do remember Tony Stewart battling Carl Edwards in an epic championship bout. I remember the impact Mark Martin had on the sport after winning for Hendrick Motorsports at Phoenix after turning 50. I can’t wait for my son to ask me about how amazing Jimmie Johnson was when he won 5 championships in a row.

Here’s the thing, I have my fond memories about NASCAR, but what makes your memories better than mine? And to those who keep bashing and degrading NASCAR, don’t you understand that you are the ones that may be depriving young potential fans of ever falling in love with NASCAR? Imagine children never creating their own NASCAR memories because they see your nasty (and that’s being nice) comments and think to themselves, “why bother watching this?”

I’ll tell you why kid because Kyle Busch is worth seeing. Watching Toyota emerge as a serious contending manufacture within this sport is worth seeing. Martinsville, Darlington, and Bristol are worth seeing. The younger generation of drivers, like Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell, are filled with talent and are worth seeing despite what your elders say.

How about that for a get off my lawn speech?

I urge everyone who continues to see NASCAR through the filter of the “good ole’ days” or claim that NASCAR died with Earnhardt to give NASCAR a fresh start. Drivers are looking for fans, and I bet they’d be more than happy to have you root for them. I’m more than willing to offer some suggestions.

Like other sports, drivers don’t race forever. Sports change (unless you’re stubborn like baseball) and they try to adapt with the times. The times have changed, and NASCAR is trying to produce the best product possible. Give them a chance, will you? I think you could be presently surprised.

Scott Masom

 

 

 

 

 

 

My View on “The Great American Race”

The race of attrition is here! I can’t wait to see “The Big One” with torn-up race cars and the 200 mph follow-the-leader trains! The start of the racing season is here!

It’s going to be great!

Ok, sarcasm aside, I am ecstatic for the NASCAR season to start, but I am equally not ecstatic for the Daytona 500.

I know, blasphemy. How dare I!? I’ll give you a moment to find your torch and pitchforks.

The race always seemed to be a crapshoot to me. Make the right moves at the right time with A LOT of luck, and you’ll find yourself up front with a shot to win against half the original starting field…cause you know…they all wrecked.

Collecting a win here can put your name among some of the greats of NASCAR, but it doesn’t mean you are great or that you ever will be. Prime examples of that are Derrick Cope and Trevor Bayne. On the flip side, it’s also a race that doesn’t define a career like 3-time champion Tony Stewart.

The prestige that Daytona International Speedway has in NASCAR and the hold that “The World Center of Racing” has on motorsports worldwide is what makes the Daytona 500 continue to be the biggest race in NASCAR.

So, if plate racing is for you, enjoy Sunday. If you’re like me, you’ll watch it knowing that the season truly starts next Sunday in Atlanta.

Scott Masom

It’s About the Memories

I’ve been going to local dirt tracks since I’ve been in diapers. I used to shadow my father’s footsteps every weekend as we’d parade through the pits to gather new information for the night’s race. I would lug around an elaborate case of handmade Rolodex with information on every driver. It had everything from their place of residence to their endless (nonexistent) lists of sponsors. Whenever a new car would come to the track, it was an addition to that Rolodex that added weight for my puny arms to carry around the pits.

My father was the track announcer for many race tracks throughout the great state of Texas, and I was fortunate enough to be able to tag along. I was able to be around the racers, the community, and passionate fans. I got to see the hard work, sweat, and tears these drivers put into their cars for just 20 glorious laps around a 1/4 mile track.

My dad was able to create memories with me that we both will cherish forever. Memories that I will hopefully recreate with my son one day.

Racing at times isn’t about the victories, track championships, or the amount of purse money on the line. It’s about the fathers lifting their sons upon their shoulders for a better view. It’s about the daughter meeting her favorite driver and aspiring to beat the boys. It’s about the drivers gathering around a cooler full of beers and swapping stories early into the morning. It is about the autograph collection of local heroes — the smiles on the faces of grown men, and the sense of camaraderie despite their driver preference.

Often, the importance of grassroots racing isn’t about the racing on the track at all.

Scott Masom

Ok, Let’s Mix it Up!

Ok, I’ll admit it. After much thought, the NASCAR schedule is unbelievably stale.

I said it.

Do we need a change? Yes

When will we get it? According to NASCAR President Steve Phelps, 2021.

Will it be the drastic changes we want? Absolutely not.

And that’s a damn shame.

“We’re looking at everything,” Phelps says as the most drastic changes we can look forward to is a shuffling of dates and subtracting one double for another…yawn.

We have new life and excitement at Rockingham and Nashville. With those tracks eyeing a return into NASCAR, fans get a “we’ll see.” I understand that money has a lot to do with scheduling, and this industry can be a pay-to-play league. Some tracks can only imagine putting up the money to try and sanction a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. I’m afraid when the announcement officially comes for these tracks that it will be with a “cup half empty” attitude. I’m worried that NASCAR will only announce that the truck or Xfinity series will return and not the big boys that we have been dreaming of.

So I’ve developed a schedule with some stipulations:

Must use tracks that are currently on the calendar, seeing as they don’t seem to be going away anytime soon
Must use the same amount of races as the current schedule has now.
Tracks added to the schedule must be in the U.S.
So without further ado, my glorious and painstakingly crafted Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule using 2019 dates:

*tracks in italics are new tracks to the schedule

Daytona International Speedway -Feb 17th (Season Opener)
Atlanta Moter Speedway -Feb 24th
ISM Raceway -Mar 3rd
Las Vegas Motor Speedway -Mar 10th
Auto Club Speedway -Mar 17th
The first five races of the schedule are excellent, in my opinion. Of course, we have to start with the Daytona 500, but getting the west coast swing out of the way early in the season is excellent for logistical reasons. Also, each of these tracks allows for teams to test their cars against different aero dependencies early into the season.

Sebring International Raceway -Mar 24th
Pocono Raceway -Mar 31th
Michigan International Speedway -Apr 7th
Kansas Speedway -Apr 13th
Sonoma Raceway -Apr28
That’s right! I have added Sebring to the NASCAR schedule. I have been an advocate for more road course racing in NASCAR for two reasons: the racing is AWESOME and potentially more manufacturer participation. Just going around in circles is not going to do it, NASCAR needs to embrace the technological changes that manufacturers are looking for with their investment to the sport. Adding a track like Sebring and any other road courses may do just that.

The Milwaukee Mile Speedway -May 5th
Road Atlanta -May 11th
All-Star Race at Charlotte  -May 18
Charlotte Motor Speedway -May 26th (Memorial Day)
Talladega Superspeedway -Jun 2nd
Texas Motor Speedway- Jun 9th
The Milwaukee Mile is a track that has been in limbo, as finding regular series to race at the track has been difficult. I would love to see NASCAR give this track a legitimate shot at hosting an event and maybe bring it back to its glory days of old. I know the Xfinity series and trucks have been there on occasion, but it isn’t the same as having the big boys roll into town.

Road Atlanta would give NASCAR fans in Georgia another race. More importantly, we’d get to see these cars navigate through one of the greatest series of esses on the planet.

A Street Course -Jun 23rd
Gateway Motorsports Park -Jun 30th
Bristol Motor Speedway -Jul 6th (Night Independence Race)
Eldora- Jul 13th (Mud-Summer Classic)
Mid-Ohio -Jul 21st
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe NASCAR is the only major race series that doesn’t have a street course on their schedule. This problem needs to change. We can talk about the endless amounts of challenges that they possess, but the essential factor for me is that these courses can be made anywhere. Think about the new markets, the new excitement, and the different possibilities for NASCAR.

Bristol is special. The night race is unique. A night race at Bristol on the Fourth of July and you’ve got my attention.

Eldora has done a fabulous job hosting their annual truck race and I don’t see any reason why they can’t do that on the biggest stage.

Mid-Ohio is an iconic track for an iconic series.

Watkins Glen -Jul 28th
New Hampshire Motor Speedway -Aug 4th
Road America – Aug 11th
Pikes Peak International  -Aug 17th
Darlington Raceway -Sep 1st (Labor Day)
VIRginia International Raceway -Sep 8th
For Road America, see the explanation for Mid-Ohio.

Furniture Row Racing has closed its doors, but that doesn’t mean NASCAR has to escape the state of Colorado. It is a shame Furniture Row Racing never got to race in their backyard but maybe going to Pikes Peak will inspire more out of market teams to compete and eventually win.

VIRginia International Raceway has been a testing track for NASCAR teams to test their road racing programs, so they have experience at this track. Also, NASCAR has firmly planted roots in Virginia by having raced at Richmond and Martinsville; this race would be a great addition.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway -Sep 15th
Dover International Speedway -Sep 21st
Martinsville Speedway (Night) -Sep 29th
Indy and The Brickyard 400 will kick start the first race of the playoffs while Martinsville will be an exciting way to end the first round of the playoffs. Tempers flaring under the lights would be a great spectacle.

Chicagoland Speedway -Oct 6
Barber Motorsports Park -Oct 13
Iowa Speedway-Oct 20th
I know taking away the second race at Talladega isn’t exactly fashionable but hear me out. According to the map app on my computer, the distance between Talladega and Barber Motorsports Park is only 40 minutes apart. I’m not taking away a playoff race from those deep within Earnhardt country but just moving it down the road a little way. If you haven’t seen a race a Barber, I would highly recommend it.

Richmond Raceway -Oct 27th
Kentucky Speedway -Nov 3rd
Rockingham Speedway -Nov 10th
Yes. As I’ve said before, I am excited for Rockingham to come back to the schedule. Can you think of a better way for this track to host an event and not be the last race before the final four? Two short tracks this round will add to the drama while Kentucky will give playoff teams the last chance to shore up their mile and a half programs.

Homestead-Miami Speedway -Nov 17th
I like the idea of ending the season full-circle by ending where we began in Florida. The finales at Homestead have been fantastic. The Carl Edwards wreck in 2016 that gave Jimmie Johnson a chance for his 7th title. Kyle Busch was defining all odds in 2015, or 2011 when a win for Tony Stewart meant that he was the champion. This track, since it’s reconfiguration, has produced great racing and I don’t anticipate it stopping anytime soon.

As you can probably tell, I’m not a big fan of doubles on the schedule. I want the variety. I want these challenges; I want what many believe to be the best drivers on the planet to prove their actual capabilities on a wide range of circuits.

Maybe a schedule like this could open up more doors for NASCAR, provide new opportunities to drivers, and grab some further attention for fans from all forms of motorsports.

And one more thing, do we honestly need an all-star race?

Scott Masom

5 Preseason NASCAR Predictions

With the Daytona 500 just 45 days away, I wanted to continue my early season racing predictions and give NASCAR fans something to mull over as the season inches closer.

Much like the one I did for Formula One, these predictions will be in no particular order and done with heart in hand.

1. Ford will have early season troubles

With much anticipation, the Ford Mustang will replace the Ford Fusion coming into the 2019 season, but it won’t be without its difficulties. Much like the Camaro this past season, I anticipate the Mustang having a slow start to this new campaign.

The due diligence of wind tunnels and computer simulations will not substitute on-track learning. Ford has put a lot of time and effort into getting this new body competitive, and now that they are the defending champions, a lot of pressure to be great out of the gate. We know the Yates engines will be strong but will that be enough to keep their cars upfront in the early stages of the season?

2. Martin Truex Jr. will become the new number one at Joe Gibbs Racing

I think it is safe to say that Kyle Busch is the current number one at JGR with eight wins and his fourth-place points finish in 2018 but this next season could look different for that M&M’s Toyota. With Martin Truex Jr. officially becoming part of Joe Gibbs Racing, he will be on even footing with his championship rival of the last several years.

Cole Pearn and Martin Truex Jr. have been a formidable foe for Kyle Busch over the last several years, and I believe these two will be competing in Homestead-Miami come November as teammates and rivals. Don’t forget; he did finish second overall with four wins in customer equipment from JGR…

3. Rockingham will be officially announced back onto the 2020 schedule

I WANT THIS.

The investors named Rockingham Properties LLC have been working tirelessly to restore the track to its former glory by saying racing will return and this time we can see progress toward this goal. Their approach to making the speedway more than just a race track and into a multi-entrainment facility is something that can sustain the track though non-race weekends and a blueprint for race tracks to follow in the future.

It brings a race track back to life. It gives a bit of nostalgia back to NASCAR. It allows for a shake-up to a slightly stale schedule, and it adds a short track.

IT ADDS A SHORT TRACK!

NASCAR has fallen away from their roots, and this could signal their way back into what made the sport fans fell in love with.

4. Kyle Larson becomes the force we have all thought he would be

No doubt that Larson has been fast but can he be consistent? Can he put together consistent drives to be that championship contender we’ve viewed him as for the last several years?

With 2019 being his sixth full-time season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, I genuinely think the time is now for him to assert his dominance. Chip Ganassi has given him a  teammate that matches his style with Kurt Busch and their cars have progressively gotten better with Larson behind the wheel.

This year, he will be able to put the experience, knowledge, and speed together to get to the final four and show the world what he can do.

5. The racing will be better

Look, at times, the racing was less than spectacular. I can name two races off the top of my head, and they were both in my backyard at Texas Motor Speedway. Yes, I was at both.

With this being said, the new rules package is supposed to tighten up the pack and provide that side by side racing we’ve all been craving. This rules package has been two years in the making, and I am curious to see what kind of racing it will provide.

If it is as advertised, we could see some of the best racing since the 2014 and 2015 season. Let’s hope we don’t have to go back to the drawing board as soon as the season starts.

Scott Masom

The Underdog Wins in the End

We love underdogs.

The storylines they provide, the drama they cause, the situations they find themselves in, and the resolve to defeat the challenge in front of them. The NASCAR playoffs gave us one to root for in Joey Logano. He said it himself, “it’s the Big 3 and me.” With the odds stacked against him, he came out of Homestead-Miami the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion.

I am surprised at the disappointment and anger toward the newly crowned champ. Was he the most dominate car all season? No. Did he win the most races? No. Was he consistent enough to be there when it mattered? Yes and that is what won him this championship.

The Big 3 and their dominance was incredible as they won 20 out of the 36 races combined. They led 4,470 laps which are 44.1 percent of all laps this season, collected 12 pole positions, 35 stage wins, 78 top-tens and one of these drivers was always in contention at the end of the race, if not all three.  They left scraps for the rest of the field to eat on.

This place is where Joey Logano fed his belly. He collected three wins, led 934 laps, only one pole position, but with 5 stage wins and 26 top-ten finishes, you could say he was the fourth-best driver all season long. If you look at these stats on a list, he was best of the rest in many categories. It was easy to forget about him due to the media blindness that the Big 3 demanded, but he was there, lurking in the shadows, taking what the race would give him and maximizing his point potential.

But among the congratulations, the loudest voices seem to be those of haters. Not disappointment because their driver lost but hated because they believe the true champion didn’t win because of this current playoff system. My question to those haters is, who was suppose to be the champion? Is it Harvick with his Ford Dominance? Busch for matching Harvick’s wins stride for stride? Truex Jr for being consistent? Stats say Harvick, but points say, Busch.

An article on racingnews.co by Shane Walters calculated this very thing. He figured the season points without the playoff system. One list was with playoff points, and one was without playoff points. Penalties were included to get the most accurate figures possible. I will leave the link here.

https://racingnews.co/2018/11/20/2018-nascar-points-without-the-playoffs/

Notice who is in the top-4? Joey Logano. It confirms to me that he deserved to be in the position he was in Sunday night. The beauty of this playoff system is that it is still about getting points and collecting wins. It is about getting to that Final 4. To race those who are battling you for a championship, and beating them. Logano did just that.

His win is legitimate. He is the 2018 champion.

Scott Masom

A Very Short Thought

My father lost a childhood hero this week in David Pearson. He was a 3-time world champion and plants himself second on the all-time NASCAR wins list with 105. The Silver Fox was 83-years old.

It got me thinking about who my favorite racing drivers are. Throughout various series, I’ve enjoyed watching Scott Dixon win 5-championships, Felipe Massa for being the consistent underdog, and Mark Martin for being a constant professional but I wouldn’t consider any of them my heroes because while I respected them, I never felt inspired by them. Then came Kyle Larson.

An Asian-American, just like me.

And I can not begin to tell you how cool that is.

Scott Masom

eSports and the Future Potential for Motorsports

All sports have the universal question of “where will their next generation of athletes come from?” “How do we get younger generations involved?” “Are we doing everything we can to expose people to our sport?” With the rise of eSports, online streamers, and simulators, racing can answer these following questions:

Where will the next generation of athletes come from?

Generally, kids get into micro sprints or go-karts and start to rise their ways through the ranks of their local tracks and local series. All this to get a shot at being a professional race car driver. As you can imagine, this cost money and lots of it. For less than a $1000, you can have a reasonably good sim racing set up in your spare bedroom. I dare you to find a better deal to go racing than that! Plus, wreaking a virtual race car cost nothing as they always say, “if you can’t afford to fix it, you can’t afford to race it.”

How do we get younger generations involved?

Nothing can replicate the actual real-world experience, but racing is racing. I can learn what I like in a racing set-up, understand how different aspects of the car behaves, and I can hone my racecraft. These are some of the essential skills for young racers to develop. Racing games are abundant, and this is how you get them involved in our sport.

Are we doing everything we can to expose people to our sport?

This question is the most crucial to ask, in my opinion. Without the proper exposer, we don’t get the next athletes; we don’t get the interest. We don’t get correct involvement. The focus on participation at the local level is a fantastic investment. It will be something I will always be a proponent toward. But the investment toward sim racing that NASCAR, WORLD of OUTLAWS, and Formula 1 have made are growing the sport. Germany has recognized sim racing as an official form of motorsport, and hopefully, soon, other countries will follow.

The exposer is heading in the right direction. IndyCar and NASCAR have made full races available on YouTube-arguably one of the most used internet platforms around the world-and other series have followed suit. There are also many sim racing YouTubers and Twitchers, who stream their personal races with their own commentary. These influencers have built a racing community among each other and have promoted the sport on an ever-growing medium.

I’ve said this before; sim racing is different than the other eSports. You become the racer, the inputs you put into the steering wheel, the throttle control, the focus to compete at a high level comes from you, the user. This control is why I believe within the next several years; this is where you will see the increase in motorsports participation. Racing can capitalize on the rise of eSports, and this is where a future star could be born.

Scott Masom

Money, Money, Money

Remember when the NASCAR community freaked out over Lowes parting ways as a primary sponsor for Jimmie Johnson? This worry leads many to believe that this was, once again, the end of NASCAR as we know it? Well, put the hammers down and the nails away because sponsorship has been found!

Ally Financial has partnered with Hendrick Motorsports and Jimmie Johnson for the remaining two years of his contract. While they might be Jimmie’s last years in the sport, the primary sponsorship and commitment of Ally are genuine toward the 7-time champion and vise versa.

This example isn’t the first time a primary sponsor has left the sport. Most recently, the retail giant Target has pulled their sponsorship from all forms of motorsports. They are leaving 5-time champion (then 4-time champion), Scott Dixon, NASCAR young gun Kyle Larson and Chip Ganassi Racing as a whole.

Target’s reasoning for pulling out of the sport was that they wanted to focus their advertisement dollars in other markets. They felt that their exposer had run its course, and Lowes felt the same way. It’s just the circle of marketing.

The model of primary sponsorship is coming to an end. (*gasp) Racing is expensive, and sponsors are getting harder to come by. Asking one company to invest double-digit millions of dollars on a year of racing is a tough sell. This is why fans are seeing multiple liveries throughout the year and hear the laundry list of sponsors during interviews.

For a sponsor, it is cheaper to sponsor 3-5 races and gain exposer to their products on these 200 mph moving billboards. For the team, it makes finances more flexible and offers more availability toward those who want to enter the sport without committing to a full year. Each team is different, but the concepts are the same, how do we maximize our dollars to put together the best race team on the track?

So, for the next time we complain about interviews sounding too corporate or roll our eyes the next time someone says “The Coca-Cola, Cheerios, Valvoline, Subway, Netflix, Yahoo, Wal-Mart, McDonald’s (insert favorite car manufacturer) ran a great race today.” Just remember, without those sponsors, you’d have to find a new driver to cheer for on Sundays.

Scott Masom

Short Track Racing at its Finest

You know what they say, “rubbin’s racin’.”

The race last weekend was what NASCAR envisioned when creating the playoff system. This race was two playoff drivers that were fighting desperately for their guaranteed spot and their chance to race for a championship in Homestead-Miami.

Without a doubt, Martin Truex Jr. could have raced Joey Logano dirty. He could have run him up the track or turned him, but instead, they ran side-by-side for the final five laps and showed what clean, good, hard racing is.

But it’s Martinsville.

Logano knew how deep he could drive into the corner compared to Truex. Driving on the high side for the last several laps, he had to drive deep into the corner keep pace with the 78. Logano knew he had a better entry, but Truex had a better center drive off, knowing he had the lesser car, what would Logano have to do to give himself a chance to win?

It’s Martinsville.

The white flag waved as they both crossed the line and Joey, being in the high groove, had to choose the best option that put him in a position to win. Does he stay up top and lose the drag race to the faster car of Martin Truex Jr., who was better during the long run or does he let him go to try a classic bump-and-run? Is it better to be first or second entering the final corner with everything on the line?

Oh yeah, its Martinsville.

Logano let him go coming out of two. He knew the answer to that question. He tucked in behind Truex down the backstretch and into three, he used his strength to his advantage. Logano didn’t wreck him, but he moved him. Logano created a gap down low for a classic Martinsville drag race to a finish. Truex overcompensates by applying too much throttle off the corner, gets into Logano and a classic drag race to the line turned into a fistfight in a dark ally. Truex came out the loser by finishing third, as Denny Hamlin became a lurking benefactor of the altercation. Fans were booing, tempers were flaring, and crumpled sheet metal showed the wear and tear of 500 laps.

That was Martinsville!

Truex was upset and understandably so. They had raced hard and clean. He had worked his way to the front from a starting spot deep in the field after failing inspection before the race. He had the faster car in the end but lost the race within the last few hundred feet with the checkered flag waving in the air. His comment of “He may have won the battle but he ain’t winning the damn war,” is precisely the thing NASCAR needs heading into the last three weeks of the season. A rivalry, a place where fans can choose sides and cheer for who they thought was right.

Will there be retaliation? I’d hope not, as wrecked race cars only lead to more wrecked race cars, but I’d expect to see hard nose racing. The quote of “No quarter given and everything taken” comes to mind. That is what makes rivalries unique to see on the track.

Was Logano’s move justified? Absolutely. If roles were reversed, would Truex bump-and-run Logano into the last corner. Absolutely. It’s Martinsville, and it was everything we were hoping to see.

Scott Masom