Friday, September 20, 2013

Shifting gears to overthrow defeat: Five Questions before New Hampshire

Juan Pablo Montoya. Credit: Jerry Markland / Getty Images
Defeat is one of the worst emotions to feel. It’s intensified when you realize you could’ve prevented it.

Whether your basketball team lost on double overtime, or emotional turmoil has drained you, the moment of realizing you’ve lost something is a sliver of time stretched over an eternity. Imagine how being a NASCAR driver feels when they’re one-tenth too slow in the final corner.

Imagine how being a NASCAR driver feels. It’s more stressful than anything you could conjure. Old races haunt them, and criticism echoes in their minds.

Yet, instead of letting it consume them, they decide to start over every weekend, never allowing defeat to overstay its welcome.

I discuss that, sponsorship, the Air Titan and much more this weekend in Five Questions. Join me as I inquire before this weekend’s event in Loudon, New Hampshire.

With major sponsor shakeups, how does the future of NASCAR (and MWR) look? It was announced this week that Nationwide Insurance would not be the title sponsor of the sport’s second-tier series after 2014. They will continue to be "the official insurance provider of NASCAR," but their departure opens a wide gap. Also in sponsorship news, NAPA Auto Parts revealed that they will be splitting ways with Michael Waltrip Racing at the end of this season. Following the dramatic race at Richmond International Raceway, the company was reported as being very upset with MWR. Losing both impacts the sport’s future greatly, and it’s unknown who will step up and fill those blanks.

Did adding a 13th car to the Chase really do anything? Last Friday, NASCAR President Mike Helton and NASCAR Chairman/CEO Brian France held a press conference in the Chicagoland Speedway media center to right the final wrong in RIR’s chaotic aftermath: they officially added Jeff Gordon to the Chase as an extra car, claiming that “unfair disadvantages” got in the way of him racing into the playoffs. However, what exactly does this do? Gordon has no wins or momentum, and it’s looking like he won’t achieve much in these final 10 races. This seems like a situation of NASCAR trying to instill fear into the competitors, flexing their muscle. They don’t want to be played, and it’s safe to say nobody will threaten them again.

Why wasn’t the Air Titan at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday? Air Titan, the love child of jet dryers and the NASCAR brain trust, was built up to be the solution to Mother Nature’s untimely appearance on race day. However, when the clouds opened up in The Windy City, the hyped-up machine was nowhere to be found. What’s even worse is that the Air Titan was at the track Thursday but left. The rain would’ve happened anyway, but the fact that the pricey technology wasn’t there is puzzling.

Will New Hampshire be a Chase changer? Points leader and Chicagoland winner Matt Kenseth was doing media rounds Tuesday afternoon, and one stop was calling into Marty and McGee, an ESPN podcast hosted by NASCAR writers Marty Smith and Ryan McGee. While discussing the upcoming race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Kenseth revealed that the track is one of his fears. It isn’t an irrational one, either; Loudon is known for tripping up racers and having an effect on the Chase later on. Also, the venue is moody, so who knows what we’ll see on Sunday.

Is stepping away from NASCAR a good choice for Montoya? Another hot topic this week is the news that Juan Pablo Montoya has decided to join Penske Racing over in the IZOD IndyCar Series. This deal comes after his current team, Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, dubbed Kyle Larson as the driver of the No. 42 next year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Many know that Montoya’s endeavor into stock car racing wasn’t as successful as he had hoped. Defeat has stared him in the face and taunted him, yet he has decided to switch gears - and racing series. This shift will be a great change of pace for him, and he may rekindle what he once had in open wheel. Best of luck in 2014, Montoya.

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