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This week brought interesting happenings involving sponsors and TV shows. With those happenings in mind, it’s easy to see that something is changing in NASCAR. Unfortunately, there’s a harsh truth to it all: it’s been boiling for a long time, and the bubbles are finally coming to the surface.
I’ll keep this short so we can get to the questions, but keep this in mind: everything happens for a reason, and there’s definitely a reason for all of this.
With that said, the entire sport claims Kentucky Speedway as their stomping grounds this weekend. We’re talking tempers, bumps, Sweeps, and even more in Five Questions. Let’s roll.
Will the heat from Sonoma transfer to Kentucky? One of the many benefits of road course racing is the anger. The spins, the yelling, the revenge. It’s so delicious and refreshing; there’s not enough fire on-track anymore. There was a lot at Sonoma Raceway, so much that it could run over. If people are still mad, I hope they act upon it at Kentucky. Let’s get saucy under the lights in The Bluegrass State.
Who will call for a repave first? Though Kentucky is another 1.5-miler, it has one quality that singles it out. NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Ryan Blaney said it’s so bumpy that it caused his nose to bleed after practice. Though it is bumpier than a teenage boy’s face, that’s what makes the track so exciting. The racers probably disagree, since whatever the fans enjoy seems to suck for them. I don’t know who’s going to call for a repave first, but whoever does is going on my list. And you don’t want to be on my list.
Is the pressure getting to Chase hopefuls? There are only 10 races until The Chase begins, and it’s coming down to the wire. Big names like Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart are winless and need to get going. This new Chase format emphasizes winning, so that’s what they have to do. With the mounting pressure, it’s hard to keep focus. It’s definitely getting to them; Kahne’s getting uncharacteristically angry, Kenseth keeps stumbling, and Bowyer and Stewart are kinda lost. It’s not looking good for them, but they still have time to turn it around.
Does someone complete The Sweep? With all three series parking it in Kentucky this weekend, the door to The Triple opens up. There are two drivers attempting this feat: Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. Both have the confidence to do it, but Keselowski’s failed to win a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event in his own truck. Busch has already done this, but that puts a target on his back. Which one will sweep the weekend? Neither. I think the competition level is too high in all three series for this to happen. Racers aren’t going to pull aside for these guys, and that’s a good thing.
Changes, are they a-coming? Monday brought two hard-hitting headlines that shook the NASCAR world. Home Depot is reportedly leaving at the end of the season. Their name has been on a Joe Gibbs Racing machine since 1999, so their departure was a shock. Later that afternoon, ESPN released a statement, explaining that "NASCAR Now" has been officially cancelled. The show was on hiatus due to the recent World Cup coverage. Two well-known pillars of the sport, gone. What does this mean? A huge shift in the sport is coming. With the new TV contract, the tables have turned; ESPN’s NASCAR coverage is no more, so there is nothing keeping them around. With Home Depot, they’re probably realizing that the cost of sponsoring a racecar isn’t worth it. It’s ridiculous what teams are charging, and it needs to stop. Teams have to bring down the prices so it doesn’t bust a company’s wallet. A full-time slot on the car costs $25 million? And for what, advertisement to decreasing TV ratings? It’s not worth it, and I don’t blame people for walking away. It’s just really sad and disappointing that NASCAR’s business side has become so greedy that it’s putting money about logic. These two events mean more than what people believe, and everything will come to light soon enough.