Friday, June 5, 2015

A Big Impact: Five Questions for Pocono/Texas

(Credit: NASCAR via Getty Images)
Being friendly is a choice. It is one we need to make more often.

Things go wrong all the time, like getting your order messed up at a restaurant or a taxi speeding past your raised hand. I believe in giving the benefit of the doubt until there’s a legitimate reason to proceed otherwise. I just assume the waitress didn’t get enough sleep or the cab driver was getting off his shift. People are fragile creatures and are always fighting a battle you don’t see.

When the waitress comes back and apologizes, give them a smile and say, “It’s OK, it happens.”

Don’t sweat the small stuff, and—no matter the circumstances—be nice to people. It’s that simple.

Being friendly is one of NASCAR’s specialties, and I address it in this week’s Five Questions. Ahead of the races at Pocono Raceway and Texas Motor Speedway, I question the new drivers' council, a driver’s ability to win three in a row, and more. Let’s dive on in.

Can I get a "yeehaw" for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series? The third-tier NASCAR series is getting a standalone event this weekend. While the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in the north, the Trucks are deep in the heart of Texas Motor Speedway. Great things should be expected from this race; there aren’t any Cup regulars on the entry list and new names are coming through. A notable is Justin Boston—a well-known driver within the ARCA community—who is competing in Kyle Busch’s No. 54 truck. There are other young talents as well, such as Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones, Jordan Anderson and Cameron Hayley. That is an awesome sight which can be seen Friday night. Matt Crafton is the returning winner of the June race, and the series ringer is bound to be strong. However, the June 2013 winner was Jeb Burton. That win helped him break through and eventually land a Cup ride. His win should give those young drivers some hope going into the land of cowboy hats and guns. Saddle up.

Does Pocono’s new re-entry policy spell “trouble” for fans everywhere? With one of NASCAR’s most unique tracks being featured this weekend, fans are flooding to Pennsylvania—or are they? A new policy change at the track revealed that re-entering the property after leaving is restricted. Many fans are speaking out on Twitter and Facebook, claiming it to be a major inconvenience. For example, some like to cool off in their cars before the race starts, or take their fan zone purchases and lock them in the trunk. Track president Brandon Igdalsky reiterated the rule, saying he consulted with the Department of Homeland Security and other national organizations to assess terrorism or other large-scale threats. That’s how the decision was reached. I’m wondering if other tracks will follow suit. Some tracks don’t offer re-entry already, but Pocono is regarded as an authority on the fan experience. It keeps the fans coming back, and I’m not sure if this policy will damage that. We’ll wait and see.

Will Earnhardt Jr. make it a three-peat? Last season, Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. swept both races in 2014, making his run of the championship one to watch. He didn’t win the title, but it made him a better driver in the long run. How has that transferred into this season? We’ll find out for sure this weekend. In the meantime, let’s look at how 2015 is going for the sport’s Most Popular Driver so far. Earnhardt is already in the Chase after his victory at Talladega Superspeedway. He also has seven top fives and eight top 10s. Although he isn’t as present as he was last season, the No. 88 is more than capable of continuing his streak at the triangular track.

How will the new Drivers' Council affect the sport? It’s not a secret anymore. A group of around 10 NSCS drivers—selected by their peers via a large group text—met with NASCAR officials and brought up various topics and concerns, with safety being one of them. People are worried this may morph into a union, but it’s too soon to be sure. The real question is if the meeting at Dover will actually bring changes. The short answer is no. NASCAR is going to put in place the ideas they want—and make the drivers think their suggestions played some part. Like the Race Team Alliance, something of significance will have to happen before anyone takes it seriously. It’s great the drivers are voicing their frustrations to the bigwigs. Many think their thoughts will have an impact later on down the line.

Is the new Periscope fad putting NASCAR ahead of other sports? The art of live streaming is taking NASCAR by storm. Periscope is an app that allows one to take live video and distribute it to their followers. Earnhardt started using it at autograph signings and appearances. Tony Stewart recently broadcasted his pet pig’s late night dinner and a visit to Carowinds, complete with roller coaster-induced screaming. Media members are using it to show behind the scenes coverage as well. I’m not sure if other athletes and sorts are accepting this app as wholeheartedly as NASCAR has, but I genuinely doubt it. We already have the most fan-friendly participants in all of sports, and this just proves it. This gives us more staying power. While the MLB is just jumping on Snapchat, we’re already onto another craze. The connection between fan and driver is sacred, one that should strengthen with any given opportunity. I wonder what app will be next. Get on our level, stick and ball sports.

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