News and Views – Volume 3

For the week of November 28, 2011 – volume 3

With NASCAR’s 2011 Chase contenders and Champion coming to Las Vegas, it should be a fun week for fans to watch as all activities lead to the Sprint Cup Series banquet on Friday evening. Fans can watch the banquet on the SPEED channel. Champion Tony Stewart will be presenting his fifth annual “Stewie Awards” on Thursday night on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Fans can vote for the “Stewie Award” winners online at SiriusXM Stewie AwardsA new CALENDAR tab has been added to the site, so fans can check what NASCAR activities are in place each day of the week.  And just a reminder, your suggestions are always encouraged, so please use the SUGGESTION BOX tab to submit your email directly to Fan4Racing for consideration.

This past week was surprisingly busy with plenty of NASCAR activity for fans to take in after crowning a new champion. In fact, the third volume of News and Views may even be enough to give your mind a work out, with silly season madness in full swing.

The race in Homestead results in the largest viewership on ESPN ever
The news came out this week indicating the final race of the Chase for the Championship earned the largest viewership ever for a NASCAR televised event on ESPN. The peak audience of 10.5 million viewers at the moment the new champion crossed the finish line was at 8:08 pm ET, Sunday, November 20th. The telecast averaged 6.8 million viewers. These final numbers do not include a rain delay from around 4:45 to 6 pm.  Viewership was up by 21 percent and the rating was up 18 percent from last year’s championship event, also aired on ESPN. Furthermore, ESPN and ABC ratings for the series Chase season were up 14.8 percent over the 2010 season and does not include the Monday rain-delayed race at Chicagoland Speedway.

Why do you think viewership was so high for this year’s final and the season’s Chase events?  Was it because of the economy or because Johnson was not going to win his sixth consecutive title?

On a side note, the Sprint Cup season also set records in Lead Changes and Leaders per race in 2011, with this season standing as the most statistically competitive season in the 63-year history of NASCAR.  With 27.1 lead changes per race as the most in the history of the Sprint Cup competition, one of two major records are broken.  The other record is the average leaders per event, with this season’s average of 12.8, also the highest since the inaugural year of 1949.  

Roush Fenway Racing with significant layoffs
Apparently more than 100 to perhaps as many as 125 employees were released on Monday and possibly Tuesday.  The team had employed as many as 440 people prior to these layoffs.  It was announced earlier that with needed sponsorship, RFR would field three cup cars for the 2012 season, with David Ragan, #6 team missing a chair when the music stopped this week. More bad news, indicates the team is also without sponsors for Matt Kenseth’s #17 team leaving RFR to decrease its Nationwide operations and presence from three to just two, possibly only one car for the 2012 season.

Is this action by RFR an indication of the competitiveness for sponsorship dollars? Or, while other teams are maintaining or gaining on this front, i.e. Bobby Labonte, RCR, and others, does this indicate a management issue at the famed RFR organization?

After almost winning the Daytona 500 this year, David Ragan did win the second Daytona race in July. Earlier in the season, Ragan also won the non-points Showdown race giving him entrance to the All-star race in Charlotte. Despite his success, Jack Roush made some rather harsh statements about Ragan’s performance saying, “David Ragan was a frustration and a disappointment for all of us, because he was not able to realize the potential that he had, given what his skill is and what the expectations of the sponsor were, and what the performance that was being demonstrated in the car and what engineering package was.” Jack Roush, later clarified his comments saying, “I have nothing but the highest level of respect for David Ragan both as a person and a competitor,” further stating, “He has been a valuable member of the Roush Fenway family for many years and has been a great representative of our organization….my comments was aimed at my sincere disappointment that I have not been able to put the pieces together with David that would have supported the type of success that I feel he is capable. With that said we have watched David grow tremendously as a driver and much of that growth was manifested in his successes on the track this season.”  It was later confirmed by Steve Newmark, vice president of business operations, that the team was trying to keep Ragan under the RFR umbrella with a potential Nationwide car for next season. But as of now, no official announcements from the organization confirms this move for Ragan.

What are your thoughts about Jack Roush’s characterization of David Ragan’s performance?  Agree or Disagree? Is a move to the Nationwide series a good move for Ragan? Or should he look elsewhere for another cup ride?

Chris Heroy named as new crew chief for Montoya
An engineer with Hendrick Motorsports’ #5 team, Chris Heroy was announced this week as the new crew chief for Juan Pablo Montoya‘s #42 team.  Montoya’s previous crew chief, Brian Pattie was released in July, with Jim Pohlmann serving as interim crew chief for Montoya’s second half of the season. Brian Pattie, is expected to take the crew chief duties at Michael Waltrip Racing for their new #15 team with Clint Bowyer.

Will this pairing be the magic Montoya is looking for to contend for a championship title in 2012?

Same question for Bowyer and Pattie…will their pairing bring a championship season to Michael Waltrip Racing?

New team number for Martin-Waltrip Team at MWR
Commemorating, sponsor Charlie Loudermark’s founding of Aaron’s, Inc. in 1955, the Martin-Waltrip team will drive the #55 camry for the 2012 and 2013 Sprint Cup seasons.  Mark Martin and owner, Michael Waltrip will share driving duties for the team with Martin taking 25 cup events in each of the next two seasons. While Martin will race at the 2012 Daytona 500, Waltrip will race the remaining restrictor plate races plus Kentucky, his home state. The remaining races will be a combination of drivers and sponsor partners, when Martin or Waltrip is not behind the wheel of the #55 car.

Who benefit’s most from the partnership of Martin and Waltrip?  Mark Martin or Michael Waltrip Racing?

Addington announces he is leaving Penske
After hearing rumors of his impending departure from Penske throughout the Chase season, Steve Addington finally called Kurt Busch on Monday afternoon, around 4 pm to let Busch know that he is “indeed leaving” the team.  Rumors further speculate, Addington is expected to join Stewart Haas Racing. In fact, Monday morning it was announced, Addington will be Stewart’s crew chief for the 2012 season.  

Did SHR make the right decision in making Addington the new crew chief for the #14 team of Stewart? Yea or Nay?  

Darian Grubb’s future remains uncertain
Tony Stewart’s latest comments via Tuesday’s media conference is “We’re looking at all of our options right now.”  Stewart went on to say, after fulfilling his media obligations for the week, “I’ll be getting back to the shop and we’ll sit down as a group and try to come up with a decision and figure out…what we think is the best option and decision for the company.”  With the Monday morning announcement of Addington taking over crew chief duties for the #14 team of Stewart, it appears the decision is made and Darian Grubb is out at SHR.

Will this championship crew chief find another position for the 2012 season?

Martin promoted and Wilson becomes Harvick’s crew chief
Richard Childress Racing made an announcement on Wednesday that Gil Martin, the crew chief for Harvick’s #29 team since May, 2009 and with RCR since August 2000 is now director of team operations, reporting to director of competition Kent Day. Taking his place as crew chief for the #29 team of Kevin Harvick is Shane Wilson. Wilson was with the #33 team of Clint Bowyer for the past three years. The #33 team operation was shut down with Bowyer moving to Michael Waltrip Racing for the 2012 season.  RCR’s press release further stated, “Further personnel changes with RCR’s competition department will be announced in the coming weeks.”

Is this the dream team for Harvick to win a championship in the 2012 season?

UPDATED with Monday Nov 28th announcement: 
RUMORS of Blickensderfer heading to RCR?
While Jack Roush has indicated his intention to keep Drew Blickensderfer at RFR by placing him as a crew chief with one of his Nationwide teams, rumors surfaced this week that Blickensderfer may have other intentions with Richard Childress Racing as a crew chief for Jeff Burton’s #31 team. Announcements are expected this week from the RCR organization.

Monday, November 28th, RCR announced Drew Blickensderfer will be the crew chief for Jeff Burton’s #31 team for the 2012 season.  RCR did say, Luke Lambert will be reassigned to another position within their organization, TBD.

So now the question becomes as many others, how will the team fare next season?  Will the matchup bring a championship title to the #31 team and Jeff Burton?

Options in 2012 for Vickers?
Brian Vickers, Red Bull Racing team is without the sponsorship needed to continue their operations for the 2012 season, leaving Vickers searching for work. After the Ford 400 in Homestead, Vicker’s stated “I’m working on several options right now in the Cup Series that I’m very excited about, but until they’re done, they’re not done.” He further stated, “I’m looking forward to hopefully continuing a strong career here in the Cup Series. I love this racing and I love what I do, especially with everything I went through last year. It taught me just how much I really do love it.”

Will Brian Vickers be able to put together a deal with a new team in time for the 2012 season?  If so, which team will Brian call his home next season?

Fan4Racing wants to hear your voice now.  Post your views with comments to these news stories. Thanks!

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