NASCAR CEO Brian France recently discussed the dilemma facing most budding auto racing teams – finances. It’s a dilemma that is currently affecting the entire industry and NASCAR seems set on finding ways to cut costs and making racing more accessible so that the sport stays afloat in this time of economic hardships.
Brian France recently commented: “It’s very difficult. It’s on our whole industry. And there are always some unfunded teams. Now, that’s not anything new. One of my goals and one of our goals is to have a system where you don’t need $26 million to put a competitive team forward. So that is one of the things NASCAR has a lot of influence on and we’re working all the time to figure that out.” So far the organization has been kept afloat by sponsorship deals that had already been put in place long before the global economic meltdown began. NASCAR is also incredibly lucrative as a spectator sport, with television contracts raking in some $600 million each year. Pre-arranged contracts should enable the organization to stay afloat until around 2014. So then, where’s the problem?
NASCAR is struggling to keep afloat at team level. Sponsors have dropped off, leaving teams struggling to get what they need to make it through the next racing season, let alone the next couple of years. The teams that are still managing to make the cut are currently discussing possible mergers. This involves noteworthy teams such as Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Petty Enterprises. Mergers mean less cars on the track, which means less excitement, less chance of a long-shot and less crowd pull. Driver Denny Hamlin summed up the situation nicely. He said: “Ultimately the sponsors are going to look to the teams that perform well. If it kind of gets where the smaller teams can’t do it, it’s going to be tough for them to go out there and race with the guys that have four cars each and every week.”
The current economic crises also crosses into the manufacturing sector, with longtime NASCAR supports such as General Motors, Ford and Chrysler now facing a never-before-seen financial crises. This means that even if these manufacturing companies continue to support NASCAR – as they most likely will – their support will be greatly reduced, adding to the financial plight of the NASCAR organization. A lot of teams will probably be laying off some of their employees at the end of this year’s racing season, leaving a lot of people with uncertain futures. One of NASCAR’s only ways of trying to counter all this, is to make racing cheaper and more affordable so that less money is needed to run a team. One possibility currently being looked into is reducing or eliminating test runs before races. All eyes are now waiting to see exactly what strategies NASCAR implements to try and slow down this very worrying trend.
NASCAR has long been the realm of aggressive male drivers who just ‘fit’ in the auto racing industry. But what if you don’t ‘fit’, but you still love the sport of auto racing? What if you don’t have great sponsorship or famous parents? NASCAR has been supporting the dreams of minority drivers for some time now – and their efforts are paying off.
Long blonde hair surrounding a pretty face is usually accompanied by minimal clothing and a buxom body in the racing fraternity. But Kristin Bumbera is no average car-hood pin-up. No, she’s nothing like that. Her long blonde locks hang over the back of a well-sponsored racing suit and, instead of adorning the hoods of cars, she gets behind the steering wheel and grinds up the tarmac with the best of them. The 21-year-old Late Model driver from Sealy, Texas, has already claimed two victories and 11 top-five finishes during the course of 2008 when she took part in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. Now she is hoping to pursue her dreams and take her career even further by joining 24 other hopefuls this weekend in NASCAR’s sixth Drive for Diversity class. All 25 drivers will be individually tested and evaluated at the South Boston Speedway in preparation for the class. Only 14 spots are available in the Drive for Diversity class, each of which will earn a fully funded ride for 2009.
Thus far the candidates for the class include 16 women and nine men. Ages range from 17-29 and all of them are excited at the prospect of winning the grand prize. The program will place ten of the winners in the Whelen Series, while four others will be driving in the Camping World Series. This is the next step in the career of all these drivers and is one they possibly wouldn’t be able to take without the assistance of NASCAR. Unlike a number of her competitors, Bumbera will be trying for a second year in the program after a very successful first year. She looks forward to the day when a female driver makes a real mark in NASCAR instead of just becoming another â€˜female pioneer’. She faces stiff competition from a number of other really good young drivers who are equally eager to make their mark on the NASCAR world. No doubt the final results of the class will see some great new blood injected into the industry.
Lindsey King is young, tough and determined – qualities that will no doubt continue to be in her favor as she tackles racetracks around the country. She has been racing in different leagues for a long time but this Saturday saw her enjoy her first NASCAR feature race victory. It was a night to remember and King earned the win every step of the way.
The 19-year-old driver is no push over. Not only is she beating the boys at what they do best, but she currently ranks fifth in points in this year’s racing season where she competes with 52 other drivers. She works hard and drives well and it seems that the hard work is finally paying off. When Lindsey King hit the ten-year old Toyota Speedway at Irwindale in California for this weekend’s NASCAR Auto Club Late Model feature on Miller Lite Night, no one could say for sure that she’d be taking home the winner’s trophy. But the determined youngster led all forty laps of the race and eventually managed to become the first female driver to win a feature race on the banked, Irwindale half-mile oval. She pushed her No. 59 Justice Brothers/High-Point Distributing Chevy Monte Carlo hard and made all the right choices. In claiming this victory, she also becomes the second first-time winner of the series.
An ecstatic King said that it “was a crazy race.” She also said: “it was a long time coming.” She noted that he has been very focused during the race and hadn’t even realized the race was over. She also thanked Nick Joanides, who placed second, for not passing her, and the owner of her car, Tim Huddleston, her crew and her sponsor Racecar Factory. This was not King’s first race on the track and it seems that she learnt from the mistakes she made on July 26. King also noted that this was her first main event win in three years. Tim Huddleston finished in third place, hot on the tail of Joanides. The entire race took 15.25.264 for her to finish and there were about 4000 people to witness the spectacle. A lot of them stuck around afterwards to hear what King had to say before she was whisked off for a champagne shower in the pits by her jubilant team.
Bandimere Speedway looks set for a fantastic weekend as it gets ready to host the 29th Annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals. The race has the longest-running NHRA sponsorship and is always a massive success. So as fans prepare to make their way to Morrison, Colorado, between July 11-13, event organizers are doing their utmost to ensure that the masses get what they pay for.
In 2007 Allen Johnson took the Pro Stock trophy while Jack Beckman took the Funny Car class title. Both drivers will be back in 2008 to defend their position at the head of the pack, but that isn’t going to be easy. A massive lineup of racers has already signed up for the event and of course many of them have already earned a reputation elsewhere. A race with this sort of legacy certainly doesn’t need to scrounge around for good drivers. The Mopar Mile-High Nationals has long been Mopar’s premier event – something no doubt made possible by the long and healthy partnership enjoyed by Bandimere Speedway and NHRA. Nevertheless the walk to fame hasn’t been too easy and this year will see two legendary people returning to the track after years of building the Mopar brand and creating its place in auto racing history – Don Garlits and Judy Lilly. Don Garlits, also known as “Big Daddy”, will be playing the role of Grand Marshal during the event, while Judy Lilly, also affectionately called “Miss Mighty Mopar”, will act as an Honorary Starter. Both are veteran drag racers with Garlits having been proclaimed the greatest drag racer of all time by the NHRA in 2001. Lilly is seen as being one of the forerunners of female involvement in the sport of drag racing and her role on the big weekend will be just as well deserved.
But why so much fuss over this year’s race? The year 2008 marks the 50th year that Mopar has been collaborating with Bandimere Speedway. Speaking for Bandimere Speedway, John Bandimere Jr. noted that they are thankful for the relationship enjoyed by the two entities over the past fifty years and that they were “proud to be the Home Track for Team Mopar”. The action will start with the Mopar Big Block party on July 10 from 18:30 on the streets of Golden, Colorado.
The Sports Car Club of America, or SCCA, decided to open a new racing class in 1972, known as the Showroom Stock. It was a class that was reserved for stock street automobiles and its popularity grew at such pace that by 1980 a twenty-four hour racing event was being held. By 1985, the series had expanded to six races and by 1996 the world challenge was divided into a touring class and sports class. In 2002, the title sponsor became Speedvision, which was bought by Fox, and the name became the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge.
The SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge is raced in two divisions, namely the Speed World Challenge Speed GT and the Speed World Challenge Speed Touring Car. The aim of the Speed World Challenge is to provide a production based racing event to manufacturers and teams, in which they are able to display the power and quality of their products. Drivers and manufacturers are allocated championship points according to the finishing position of each class. In the Drivers Championship, a winning driver will be selection on their points in each class, whereas there is only one award for the Manufacturers Championship.
At present, Pierre Kleinubing leads the Speed Touring Car Driver Championships with 122 points, Kuno Wittmer is in second with 108 points, Peter Cunningham has 98 points, Charles Espenlaub has 85 points and Jeff Altenburg has 80 points. In the Speed GT, Randy Pobst has the lead with 220 points, Brandon Davis has 208 points, Andy Pilgrim is in third position so far with 198, Michael Galati with 182 and Jason Daskalos with 145.
In the Speed GT and the Speed Touring Car divisions, a Rookie of the Year award is given to a driver who has not had more than three starts and they have to be confirmed as Rookies by SCCA Pro Racing. Entrant drivers in the season are able to be awarded the Jim Cook Memorial Trophy, which is given to drivers who show sportsmanship, character and contribute positively to the sport. Crew Chiefs stand in line to be presented with the Zimmermann Cup, for dedication, passion and leadership shown during the racing season.
This year, the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge started in Sebring on 12 to 14 March, moved to ACS Long Beach from the 18th to the 20th of April and continued at VIR Danvill from the 25th of April to the 27th. Miller Tooele takes place on 16 to 18 May, Lime Rock from 24 to 26 May, The Glen from 5 to 8 June, Mid Ohio from 17 to 20 July, Road America from 8 to 10 August, Mosport from 21 to 24 August, Detroit from 29 to 31 August, New Jersey from 26 to 28 September and Road Atlanta fromm the 1st to the 4th of October 2008.