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NASCAR Notebook for February 2nd

by Dave Grayson
Tuesday, February 02, 2010

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During the last week we learned that teams from all three of NASCAR's national touring series will be looking at a temporary pay cut. A Sprint Cup operation that struggled to make races last year now has a guaranteed start in the Daytona 500 thanks to a new technical alliance and three teams are waiting to hear if their sponsorship programs are going to disappear at the last minute. With those thoughts in mind let's begin with:

While some drivers and team owners were probably not too thrilled with this news, a THUMBS-UP goes to NASCAR for last Friday's announcement that said they were going to cut purses approximately ten percent in all three of their national touring series. The express intent here is to alleviate the financial burden on the speedways on the circuit many, of which, are operated by the International Speedway Corporation which is owned by the France family who of course also owns NASCAR.

It's no industry secret that harsh economics from last year had many of the speedways slashing ticket prices in an effort to try to counteract slumping attendance figures. How significant is a ten percent slash in these race purses? It's actually extremely hefty when you consider that the purse for the 2009 Daytona 500 was approximately $18.9 million.

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THUMBS-UP to Furniture Row Motorsports for last week's announced new technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing. Last year Furniture Row campaigned a NASCAR Sprint Cup operation, with driver Regan Smith, on a part time basis after choosing not to run a start and park program.

The organization thought it might be more of the same for the new 2010 season. But that was before they began talks with Childress. While this new arrangement is being billed as a technical alliance, it actually has the resemblance of a merger. The once struggling single car team will now become a fourth car satellite team for Childress Racing. In fact, the alliance calls for Childress to become a team owner along with Barney Visser.

But the big news regarding this alliance involves the transfer of NASCAR owner's points. Late last year Jack Daniels announced they would not be returning as the primary sponsor for Childress' #07 team and driver Casey Mears. Efforts to land a replacement sponsor failed and that led to Childress making the decision to release Mears and downsize his Sprint Cup operation to three cars.

Under the terms of the new technical alliance the owners points from the #07 team will now be transferred to the #78 Furniture Row team. The team finished 40th in the 2009 owner's standings. The transfer of the Childress owned points, from the former #07 team, elevates the Furniture Row car to 21st in the standings. That means the team is guaranteed a starting berth in the first five races of the 2010 season including the very lucrative Daytona 500 because they are now within the top 35 in the owner's standings.

That also leads to a WHAT's-UP with the transfer of these points being allowed? I've never cared for this policy. Owner's points should be earned via traditional means on the race track. They should not be purchased or traded like they're a commodity on the New York Stock Exchange.

Another WHAT's-UP goes to Furniture Row Racing's decision to continue leasing race engines from Hendrick Motorsports. Why not obtain the power plants from Childress and the Earnhardt-Childress Engines he co owns with Teresa Earnhardt? That arrangement would have the team using the same engines as the three Childress Sprint Cup teams as well as the two teams from Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing. It's also interesting to note that Furniture Row Racing will continue their contract with Kevin Harvick Inc whose Nationwide Series team crew members will again perform pit road duties for them.

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Miccosukee Resort and Gaming sponsored Kyle Busch last year
WHAT's-UP with the possibility of Miccosukee Resort and Gaming pulling out of sponsorship agreements just days away from the start of the new racing season that could put two team owners in a financial hardship?

The potential impact could adversely affect team owner James Finch, owner of Phoenix Racing, who was planning to field a full time team in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for driver James Buescher as well as a full time NASCAR Sprint Cup team with driver Aric Almirola. It could also impact Sprint Cup driver Kyle Busch who, back in December, announced the creation of Kyle Busch Motorsports as well as plans to field two teams in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

The once lucrative Miccosukee NASCAR sponsorship program appeared to unravel after January 5th when the Florida based Native American tribe held an election that named Collie Billie as its new Chairman. Billie's campaign platform was reported to be based on "new and proactive economic development." In other words: trim the fat from the operation's budget. Miccosukee Indian Gaming has scheduled a corporate vote on Wednesday, February 4th, that will decide whether or not they will continue their involvement in NASCAR racing. Preliminary reports indicate that the chances are slim that the program will continue.

Meanwhile Kyle Busch Motorsports and Phoenix Racing finds themselves in the vulnerable position of possibly having to find new primary sponsors with the start of a new racing season literally days away. A spokesperson for KBM said the show will go regardless of how Wednesday's vote turns out and Kyle Busch along with their #18 Toyota Truck will be at Daytona ready to race.

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The final THUMBS-UP of the week goes to our reigning NASCAR champion who now has his own street sign. In Jimmie Johnson's native home town of El Cajon-California there is a two mile street originally named in honor of one of the community's early pioneers whose name also happens to be Johnson. Last week the El Cajon City Council voted to rename and resign a quarter mile stretch of that street and it's now known as Jimmie Johnson Way.

Another THUMBS-UP goes out to La Mesa resident, and NASCAR fan, Linda Valdez for approaching the City Council with this idea. Valdez pointed out that in 2009 Jimmie Johnson won his fourth, consecutive NASCAR championship, was named the NASCAR Driver Of The Decade and was vote the Associated Press' Male Athlete Of The Year. Despite that, there was no highly significant honor for Johnson in his home town. The Council agreed with her and took action.

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