LONDON: Downward Spiral Continues For NASCAR, Its Series

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VALLEY STREAM, N.Y. — It has somehow fallen upon me to monitor and report NASCAR’s messes. Things continue to get worse and if I didn’t know any better, I’d say the folks in Daytona Beach are doing everything to ruin our sport.

Look at the recent weekend at Phoenix Int’l Raceway. The Friday NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race could not have had as many as 1,000 people in the stands. The race, dominated by Kyle Busch, was a huge bore.

Attendance for the following day’s Nationwide Series race wasn’t a lot better and it was another yawner dominated by Busch.

I wonder how the Camping World and Nationwide suits feel about underwriting a series that hardly anybody buys a ticket to see? There were plenty of race fans in the area for Sunday’s Cup race. It was the same thing at Daytona. The Saturday Nationwide race probably had its worst attendance in history.

NASCAR has done everything possible to make the Nationwide series fail. It looks like it is succeeding. Last year, NASCAR cut 20 percent from race purses. It has introduced an all-new car, which cost the owners plenty. To try and make things “fair,” drivers are only being permitted to run for points in one series.

Do you know how ridiculous it will seem when the end-of-the-season banquet is held for Nationwide and none of the top five drivers will have won a race? It is very possible. In fact, it would have occurred last season.

Meanwhile Busch will probably win 23 races this season. Does NASCAR think this will pull in paying fans? Only 40 cars showed up for Phoenix and there are more start-and-parkers in the Nationwide division than any other.

So where is the show for the fans? NASCAR continues to blame the economy. People still have money to spend, but they don’t want to waste it.

Cup owner Tommy Baldwin is on a shoestring. He announced at Phoenix that driver Dave Blaney would start and park. Robin “the Robot” Pemberton decried Baldwin’s declaration, but he couldn’t do anything because NASCAR hasn’t invented a rule against it — yet!

Baldwin’s situation was this: With races in Phoenix and Las Vegas, he’d have to travel back to North Carolina and then head west again. With fuel prices at their highest, it would cost thousands of dollars, which all the big buck teams paid.

Instead, he “saved” his car for Las Vegas where he says it is more competitive.

This is why there is no growth in NASCAR anymore. Look at Daytona. Despite paying more than $250,000 just to start the race, only 48 cars signed in for the 500.

Things get worse for NASCAR’s participants every year and the downward spiral continues. Too bad it doesn’t have an impeachment process.

– Jeff Gordon’s victory at Phoenix was noteworthy because of his 66-race winless skein. But what I saw was Jeff, for the first time in years, running like he did in the Ray Evernham era. His car was fast and smoother than ever, and it stayed that way all through the race. If Alan Gufstason has found something, look for a big year for No. 24.

– Gene Bergin passed away after a long illness. One of the great campaigners from New England, he won many times. Two notables were copping the first All-Star race at Wall Stadium in New Jersey, in his first visit there in 1967 and winning the Stafford (Conn.) 200 in 1971, the first in a Pinto-bodied modified owned by Bob Judkins. He was great in a midget, too, and once had Indy aspirations.

– Most tracks run a powder puff race once a year. Freeport’s women’s division ran every week and some got quite good at it. Janice Craw, who also raced as Lorrie Lawson, was the best of them. She passed away in January. I’m also sorry to note that Jerry Caesar’s widow, Rosemary, left us. Jerry drove my stock cars in 1963. RIP.

– One sad part of the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 is that Tom Carnegie won’t be there to usher it in. He is as much a legend there as any of the drivers.

– Learning to subtract from 44 at 25 Emerson Place, Valley Stream, N.Y. 11580. E-mail us at [email protected]

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