Television, namely low ratings, continues to be a sticking point for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this fall during the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Ratings are off by double-digit drops on ESPN, sounding shrill alarms for NASCAR, ESPN and sponsors.
The plunge off the ratings’ cliff is odd, because the racing has been very good this entire season, including the Chase. Even Auto Club Speedway, NASCAR’s generic prescription for Ambien, put on a very competitive race two weeks ago.
If you’ve tuned out the Chase on The Worldwide Leader in Sports this fall, you still should tune into ESPN tonight for what promises to be a fascinating 60 minutes of NASCAR programming. ESPN’s superb series of short documentaries, “30 For 30,” looks back at the life, legend and truths of Tim Richmond in “Tim Richmond: To The Limit” at 8 p.m. (ET) on ESPN and 11 p.m. (ET) on ESPN2.
Richmond has sadly faded into the vanishing point of the rear-view mirror of NASCAR. This guy was an incredible force of nature and an incredible talent in Winston Cup racing during the 80s. He raced, partied and lived harder than most of the corporate automatons disguised as drivers today probably could ever dream. Imagine Kyle Busch’s speed and carefree talent mixed with the rock-star magnetism and lifestyle of Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones or Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, and you had Tim Richmond.
Much like James Hunt in F1, the number of Richmond’s laps led and ladies bedded ran side-by-side. But he had tremendous skill and huge attachments behind the wheel of a stock car and appeared headed to the high altitude of the legends of the sport before he contracted AIDS and died in 1989.
Want to see Richmond’s otherworldly talent encapsulated in one short video? Watch this below. Richmond is swallowing the field whole on a restart at North Wilkesboro while continuing to talk from his car with ESPN commentators in the booth after the green flag:
Due to his illness and the misconceptions associated with it, Richmond never has received his due from either NASCAR or its flag-waving, God-fearing fan base. Hopefully this documentary will help those who have forgotten or never knew about Richmond realize he was a rare supernova.
Watch this show tonight. Richmond is exactly the kind of character that corporate sponsors in 2010 never would bless even though racing needs talented showmen like him more than ever.
Back to racing 2010. It’s a quiet day in worldwide motorsport — a rarity during the season. But there’s still some news to chew on.
The NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup continues this weekend at Martinsville, and Monte Dutton sums up the issues and trends heading to the Sprint Cup Series’ smallest track.
Two-time Brickyard 400 winner Tony Stewart appears to be out of contention for the Sprint Cup this season, 177 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson. But his short-track racing team, Tony Stewart Racing, is kicking major booty in USAC.
TSR driver Levi Jones earned his first USAC Silver Crown Series championship last weekend by just two points over Bud Kaeding. Jones trailed Kaeding by two points entering the season finale last weekend at Toledo, but his seventh-place finish was enough to squeeze the crown from Kaeding.
Jones and Bryan Clauson could pull off a USAC Triple Crown this season for TSR, as Jones leads the National Sprint Car standings over Clauson and Clauson is 98 points ahead of Jerry Coons Jr. in the National Midget standings. Clauson and Jones are 1-2, respectively, in the USAC National Drivers Championship.
Not a bad year for Smoke’s outfit.
Formula One is headed to the maiden Korean Grand Prix, and veteran journalist Joe Saward is bucking the trend in the F1 press corps by showing excitement over the trip.
Hopefully Joe also will be happy to travel to Russia in 2014, as that nation will play host to a Berniefest starting in 2014. The blueprint for that event is excruciatingly familiar: Bernie Ecclestone is bringing the “pinnacle of motorsport” to a nation with almost no racing history or infrastructure but a government — this one funded by petrorubles — that is more than happy to pay his extortion sums of up to $50 million per year in sanctioning fees.
Bernie’s pet designer, Hermann Tilke, will sketch out an incredibly boring new track featuring medium-speed corners pockmarked with chicanes and two long straightaways followed by hairpins that form the only overtaking areas on the track. The construction of the circuit will be marred by delays, union or government bickering and accusations of corruption. Finally, the crowd will be disappointingly sparse due to race weekend ticket prices equaling a month’s wages for the average local worker.
Hasn’t every F1 fan seen this movie?
Will seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher still be around to race with his F1 comrades in Russia in 2014? Alain Prost hopes not. Prost is less than impressed with the return to F1 this season by fellow legend Schumacher. The reason? Age. Prost believes the endless tick-tock of the clock finally has caught up to Schumi.
There was a significant off-track development last weekend in worldwide motorcycle racing, as Vito Ippolito was re-elected as president of the FIM, the worldwide governing body for motorcycle racing. Ippolito is a strong proponent of allowing production-based engines and machinery compete in MotoGP to boost grid sizes starting in 2012. That will put MotoGP on a collision course with the Superbike World Championship, which uses production-based machines now.
SBK bosses are spitting fire over MotoGP’s proposals, and it appears their arguments won’t go far with the FIM with Ippolito still sitting in the big chair.
Sponsorship and shilling fuels racing, right? So pardon me for this worthy plug of “Gasoline Alley Unplugged” that runs Monday through Friday at the IMS blog. The series features a different historical IMS photo each day, with accompanying audio from IMS Historian Donald Davidson. It’s a magical piece of IMS history mixed with Donald’s astonishing knowledge, insight and gentlemanly charm.
All of the pictures and audio are superb, but I think the Oct. 18 piece on three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Wilbur Shaw is the best so far. As Donald eloquently stated, without Wilbur Shaw, there would be no Indianapolis Motor Speedway today.