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Part 2 in a five-part series addressing issues facing NASCAR in 2012
Why has NASCAR taken one of the fans’ favorite venues on the circuit at Lucas Oil Raceway, and replaced it with a track that typically does not host the most exciting brand of stock car racing?
Money, of course. The .686-mile short track was one of only seven tracks (Bristol, Charlotte, Darlington, Daytona, Dover and Richmond) that has hosted a Nationwide/Busch Series event each year since the series debuted in 1982. But with Cup races at the Brickyard bleeding out attendance on a yearly basis, IMS and the France family decided to bring NASCAR’s junior circuit, as well as the Rolex Grand Am Sports Car Series, to the hallowed grounds beginning this year.
Of course, many fans were in an uproar when the announcement was made. LOR (aka, IRP, ORP) has played host to some of the best short track action in NASCAR’s three touring series over the years. And the Brickyard, while a prestigious facility steeped in tradition, has simply not proven able to stage entertaining stock car races. Add in the 2008 tire debacle, and attendance struggles to reach 50 percent capacity.
To be fair, there was talk of NASCAR’s increased sanctioning fees being a reason LOR could no longer sustain an NNS race, money problems that were scoffed at by officials. In the end, though, that may have been a moot point. Waning fan interest at IMS equates to less dollars, and if NASCAR has been consistent on one point throughout its history, it’s that decisions are made solely with the bottom line in mind. If more suits can be wined and dined, more sponsorship programs sold and activated, and more concessions sold, it’s a no-brainer for the sanctioning body — competition level be damned.
So once again, a short track is sacrificed as the sport kneels at the altar of aero-dependent monstrosities. LOR holds 40,000; IMS is said to hold 270,000. When a Cup date can’t fill up half of those seats on Sunday, can you imagine the ghost town that the Brickyard will be on Saturday? Speaking of ghost towns, one of the most exciting venues on the circuit will turn into one, the victim of a speedway’s and a sanctioning body’s greed.
Richard Childress vs. Kyle Busch: Did Kyle have it coming?
Following Busch’s on-track and post-race pit road run-in with RCR driver Kevin Harvick at Darlington, Richard Childress made it clear to Kyle Busch and NASCAR that if Busch damaged his vehicles again, there’d be hell to pay.
Richard Childress, to no one’s surprise, is a man of his word.
When Busch got physical with RCR driver Truck Series rookie Joey Coulter one month later at Kansas Speedway, Childress made good on his promise, hunting Busch down in the garage, putting him in a headlock and force-feeding him a few knuckle sandwiches.
It’s important to remember that this “feud” has roots stretching back well over a year. Busch had been involved in other incidents with Harvick, the mild-mannered Jeff Burton and former RCR driver Clint Bowyer. Harvick had also mixed it up with Busch’s teammates, Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin. So this episode may have been bigger than just Childress vs. Busch — indeed, it seems the 65-year-old team owner was sending a message to Joe Gibbs Racing.
The Kansas incident was the breaking point, though, and although Busch claimed to have not known of Childress’ declaration that he would tolerate no more, Busch took the brunt of the message.
Childress, who’s been in the sport since 1969, still appreciates the value of a buck. As Busch’s antics sent the fab bill in Welcome, N.C., higher and higher, Childress handled the situation in the same manner any number of rivals do on short tracks all across America every weekend.
Was it right? Probably not. Did Busch have it coming? Oh yeah. And NASCAR seemed to think so as well, as Childress got off with a $150,000 fine and probation.
Word is, donations were pouring in almost immediately.
Visit AthlonSports.com each day throughout the month of February for exclusive preseason coverage of the 2012 NASCAR season.