Monday, January 14, 2019

100 Stock Car Racing "What Ifs": The Pearson Probability

Nascar has a long and storied history, but it also has a past littered with “What If?” questions.  Join author Mike Mackler as he takes a look back at stock car racing’s 100 most-intriguing hypotheticals in “100 Stock Car Racing ‘What Ifs’”, the book available on Amazon in both Paperback and Kindle formats.  Here’s a preview of one of the one hundred “What If” questions asked throughout the book:

14. What if David Pearson had run more full-season schedules?
Nascar's two-biggest rivals--who always
brought out the best in each other

Background: In the pre-1972 Grand National era it was hard to find a more-respected driver than David Pearson.  The Silver Fox wound up totaling an amazing 105 premiere series wins from 1960-1980 and three season championships—all despite rarely running the full schedule.

What Actually Happened: After winning championships for Cotton Owens and Holman-Moody, Pearson went to the powerhouse Wood Brothers team, which at the time ran only a partial schedule.

What Could Have Been the Turning Point: What if the Wood Brothers had decided to run a full-season schedule full-time, perhaps spurred on by their rivalry with Petty Enterprises?

What COULD Have Happened: Who knows how many races and championships Pearson could have won with more chances to do so.  Furthermore, while the Wood Brothers typically skipped most of the short-track schedule, Pearson was renowned as a complete racer who could win on any type of track.
The man who made The Wood Brothers
into legends

And if THAT Happened…: Richard Petty would likely still be known as “The King”, but that tidy total of 200 wins would likely be a bit less with Pearson competing on a full-time basis.

What Else Could Have Happened: Would Richard Petty have won all seven of his Cup championships?  His competitive career more or less coincided with Pearson’s (Pearson’s final win was in 1980, one year after Petty’s final championship), so maybe it would be Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Jimmie Johnson alone at the top.

Why It Had to Turn Out The Way It Did: At the time there simply wasn’t enough money to make running a full-schedule profitable for most teams, hence why Pearson and the Wood Brothers stayed on a partial run for the 1970s.



Friday, January 11, 2019

100 Stock Car Racing "What Ifs": Evernham's Evolution

Nascar has a long and storied history, but it also has a past littered with “What If?” questions.  Join author Mike Mackler as he takes a look back at stock car racing’s 100 most-intriguing hypotheticals in “100 Stock Car Racing ‘What Ifs’”, the book available on Amazon in both Paperback and Kindle formats.  Here’s a preview of one of the one hundred “What If” questions asked throughout the book:

29. What if Ray Evernham never left Hendrick Motorsports?

Nascar's 90's Dream team
Background: By the end of the 1999 season, Ray Evernham had won three Cup championships as crew chief for Jeff Gordon at Hendrick Motorsports.  But a new challenge awaited him.

What Actually Happened: The ever-ambitious Evernham was soon tabbed to head Dodge Motorsports’ return to Nascar, starting his own team in Evernham Motorsports to do so.

What Could Have Been the Turning Point: What if Rick Hendrick had made an offer so lucrative to Evernham that it would have been too difficult to leave?

What COULD Have Happened: Jeff Gordon would go on to win the 2001 Cup championship with new crew chief Robbie Loomis, but that would be the last one in his illustrious career.  How many more championships would Gordon have won with Evernham still atop the pit box?
Dodge's return--led by Ray Evernham

And if THAT Happened…: On the flip-side, both Gordon and Evernham are hard-driving, demanding people who’ve used their personalities to fuel their successful careers.  It remains to be seen if the two could have continued to co-exist without wondering if they could do so without the other—or without driving each other crazy.

What Else Could Have Happened: Would Dodge’s return to Nascar have been as successful without Evernham’s leadership?  Possibly, but obviously a major variable would have been who was chosen to be the owner of the lead team.  Roger Penske’s teams would surpass Evernham’s for Dodge in the coming years, but it remains to be seen if Dodge could have convinced a top-flight, successful team to partner with them on such a risky venture from the get-go.

Why It Had to Turn Out The Way It Did: Evernham and Gordon both succeeded on their own, and likely had to find out first-hand if they could do so in order to be satisfied professionally.


Sunday, January 6, 2019

100 Stock Car Racing "What Ifs": Vibration Variations

Nascar has a long and storied history, but it also has a past littered with “What If?” questions.  Join author Mike Mackler as he takes a look back at stock car racing’s 100 most-intriguing hypotheticals in “100 Stock Car Racing ‘What Ifs’”, the book available on Amazon in both Paperback and Kindle formats.  Here’s a preview of one of the one hundred “What If” questions asked throughout the book:

71. What if start-and-park operations were outlawed?

Blank white car--the uniform of the
start-and-parker
Background: By the mid-2000’s “field fillers” (teams that would only run a race if they were guaranteed a starting position due to a lack of entries) gave way to “start and park” operations—teams that would strive to qualify for a race, then intentionally drop out early on with spurious claims of mechanical issues.

What Actually Happened: Lower-rung teams—particularly in the Nationwide/Xfinity Series—realized that they could turn a bigger profit by running a small number of laps in a race, saving equipment for future races in which they could do the same.  This was aided by a pay structure that saw little difference in the payouts for last place and mid-pack finishes.

What Could Have Been the Turning Point: What if Nascar put rules in place (say, a rule stating that any team had to complete more than 80% of a race three weeks in a row) to ban start-and-park teams from doing so?

What COULD Have Happened: Nascar would have likely been stuck with a number of short fields, especially in the Nationwide/Xfinity and Cup Series.  Teams simply weren’t willing to burn through fuel, tires, and possibly other equipment like sheet metal and engines in order to make a few hundred dollars more on a race weekend, and would have likely just stayed home.
Jeff Green, nowhere near the lead

And if THAT Happened…: Several drivers wouldn’t have become infamous as start-and-parkers.  Joe Nemechek wouldn’t have been labeled “Last-Row Joe”, and Jeff Green would never have been able to exploit his past-champion’s provisional in the Nationwide/Xfinity Series.  However…

What Else Could Have Happened: …NEMCO Motorsports, Leavine Family Racing, and others have funded themselves in their earliest years by start-and-parking, not just pocketing the money but using it to build their teams into more-legitimate full-time operations.  NEMCO became a race-winning operation in the Truck Series, while LFR is one of the most-successful smaller teams in the Cup Series over the past few years.  None of this may have been possible without the ability to start-and-park in their early days.

Why It Had to Turn Out The Way It Did: Whether it was due to TV commitments or to avoid embarrassment, Nascar was steadfastly against short fields for most of the 21st century, and was willing to look the other way when start-and-parkers would help them out.


Tuesday, January 1, 2019

100 Stock Car Racing "What Ifs": Ironhead's Image

Nascar has a long and storied history, but it also has a past littered with “What If?” questions.  Join author Mike Mackler as he takes a look back at stock car racing’s 100 most-intriguing hypotheticals in “100 Stock Car Racing ‘What Ifs’”, the book available on Amazon in both Paperback and Kindle formats.  Here’s a preview of one of the one hundred “What If” questions asked throughout the book:

32. What if Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s car wasn’t black?

One Tough Customer
Background: Upon GM Goodwrench Service taking over for Wrangler as his primary sponsor, Dale Earnhardt Sr. gained an iconic new paint scheme—black, with white, red, and silver accents.  But it wasn’t always going to be that way.

What Actually Happened: According to Richard Childress, GM came to him with a suggested paint scheme “that looked like a box of ACDelco brakes”—mostly blue with white accents.  He requested the chance to have his team design their own scheme, which was granted.

What Could Have Been the Turning Point: What if GM’s marketing team had simply said “its our money, we’ll choose the paint scheme”?

Dale's 1996 Japan racecar--what might
have been?
What COULD Have Happened: A handy way to divide up Dale Earnhardt’s career would have been lost—the blue-and-yellow Wrangler years as “Ironhead” and the black-car run as an iconic legend not just of Nascar, but of American culture.

And if THAT Happened…: Think of all the Dale Earnhardt merchandise you’ve seen.  Think of all the t-shirts, the hats, the jackets, the plastic trinkets, the can coozies.  Now imagine all of them in blue.  Strange, isn’t it?

What Else Could Have Happened: The color of the car likely had little to nothing to do with Dale Earnhardt’s on-track success, but it likely DID help with his off-track marketing.

Why It Had to Turn Out The Way It Did: Dale Earnhardt was always The Man in Black—he just needed a car to fit that image.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

100 Stock Car Racing "What Ifs": Bruckheimer's Bump

Nascar has a long and storied history, but it also has a past littered with “What If?” questions.  Join author Mike Mackler as he takes a look back at stock car racing’s 100 most-intriguing hypotheticals in “100 Stock Car Racing ‘What Ifs’”, the book available on Amazon in both Paperback and Kindle formats.  Here’s a preview of one of the one hundred “What If” questions asked throughout the book:
Nascar's best-ever promotion?

25. What if Days of Thunder was never made?

Background: The first modern big-budget action movie based around Nascar, the Tom Cruise vehicle (pun intended) premiered in 1990 after significant production support from Nascar.

What Actually Happened: Although derided by critics and hardcore racing fans alike, the movie sparked an interest in stock car racing from the general public—arguably the first wave of publicity that would peak with Jeff Gordon’s first championship.

What Could Have Been the Turning Point: What if Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson realized that they’d already made Top Gun and didn’t need to make it with race cars?
I own this on DVD--sorry

What COULD Have Happened: If you said you were a Nascar fan in the early-90’s, you would occasionally get a response of “Oh, like Days of Thunder”.  The film was a touchstone for the general public to identify stock car racing, and arguably having the star being a racer who was NOT a “good old boy” helped the sport shake its southern stereotype.

And if THAT Happened…: Would Nascar have become a national force in the late-90’s and 00’s without Days of Thunder?  Probably.  But while the movie itself isn’t the best, it was nice to have a slick Hollywood production as a promotional tool for the sport, rather than something like “Stroker Ace” or “Six Pack”.

What Else Could Have Happened: It could be argued that had this movie never been made, it would have been easier for Nascar to sweep the history of Tim Richmond (the inspiration for Cole Trickle’s character) under the rug.

Why It Had to Turn Out The Way It Did: Nascar needed an introduction to non-race fans, and this assault on the senses was, for better or worse, just what the sport needed.


Friday, December 21, 2018

100 Stock Car Racing "What Ifs": Kyle's Chance

Nascar has a long and storied history, but it also has a past littered with “What If?” questions.  Join author Mike Mackler as he takes a look back at stock car racing’s 100 most-intriguing hypotheticals in “100 Stock Car Racing ‘What Ifs’”, the book available on Amazon in both Paperback and Kindle formats.  Here’s a preview of one of the one hundred “What If” questions asked throughout the book:

74. What if Kyle Busch had signed with Roush Racing?

Roush Racing Truck Series drivers
Jon Wood and Kyle Busch
Background: Shortly after Kurt Busch began his Cup Series career, his younger brother Kyle emerged as a serious prospect for future success.  With Kurt racing at the time for Roush Racing (later renamed Roush Fenway Racing), a spot for Kyle with Roush’s driver development program made sense.

What Actually Happened: The younger Busch only ran a handful of Truck Series events for Roush Racing before a new age minimum of 18 forced him out of Nascar and into the American Speed Association.  When he returned to Nascar, Kyle decided to instead take an offer with Hendrick Motorsports, seeking what he felt was a better contract offer and the chance to succeed out of his brother’s shadow.

What Could Have Been the Turning Point: What if Roush Racing had signed Kyle earlier on to a longterm contract, keeping him with the team?
The Busch Brothers have pretty much
blazed their own paths in Cup

What COULD Have Happened: Despite Nascar’s reputation as a family-centric sport, very few brothers have raced together on the same team on a regular basis.  Whether its the tendency of drivers to want to take out their own identities, or owners’ desire to avoid putting all their eggs in one (family) basket, the Busch Brothers racing together in Cup for Roush would have been a rare event.

And if THAT Happened…: While the opportunity of two young, talented brothers racing together could have been enticing to sponsors, the brash personalties of Kurt and Kyle might have been more of a turnoff than an inducement to fork money over to Roush.  Furthermore, Kurt’s eventual departure from Roush Racing would have been made all the more awkward with his brother possibly caught in the middle.

What Else Could Have Happened: While Kyle had a successful run at Hendrick Motorsports, it wasn’t until his arrival at Joe Gibbs Racing that he really came into his own as “Rowdy”, one of the most-successful and polarizing drivers of his age.  Such a move may never have happened if Kyle had signed with Roush at first, although oddly enough that would have meant that three future JGR drivers would have been in Roush equipment—Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, and Carl Edwards.

Why It Had to Turn Out The Way It Did: In the long run, signing with Hendrick Motorsports put Kyle Busch on the path to Nascar superstardom.


Monday, December 17, 2018

100 Stock Car Racing "What Ifs": DEI's Decision

Nascar has a long and storied history, but it also has a past littered with “What If?” questions.  Join author Mike Mackler as he takes a look back at stock car racing’s 100 most-intriguing hypotheticals in “100 Stock Car Racing ‘What Ifs’”, the book available on Amazon in both Paperback and Kindle formats.  Here’s a preview of one of the one hundred “What If” questions asked throughout the book:

53. What if Dale Earnhardt Jr. got partial ownership of DEI?

Inside DEI (the "Garage Mahal")
Background: Dale Earnhardt Jr. got his start in Nascar racing for his father’s team, Dale Earnhardt Inc.  After his father’s death, Dale Jr. became the public face not only of the team, but of the sport itself, driving the familiar number 8 Budweiser car for the team now operated by his stepmother, Teresa Earnhardt.

What Actually Happened: A downturn in DEI’s performance coincided with a contract year for Dale Jr.  He asked for controlling interest in the team in order to re-sign, something that Teresa Earnhardt refused almost out of hand.  Spurned, Dale Jr. moved to Hendrick Motorsports, while DEI would continue a slide into irrelevance.

What Could Have Been the Turning Point: What if Teresa Earnhardt was so concerned about losing Dale Jr., her most-talented driver at the time, that she simply gave into his demands?

What COULD Have Happened: Dale Jr. is a sponsorship magnet, as even in the sport’s challenging marketing atmosphere of the 2010’s, he rarely went without solid backing in Cup.  His presence likely would have been enough to maintain sponsorship both for his own car and his teammates.
Who could've imagined Dale Jr. a HMS?

And if THAT Happened…: While the immediate financial future of DEI would have been secured, the competitive picture may have continued to head downward.  DEI had fallen behind Hendrick Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing in the Chevrolet pecking order, and while GM would likely have done whatever they could have to keep their most-popular driver in winning equipment, the company’s financial troubles were coming to the forefront as well.

What Else Could Have Happened: Would DEI have stayed in Nascar?  That remains to be seen.  The relationship between Dale Jr. and Teresa was frosty, albeit usually professional, and one may have still left the organization in the years that followed.

Why It Had to Turn Out The Way It Did: Dale Jr. was given the opportunity of a lifetime to race for Rick Hendrick AND run his own race team in JR Motorsports.