Seeing should be believing

Most of you have probably seen John Daly's outstanding blog devoted to television coverage of NASCAR, but if you haven't, it's an absolute must-read for those among us who aren't at the track every week watching in person.

An entry earlier this week about old Cup Series races being rebroadcast on ESPN Classic got me to thinking about my own biggest pet peeve with auto racing coverage on television. I'm as annoyed as the next guy when it comes to the graphics, the talking heads, the boogity-boogity-boogity and the terribly dull coverage of ABC/ESPN. But my biggest disappointment always comes at the camera angles themselves.

We're routinely reminded of how big Daytona and Talladega are — 2 1/2-mile restrictor plate behemoths. We're told of the breathtaking speeds at places like Michigan and Atlanta, and even to some extent at Bristol, where the racing seems to defy physics. We're brow-beaten with talks of sellout crowds numbering 100,000 to 200,000 strong.

But we're never given the chance as an audience to put it into perspective for ourselves.

I want to see wide-angle shots from atop the tower at Daytona. I want to see a panoramic view once in a while of 15 or 20 cars in a pack at Atlanta. I want to see just how ridiculously fast 43 cars look on the small Bristol high-banks.

The closest thing I ever saw was the IMAX film NASCAR had a hand in making a few years back. Seeing those IMAX views of the entire backstretch at Daytona, to this day, have fueled my desire to see the place for myself once and for all.

Once in a while we get glimpses on television that could put things in perspective — usually only so advertising graphics can be shown over a shot from the blimp high above the track — but mostly we get extreme close-ups, in-car camera shots and the crying wives.

The best thing about a NASCAR event in person is that it's an event — something so large in scale it assaults all of our senses. The speed, the massive crowds, the sounds, the colors, the smells, the physical size of the tracks. Let's showcase that event. It's all part of the race package, isn't it?

A package we should see from time to time on the boob tube.


Finalizing, fueling up and feeling things out

I'm 10 days away from making that big lefthand turn toward the beaches of Daytona. Between now and then, I've got to find a way to be motivated enough to write about ice fishing and snowmobiling, and I've got to put in place a plan that keeps my wife from leaving me once and for all while I leave her stranded in the Great White North for almost 2 weeks...

* There's still almost 2 1/2 months until the Camping World East Series (Hey! I got it right on the first try!) opens its season at Greenville-Pickens Speedway, so Andy Santerre's got some time. But the 4-time driving champion turned car owner still isn't sure exactly what his lineup is going to be for 2008.

All we really know is that Austin Dillon will pilot one of the cars out of the ASM stable, but what used to be the No. 44 is up in the air. Sean Caisse is still looking for employment in either the Nationwide Series or the Truck Series, but he's been unsuccessful, according to Santerre. Santerre also said last week that he's got a verbal commitment from Casella Waste Systems to sponsor the car again this season, but nothing had yet been signed on the dotted line.

Should Casella stay true to its word (and Santerre has no reason to believe they won't), it will be entirely up to them who they'd like to drive. That doesn't mean Caisse won't be back, but it also doesn't mean he will.

Welcome to big business, folks, NASCAR style...

* I'm not sure about this new 4-race Champions Series that PASS is offering this year. It's designed to give North Series and South Series drivers more incentive to compete head-to-head, but there are 2 glitches in the format as far as I'm concerned.

3 of the 4 races are in the south, and a driver needs only to compete in 3 events to be eligible. If Tom Mayberry's trying to get more North drivers to head south, this will likely encourage them to do that -- but if we're looking for South drivers to come this way, what's their incentive? They don't have to add up the travel costs, and they don't have to risk being uncompetitive on unfamiliar soil.

* The announcement last week that Torco would become the official fuel of the American-Canadian Tour may have seemed a curious one, but 2 different sources unrelated to one another passed on some interesting information to me in the aftermath.

Seems ACT had serious concerns about what teams were doing to fuel in the interest of finding a competitive edge. For a series rooted in close competition through evenly-matched race cars, it's as close to a scandal as you can have. If the best teams in the biggest races were that much better in cars with sealed engines and spec shocks, one has to wonder where the advantage came from.

Truth is, insiders were thinking that advantage was coming from the gasoline.

Having Torco eliminates the problem in 2 ways. First, everybody's using the same thing, purchased at the same place. But Torco also plans to meet with ACT this week, according to Torco distributor Rob Towers, and lay out a detailed plan for testing and inspecting fuel used by race teams.

* I'm sorry, but every time I hear Sprint Cup Series I have to laugh. I mean "sprint" -- who are we kidding? If that series has any problems, one of the biggest has to be that its races are anything but sprints. They're long, drawn-out affairs that make you feel like you just spent the day in the waiting room at the dentist's office.
* File this under the "Totally Shocking" department.
Won the media award at the Northeast Motorsports Expo, and I'm one of 5 finalists for the Speedway Expo media award this year. But somehow, I was left off the Speed51 media category this year.
Can you believe that?
Oh, and while we're on the subject of our favorite PR outfit, I had to chuckle when I saw their Top 10 short track racers list. Four of the top 7 were their own clients, including the top 2.
Now, I'm not suggesting that Joey Logano isn't the best young short track driver out there right now -- he was rightly named No. 1. But Donny Lia as the No. 2? Seriously? Ahead of any of the other guys on that list?
Heck, ahead of any of the Super Street drivers at Wiscasset Raceway???
Come on. This is exactly the kind of "journalism" that has been called into question both here and in other places this off-season. I guess doling out $4,000 a year gets you named one of the top racers in the country...


Reverse gear: 2007's Top 10

No. 2

Bahre sells New Hampshire track

After years of suggesting that his track was for sale, and further suggesting that son Gary wanted no part of ownership in his absence, Maine native Bob Bahre finally cut a deal for his 1.058-mile facility in Loudon, N.H. For $340 million, O. Bruton Smith and Speedway Motorsports Inc. bought New Hampshire International Speedway in November and promptly renamed it New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

SMI now owns 7 tracks which will host a total of 12 Cup races in 2008.

For the time being, there will be 2 Sprint Cup Series races at the track. But the future of NHMS is murky. Will Smith move one of the New Hampshire dates to Las Vegas? Will he move both dates eventually to other tracks, leaving New England with no Cup racing after a decade and a half of seeing stock car racing's premier circuit? Or, surprising most pundits, will things remain status quo -- with 2 Cup dates every summer at an improved, world-class facility?

Questions also abound regarding the future of regional touring divisions, like the Camping World East Series and the Whelen Modified Tour, which have been staples of Cup weekends in Loudon. How are the national support series, the Nationwide Series and the Truck Series, to be affected? Will we see Indy cars back on the flat oval"

With SMI's purchase, there are more questions than answers regarding NHMS. But make no mistake -- Smith's acquisition ``has implications that stretch across New England. Fans, teams and short-track promoters are all keeping a watchfull eye at what happens on Route 106.