Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Auto Club 500 at California was better than expected, but where were the fans?

Welcome back ladies and gentlemen, as Jimmie Johnson and the #48 team were bouncing back from a poor Daytona 500 finish by winning the Auto Club 500, the conversation even during the race quickly shifted from the real racing on-track that included a new tire from Goodyear to attendance.

Before I get into attendance as most often we always do when it comes to the Auto Club Speedway of Southern California, I want to go back to the Auto Club 500 for a moment. This race wasn’t what NASCAR fans have come to expect when watching racing at California, normally the racing is long, drawn out and dare I say boring. However on Sunday in 500, this race at least in my opinion was anything but boring.

FOX I believe did a good job in their race broadcast for the most part. It actually surprised me that the EGR cars of Jamie McMurray and Juan Montoya qualified on the front row, we say this same type of this at Daytona last week with the Hendrick duo of Mark Martin and Dale Jr.

What struck me about Sunday’s race had to be that even though Jimmie Johnson who did lead over half of the race en route to his 48th career victory, it wasn’t that he didn’t just drive away, he had contenders all day long for the lead.

But Jamie McMurray wasn’t one of them, however hats off to his crew guy who had the reflexes to jump onto and off of Kevin Harvick’s hood to get out of the way. McMurray would get penalized for that tire being on the outer part of the pit box. But who doesn’t think these over the wall crew are athletes, damn they are athletes.

Now some say that there is something in numbers and after a bad season for RCR in 2009, in 2010 they have hit on something and are starting to contend again. Now it’s really do early to really say much, but it was great to see all three cars running upfront especially after going from 4 teams down to 3 teams over the off season, this has made the team better.

And on Sunday, it was the battle for second place between Kevin Harvick and his RCR teammate Jeff Burton that really caught my attention. Harvick would run high on the track while Burton would run low. Meanwhile, they were actually catching the leader Johnson. I really thought that Harvick might not only get to him, but pass Johnson and win the race, but this is racing and that’s Jimmie Johnson in the lead and by just changing your line, that made Harvick’s car tight and he put it into the outside wall and that was that.

By the way, I love the conversations between Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus, that is classic, Knaus tells it like it is, what an exchange…

Now if a good race wasn’t enough, the attention on the other hand was the conversation and not in a good way. However I have come to the realization that NASCAR isn’t going to listen to the fans on this one when fan say move one Cup date to another racetrack. And NASCAR really isn’t going to move an ISC Cup date to a SMI or non-ISC racetrack.

But I do believe that since Kansas Speedway does now have that new Hotel and Casino going in off of I believe turn 2 that ISC is going to give Kansas Speedway a second date as promised. And that date isn’t just going to be neither added to the schedule nor taken from SMI track, so the most logical choose has to the Auto Club Speedway.

Now I personally think that NASCAR already has enough 1.5 mile tracks in general on the schedule and Kansas Speedway isn’t the best pick, however it would be at least better than Auto Club Speedway. At this point, NASCAR should just have one Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway and in the process play with date just a little bit, that way everyone can see if Southern California can handle a Cup date or not.

However I want to stress one thing, everybody and I mean everybody should stop judging all of the speedways by sell out attendance, from now on especially in this economy, 9 times out of 10, sell outs isn’t an option. But all (NASCAR Cup Series) speedways should start by lowering ticket prices across the board, start with $35 tickets in the front row and work your way up and stop with this cheap limit junk, it doesn’t work.

Next is Las Vegas this Sunday, of course you wouldn’t know that if you’re watching ESPN considering they don’t advertise non-ESPN races even though they talk about the race. NASCAR, that’s an area you need to fix.

Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images via NASCAR Media