By admin | February 28, 2010
By Richard Allen
Had a Hollywood script writer sat down and tried to write a script of the worst case scenario for a NASCAR weekend it would have looked something like this past weekend in Las Vegas.
First, Las Vegas residents were teased on Friday that one of their own might be in contention for a win when Kurt Busch grabbed the pole for the Sprint Cup race. That was indeed just a tease as Busch would be gobbled up in a mid-race crash not of his own making. His day was ruined on Sunday and so were his hopes of repeating his brother’s feat of winning in front of a hometown crowd.
On Saturday, the worst of the worst came to fruition. Rain got in the way of the start for the Nationwide Series race. Yes, rain. Only NASCAR could have races two weekends in a row in two of the world’s driest places and have rain be a factor each weekend.
Once the Nationwide race did start, it did not take long for things to turn sour again for the sanctioning body. Since they have as an organization seemingly decided to put a good deal of their eggs in Danica Patrick’s basket they needed her to run well in her last appearance before she goes off to compete in the IndyCar ranks for a few months. Instead, she crashed early on. Any television viewers who tuned in to watch just because of her had nothing to look for with less than half the race in the books.
And more, the only thing that kept that race from being a complete blowout was eventual winner Kevin Harvick’s own pit crew. On a couple of occasions they placed their driver back in the pack with poor stops. Their car was so dominate, however, that Harvick was able to power his way to victory in spite of his crew.
But with all of that bad luck aside, the worst was yet to come. On Sunday, a perfect storm of bad luck hit NASCAR. Granted, there was a near sellout crowd on hand at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. But without having yet seen the overnight ratings, it is likely that was not the case in North America’s living rooms.
First of all, the Shelby American 400 proved to all too predictable. Hendrick Motorsports took control of the race early and pretty much dominated the entire event. Jeff Gordon led lap after strung out lap until he was passed by teammate Jimmie Johnson for the win.
While there are many fans who support those Hendrick drivers, there are many more who are becoming turned off by the organization’s domination. And this week, those disenchanted viewers had somewhere to turn.
The Olympic gold medal hockey game between the U.S.A. and Canada aired at essentially the same time as the race. And as everything else did this weekend, the game played out in the worst possible way for NASCAR. The U.S. made a late comeback which sent the game to a thrilling overtime. No doubt, many people flipped the channel to that game whether they were hockey fans or not because it was the Olympics and because the race left much to be desired.
For NASCAR, things could not have gone much worse, unless you are a Jimmie Johnson fan of course.
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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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