By admin | December 6, 2013
By Richard Allen
With the Sprint Cup banquet coming this weekend I have compiled a list of the least surprising happenings of the year to put a final punctuation on the 2013 NASCAR season. Here, in no particular order, are some of the things I considered to be the least surprising things to happen during 2013:
Jimmie Johnson winning his sixth Sprint Cup title- Prior to the start of the 2013 season, I wrote a series of pieces in which I predicted the twelve drivers I thought would make the Chase for the Sprint Cup. In those articles, I predicted that Matt Kenseth would claim the title. Close, but ultimately incorrect.
With that said, however, I was hardly caught off guard when it became apparent that Jimmie Johnson would grab his sixth Sprint Cup crown. Surely, no one else was either. For any driver from one of the mega teams to do well is hardly surprising, especially this particular Hendrick Motorsports operation.
Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus have, without question, figured out how to play the Chase game. As if their run of five consecutive titles from 2006-2010 wasn’t enough proof of that, the #48 added yet another trophy to their collection.
Definitely not a surprise.
Danica struggles on the track but still gets attention- With much fanfare, Danica Patrick joined the ranks of the Sprint Cup division on a full time basis in 2013. And the media blitz kicked into high gear when she and her Stewart-Haas Racing team claimed the pole position for the season opening Daytona 500.
Unfortunately, the commercial queen’s success in Daytona qualifying and the 8th place finish that followed were the high points of her season on the track. That proved to be her only top-10 of the year, but the spotlight placed on her by television and other media sources did not diminish.
Her performance should not have come as a great surprise to anyone. Very little in her past indicated that Danica would do any better than her statistics say she did. In 58 Nationwide Series starts prior to the start of the 2013 season she had only managed to score seven top-10s. She did have one win during her stint in IndyCar racing when she was able to stretch her fuel by just enough to beat the pack in Japan. But even with that, her performance in Sprint Cup was not shocking.
Despite poor results, Danica continued to be spotlighted by the television networks throughout most of the season. More pre-race features were done on her than perhaps any other 25th-30th place driver in NASCAR history. And she landed gigs on cooking shows and music awards programs, so that’s good for the sport, right?
Empty seats surrounded most tracks- Perhaps THE least surprising aspect of the 2013 NASCAR season to me was the fact that empty grandstands encircled most tracks during the 36 race schedule. Even once popular tracks such as Bristol and Talladega had obvious numbers of vacant seats showing during the running of Sprint Cup races.
This was so evident that the Talladega Super Speedway and the Texas Motor Speedway have announced they will reduce their seating capacities before the next events to be hosted on those tracks. But, it is all being done *ahem* in the name of improving the fan experience. At the same time, however, the lowest priced seats are being removed to add expensive amenities.
I would only be surprised if the opposite were true.
Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing domination- The two most powerful organizations in NASCAR combined to win 21 of the 36 races and take six of the 13 Chase berths with their combined total of seven cars. That came with one of the teams’ top drivers, Denny Hamlin of JGR, missing four races and being less than himself for most of the year.
The races not won by these two power house teams were won by other monsters such as Richard Childress Racing, Penske Racing and Roush Fenway Racing.
With their massive budgets for engineering and otherwise, there is no reason to believe the dominance by these organizations won’t continue. I fully expect HMS and JGR to again be at the top of the win list, to place all or most of their cars in the Chase, and to win a championship in 2014. Don’t you?
Sprint Cup regulars continue to ruin the Nationwide Series- If the above mention of empty seats had any sort of challenger as the least surprising story of 2013, it would be the fact that NASCAR continues to allow its stars from the Sprint Cup division to race in and dominate the Nationwide Series. Last season, drivers eligible to receive points in the lower series only managed to win four of the 33 races on the schedule. Kyle Busch collected 12 victories to lead the invaders from the upper level.
For those who say having Cup drivers in Nationwide is necessary to sell tickets, please point out where the fans are that allegedly bought those tickets are because they aren’t in the grandstands. And simply calling another driver the champion despite the fact that he clearly didn’t have the best season does not fix the problem.
Nationwide will drop its sponsorship of the second series after the 2014 season. Is it any wonder why? Might as well go ahead and call it Sprint Cup Lite. That’s what it has been for several years anyway.
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