18 Cup seasons later.... April 25th, 2017. A day that put the NASCAR world in a state of denial and awe, Dale Earnhardt Jr announced his retirement that will happen at the end of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. 42 years old still yet in his prime, but with multiple concussions throughout his career he has chosen to hang up his helmet with 26 Cup wins with possibly still yet to follow. Although the stats have yet to fully tallied we couldn't ask ourselves for a better ambassador for the sport of NASCAR. They say no one is bigger than the game. In reality that is nothing but the truth. Why is it so gut wrenching that Earnhardt Jr is retiring? The name to fans is what makes that bigger than the game. Having his name in it just being there was something we didn't think about it not ever being there someday. Many will shame Jr's success to his fathers name Earnhardt Sr. That isn't why. Jr is his own and has been through the years. The part you can't deny however is Dale Sr did start the name, but the torch was rightfully passed to Jr to continue it. One generation made the sport what it was with Sr and the other made the sport what it was and is for this part of the 21st century. The name does stick in your mind when you think of NASCAR. To me it's a word association that makes me think of NASCAR right away. April 25 2017 I felt impact with the thought of there not being an active Earnhardt name in it is a hard concept of reality to settle in in your thought pattern being a NASCAR fan. Jr has put in a ton of effort with multiple top 5 & 10 finishes and a best of third place championship finish. Not to say that's a lack there of, but the fact he was there you just knew the comfort of Jr being in the race no matter where he finished those days. Think about 2018... we will still have the sport go on as normal. February will come around as it always does with the calendar year. Daytona speed weeks will lead up to the 500. We will still have 40 of the best drivers that any Motorsports fan could ask for. We will have the Euphoria of excitement and the carnage. Reality will go as normal as will the event, but you can't help think about knowing who isn't in the 88 but still have respect for who is driving in it next. Dale will still be very involved at the track. I know Dale drove the Batman car, but as we see legends come and go, I refer to them as Superman. The word Superman being a Superhero in the comic books doesn't mean no one can be called a hero because they do not hold the powers of ultimate greatness. The hero part can be seen as saving thousands of people like the Troops do and making an impact on an individual's life like Jr did with so many. Supermen and Women also come in the forms of our Fathers and Mothers and friends. Dale at his press conference described all those who helped him shape who he was to get where he is at today. A Superman is that. Being his health to be the main factor, imagine Superman still being a major character but his power flight was damaged, that's only his flight. His influence cannot be tarnished. He's been here making us proud for many years. Years that made us as a fan base proud to be a nation through thick and thin. That's why Jr makes me proud.
After reading an article about how Dale Jr feels about restrictor plates at Indy, I have to agree. He said he is up for whatever. Declining number of people in the stands and many tweets from twitter show it as well that Indianapolis Motor Speedway needs to change something. Why does Indy get so much flack? I respect the track and its history, but I think in the 21st century "bigger" is not always better like it used to be. Back in 1994, TV was the only way you got your racing fix before YouTube was invented and the internet was still in its infancy. You either watched it on TV or went to the track. Today, you're spoiled with your phone, twitter internet having everything to look at the highlights of any NASCAR. Today, it's not just millennials with shorter attention spans, it's us adults too. With the internet's abundant NASCAR resources I will say. Not everyone wants to stick around and watch a 3 to 4 hour race. People still watch in some way, but TV ratings do not account for twitter, fox sports go or fan attendance. You can ask me "but hey, Daytona, Talladega, Michigan, Auto Club, Pocono are big too". Well, yes they are, but Indy is a giant rectangle that is flat. There really isn't any unique features to it like those other tracks. That's why NASCAR has come up with the stage racing to compensate for the lack there of. I've enjoyed the stage racing so far this year and it has definitely proved worthy by peaking my interest at tracks I once found dull. Who knows? Maybe restrictor plates will improve cars and group them up or maybe not. Restrictor plates are solely used for the restriction of air primarily at Daytona and Talladega. Indy is a nearly flat rectangle that hosts the Indianapolis 500. Indy cars are a different animal and have no restriction. NASCAR cars are about aero and using air as the advantage. As a test NASCAR will give the restrictor plate a try in this years Xfinity race. Using the air with no restriction is would be the same with a plate because this track has braking in the turns opposed to a draft going a constant 200 mph. On and off the throttle creates the same effect like at other tracks. The lead car always has the best air. Basically, it's just setting a speed reduction and will spread them out even more. The Xfinity cars will be having a spoiler with more drag as an added feature. We tried this high drag package at Michigan before and most were very opposed to it. It just goes down the road of all the factors the either bring fans to the track or why's them away. I'm up for whatever and will watch what is presented to me. I do give kudos to NASCAR for trying different things. The old saying goes "You don't know until you try"
After unknown certainty. We went to the Lone Star state to the newly repaved and configured Texas Motor Speedway. Over the offseason it got new pavement and a reconfigured banking of 20 degrees in turns 1 & 2 while 3 & 4 stayed the same. All teams coming to the track were pretty much coming into blind with no data. Denny Hamlin found out very fast and compared it being to ice as he spun out in the first practice. There was yet to be grip laid down before both races took place. The Xfinity series had the first dibs to do so they created a groove which would allow us to see that it would become single file racing for Sunday. I will say as the Cup Series raced I absolutely loved it! Seeing cars power shoot their way to position on entry and the middle turns made it for real true NASCAR fan excitement. Most complained that it lead to the lead car being way out front which that's what people want NASCAR to avoid. Well, hate to say it, but the lead car always has the best air because it's science. You won't change that. With added stage racing and the leader mastering the front position I think it worked. Ryan Blaney who is damn terrific at driving won both stages. The stages proved worthy to me at Texas because so far we for the first time in many seasons are seeing teams who haven't been successful in years past. The drama effect was in full swing with the one groove because the upper line was an Achilles heel for position taking. You need an event where it's a put up or shut up. I was instantly becoming a Blaney fan as he kept the lead for two thirds of the race, but was knocked down from not pitting at one point. He busted his ass and proved it can done to keep up with the best. While the track is new, Jimmie Johnson did what Jimmie always does. Figuring things out late in a race. I will admit with a few deleted tweets I didn't want Johnson to win. At the end the end with his ability and timing of a driver, team and good pit stop game, he had the best car beat who I wanted to win which was Joey Logano. Johnson took charge like the title he has earned which is "Seven Time" and got his 81st victory. While NASCAR continues to make the changes for the better of the sport. I think maybe the track surface is what's needed to be changed more often to prevent the racing from becoming dull. It's the drama we all to an extent want to see. It's like in the Star Trek movies where Mr. Scott can't figure the exact equation for "Transwarp Beaming" across space from long distances. The Enterprise is like the car and the track is space. Maybe like Mr. Scott in his equation, space (the track) not the car is the thing that is moving.
You know what I think would help NASCAR to get people to buy tickets to race? Short tracks. Martinsville is known for being a paper clip, drama and the famous hot dog of course. The Alpha 250 proved my theory of thought with good crowd numbers. I haven't checked the actual numbers, but as we all know we see a questionable sized crowd for Trucks and Xfinity races which is a controversial topic on how to get people to go to those races. So it isn't hard to say what you see in the stands when it is more than usual. Martinsville being a half mile paper clip as it's called always gives the drama and bumper to bumper excitement with wrecks from aggressive driving and constant close door contact between drivers eventually moving one out of the way. The term "Spread out" isn't really a word used to describe your usual NASCAR event. They don't really spread out and it's what the sport needs for the excitement factor that NASCAR wants to attract more younger generation fans. That's what we face today in terms of how to sell entertainment value. Millennial youngsters just don't like to sit for a long period of time and seeing something drag out to the end with it being spread out. Stage racing which worked perfectly gave the fans just that with close together competition making you want to see what's next. Bigger tracks NASCAR has implemented different such rule changes and body packages to slow the cars down so the rest of the pack can catch up with the leader. The leader on the bigger tracks always have the best air and the sanctioning body really has themselves scratching their heads on how to fix it with not really any luck. Short tracks you don't have that problem. There is no draft to worry about how to change aero so you can catch the leader. From fan perspective you get to see the entire track with little in the way of distance. You don't need binoculars to see across or wait until they cross the finish line. Although, some tracks do have the big screens for the front stretch fans to watch so they don't miss the action. Myself, I think the big screen is a good thing and helps, but since the coverage of TV has gotten better, that's why I find the at home experience the best way to watch. Short tracks give a good reason to watch both ways, but I think makes the ticket value the winner to go watch live. The Alpha 250 came to a close with Chase Elliott taking home the famous Grandfather clock. Fans took to Twitter with reaction saying mostly another cup driver won in the lower series. I see the race was really fair game as toward the end restarts were common. Giving all different experience levels the equal opportunity to win. The race came down to experience and people say "yeah, chase is a cup driver and shouldn't be there". Chase is a Cup driver, yes. Chase has experience, but don't forget when chase got the Xfinity Series he won the championship his rookie season. Chase was younger than most competing at the time and had help from Jr Motorsports. Many will say he did that because he had good equipment. That is true, but that equipment didn't would not get any other kid at 19 years old a championship the first time around. What got him that championship the first trying was the knowledge passed down from his father Bill Elliott. So today as he is a Cup driver now he is still younger than most there and in the Cup Series. Being in the truck race Saturday he isn't much older. Imagine if he hadn't won the Xfinity Series championship in 2014 and he is in the 24 ride still winless winning the Alpha 250? The difference? He still has the teachings and crew behind guiding him. Why didn't KBM win? Or some other team with high resources? In the end like every other competition you only have one winner. A fair win it was that any other in the top five if they played their cards right could of done what Chase did.
On the Cup side of things the STP 500 started out very smooth and part way in things got a little "Martinsvillish" with bumping and banging with McMurray being the end result of a cut tire. Getting to the pits is the idea, but the team didn't want to go two laps down. I have nothing against Johnson at all with his performance, but like everyone else he was getting knocked around with the heavy congested traffic. It would be bias to say the 7 time champ wasn't fairly raced. Same goes for Jr being in contact with Blaney. Jr didn't have any problem with Blaney shortly after it happened and went on like it was nothing. That's the attitude you need to have. Obviously it's a different story when you are chasing an 8th title and every thing counts, but good lord it's Martinsville with close racing not entitlement. I'm not speaking for Johnson or anyone else, but it's Jimmie Johnson. He can come back from anything. Further down as the race paced its way, Chris Buescher had an incident with both Ricky Stenhouse who spun out earlier and then almost hit a parked Jamie McMurray, YES parked haha and Danica Patrick being squeezed three wide, well not squeezed, but right between the two he made contact with Danica. Fortunately nothing came of it. This is what short tracks do to make me excited to watch. Logano, my favorite driver had a tire go down putting him down 2 laps. Thankfully for the lucky dog he got back on the lead lap. I'm a die hard Logano fan and when adversity strikes I have very little worry for him to get back in contention. Rather than screaming at the TV or taking to Twitter, I chose not to act like the world is going to spin off its axis. In the end my driver, whether he is taken out early or gets a good finish, I don't want to be the fan that creates a flood of hate that might make future or current fans turn away from the sport. With 100 laps to go Sunday proved to be just as exciting as the truck series race with the neck and neck battle between Keselowski and Kyle Busch. It was the ultimate on the edge of your seat entertainment you could ask for. Brad chased Kyle and Kyle chased Brad. It almost made me wish I had been there in person to witness the pure awesomeness of adrenaline filled entertainment. That is what the millennials want in any sporting event if you want to secure them as a fan in the future. Keselowski proved to be the stronger car in the end. Crowned winner of the race along with a new custom made Grandfather clock, Keselowski took it all in an all out 500 lap survival of the fittest grudge match. MORE SHORT TRACKS!
It's been confirmed that 704 Games previously known as Dusenberry/Martin Racing, has confirmed another NASCAR licensed video game. NASCAR Heat Evolution has created a love hate relationship with many gamers who are fans of the sport and gaming as a whole. The game is a fresh start in the series made from scratch with no ties to the previous NASCAR 15's code. What's good about it? The graphics are amazing, physics are in check such as fuel and tire wear, setups are realistic. So what's bad? Well, certain tracks like Darlington, Bristol or Martinsville with physics such as breaking on entry are so finicky you can't even turn in without sliding and possibly spinning out. I mean the it's an appreciated effort I'm grateful for, but why is it these first games for developers come out only a 90% workable product? Of course we have driver assists that help corner turning at such tracks where braking is difficult, but I don't want to use assists to help me turn. I'm the player who wants the challenge of being able to turn it myself without it having a shortcoming out of the package as the final product. I play mostly online where in NASCAR 15 you had to find and learn how to master setups to be the fastest. I took it seriously playing 15 because it gave you an incentive to work your way toward the elite players. That's why I when I watch racing on TV, but hold on I'm not calling myself a "REAL" race car driver either. That would be totally and utterly ridiculous saying such a theme. Video games like these are made to give that "Quasi" feel of racing and setting up cars like the teams do. That's what I want. NASCAR 15 allowed me to do so and create different paint schemes. This game doesn't allow that, not yet. The game delivers on fun for the most part, but all I ask for in the next game is just to get the damn to work normally on braking and setups online. I don't care if it's follow up is the same look and feel presentation wise. Just giving me those two simple things to start and I will be happy and then start adding the good stuff it really needs like NASCAR Thunder 2004 did and did a damn good job on the career mode letting you have an inventory of race cars for the next race along with a money budget, then add a paint booth, possible Xfinity car body styles and Trucks! If I had money to start my own development studio I would beg NASCAR to to give me the rights to the gaming portion and do all explained above and stop trying to whack a golf ball in the sand and put effort in adding a dirt car series in the game as well or a stand alone. Realistically, NASCAR would be the shareholder, but they haven't really put any care whatsoever in the quality of the games anyway and the developers always refer to the drivers to test it for them. So if anything the shareholders are the key element in what they are trying to produce in a game. Only problem is the drivers testing it out only get the final say so because they are well, NASCAR drivers. NASCAR drivers are gamers too, those drivers end up getting a free copy as opposed to the fans giving valid ideas through social and are the ones paying for the game. Us fans are the ones who play the game frequently for enjoyment unlike and I'm not trying to step on toes or try to start a fight, but the likes of Ryan Blaney, Bubba Wallace and Yes Joey Logano who Games as well. Logano is my favorite driver, but I doubt in his busy schedule he plays the game like I do on a daily basis. So it's easy for a developer to breathe easy based on their say so as opposed to a paying customer. Again, I'm not trying to step on these guys' toes in anyway, shape or form, but I don't live the NASCAR driver lifestyle to not see the effort that should be put forth in a game. I know nothing about business, but I think these are all things is gamers who are true NASCAR fans would mostly agree upon. This would only work in a perfect world where if I were rich enough to not need shareholders. We get a game like this that is mostly quality wishing and hoping to see these things for years and nothing ever comes to fruition. When we had NASCAR Thunder with EA sports we were spoiled with what they gave us to play with a plethora different options to play in career mode when online gaming was in diapers. When next Gen games came along and online became more of a focus we saw career mode go into the crapper because corporate America didn't think the customer would care about that detail anymore thus ruining it like there is some hollow regulation saying "if we have one fun thing to add let's gut two things that are already fun and successful giving the customer the idea having it all isn't possible when it actually is". That's what frustrates us racers of gaming. We liked what we had in the old games because the truth of it is a racing video game is like any other sports main purpose, to race, run/pass the football, kick the ball, with the ball with the bat, shoot the ball into the basket. All those things are things that really cannot be perfected beyond what they are now. Meaning you can only add so much to change the rules, but you can't shy away from its sole purpose. Just like the game itself. We live in the 21st century where we want everything better and new every year or month in what seems to be minutes. The way gaming is today you don't need much to change it in every iteration, but the reason companies do that is because they have shareholders to answer too. It's not the gamer, it's the big wigs who delegate the decision making. Like a new Call Of Duty game every year. Being mostly an online multiplayer. It's the same concept with different Scenery, but that's only added to meet shareholder expectations of $$$ and the shareholders aren't concerned with what developers put in the game. You don't actually have to buy the new game every year. The servers are still very active from past iterations. We just have to wish and pray I guess. Just my two cents that will get taxed.