The times they are a changin'

In last Sunday's Nevada Appeal Opinion section, columnist Guy Farmer mentioned that he has been writing his column for 9 years, since 1996.

It dawned on me that I passed my ninth anniversary of writing this column last month as well. My, how time flies! The face of racing has changed a good deal in that time, nationally, internationally, and locally. It reminds me of the ancient Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times." They have been that.

Remember the good old days, when cars were sponsored (if they were sponsored at all) by companies like STP, Texaco, Perfect Circle, Cummins Diesel, and other auto-related entities? Then Proctor and Gamble changed that forever when they put their Tide Detergent logo on Darrell Waltrip's car to appeal to female race fans.

We now have cars sponsored by military organizations, internet service providers, beer, liquor, candy, movies . . . what's next? Well, how about Allstate Insurance? Yep, Allstate announced two months ago that it is now the official insurer of NASCAR, and will be the naming sponsor of this year's Brickyard 400. And now the insurance giant will become an associate sponsor of Evernham Motorsports' Dodges in 2006.

I can imagine Kasey Kahne in Victory Circle saying, "Yep, the Allstate Dodge stayed accident-free all day, and my premium went way down." Of course, if they have too many accidents, they just might get cancelled.

Transmission woes were the big story at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma last Sunday. Problems with a new transmission put both Jeff Gordon and Jimmy Johnson at the tail end of the finishing order after qualifying one-two.

Gordon was heard to say that was the last time he would use that particular piece. But even though he's out of the Chase for the Championship with 10 races to go before the final contenders are locked in, don't count the four-time Champion out just yet. When the weather gets hot, so does the No. 24.

In 2004, Gordon won three races and finished in the top five three more times in a six-week stretch, including a victory at the Pepsi 400 and the Brickyard 400. The most interesting thing about the Chase this year is the distinct possibility that more than 10 drivers will compete for the title in the final 10 races. If the front-runners continue to stumble, the likelihood of more drivers being within 400 points of the leader goes up.

The aftershocks from the U.S. Grand Prix earthquake continue to rumble. Last week the World Motorsports Council in Paris found the six teams supplied by Michelin guilty of "damaging the sport" at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway event.

Charges of "not bringing suitable tires" and "refusing to race" were cited. The "Indy Six" BAR, Williams, Renault, McLaren, Toyota, and Sauber explained that since Michelin had given them clear and written advice that it was unsafe to race, they had no choice. They also stated that they reasonably relied on Michelin to provide suitable tires for the race.

The teams have appealed the ruling on those grounds. The seventh Michelin-shod operation, Red Bull Racing, did not join the appeal. Since the team is planning to use Ferrari engines and Bridgestone tires next season, it apparently did not want to jeopardize those pending relationships.

Interestingly enough, Michelin remains an unindicted co-conspirator, to borrow a Watergate term. However, although the company maintains it is not legally obliged to do so, Michelin has decided to refund this year's USGP spectator ticket prices and also to supply 20,000 tickets for the 2006 race to be given to spectators at this year's fiasco.

And on the lighter side of the news, the 2006 NASCAR Pets calendar is out, featuring Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his pet boxer Killer; Elliot Sadler and his Tennessee Walker Hounds and Beagles; Jeff and Michelle Green and their pet Labradors Short Track and Vegas; and Tony Stewart and his pet monkey MoJo.

Proceeds from sale of the calendars goes to the Greg Biffle Foundation, which contributes to local Humane Societies and animal adoption leagues. If you have a friend, relative, or significant other who loves Nextel Cup and pets, get an early start on your Christmas shopping at www.thegregbifflefoundation.com.

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