CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Blog By Tom Baker — Photo By Getty Images/NASCAR — This is a big week in NASCAR circles.
Wednesday, they announced that XFINITY, a Comcast brand, is the new title partner for the series currently known as the Nationwide Series.
A 10-year contract is in place which begins in 2015. It will be very interesting to see how XFINTY utilizes their communications resources in coordination with NASCAR to take this series to the next level in terms of coverage, especially to the younger demographic.
NASCAR has done an outstanding job of developing this series into a series for rising stars, and drivers such as Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and both Austin and Ty Dillon are bringing in a younger audience. I’m excited to see how this vast new resource will be used to provide more interactivity and excitement for those fans.
With Sprint on board for the ‘Cup Series, and XFINITY now working with the “second level”, there should be plenty of opportunity for fun stuff technology-wise beginning next year!
Meanwhile, the “Race to the Chase” sees 14 drivers already locked in going into this weekend’s final “regular season” race at Richmond. Thirteen race winners plus Matt Kenseth, who is locked in because nobody can score more points than he has.
That leaves two spots open right now for non-winners, and NASCAR will award those spots to the two highest drivers in the standings who haven’t won.
As of this moment, Ryan Newman has 747 points and Greg Biffle 728. If the cutoff were now, those two racers would be the 15th and 16th qualifiers.
Ironically, sitting just one spot out is Clint Bowyer. He’s 23 points behind Biffle for the final position. Bowyer is the driver I’m watching very closely this weekend. This is the one year anniversary of one of NASCAR’s most embarrassing moments, as it was last year’s Richmond race when Michael Waltrip Racing attempted to “game the system” by allegedly telling Bowyer to spin his car on purpose and other nefarious behaviors.
Their actions led to the dismantling of the No. 56 team, and the loss of both Martin Truex and NAPA.
This year, Bowyer pretty much has to win the race at Richmond in order to guarantee himself a shot at the Chase. He cannot catch Newman on points unless Newman fails to start, and if we get a 14th race winner then all Newman has to do is finish 18th or better and he locks himself into the Chase.
In 17 starts at Richmond, Bowyer has nine top ten finishes with two wins and a second. His average finish is 12th, so he’s definitely competitive there. He’ll be driving with a “checkers or wreckers” mentality this weekend (along with the other 14 drivers who are not currently in the Chase) to get a win, so you can expect a lot of chrome horns to be honked.
Translation — there will be a lot of use of the front bumper!
If Clint Bowyer’s car is fast enough to win, I like his chances to come full circle and redeem himself in this scenario. He’s a dirt-track racer. He knows how to stand on it and isn’t afraid of hustling a car when he has to.
If he doesn’t, there’s always another championship for Michael Waltrip Racing to win in the coming months — Michael has just agreed to be a contestant on this year’s “Dancing With The Stars”…