NASCAR Recap: New Year’s Weekend

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Happy 2016.

After what seems like an unhealthy amount of holiday parties, travel days with tired kids and college football blowouts, it’s time to start a new year. Here’s a look at winners and losers from the first few days of 2016 in this NASCAR recap.

Win: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Jr. was late to social media but has made the most of it. In one of the 2,454 bowl games, the No. 88 got to drive onto the field for the coin toss. This has happened in recent years. This year, Earnhardt Jr. recorded the ride from inside the car.

As powerful as smartphones can be, it makes sense for NASCAR to band them from being inside cars. But drivers do interviews during cautions. It would be cool to see if drivers could tweet or record videos during cautions as well.

Lose: Front Row Motorsports

The wise people at Jayski astutely noted the No. 35 team no longer has a tab on the FRM website. Only one driver, Chris Buescher, is listed. The lack of a third team and driver for the second team is unsettling, especially after Michael Waltrip Racing folded.

NASCAR used to have up to 50 teams try and qualify. Now, it’s likely some 2016 Sprint Cup races won’t run a full field. I get the economics of racing are beyond challenging, but there are enough drivers out there to create competitive racing. Hopefully the math will one day allow for it.

Draw: NASACR

This is the last time I get to write 2016 Sprint Cup. A year from now, Sprint will be out of the NASCAR business, and at the moment, NASCAR doesn’t have a title sponsor to fill that void.

Back in March, Sports Business Daily reported that NASCAR sought $1 billion over ten years in naming rights fees. This is an issue on two fronts. The original contract with Nextel was 10 years and $750 million back in 2004. If NASCAR gets is $1 billion total, that’s a 33% increase. In an era when rights and other naming fees have increased hundreds or thousands of percent in some cases, this isn’t lapping the field.

The other issue is finding a title sponsor. NASCAR is blessed with sponsors in various fields. Finding the right brand without angering other sponsors or having legal and ethical conflicts of interest is easier said than done. Where is the next XFINITY to enter the field and mind the gap?

The good news is NASCAR has a year to answer these questions and can move back its goal of having a 2017 title sponsor before the start of the 2016 Sprint Cup season. Still, for it being the first work day of 2016, the clock feels like its ticking a bit. After all, NASCAR’s media tour is less than three weeks away.

The year might be new, but it should be busy quickly. Enjoy these first few days of 2016, and insert a random catchphrase here.