Watkins Glen Recap: What’s Next For Nascar

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There aren’t any winners after this weekend in racing; so, it seems pretty trivial to write a column recapping the race. This column hopes to address three questions the racing world needs to consider before trying to move forward from the weekend’s events. This column won’t review the investigation surrounding Saturday’s accident. That’s the job of investigators.

Where is Nascar’s Vision?

“Business as usual.”

It’s a quote Greg Zipadelli will regret for years. Stewart Haas Racing shouldn’t have been put in a position where it had to meet to discuss if Stewart shouldn’t run.  Nascar management has to make that call and do so immediately.

The whole Stewart situation also raises a serious issue. Here’s The Big Lead writing about a Nascar tweet prior to Sunday’s race.

Nascar is in a pickle. On one hand, common sense suggests linking a tragedy with a cheese cracker is a terrible idea.  On the other hand, Nascar generates much of its revenue on sponsorship dollars that are rapidly dwindling. It taken between $20-30 million to fully fund a Sprint Cup team and $8 million to fund a Nationwide Series team. The money to fully support teams simply isn’t there.

So does Nascar suck up the losses and deemphasize the sponsor out of respect for the situation or get crushed on social media for business as usual?

Seeing this exchange with Marty Smith and Kasey Kahne also brings up an issue with racing. I have to believe the drivers who say only those on the track know exactly what happened. Nascar also has to realize in this digital age, people who know nothing about racing will play judge and jury. Trying to bridge these issues requires leadership from the sport. A statement simply isn’t enough.

What Should Nascar Do With Tony Stewart?

He is one of the biggest brands in a sport in dire need of stars. He owns a team that actually expanded its driver lineup in 2014. He is a Hall of Fame driver if he never runs another race.

Should Tony Stewart be allowed to drive next week, this season, ever? Stewart is an owner. Should owners be held to higher standards?  Racing is about getting drivers in front of the camera. If Stewart faces any legal liability, and that feels like a given at this point, how can any lawyer let Stewart get in front of a camera? What if Stewart wins or recreates his run from 2011?

I can’t see Stewart racing again in 2014. I also couldn’t have seen a business as usual report Sunday morning.

So What’s Next?

Lost in the shuffle was quite the redemption story for AJ Allmendinger, who went from out of the sport to the Chase in 18 months. On the track, Nascar has a formula that increased excitement leading into the chase. Off the track, few seem to care at the moment.