December 4, 2016
This Week in National Motorsports Scene Ripe With Surprise Announcements
I was caught off guard this week by two announcements at the highest level of racing NASCAR premier series announcement of a title sponsor and the retirement of Nico Rosberg after he won the Formula One title.
I knew that NASCAR was searching for someone to replace Sprint after their contract expired December 31, 2016. While discussing that among friends we came to the conclusion that there are only a couple dozen companies that can shell out the money to be the title sponsor for NASCAR’s top echelon of racing.
In our conversations the Monster Energy name was never mentioned at all. Large computer companies, or auto supply companies, or maybe apparel companies. Energy drinks??? Nah!
Lo and behold this official announcement from Brian France of NASCAR and Mitch Covington, Vice President of sports marketing at Monster Beverage Company on December 1, 2016:
“Monster Energy is a brand built on excitement and enthusiasm, qualities that align with NASCAR,” said Brian France, NASCAR Chairman and CEO. “This sponsorship position is the most unique in all of sports and entertainment, and we are thrilled to have a partner that will help us further elevate the series. Today’s announcement is the culmination of a thorough search, one that resulted in the right partner at this important time in our sport’s history.”
“Monster has built its brand on racing and motorsports, and NASCAR is the pinnacle of motorsports in America,” said Mitch Covington, vice president of sports marketing at Monster Beverage Company. “It’s American racing; we’re an American brand that’s a global company, and NASCAR is, too. When the opportunity came along to further associate yourself with a sport like NASCAR, it was the perfect fit for us. … NASCAR is just a hard-hitting, close-racing, fun property to be associated with.”
This is the California company’s largest commitment in its history. Does it signal a new era in NASCAR racing? NASCAR has only three major title sponsors in its past, Winston, Nextel, and Sprint. What will the new name of the series be? Those details will be forthcoming. The sign painters and decal manufacturers will be working overtime to make the change happen before Speedweeks in February.
I hope a few changes occur which are fraught with difficulty. If NASCAR/Monster goes for the younger crowd will the old fans stick around? I have a tendency to believe positive change to make the racing and the drama surrounding it more exciting will keep the older crowd engaged once they see a more vibrant series. Everyone wants to be part of a winner.
The side shows will promise to be somewhat like what Red Bull did when they explored NASCAR in 2006. They were not successful immediately and pulled the plug on their racing team in a couple of seasons. They did have a rocking good time while they were involved.
Monster will not have that chance to back out if they are discouraged in the first couple years. I am assuming contract obligations carry serious consequences for not living up to terms of agreement.
It will take time for the change to happen, however, I do not think too much water will flow under the bridge of time before Monster will dictate change.
I have a couple of ideas for change for what they are worth and several people chimed in on what they foresee in the future.
Number one is to shorten the races to a couple of hours. I love baseball and appreciate the nine inning game. I also realize some folks find that boring. I see strategy and momentum as highlights of a good game.
Racing is the same way. Pit strategy will often win a race as will equipment malfunction, or doughnut headed moves by drivers who may be tired or running on the edge of their equipment’s’ quality.
I enjoy Global Rally Cross (GRC) which is made for television and audiences with short attention spans. In a matter of minutes a race is won or lost with immediate consequences. That is not what I am calling for in NASCAR.
I would like some shortened races in the series as well as more road course races. I have covered the Brickyard 400 at Indy for six years. The track is so large that you watch the cars scream by and then pick them up on the big screen until a minute later they scream by again. There is some excitement for sure, especially in the crowded pit lane.
Why not every other year utilize the road course for a Monster Series race? The number of fans surrounding the road course portion of the track will make the television shots look like there are many spectators and I believe the spectators will get a fender flattening race with close finishes.
What do folks have to say? Justin St. Louis, motorsports writer for the Burlington (VT) Free Press and Media Director at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in West Haven, Vermont said, “If a total rebranding of the sport is NASCAR’s aim, and if a high-energy company like Monster is going to lead the charge, and if the name “Cup” – which was introduced when the superspeedway (read: cookie cutter) era took over in 1971 – is dropped to signal this new beginning, then let’s really go whole-hog here and commit to actually shaking things up.”
“It wouldn’t be overnight, obviously, but in the next few years (starting in 2021 when the sanction agreements expire and with the TV deal nearing its end) let’s see some of the tracks with sagging attendance either deleted or replaced by new events at different venues. Less can absolutely equate to more, but more can often lead to less – and it has.”
When asked what he thought the new series name might be he replied,”I have no idea. There’s a motocross event with the name Monster Energy Cup, so who knows?”
Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame member Bob Alexander, my “go-to-guy” when it comes to motorsports said, “Monster has very deep pockets (according to Statista.com they employ 2000 and have $1.52 billion in sales in US dollars and are the number 2 energy drink in the USA behind Red Bull) so as NASCAR struggles for survival, the infusion of new funds will definitely help.”
“With that said, however, the facts show that the number of spectators and fans are shrinking. Teams at all levels are finding it difficult to attract the sponsorship needed to fund team operations.”
Caribou’s Marcel Bosse commented, “Energy drinks are consumed by people of all ages. Monster Energy drinks sponsor many off-road motor sports. I think they could give NASCAR a boost of Energy in a big way. The Monster Cup at the Monster Mile kind of has a nice ring to it.”
My trivia and in-depth researcher Gary Saucier of Fort Fairfield when asked about Monster’s influence replied, “Hard to say. I think at first no. I think if a couple of years pass and there isn’t an increase in viewership and attendance at the race track, they may go to NASCAR and say ‘look let’s get together and brainstorm some ideas here to get the people back in our corner.'”
“I think that it really won’t change anything as far as attracting a younger audience. The problem with NASCAR right now is that the races are too long and there are too many races.”
“Today’s younger audience does not have the attention span that folks or your generation or mine did. They are looking for instant gratification and they aren’t going to get that watching a 400, 500, or 600-mile race.”
“Unfortunately I am not sure there is any way to fix that other than to try to make (some) of the races shorter and shorten the season no matter if a product that 20-somethings use is sponsoring it or not. My fix: shorten some races, go to each track only once, dump the Chase, and fix the points structure to reward winning.”
Janet Bosse, racer and Northern Maine Karting Association (NMKA) Secretary as well as mother to a teenaged racer and track champion, Damian Theriault, responded to my inquiry saying, “Monster is involved with many motorsports, why not NASCAR. Sounds like NASCAR may be looking to expand their fan base.”
“Monster is well-known for being involved with the more extreme motorsports which are followed and participated in by the ‘younger’ crowd. By NASCAR acquiring a sponsor like Monster it may appeal to the ‘younger’ crowd subsequently expanding their fan base.”
Rosberg Calls It Quits
After winning his first Formula One title, 31-year-old Nico Rosberg made the surprise announcement last week that he is retiring from F1. Rosberg clinched the title at the season finale at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where his second place finish put him five points ahead of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
Rosberg becomes the second son of a former F1 champion to win the title. Amazingly enough Rosberg’s dad, Keke won the title in 1982 thirty-four years before his son Nico. Englishman Damon Hill won the title in 1996 thirty-four years after his father Graham Hill won in 1962.
He began his 10 year career in F1 with Williams in 2006. He moved to Mercedes in 2010. He started 206 Grands Prix and had 23 wins and 57 podium finishes.Rosberg, born in Germany currently lives in Monaco with his wife Vivian and daughter Alaia.
Milliken Book Is A Keeper
To maintain my independence as a reviewer of this book I plunked down the cash on Amazon and purchased the book. It is Milliken’s first and only book, so far.
Available only in paperback version the book was published by Xulonpress in 2015. With 15 chapters and a glossary of military terms which I found useful the book tells the story of a guy who was admittedly self-centered for a good portion of his life.
It begins with him in Vietnam in 1970 then brings the reader up-to-date from his early teens as a military brat moving from Army base to Army base. The son of West Point Class of 1936 Colonel Charles Milliken and his wife Evelyn, Doug was born at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C.
He tells of his kart racing career of 15 years, the profound change in family dynamics when his brother Robert drown in the Potomac in 1959, and his stint in the Army, serving about one year in Vietnam.
I found the details of his time in Vietnam very interesting because many of guys I knew who did not go to college were Vietnam bound. His bout with what was diagnosed as hepatitis and mononucleosis shortened his time in Vietnam but only cut his military commitment by 6 days.
The bulk of the book which was judged second in the Next Generation INDIE Book Awards, tells about his spiritual journey from having “No Religious Preference” stamped on his dog tag to a follower of Christ. As he puts it, “Protection, Pursuit, Salvation… in that order. That is the supernatural works of God as it unfolded over the first forty-six years of my life, culminating with the miracle that was my salvation.”
No sugar-coating of the path is attempted as he brings the reader through Vietnam, college, a career at McCulloch Corporation developing the Power Mac 300 chainsaw, children, divorce, and an encounter with his Savior in September 1991.
The epilogue contains the account of an Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) soldier who suffered tremendously when the United States pulled out of South Vietnam. Included in the epilogue was the account of a Viet Cong soldier and the hardships he had to endure on the other side of the battle. I found that informative.
One thing missing from the book is Milliken’s career at Honeywell in the Garrett turbocharger division. The battle with depression, failing marriage, and corporate bologna was getting to him, to the point where he no longer liked going to work in the morning. The job opening at Motorsports Management within Honeywell was a Godsend. It added 13 years to his career before retirement.
Milliken shared with me some of his stories in motorsports which I will sprinkle into future UpNorth Motorsports episodes. Maybe he should write another book.
I have decided to rate books with a five-star system with 5 stars meaning the best book I have every read. Three stars average read, while one star means I would not recommend the book.
Milliken get’s four stars **** in my first ever book review. I enjoyed the Vietnam stories, karting, and conversion from un-protected to protected. It is a good read.
Northern Maine Karting Association Meets Thursday
The next NMKA meeting will be Thursday December 8 at 6 pm at Haney Building Specialties in Caribou. The newly adopted WKA engine specifications will be discussed as well as rules clarification, sponsors needed, and 2017 schedule. All persons interested in kart racing in northern Maine and western New Brunswick are urged to attend.
Merry Christmas (No Happy Holidays from me),
Let’s go racing,
Soli Deo Gloria