Fontana Race Review: The Changing Face of NASCAR
Last weekend Dr Laundry traveled to Fontana, Calif. to see the Clorox #47 and Kingsford #59 Busch cars run on the 2 mile banked track. What a special opportunity to see and hear this wonderful sport up close and personal. I was excited especially since the #47 was sporting the Clorox® Ultimate Care Bleach colors for the first time. That light blue really stood out in the pits and under the lights on the track. This might help explain why Jon Wood had his best finish in a long time. He finished 8th but was running as high as 4th with 3 laps to go. Great job Jon!!
A lot of credit for the fantastic experience goes to the great people at JTG Racing. The owners, Tad and Jodie Geschickter, and the support people are truly fun to hang out with and stand/sit around and talk racing. Say what you will about the good old-boys, these North Carolinians have a great outlook on life. Genuine, caring and outgoing describes the feelings that you will walk away from the track after being with them for a race. I don’t know how they can do this week in and week out. Their travel and race schedule would leave you worn-out and tired. The weekend before Fontana, Calif. the teams were in Bristol, Tenn. They packed up after the race on Saturday, back to Charlotte, N.C. then off to Richmond, Va. for this Friday’s race. Remember, the cars are driven to each race in a hauler. Talking to the #59 driver on Saturday, he was trying to hit the road ASAP after the race and expected to be back at the shop Tuesday morning. A little sleep and off to Richmond. And this goes on for 35 races in 43 weeks from February at Daytona to mid-November in Homestead. But nobody that I talked with was ready to looking for a career change.
I marvel at how these folks handle the pressure of consistently performing at a high level. It is ever present and out there for everyone to see. From the top to bottom, everyone is always under the microscope week after week. Finding and keeping sponsors happy is the lifeblood of the sport. You need the $$ to buy the chassis, engines, tires and gas. This also pays the rent and employs the specialists who build and maintain the cars, the driver and the support crews that make the adjustments and exciting pit stops during race weekend. There are never enough $$ and your competition is always looking for extra money, too. Then, there are the mega teams from Nextel that drop down to cherry pick the Busch races. They have seemingly “unlimited” resources and so many cars. How can the “little guy” compete?
The choice of driver as the “face” for the organization/car is so important. The sponsors demands for public appearances and media presence has totally revolutionized the driver selection process. He/she’s not the back road racer anymore. Shiny, young faces are required for the camera and the high tech engineering that makes these cars run so fast. It is not unusual for a 43 car field to be separated by 1–1.5 seconds in qualifying. That leaves almost no room for error and means the car must be setup correctly and the driver performs or you are on the trailer going home. Not what the sponsor signed on for. If you can handle that kind of pressure day in and day out, then this might be the profession for you.
Everyone who has not experienced a race will ask “What’s the big deal?” The thrill of the competition, qualifying, developing the pit stop strategy, making adjustments and chasing the changing track conditions, the 4 tires and full tank of gas in 14–15 sec pit stops, the noise of the engines and crowd will make you a NASCAR junkie. I know that I can’t wait to go back again!