No matter how many television analysts tell you how wonderful they think Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson is, the fact of the matter is that a huge proportion of racing fans do not agree with the Marty Smiths and Stacy Comptons of the world who spend 95 percent of their time on the air kowtowing to the Hendrick racing drivers. Just because someone tells you what they want you believe, well, that doesn't make it so.
NASCAR ratings are consistently, seriously down -- not just the 4 or 5 percent we saw last season and earlier this season, but to the tune of a whopping 16-20 percent per event. NASCAR's Brian France dismisses this stat with a notation that 'all sports ratings are down.' Huh??? Well, maybe he's referring to soccer or badminton. Sports ratings for the major four are thriving, and college football is enjoying an excellent season, as well. Sponsors are not paying for fans not to watch the sport, after all. The 'Chase,' to be blunt, is BORING. Drivers have been warned by NASCAR officials to stay away from the top 12'ers and not impact the Chase.
A large majority of long-time race fans are truly sick of the politics, money, greed and over-promotion of the sport. Then, we have the 'car of tomorrow' (COT) which NASCAR has contrived as a sort of generic car for the sport--a car which is not racy, not particularly fast, not well-handleable, and not liked. It doesn't look remotely stock. And the fact that manufacturers have had to 'brand' a name for their COT (Avenger, Fusion, Camry and Impala -- and I've yet to see a 2-door Impala at my local Chevy dealership), it just makes for a cruddy looking product. Not to mention the COTs are not delivering any sort of exciting racing for the fans.
Add to that the Dale Earnhardt Junior defection to Hendrick--he's been a lame duck since June 13, 2007, when he had his press conference announcing he was leaving DEI to go to greener pastures--and you have a perfect storm of the type that NASCAR hoped never would happen. One which has resulted in 1 out of 5 fans NOT watching racing. Not caring which Hendrick team wins the Cup. And, it's interesting that Budweiser made no effort to try and stay with Dale Jr. Actually, it's very telling. Their marketing folks created the 'cool Dale Jr.' persona in the ads; no doubt they will help Kasey Kahne develop an image/persona of his own. These folks (Anheurser-Busch) spend over $225 million each year in ADVERTISING alone. Don't underestimate that they are one of the biggest spenders in all sport.
Junior's fans seem to think that he will receive the same equipment and technology that the 24 and 48 receive.....HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA....ROFLMAO, as they say. The 24 and 48 shops are at the top of the hill at RHR. The 5 and 25 shops are, and have been, at the bottom. Why do you think Kyle Busch bailed? And Brian Vickers? Even Terry Labonte finally got fed up with the food change at RHR. Little ol' Casey Mears appears to be content to be an also-ran. This is the situation, and it will not change. One can foresee Hendrick throwing Junior a bone or two when the season kicks off, but the bottom line is that there are two premier teams at Hendrick Racing. Unless one of the two (Gordon or Johnson) leaves--or retires--there's still not really 'room at the inn' for Dale Junior (to quote Rick Hendrick in May 2007). Why should this change?