Non-gearheads don’t understand why NASCAR begins its year with its biggest race, the Daytona 500. Would the NFL kick off the season with the Super Bowl? Would Major League Baseball open its season with the World Series? The U.S. Open Golf Championship in January?
Of course not. Hell no! Are you nuts?
So why does NASCAR do it?
More than any other major sport, NASCAR is dependent on sponsors – from beer companies to female hygiene products. Race teams often change sponsors from year to year; color schemes as well. New models are introduced.
NASCAR spreads its season-opening race festivities over 10 days for maximum exposure. Why Daytona? That’s a deal struck years ago between NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. and the Daytona Beach Chamber of Commerce. It has been great for tourism.
Ironically, in the grand scheme of things the Daytona 500 has little impact on how the competition will unfold during the year. Winning the race is a career-maker, but seldom does the winner go on to win the championship.
Daytona and Talladega are NASCAR’s two longest race tracks and the only ones where cars use restrictor plates -- put on the cars to slow them down for safety reasons. Restrictor plate racing is vastly different and, thus, not a good gauge of how drivers and cars will perform the remainder of the year.
Among the drivers who are at their best in restrictor plate racing is Dale Earnhardt Jr., and he’s my pick to win Sunday’s race.
Nothing would make NASCAR happier because Junior is far and away the sport’s most popular driver. NASCAR bosses are already doing backflips because Danica Patrick won the pole. A Patrick-Junior sweep would be the kind of exposure NASCAR dreams are made of – and no sports organization is better at making dreams come true than NASCAR.
The NFL Scouting Combine has gone from being very important to not very important to now being fairly important.
What started out as a cost-saving way of seeing all of the top prospects to up close and personal evolved into a way of finding those mid-round gems. Now is has become a way of seeking out major personality flaws in potential high-round picks.
It isn’t as confusing as it sounds. NFL teams don’t really need the combine these days to see how fast a prospect runs or high jump he jumps or how quick he is or how strong he is.
The most important thing about the combine is face-to-face private time with prospects. The 15-minute interview sessions don’t necessarily help prospects but they can hurt them. What can you really learn in 15 minutes? Like a thug in a courtroom, you can coach him and give him a haircut and dress him to look presentable. It’s the ones who still look and act like thugs that get your attention – sending out warnings to ignore them in the draft.
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