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This is the Statt Mann Baby. Time to Scatt a little bit.

You wonder what’s going on at NASCAR.

NASCARlogoA report this week said dozens of employees were let go. Sports Business Journal said the layoffs amounted to less than five percent of NASCAR’s workforce.

Unless you’re one of the “dozens,” this may not be much of an alarm. NASCAR doesn’t need a lot of people in the home office to conduct business. Much of its work force shows up at the racetrack to run the weekend events.

But when you send people home that’s always cause for concern. Connect some dots in the business picture. NASCAR isn’t in the racing business as much as it’s in the advertising business. Its product is audience.

NASCAR sells ratings or eyeballs and butts in seats to advertisers who want to sell something to those eyeballs and butts. If there are fewer eyeballs and butts, the billing invoices are smaller.

Smaller income means less money to spend on everything including salaries.

And still, NASCAR won’t change the way it builds its ultimate product. Odd times.

Peace.

 

This is the Statt Mann Baby.  Time to Scatt a little bit.

For more than a decade I was a complete fan of the sport rallycross.  I loved the short races, the high horsepower cars, the pavement and dirt tracks and the drivers who could navigate all of it.
Rallycross photos © QNIGAN.COM 2014
Early on, though, I noticed that promoters here in America were selling the sizzle and not the steak.  Action stars like Travis Pastrana, Ken Block, and Tanner Foust were the draw.

But as those stars dimmed, the sport dimmed with it.  Now the TV is gone, the heat around the hype is gone and efforts to promote the sport in America are more difficult.

There was a big blow this week when the World Rallycross Championship decided to take away the points from its event at Circuit of the America’s in Texas. The event is still on the calendar but it’s unlikely the European stars will return without a points incentive.

Sad.  Selling stars works as long as the stars stay important.  When they don’t, what do you have left?  Just something to do.  There’s a lot of that in motorsports these days.

Peace.

This is the Statt Mann Baby. Time to Scatt a little bit.

It’s easy to miss Toyota’s domination in NHRA drag racing. You don’t see Camrys or Corollas in any of the classes after all.

JRToddBut Toyota sponsored drivers and teams won ten races this year. J.R. Todd won three of the last five races in the NHRA Countdown on his way to his first Funny Car title. Todd won six races in all, most of any driver in the 2018 season.

It’s taken several conversations through the years to learn what Toyota Racing Development engineers do in drag racing. Considering the speeds, the aerodynamic design work in Funny Car and Top Fuel might be the most important contribution.

2018 Todd Toyota NHRAThen there’s the engineering involved in reading the race track conditions. That helps team crew chiefs get ten thousand horsepower down the drag strip.

I was laughed at a few years ago when I suggested to a team affiliate that Toyota could make some hay putting its NASCAR engine into Pro Stock. Too expensive was the reply and that was after they already had the engine!

Engineering in drag racing might be overlooked in the sport. We get caught up in numbers but Toyota’s found a way to shrink the numbers to their favor.

Peace.

This is the Statt Mann Baby. Time to Scatt a little bit.

Max VerstappenI’m more than sick of the apologists who say Max Verstappen is hamstrung because he’s so fast and everyone around him doesn’t know what they’re doing. Verstappen is the Grand Wizard of that club.

Esteban OconSunday in the Brazilian Grand Prix Verstappen took the best car in the race and crashed it into Esteban Ocon while leading. He then called Ocon all sorts of names because Ocon didn’t get out of Max’s way.

I guess once Verstappen gets into the lead everyone else should pull over and park.

Five-time World champion Lewis Hamilton, Sunday’s eventual race winner, told Max after the race that Max had more to lose than Ocon in the incident.

It’s implied that all Verstappen had to do was lift, let Ocon go by and pass him further down the road. Instead he banged into the slower car then cursed and complained because Ocon was on the track with him.

Max won the last race and appeared to be beyond his early career aggression. But maybe not.

Racing’s more than being fast. Maybe Max will learn that one day.

Peace.

This is the Statt Mann Baby. Time to Scatt a little bit.

The death of Mari Hulman George means another piece of racing’s golden past is gone.
First, she was chairman emeritus of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The facility and The 500 are global icons in motor racing.

Mari Hulman George

I didn’t know her but, from what I read, Hulman George didn’t have a personality that would tolerate tokenism. She didn’t seem like anyone’s pawn.

She had a compassion to help. While reading about her death Saturday at the age of 83 I read about her helping African American drivers at a time when so many wouldn’t.
She put Joie Ray in one of her sprint cars when nearly everyone else didn’t want him at the track at all. Joie Ray was a brilliant driver who was shut out when slower drivers got chances in faster cars.

She also helped Willie T. Ribbs become the first Black driver to make it into the Indy 500 field. Ribbs this week called her genuine. Her passion for diversity in racing will be missed.

Peace.

This is the Statt Mann Baby.  Time to Scatt a little bit.

Lewis HamiltonIn a week about speech and words I was surprised today to read: “Whatever one thinks of Lewis Hamilton or his sometimes lurid off-track antics, this is a rare and precious moment in the annals of sport.”   It was written a week ago before the U.S. Grand Prix by a Texas writer.

I’m willing to accept the fact that World Champions of any sport can have different lifestyles.  There’s money and fame and celebrity we’ll never know first-hand.  I didn’t write the sentence so I don’t know what was meant.

But lurid means: “very vivid in color, especially to create an unpleasantly harsh or unnatural effect.”  What has Lewis Hamilton done to bring that description to mind?  Wear a different hair style?  Date celebrity women?  Have a night life?

Jenson Button wrote in his book that his relationship with Hamilton was weird when both were at McLaren ten years ago.

Maybe the great ones like LeBron or Michael or Ali are different but lurid or weird is a step toward a place we don’t need to go.  Or maybe we do.

Peace.

This is the Statt Mann Baby. Time to Scatt a little bit.

If you’re listening to The Freaks, there’s a chance you know the name Huffaker Engineering and Joe Huffaker.

Huffaker Engineering’s been around since 1960 and winning races and championships almost ever since. Included are three Trans-Am titles and all kinds of Sports Car Club of America titles in Jaguars, sports racers, and little F Production MGs. Joe raced anything with engines he built and developed.

In fact, racers took numbers and stood in lines to get his engines.

Huffaker MG SCCA SonomaWell, Saturday the son, Joe Huffaker, Jr. won his tenth SCCA national championship in another black F Production MG Midget. He won by more than 34 seconds. In Little League they would have called it a mercy win.

We don’t talk about amateur racing much but the Olympics of American amateur racing, the SCCA Runoffs, happened this week at Sonoma Raceway. Huffaker has been at the track since it opened. He lives ten minutes away.

I’m sure Joe had customers in the field behind him. And, I bet, even they were cheering for him to get the gold.

Peace.

This is the Statt Mann Baby. Time to Scatt a little bit.

For years I’ve argued that motor racing began suffering when factory budgets strayed from research and development to marketing. Engineers weren’t trying to learn things for your driveway. Instead, pencil pushers were trying to learn things to put in your kitchen or closet.

Well, the people who run global sports car racing are back in the R&D business. We’ve already seen hybrid and electric race cars. Now they’re testing hydrogen powered race cars with the plan to put them in world sports car racing by 2020.

H24 Hydrogen Prototype

The technology is brilliant. The engineers are looking at breaking down water into oxygen and hydrogen and converting the hydrogen to fuel. Automakers evidently like the technology to put in your driveway in the near future.

If the automakers like it, they’ll be behind it with leaps in R&D money just like they’ve been behind the battery improvements for Formula E.

You wonder why sponsors and automakers are looking for escape hatches in their NASCAR commitments. The technology there is barely beyond carburetors.

Peace.

This is the Statt Mann Baby. Time to Scatt a little bit.

It’s amazing how championships can come together in motor racing. Last year Sebastien Ogier won the title with only two wins in 13 events all over the world.

It was his fifth title all won consecutively from 2013.

Sebastien OgierThis weekend Ogier won his fourth event of the year, the Wales Rally in Great Britain. It’s his record fifth win in Great Britain. And tonight he’s just seven points from a sixth straight championship with two events to go in the season.

That’s a lot of numbers that mean this: Sebastien Ogier, the second most dominant driver in World Rally Championship history is on the doorstep of another title. If I was Thierry Neuville, the driver in front of Sebastian, I wouldn’t be buying any green bananas for the celebration party.

Maybe the best part of Ogier’s run is the way he’s done it. He won four straight titles with Volkswagen before switching to an M-Sport Ford last year. He’s still with M-Sport and could win it again. In other words, it’s isn’t superior equipment behind the domination.

I love it when human excellence gets a chance to reveal itself.

Peace.

This is the Statt Mann Baby. Time to Scatt a little bit.

It was an empowering week for women everywhere. And that includes 17-year-old Hailie Deegan who became the first woman to win a NASCAR K&N Pro Series Race last night in Idaho.
Hailie Deegan 1st Win
She only led one lap at Meridian Speedway but it was the only one she needed to lead, the last one.

Deegan’s finished second twice in the series so this wasn’t a case of winning because of someone else’s misfortune. The win includes records in both the East and West K&N Pro Series. The West records date back to 1954.

In Victory Lane Deegan said: “It’s just amazing … this is the happiest day of my life.” I can only imagine her excitement.

I sat with Deegan once while interviewing her famous father Brian Deegan. She was intense. Engaged. And very observant. Brian said she’d win one day. She obviously brought those traits into the race car with her. This won’t be her last win in her career.

Peace.