Finley Factor: Punch Drunk

On Monday morning following a race, most of NASCAR’s media is talking- good or bad- about the winner on Sunday.

Not so much this week.

Why are people so fascinated about this story, when in reality it barely qualifies as a punch and isn’t even a fight? It’s not like all of sports media is like this; there was a big fight between the Packers and Seattle that night that led to a Seahawk player being ejected from the game. Comparatively few are talking about that on the football side. People also forgot the huge, almost 22 man fight following the game-winning interception in last season’s Super Bowl.

Meanwhile, NASCAR fans seem blood thirsty by comparison. The media is talking about this because that leads to an incredible amount of page views. That’s also why there are so many articles year in and year out for Danica Patrick, and why Fox Sports behaves like a pervy uncle whenever she posts an Instagram picture of herself in a bikini or doing yoga.

Why is that? Well, just look at what brought NASCAR into national prominence- the ending of the 1979 Daytona 500.

(No, Danica wasn’t doing yoga during that, I’m talking about fightin’)

If you don’t remember or weren’t born at the time, here’s the short story- Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison wrecked battling for the lead in turn three of the final lap. Richard Petty took the checkered flag, but there was a fight following the race between Cale and Donnie’s brother Bobby as Donnie kinda just stood there.

The fight, during the first flag-to-flag network covered race in many years, garnered headline news. People became interested in what was before then a niche of a niche sport. NASCAR was much smaller than open wheel racing at the time. They stayed interested in the 1980’s with a colorful cast of characters including Darrell Waltrip, Bill Elliott, and Dale Earnhardt.

So, really, it has kind of been a tradition to make a big deal out of fights in NASCAR. A reoccurring story that has driven me crazy the last few years is Clint Bowyer versus Jeff Gordon. After their infamous incident at Phoenix in 2012, they can’t even mention the other’s name without somebody making a mountain out of a molehill.

How is something “a running feud” when they haven’t had any real interaction with each other in three years? If you want a running feud, just look at Penske versus Hendrick, but I digress.

And it isn’t like that fight increased ratings the next week, in fact Homestead ratings for 2012 were the worst in the past five years. It just has millions of views on YouTube and a lot of stories being made out of it by the media. These media organizations I’ve mentioned or alluded to; NBC, ESPN, Sporting News, even Fox, made a killing on it and will continue to do so. As long as people watch or read it and the demand is there, it will be made into a story.

So, now hopefully you, the reader, understand why nobody is going to shut up for the next week about something that has probably already been resolved between Johnson and Harvick via a Monday morning phone call. It’s not because we want to, it’s because we have to. It’s kind of our job.

New Hampshire Preview, the Second Race of the Challenger Round of the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup

Challenger Round Logo (Given to media members at Richmond)

The Favorites

This is one of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s best tracks. At an average finish of 9.7 over the past 10 races, “Junebug” also has scored more points than anyone else in that time period.

Kyle Busch has been better than Jr. in the short term, however. Cutting it down to the past six races has Kyle with an average finish of 7.2, second only to…

The Sleepers

…Brad Keselowski, who has a 5.2 over that same time period. The only reason why Brad isn’t a favorite is because the No. 2 team just seems to be a little bit behind the JGR cars and his own teammate, Joey Logano.

Speaking of Logano, the hometown hero is a little inconsistent here. Although he has two wins and is the defending race winner, he still only has an average of 17.4 over his past 10 starts here. It seems Logano either finishes top 10, or  he is back in the pack.

The Wildcard

Over the past three races here, Austin Dillon has an average finish of 11.0. After running in the top ten the good majority of Sunday’s race before wrecking out, the 3 team seems to have enough momentum coming into this race for a nice top ten or maybe even top five run.

Toyota is in trouble. The only foreign-based auto maker in the sport is down to just one supported team next season (Joe Gibbs Racing) and it seems to be having trouble landing a replacement for the dying Michael Waltrip Racing.

It isn’t for lack of trying. Toyota has been publicly flirting with Furniture Row Racing for a while now, to no avail. The Denver-based outfit has been running Chevrolet since they started 10 years ago, and this year has finally seemed to become one of the best teams in NASCAR.

However, there are quite a few problems with the team. With only one car, they are at a clear disadvantage against the four-car Hendricks and Gibbs of the world and being with Chevrolet means being about the fourth or fifth banana of the bunch.

I think both parties need each other, and it seems like common sense for both to go together. A Toyota partnership means much more carmaker support and down the line Toyota may help them with sponsorship of a second car. Obviously Toyota gets another really good Toyota on track out of the deal, and I’d be shocked if FRR doesn’t work much closer with JGR than Waltrip has the last few years.

Could a new partnership be competitive? In the first year, probably not.

Whenever a team changes makes, nine times out of 10 there is a little bit of a learning curve. The best example of this is Penske in 2013. After winning a championship with the departing Dodge the year before, they switched to Ford and Brad Keselowski became only the second driver to miss the Chase the year after winning it. Now Penske is one of the best teams in the sport, overall doing much better now than they ever did with Dodge.

However, Toyota is a little different. Only one previously good team has jumped over to Toyota in the past, JGR in 2008. JGR ended the season with 10 victories, tied for the most wins in a single season for the organization with 2000 at the time.

They need to hurry up with this deal if it is going to happen, however. It’s already too late for the second car and it’s starting to get to the point where it’s going to become too late for FRR to switch without taking a major step back.

Even if they do get a deal done in time I don’t think FRR will be that good next year. But hopefully by the time they have a second car on track full-time, we’ll see them being just as competitive as they are now.

All stats for the Finley Factor are as per Racing Reference unless otherwise noted.



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of


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