THOUSAND OAKS, California — One of the biggest bonuses of any racing season is when the hard-working teams are rewarded for their efforts at the year-end banquet. This year was no exception as NASCAR held a huge banquet of not one, but five series under one roof at the Embassy Suites and Convention Center in Concord, North Carolina.
Good news came when NASCAR released complete schedules for four of the five regional touring series, the NASCAR Camping World Series East, the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour.
Despite the good news, many on the West Coast were disappointed that NASCAR did not release a complete schedule for the Camping World West Series. George Silbermann, managing director for racing operations at NASCAR, was able to confirm 6 races including Infineon Raceway at Sears Point, Toyota Speedway at Irwindale, Portland International Raceway, the combination East/West race at Iowa Speedway and two races at Phoenix International Raceway -- one in April and the other the finale for the series in November. Some promoters have already been selling tickets to these races. Continuing without surprise was that NASCAR stated further dates and complete schedule for the West Series will be announced shortly. But of course every NASCAR schedule is always tentative and subject to change.
Another exciting tidbit from the champions’ week is that SPEED will again broadcast the NASCAR West Series races in 2010. Full information on the broadcast schedule was not available but NASCAR’ stated further details would be announced at a later date. Is this becoming a reoccurring theme?
Earlier in the week three NASCAR West drivers were honored with special season-end awards. Jason Bowles won the Camping World Happy Camper award, Coors Light Pole Award, Mahle Engine Builder of the Year Award, Mobil 1 Command Performance of the Race Award, WIX Lap Leader Award; Paulie Harraka the Coca-Cola Move of the race award, Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award; and Moses Smith won the Most Improved Driver Award. Smith was also honored during the banquet for being the Most Popular Driver in the NASCAR West.
NASCAR Official Becky McBride was recognized with the Spencer Clark Driven Foundation Award. The award is presented in memory of the young driver who left the racing community far too young.
Whilst it was nice to have so many NASCAR series together, under one roof, each series was overshadowed by the next series. The teams were underserved, with the champion the only one able to make a speech. While this might be beneficial to some drivers, who are more comfortable behind the wheel of a loose race car than behind the podium talking in front of a crowd, to most I would say this was a big disappointment.
These teams worked hard all year. It would have been nice to have heard what Gene Price, Greg Pursley, Bill McAnally and Eric Holmes had to say…they came so close to the championship. With the actual champion, Jason Bowles, not in attendance due to a scheduling conflict, why not let his crew chief, Bill Sedgwick, a past champion himself in the series have a word or two.
It is of course still an honor to have a nice finish in the points, to enjoy a week in Charlotte, to have the excuse to maybe buy one more car. Despite the disappointments, there was a lot of good in the inaugural Night of Champions Touring Awards Gala in the Concord Convention Center on Saturday night.
There may not have many too many surprises, but there was one big one—the absence of the CEO and President of NASCAR, Brian France.
Here he had teams from not one, but five series, from all reaches of not only the United States, but also internationally that had worked so hard all year…right in his own backyard. He had the track promoters that provide him places for his series to race, the men and women that continue to keep the NASCAR name heard in every corner of the United States. He had the very sponsors that pay NASCAR the money to keep his series well funded and running. All of these important people, all gathered in one room, in what was perhaps the largest assembly of this type in the history of grassroots NASCAR. All these people that collectively make him a success and France is a no-show. A previously taped message was shown on a screen, that doesn’t do much for saying he cares.
What was he thinking? No wonder the media criticizes NASCAR for abandoning its roots. His absence was a strong statement on his feelings for the “smaller” series.
Guess its back to racing as usual…let the silly season begin. Who is going to pilot the Randy Lynch ride? How many cars will Bill McAnally field? Is it true SRL driver, Brennan Newberry, will be racing the West in 2010? Oh yea…and with only 6 races announced by NASCAR…what other tracks will be added?