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  • 11 June 2019
    FORT WORTH, Texas -- NASCAR just left Texas Motor Speedway, and as they say, everything is bigger ...... aw, cmon, who are we kidding?Nothing seems bigger about NASCAR these days. Despite a year when the racing has genuinely improved and a year when the major car owners and NASCAR took the first step of many toward a more manageable business model, NASCAR remains stuck in a rut.?The public companies say ticket revenue compared to last year has dropped 9.2 percent since the Daytona 500. The television ratings for the Chase have tanked quicker than a 3-games-to-1 lead in the World Series. Despite trying to tackle the problems with grit and determination, NASCAR brass just cant seem to lift NASCAR out of its funk.?NASCAR has a glaring problem. It needs more people to care about its drivers and its outcomes. Unlike the baseball drought phenomenon that dominated its World Series, NASCAR has no such story line. The final eight drivers in its Chase come from the four organizations that have won titles in the previous four years. Five of the eight drivers have already won championships and none of the remaining three (Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Joey Logano) would trigger a wave of passion by hoisting the Cup. When Jimmie Johnson goes for his seventh championship, the audience might rally behind it -- to root against him. ?NASCAR doesnt have a Conor McGregor. It doesnt have a Tiger Woods. It kind of has Dale Earnhardt Jr. as he has remained sidelined by a concussion, but NASCAR needs to prepare for life without him anyway as he enters the twilight of his racing career with or without battling the head injury.?Beyond the big rain delay, there was a big elephant in the room at Texas: The fact that NASCAR has not announced a series sponsor yet for next season. NASCAR has had nearly two years to find a new sponsor and NASCAR executives have tried to keep everyone calm, indicating that finding the right partner takes time and that conversations remain productive. Patience is the key to finding the best deal for the industry. In just the past few days, those in the industry feel confident that NASCAR will land a sponsor soon.?But teams have finished 2017 photo shoots, leaving spots open on uniforms for a series logo. Walk through the garage in the past couple of months, and many wonder who will sponsor the series. Johnson said last week even the drivers are being left in the dark when it comes to who will be the series sponsor.?Thats understandable. No company looking to spend likely in the nine figures during the duration of the contract would want to face too much scrutiny beforehand in worries of it potentially killing the deal.??NASCAR needs to announce the deal is done sooner than later. The later this process goes, the less time a company has to implement a strong kickoff of the sponsorship in February. Track signage, NASCAR official uniforms, any advertising that needs to be sold for radio and television needs to get done.?Most important: NASCAR needs a company to serve as a public face that NASCAR remains a valuable entity for sponsors.?While track seating capacities have shrunk in the past few years, anyone who spent time in the Talladega infield a few weekends ago or in the parking lots at Bristol in August could see enough people that only the myopic would primarily blame the economy for the sports ills.Just last Thursday, Anheuser-Busch announced it would increase the number of races it would sponsor Kevin Harvick next year, going from 12 to 16 after a successful launch with its Busch brand in 2016. Geico also will increase its spend at tracks next year. Those decisions make solid counterarguments to the recent announcements that Dollar General and Farmers Insurance plan to leave the sport.?But until NASCAR signs a series sponsor, its leadership will come into question. Texas boasted last week that it has fans from every continent. It needs all the diverse fans it can get -- having the sports chairman endorse either of the polarizing political candidates doesnt exactly scream inclusion. ?In 2011, NASCARs leadership began to implement a five-year industry action plan. Later that year, the Cubs hired Theo Epstein to rebuild its baseball organization. The sporting world saw last week what patience and commitment can bring during a five-year stretch.?NASCAR couldnt execute its plan. It has tried admirably in many ways, although it seems every step toward improvement was saddled with challenges. NASCAR tried to more nimbly change things that needed changing, but then it got criticized (in some ways rightfully so) for not sticking to its rules. It tried to turn inspection into more black-and-white and now suffers the problem that when measuring to thousandths of an inch, it cant figure out how to equitably penalize those who fail by thousands of an inch while managing the public perception of cheating.?Those havent been the only growing pains. NASCAR tried to make cars that look more like the cars at home but, handcuffed by the reality that these cars need to be safe, cant go back to the days of racing true stock cars. It tried to design cars that created parity only to make it as much of a battle of engineers instead of a battle of drivers. It created an elimination-style points Chase in which every point and every win put the season in the balance to create incredible drama and excitement but it also created a scenario in which every instance of borderline unethical teamwork and every scoring decision turns a spotlight on NASCAR officials instead of its drivers.?By trying to create a spark by bringing in people from outside the sport into its leadership team, NASCAR created a level of mistrust between its leadership and those entrenched in the garage for decades. It has admirably -- in a huge shift in philosophy -- created the most collaborative atmosphere the industry has seen, but it still leaves some wondering how much NASCAR listens when NASCAR makes a decision that frustrates as many as it pleases.NASCAR has tried to stay relevant in a world where passion for cars has dwindled and its stars no longer develop personalities and skills at their local short tracks. Its developmental series primarily serve as a vehicle for drivers who come from money to play with high-speed toys, leaving those with pure talent at a disadvantage and those with raw talent not much time to develop.?Some of NASCARs initiatives shouldnt be discounted. Its pit-road officiating system has appeared to have worked flawlessly. Its Air Titans proved effective in drying tracks quicker -- some more than others -- depending on the surface, banking and the temperatures. NASCAR has not had a death in any of its three national touring series since 2001, a record of safety that one cant ignore even amid the slowness of adding SAFER Barrier to more walls.?Those successes show NASCAR has hope, has potential to dig itself out of its hole. It has a great television deal -- at least as far as the money it pours into the tracks to keep their stock prices as stable as possible -- and eight years left on it to figure out how to build the sport so when the television contract ends, NASCAR has veered from its dirt road on to the recovery highway.?Which brings NASCAR back to trying to find a sponsor. It cant promise the world to a sponsor or tell the sponsor that everything is great. Anyone with the ability to read a financial report or television ratings report can figure that out. NASCAR might never return to its money-printing days of the mid-2000s, but it doesnt have to in order to survive, in order to have a place in the sports landscape.?As NASCAR remains at the crossroads, the industry must remember the big picture of providing big value to fans and sponsors with drivers having a big influence on their result.Those hoping for bigger wallets and either wearing or trying to deliver big blinders as far as the state of a sport still trying to regain its footing will only set themselves up for a Texas-sized disappointment. Custom Bill Lee Jersey . In the lead up - which seemed to begin the moment Mike Geiger blew the whistle in Houston last Thursday night - the Impact rumour mill went into overdrive. The speculation went into meltdown mode, of the golden nugget variety. Custom Carl Yastrzemski Jersey . The 25-year-old Japanese star has officially been posted by his club team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles. . The 29-year-old Baines has established himself as one of the top attacking full backs in the country and was the subject of two bids from United during the last off-season. Everton manager Roberto Martinez says that keeping Baines at the club is a "massive boost and exciting for the future" because he brings "maturity and football knowledge in a very specialized position on the pitch" and an "infectious and positive influence to the rest of the squad. Custom Fred Lynn Jersey . - Derek Wolfe says hes finally healthy after suffering a seizure in November that doctors now believe was related to the spinal cord injury he suffered in the preseason. Custom Johnny Pesky Jersey .S. -- Nikolaj Ehlers registered a hat trick for the third straight game and Jonathan Drouin had a goal and five assists as the Halifax Mooseheads hammered the host Cape Breton Screaming Eagles 10-1 on Tuesday in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action.Patrick Roberts says he fully understands why Celtic fans reacted angrily at the end of their goalless draw with Dundee in midweek. The on-loan Manchester City wingers first start ended in a crescendo of jeers at Celtic Park on Wednesday after the home side saw their lead over Aberdeen at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership cut to four points following a second consecutive draw.Its not what you need, Roberts said. At any club you dont like hearing boos in the stadium. But you can feel their frustration. We see it on the pitch ourselves, we are annoyed ourselves. It was a devastating draw so we have to pick ourselves up. The 19-year-old is confident he will rise above the negativity ahead of Sundays William Hill Scottish Cup clash with Morton at Celtic Park, live on Sky Sports.Personally it doesnt affect me, I try to stick to my job and do what Im there to do, he said. I get as frustrated as anyone, Im like a fan on the pitch. I get angry at myself and I get angry when were not winning. Its just how I am.Ive been sat in the stands a few times myself watching games and got angry with players on the pitch. So I can sense their frustration. Celtic were held to goalless draw by Dundee in front of a sparse crowd at Celtic Park Former Celtic winger Joe Miller this week claimed players were not giving their all for under-fire manager Ronny Deila but Roberts insists there is full commitment.Every player is giving 100 per cent, you can see that in training and they try to bring that to games, he said. Obviously its not paying off at the moment, but everyone is giving 100 per cent in games.ddddddddddddThe connection between us and the manager is great. There is no disconnect, we just obviously arent doing it when it matters. We just need to perform to our maximum. Celtic are the biggest club in Scotland so there is obviously going to be pressure to win. Patrick Roberts, on loan from Manchester City Maybe its pressure from Aberdeen behind us, I dont know, but we are not playing to our potential and we need to get back to the way we played near the start of the season.The title is close but we have confidence in ourselves to get the job done because we are all good players. A big club like Celtic should be winning games comfortably. All the boys know that.Roberts may be a teenager but he has already had to cope with the mantle of a £12m signing following his big-money move from Fulham to Manchester last summer. And he vowed to thrive in the Celtic Park pressure. I was at Manchester City, it was exactly the same there, said Roberts, who is on loan at Celtic until the end of next season.Its the biggest club in Scotland so there is obviously going to be pressure to win. You need to win every game. Thats why I came here. I strive for that. Thats what defines you as a good footballer. Also See: Celtic video Celtic fixtures Celtic stats Bet £5 get £20 free ' ' '