Other than Carl Edwards -- and, eventually, probably Danica -- I don't know anyone involved in the industry who is smiling these days. With very good reason.
The stock market plunge, debt crisis, America's credit rating downgrade and international financial troubles have happened at a crucial period in the motorsports biz year. Think about it:
Teams are trying to finalize their sponsors for 2012. Roush Fenway and Richard Childress are among the leading Sprint Cup series players with significant budget gaps they are trying to fill with firm sponsor contracts. The list in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck tours is too long to start here, but keep in mind Todd Bodine's Truck champion Germain team has been parked for weeks now.
NASCAR's Chase is about to begin. Lots of tickets to sell -- with increased competition for the already squeezed-like-lemons entertainment dollar coming from college and pro football and baseball's playoffs and World Series.
Ditto NHRA's Countdown. Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and bike championships to be determined -- in front of how many empty grandstand seats? Too often, these tickets are priced way too expensively.
IndyCar team owners have been trying to calculate for months how they are going to pay for new chassis, lease new engines, and pay more for tires next season. The already weak sponsorship market in this series just became an even tougher sell. Notice the different bodywork kits are a "no go" for next season -- a clear-cut money issue. I can tell you in Gasoline Alley at Indianapolis in the days leading up to last May's Indy 500, the top topic was -- other than double-wide restarts -- where the money was going to come from for the new toys. Expect fewer cars on the grid in '12.
Grand-Am has new bodywork coming in Daytona Prototype. Will old stuff have to be grandfathered-in for the Jan. 28-29 50th anniversary Rolex 24?
Courtney Force is to make her Funny Car debut late in the Countdown to prep for a full campaign in '12. Does Father John have the budget locked-in yet?
The American Le Mans Series DESPERATELY needs headliner P1 prototype class entries. Who has cash to campaign those cars in a series that bet-the-house on interest in "Green" racing?
Nashville, Gateway and Memphis are out-of-biz tracks. More to come? Yes, it's likely.
There is supposed to be a Formula One race next year at under-construction Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Tex. A very capital-intensive project and event.
I can't help but wonder how much the net worth of racing's top team owners has declined in the last two weeks.
G O D could wind up to be a far-bigger, much-more-important and far-reaching story than who wins the Chase.
Media Headline Duh! of the Week: "Danica Patrick's exodus to NASCAR would likely hurt IndyCar"
I both laughed and shook my head at all the chatroom agony over the announcement that ABC will continue to televise the Indy 500 through 2018 and, in that same period, will be the IndyCar series' only broadcast ("over-the-air") TV outlet. Once again, the chatroomers got all stirred-up by RUMORS and GOSSIP and SPECULATION -- never any troublesome FACTS -- that NBC was in line to bump the much criticized network of "Always Bad Coverage." Seems no one ever stopped to think that some of those spreading this talk were in line to benefit professionally and financially from such a change. It gets to a point where one wonders when the Kool-Aid drinkers will put two and two together and figure out the difference between PUNDITRY and REPORTING. The Indy-to-NBC non-story takes its place in line behind IndyCars-to-Phoenix, Jimmie Johnson driving at Indy, several Big NASCAR Names in the Las Vegas challenge, and plenty of other examples of bogus, space-filling, airtime-consuming non-journalism wishful-thinking and cheerleading. Serious and legitimate question for and about fans: When will they ever learn?
Something different -- What's RIGHT about racing:
[ more next Monday . . . ]