Was Parker Kligerman too aggressive? He explains winning strategy

En route to taking the underdog No. 75 truck to a win at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday, Parker Kligerman ruffled feathers with some aggressive pushing that left drivers complaining on the radio.

Christopher Bell, Ben Rhodes and Grant Enfinger were among the drivers who told their spotters to tell Kligerman to back off at various points during the race.

“Try not to let that 75 get behind me,” Rhodes said at one point.

“Get him off me, man!” Bell said late in the race. “Get him off me!”

So were all the complaints justified, or were those drivers just not used to taking a push?

“There’s some incredibly talented drivers out there, but I think we forgot how to tandem a little bit,” Kligerman said when asked. “We’re not allowed to tandem, but if you watch Joey Logano in the Xfinity car (at plate races) in the last couple years, he does that tap-tap-tap thing.”

That “tap-tap-tap thing” is a borderline bump draft, but legal because the vehicles are not locking bumpers. So as long as the bumpers aren’t together for more than a couple seconds, NASCAR is fine with that.

Kligerman decided if he could make that happen with the current rules package, “then we’ve got to do that.” And the best time to do so would be in the first two stages, when there were built-in cautions to help with experimentation.

His reaction to hearing a few drivers were upset?

“Whatever. I thought we were here to race,” he said. “… I didn’t spin anyone out, so I think it worked. We passed a lot of trucks and got ourselves to the front a couple times. And when it came down to it, all of them were doing the same thing. So I don’t see any harm or foul.”

Chris Carrier, Kligerman’s crew chief, heard the question and asked if he chimed in. His take was decidedly more blunt.

“I’ve been a crew chief for 40-some years,” he said. “The guys I see complaining are the guys who want to be Sunday drivers. They’d better grow up. If you don’t want to cut the grass, you’d better not mind getting grass in your shoes. That’s part of it, like it or not. Grow up.”

Getting The Green: How NASCAR Can Help Race Teams Survive, by Tommy Joe Martins

Tommy Joe Martins, 30, is a driver in the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series. His family’s race team, Martins Motorsports, currently fields entries in the Truck Series.

By Tommy Joe Martins

When NASCAR announced a 10-year, $8.2 billion television rights package with NBC and FOX in 2013, it became perhaps the greatest TV deal in the history of sports.

At the time the deal was signed, NASCAR Cup events averaged a 5-plus rating — and now that number is down to less than 3. But no matter the ratings, that $8.2 billion, long-term contract is locked in.

NASCAR hit the lottery and Brian France bought the ticket. He and his team deserve plenty of credit for negotiating a superb deal.

But how that average of $820 million per year is split has been a topic of much discussion lately — with Denny Hamlin among the recent voices to question the arrangement.

NASCAR gets 10 percent, so let’s round off and say that’s $80 million per year. The tracks get 65 percent — roughly $530 million — and if that sounds like a lot, then you’re not the only one that thought so.

I’m not going to act like I know the first thing about the expenses of running a racetrack. So for now, let’s just assume they need every dollar of it.

The teams get the remaining 25 percent of the deal, which is roughly $200 million per year — and that’s distributed through the purse money for each race. That money is then split again among the top three national series. And if you’re not sitting down, you’re going to want to before you read this next part.

As of 2014, the Cup Series got 93.75 percent of the team cut. NINETY-THREE PERCENT. The Xfinity Series got a whopping 5.75 percent (although maybe that wasn’t seen as a big deal since almost half of the Xfinity field is made from Cup teams or affiliates).

But the Truck Series? It got an almost unimaginable 0.5 percent. Half of a freaking percent. That worked out to roughly $1,000 per race, per team.

The entry fee alone for the Truck Series is $1,650 per race.

Thankfully, that horrendous split got restructured in 2015. But best I can tell, the Truck Series still only receives around a 2 percent take. Not exactly the jump we were looking for.

My family’s team, Martins Motorsports, received roughly $14,000 per race in prize money last season. A set of Goodyear tires costs roughly $2,300 per set, and we’re allotted five sets on most race weekends ($11,500). If we didn’t buy used tires from other teams, we’d be broke in a month.

Clearly, there needs to be a change. The goal should be to make teams profitable. Just like teams in every other pro sports league, NASCAR teams should operate in the green.

Now, that’s not to say that team ownership should be lucrative. For a team to do that, it’s always going to take sponsorship. I want small teams to be able to eke out a small profit — around 10 percent each year. It costs a LOT of money to start a NASCAR team. With equipment purchases, engine costs, shop expenses and weekly salaries, the initial investment is massive before ever receiving an awards check from the racetrack. There should be a return on that investment.

So how do we make the adjustment? I think the TV ratings are a good place to start. The ratings for this season are public knowledge, but I did the math for you. The averages are: Cup 2.8, Xfinity 0.8, Trucks 0.4. Theoretically, a TV revenue split based on ratings could be: 70 percent Cup, 20 percent Xfinity, 10 percent Trucks.

That wouldn’t change much for big teams. They don’t count on the prize money to balance the budget — it only makes up 15-20 percent of their income. A reduction to 15 percent of their income isn’t a big deal.

Taking the charter-weighted math out of it (I don’t even want to try; I’m struggling enough as is), each of the 40 Cup teams would still get roughly $3.5 million from the 36 points races. Factor in traditional prize money at only $30,000 per race (and I’m sure I’m low on that number), and that makes for a $4.58 million dollar budget.

Assuming they qualified for all 33 races, Xfinity teams would earn roughly $1 million from the TV money alone. That would be a huge increase from the current deal, and that doesn’t account for traditional track-paid prize money. Let’s say that’s around $15,000 per team, and would make a $1.25 million budget for each team.

It would be an even bigger deal for Truck teams. A $625,000 TV share would be close to double the total prize money our team won in 2015. Factor in $10,000 per race in traditional purse monies (which I’ve averaged out over the past two Truck Series seasons), and that would make for an $855,000 budget per team.

Big teams would tell you that’s not even close to enough cash to run a team for a season. For example, the Lilly’s sponsorship for Roush Fenway’s Xfinity team was reported at $10 million per year — $5 million competition, $5 million activation, while Cup sponsorships can range anywhere from $5 million to $35 million.

So when those teams say this wouldn’t make a difference for them, they’re not wrong. The prize money I’m talking about isn’t enough to run their teams for the season.

Rich teams will always be the best teams. They have the best facilities. They have the best people (because they can pay them more). They have more people and resources. So of course their costs are going to be higher.

But those aren’t necessary costs. They’re optional, self-inflicted costs. If you want to be a big team and you have the money, go for it! Money will always help in motorsports. But you shouldn’t have to spend big money to be successful. And sponsors should be a luxury, not a necessity to break even!

Can you imagine if the Minnesota Twins shut down because Target decided not to sponsor the team’s stadium anymore?

Small teams should always be the backbone of the sport, and if they’re financially viable on their own, they can develop talent for big teams to eventually steal away. And I don’t mean that as a negative thing. That’s no different than how the Yankees treat the rest of baseball. But the Yankees also don’t win every year, and nobody brings $5 million to play first base for New York.

Here’s a scenario: A small team takes a chance on an unproven, talented driver. Maybe they’re discovered in a Late Model or a sprint car. He or she does great, attracts a sponsor, makes the team and driver some money — and at the end, the driver gets a great offer from a better team.

Everyone wins.

Here’s another: A big team cuts a veteran loose, so the small team picks them up. The team gets a great leader to help develop their program and an experienced driver to take care of equipment and a name to sell to potential sponsors.

Everyone wins.

But right now, NASCAR owners have their hands tied. With the financial model we’re currently under, those scenarios are becoming rarer because driver talent is a secondary attribute — and that’s never going to work long term. Quality, veteran drivers are losing rides because they don’t have the funding behind them to balance the budget. Meanwhile, unproven drivers are getting top-flight rides because they have the financial backing.

It’s backward. We need to reward the people that invest in this sport with the power to control their team’s future — not have it decided by outside money like a sponsor or a funded driver.

NASCAR isn’t dying. Far from it. As a sport, we’ve never had more money flowing through the garage area in our history. We’ve got a die-hard fan base that we’re making some great strides to reconnect with.

But we’re never going to be where we want to be unless that kid at the local short track knows that if they keep winning, they’re going to get a shot in the big leagues.

The cream should rise to the top. It’s the same dream all of us have had since we first fell in love with this sport — or any sport — and it needs to come true again.

How this could work

Below are some hypothetical budgets of Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series teams, all under the current schedule and all of which would wind up with a profit at the end of the year.

These budgets assume five things:

1. All budgets assume teams own all necessary equipment.

2. No crash damage cost has been added (from my experience, if you tear up
race cars, you’re always going to be over budget).

3. Races are shortened, tire prices adjusted, or some other form of savings in
the tire budget (bias ply tires, just saying) to keep Xfinity and Truck teams from
spending the full $10,000-$12,000 per race on rubber.

4. Spec motors are used in Trucks and Xfinity competition – drastically reducing operating cost after initial purchase.

5. Travel budgets are kept light by the team driving to most events.

 

12 Questions with Chase Briscoe

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Chase Briscoe, who is currently fifth in the Camping World Truck Series playoff standings entering next week’s race at Talladega Superspeedway. Briscoe, 22, drives for Brad Keselowski Racing.

1. How much of your success is based on natural ability and how much has come from working at it?

I think to a certain extent, natural ability can carry you a certain way, but you’re not gonna get good at pit stops or restarts just by natural ability. You have to work at that, and I think that’s where you see guys win a lot of races — they do that extra work and they do their homework. I feel like that’s what kind of separates the champions from the non-champions, is the champions work at it in all areas and know where they can win and lose races.

2. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and now Dale Earnhardt Jr. have all either retired in the last couple years or will retire soon. What’s your pitch for fans of theirs to become fans of yours?

I feel like me personally, I’m kind of that old-school driver. I don’t have family backing or a big sponsor. Literally straight out of high school, I moved to North Carolina, sleeping on couches and volunteering at race shops and somehow convinced a team to let me drive for them. So I feel like that’s kind of like the old days, how all those guys were. That’s probably my sales pitch, is that I’m kind of a throwback guy that’s kind of one of the few that’s done it that way, at least in the last 10 or 15 years. So that’s why I should be your guy.

What was the limit for sleeping on somebody’s couch? Did you overstay your welcome at times?

I stayed at one in particular for a really long time, and we worked a deal — like $50 for two months. So I could at least afford that. But yeah, after awhile you could tell he was kind of getting upset. I stayed there for a year and a half; I was there for a long time. But he was nice enough to let me stay there. If I wasn’t staying there, I don’t know where I would have been. I would have been on the streets, I guess.

Whose couch was this?

His name is Ross Wece. Me and (Christopher) Bell actually both stayed there for a couple of months. (Wece) works for the World of Outlaws, so I know him from sprint car racing. He always says that if me and Bell ever make it to Cup, that couch might be in the Hall of Fame or something crazy.

3. What is the hardest part of your job away from the racetrack?

Just the sacrifice you have to make, not being able to be at family events or family holidays. That part of it is tough for sure. I don’t think people realize how much goes into it outside the racetrack. I personally didn’t realize how busy NASCAR guys were. I thought they raced on weekends and had the whole week off, and that’s definitely not the case — it’s not the case at the Truck level and I know for sure it’s not at the Cup level. It’s just tough to balance everything outside of the racetrack, I think.

4. Let’s say a fan spots you eating dinner in a nice restaurant. Should they come over for an autograph or no?

Yeah. I’d be surprised if anyone even recognized me, though, honestly. (Laughs) But I’m all for that. I always try to go out of my way, even when we’re walking out to the starting lineup or whatever, I at least try to stay there as long as I can. So yeah, absolutely.

5. What’s a story in NASCAR that doesn’t get enough coverage?

I think the behind-the-scenes guys, the guys at the shop. I feel like you’re only as good as the race car that you’re in, and there’s a lot of people that put countless hours in it. There’s guys who stay in the shop until 10 or 11 at night who never even get recognized when it comes down to it. The drivers and the crew chiefs obviously get a lot of coverage, but if it wasn’t for that guy doing tear-down or building truck arms or whatever it is, we wouldn’t even get to go to the racetrack.

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

There’s a lot who I’ve texted (at New Hampshire) trying to figure this place out. Actually the last one would have been (Kyle) Larson. I texted him a little bit ago. He was curious about what the VHT stuff was doing, and I’ve been asking him a ton of questions.

Are there a lot of Cup guys that will help you out if you have questions?

Yeah, for the most part. A lot of the times it’s the sprint car guys, so obviously Larson. I’ve reached out to Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon has helped me out in the past. Between Brad and Kyle, those are normally my go-tos. And outside of the Cup guys, I do talk to Bell and Cole Custer quite a bit. So there’s a couple guys at least that I have to lean on and that makes it really nice going to a lot of these racetracks.

7. Do you consider race car drivers to be entertainers?

Yeah, I think so. People come for entertainment, so they’re paying to watch us race. A lot of the entertainment at times is not on the racetrack — so whether that’s guys getting into arguments or fighting or whatever, I think we’re entertainers.

8. What is your middle finger policy on the racetrack?

I’ve never given one, so I don’t have one, to be honest. I’ve received a couple, but I’m not a guy that’s gonna go out there and cuss somebody out after the race or flip somebody off. If you want to do it, more power to you, but I’m not too worried about it.

Is that because you don’t get mad inside the truck, or do you just keep in internal?

I was just raised different. Like if I ever got into somebody, my dad would make me go over and apologize to him, because I knew I would get my head thumped if I didn’t. So I was kind of racing the old school way. I was just taught you don’t need to be doing that; just focus on the racing.

9. Some drivers keep a payback list in their minds. Do you also have a list for drivers who have done you a favor on the track?

Yeah, I race people how they race me typically. I’ve never tried to wreck anybody on purpose, but if guys give me a little extra room and it’s early in the race or we’re struggling, then I’ll typically give it back to them or whatever. I feel like there’s guys I definitely race harder than others; we’re racing everybody hard, but there’s guys you tend to give a little bit of a break to.

10. Who is the most famous person you’ve had dinner with?

Probably Brad. He’s probably the only famous guy I’ve ever really had dinner with for sure.

11. What’s something about yourself you’d like to improve?

My eating habits. I’m like the pickiest eater in the entire world. Like I just ate pizza rolls. I’ve never had a hot dog, I don’t really eat fruits or vegetables. I could work out as much as I want to, but until I get my eating habits right, there’s not gonna be much benefit.

Is it not enough healthy food or just there’s just certain foods you just don’t like?

I just don’t like a lot of the foods. Like the texture and the taste of it. I don’t know. I’ve always been that way ever since I was little. I’ve only had steak maybe two or three times in my life. I’m just super picky.

Chicken?

I eat chicken, but not very much grilled chicken. Just recently, within the past year and a half or so, I started eating grilled chicken. I can’t eat chicken on the bone. It’s just a very processed diet.

So what’s a typical meal then? You’re just heating something up in the microwave?

A lot of the time, or going to fast food. Yeah, the only healthy healthy thing I eat, which is not the healthiest thing, is grilled chicken and rice. I like a lot of rice and pasta. It’s a very narrow path of stuff I do actually eat.

12. The last interview I did was with Jimmie Johnson, and I asked him to give a question for you.

He’s probably like, “Who is that?”

He seemed to know. But his question that he passed along was: What kind of underwear do you wear? Is it boxers or briefs?

I’m a boxers guy. Yeah, definitely boxers. Always have been. I never thought Jimmie Johnson would ask me that, personally. That’s one thing I’ll have to tell my buddies: Jimmie Johnson was curious about what kind of underwear I wore.

I don’t know who the next interview is going to be with. Do you have a question I can ask him?

My question would have to be: Outside of NASCAR, what would be the biggest race you would like to win? For me, personally, it would be the Chili Bowl.

Brad Keselowski expands on why he decided to shutter Truck team

 

When Brad Keselowski announced he would shut down his Truck Series team, many assumed it was directly tied to the high cost of running a truck — which Keselowski said causes him to lose $1 million a year.

And while that was certainly a factor — Keselowski acknowledged Friday his new contract with Team Penske resulted in a smaller piece of the pie for Trucks — he said in both a blog post and comments to reporters there was another major part of the decision.

Keselowski would like to be a Cup Series team owner one day, but he believes he cannot do so without a sustainable business. So the driver plans to start a manufacturing business of some kind — the specifics of which he said he was not ready to announce — to help eventually fund a Cup team. And he would use the current space in the Brad Keselowski Racing shop to do that.

“If you look at all the business owners at this level – and really all three of these levels – they have a sustainable, profitable business outside of motorsports,” he said Friday. ” That’s going to remain the key for any owner to have success.”

Keselowski said he could continue to fund his team through racing, but that would only last until he stops driving. Then his business would have to shut down because “I don’t have a profit center.”

“Having that profit center is what helps you get through the ebbs and flows that every race team has, so I need to have one of those profit centers,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that I’ll be a Cup owner one day, but that means when the time is right, if we achieve the goals that I have, I’ll have the opportunity to make that decision myself and not have it made for me.”

Anyway, it’s interesting to consider that while economics may have been the primary factor to push Keselowski out of the Truck Series, an eye on the future also played a role.

 

News Analysis: Brad Keselowski Racing to shut down after 2017

What happened: Brad Keselowski Racing, which fields two full-time Trucks in the Camping World Truck Series, announced it will shut down following the conclusion of this season. In a statement, Keselowski said: “The Truck Series is truly special to me given my family’s ties to the history of the sport, and this decision comes with much contemplation. But, for a number of reasons, and as I plan for the long-term future, I’ve decided not to field a team in 2018.”

What it means: In 2014, Keselowski said he was losing $1 million per year on his Truck team and told NBC Sports in June that figure has been consistent in recent years. “It’s a money loser,” he said. “Big time.” With small purses in the Truck Series and with most teams finding it difficult to find sponsorship that will cover the cost of racing (Keselowski told NBC it was $4.5 million per Truck, per season), it seems nearly impossible to consistently make money as a team owner in that series. Although it’s nice for a Cup driver like Keselowski to give back to the sport by providing an opportunity for young drivers (the team helped Ryan Blaney’s career get started, for example), that can’t be expected to continue when too much money comes out of a driver’s own pocket.

News value (scale of 1-10): Eight. Even though the Truck Series has well-known financial issues and top teams like Red Horse Racing have shut down recently, it’s still jarring and shocking to see Keselowski’s team announce it will stop running.

Three questions: What is the long-term future of a series where only 13 drivers have run all 14 races so far this season? Although NASCAR is working to reduce costs, how can teams continue in this economic environment if it’s such a money drain? Keselowski said he one day wants to be a Cup Series team owner and is “seeking to develop an advanced engineering and manufacturing company that would be housed out of our 78,000 square foot facility in Statesville” — so what does that entail?