Looking forward to 2017, 3 team

Congratulations to Austin Dillon on a great 2016 season. Finishing career best with an average finish of 15.89. If you take out the bad weeks where he was tangled up in someone’s mess his average was pretty close to 12. Making the Chase, now called the playoffs, for the first time gave him valuable experience in racing at the highest level with stress. With Whitney by his side he proved to be the force we know he can be.

For those watching through the season, you saw my projections. Believe it or not, there was a real reason and result behind that. Engine tuner, Frank Mathalia, and I had a weekly wager. If they outraced my projection I would give $5 to Pit Stops For Hope. If I outraced them more than they outraced me, Frank would match. I donated $55 to Pit Stops For Hope at the end of the year, that was matched 3-to-1 by my employer, Miller Electric, through their charitable giving program. That counted for $165. All together we raised $275 to help those children in need.

As 2017 draws ever closer many are looking for Austin to have another great year, people are looking for keys to success, and many will state the obvious. Of course you have to win, of course you have to keep from wrecking the car. No doubt they need to find speed. These are obvious things, but after some thought I think I have a few areas where the team can improve.

ITS NOTHING PERSONAL

If the crew has a bad stop, if the spotter makes a bad call, if the driver slides through the box, it is nothing personal. Everyone is after the same thing, nobody wants to see their team and teammates fail. If everyone pulls together, you row a lot faster. Don’t yell or get upset or frustrated. It wasn’t personal, it was a mistake and mistakes happen. This goes for all the guys. From Richard to Austin to Adam.

FORGET ABOUT THE PAST

Whatever happened last week, last night, last lap, last corner, it’s in the past. You cannot change it now. As Slugger always says, “Rerack and move forward.” The faster everyone moves on from an issue, the better off you are. If you cannot change what happened focus forward. Yes, it’s great to learn but move on and look deeper into it later when there aren’t a ton of cars around.

TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS

Austin has great instincts and when he drives on instinct he does the best. Restrictor plate tracks are a prime example. All his senses are feeding him information and he has to react on those long before Andy can make a call. If he drives by these instincts every week, he will find Victory Lane more than you can imagine. Austin isn’t new to racing, he has a long history of it and he needs to rely on his experience and intuition. These aren’t wrong and even though it may not seem the best, it usually is.

TAKE A CHANCE

I know Richard likes getting his cars back unscathed, so do Marty and Freddy, but take a chance, make a move, make something happen. If you don’t take a chance, you can’t win. If you wait for the right time, the right situation, it won’t happen. So take a chance. Not just on the track or in the pits. With the new format, take a chance on strategy. Follow the leader isn’t fun and if you’re going to ride behind them, that’s where they will keep you.

GIVE MORE THAN YOU TAKE

For his last 3 years in Cup, Austin has been out there and worked to not piss people off. He has practiced “give and take.” Well, everyone is giving and you’re forced to take. Start dishing it out, race Harvick and Busch the way they race you. If they dump you, dump them. If they can make you a doormat, they will. This is one case where you’re going to win more fans than losing by fighting back. I think I speak for all fans when I say, give it back to them! We don’t really “hate” these guys, but they are good for a reason. Drivers let them be good, drivers let them get away with pushing them around. They will keep doing it if you let them. I had one driver tell me, “I race them how they race me. If they wreck me I’ll whoop them. I’ll wreck them then find them in the pits and give them a whooping then I will go find their owner and tell them if they are gonna do that, I will put them on their lid every week.”

JUST WIN BABY

That’s it, winning cures all. Quit looking at points. If you win, points don’t matter, you’re in. So I don’t want to hear, “We had a good points day.” No, I want a win before you look at points. It’s the new world of Ricky Bobby. If you aren’t first, you’re last. So go nuts, go push it, go win. Quit trying to have a solid points day. Points only get you so far. If you’re happy with tenth because its goodness or the points, you’ll settle for tenth every time. Dale Earnhardt said it best, “The winner isn’t always the one with the best car, it’s the one who refuses to lose.” So don’t settle for good enough, don’t settle for a good points day. Points didn’t get you into Homestead.

That is¬†just my thought, that’s what I think it’s gonna take for success this year. No matter what, I’m excited for 2017. Let’s kick some tires and light some fires!

See you from the box!

Jason Larivee Racing 2017 preview!

Welcome to the first preview of the year for race teams. Last year I was proud to help this young man in a small way with his race team. A champion hill climber turned stock car racer after an injury left him sidelined. He’s started developing his talents and showing promise as he goes. 2016 was his first year in a full fender stock car and remains poised to improve this year.

In 2016 Jason, 17, finished 8th out of 20 at Waterford Speedbowl in the Super-X class. In just a month and a half he went from a dream to reality in his family’s garage. With $500 he purchased a car out of a wood line that had been sitting for 6 years, rebuilt a Chevy 350 c.i.d. motor which was donated by his cousin at Highway Auto Parts.

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“A lesson I certainly learned is to never let people push you around or take advantage of you, but patience is imperative. If you aren’t patient in making a pass, you’ll end up in the grass. Definitely learned not to make it 3 wide every opportunity I see. I felt like I improved throughout the season. Raced harder, cleaner, and overall better. There is one guy I see as a rival but we certainly do have prominent allies too. Dan & Kevin Moon who sold me my chassis have helped immeasurably. From chassis setup tips, help, and chassis tool loans, they are real assets.”

In 2017 Jason will again run Super-X at the Waterford Speedbowl. With new engine parts, suspension options, and experience he hopes to compete in the top 5. With potential to run a late model for a race or more, Jason still seeks funding from all avenues. The focus is definitely on Super-X until more opportunities come to fruition.

“I really look to improve in all facets. I want to race better and set the car up better. If I can do those things I believe the year will ultimately be a success. I try not to put any pressure on myself or the guys helping me. At the end of the day we are still new to this and there is a ton to learn. Obviously the thought of a win is what ultimately drives us. This season we are really pushing for a “W.”

Jason has returning sponsors this year. S.H. Concrete Works is primary sponsor with Couch Crew Chief returning as an associate sponsor. Jason works continuously to find other sponsors, you can reach him on FaceBook at Jason Larivee Racing or reach him directly at JasonDCR70@gmail.com if you want to help, sponsor, or donate. Every bit helps as this young man chases his dream in hopes of reaching the upper levels of NASCAR.

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Overly Opinionated: How embarrassing, SHR

I didn’t want this to be a knee-jerk reaction so I thought on this, a lot. What does it say that Nature’s Bakery wants out? Is this a reflection of our sport, NASCAR, and it’s appeal to sponsors and fans? Is this more of a reflection of the driver, Danica Patrick, second most popular in the sport? Could it just be that a new owner of the sponsor company wants out?

NASCAR, as a whole, is not as healthy today as in the past. You have bigger names, dominating performance, new title sponsors, plenty of change; yet there are fewer fans at the track. The fans not coming out isn’t hard to figure out. Hotels jack their rates up, tracks up until last year were pricing tickets like they didn’t have enough seats, and overall the economy was down and unemployment (true unemployment) was at a high not seen since the 1980’s. Plus TV coverage and races being available.

The TV coverage has been at its worst in recent years. NASCAR jacked up its broadcast rates so television and cable companies had to pack the race full of commercials to pay for the contract. This has upset fans and pushed them away. It’s gotten so that some fans avoid television sponsors because it is so frequent. NASCAR was built around the cars and drivers being the advertisements, now fans are gouged at the ticket office, programs are 35% ad space, and races are nearing 50% commercial coverage with race interruption.

Given all this, it’s easy to draw the conclusion that Nature’s bakery would want out, they aren’t getting their air time. Well actually, they are. Thanks to the NASCAR agenda, Danica Patrick is over covered. She is mentioned on each and every NASCAR broadcast, she can be running 30th and the broadcast team will update her performance throughout the day. So her sponsors aren’t out of the camera lense for very long. That’s everything a sponsor could dream of!

If the reports of $15 million are right, this is actually a deal. To get that much air time anywhere, would cost WAY more. Looking at adage.com the lowest cost of a 30 second spot on Sunday night is $87,000. That’s not even DVR proof which racing and NASCAR car sponsorships are. If you figure Danica Patrick receives 2 minutes of airtime during the race and 1 minute of airtime throughout the week, valuing the time at $87,000/30 seconds, this would equate to $21 million each year in advertising. Why would a company walk away from that guaranteed time?

Maybe this has to do with the on track performance. Of people in similar equipment, over the last 36 races, she has the worst average. 22.03 with 0 wins, 0 top 5’s, 0 top 10’s, and 0 laps lead. even those who ran fewer races, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Alex Bowman, all averaged a finish better than 20th. Only one person had a lower average, Ty Dillon with 24th and he is a rookie gear s to make laps, gain experience, and learn.

NASCAR and television broadcasters make sure she receives airtime to guarantee sponsorship through the “Drive for Diversity” program. It is tailored to give certain drivers a better chance of success, tailored to make these drivers more appealing to sponsors. Perhaps Nature’s Bakery and the new owners saw this as a detriment when they “go through the field” and have to do a special spot just for Danica Patrick running outside of the top 20. No other driver in these positions receives equal coverage unless they have a special story that week.

Instead of suing the new company owner to force them to sponsor a below average driver, maybe SHR should be asking if there was something they could have done better to prevent this. This lawsuit is terrible for NASCAR, drivers, and teams. Sponsors don’t want to be trapped. If there weren’t “competition and performance” clauses before, there will be now. Sponsors are going to provide themselves an out, if they even come in! Speaking of clauses, there may also be personal conduct clauses, another out for sponsors.

Danica Patrick isn’t the first driver to have sponsor issues. c.int Bowyer, Martin Truex, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, AJ Allmendinger have all had sponsorship issues in the past, Danica is the latest and highest profile because she is the highest profile driver to have issues in recent memory. With the volume sales just in memorabilia she has, companies should be jumping to have their name all over the place.

NASCAR is in a different place right now and drivers have to be more fan friendly than ever. This is another place where Danica has fallen short. There have been stories over and over about bad fan experiences and even I had one that soured me on her after I had read her book and was excited to see her entering the world of full fender racing. I understand for every bad experience that there may be 100 great experiences, but you cannot alienate a waning fan base. While we want drivers to be authentic, we also want them to be gracious at times. All of this may be under a sponsor’s “personal conduct policy.” Yes, companies will make sure they have outs more than ever now and they will hold drivers to the letter.

To me, this much is clear; dragging a sponsor ¬†through the courts to force them to pay is bad for the sport, the sponsor, the team, and the driver. As this plays out in court you may hear stuff that you don’t want public. There may be something that even though true, is very unflattering. SHR needs to let his go before it embarrasses everyone a lot more than you can imagine.

Again, this is my opinion. If Danica Patrick and SHR had put as much emphasis on their performance as they do on their pay, they may not be in this situation. If a new ownership group took over and saw that they were sponsoring a top 10 or top 15 driver, they may have been excited. Somewhere in the buyout or takeover the new owners had to know they were taking on this sponsorship contract. You can’t tell me they bought out a product and said, “We are just gonna walk away from this and knowingly be in violation of a contract.”

At this point the company sees it as a better cost/benefit to distance themselves from the team and spend countless thousands in court than to continue on with a great advertising opportunity. What you read into that and what I read into it may not be the same. I don’t see it as an issue with the sport so much as the team and driver. Feel free to debate with me.

My opinions are my own and do not reflect those of anyone else from any team or for any reason. I am an individual and these are just my thoughts, my views, and what I see.