NASCARs 25 most influential
Friday, May. 27, 2011
Everyone in NASCAR wants it, from top executives to the drivers and crew chiefs.
But not every one has it.
The Observer unveils a twist on a popular favorite. Observer motorsports writer David Poole, who died in 2009, used to list the 25 most powerful people in NASCAR each May, when the circuit visited Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Starting this year, well list the 25 biggest influences on stock car racing. Many names remain the same. Some are new. All are debatable.
1. The economy
Nothing has a wider and more immediate effect on NASCAR. Higher unemployment means more fans with less money to spend on racing, and some with none at all.
A slow economy means a reduced presence by sponsors and less sponsorship money available for teams. High gas prices hurt the fans who travel to races by car.
Some tracks have lowered ticket prices, but unless the economy returns to its pre-2008 pace, NASCAR may never be the same.
2. The France family
NASCAR Chairman Brian France, Vice President Jim France and Lesa Kennedy, president of International Speedway Corp., continue to call the shots as far the rules of the sport and where the majority of the races are held.
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Hes mired in a two-year victory drought, but he still creates excitement and commands attention like no other. It hasnt hurt that hes much more competitive this season.
4. Race fans
Whether by participation in surveys, in online comments on stories, in posts on social media, or by their decisions whether to attend races in person or watch on television, fans have more say in the direction of NASCAR than ever.
5. Mike Helton
NASCARs president is the most visible member of the sports hierarchy most race weekends and has the most immediate control of competition.
6. Competition on the track
The quality of the competition on the track is what moves the needle. Right now, its pretty stout.
7. TV networks
Networks decisions on what NASCAR programming they air, and how they present it, brings the most vocal response from fans not at the track.
8. Social media
Whether its Facebook or Twitter, fans are connecting to drivers, media and tracks more than ever before, sometimes with tough consequences for all.
9. Jimmie Johnson
With five consecutive Cup titles, he is becoming the public face of NASCAR and earning greater respect across all of sports.
10. Bruton Smith/Marcus Smith/SMI
Bruton Smith and his son, Marcus, and their Speedway Motorsports tracks have set the standard for fan amenities and media work areas.
11. Rick Hendrick
When it comes to a standard of excellence in NASCAR, he and his organization hover at the top.
12. Jack Roush
Roush has invested time and money in all of NASCARs top series, with excellent results.
13. Richard Childress
The owner of the famed black No. 3 is still hunting championships and wildlife like never before.
14. Kyle Busch
Hes breaking records left and right and could become one of the sports biggest stars for a long time to come.
15. NASCAR Hall of Fame
The opening of the Hall has helped the city of Charlotte establish a bigger claim to being NASCARs home.
16. Director of communications Brett Jewkes
Hes been given the power to change NASCARs relationship with the media for the better. Will he use it?
They are gaining influence, particularly in having cars look more like whats on the showroom floor.
18. Trevor Bayne
One of the sports best feel-good stories, but he has missed a month of action from a yet-to-be-diagnosed illness.
19. Danica Patrick
Like her or not, she garners lots of media and fan attention as a part-time participant.
20. No testing policy
The lack of testing has created a greater divide between the best and the worst teams and hampered the development of young drivers.
21. Jeff Gordon
The four-time Cup champion remains the mainstream medias spokesperson for NASCAR.
22. Tony Stewart
An outstanding driver and successful team owner in a variety of motorsports series. Simply put, he has clout.
23. Eddie Gossage
Gossage is a track promoter who is always innovative even if he makes a misstep from time to time.
24. The weather
The one thing NASCAR cant control, and it has an uncanny ability to alter the dynamic of a race weekend.
25. Darrell Waltrip
Still a fan favorite in the TV booth and exerts growing influence on Foxs broadcasting decisions.
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