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Time to Blow Away Air Titan Standoff Between NASCAR, Tracks

NASCAR is Playing a Needless Game with Tracks Who Don't Want to Pay for Air Titan

Yahoo Contributor Network

You just know it's bound to happen. And when it does, the egg will be on NASCAR's proverbial face.

Sometime soon, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is going to meet a rain delay that really requires a track drying process faster than what traditional jet dryers can allow. Maybe it's a race that can't reach halfway. Maybe it's a race that is forced into a poor television window. Maybe it's a vitally important Chase for the Sprint Cup race.

Whatever it is, NASCAR is going to need that extra boost from NASCAR's very own new technology - the much-esteemed and frankly innovative Air Titan - to get a race in during an optimal period that the jet dryers can't reach.

The fans - both who paid for tickets and those watching on television - will expect it.

But instead, Air Titan won't be ready. In fact, it won't even be at the race track - just like last weekend at Kentucky Speedway. (Note: Air Titan wouldn't have made a lick of difference in the postponement at Kentucky Saturday night because of the recurring rain showers.) Thanks to a conflict - one over financials, of course - between NASCAR and many of its tracks, the Air Titan will be hundreds of miles away and completely useless to its made-for cause.

To the bean counters in NASCAR, that probably makes a lot of sense. It explains why NASCAR is charging tracks enough to have the system on-call that many tracks (see: mostly Speedway Motorsports Inc. properties) are simply balking at the offer. Air Titan wasn't cheap to develop, and it's not cheap to ship or use. If someone isn't directly paying for something so expensive, why would you give it away?

Those in the marketing department should be setting them straight. Straight and simple, NASCAR's Air Titan should be considered a cost of doing business for a sport. It's no different than spending heavily on new safety initiatives or a testing program that builds stronger racing. The Air Titan improves NASCAR's product, and to not use it only leaves NASCAR looking bad.

NASCAR, of course, has countered to all of that saying that tracks have the right to have the Air Titans at every event. The sanctioning body has tried to turn the device into a fan accommodating element that tracks should buy to stay with the latest and greatest.

That's a completely valid point if NASCAR wasn't looking at making over $5 billion in its next multi-year television contract. NASCAR is set to make that much in television revenue because millions of fans are watching on television, while hopefully one-hundred thousand are buying tickets. It doesn't take an expensive college degree to determine which market to actually target.

Let's not forget, either, that if anyone could sell sponsorship to cover most of the cost of Air Titan, it's NASCAR. This is a sport that has an official cookie, an official sauce and an official mayonnaise.

This, of course, was never a problem until NASCAR set out to dry tracks faster under the public directive of CEO Brian France. It wasn't a problem before NASCAR extensively showed off the new system at Daytona in February. And it wasn't a problem before Air Titan proved its mettle as a time-saving and delay-shortening device in the soggy, cold April Talladega weekend.

But now the problem is lurking at every race weekend where Air Titan doesn't make the trip. And when the avoidable problem finally rears it full and ugly head, I'm not going to blame Bruton Smith and his track-owning cohorts. They're smartly playing the game with NASCAR knowing that the true trump card in this track-drying deal is television. Smith and friends know that because of the substantially-greater income they've been receiving from television rights fees as opposed to ticket sales in recent years.

The Air Titan tide will shift sometime soon when NASCAR is left with no explanation other than greed - how big could Air Titan's piece of that $5 billion pie really be? - when a race can't start on-time or finish properly.

Until then, we'll just watch and grimace as the sport prepares itself for another preventable headache.

HOT: There's no doubting that Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 are far and away the strongest team in the garage at this point. But there's no doubting, either, that Matt Kenseth may have the best strategy to overcome the speed differential.

NOT: Kurt Busch's early crash of Brad Keselowski was mindless and ultimately preventable. Busch, as with every driver in the field, is equipped with a brake pedal. When his car unexpectedly hopped over the Kentucky Speedway apron and lost some control, he could've easily backed off and slowed down in an effort to miss Keselowski. Instead, he didn't and caused a crash that some very dangerous implications.

HOT: I'm not positive Jamie McMurray's second-place run is something we'll now have to expect in the Sprint Cup Series - that team's luck this season has been too poor - but I'll bet his first top-5 finish since 2011 felt almost like a win.

NOT: Clean air sure was good for Kenseth in that final stretch, wasn't it?

HOT: Joey Logano now has six straight finishes of 11th or better.

NEUTRAL: I'm not sure if it's time to worry about Brad Keselowski making the Chase this season, but Sunday's unfortunate wreck didn't make me feel better about those chances.

NOT: Johnson's claims about Matt Kenseth intentionally botching the restart were rooted in anger for his late-race spin and not in fact. Kenseth did nothing wrong the restart in which Johnson spun.

HOT: Jeff Gordon fought back again after being hosed by a pair of ill-timed cautions and looked to be a top-5 car before the final restart went somewhat awry. Not yet qualified for the Chase, Gordon will be an interesting watch down the stretch.

HOT: Kentucky's day racing was substantially better than the night racing. If it's too hot to race there during the day time in late June, why not move the event to mid-May? It might just help attendance at the not-so-far away Brickyard 400 in a few weeks.

The Stenica Showdown Cup!

We're keeping track each week of how NASCAR's most important (only?) competitive couple performs against one another. The highest-finishing Sprint Cup result between Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. each week earns a point. Each driver can earn a bonus for doing just about anything else, racing related or not. We should probably start thinking about an appropriate trophy.

It wasn't a bad weekend at Kentucky for Danica, except for that whole she's-not-a-driver thing that Kyle Petty decided to lob at her. Ultimately, she handled it well and defended herself nicely. Did Petty have some merit to what he was saying? Maybe a bit. Does he have room to talk? No way. Should Ricky Stenhouse Jr. have challenged Petty to a duel? Definitely. (Such a defense would have ended our silly game outright as Stenhouse would've scored infinity points.)

Current standings:

1st - Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 16 points (17th at Kentucky)

2nd - Danica Patrick., 12 points (23rd at Kentucky)

Next up: Daytona! (Again!) Join us Saturday night at 7:30 p.m/ET on the Yahoo! Sports NASCAR Live Chat!

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