Number Placement: It’s Finally Over! Did NASCAR Get Enough Clicks?

Finally! The Car Number Placement debate is finally over.

For a considerable time now there was discussion about the possibility of the car number being moved from the door to an alternate location from the car door. There was FORE, just behind the front tire or AFT just in front of the rear tire.

We all got the preview of the AFT look at last year’s All-Star Race.

As with most things around this industry, the change was hardly unanimously received. Some people liked it. Others didn’t. Some are going to just wait and see. Many fans voiced their opinions and “voted” through their comments on social media. It wasn’t anything formal-just fans expressing their feelings through Clicks.

Then the resultant and somewhat amusing but highly predictable “fallout” ensued.

“I don’t like it.” Click. “Leave it alone.” Click. “If you change it, that’s it for me.” Click.

“I like it.” Click. “Why do you care?” Click. “If you don’t like it, just leave.” Click.

No debate. No discussion. No dialogue. Just Click. Click. Click. With one side saying “Stay off my NASCAR lawn (sport)!” while at the same time the other saying “Stay off my NASCAR lawn (social media)!”

Click. Click. Click, click, click, click click.

Along the way, the RTA commissioned a study on the subject to see how moving the number would impact sponsorship value. Not surprising, the current number position centered on the door offered the least value. That sealed the deal that a move was coming.

Click, click, click.

The three options were floated out again, this time with images so everyone could get a look at what was being considered-FORE vs AFT vs SAME.

Click, click, click.

Then earlier this month, we were teased that an announcement was coming soon. In it, even though NASCAR President Steve Phelps explained that no decision had been made, they still working with the manufacturers, still gathering data, still TBD, it wasn’t difficult to read between the lines (or look at the included images) in Matt Weaver’s August 2nd article to know which way this was going down. But what was being said was it still hadn’t been decided.

Click, click, click.

Bottom line, it won’t be long now and we’ll let you all know what 2022 will look like.

Click, click, click.

On Friday, 23XI Racing announced they signed Kurt Busch to drive their second car, the #45. In the background of the announcement video, what do we see? The mock-up of the new car Kurt will drive-a black Toyota with the Monster Energy paint scheme with the #45 in the FORE position.

Click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click.

This was followed by NASCAR releasing confirmation that for 2022 the Car Number will in fact be moved FORE just like in the 23XI Racing driver announcement. In the confirmation we finally learn the real reason behind the move. And it was RCR President Torrey Galida, not a NASCAR spokesperson who provided the main quote in the confirmation.

Click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click.

Did the 23XI Racing announcement force NASCAR’s confirmation?

Was it all coordinated between the two or just a coincidence?

It took time to design, prep and skin a car with that layout-so just when did 23XI Racing know that was NASCAR’s decision?

Did any other teams know?

Sponsorship partners are finalizing their 2022 budgets and all this factors into that. Plus the new designs have to be developed, approved and shipped off to the merch manufacturers, especially those making the die-casts. Did anybody tell them?

Why didn’t NASCAR make an announcement instead of leaving it up to 23XI Racing to indirectly make it and they just confirm that what they did is the way it’s going to be next season?

That’s a lot of questions. To date, I’ve not seen those questions asked much less answered. Betcha if Robin Miller was still with us and covering NASCAR they would have been asked by now. May not have an answer but the questions would have been asked.

Not that it really matters mind you. To use that infamous NASCAR quote, “It is what it is.” The issue is now finally settled no matter how it was arrived at or handled.

Click, click, click, click.

Well, not really. Since NASCAR’s confirmation there has been a steady stream of “victory” pictures of old, early day cars before NASCAR standardized Car Number Placement on the door posted on social media to keep things stirred and get the last remaining clicks out of the decided topic. You know, those pictures with numbers in the FORE position, a place where they haven’t been for well over half a century with the captions like, “See, NASCAR’s right. They’ve done it before-nothing new. Returning to its roots.”

Along with additional clicks, Fireball Roberts and Curtis Turner have enjoyed renewed exposure, so it’s not all bad.

Click, click, click, click.

And there will be the posting of real or anticipated designs which keeps the continuous scab picking to continue and the click count to grow as the pros and antis square off and duke it out.

So it’s over. Let the chips and clicks now fall where they may.

Over for now… until a few years from now when the RTA or NASCAR decides to go full Aussie SuperCars and move the Car Number to the rear side windows and open up the entire side of the car to (air quote) “maximize and enhance sponsorship activation”.

It’s only a matter of time. So enjoy FORE while it lasts.

So was there anything learned from the whole Car Number Placement escapade?

The car number move was necessary because of the design of the NEXT GEN

NEXT GEN has a shorter rear quarter panel than the current car. As a result, if the number placement remained on the door, there is less usable “real estate” for sponsorship placement. Less “real estate” means teams can’t charge sponsors as much for said placement. With the increased costs required by the shift to NEXT GEN, a cut in sponsorship dollars was out of the question. The solution-move the number forward to create the necessary sponsorship space and keep those dollars coming.

Bottom line-because of the change in the car, the car number placement had to change to maintain sponsorship value.

If only someone would have said that up front maybe a lot of this angst and divisiveness could have been avoided. But then again that would have brought more attention to NEXT GEN and we wouldn’t have the resultant click count, would we?

It was never about what the fans wanted

Y’all understand the fans’ desires about Car Number Placement was never the driving force behind this decision? Daytona Beach didn’t wake up one morning and say, “You know our fans have been clamoring to move the car numbers from the doors to a different location for years. Since there is such a fan groundswell, lets do a study, work with the teams and sponsors, add owners’ or sponsors’ costs to redesign schemes and see how that would make things better… for the fans.”

Nope. For this one we were along for the ride. Oh, there were surveys, polls, and other clickable what-nots presented along the way to make fans feel like they were a part and NASCAR was listening. Fans were thrown the obligatory “bones” to make us feel like we had a say in this. Truth was, if we liked it-Great! If we didn’t-Sorry. Better luck next time!

The driving force on this was the money. Money makes this sport go around and without sufficient amounts of it, the sport as we know it, doesn’t exist.

So any amount of fan “approval” along the way was just gravy. Fans who think their opposition was going to change this outcome or their support made this change happen, need to think again.

For the record I was in the no change camp. I was there because as stated before I’m not one for supporting tearing down fences until I know why the fence was put up to begin with. I wasn’t aware of the goal in the move. To me it appeared to be change for the sake of change without improvement. Change without improvement is not going to more this sport forward and I do want to see this sport move forward.

So, that’s OK. It really is. It’s not my duck and my choice didn’t give sponsors the maximum amount of exposure in a diminished real estate-which turns out was the goal. But, I’ve been following the sport for a long time and do have some understanding how things work. Decisions need to be made. Sometimes unpopular ones. I get that.

But as a fan, what I don’t appreciate are decisions being made for one reason and then being told it’s “what the fans want.” It’s not a good look. It’s really not. Just because you have lots of people saying it and repeating it loud and long, doesn’t make it so either.

Clicks Matter. More Clicks matter more

Let’s face it, money makes the world go round. In today’s world clicks equal money which means so much of what is done today is driven by clicks. It’s the one metric that seems to count anymore. The more clicks, good or bad, the better. I believe it is safe to say, this topic appears to have been milked for all its clickable worth. For over a year now it would bubble to the surface and then disappear, only to generate tons of clicks each time it appeared.

The NEXT GEN car has been under development for how many years now? We were supposed to be racing it this year but for the pandemic. Its rear quarter panels didn’t suddenly shrink this year to create this problem. The size issue has been known (or should have been known) since the beginning. Possible solutions soon followed. Yet, after a year or more it took a driver announcement to bring it to a head.

Intended or not, the fact still remains that changing the Car Number Placement was another divisive topic that was allowed to fester far too long. Those who are getting paid to care about this sport and where it is going didn’t appear to care about what was happening with those fans who cared enough to weigh in on one side or the other. From all appearances, the Car Number Placement move generated clicks and lots of them and in today’s world that seems to be all that really matters.

Time to move on to other issues, issues that truly affect the product. Issues that don’t get discussed because of these distracting topics that are keep the focus off the product. But those are for different discussion at a different time.

Finally

If this issue had of come up “back in the day” Friday’s events would have gone down a lot differently. Then NASCAR President Bill France Jr. would have called a press conference and issued a statement, not a confirmation. It would have said something like,

“Because of the switch to the NEXT GEN car for 2022 and its shorter rear quarter panels, it will be necessary to move the car numbers forward to maintain the amount of space sponsors currently have available on our cars. This is an adjustment we have to make in moving to the new car and to move the sport forward.”

Period. Paragraph. End of story.

There would have been a brief flurry of clicks but like it or not, it would be clear to everyone up front as to why it was done and why it was necessary. It would have been swift and decisive. A team getting “out in front” of the Sanctioning Body on an issue of this magnitude would have been dealt with privately, but in a way that would make “getting called to the NASCAR hauler” look like a love-fest in comparison.

Ownership of the decision would be solidly assigned to where it belongs. No collaboration groups, councils, studies or associations to share in the “responsibility” ahem “blame”. It wouldn’t have been confirmation that a decision had been made but it would have been the decision straight from the decider’s mouth.

That requires no confirmation.

Like it or not, it would have been the Sanctioning Body leading the way, not an upstart team with the Sanctioning Body tagging along for the reluctant ride.

Unfortunately, Bill Jr.’s approach wouldn’t drag on far beyond where it needed to nor generate the voluminous number of clicks that this current adventure has collected.

Such is the price for decisive leadership.

Thunder On… and Stay Safe!

David Nance

6 comments

  1. Great analysis, David. It leads to one of the fundamental changes that have moved geezers like me away from NASCAR racing. We loved it when it was a sport, not part of a business plan.

  2. You said it well, David, and I think you hit several nails right on the head. Speaking of Robin Miller, didn’t he at one time say Toyota would ruin NASCAR? As in the announcing of races, Toyota has taken control of a lot of the decisions being made these days. So, the announcement coming that way is no surprise. If the wrap and sponsor ads are placed well and the size is good, it may look well with the number in the fore position. Click, click, click…sometimes the click bait is all that is important to some. Just click here for the real story, click, click, etc, etc…or click here for how fans really feel…more clicks.
    Thank you for the in depth thoughts and research on this one!

    1. Thanks Vivian.

      It just get tiresome being used and it seems like a lot of what happens anymore fits in that category.

      As far as Toyota ruining things I don’t remember that one but there a pictures floating around today of the winners left front wheel that looks like has a lug nut missing but post race inspection said all was well. The 18s antics were not dealt with promptly even though he almost ran over people getting back to his hauler.

      I guess it all makes sense somewhere.

      Thanks and have a good one!

      It doesn’t need to be this hard.

  3. Dang! You’re long winded.

    By the way, starting with Lee Petty NASCAR became a business by which owners could afford to go racing and support their family.

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