Loud Music is a $40 Fine

Just my personal blog.

January 4, 2007

If I Ruled NASCAR, Seven Years Later

Below the fold is the second column I wrote after I created Racindeals.com (sadly, the current version of the site doesn’t go back that far (to 9/3/1999)). The gist of the article (and the whole reason I created Racindeals.com) was to get off my chest things that, as a race fan, I felt NASCAR needed to do to make the sport better.

NASCAR® for the most part works pretty well. But like every big organization, it could use some tweaks here and there. For what it’s worth, if I were Glen France instead of Glen Harness, and poppa Bill Jr. left it all to me, here’s what I’d change, at least from a racing standpoint:

  • The fans would be guaranteed at least a green/white/checkers finish in all NASCAR® touring divisions. The fans deserve to see a race won under competitive conditions, not caution conditions.
  • I would put a limit on Winston Cup drivers racing in lower divisions. Probably something like the fastest five full-time (top twenty-five in points) Cup drivers would make the show, and all others would go to the Busch or Craftsman Truck Series drivers attempting to make it. A driver can’t develop if he’s not racing, and the big guns coming down and taking 15 or 20 spots from the development series isn’t good for the future of the sport.
  • The only changes I’d make to the points system would be to award 5 points for the pole, and remove the bonus for leading a lap. Staying out and leading under caution or letting your teammate pass you for one lap defeats the purpose of paying points to lead laps..
  • Memo to Bristol and Darlington: we won’t be returning to tracks that have front and back pits in 2001. Fix it or loose your dates.
  • Memo to Bruton: we won’t be taking up a race weekend with The Winston. If you want to run it next year, run it in prime time on a week night.
  • Memo to all promoters: We live in the United States of America. We don’t use the metric system. No more races in kilometers.
  • Speedweeks would turn into Speedweek. We’ll move the Daytona 500 up a weekend and qualify on Monday and Tuesday, run the Shootout on Wednesday and the Twin 125’s on Friday.
  • The night races will be moved to Sunday nights from Saturday nights. We can’t afford to compete with our Winston Racing Series tracks who are responsible for grooming future generations of NASCAR® Touring Series drivers.
  • Memo to new track builders: over the next two or three years, new tracks that get Winston Cup races to will be tracks under one mile in length. Build a superspeedway at your own risk. And when we do start granting races to superspeedways, they’ll have to be unique. If it looks like a track we already run on, thanks, but no thanks.
  • We’ll start the fastest 42 cars (or trucks) plus one past champion’s provisional.
  • Call Lloyd’s of London. I’m sure they have an insurance broker (or two) over there who’d be willing to insure Talladega and Daytona so that we could do away with those restrictor plates. I’d also reinforce the safety fences at those two tracks just in case.
  • No more qualifying engines. You run what you qualified with.
  • There would be a true two-team limit per owner that would be enforced.

I think with the changes I’ve outlined above, the Winston Cup Series and the other touring series would be better than they are today.

Looking back on it after 7 plus years, it’s kind of interesting to see where NASCAR is today.

  • NASCAR implemented the first item on my list a couple of years ago. Good on them.
  • The second item still hasn’t been dealt with. And with a full-time Cup driver winning the Busch championship next year, it’s only going to get worse. When I stopped interrupting my weekends to watch NASCAR racing on Sunday, I still tried to watch as many Busch races as possible. The last couple of years, I stopped even that, because it was like watching Michael Jordan play basketball against a team of dwarfs.
  • NASCAR kind of addressed the points issue when they implemented the Chase format. I see from Jayski’s site that this coming season they’re going to award more points to race winners and have more people in the Chase. People have been screaming for years that the winner of a race should be given more points. Baloney. Who should be the champion, a fellow with 15 wins and 15 last place finishes or a fellow with 5 wins and 25 second place finishes?
  • Both Bristol and Darlington have fixed their pit road deficiencies.
  • The Winston (or whatever they call it now) still takes up it’s own race weekend, robbing the teams of a badly needed weekend off.
  • I’m pretty sure that all race distances now are shown in laps or miles.
  • Speedweeks still seems to take three months.
  • NASCAR has more races on Saturday night. That’s part of the reason weekly racing is suffering.
  • The new tracks that have come online since I wrote my original article are over 1 mile in length. Boring.
  • And again, NASCAR sort of addressed the provisional issue when they went to a 35-car provisional format instead of a 1-car provisional format. I think that’s a step backwards.
  • 200 mph is still a no-no at NASCAR tracks. So, the restrictor plates are seemingly here to stay. NASCAR had the solution with the aero package they ran in 2000, but caved to the drivers when they did away with it.
  • With the “impound” races, NASCAR addressed the growth in special engines just for qualifying. Now they need to make every race an “impound” race.
  • And finally, NASCAR has implemented a limit on the number of teams an owner can have; but to four instead of two. And if I understand correctly, they’ve grandfathered in Roush and Hendricks, so the rule is pretty much moot.

So, is NASCAR better after these changes? I’d say no. Look at how the TV ratings consistently have dropped over the last few years. NASCAR picked up a LOT of viewers after Dale Earnhardt died. But it couldn’t keep their interest. NASCAR is getting new fans all the time, and losing old fans; fans that have been with the sport decades.

It’s time they got back to being a sanctioning body, instead of a marketing company.

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