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Monday, May 7, 2012

Is NASCAR trying to commit suicide?

Talladega Racing not up to snuff!
I've been searching my soul, trying to figure out why I was so annoyed during Sunday's NASCAR race at Talladega.

Talladega has always been one of my favorite tracks, and not in anticipation of the 'big one' either. The racing was always exciting. Not this time! 

At first I thought I was just upset because Ryan Newman had engine troubles early on. Being a die hard Newman fan, my first inclination was to simply believe that Newman's absence on the giant oval was what bugged me. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that was only part of it. 

What was really responsible for wrecking (no pun intended) the racing at Talladega was NASCAR. 

I may be in the minority, but I rather enjoyed tandem racing. It was exciting, frenzied. I watched some of the best drivers in the world, knowing there was no way I could ever do that. I always listen to the race scanner to supplement what I don't see on television. So much more goes on--than ever gets shown on the broadcast. And then there are the numerous commercial breaks. The scanner is almost mandatory to follow racing. I love Race Buddy, but why provide something for free when there is money to be made. I'm sure getting us hooked on Race Buddy was just a teaser to entice us to buy NASCAR's Trackview. Don't they make enough money? 

The need for a scanner is especially true for people like me--Newman fans. Fans of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. could just listen to the commentators who seem to fall all over themselves to talk about Junior's progress on the track, even if he's a lap down. Don't they see that kind of bias isn't fair to anyone; but it is especially unfair to Earnhardt. It puts undue pressure on him to perform, which in turn makes it more difficult to perform. 

Tandem racing still exists, no thanks to NASCAR. Their first effort to quash it was to end the communication among the drivers. Why in the name of safety did NASCAR do that? It seems that no matter what, drivers are going to pair up. It is just safer for them if they can talk to one another. Having to use hand signals isn't optimum at 200 mph. Besides, what is the point when drivers can still hook up through their crew chiefs and spotters? When you come right down to it, the same situation exists, but through a third party. Doesn't that compromise safety to add another voice to the mix? 

Tandem racing to me, was the innovation drivers came up with--to speed around the track as fast as possible, to get to the finish line first, which is their job. They do everything they can do to increase their speed around the track, which is probably an unconscious effort to bypass NASCAR's initial Talladega change, the restrictor plate.

Possibly the worst offense was altering the allowable size to the opening on the radiator, restricting the amount of air that gets to cool the engine, already running hot because of the weather and the other changes NASCAR has implemented. Drivers should watch the race track, not their own gauges. 

NASCAR's continual interference results in new rules, changes in existing rules, and policy alterations, all in its effort to control the racing. Why don't they let the drivers control the racing? I bet drivers have very little say if any. 

Debris cautions, competition cautions; scoring loops; start boxes; too fast entering, and exiting; changes in equipment between practice and qualifying, and the latest, a less than perfect restart; commentators have to explain what is going on. Funny, there are times even they don't understand it. 

Remember the boys have it it, and then secret fines when they did? NASCAR seems to be all about rules, infractions, last-minute changes, and so many other things that contribute to changing the face of racing. It has gotten to the point that what occurs on Sunday afternoon is barely recognizable as racing anymore. If I am frustrated, I can only imagine how the drivers feel. But then, they are compensated handsomely to ignore their aggravations. My only recourse is to find something else to do on Sunday afternoon. 

Today, racing is more about strategy, engineering cars that are all the same without getting caught, perfect pit stops, pleasing sponsors, fuel mileage, making favorite drivers look good, and on, and on, and on. How is this racing? 

I've talked to other people--NASCAR fans from back in the day--who tell me they haven't watched a race in years because of how annoying it has become. Commercials are broadcast almost continually--even during green flag racing. How many time have incidents on the track had to be explained through replays because they occurred during a commercial break?

NASCAR is all about the money--we know that. But stop shoving it in our faces and down our throats. Isn't it enough that the cars and drivers 'wear' commercials on their bodies? Do we really have to watch Michael Waltrip shake his butt in the NAPA commercial over and over again during the course of a race. I assure you, once would suffice.

If NASCAR wonders why the stands aren't always full and television ratings aren't what they would like them to be, perhaps the best solution for NASCAR would be to take a hands off approach. Otherwise, NASCAR might have to list itself on its own cause of death.