User-agent: * Allow: / CH on Track: November 2012


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Add interest in NASCAR; drop the Chase

nascar (Photo credit: rogerblake2)
I dislike NASCAR's Chase for the Championship. I'll tell you why!

First off, NASCAR isn't like football. I'm not sure it needs a Super Bowl.

While it may very well be a team sport, few fans see it that way. NASCAR fans focus on their favorite drivers--period.

So, when only 12 of them matter, which is what happens during the final 10 races of the season--the Chase for the Championship--that leaves 31 other drivers and their fan base out in the cold.

With the number of empty seats at races, it seems that NASCAR can ill afford preferential treatment of just a few drivers. With all the changes that have come to NASCAR in the past several years, mostly due to the leveling of competitiveness through NASCAR-imposed rules both in the car and the teams, the sport is seeming losing fans around every turn. I would think the last thing NASCAR would want to do is whittle away at its shrinking audience. Yet that is exactly what the Chase does.

While some small changes have been made in order to appease fans, most of NASCAR's changes are profit-driven. From a fan's perspective, one step forward is taken, but always followed by ten steps back. NASCAR's quest for every dollar they can get their hands on has made them far less appealing to so many.

Focus on the drivers

Let's face it; if my driver isn't in the Chase, he is far from Sunday's spotlight. That isn't fair to the sport, the drivers, or the fans of the 31 other drivers.

Because fans of the sport are focused on their favorite drivers, those whose drivers are not among the 'elite', may not bother to watch or attend the last ten races, especially if one or two drivers have dominated the season and the final ten races. By dominating, I don't mean winning. While the current points structure finally rewards race winners, it still isn't an assurance that the winning-est driver will become the champion. A consistent driver may trump a winning driver in the battle for the best. That leaves a bad taste in the mouths of fans who expect the best to be the winning-est as well.

Yet, if the same driver wins consistently, the sport becomes too predictable, and loses its appeal. Now last year, when Tony Stewart came from behind to win five out of the last ten races--that was one to watch.

Certain race tracks

Oh, there will always be certain tracks that promise excitement. Talladega and Daytona are always unpredictable, which makes them exciting. The short tracks, with their beatin' an bangin' are a real draw. Road courses are fun to watch too, as somewhat of a novelty. The key to a good race is its unpredictable nature. NASCAR had done everything in its power, to make racing predictable. But let's face it, watching a bunch of drivers turning left has little appeal to anyone. It is also pretty boring when a driver obviously and knowingly, lays back to wait for the last 100 laps.

Favorite driver

Let's face it--if my favorite driver is virtually ignored during the pre-race shows which focuses on the top drivers, why should I watch the last ten races? If my favorite driver is never shown on TV, cameras rarely follow him on the track, none of the commentators talk about him, or he is never interviewed, what is my incentive to watch? I don't particularly like Jimmy Johnson. I've seen him win often. One time is just like the next. I am not a Dale, Jr. fan and frankly am sick of hearing NASCAR and its favorite commentators gush over him. I'm embarrassed for him.

Competition is the draw

Actually, the best part of the season occurred, not in the top one or two spots, but just beyond the top 10. That momentum and the excitement it provided, died when the chase began.

When Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch, Paul Menard, Kasey Kahne, and others fought hard for the wildcard spot in the Chase, that was exciting. All the fans for all of those drivers bit fingernails, as they watched points add up with each car their favorite driver passed on the track.

Eliminate the Chase

For me and the millions like me whose drivers suddenly become irrelevant after September at Richmond, the season is over anyway. During the regular season, I make time to watch practices and qualifying. I usually catch most of the pre-race shows and of course the race. I'd love to see that excitement last until Homestead in November. I believe that fight for points should last for the entire season.

What would be wrong with continuing the regular season to Homestead?

Or, if a championship run has to take place, why not one final race with just the top 12 drivers. One final race with only 12 drivers would be a winner takes all. Changes such as these might make for a more interesting, dynamic experience for race fans. Perhaps they would come back to watch again.

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Caution: NASCAR inconsistent

Racing flags
Racing flags
(Photo credit: pixeldrawer)
NASCAR is good about making up its own rules, but consistency seems to elude them.

Every time we turn around, NASCAR makes up another rule. Yet, rarely does it abide by its own rules in a consistent manner. Whether it is imposing fines and penalties, showing bias for and/or against certain drivers and teams, or imposing guidelines on the sport itself, NASCAR's actions are all over the map.

Apparently when to throw a caution flag is the latest NASCAR controversy. This is hardly the first time.

At Sunday's Phoenix race Kyle Petty was correct when he said NASCAR missed two cautions. The first time they should have waved the yellow flag was after Clint Bowyer hit Jeff Burton the first time. Gordon scraped the wall. Parts were visibly flying off his car, leaving debris on the track. Had NASCAR erred on the side of caution, the melee between him and Bowyer would likely not have even occurred.

The second appropriate place for a caution was, of course on the final lap. For this one, they are taking some heat. I have yet to hear NASCAR admit that a mistake was made, although, I've read that the sanctioning body has acknowledged an error.

During the final laps of Sunday's race, Jeff Burton hit Danica Patrick, sending her into the wall. There should have been a caution, but NASCAR let the race continue despite Patrick's injured race car still sitting sideways on the race track. The damage put down a slippery oil slick, which was hit by several drivers, including Ryan Newman whose car went spinning, getting struck three separate times, at least. Patrick was hit again lifting her race car's rear end off the track. Mark Martin, Paul Menard, and Brad Kezelowski were also involved in the ensuing wreck.

There is no excuse for NASCAR not calling a caution in either instance, especially when in contrast, it is quick to call a caution for a tiny piece of debris that may or may not be visible to the naked eye.

When there is an incident on the track, often times, NASCAR will wait to see if a car can limp its way to the pit lane. If it can't a caution will be called, but not always. Why make that a judgement call? Want a rule; how about a caution flag being flown the moment there is an accident on the track?

This incident is just one more reason fans are sick of NASCAR and its inconsistent rules and ever-changing policies. These guys have more mandates than congress. Very little of what goes on in race tracks all across the country on Sundays resembles real racing. The competition has been bastardized by a hand. I cannot imagine the drivers are happy with the situation either. NASCAR really ought to figure out how to get along with the fans it aims to please, and the professional race car drivers it depends upon before it finds itself having a going out of business sale.

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