The Case for Returning NASCAR to Its Good Old Days

Michael Guadalupe@The_GuadaFeatured ColumnistNovember 8, 2012

NASCAR over the recent years has strayed away from what made it such a popular sport.

What happen to the days of old, where a driver like Bobby Allison and his bother Donny, built their own cars and took them down to the track and raced against the biggest names in NASCAR, and managed to win?

NASCAR needs to return to the good old days.  Of course, technology-wise going backwards would be a mistake, but there are other issues with NASCAR where the sport needs to take a step back.

Sponsorship seems to rule the land now in NASCAR, and if a driver can't deliver, teams risk losing major sponsorship.  It's became such a big part of NASCAR now that sponsors seem to dictate the direction of the sport.

Even the Chase itself has major flaws.  Just look at this year alone.  Kyle Busch didn't make the Chase, but he has been running extremely well at the end of the season.  The Chase though, is preventing Busch from moving up past 13th place.

Racing this season has been lackluster, with only a handful of races actually turning out to be exciting.  Drivers don’t want to race hard, and would rather preserve their cars instead of trying to push for the win.  Sure, Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson are pushing hard to win now that the season is almost over, but throughout the NASCAR season most of the races have been boring and uninteresting.

NASCAR needs to return to the good old days, before stock car racing starts to lose its audience.


Goodbye Underdog

NASCAR used to be a sport where the underdogs had a chance to shine.  Underdogs like Bobby and Donny Allison built their own cars, and raced them against some of the biggest teams in NASCAR. 

They managed to beat them all.

Bobby and Donny were real underdogs, but wouldn't be the last.  Alan Kulwicki was another, more recent underdog who, with a lack of sponsorship that big teams had, managed to win the NASCAR championship in 1992.

NASCAR, though, has changed since those years, and there are no more underdogs.  It's dominated by several big teams, like Hendrick Motorsports and Roush-Fenway Racing.  No longer can someone get enough money together to build a car, enter NASCAR, and actually stand a chance against the bigger companies.

Kurt Busch for example, moved to a smaller, self-funded team and did nothing the entire year.  Busch is a proven champion, but even he couldn't compete against the bigger teams that dominate NASCAR.

The smaller teams in NASCAR have no chance to successfully compete against teams like Hendrick Motorsports. 

Sure, sometimes the lesser known teams win a race, like last season when Regan Smith won at Darlington for Furniture Row, but it's something rare in the sport now.

Bigger teams also dominate the field with the amount of drivers they have.  How can a small team, with only one driver, compete against these groups who field three to four drivers?

Underdogs had a fighting chance in the good old days.

Now, NASCAR is dominated by the bigger teams.


Sponsorship is Out of Control

Of course NASCAR needs sponsorship to keep the sport going.

But when will sponsorship be too much?

NASCAR seems like it's run by sponsorship.  From the tons of commercials televised on TNT, to the teams in the sport itself, sponsorship rules the land. 

And it's having a negative effect.

Sure, sponsors were around in NASCAR since the beginning, but it's reached a new level over the recent years.  Good drivers will never get to prove just how good they are because they, or their team, can't get enough sponsors to fund them.

They can't get the money for better equipment, and won’t be able to compete on an even ground in NASCAR.  Yes, sponsorship is extremely important, but if you don't get a big name sponsor, you have almost no chance of competing in NASCAR, let alone the Sprint Cup Series.

Sponsorship is out of control.

It's become more of a question of what type of sponsorship can a driver bring to a team, over how good a driver actually is.

David Regan saw the ill effects of sponsorship last season as he was cut from Roush-Fenway racing because UPS was dropping out of being a big sponsor.  Regan was impressive last season, but clearly not good enough for UPS to want to continue sponsoring the No. 6 car.

Sponsorship has always been important in NASCAR, but now it's out of control.


The Chase and Racing Hard

While some NASCAR fans might like the Chase, NASCAR's idea of the playoffs isn't working.

When a sport like NASCAR is all about winning, and there really can be only one winner each week, how then, is it acceptable for drivers to enter the Chase and not win a race?

Since winning clearly isn't the main way to get into the Chase, why bother trying to win races throughout the year, if a driver can settle for top 10s and still make the Chase?

The points system gets reset at the start of the Chase, and while the amount of wins a driver had entering the season adds a couple extra points to his Chase points total, drivers could lose any advantage they had with a poor finish in the first Chase race. 

And what about the drivers sitting just outside the Chase?

Why should they bother to race for the win, when the highest position they can finish is 13th?

Throughout NASCAR's history there have been years where a driver dominated from the start, and was too far ahead in points for anyone else to catch up to him.

If a driver can be that dominate, though, he should be allowed to run away with the championship.

The Chase gives no real reason for drivers outside the top 12 to compete for the win.  Of course a driver should always want to win a race, but knowing he won't move up in the standings past 13th place isn't exactly a way to motivate him to race hard.

Because the points system gets reset toward the end of the season, drivers have no reason to race hard.  Settling for top fives and 10s is enough to get a driver (Kevin Harvick this season) into the Chase. 

Winning is the most important thing, and if a driver sitting in 13th place can come alive at the end of the season and win a bunch of races, he should be allowed to move up the standings.

NASCAR needs to do away with the Chase, and go back to the points system of the good old days.


In The End

NASCAR needs to move forward, but also needs to hold onto what made the sport so interesting in the first place. 

Technology has advanced, which is a positive, especially for driver safety. Other parts of NASCAR, though, need to take a step back and return to how it was in the older days of NASCAR.

A lot of racing this year has been about drivers holding back to preserve their cars, and then pushing forward to try and finish in the top 10.  It's made for some boring racing, and a real lack of excitement.  Wrecks don't always need to happen for a race to be exciting, as we saw at Texas last week.

With things like the Chase, and sponsorship playing a huge role in the championship, the whole regular season of NASCAR seems pointless until drivers start to really push to enter the Chase.

Even when the Chase begins, drivers outside the top 12 have no real reason to push forward during a race and try to win.

In the end, NASCAR needs to go back to the good old days with some of sports ideology and make stock car racing exciting once again.


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