NASCAR Big Dogs: Lapping Up the Short Tracks

Angela WolfContributor IApril 8, 2009

BRISTOL, TN - MARCH 22:  A general view of the track during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 22, 2009 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Staying on the lead lap on NASCAR short tracks is almost impossible. You can't have the slightest thing go wrong, much less a caution for debris, or it will ruin your day at tracks like Bristol and Martinsville. 

Other tracks, like Phoenix International Raceway, feel like a short track to most drivers and have the same out come—leaving sometimes only 10 drivers on the lead lap in the end.

For the fans, and some of the drivers, it a can make it very interesting and exciting. For others, it can make it very frustrating.

Going a lap down doesn't just happen to rookie drivers, but some of the top drivers in NASCAR. The beating and banging in the past is now considered "rough driving" more and more by officials. If a driver gets a penalty at a short track, their day is done.

For a driver on the lead lap, there have been many choice words for those one, two or more laps down, with the main one being: "get the hell out of my way."

Can you blame these guys though? The lapped car drivers are thinking only one thing: I'll do what ever it takes to get my lap back.

In the end, there are just those tracks that if you are two laps down, the race is pretty much over for that driver and he will not be able to advance because there are just so many cars one lap down in front of you. It can be done, as Tony Stewart did this year, but he was one of a very few that could.

When I say the race is over, it's not only over for the driver, but the sponsors and some of the fans that come to support their favorite driver. Notice how little they talk about anyone who is one to two laps down.

A race starts out with 43 drivers, most struggling to get sponsors. In the end at short tracks, there will be only a few that get the recognition they deserve throughout the race. That's how it's been and how it remains.

Short tracks are exciting, there is no doubt about that, but should there be a change in short track rules to allow more drivers the opportunity to get their lap back?

Would this make it more exciting having more drivers on the lead lap battling it out instead of three-fourths of the field having to settle with no possible chance of ever making it back to the top 10—even with 200 laps to go.

Would NASCAR consider not only giving the first car a lap down, his lap back, but also the first car two laps down their lap back?

NASCAR has special rules for Daytona and Talladega, so why not short tracks?

Some say that the reason they are lapped is generally because they deserve it and it's no ones fault but theirs.

Not when yellow cautions flags are thrown for debris.

There are other reasons that are just not the fault of some drivers when this happens.

It appears that less cautions are out there these years, possibly because of the new car and its ability to withstand more damage than before. In reality though, tracks like Bristol and Martinsville have had this outcome for many, many years.

Phoenix International Raceway is technically not a short track. It is compared to a short track by many drivers.

This one-mile track had left only 10 cars on the lead lap last year. Should we expect this same outcome this year? I wouln't bet against it.

Does this bother NASCAR fans? 

That is why I'm writing this article. I would love your input. When Dale Earnhardt Jr. is two laps down and has no way or no time to get those laps back, some of the fans will leave the race.

I've witnessed this first hand.

How do you feel the sponsors react to this when they no longer see the car they sponsor on TV because they really only follow those remaining 11 on the lead lap?

Is this "just racing" or is it time to make a change. Maybe it's the way they are broadcasting?

The Phoenix race is coming up real soon and I love that track. I would just hate it if the driver I follow ends up in this situation.

If it's anything like last year, in the end the majority of the drivers will be looking from the outside in, wishing they were those fortunate few. They may have 150 laps left to think about this.

When the Chase begins, those looking in and those a lap or more down in those final races are just suppose to get out of the way because God forbid you get in front of a Chaser and hold them up. 

The announcers will eat you alive if you wreck a Chaser!

My driver I follow has not had the privilege of being a Chaser...Would I feel different?


I'll let you know when or if it happens. In the mean time let me know how you feel.