After so many years, and even at times this season, being unable to pull myself away from a NASCAR Race just to get some chores done, there I was last night trying to force myself to watch it to the end.
This problem is not the result of my driver not finishing well, or the racing being any worse than it has been in the last few years, and certainly not because I necessarily wanted to do make such a large dent in my “honey-do” list. No this time it was just because I was tired to watching it.
My declining interest closely parallels so many others who once held strong interest in this sport. Most notably my younger brother, who just as I had for many years, tried to live and breath the sport of auto racing for 52 weeks a year, regardless of how many weeks they actually raced.
Enter Brian France. Rest in peace Bill France, Jr., your presence kept this sport going.
Last night as the laps wound down, I thought back to the excitement of Friday and Saturday night.
Johnny Benson and Ron Hornaday entered the race Friday night three points apart. They didn’t need the Chase, they didn’t need to balance out the top 12 in points with 10 races to go.
With nine laps to go, Hornaday chose to pit under caution, which ended up costing him the Championship. Johnny Benson stayed out under said caution, and wound up winning the Championship by finishing two positions ahead of Hornaday on the track.
My wife sat alongside me watching this, she rarely gets excited about anything outside of Kevin Harvick’s level of success, but this night she mentioned how fast her heart was beating while she wondered if Ron could pull it off.
Excellent Championship Battle without a ‘Playoff’!
Move ahead to Saturday night. Carl Edwards trailed Clint Bowyer by a mere 56 points going into the final race of the season. Clint had a good car, but Carl’s car was dominant and won the race. The final points tally gave Clint the Championship by a meager 21 points. Had Clint Bowyer failed to finish in the top 11 for this race, and Edwards still managed to win, we would have seen Edwards hoist the cup following the race.
Again, Excellent Championship Battle without a ‘Playoff’!
Move ahead to Sunday night. Johnson needs to finish 36th or better to wrap up the Championship. After 36 races, 26 regular season races and a 10 playoff races, he only needs to finish 36th or better.
The 10 race playoff which was implemented by Brian France provided additional excitement for the first couple of years, but it is time for it to go now.
Have any of you checked the old point’s systems final standings?? The initial response from most when asked garners the response that Kyle Busch would have walked away with it…but if you look you will see Busch’s late season misfortune dropped him to third in the old points.
The interesting stat to look at, in the old point’s format, is that Carl Edwards would have won the Championship by 16, yes 16 points. In other words, we would have had a scenario similar to the Trucks for the Sprint Cup.
Jimmie Johnson would have had to fight tooth and nail for two or three more positions to secure another Championship.
That sounds quite familiar though. I seem to remember a few other Championships that would have been very close in the years past without the Chase, and would have produced a different victor when the curtains were closed.
I want to say that I feel NASCAR is broken. The season is too long, the points system that made the title so special has been taken away. The people and tracks that made it famous have been shunned for larger markets that struggle once the new wears off. The desire for a France/ISC bound dollar has replaced the desire for good racing on the track.
Even the Bud Shootout will become a joke after February 2009, as the field is set by the manufacturers standings, I can’t wait until Dodge merges with Chevy, then we have a 18 car field for the shootout!
My suggestions for Brian France…
1. Sell NASCAR to Bruton Smith. In all of his endeavors, Bruton appears to make his holdings better. He is a racer at heart, and he has the right people in the right places to make NASCAR what it needs to be to step into the future.
2. Visit a local dirt track from time to time. The racing that occurs there is where this ship you are steering was born from. You can’t run this like an ordinary business, because it is anything but an ordinary business.
You want to see a good example of this in action? Look at Dale Earnhardt Incorporated. Teresa thought she could run it like a business, hired a record executive to help her run her ‘business’, now she is struggling mightily. NASCAR looks to hold the same eventual fate, if you don’t change something soon.
3. Shorten the season to 32 races. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. made a great point when he spoke about the season being too long, it absolutely is. To make it easier I will suggest tracks to shuffle and improve the season: Pocono, California, Michigan, Atlanta, Phoenix and Texas each lose one race. Give one to Kentucky and give one back to Rockingham. Which contributes to No.4.
4. Don’t use test cuts as a cost saving measure when teams have to pull cars from North Carolina to the west half of the country 6 times a year. They have to pay for hotel rooms from Thursday night to Saturday night for a race schedule painfully spread over most of a week. Which contributes to #5.
5. Single day shows worked great for the Nationwide Series this year. Let the Sprint Cup teams qualify and race all on the same day. Since they don’t have testing next year, let them test the day before as much as the competing races allows, then let them run on Sunday. You would cut down a lot of the personnel expenses right away.
6. The Chase sucks, let it go; chalk it up to experience. A points system that works fine for over 25 years doesn’t need to change just because Matt Kenseth wins a Championship using consistency. See comments above, Carl would have won this year by 16 points, rather than losing by 69.
7. Lower the ticket prices for every track! Mandate lower ticket prices for all NASCAR sanctioned tracks. Sprint is forking over mega bucks. Every aspect of a race, from the rubber that hits the track, to the shirts that some commentators wear is all sponsored.
When we fans go to a track we are bombarded with sponsor booths and opportunities to see new products. In turn we have always gone out and purchased the goods from NASCAR sponsors. Many times I have picked over a competing brand for a Budweiser due to their former heavier involvement with NASCAR. I have Hellman’s mayonnaise for my sandwiches, Ragu for my spaghetti… the instances are too numerous to get into here.
My point is, you provide us an alternative to the stick and ball sports, and we reward you with our support in our purchases at the store. Resulting in more sponsors for you; more sponsors for the race teams racing for you.
It would sure be refreshing if we, your fans, could go to a race for less that $50 a ticket. For a good seat to some races, it is well over $100.
Give us a break. If you want to sell tracks out like in the old days, lower ticket prices to where demand supports it.
Simple economics…which is better 25,000 seats at $100, or 100,000 at $50?? Do the math!
8. Finally, and most importantly, remember us old school diehard fans. We made NASCAR famous before the tragic events of February 2001. We made you famous before the major US markets became targets for new race tracks. We made you famous when nobody had ever heard of NASCAR, or thought watching 43 cars going in circles was cool. We did this for you.
As hard as it might be for you to believe, we are the core fan base that have kept this sport going this long, and we will be the reason it goes a few more years.
That being said, our feelings have been hurt. We have been pushed aside for what looked like greener pastures elsewhere. You took out the Rock, you took away our prized Labor Day trip to Darlington. You took our beloved sport and struck a series of mighty uppercuts with new sponsors and new cars and rules and rulings against emotion and rough driving. Your greed and blind ambition has managed to push us away for too many years now.
How long will we let you do it before we say enough is enough? Do you at NASCAR really want to find out?? Keep pushing.
After so many years of being a NASCAR fan, I can see my interest dwindle earlier and earlier every year. This year I lost interest early in the season for the Sprint Cup, but the Nationwide and Truck Series’ kept me watching to the end.
I fear my growing distaste for the new NASCAR will further impair my affection for their top series.
How long before NASCAR falls along the same lines of its failed predecessors?
I will quit typing now, with hopes someone who reads this will talk to me.
Help me cope with my concerns…let’s talk about what it was, and what we would like it to be.