The 2009-2010 offseason will be remembered for a lot of things. NASCAR is finally listening to the fans!!! However, one of the most important moves in NASCAR history is when John Darby steps down as Competition Director.
If we look back at what John Darby has done as Competition Director there are some good things and some bad things that Darby did that will live in NASCAR history forever.
Darby took over for Gary Nelson in 2002, after three successful years in the NASCAR Busch Series. It’s hard to tell whether Darby’s reign was good or bad for NASCAR. So let’s explore it.
Some of the good things Darby has done is he has cut down on the cheating. Since he began his reign NASCAR went from a sport where teams could push the envelope and get away with it. Darby put his foot down and became as strict as possible about it. He created a system where teams weren’t just fined money, but also points. He began to suspend crew chiefs and suspend car chiefs, and has made the sport run by the rule book for the first time.
He also has helped NASCAR in the safety aspect. He has helped create SAFER Barriers (Steal And Foam Energy Resistant Barriers) that now circle every race track in NASCAR and helped put into play the Car of Tomorrow which again is viewed as one of NASCAR’s safest racecars.
Darby also created a rule where no owner could expand past four teams in NASCAR. Each team has to had to be trimmed to four or less teams as NASCAR didn't want the sport to be run by three or four owners. To bad for Darby, he may have been a little late, but that's not his fault.
With those things Darby, like every other leader of a sport, has had some head scratching moves.
Under Darby’s watch one of NASCAR’s historic events, the Southern 500 on Labor Day weekend was moved in favor of California Speedway in what I believe was a strictly political move. One of NASCAR’s best tracks Rockingham, is gone as NASCAR has moved to a more of a mile and a half sport instead of a sport with short tracks.
Under Darby’s watch Toyota made its way into NASCAR. Some of NASCAR’s oldest and loyalist fans could not bear with the fact of a foreign automaker in NASCAR.
Darby's creation of the top 35 rule is something that will also live on. Many fans dislike the top 35 others like it, but this will be an interesting rule to keep an eye out for as Darby is stepping down.
When the news of the COT getting a spoiler came out many NASCAR fans said “there must be a change at the top of NASCAR.” That was said because NASCAR was finally listening, something that hasn’t happened in a while. Then came the announcement of him stepping down and I began to wonder.
Is it just a coincidence that he is stepping down as NASCAR is beginning to listen to the fans? Maybe. But as news has come out today that NASCAR has listed a list of banned substances, it makes me wonder if that is another sign of Darby stepping down.
John Darby was very set in his ways and I think he believed in what he believed and didn’t want outside influence. That is good to an extent but we’ll see how 2010 runs and that will tell us just how good Darby was as Competition Director.
Like any commissioner Darby had his ups and downs. I think we will feel the affect of Darby leaving immediately. I think we are already beginning to see that.