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Phoenix event makes the case for shorter races

By admin | April 11, 2010

By Richard Allen

A while back I wrote a piece in which I stated my belief that most NASCAR Sprint Cup races are too long. Three or four 500-600 mile races are enough. Daytona, Darlington and Charlotte are really the only tracks that should race to that kind of distance.

It is my firm belief that shorter races would promote better racing throughout the entire event. As it is now with so many long races, there is invariably a long middle stretch of 150-200 miles in which drivers are simply riding and waiting for that inevitable late race caution and short dash to the finish.

In these difficult economic times, shorter race distances would help teams by reducing tire expenses and the cost of worn equipment.

The Subway Fresh Fit 600 on Saturday night at the Phoenix International Raceway did much to make my case for cutting the length of races. Because of the new start times instituted by NASCAR during this past off season, this race had an extra 63 laps added to it so as to assure a night time ending. It was called a ‘600’ because the distance translated to that number of kilometers. Actually, the race was meant to run to a distance of 375 laps on the one mile track.

It was pretty apparent that the addition contributed nothing other than a longer segment in which drivers held station and waited for that typical ending. Right on cue, a late race caution came out when Scott Riggs smacked the wall with only a few laps remaining. Varying pit strategies ultimately led to a pretty exciting finish with Ryan Newman taking the win over Jeff Gordon.

That finish could have been achieved at a shorter distance, as can the finishes of most races.

Some may have enjoyed the extra distance in the Subway Fresh Fit 600. The concessionaires who sold more items, the television and radio networks who sold more commercial time, and those who enjoy monotony may have taken joy from the added 63 laps. Other than that, I can’t see how adding distance to any race is helpful. For that matter most are too long.

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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.

Topics: Articles |

13 Responses to “Phoenix event makes the case for shorter races”

  1. Gene Says:
    April 11th, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    I agree, just a few 500 milers and one 600 is enough. Three hours is what they should be shooting for when it comes to televised races. That is more than enough time for action and strategy.

  2. mkrcr Says:
    April 11th, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    “Some may have enjoyed the extra distance in the Subway Fresh Fit 600. The concessionaires who sold more items, the television and radio networks who sold more commercial time,”
    There’s your sign. With the obvious logic of longer races stated, do you really expect NA$CAR to reduce the fading cash cow even more?

  3. Charles Says:
    April 12th, 2010 at 9:02 am


    I completely disagree with you on this topic!

    Under the present format it does not matter what distance of the race it is!

    If you are a reporter or employed by Nascar who go to races and “its a job” quite naturally you would want to shorten the working hours, so mabe a shorter race works! Richard I am not meaning you, who I agree more than I diagree with!

    But to fans who have worked all week, and pay Nascars bills, to us 3 hours of relaxing even if its boring is not to long! Fans can leave anytime they want, I dont want to leave just as soon as I get there, I want it to last, but I want it to be exciting!

    Which is the core problem, until Nascar starts giving incentive to lead laps, especially in the mid laps of any race it will be boring!

    Under the “points” more important than “race” format, any distance, they will stroke and take a top 5!

    They should have started the race earlier!, what to me is to long is all the prerace TV, Concerts, Nascars new talent show on Speed etc!

  4. Mike Southern Says:
    April 12th, 2010 at 9:11 am

    PIR was built when USAC was king and the kingdom was open wheeled cars. The premier event was the spring Copper Classic with a full week of midgets large and small and Silver Crown cars. It was never intended to showcase big ol’ stockers. Still doesn’t. The drivers like it because it is a good place to work on your tan. And is a short day at the office. Easy money. Follow the guy in front of you till they throw the checkered flag. Though the boss made overtime mandatory this year. The infamous late debris caution added zero suspense despite protestation to the contrary. A plodding mid packer that shouldn’t have won did. The second best car finished second best. I don’t see that being a thrilling finish. 500-600 it is still a snoozer on the schedule, Make that 2 snoozers. ISC baby. Though with typically admirable spring Phoenix weather, it didn’t finish on Monday. 90 and sunny on April 10th is mah-vah-loss daw-ling! The real winner? Buddy Jobe who built the place on a wing and a prayer. Only smoke and mirrors kept the place open for years. Mr. Jobe then pulled all triple cherries all five ways when he sold to ISC in 1997 for a king’s ransom. From his gated Scottsdale manse, he is livin’ large and lovin’ life.

  5. Steve Says:
    April 12th, 2010 at 10:58 am

    You hit the nail on the head. Because these guys just ride around setting themselves up for that late race caution (and you know its coming), there is no need to race hard. Combine that with points racing because of the Chase, and you have way too long of races. They will never shorten them. Like #2 said above, nascar is losing money and it won’t hurt itself even more by reducing race lengths, even though eventually, if things continue, there won’t be anyone spending money on the sport anyway

  6. Gina Says:
    April 12th, 2010 at 11:07 am

    I agree, Rich. When they got to halfway, I know I was thinking — geez, is this race only half over?

    Maybe Fox sold more commercials, but I wonder how many people were watching?

  7. Richard in N.C. Says:
    April 12th, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    I have never talked to someone who went to a race and found it too long. You media types always want to complain about something, and often that the races are too long - but, I have never seen any of you media gods discuss how long the races were back in NASCAR’s golden years when Petty, Pearson, DW, Bobby Allison, etc. were racing. Did the races just suddenly become too long in the past several years?

  8. Richard Allen Says:
    April 12th, 2010 at 1:44 pm


    first of all you don’t hear the same people I do because it was brought by callers and hosts alike on Sunday’s ‘Raceday on Fox’ radio show.

    But yes, the races have suddenly become too long. The reason being that years ago attrition used to be part of the equation and having 500 mile races tested both man and machine. Now, the cars are virtually bulletproof so attrition of the machine is not really a factor. with cool suits, attrition of drivers is not really an issue either.

    The races back then had long stretches of riding too but there would always be a few guys drop out with some sort of problem.

    That doesn’t happen now so the need for 500 mile races is no longer there because nothing of any real consequence happens in that middle third, other than people tuning out.

  9. Charles Says:
    April 12th, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    I agree with Richard in NC on this issue!, in the old days, nobody I know went to see a endurance race! Even though in the fifies that may have been a point about car endurance, but 500 or longer races worked until the last decade and avent of Chase!

    Now with all be cars being bulletproof, even though I have seen more blown tires the last 5 years than in the decade of the 1970″s, the “more reason” to run 500 miles or more!Plus the faster speeds on 1.5 milers it goes by faster!

    I remember Darllington Spring race being 300 miler, then they went to 400 and 500 miles , seems to me the longer the race the more the intertainment! Remember Kurt Busch and Ricky Craven finish?

    Is the New Hampshire 300 races anybetter than Phoniex, Darlington, Charlotte etc?

    If Nascar would give incentive at least in the boring mid portains of a race to create excitement, either paying bonus points or money to lead laps, in these periods, would benefit fans , Nascar should be able to find the tracks with the least amount of lead changes and do something!!!!!!
    Again its not that the races are too long, its that the action is not long enough!!!!!!!!

  10. (spud) Says:
    April 12th, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    In this day and age, longer races will likely become the norm? Why? Simple economics.

    More TV time, means more exposure to car sponsors and more ad revenue. NASCAR needs to make money wherever they can - especially since more and more seats sit empty at the tracks.

  11. Richard in N.C. Says:
    April 12th, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    I think it would be interesting if someone had some real data on the average time it took to run certain races in the 1970’s, versus the 1980’s, versus the 1990’s, versus the 2000’s. I suspect the time length of races has been going steadily down. I realize that TV is paying the bulk of the freight now, but the fans in the stands do deserve some consideration too. It is always possible that shortening the races might drive away some fans from attending races.

    Attendance is down in almost all major sports across the board, in part because new sports facilities tend to have smaller seating capacities than the ones being replaced - for instance the football and baseball stadiums in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. In light of the lower race attendance I am surprised not to have seen any articles suggesting that now might be the time to remove a few lower rows of seats to improve safety.

  12. smokefan4ever Says:
    April 12th, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    why even run a race just give the wins to johnson and save the teams a lot of money from traveling and save us a lot of wasting our time and hoping that someone else might win

  13. Ole Putz Says:
    April 14th, 2010 at 8:12 am

    To Charles,
    I agree with Rich, but on a different level. Shorter races would increase the excitement factor by taking away the “middle of the race cruise”. NASCAR, insuring the fan-base gets a good show, could run the Nationwide cars on Saturday, the trucks at noon on Sunday, with the Cup running Sunday afternoon. All three series in one weekend. Yes, garage space nightmares, but I think worth the effort in the long haul.