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I was away for the first 350 laps, so what did I miss?

By admin | May 2, 2010

By Richard Allen

This past Saturday night I did something that a few years ago I would have never done. I skipped the broadcast of a NASCAR Sprint Cup race in favor of going to another race. Up to just a short time ago I used to plan my week and weekend around NASCAR. That is not necessarily so now.

The two races this year to have been run on Monday have taught me that I can go on with other things and watch racing later. And more, they have taught me that just catching the ending can sometimes be all that is needed.

After watching the television show Madhouse on the History Channel over the winter, my brother-in-law and I decided we would visit Bowman Gray Stadium to take in some modified racing. The track’s first race of the year was to have been last weekend but rain changed that plan.

Initially, I had said I would not be able to make the trek back to Winston-Salem due to the fact that the Sprint Cup race in Richmond would be on Saturday night. However, I changed my mind and do not regret it at all.

After the Tucson 200 race had finished at BGS I got in my car and tuned the radio to the MRN affiliate(WTQR-FM) in Winston-Salem and listened to the last 50 laps of the Crown Royal 400 in Richmond.

Apparently, I did not miss much. According to the MRN broadcast crew, Kyle Busch got out in front of the pack early and dominated the first half of the race. Then, the two Jeffs, Gordon and Burton, took turns in the lead.

As I have had many fans tell me, NASCAR is becoming a sport to be watched in a short period of time via the DVR feature on the television. After all, there is very little racing that takes place in the first three-fourths of most events outside of the restrictor plate tracks. All Sprint Cup races are now decided by a late race caution and a mad dash to the finish after a long span of riding and positioning.

I listened to those final laps on MRN and then went back on Sunday and watched the race. In the case of this race, there was not so much riding as the other teams simply couldn’t catch Kyle Busch.

After having only three cautions in the first 367 laps, a caution for Elliott Sadler’s spin at lap 368 brought on the ‘Dash for Cash’ at the end. After a series of three late race cautions and varying tire strategies, Busch emerged with the win.

NASCAR has a problem with the growing perception that the only part of its races that matter is the final stretch. The green/white/checkered rule combined with double-file restarts have gone a long way toward making the end of races exciting. I, personally, favor both the g/w/c and double-file restart procedures. Of course it is manufactured competition but there has to be something worth watching.

Those who criticize these changes act as though NASCAR is the only sport to attempt to create excitement. They forget basketball’s three point shot and shot clock changes. The NFL and college football have each made changes to their overtime rules. And how often have the words ‘Rules emphasis’ of ‘Point of emphasis’ been used in those sports?

As long as teams are forced to race with identical cars there has to be something to create a little excitement. I might have a much different opinion on such things as the multiple g/w/c rule and double file restarts if NASCAR ever goes back to allowing creativity and ingenuity to be a part of racing, as it should always be. Until that happens, there are going to be more folks like me who find more entertaining things to do during Sprint Cup time slots. While I am not saying that I am giving up on NASCAR, I am saying that if I could be allowed to drift away on a Sprint Cup race day then it can happen to anyone.

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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 |

15 Responses to “I was away for the first 350 laps, so what did I miss?”

  1. zhills fan Says:
    May 3rd, 2010 at 5:24 am

    Whats ticking me off right now is the “wave around” rule. What a joke. If you had watched at Richmond , you would have been scratching your head as i did. For the first part of the race Busch was so strong that he had lapped most of the cars. Then when the yellow came out, all of a sudden they went from about 9 cars on the lead lap to about 30, what in the world is that all about. Now instead of just the “lucky dog” rule you got this rule. Ya know that IROC was just about like what NASCAR is now. Same cars with a lot better drivers than what nascar has now and it didn’t go over and now nascar is heading in the same direction.

  2. The Old Guy Says:
    May 3rd, 2010 at 6:03 am

    You Know,,,,,

    I’ve been doing the same thing for a while now. Used to be that Sunday afternoons, or Saturday evenings, were set aside to watch the race.

    I rarely watch an entire race anymore and sometimes don’t watch at all.

    Sad that a sport (if you want to call it a sport) that I have loved for over a half a century has taken a back seat to other activities.

    Oh Well!

  3. Bill B Says:
    May 3rd, 2010 at 6:44 am

    Yep, creating excitement in racing means only the last 20 laps matter. The football and basketball analogy is forced and does not work. In football and basketball if a team builds up a huge lead there is no rule in the book that can contrive a close, exciting ending. It’s a blowout and that’s the way it goes. In racing any lead built up during the first 90% of the race goes away to nothing; i.e., from a 10 second lead and only 9 cars on the lead lap to a zero second lead and 20 cars on the lead lap. What’s the point of the first 350 laps. In the other sports you can build up a lead that negates any contrivance for a close finish, in NASCAR you can’t.
    Racing isn’t supposed to be about a guarenteed exciting ending, it’s supposed to be a chess match with exciting moments during the race and, if you’re lucky, an exciting ending once in a while. To fix the rules to guarentee the exciting ending undermines the foundation of what it’s supposed to be. What we have now is reality television, not a sport.

  4. yankeegranny Says:
    May 3rd, 2010 at 8:35 am

    As a JR fan, rather than a NASCAR fan, I turned the race off after he went 3 laps down, and turned it back on for the last 30 laps. The last 30 had excellent racing and were well worth watching. As to the wave around, it sucks in plain English. If you want to give one to a team a race, maybe, but either do that and drop the “lucky dog” or drop the wave around and keep the lucky dog. There are too many gimmicks now. Three g/w/checkers are way too many, too. One is reasonable, two maybe, three is way too many.

    How did you like the racing at Bowman/Gray? I loved Madhouse and hope they have it on the History Channel next season; it would be a great fill in for the off season. I want to see a race there this year.

    Taped the nationwide race Fri. Amazing how much racing(average 7 laps) is missed due to commercials. Think I watched the whole actual race in a bout 35 minutes.

    Another good article as always.

  5. Richard Allen Says:
    May 3rd, 2010 at 9:33 am

    Yankee Granny

    I loved the overall experience of Bowman Gray and would recommend it to everyone. Look for my write up on it either later today or tomorrow.

    And no, Madhouse will not be on next year. The History Channel has pulled the plug, at least according to what Burt Myers said on his Facebook page this weekend.

  6. rileha Says:
    May 3rd, 2010 at 9:45 am

    I’ve started watching the beginning and end only. This last week I watched the first 20 laps and last 80 laps or so. When I turned on the race to watch the end, 4 of the top 5 cars were the same as when I turned the race off.

  7. Steve Says:
    May 3rd, 2010 at 10:34 am

    For me, its not so much the g/w/c rule or the double file restarts, its the cautions that seem to be created by Nascar to ensure the race is competitve and/or exciting, instead of just letting the race play out naturally. When you have people posting on messageboards that they think a late race caution was done on purpose, or a caution is thrown because one of their favorites is about to go a lap down, there is somethign seriously wrong with this. Those are my issues. If a driver stinks up the show, at least the race played out naturally and thats what race fans want. Notice I said race fans. The casual fans are the ones needing an exciting finish every week. If a guy hits the setup and nobody else does, why should he be penalized for it. Racing doesnt always allow for exciting finishes. Race fans know this and accept it. By creating phantom cautions to make the racing exciting, it make the sport look really fake and turns alot of people off to it.

  8. DC Says:
    May 3rd, 2010 at 10:59 am

    I also used to be in the “have to watch” crowd. Now, I’m lucky if I care to even watch the races anymore. Really, the final 20 laps are what seem to count anymore. Not only do I not have the time anymore, but I no longer have the desire to sit there for 3 hours and watch them go roundy-round. The racing for the most part (with the exception of the restrictor tracks) is mind-numbing. I’m *much* happier watching Grand-Am Rolex and ALMS.

  9. Mik Says:
    May 3rd, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Hey Rich, I’m glad to see more people get out to see their local heroes in action. There’s a track near almost anyone and, like music, it’s always better live. So go, even if it’s not Bowman/Grey, it’s racing the way it was meant to be seen!

    zhills, those ‘wave-around’ cars were on the lead lap the minute the leaders pitted. it isn’t contrived so much as it is getting them out of the way for the restart. They didn’t gain a lap by the ‘wave-around’, they just moved around to the back.

    I agree that with the double-file restart and the ‘wave around’, the ‘lucky dog’ is passe. It was out-moded when the double-file was instituted. Three G-W-C starts is a bit much, and I hope that things will settle down and we do that only on occasion.

  10. Gina Says:
    May 3rd, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I sat through the entire race on TV on Saturday night and the broadcast was pretty terrible. I’m not a fan of the manufactured excitement of the double-file restarts and multiple g-w-c rules. Rich, I made the decision a while ago to start watching the beginning and end of the race only, especially when the weather is nice.

    I don’t want manufactured excitement, I want to see them race and if NASCAR thinks that this nonsense is a way to get people to come back to the track, they should seriously re-think it. If I’ve spent $100 on a ticket, plus whatever travel expenses and my favorite has been leading most of the race and loses because they made the end of the race a crapshoot, it isn’t going to make me hurry back.

    Plus the way races are currently being shown to the TV viewer, if I wasn’t already a race fan, it wouldn’t excite me enough to become one.

  11. Bill B Says:
    May 3rd, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    The point is that once that caution comes out (legitimate or not), the GWC, double file restarts, and wave around cars all increase the probablity that all hell will break loose and you will have a crapshoot ending. For the last 50+ years the leader always had a car length advantage to the 2nd place car on the restarts, now they are dead even. Being the leader has never meant less. Then a guy in tenth gets fresh tires and may have up to 4 restarts to gain positions (assuming the restart is with ten laps to go). Of course those tires are going to pay huge dividends if the keep resetting everyone and having restarts.

  12. Kevin Says:
    May 3rd, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    I had been in favor of the wave-around rule, but Saturday night’s race made me question my opinion. It doesn’t seem right to suddenly let 18 drivers get back on the lead lap, yet that’s exactly what happened. (Honestly I thought Kyle Busch might stay out at that point to prevent anyone from getting waved around, but he did not.) It wasn’t good to let them restart in front of the leader either, though, and many other forms of racing have used the wave-around procedure for quite some time. I’m really not sure what the best answer is.

    I still watch full races, but I am always doing other things at the same time. I can’t just sit there, watch, and do nothing else. They don’t intrigue me like they used to, though, because the first 90% of the race seems rather irrelevant.

  13. Brian Webb Says:
    May 3rd, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    The most irritating things about NASCAR is that stupid little “Digger” and all the companions that go with like, Darryl Waltrip and Larry Mac. Thats the biggest thing I can’t stand!

  14. Workman Says:
    May 5th, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Kill the rodent, kill the rodent, kill the rodent. And, take the three amigo’s with it.

  15. mkrcr Says:
    May 5th, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    I love Digger! It’s the perfect Mascot for the stupidity NA$CAR has become.