By admin | January 26, 2011
By Richard Allen
As I watched NASCAR Chairman Brian Franceâ€™s State of the Sport address on Wednesday evening I quickly decided that I would not write anything in that regard due to the fear it would become a too personal and mean spirited. After all, I had conducted two interviews earlier in the day with local dirt racers and figured that would be the thing I would work on in my late evening settling down time. However, as the night wore on I found it more and more necessary to speak my mind while the passion was still burning.
NASCAR is a sport I grew up on and have deep feelings for. Yet, the current leadership is seemingly doing everything in its power to drive me away.
As a child I watched my namesake, Richard Petty, battle with the likes of Pearson, Allison, Yarborough, Baker and Waltrip for wins. Those drivers either won or they lost. Seldom did any of them ever boast of a â€œgood points dayâ€. Each event was meaningful because it was known that each of those legends would give 100% to be the first to see that coveted checkered flag.
Fans were drawn to this sport for that very type of mentality.
Unfortunately, at least in my opinion, NASCAR has changed over the last decade. So much emphasis has been placed on winning the overall season championship that everyone has taken on a â€˜big pictureâ€™ mentality that emphasizes the accumulation of points rather than trophies.
To prove that point I use the example of two drivers I overheard with my scanner while attending at race at Bristol a few years ago. With less than 30 laps remaining in that race a caution came out. I listened to one of the two drivers in question call to his spotter and tell him to get word to the driver behind him not to race him too hard because he was in a good position and didnâ€™t want to loose those points. I quickly switched to the other driverâ€™s channel to hear what I was sure would be a heated reply. Instead, the trailing driver asked his spotter to relay the message that he too was satisfied with his points position and was willing to ride. These two drivers were running 3rd and 4th at the time and it was the SPRING race.
I would have loved to have heard Cale Yarboroughâ€™s response had Bobby Allison sent word to him not to race too hard so they could each salvage points.
All throughout this past week there were rumors flying that Chairman France would announce in his Wednesday press conference that NASCAR was going to dump its old points system for something new. While speculation and leaks offered a glimpse of that new system it was still necessary to hear the news officially.
I hoped the new system would be one that would encourage more of a race to win mentality. I was sorely disappointed.
Now, the winner of each race will receive 43 points with a three point reward for winning and one point for leading. There will also be a one point bonus for whoever leads the most laps. Second place will receive 42 points with each descending position getting one point less until last place scores one point.
What this system offers is only a minimal reward for a driver to try and improve his position while it offers a heavy penalty for finishing deep in the field. Will drivers run the risk of advancing one spot when a mistake could cost them severely?
Fans have clamored for more incentive to win. They got a â€œsimpler systemâ€ that essentially has been enacted to ensure a close championship battle during the Chase for the Championship.
NASCAR has determined that it is a close championship battle that will draw more fans to the grandstands and television screens. What apparently no one in Daytona Beach has considered is that a close points race only boosts one or two races at the end of the season. In other words, 34 races have been sacrificed to make the final two exciting.
It seemed all too obvious to me as I watched that NASCAR and its leadership donâ€™t get it. They are completely out of tune with what is driving fans away(if they are even aware that fans are leaving) and they are less aware of what it is that will bring fans back.
Dirt late model legend Scott Bloomquist once said to me that he couldnâ€™t wait for the day when, â€œThose NASCAR boys have to come race against us to make a livingâ€. After listening to Wednesdayâ€™s press conference Iâ€™m not so sure that day isnâ€™t far away.
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