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Talladega and Martinsville make the case for fewer cookie cutters

By admin | October 31, 2011

By Richard Allen

Isn’t it great that the past two races on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series have provided a multitude of storylines and none of them involve fuel mileage? So what’s different about these two events that have made them seem unique?

The answer is that the last two races weren’t conducted on one of the so called ‘cookie cutter’ tracks. The first five Chase for the Championship races were held on tracks that measured either one mile or 1.5 miles in length. While the one mile tracks of New Hampshire and Dover do not fit into the 1.5- 2 mile ‘cookie cutter’ description, they race much the same in that cars tend to spread out and ride for long stretches at a time.

It’s often said that variety is the spice of life. That may or may not be the case for life in general, but it certainly is the case in NASCAR. Getting off those similar tracks and onto the 2.66 mile high banks of Talladega and the half-mile paper clip of Martinsville have energized a Chase playoff that, even with its close fight in the standings, was proving to be somewhat lifeless.

Unfortunately, the trend in NASCAR has been to add more of the ‘cookie cutters’ and remove the tracks with unique character. Within the modernized television era of the sport, tracks in traditional but remote areas have had dates taken away or have been completely removed from the Sprint Cup schedule while new facilities in larger markets have been added.

In order to maximize the use of the new tracks, they were built with essentially the same blueprints. Those blueprints created courses that could not only host NASCAR but IndyCar and other forms of racing as well. The unfortunate results of such multi-use facilities was clearly demonstrated two weeks ago when IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon lost his life on a track that had cars traveling too close together at too fast of a speed.

Over the last twenty years, tracks in Rockingham, North Wilkesboro and Darlington have either been removed from the schedule entirely or had dates moved or taken away. While some will argue that these tracks did not attract crowds as large as those in the bigger markets of cities such as Chicago, Miami or Kansas City, the fact is these tracks represented more than just crowd size. Those venues offered a uniqueness to the sport it very much lacks today.

Major League Baseball has already gone through and emerged from an era of sameness that robbed character from the sport.

The Chicago Cubs are not looking to leave Wrigley Field for a more modern stadium because they understand that their current facility’s unique character is part of the team’s lore. The Boston Red Sox have the same relationship with Fenway Park. Even among baseball’s newest stadiums, unique dimensions and other qualities are being built in to avoid the ‘cookie cutter’ type multi-use ballparks in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Atlanta and St. Louis of the 1970s.

Hopefully NASCAR will grow out of its ‘cookie cutter’ phase before it’s too late. The tracks in Talladega and Martinsville have demonstrated the necessity of doing so. But for now, the Sprint Cup Series will finish its 2011 season with races on the 1.5 mile track in Texas, the one-mile track in Phoenix and the 1.5 mile track in Miami-Homestead. Those will make up Chase races six, seven and eight on tracks of those two dimensions.

Topics: Articles |

5 Responses to “Talladega and Martinsville make the case for fewer cookie cutters”

  1. Mr. Tony Geinzer Says:
    November 1st, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Rich, I would prefer tracks in Atlanta, Birmingham or Nashville as I feel that this Big Market/Small Market Mentality is not healthy for NASCAR, Stock Cars, or Motorsports at large.

  2. Steve Says:
    November 1st, 2011 at 11:32 am

    The fans have been saying all along that they want more short tracks. It won’t happen though, unless SMI or ISC take their existing tracks and make them smaller. These track owners seem to think that they can still get 100,000 people in the stands like they used to for these events.

    Those days are gone as fans are just tired of spending hundreds of dollars for a race weekend to watch follow the leader racing on these tracks.

    Diversity in race tracks every week is what got me hooked on Nascar. Now I’m losing interest. And Nascar doesn’t care about the fans. All they care about is how many benjamins they can make regardless of the product they put on the track. Its not about racing anymore but more about “the show”

  3. Charles Says:
    November 1st, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    One thing about he Talledaga Race that needs not go away…. is the comments by Chad Knaus !

    What Chad said is troubling to say the least… it show mindset of teams, and this gave away “a secret” so to speak in what length teams race teams will go to cover up possible illegal things they do to race cars!

    I am not singling out Chad on this one, infact I believe others have used it!

    Dont care what any of the teams say that “oh it passed prerace” well yes but look at how many teams get fined for a car being to low, I remember Kenseth at Rockingham getting fined for being to low… but it passed prerace too!!

    With this mandate I heard when the new T.V. contract came about with Fox in the early 2000s that they have to do a ‘burn out’ after the race!

    Seen a many car blow a tire…back into the pit or racetrack wall.. and I always wondering how do they ‘inspect the car”? now with Chads comments seem they are or could be using this “end of race’ donut or burn out as a sneaky way to ‘cover up’ aero packages on racecars, and at Talledaga with all the bump drafting a car could hit the back of a car, this in effect lower the spoiler… only to have the slate wipe clean if it wins by backing into a wall!!!

    Nascar needs to stop the ‘burn out’ or donut’ for the winner after each race, let them do it the mabe Alan Kwuicki way, circle the track then drive to victory lane no harm no foul…!!! Nascar has had the luxury of being shown the problem… now a fix needs to be in!!!!!!

  4. Tyler West Says:
    November 1st, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    Cookie cutter tracks are the worst thing that has EVER happened to Winston Cup racing!! Besides making Winston take a hike and bringing in that damn Nextel, Sprint junk. Bulldoze those cookie cutter tracks and return to some of the old tough tracks. First it is allot easier to run 10 races for a title on the same type of track. Plus, the cookie cutter factor really takes away from anything the team has done. These tracks SUCK!!!!!! The chase is garbage. Bring back the Rock, and Wilkesboro and put Bristol back the way it was!!!! Those bigger markets are nothing but fools gold!! We need to go back to racing the way it is, was, and should still be. Ohh and dump Nextel and bring back Winston too!!! Being all “PC” is for the birds!!

  5. martin Says:
    November 1st, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    If you want to stop 2 x 2 racing at Talladega look at what happened to Robby Gordon and Trevor Bayne. Once the rear bumper cover came off Robby’s car ,Trevor could not push him anymore,problem solved!!

    If I was ARCA I would maybe try to get more aggressive with my payouts and look at all the things that are turning people off of NASCAR.Maybe its time to put Nascar to bed and start over.