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Did NASCAR have a great season in 2011 or just a great ending?

By admin | December 25, 2011

By Richard Allen


With the end of the year fast approaching and a new year right around the corner, there will no doubt be a great deal of reflection during this week as well as a great deal of looking ahead. In this particular piece, I intend to not only offer my own reflection but ask for yours as well.

It’s often last impressions that mean the most. Even George Costanza on the Seinfeld show knew to leave on a high note. So after the past few weeks of reading columns, tweets and Facebook posts regarding “the greatest season in NASCAR history”, I decided to pose a question to myself and anyone who might have chosen to read this blog post.

Was the 2011 Sprint Cup campaign a great season or was there just a great ending to an average season?

During the past off season, NASCAR chairman Brian France held a press conference to outline a new points system that would be employed during 2011. The not so subtle intent of the new scoring method combined with the already in place Chase for the Championship was to produce a close finish that would cause the championship to be decided on the last lap of the last race.

Well, France and NASCAR got exactly what they wanted when Tony Stewart finished just ahead of Carl Edwards to win the season finale Ford 400 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway and create a dead even tie at the top of the Sprint Cup standings. For the first time in history, the sport’s champion had to be decided by the tie-breaker of Stewart having more race wins than Edwards over the course of the season.

Without question, that made for an exciting conclusion to the 2011 season.

That said, however, it seemed as though there were more than a few of the individual events that lacked in overall excitement except for caution flag inspired endings. Middle sections of many races resembled more parade than race as drivers often seemed content to just ride. Or worse yet, they were unable to pass because of the cars’ handling characteristics or the lack of grip in the tires.

And the above statement has certain merit in that drivers this season were not-so-secretly fined by NASCAR for saying as much.

Now that’s not to say there weren’t exciting moments or exciting races. There certainly were both. However, it just seemed as though there was a great deal of discontent found within the comments section of this website as well as any number of other sources throughout the year.

The obvious holes in the grandstand sections of a number of tracks would seem to further speak to the discontent of many toward the way the racing was going during much of the season.

There were stretches within the 2011 season in which it looked as if the only way to provide intrigue was for the race to come down to a fuel mileage stretch at the end. Races seemed to be determined more by who could save the most fuel than who could actually go the fastest. Granted, that type of finish is entertaining occasionally but it was a bit too prevalent this year.

And more, it also seemed as though NASCAR had to rely too much on rivalries and personality clashes to maintain interest rather than the racing on the track. Again, that type of thing is entertaining, and certainly provides a great deal of fodder for sites such as this, but is that what this sport is to be built around?

When it gets down to it, the core product of NASCAR is racing. Feuds, fuel mileage coasts and any number of other sidebar issues are not what is needed to keep the interests of fans over the long term.

In my opinion, this was a season that featured racing that was average at best but offered up a great ending. Last impressions are important. Was that last impression enough to make you believe it was a great season? What are your thoughts?

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12 Responses to “Did NASCAR have a great season in 2011 or just a great ending?”

  1. Russ Says:
    December 25th, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    The days of racing for position are over by and large. It seems that the races are currently dominated by two things. The aero advantage enjoyed by a car in “clean air” and the tactic of letting a faster car by.
    The points you mentioned combined with those two made for a pretty hum-drum season.
    But the viewers will once again vote on this next year. Their’s is the opinion that counts.

  2. Sue Rarick Says:
    December 26th, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    For the first time in years I found something else to do, rather than watch a few races. And you mentioned all the reasons. I would also add the fact that NASCAR seems to be heading towards a WWE attitude rather than a major sports attitude.

    To answer another question. No I probably won’t watch as many races this year. What were must see races have become if I have the time races.

  3. mr clause Says:
    December 26th, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Tony and Carl pretty much made the season in my opinion. I simply cannot understand NASCAR’s thinking. How they and their shill’s can’t see what probably the majority of fans and sponsors do see is just amazing. The car of tomorrow itself and every thing they’ve changed since it’s inception has affected the teams cost wise. Yes it is a safer race car, just have to give credit there, but everything else has been a bust. Now it’s constant tinkering with the specs and rule changes are the norm.
    Maybe it’s time to give the body design back to the manufacturers, even to consider maybe changing over to the v-6 engines. Maybe to consider changing some of these cookie cutter mile and a half tracks to mile or mile and a quarter tracks where the racing leans more to actual racing. Simply put NASCAR has become IROC.
    NASCAR does not listen to it’s fans and never really has. The only thing I can see that will get their attention is when the new TV bids come in they are about half of what the last deal was. NASCAR only listens to MONEY!
    I believe that the million dollar checks coming into the NASCAR coffers is what has led them to this point and until the checks diminish not much is going to change.

  4. jerseygirl24 Says:
    December 26th, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    NASCAR lucked into a great finish - not even particularly for the last 10 races since there were several during that timeframe that were boring as heck to watch.

    My personal favorite race for this year was the October Martinsville race. I was there, the action was great and it didn’t wind up as a fuel mileage race.

    I’m not a fan of the chase, never will be. I feel that it is a tremendously contrived deal. Stewart had a miserable “regular season” barely squeaking into the chase and then got hot at the end. Edwards tried the “consistency” method and almost won the whole thing with only 1 win. I’m not a roush fan so was not rooting for either Ford or Carl to win it, but on the other hand it would have left EGG all over NASCAR’s face if he had pulled it off since the chase concept was conceived in reaction to Kenseth’s championship.

    I don’t want to see the drivers’ wrecking each other in this stupid “boys have at it” foolishness either but again I don’t want NASCAR constantly interjecting themselves. The racing, if they’d fix the ugly car to allow for real side by side racing and figure out that so many D shaped ovals don’t allow for decent racing could be fun to watch

  5. Chris Fiegler Says:
    December 26th, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    What Do you Guys think is the Best & the Worst NASCAR Race of 2011?

  6. Shayne Flaherty Says:
    December 26th, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Homestead was a fluke. NASCAR can thank Tony Stewart for saving the 2011 season.

    Will there be any momentum left when teams arrive in Daytona?

    Meanwhile, we’ll be left wondering why NASCAR continues to shun their loyal fans. Evidently, shunning longtime fans is NASCAR’s “new” marketing plan. Reminds me of the same poor customer service you get dealing with companies like Dish Network.

    Like NASCAR, Dish Network is more interested in the “new” customer, NASCAR’s version of the casual fan. Those folks are easily duped and will never examine the fine print.

    I terminated my 12+ year relationship with Dish Network back in October. They wouldn’t consider lowering my $91.00 a month bill. The special promotions are only for “new” customers, not a loyal longterm customer like myself.

    Now, they want me back and are willing to cut my bill in half.

    Seriously, I doubt Dish Network really cares whether or not I resume their service.

    Reminds me of NASCAR.

  7. Russ Says:
    December 26th, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    Did anybody really think that the 14 wouldnt win the last race at Homestead?

    BTW Shayne your experience isn’t unusual. We had been a longtime customer of Direct TV, and were very happy with it. However Verizon wouldn’t bundle because, like you, we were an existing customer.
    So, we went with a competitor who gave us better product than Verizon, for a better price.
    Thats how business is. Dissatisfied customers just leave, its the same with motorsports.

  8. Offkilter Says:
    December 26th, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    The 1.5 and 2 mile d ovals are the kryptonite to good racing. Of the 300 or so laps run, there are only about 20 laps of racing worth watching. The first two, the last two and the two after the restarts from the 6 or so cautions. Michigan and california maybe half that because they are single file for the most part before completing a single lap. Richmond, bristol and martinsville are the only races that i can watch from green to checker. Everything else is tivo’d and i distill it down to 30 minutes.

  9. Ken Says:
    December 27th, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    We had a very ordinary to less than ordinary season. NASCAR just got lucky at the end and they hope it will make people forget the dreadful races we had to endure or decided to

  10. Mr. Tony Geinzer Says:
    December 27th, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    I feel the fans may actually want to state to shorten the races and bring the core back to Network TV, Rich and I wouldn’t want to angry up the blood too far, but, I want my New Drivers not Recycled Never Wases!

  11. Charles Says:
    December 28th, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    Fans dont go to see who wins the Championship, its the race not the Chase!

    This will have little impact on attendance at the racestracks!

    If the races dont get better then its like Ross Perot said about the Nafta free trade agreement”’

    I can hear the giant sucking sound of fans leaving Nascar!

  12. Gordon85Wins Says:
    December 29th, 2011 at 8:22 am

    If you look at the number of winners this year, you see that NASCAR achieved the goal of parity it had been striving for with the CoT. Remember the stiff penalties teams get for any kind of rule violation. That the cars are nearly all identical makes track position everything especially on the 1.5-2 milers, because unless a car is a LOT faster than another car, the driver won’t be able to pass.

    All of the cars being the same means that a driver can finish 2nd one week and 30th the next, and there are no dominant drivers. Jimmie may have won five straight, but he never smoked the field in any of his championships.

    So there is no superstar driver that wins ten a year, no polarizing guy that people love to hate. Whether you loved or hated Dale Earnhardt or Jeff Gordon, people tuned in when they were dominating. And since every popular driver from Junior to Kahne to Tony Stewart to Danica ends up at Hendrick or one of its offshoots, where’s the rivalry? Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart are all basically teammates now, and there used to be fights in the stands between their fans.

    I wonder how Ford fans like how NASCAR came down on Roush for having five cars, while Hendrick will have eight soon with no penalty.

    The Chase remains an idiotic, contrived way of determining a championship. It’s the new points system that produced the close finish, not the Chase. Of course, it will never go now, fans will continue to hate it and not show up in large numbers for the ruined Bristol night race.

    And NASCAR still can’t figure out after all these years how to put on a good show with restrictor plates. It’s like if baseball allowed fences to be 200 feet from home plate and then spent 30 years making rule changes trying to figure out how to reduce home runs.