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It’s not about what NASCAR was but rather about what it could be

By admin | May 1, 2012

By Richard Allen


Often times I read articles and tweets or hear comments in which some within NASCAR claim there is an element of fans and pundits who want the sport to go back to what it was years ago. These comments are often accompanied by statements that years ago races were settled by laps rather than feet or seconds. It is also often said that today’s racing has more competitive cars capable of winning than was the case in the past and that more cars finish on the lead lap now than ever before.

The idea for this particular column came just the other day when I heard a representative of a NASCAR track talking on a radio program and he declared that, “There are some people out there who have this ideal in their minds that the racing was so much better years ago than it is today.” He went on to say that if drivers were winning races by one or two lap margins, no one would watch.

I believe I am often lumped into the category of those who want NASCAR to return to the ‘good ole days’. However, I am going to argue that such is not the case at all.

Those things mentioned above are absolutely true. Races were indeed won by laps on occasion in NASCAR’s more distant history. And, there are more competitive cars now than there were two or three decades ago.

I don’t want to see races won by those kinds of margins and I am glad that there are so many cars and drivers capable of winning nowadays.

The reason I often complain about the way NASCAR is being run today is not because I want it to go back to what it was, but because I want it to be all it can be today. It is my opinion that the leadership of the sport often seem to make reactionary decisions based on whims rather than consideration of what is best for racing. That, in turn, has caused the product on the track to resemble more of a choreographed play than a competitive sport.

And more, to manufacture close finishes for today’s ‘SportsCenter’ culture, NASCAR over-regulates far too many aspects of the machines in use today. Aside from finishes with 20+ cars on the lead lap, this over-regulation has created a form of racing with a great deal of parading and relatively little passing.

Further, with the excessive emphasis placed on points under the current Chase for the Championship system, drivers have seemingly become too content to settle for “a good points day” rather than take a risk that might result in a race win.

It is my feeling that a lessening of the restrictions placed on teams in regard to the setups of cars would create better racing as that increased leeway would allow for a so called ‘comers and goers’ effect. More passing would take place throughout each green flag run as some cars would be better suited for short runs and others would be better on longer runs based on driver and team preferences. As it stands under the current rules package, teams have so little allowance for individuality that every car is essentially on the same setup, and thus, running pretty much the same speed.

However, when it is suggested that a loosening of the stringent rules be enacted, in a situation as was the case a number of years ago, some claim that those who support such a position want racing to revert to a less competitive past. Not so. Rather, greater tolerances would make racing better due to the very fact that there are now so many competitive teams.

And has been much discussed since last weekend’s race in Richmond, the leadership of NASCAR has a serious trust issue with their fans, competitors and those who report on the sport. Many believe that finishes are contrived with late race debris cautions and questionable rulings being called to assure highlight reel material.

No legitimate sports organization can afford to have those types of accusations hurled at it. My contention is that there would be no need for contriving finishes if regulations were to be loosened.

Just recently, a friend of mine who is a casual fan of racing told me that, “I used to keep up with NASCAR a lot more than I do now because there are too many rules and its too hard to keep up with what’s going on.”

NASCAR does not need to go back to what it used to be. It needs to be all it can be today. But that will not happen as long as there is so much regulation in place.

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6 Responses to “It’s not about what NASCAR was but rather about what it could be”

  1. Charles Says:
    May 2nd, 2012 at 6:00 am

    Richard..really agree with most of what you said…but back in the day it was a car fan sport…fans went to see what brand of car won..and if their brand of choice won by lapping the field…the fans back then would not complain…they waited until the next race for hopefully there brand to win….dont get me wrong..still plenty of ‘driver fans’ too and it blended in well….

    As far wanting Nascar to go back to what it use to be….I have been going since 1963….but I think a lot of fans like me…liked racing and went along with all the changes for say 4 decades…..but since about the late ninties to now ..especially since the big TV deal and thus the all Chase all the time…spec car and overegulated sport…and all the ’spin doctors’ they have on TV….has caused apathy..

    Plus Nascar seem to want to treat its old school fans as yesterdays business model…not realizing that we have children we can influence…my dad was the one who got me to going Nascar…I cannot be as positive as he was to my children and grandchildren…thus they are less willing to go….

    Closing hometown tracks such as Rockingham and N.Wilkesboro, and the biggest mistake removing the traditon of a Labor Day Race at Darlington have toke its toll…

    Not just one thing, but lots of things that dont even have nothing to do with the race itself has caused a decline in my opinion!

  2. midasmicah Says:
    May 2nd, 2012 at 9:11 am

    Rich. Regardless of what is was or what it could be, the racing is terrible today. Not many drivers are willing to mix it up for fears of dropping out of the vaunted chase. Big time sponsors have a say in this too. I’ve responded to your columns over the years and may not always agree with you, but you hit this one right on the head. I’ve been watching nascar since the early eighties and the racing is simply boring nowadays. The over regulation of the sport has to stop.

  3. jerseygirl Says:
    May 2nd, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    I want to see competitive racing, what I am not interested in is high speed parades which is what so many of the tracks seem to offer.

    Plus with TV choosing tight camera angles and too many blabbermouths in the booth, we don’t get to actually see the race at home which in turn might translate into people wanting to buy a ticket and go to the track.

    NASCAR created this situation with it’s IROC, parity and the box that they’ve put the teams into. It’s simply not interesting to watch all the races any more. The drivers are working to get into the chase, rather than concentrating on winning at each individual track, so why should I bother paying attention until the “playoffs”.

    My family used to go to as many races as we could afford a year - now we’re down to just a few at tracks we particularly like. I don’t want to waste an entire weekend watching “cars going around in circles” since that is what has become instead of racing.

  4. Offkilter Says:
    May 2nd, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    I agree with opening up the tolerences on set ups for the reason you mentioned, Rich. I will say one thing for nascar. They did get it right when they changed over to the double file restart with lead lap cars only. There was a real high suck factor back in the day when the leaders had to wrestle with lapped cars before having a chance to race for position.

  5. Tony Geinzer Says:
    May 2nd, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    Rich, I really want to have the common sports citizen care about the racing even though ESPN doesn’t always talk about it, but, we need to form a more tangible dialogue that ESPN, Speed or Bob Jenkins aren’t aware of yet.

  6. Tyler West Says:
    May 4th, 2012 at 9:31 am

    It’s a shame what the powers that be have turned Nascar into. To hell with ESPN and all that garbage. Brian France is a idiot. The Chase is total CRAP!! This is NOT a “playoff” type sport. If folks want that, let them watch stick and ball sports. Pandering to the media and moving to “bigger markets” is BS as well. That has worked so well for them! All those dull mile and a half tracks are ruining Nascar PERIOD! And what the hell has happened to good race annoucers? Now they all take turns being total idiots on camera. I don’t care about twitter, Rutledge, Trackside, Spencer’s crying towell, it’s all STUPID!! This sport is so much better than what these fools are turning it into. And if mainstream America don’t like it then let them go do something else. The sport was good before they came along. Nascar is now ashamed of their roots. Why?….I wish I knew, but I’ll say this, the rest of the country will never support stock car racing like the south east does. You would think Nascar could see that but I guess I’m wrong. Racing should be about the action on the track and NOT aboutwhat city or media market the track is in. How has that been working so far???? There needs to be room for guys to get creative, there is no way everyone should be running that tight, it tells me that the restrictions are keeping the better teams from pulling away.