By admin | May 13, 2012
By Richard Allen
I feel as though I type the same column just about every week, but here goes again.
The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season has become noteworthy for its lack of on-track excitement. Seemingly, the biggest ‘water cooler moment’, or event most worthy of discussion the next day, has been Juan Pablo Montoya hitting a jet dryer during the Daytona 500. Otherwise, there just hasn’t been much excitement.
Before I go any further I will point out to those who when they hear the word excitement automatically interpret that as wrecks, that is not what I am talking about. Excitement translates to hard racing with cars and drivers pushing each other and leaning on each other as they swap positions time and again. Occasionally that type of racing does result in a spin or a crash, but those are not necessary for the action to be considered exciting.
The racing this season has not necessarily been bad, it just hasn’t been exciting. It’s rather like going to a football game and having a running play called on every snap and none of those plays resulting in a gain of more than ten yards. The final score of that game might have been a close 14-10 result but the game overall wasn’t very exciting. There was no reason to go to work the next day and give more than a couple of sentences summary of what was seen.
This past Saturday night in Darlington clearly illustrated this point. The track known as ‘Too Tough To Tame’ certainly looked timid. The racing was pretty good and the finish had its intrigue, but had it not been for a pushing match on pit road after the race, there would have been little to discuss the nest day.
If Darlington can’t create excitement, something has to be wrong.
So what has suddenly caused this change in the racing? Why the lack of intensity and the resulting decrease in the numbers of caution flags for something other than debris?
My opinion is that the new points system introduced during the 2010-2011 off season and the old Car of Tomorrow are the culprits. The combination of those two factors has served to create a scenario in which drivers do not want to push any issue and cars run virtually the same speed making them unable to pass each other.
In 2004 when the Chase for the Championship was first introduced, teams and drivers prepared and raced in much the same ways they had always done so because they were still learning how the new system would work. However, after a year of feeling the 26 + 10 system out, they realized they had to change their style.
Obviously, the Hendrick Motorsports #48 team of Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus figured out best that just getting into the Chase was all that was needed out of the first 26 races and then hitting one’s stride over the last ten races was the key. They ran off a series of five consecutive titles as a result.
That same type scenario played out last year. Teams raced through the season under the new one point reduction per position system as they always had while feeling out the process. But at the end of 2011, the value of individual points became readily apparent when Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards ended up in a flat footed tie after the last race in Homestead. Since points and making the Chase now define success more so than race wins, teams and drivers now understand that points are too important to lose, and thus, they have adjusted their styles.
Unfortunately for fans, the result has been a group of drivers who are so cautious due to fear of making a move that might cost a few points that they are unwilling to race for the next spot. The gain of one point is not worth the risk of losing several should a spin out or crash occur while racing hard for position.
Holding your own has now become desirable for positions other than the lead. Needless to say, that’s bad for racing.
And more, as has been written here many times, the CoT has everybody running basically the same speed because they are essentially driving the same car. That, in turn, takes away from the ability to exchange positions. Again, that’s bad for racing.
As has been explained by some, the reduction in cautions is not because of better driving. It is the result of more cautious driving. The combination of a point system that encourages holding a spot and a car that won’t allow drivers to pass even if they wanted to is making for some lackluster ‘action’ on the track.
Like the All Star Race, most prestigious races should be about winning rather than points-> http://racingwithrich.com/?p=1802
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