By admin | May 28, 2012
By Richard Allen
A crime has been committed. The individual race is dead in NASCAR. It was killed by an assassin that goes by the name “Chase for the Championship” or “Points” for short. As evidence of this crime I present the Coca-Cola 600 held this past weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Or for that matter, I can present as evidence just about every race held during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.
For most of the 600 miles of that most recent race, there was little more than a parade formation at high speed circulating around the 1.5 mile track. Proof of that came from the ‘RaceHub on Speed’ show on Monday evening. The highlight package of the previous day’s event featured as two of the most pivotal moments a replay of Tony Stewart getting spun on pit road and Jimmie Johnson’s gas man taking a spill after unsuccessfully attempting to disengage the fuel can from the 48 car.
When two of the biggest moments of a race take place on pit road rather than the track, there is a problem.
So what went wrong with this race and so many others? As has been written on an almost weekly basis on this website and several other places, there are a number of issues at the heart of the lack of drama and intensity being seen on the track this season. The Car of Tomorrow’s mandated equality and aerodynamic dependence, the fear of reprisal from sponsors or NASCAR for rowdy behavior, tracks that lend themselves to parade racing and tires that do not show significant signs of wear even after long stretches are all contributing factors of this season’s deficiency in excitement.
But the overriding culprit in the opinion of this writer is the current points system. After last season’s tie between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards for the series title, drivers live in fear of doing anything that might cost them a precious point. Not making the Chase for the Championship or losing out on a title by one point has become the unforgivable sin in today’s NASCAR.
After Sunday’s race, driver Denny Hamlin was asked why there has been so little drama in 2012. He responded, “Some people got hurt by crashes early in the year last year and that caused alarm for drivers this season. No more Mulligans.” That says it all. No one is willing to take a chance that might cost them a point, even if it means foregoing a race win. The result is race after race of high speed follow the leader.
To further explain my point, Kevin Harvick tweeted just after the Coke 600 that he had a “Solid night all around!” He finished 8th. There was a time when that was considered a mediocre day at best. Now, 8th is not only solid, but it is worthy of an exclamation mark. And Harvick is considered a fierce competitor. Think what the shrinking violets consider an 8th place run.
So, individual races carry virtually no value anymore. Just scoring points is all that matters.
Perhaps next season NASCAR can come up with a system in which drivers and teams simply move from race to race and complete a set number of miles with only a ‘Points as of now’ graphic shown at the end of the race. No victory lane ceremony, no post-race interviews or no trophies will be needed. Just give them their points and move them along to the next points paying destination.
The joy of the individual race has been killed and “Points” has gotten away with murder.
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