By admin | January 19, 2014
By Richard Allen
In a recent appearance on the Motor Racing Network, NASCAR chairman Brian France hinted that changes were on the way for the sport he has been charged with running for the past decade.
“We’re working on the (race) format of the future, maybe it’s a little bit different, maybe it’s more than a little,’’ France told those listening to the “NASCAR Live” program. “We also, I would tell you, we are not satisfied that we have the exact balance we want with winning, consistency, points, running for a championship.
“We think we can make some tweaks to continue to incentivize risk-taking and racing hard. We’re looking at that. We’ll undoubtedly be coming with things that put the incentive on winning races and competing at the highest level.’’
Enough “tweaking” already, Mr. France! Trust me, you’ve done enough during your ten year run at the helm of the sport. Had it not been for your tweaking of the car, tweaking of the points system and tweaking of the schedule in a never ending pursuit of a demographic that will always evade capture, there would not be any need for more tweaking.
After a rapid succession of tragic accidents that claimed the lives of Adam Petty, Kenny Irwin and Dale Earnhardt, Sr., NASCAR decided to make changes to the car being used by teams in the sport. There is no doubt that safety improvements had to be made. But in typical knee-jerk and profit seeking fashion, the sanctioning body developed a car that, in the name of safety, called for the folks in Daytona Beach to control every aspect of the machine.
The Car of Tomorrow was one of the worst “tweaks” in the history of sports. It offered terrible racing and alienated fans who had grown up in a sport that highlighted brand identity as one of its most alluring aspects. But the car did make money for NASCAR as a variety of parts and pieces had to be purchased or leased by teams from NASCAR and the car had to go through a costly inspection process before it could be approved for competition.
The CoT was essentially a rented kit car, and a bad one at that.
But the sound of opposition to the CoT finally reached the top levels of the ivory tower in Daytona and another “tweak” was made. The so called Gen6 was rolled out as an improvement in 2013. That car was nothing more than the CoT in a disguise. It did offer some degree of brand distinction, but the racing did not improve.
In yet another knee jerk reaction, the France administration completely overhauled a points system that had been in place for three decades after a driver clinched the title before the season’s final race in 2003. In an attempt to manufacture drama, NASCAR created the Chase for the Sprint Cup to insure that the TV networks would always have a championship battle to promote late in the season because drivers simply winning races for the sake of winning races isn’t good enough.
But after a brief pop in the first couple of years the Chase was employed, TV ratings have dropped and attendance has declined from their all time highs. And to take their over reactions to even higher levels, the field of Chase drivers was increased from ten to twelve when some of the sport’s biggest stars failed to qualify. Then it was “tweaked” again when the driver who won two of the sport’s biggest events in the same season did not make the Chase.
And now, word has it that NASCAR may be considering its biggest “tweak” ever(much more to come on that subject on that later).
Finally, a sport that was born and raised in rural areas of the country and adopted by middle class working types try has tried desperately to morph itself into a sport that appeals to younger yuppies in the cities so that large corporations will cough up more sponsorship money as their favorite demographics were being reached.
That “tweak” simply served to drive away fans who had once been considered the most loyal in all of sports as NASCAR’s leaders hoped to replace them with newer, cooler fans. The results of this “tweak” are readily apparent every time a TV camera mistakenly pans into the vacant grandstands surrounding the multitude of 1.5 mile palaces built in metropolitan areas to replace tracks such as Rockingham and North Wilkesboro that did not offer enough luxury boxes and other amenities for corporate executives who might be willing to write a big check.
Mr. France, you are very near to “tweaking” the sport your grandfather and father built into a success right out of existence. NASCAR would probably be better off if you were twerking instead of tweaking. But please, don’t take that as a suggestion.
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