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« NASCAR on TV: Are the Networks Really Giving 100%? | Main | NASCAR’s supposed new Chase system is really just a joke, right? »

NASCAR wouldn’t need so much tweaking if there hadn’t already been so much tweaking

By admin | January 19, 2014

 Brian France needs to do less “tweaking”

 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.

Topics: Articles |

14 Responses to “NASCAR wouldn’t need so much tweaking if there hadn’t already been so much tweaking”

  1. Russ Says:
    January 19th, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Very good article as always. However one change you didn’t mention, and few people do, has changed the landscape as well.

    In an attempt to placate the teams who wanted “franchising” Nascar instituted the “Top 35″ rule. This did everything that franchising would have done but under a pretext that there were no franchises. And what was the goal of “franchising”? Simple, to prevent new teams from being formed and stealing what the existing teams considered their rightful pie. And it has achieved exactly that. But the consequence that Nascar either didn’t forsee, or didn’t care about, was that it is basically carnivorous. The top 3 or 4 teams, get stronger and consume, practically if not on paper, the weaker. Thus even further reducing the competition. Now the situation has gone so far that there will be no new teams coming in. Nor in all likelihood different manufacturers.
    The fiddling will continue but it is improbable that they will succeed. But they will probably make enough noise to give the impression that it is.

  2. Sue Rarick Says:
    January 19th, 2014 at 11:26 am

    I think Brian forgot that the World Series winner was the one that got 4 wins first…. They don’t have an overwhelming number of 7th games.

    If Brian does get his last race shoot-out…why exactly should anyone watch the other 35??????

  3. Russ Says:
    January 20th, 2014 at 8:58 am

    If they really want to motivate people make it race winners only in the last 10 races. Not practical? Well neither is the Chase.

  4. Michael in SoCal Says:
    January 20th, 2014 at 11:27 am

    Tweaking the Chase and the points system is a much cheaper ‘fix’ then tearing down a number of those 1.5 mile palaces that were built during the boom days (Chicagoland, Kansas, Kentucky, Auto Club Speedway, Las Vegas, Texas & Homestead - all built after 1995). These tracks all produce the same, boring parade-like races within five laps of a green flag. But it’s costly to tear these tracks down and replace them with short tracks or road courses - the only races that produce exciting races these days.

    So the fix has to be in constantly tweaking the points system & Chase. That doesn’t cost anything, except fans I suppose.

  5. RacingFan Says:
    January 20th, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    Rich, you are right that if NASCAR hadn’t tweeked the system we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in. We need to go back to some things that worked in the past.

    One area that is not mentioned much that needs to go retro is the drivers. It used to be that drivers crawled from their cars exhausted and spent after a race. Some, that were fighting the flue or what-not had to have a relief driver. Nowdays, the drivers exit their cars after a race fresh as a daisy.

    As I see it, there are a couple of reasons. Probably the biggest one goes back to a debate between Darrel Waltrip and Bobby Allison about downforce. Bobby maintained that you needed to take away downforce to have good racing. Darrel insisted that adding a big spoiler would make the drivers comfortable and able to pass. Darrel’s view has prevailed with NASCAR for years and now we have cars that can run at the their limit all day comfortably. It has ruined competition at the tracks Michael lists. Until NASCAR wakes up and quits listening to Darrel and others with his view, this will not change. Many, if not most, drivers now agree with Bobby - but to no avail.

    The other areas that need retrogression are to ban power steering and air-conditioned suits. It used to be that the cars were much heavier, and driving them without power steering was a real workout. Bobby Allison used to drive with the heater on in the summer in Alabama in his street car to prepare himself for the heat of races. Most of the other major sports participants fight fatigue at the ends of their competitions. It used to be that way in NASCAR, too.

  6. Bob Pepe Says:
    January 20th, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    Having become a fan of NASCAR in the late 80’s I have see the sport totally give away their roots. What drew me to NASCAR was Dale Earnhardt ,Rusty Wallace, Darrell Waltrip and a few others. They had personalities…. Is there really a nickels worth of difference between Kevin Harvick and Matt Kennseth ? …. I know the diehard fans of these guys will say there is, but to the masses of people that NASCAR coverts there isn’t.. Most of these drivers are very vanilla… no edge..The cars and tracks are dull, the alleged rivalries are TV generated (like Pro-Wrestiling)… Being from New England, I had to pay an arm and a leg for a ticket to Loudon… now the place is half empty… I would watch and dream about someday going to Bristol for the night race and how amazingly lucky those people are that had tickets… Now, they are advertising trying to sell them….

    Strip it down NASCAR.. get back to your roots and stop trying to be a made for TV reality series….

  7. kb Says:
    January 20th, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    Good article, good comments. Too bad BZF doesn’t or won’t ever read them ever. His ego is to big, it knows no bounds, he is hell bent and damned. The overwhelming majority of true race fans have been screaming about the playoff style of the absurd Chase for years. Now what does he want to do, instead of getting rid of it, he wants to screw around with that, which sounds like the most insane idea ever. Somebody in Castle Daytona needs to grow a pair and tell the Emperor he isn’t wearing any clothes. You will be a hero!. The sport we loving is swirling down the drain, has been for years, and he is too arrogant or stupid to care. Just as long as he can count his TV revenue stream, all is right with the world.

  8. Bill B Says:
    January 21st, 2014 at 7:05 am

    Maybe if NASCAR would have worried about making the fans they had happy instead of the fans they didn’t, things wouldn’t be as bad as they are now.
    The way they keep changing things makes the championship mean less and less each year. This latest proposed change to the points just makes it even more arbitrary.
    I can’t wait for Gordon to retire. Then I can turn my back on this joke of a sport and it’s idiocracy of leaders.

  9. GinaV24 Says:
    January 21st, 2014 at 8:12 am

    Good article, Rich and good comments, too. It is a shame that a sport that was so darn much fun to watch has been tweaked out of shape so far by a guy who doesn’t even have any interest in racing, just $$.

  10. morgan ward Says:
    January 21st, 2014 at 8:35 am

    The problem with today’s NASCAR racing as I see it , but seldom if ever never mentioned, lies in the fact that from Daytona through Homestead, all a fan hears about is the chase. Absolutely no emphasis or conversation is ever focused on the week to week racing.

    NASCAR needs to get out of the way and allow each weekly race to once again be the conversation, go back to the old school point system , and allow the ‘cream’ to rise to the top as it always did before Brian France ran off all of the Die Hard Dedicated Fans like me , who has followed and attended NASCAR racing since 1958.

    If the racing once again focuses on racing, the fans will come.

  11. NASCARJeff Says:
    January 21st, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    Mr. France,
    Go buy yourself a baseball or football franchise so you can get your team into the playoffs.

    Then maybe Mike Helton and Robin Pemberton can fix all the things you have screwed up in this sport.

  12. sal Says:
    January 21st, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    I agree with Morgan Ward. When the spotlight shifted to the championship, things started going down hill. Each race used to be meaningful, which was why I watched each race every week. Who won the title was the logical outcome of what had happened at each track throughout the entire season. As good as JJ is, I still say the reason he doesn’t get the respect he ‘deserves’ is because he has only won championships during the ‘chase’.
    Sorry. Not as impressive as a total season title. Trying to pretend that all 43 cars aren’t on the track for every race is imbecilic. By minimizing the majority of the field, Nascar is consuming itself.

  13. Keith Says:
    January 21st, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    Brian France reminds me of Kim Jung Un. A third generation bozo who surrounds himself with yes men who are afraid to question him. He is not tweaking Nascar he is twerking it.

  14. Tony Geinzer Says:
    January 26th, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    I think the wheel is turning against Brian France and I think the real difference between Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth is trust. And, too, I still want to entertain Tire Choice, at least for the Non-Sprint Cup Levels. I want to see down the road, Twin Races Every Weekend as Fans are the real issue, not herking and jerking around 24-7.