By admin | March 1, 2014
By Richard Allen
By most accounts, the Daytona 500 came off as a tremendous success for NASCAR. The sport’s most popular driver won the race. Track and series officials were praised for their efforts to get the race in despite rain doing its part to ruin the day. And, drivers mixed it up throughout much of the event with an exciting finish coming down under the lights in front of a large crowd.
But no matter what you may hear from those who do their best to carry water for the sport’s hierarchy, none of that was due to the changes NASCAR made over the most recent off season.
Since the checkered flag fell on the season ending Sprint Cup race in south Florida last year, NASCAR has almost completely remodeled the sport. There is a new way of determining the series champion. Qualifying is now completely different from what it has been since the inception of the sport. And as is so often the case, there have been changes in various mechanical aspects of the cars such as shocks, springs and spoilers since last year.
But rather than the most notable change(championship system) causing what was one of the better Sprint Cup races in quite some time, it was rather a perfect storm of conditions that fell into place on a given afternoon/evening.
The first 38 laps of the 2014 Daytona 500 were fairly bland as drivers knew rain was likely to come and the race would not be official until the lap counter passed the 100 mark. As a result, little action took place in the laps that were run during the daylight hours.
However, business picked up considerably once the track was dried and racing resumed later that evening. But it wasn’t because the drivers were hungry to claim a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff that there was two and three wide action from the time the green flag waved to restart the action.
The drivers were racing for the biggest prize in stock car racing for Pete’s sake. And more, darkness combined with the cooler air to give the track more grip. That increased grip gave drivers the assurance they could race side-by-side all the way around the 2.5 mile facility without sliding up and into each other.
Further, the was no guarantee that the race would run its full distance as rain loomed on the radar just miles from the track. That lack of certainty caused drivers to jockey for position throughout the final 400 miles as no one knew when a stray shower might bring a premature end to ’The Great American Race’.
None of the factors that contributed to the Daytona 500 being a great race had anything to do with the new championship system, thank goodness. Fortunately, drivers showed that they wanted to win the sport’s biggest event and they were willing to take risks to accomplish that goal.
This weekend at the Phoenix International Raceway is where the real NASCAR season will begin. This may prove to be one of the greatest races in NASCAR history or it may not. Again, I argue that either way will have little to do with the new championship system.
As drivers such as Kyle Busch pointed out after the new system was announced, they have always wanted to win. It’s the cars that haven’t allowed for more passing and side-by-side racing. Perhaps mechanical changes might make for better racing more so than the Chase format change.
But ultimately, the key point is that this weekend in Phoenix begins the “real” season for the “New NASCAR”. The Daytona 500 was not a real test. The magnitude of that race and the use of restrictor plates will always serve to create a competitive environment. If this new system is to truly make a difference in the so-called regular season, it will begin here. But I’m not sure such will be the case unless the cars have been improved.
Help @RacingWithRich reach 4,300 followers on Twitter and you could win one of these cool 1:24 scale die casts cars:
Topics: Articles |