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NASCAR does plenty of things well

By admin | May 26, 2009

By Richard Allen

I often use this blog space to criticize NASCAR for a wide variety of things. However, an organization that has been around for 60 years and has risen to the top of its particular area of concentration must do some things well. And, I do not like to be negative all the time so I have decided to list a few of those things the sanctioning body does well.

First, NASCAR pulled off one of the more classy moves in the sports world on Memorial Day when they stopped the Coca-Cola 600 and had drivers silence their engines in honor of America’s fallen war heroes.

President Obama had asked all of America to observe a moment of silence at 3:00pm on Monday. At that time, the race was short of the half-way point which would be required to make the race official. Rain was moving in the direction of the Lowe’s Motor Speedway and stopping the race as they did could have jeopardized their ability to reach lap 200, but they stopped anyway.

That was the right thing to do and it showed both respect and class.

Another thing NASCAR does well was also demonstrated during the Coca-Cola 600. NASCAR has often used what is referred to as a ‘competition caution’ when there is a need to. In other words, they will put out the yellow flag on a predetermined lap early in a race if there has been some sort of change. If it has rained since the last practice, if there has been an issue with tires during practice or any number of other situations that might create problems during the running of the event for drivers and teams. These cautions allow teams to better understand the conditions they are racing under.

Again, competition cautions are the right thing to do in many instances.

I believe NASCAR is dedicated to safety. I know there are many who criticize them for moving too slowly on certain issues, but all in all, I believe they want this sport to be safe for all involved.

For all its faults, there is no question the Car of Tomorrow is safer than its predecessor. Hans devices, freezing the field under caution and pit road speed limits are among numerous changes to be enacted in recent years. All of the things have made racing safer.

NASCAR has even worked to make qualifying more entertaining. They responded to the suggestions of competitors and television networks to group the so called ‘go or go homers’ at the end of each session so that the drama of who would make the field and who wouldn’t could play out to its fullest extent.

And above all else, NASCAR promotes itself very well. Even those who focus their attention on other sports will often remark that they wish their sport promoted as well as NASCAR. Perhaps the only sport as good at promotion is the National Football League. Major League Baseball could take lessons.

There are other things NASCAR does well. It is my favorite sport, and the favorite sport of many more, for a reason. Certainly, there are things I would like to see done differently. But when it gets down to it, there is nothing like the sights and sounds of stock car racing.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.

Topics: Articles |

2 Responses to “NASCAR does plenty of things well”

  1. Dan Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 9:14 am

    That surely is a shallow list Mr. Allen, compared to what it should be. And the list is mostly from this past weekend. NASCAR is wide open for criticism because they have been arrogant and crammed things down fans’ and competitors’ throats. They have been greedy and nothing more than the $ sign makes them move. Safety is in the recent past the reasons they do what they do but if you peel back the onion you will see that $ is what moves them. I have been around this stuff since the early 1960s and have seen it from many many directions: definitely as a kid/fan and standing around waiting for Richard Petty’s wild autograph; working as a drink vendor for a 1/4 mile dirt track at 12; working concessions at the great Greenville-Pickens speedway in the late 60s and early 70s; working for James Hylton when Elmo Langley was still racing; weekend warrior for DiGard in the 80s; and writing for a race magazine in the 90s and earlier this decade. This gives me as much perspective on this thing as anyone–over 45 years as a fan. So I love it too, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a lot of problems with the direction now…

    Let me tell you what it does right in my opinion:

    1. They manage the overall race weekend well. Lot’s of logistics and things to do and they do that part of the traveling circus well.
    2. They did a good job of corralling the TV rights thing back in 2000 and overall do a good job there (could use less TV exec influence though and more on that later).
    3. The Chase to me is OK, no biggie. I know a lot of folks my age say it’s the worst thing since Castor oil. To me is nearly does the same as the old system. It always boils down to the same 2-3 teams in the history of this sport to chase a championship. It’s OK to have a big tent now. Does the job it is supposed to do. Gives more sponsors more air time and generates media interest longer. Now the ‘Chase for the Chase’ is being reported. That didn’t used to come along until September Chase days or pre-Chase days. The team that finishes 10-12th in this thing by September is not a championship caliber team. But they get to play in that party and there is always an outside chance they can put together a good 10 races to win it all. That’s a good thing.

    Things they do wrong:

    1. Start times! Geezuz where do I start. They now don’t even publish start times and you have to hunt pretty hard for them. All to what? Piss your fans off and have to have them listen to dribble for 90 mins? The best they had it was when they do a 1pm East coast start and have the “Bank of America Countdown to Green.” That’s where whatshisface shown and that’s about where he belongs. Do a 30-minute lead in and get on with it. Summer showers on the East coast is and will drag this thing out for 4-6 hours. No one now has the time or patience to stay in this thing that long. And now NASCAR really needs to look hard at changing the dynamics of this. Shorter races? You bet! And this is from an old school guy. Leave the 600 alone. And maybe each track that currently has two 500 milers take one down to 400. Pocono? Geezuz! One 350 miler and one 400 miler is all we need out of that place. In fact what we REALLY need in one 400 miler there, period!
    2. Over legislating and over penalizing this thing to death!!!! I cannot overstate this. I think back and penalizing Dale Jr. for “shit” in Talladega winners circle and Jeff Gordon for shoving Matt Kenseth and now seeing Carl Long as and opportunity to pay back TARP funds. $200,000 to prove a point? What? That’s chump change to a major race team and we all know NASCAR would not penalize Rick Hendrick that is his engine was .017 over. This is just insane. Bruton Smith, as kooky as he can be sometimes is right. Makes NASCAR look heavy handed. Oh and yea, they would have penalized Junior Johnson back in the day that way! Yea right. JJ probably has been 17 CC INCHES over on his best day, much less .017 over, or .17 whatever it is. They have just over legislated this sport to death and it’s showing up, Big Time. I don’t bemoan the lack of character that many people believe about it today. I believe this sport has plenty of character and characters. But they have been slapped around by the Dictator so much that it has sucked the life right out of the sport…You know this is one if not the only ONE of many sports that the competitors will mostly keep their mouth shut just to play. The addiction of driving a race car is juts too great to reveal all the secrets and frustrations that they now. So for the most part they shut up and drive. But it gives the Dictators a feeling of more control. And the Dictators now? Well the more they control the worse the show gets.

    3. The CoT. Where do we start? This post is already 900 words too long and it would take 900 words just to get going on this CoT. NASCAR is looking at this all wrong. Back in the day the cars were hard to drive because they were tanks. You cannot build a modern-day tank and expect it to cure all the ills of yesterday today and tomorrow. Take the snout and wing off this thing and have a swing at that. Put the valance back on and the spoiler and see what that does. Boxier shouldn’t be the problem. Splitter, bump stops and mandating shocks springs gear ratios and what all else they do to teams is what is. All those rules save $25,000 a year I would guess. Jet fuel for mega teams for a month maybe. Let um lose again. The high cost of racing has come in crazy testing, travel costs and driver salaries. Geezuz I never thought I would say this but these guys make enough money now. Felix Sabates said it best. You can’t take a team and give 70% of the money to a driver and expect things to work. NASCAR always talks about the “economic model.” BS! George Carlin had it right about doublespeak. NOTE TO ALL: THEREIS NO ECONOMIC MODEL IN NASCAR! It’s all about spending OPM–Other People’s Money, made famous by that free wheelin PA state Senator Vincent Fumo. He could spend OPM as good as anyone alive, wel maybe not as good as Bernie Madorf.

    Anyway I went way too long and don’t expect this to be published. And the list of what NASCAR does wrong isn’t completed. I wish I didn’t have a list. I love this sport as much as anyone. But this ain’t yo daddy’s NASCAR. And I can be modern, see the need for upgrading the sport for modern times. But the current group of stewards isn’t hitting on all 8 cylinders guiding this thing. They have left a lot of fans on the table. Their never ending quest for the buck is hurting this badly. And it hasn’t just shown up today, there has been a curve of going down the wrong path for about 5-8 years. Dale Sr. might have just been in the best position to help guide this thing if he were alive. He was borne of the old time and had the sense of the modern times. DW has some of that but he gets carried away sometimes…Maybe David Pearson said it best recently…’who ever heard of putting a 1/4 of air in a tire and making a difference?’…It ain’t that difficult folks. And we are making it much much more difficult than it has to be.

  2. Mike Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Lose the Chase. It is stupid. Go back to having a season long champion and some of these “boring” races will have excitement again.

    I will give you an example. Kyle Busch hitting the wall at Darlington meant absolutely nothing b/c everyone knows he will be in the Chase and NASCAR will give him those points back thanks to their welfare system. Under the old system hitting the wall would have been a devastating blow to his championship contention. Fans who love him would have been upset and fans who hate him would have been excited. As it is now no one really cares b/c it was meaningless other than he no longer had a chance to win that race.

    What NASCAR should do is keep a season-long points trophy like they had with the old system. Then if you want to add excitement to the last 10 races just give major bonus points for winning one of the final 10 races. For example give the winner 100 extra points. Someone with a 300 point lead (like Kenseth had in 2003) wouldn’t be able to just ride around b/c all it would take would be one victory by the second place car and the gap would be narrowed. If someone had a great final 10 races and won 3 or 4 of them thet could come from way back to capture the title.

    However… this would also allow what happened at Darlington in early May to still matter. As it is now all we are watching is exhibition races and exhibition events are boring. How exciting is a preseason NFL game?