By admin | October 4, 2009
By Richard Allen
NASCARâ€™s very own TrackPass said it all on lap 198 of the Price Chopper 400 at the Kansas Speedway on Sunday. The scrolling message on the NASCAR.com race enhancer said, â€œNot a lot of passing taking place as cars are pretty spread out and getting ready for green flag stops.â€
You know the race had to be pretty bland when NASCARâ€™s own website admitted as much.
However, take heart race fans! NASCAR once again came through with the late race caution to tighten the field for a â€œDouble-file restart, shootout style!â€ With just about 30 laps remaining the yellow flag waved for fluid from the blown engine of Dale Earnhardt, Juniorâ€™s car. Although no fluid was shown by television cameras and it was later said that a broken belt is what made the #88 carâ€™s engine seize, NASCAR didnâ€™t want to take any chances(any chances that the end of the race might conclude in a way just as boring as the first 230 laps, that is).
NASCAR and the ABC/ESPN network ought to just go ahead and announce for fans to not worry about the first three-fourthâ€™s of a race and tune in for the last laps of the event only.
On a personal note, I actually fell asleep during the mid-section of the race which is something I very rarely do.
Now, it may be argued that this was not a boring race. After all, there were more lead changes than there ever had been during a Kansas race. However, many of those took place during pit stop exchanges and on restarts, both of which skew the lead change statistic greatly.
The television announcers have even begun to make back-handed remarks about their own manipulation. Take note of any race as it enters the last fourth of the event. Notice how many times the ABC/ESPN crew notes that a caution typically waves in the last few laps of that particular race. This seems to be the code for, â€œThis race needs some excitement because we are going up against the NFL in this time slot.â€ On cue, the caution will wave for â€˜debrisâ€™ within a few moments of those words being uttered.
This pattern has become so much a part of the recent script that it is getting a bit ridiculous.
I, as much as anyone else, want to see an entertaining race with an exciting finish. However, if almost weekly manipulation is required to make that happen, something needs to be done to address the issue rather than simply throwing a convenient caution every so often.
Both NASCAR and its television partners seem unconcerned about the joke they are making of their own product. It seems as though with every passing race this â€˜sportâ€™ is moving more and more toward fulfilling Tony Stewartâ€™s professional wrestling criticism.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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