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On Saturday night, NASCAR will roar back onto the landscape with the Budweiser Shootout. The race is an exclusive, members-only affair, with only pole winners from the previous season and previous winners on the guest list. Budweiser sponsored the pole award for years, and along with the honor of top starting spot for a race came entry into the short, money-or-nothing Shootout each spring. Now, with Coors taking over as top beer sponsor, the future of the race is questionable.
And you know what? It's a race whose time is past.
Sure, it's an entertaining way to get the kinks out after a long off-season. Because there are no points on the line, drivers tend not to be as careful with their equipment, and that can lead to exciting racing. It is certainly the norm in professional sports to have exhibition games before the regular season starts.
But NASCAR isn't a stick and ball sport.
Sure, fans are excited for the first "race" of the season. Well, those who have a favorite driver in it are, anyway. But fans would be just as excited if the Daytona 500 was this weekend and not another week down the line. Here's a novel idea: Move it back and skip the dog-and-pony show.
There are several very real reasons to take this race off the schedule altogether. First of all, moving the start of the season back a week would allow for the one thing many drivers have expressed a need for in recent years-an off week after Richmond in September, before the start of the Chase. As it is, the teams run the second half of the season without a week off-a grueling schedule that puts some Chase teams behind from the first race, especially if a Chase-bound car is wrecked in late summer. NASCAR rarely listens to the teams and their needs, but this is one they would do well to heed. After all, if the twelve teams in the Chase are rested, prepared and raring to go, they have a better chance of getting closer racing throughout, and a tighter championship battle which is the intent of the Chase in the first place.
Besides that, by instituting the top 35 rule and making the teams outside the top 35 race their way into the Daytona 500, NASCAR handed a huge advantage to the teams who don't need it. They get extra practice for the Shootout and the race itself-and you're kidding yourself if you think they don't take setup notes for their 500 cars. Sure they all tested last month. But that was January, and in February, the track and the weather are different. The very least NASCAR needs to do is give the teams who didn't qualify for the Shootout extra practices totaling the practice and race time the top dogs get. Sure, the pole winners earned their pole positions-and they already got their reward for it-top starting spot for that race and a nice little bonus check. They don't need another advantage for the Twin 150's and the Daytona 500 that puts them further ahead of the other teams. Teams don't get poles when they get no track time; NASCAR's practice policy already proves that.
With television ratings and ticket sales down and dropping, NASCAR should be concentrating efforts on the races that count. The Shootout was a great gimmick to grab fans early and for new fans it was a short introduction to racing for those lacking in attention span. These days, the focus should be on making the season and the championship the best they can be-and that doesn't mean shoving another race down our throats. With the economy on a downslide, many people who might have made a vacation out of Speedweeks can ill afford to do so. NASCAR needs to refocus on what the sport really needs-and that is not an exhibition race in February. If NASCAR really needs to have a gimmick, here's an idea: let the teams (all the teams) bring an old car, and stage a demolition derby with the proceeds going to charity. Run it the week of the banquet and call it good. Then come back in February for the Daytona 500.
NASCAR certainly hasn't shied away from dumping tradition left and right for what they feel is the sake of the sport. Now it's time to look at a race whose time has truly passed. It was fun while it lasted, but it's time to focus on the races that count.
©2000 - 2008 Amy Henderson and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
Its definitely time for this race to be retired. The schedule is simply too full and it just serves no purpose. And the worst part of it, is that the race has also become a case of the rich getting richer, giving more track time in racing conditions to the teams and drivers that need it the least. I think both of the non-points paying events have outlived their usefulness.
nascar isnt grade school where everyone starts with a clean sheet of paper.if ya dont like racing go write about stray dogs so race fans dont have to be bored by second rate reporting
What ever happened to rewarding superior performance? Yes, you win at least one pole and then you get to run an extra exhibition race the next season that allows the team to get more information about the race.
There’s winners and losers in this world and thanks to the wussification of America, this “everything has to be the same for everyone so we don’t have hurted feelings, oh boo-hoo-hoo, I need a freakin hug, sob sob” attitude is the CRAP we have to put up with.
This isn’t the “Everybody gets a trophy fat kid soccer league”. It’s adults. It’s NASCAR. It’s about winning.
Winning is good by the way.
I’d tell you to go watch something else, but I’m afraid you’d be dissappointed with the competition throughout life. NASCAR is a competition. If competition makes you feel all jittery and uncomfortable inside it’s probably not for you. There are losers in competition.
Losing builds character if you learn from it. If you wallow in it and celebrate the losers then it just builds mediocrity.
No it shouldn’t be retired. It’s a race, it’s not always about points or the season, It’s a race for prestige and money….. It’s what Auto Racing use to be about, “Getting a Trophy, a Check and a Kiss from a Pretty Girl”
Leave it alone, and to all you “New NASCAR FANS ( You know “Brian’s Posse”) Just shut up and watch the race.
Spinning in my grave,
Do away with this stupid race! It is only a money maker for NA$CAR and is a meaningless race! (except for the extra practice it gives a select few teams)!
And Kevin says NA$CAR is “competition”!!
With 36 starting spots already filled for the 2008 500, and not a single wheel has turned for this season!! Well, figure it out for yourself, but it sure ain’t “competition” for sure!
There are drivers “locked” in to this 2008 500 that hardly ran a race last year!!
LOCKED IN I scream!!!
How can a “competition” exist when the fastest don’t get to race??
Maybe the current fans smoke the same thing Brian does!!
I like the Shootout; it kicks off the season and rewards teams that won a Pole last year with a chance to rake in some money. They’re racing backup cars for some money and fun. Yes it gives the teams a practice advantage, but too bad. Life is unfair. If the off-week after Richmond is needed, then the chimps that create NA$CAR’s schedule need to move the off-date that occurs after Vegas or Cali and move it back to then. The current off date is stupid.
Well Amy, so much for tradition and getting back to our roots and our core fans, huh? Why not dump the Winston (or what ever theyâ€™re calling it these days) too? This would follow your basic logic. Heh, we could also eliminate the Gateraide Qualifiers. They arenâ€™t points races either. Weâ€™ll just qualify on Sundayâ€™s times like at every other race. After all, this is only Daytona, nothing special about it.
Put this pointless race on ice. The season is too long as is.
@ Douglas – You’re not even a fan. That little dollar sign tells me your slant. You’re a whiner dougy. I mean, they haven’t ran the fastest 43 in how many years? Nope, your just a detractor. You probably would use that overused phrase “hater” tho
The race itself is a competition. Who cares how the qualify the guys who can’t drive anyway? That’s not what it’s about. It’s about the QUALITY teams and who wins on raceday.
Now go back to telling Bevis saying how everything sucks Butthead. errr doug.
I agree with Kevin. When did it become bad to reward success? “Exclusive members-only affair”, heh…that’s hysterical. The Slow Need Not Apply For Membership.
Kevin is right in everything he says. This is an exciting point to start the season. I look forward to this every year. Watch and you see harder racing than you will see in the 500 next week. This article was a waste of my time and your laptops battery.
…..and if you don’t like it ….don’t watch it…duhhhhhhhhh
Recent articles from Amy Henderson:
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Want to know more about Amy or see an archive of all of her articles? Check out her bio page for more information.