Becca Gladden · Tuesday August 2, 2005
If I ruled the NASCAR world, I would be a benevolent dictator, issuing edicts for the good of all who reside in my racing realm.
These would be my decrees for the week of July 31 – August 6, 2005:
- I would order an inquiry to discover why Cup qualifying for this weekend’s Brickyard 400 – one of the year’s biggest races – will not to be broadcast live on TNT, but tape-delayed by several hours.
- I would rename Silly Season. I know it’s the traditional name for this time of year, and l know it is a time-honored media term, but it still sounds, well … silly. Suggested replacement name: Season-in-which-people-speculate-endlessly-about-rumors which-for-the-most-part-turn-out-to-be-completely-false. Okay, maybe not.
- I would do the merciful thing for all my subjects and pull the plug on Speed’s NASCAR Nation show. Since undergoing a complete makeover a few weeks ago, the program has deteriorated from tolerable to absolutely unbearable.
- Speaking of Speed TV, the next order of business would be to turn the stage back around on Trackside. Chris Long, the network’s new Vice President of Studio Production, said, "We turned the stage around because I wanted the television viewers to appreciate the live aspect of being at the track." Dude, we already knew it was broadcast live from the track, but it’s absurd to have the panelists sitting with their backs to the fans who came to see them. Besides, it’s quite distracting during the interview segments to see someone behind the panel waving a giant, "Jeff Hammond, will you marry me?" sign.
- I would dispense with the practice of celebrities singing the National Anthem before each race. Let’s just play the music over the PA system and let the assembled masses sing the lyrics una voce.
- I would ensure that open wheel driver Paul Tracy makes it to the Cup series just to see what happens the first time he tangles with Tony Stewart or Kevin Harvick on the track.
- I would offer my sincere congratulations to Kenny Wallace for landing a great new sponsor, Auto Zone, in the Busch series. Wallace, an Honors graduate of the Michael Waltrip School of Sponsor Plugs, is currently fifth in points and has earned the right to have a steady, supportive sponsor.
- I would immediately eliminate the most ridiculous aspect of the Chase, which erases the point spread between the top 10 drivers and artificially separates them by 5 points each after 26 races. Last year, the Chase format was credited with creating the most dramatic final race in years. But how hard is it to ensure drama when you manufacture it by manipulating the points standings with just 10 races to go? Here’s an idea: Let’s stop the Super Bowl halfway through the fourth quarter and tie the score – no matter what the actual score is – and then pat ourselves on the back for having such an exciting finish.
- I would insist that the ladies who appear on Wally Dallenbach’s "Wally’s World" segment stop acting like, well … girls. Thousands of female NASCAR fans (and journalists) would trade places with you in a heartbeat, and instead of closing our eyes and screaming, would truly relish every second of the experience.
- And finally, this week’s Commissioner Appointment is Darrell Waltrip as my Commissioner of Corrections, to make some desperately needed changes to the Cup series rules. Waltrip recently proposed a simple yet inspired change to the Chase format. In an article on FoxSports.com, Waltrip wrote, "In order to be in the Chase – the final 10 races – you should win a race. Chase eligibility should be determined by wins first and points second. Guys that have won races are in. If fewer than 10 drivers have won races, take the guys that are highest up in the points." Sounds right to me.
In January 2004, when NASCAR Vice President Jim Hunter revealed the new format, he said, "The balance of winning and consistency has sort of gotten out of whack. It seems that the consistency factor plays more of a role than winning races." The Chase system was supposed to change that; obviously, it hasn’t. After 20 races this year, 6 of the top 10 drivers in points have not won a single race. Carl Edwards in 12th has won two, and Jeff Gordon in 15th has won three. Waltrip also proposed eliminating the Lucky Dog pass and putting stricter limits on debris cautions. Darrell, there is permanent spot for you as a member of my Royal Cabinet. By the way, can you do something about those annoying impound races?
Until next week, I remain your Benevolent Dictator… Becca
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