The Frontstretch: Five Points to Ponder: Hands off Daytona, Musings of NASCAR's Village Idiot, and One Missing Mustang by Bryan Davis Keith -- Tuesday July 6, 2010

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ONE: Daytona’s Repave Is Not Warranted… and the Racing Will Suffer

For all the nostalgia drummed up with the return of the No. 3 to Daytona International Speedway on Friday night, there was just as much focus turned towards the 30+-year old surface of the high-banked facility that has seen some of the sport’s greatest moments and darkest hours transpire upon it. Just as Dale Jr. adamantly stated he would never again race the No. 3, NASCAR’s national touring series will never again take to the gritty, slippery surface that has characterized Daytona as the ultimate handling track, with a repaving project to completely redo the 2.5-mile oval finished in time for the Daytona 500 next February.

A “poor” racing surface hasn’t been harming the competition at Daytona, but the track’s still getting repaved this offseason for the first time since 1978.

The question has to be begged…why?! That surface is the exact reason why the racing at Daytona never fails to disappoint. It’s why at Daytona, even with restrictor plates, the field manages to string itself out on the long runs, that even with horsepower sapped away, comers and goers are the story of the event. It’s why there’s more to running the facility than the right motor and a brick for a right foot. It’s why tires actually mean something when it comes time to pit. It’s that weathered, crumbling asphalt that has made the World’s Center of Racing not only a famous name, but a thrilling venue for race fans and drivers alike.

However, all because of a pothole, those positives are going out the window in favor of new asphalt. No matter how the repave is handled, new asphalt means more grip and years before weathering can set in. Just take a look at Talladega to figure out what that means on a lengthy superspeedway. No need for handling, no need for tires – just big lead feet and big wrecks. I wouldn’t trade the current Daytona for that, even if that means an eight-hour Daytona 500 here and there to put epoxy in a hole.

There is no justification for it… and to prove my point, I turn your attention to the ARCA Racing Series and the Salem Speedway, a track that I paid my first visit to this April. High-banked with uneven concrete walls, the asphalt there has divots six inches wide. Turn 3 resembles marbles from top to bottom, because the asphalt is crumbling with every car that passes. The surface is among the most abrasive I’ve seen any sort of motor vehicle drive on… and the racing is fantastic. Plus, you won’t find one driver, or fan for that matter, on that circuit bitching and moaning about “the state of the surface.”

If the price of thrilling racing is enduring a pothole here and there, I’ll gladly pay it. Daytona delivered yet again this weekend, and the asphalt was largely to thank. Seeing it go is about the equivalent of taking this track off the schedule.

TWO: Hope and Change We Can Believe In…To The Chase

Perhaps the only leader more clueless in this country than our President is NASCAR’s own Brian France, who decided to grace racing media with his presence over the past weekend, tackling a wide array of long-term issues facing the sport. First up, he announced changes to the Chase were being considered, despite the fact that an alteration would mark the third adjustment to the title formula in the last six years. So much for professional legitimacy in the sporting world.

The ideas hinted at by France and floated by media have all been heard before: add a road course to the final 10 races; eliminate drivers as the Chase progresses; make a win mandatory to get in the Chase. There’s a problem with all of these…they don’t address the way that resetting the standings with 10 races to go minimizes the other 26.

Just look at this past Saturday. Kevin Harvick scored an impressive win at Daytona, his second of the season, and heads to Chicago at the season’s midpoint with a 212-point lead over second place. That’s a huge advantage, to put it lightly… and yet there’s not a single driver in the field pushing the panic switch. There’s no reason for the guys in the top 5, in the thick of the title chase, to push it from now ‘till Richmond, ‘cause they know the points are going to be reset. For that matter, there’s not really much incentive to push it after Richmond. The way the system currently works, finishing seventh and leading a lap every week should get the job done.

Harvick’s win at Daytona was nice, but the point lead and momentum that triumph secured the No. 29 team means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of 2010. When a win at Daytona and a 200+-point lead means nothing, something is broken – and in this case, it’s Brian France’s brainchild (oxymoronic, isn’t it?)

For me, there’s just one fix to the Chase: Make 36 races mean 36 races again.

THREE: …to the Nationwide Series

In a dramatic about-face, France also noted that NASCAR is suddenly awakening to the “concentration of power” occurring in the Nationwide Series, and that they need to act to ensure that Cup drivers are not crowding the stage for the developing talent the Series is supposed to be cultivating.

Cause for celebration that France actually sounded halfway informed about his second-tier series? Hardly. I’ll believe it when I see it.

It’s not like the “concentration of power” trend that he references is something that’s just now onset. The graveyard of team owners that have thrown their hands up in the air, from Greg Pollex to Ashton Lewis to the Biagi Brothers to James Finch this season has been growing for years. Cup drivers have made mockeries of the series’ championship for four consecutive seasons. Start-and-park has proliferated and even become full-time business since 2008. And now there’s suddenly a need to address issues?

Fact is, it may be too late for NASCAR to save the Nationwide ranks. Even if there’s to be a cap on Cup drivers, they’re still going to be there… meaning the same temptation for the few sponsors still in the Nationwide Series to go with a sure thing instead of the next big thing will still be there. The Cup teams are going to be counted on to flood their teams with ten times the money of the independents, because there’s now a new car that needs developing. And with the few new independent teams out there reduced to buying used stuff, they still won’t be able to compete.

As for new ownership, why would anyone want to come in and spend $10 million to build their own NNS COTs when the Cup ranks are right across the garage? With all of the teams and owners that NASCAR have left behind to starve in the remains of what was once the sport’s flavorful AAA ranks, there is no escaping the fact that the same Cup teams that destroyed it are now the only way to build it up. As the current Nationwide Series business model is showing, no one really cares to watch that.

FOUR: …to the Schedule

While the 2011 Cup schedule was not addressed by Brian France directly, speculation is running rampant that the upcoming season’s slate will be altered significantly: SMI is likely to shift race dates from New Hampshire and Atlanta to make room for Kentucky and a second date at Las Vegas, while Sports Illustrated is reporting that ISC is preparing to honor Kansas Speedway’s request for a second date at the expense of the Auto Club Speedway’s February race.

Two of three of these changes are no-brainers. Auto Club Speedway’s attendance is woeful, and the racing on-track is nothing that requires two dates. Swapping a date between ACS and Kansas is trading an intermediate for an intermediate, who cares? As for the SMI swaps, Kentucky for Atlanta comes down to attendance. Despite some great competition, Atlanta’s March race has struggled in recent seasons to even outdraw Kentucky’s Nationwide Series events.

For New Hampshire to lose a date to Las Vegas, though, something’s not right here. Yes, Las Vegas has more grandstand capacity and a beautiful facility. But in terms of percentage filled, NHMS is right up there with Vegas… and thanks to SMI, the facility at Loudon is the beneficiary of a number of recent upgrades. It’s no slouch of a race track, and attendance wise one of the strongest seen in 2010.

Unfortunately, thanks to the incestuous duo between NASCAR and ISC, tracks that can and will produce big crowds and big money are having to be swapped amongst themselves in the SMI camp… because of that damned unwritten rule that SMI tracks can swap only with SMI.

That ISC tracks, most notably the second date at Phoenix that the track probably never should have gotten in the first place, are all but off limits for date swaps because it would hurt the France clan’s bottom line is harming everyone else in the racing business. Times are tough right now, and where the crowds and money are is where the show needs to be going. Las Vegas has time and time again posted sellouts for Cup races and six figure crowds for Nationwide Series shows. Dollars and cents, there’s no argument they should get a second crack at the apple over other venues on the circuit.

And that doesn’t just apply to ISC venues, granted. Dover certainly shouldn’t be left out of this conversation either, or even Pocono. But having a logical discussion about schedules can and will not happen as long as the sanctioning body is spooning with half the track ownership on the schedule.

FIVE: The Nationwide Series COT Fails to Impress

To quote my Nationwide Series Breakdown from Monday, the new Dodge Challenger looked absolutely badass on the high banks of Daytona Friday night. But that was it. Toyota’s Camry looked much like a generic car with a sticker on the front. Chevrolet’s COT had one of the guys watching with me asking, “What kind of Chevrolet is it? Impala, Monte Carlo, Aveo? And where’s the Camaro?” As for Ford’s much-hyped Mustang… it sure didn’t look like one. The front end design and lettering proved all but indistinguishable under race conditions.

It’s as if NASCAR didn’t realize that a ¾-kit car as opposed to the Cup Series’ kit car is still not a stock car. Shocking, isn’t it?

Contact Bryan Davis Keith

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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07/06/2010 01:36 AM

I have 4 tickets to both NHIS races. (can’t forget all the Canadiens who go Bruton)

If they take one away, I am out of the other. What is the point?

As for ISC. How does the parent corporation get away with such a monoploy.

They control too much. Wall Street are pikers compared to NA$CAR.

Hugo Chavez has nothing on the Control Freak France family.

Eric Bernhard
07/06/2010 09:53 AM

How about leaving politics out of articles about racing? Our president is trying to clean-up a huge mess left by his predecessor.

Ron Cox
07/06/2010 10:38 AM

Great column, but I disagree about the reset of the points at the beginning of the Chase. Doesn’t every sports team go back to 0 – 0 at the beginning of the playoffs?

07/06/2010 10:44 AM

Amen Eric.

Don Mei
07/06/2010 11:15 AM

How to fix Nascar in 3 easy steps. (the summary as opposed to the long version)

1) CUP…Dump the chase, drastically increase the number of points awarded to the top finishers so a win means something and twenty-first doesnt.

2) NATIONWIDE….limit the top 35 Cup drivers to participation in no more than 3 to 5 events per year. (see truck)

3)CAMPING WORLD…dump the series as it is now and get a number of those teams interested in a revised, Cupdriver free Nationwide series. Replace the trucks with a new class designed to get the younger generation interested in Nascar. Yep, 6 cylinder or turbo four cylinder Japanese cars. Lots to talk about here but its time for some drastic action especially as regards the non-Cup series. They are both dying for any number of reasons. Discussions anyone?

07/06/2010 11:29 AM

Hey Eric, The writer was just making a comparison. Our current President is clueless.But as a fact, the only thing today that the former administration is still responsible for is the war. The house and senate was controlled by you and your demo friends 2 years before the clueless president took office. Who headed fannie mae and freddie mac?…Barney Frank come to mind?…and who headed the banking?…Dodd come to mind?, atleast get your facts straight

07/06/2010 11:31 AM

Ditto Eric!

07/06/2010 12:01 PM

I never knew playing so much golf and partying with Paul McCartney could fix a country’s messes. But I guess that counts as trying to some.

07/06/2010 12:03 PM

Ditto, Bill!!

07/06/2010 12:11 PM

Brian France is so clueless it is amazing. Everyone keeps saying what a great business man he is — really? I’m not impressed – ratings and attendance have fallen since he put his butt in the head chair.

My thoughts – scrap the chase – it really is racertainment, not a championship that goes on in NASCAR these days. Either be able to do it for a whole season or not. I don’t agree with having to have a win to get into the chase, but then again, I’ve never liked the chase — NASCAR has become like baseball and hockey – too long a season, so why bother watching until the playoffs? Expanding the playoffs is dumb too just go back to making everyone eligible again, then they’d race to win.

Nationwide & trucks – if you’re in a full time cup ride, you shouldn’t be eligible for a championship in a lower series – that includes the trucks.

Half the time, the TV coverage in the Nationwide series is all about the cup drivers — understandable since they are well-funded, good cars who are running up front, but it takes away from the opportunities for younger drivers or less well-funded teams AND takes away from the fun of watching these guys compete. I get all I want of cup drivers on sunday

07/06/2010 12:13 PM

one more thing — it seems that 75% of the fans who read this site, think the chase should be scrapped — I realize it is a small random sampling, but the next time the media pundits try and say how much the fans “love” the chase, I’ll think of this and know that for a fact, they haven’t got a clue.

07/06/2010 12:19 PM

Ron Cox said

That has nothing to do with it.
Name me one other sport with playoffs, where a team not in the playoffs is still on the “playing field” during the playoffs, and can have a direct effect on the the outcome of the “game” How many of the other sports can have a team in 42 place change the outcome of the playoffs?? NONE right?! When you can list all the other sports where non playoff teams have an effect on the playoff teams, you can compare them, until you can do that, comparing NA$CAR to other sports does not work

Oh and scrap the stupid chase!

07/06/2010 12:29 PM

I thought this was the ONE place I could come without hearing political arguing. The article would have been just as effective without you insulting some of your readers (correction: ex-readers). You are entitled to your political views, but I prefer my Nascar reviews without them.

Prof pi (Jeff Thompson)
07/06/2010 12:34 PM

Econ 101, folks. The NASCAR TV deal is worth $600 million per year, and ratings trump all other issues, it sets advertising rates. A two hour delay to fix a pot-hole kills ratings.
ISC and the France family made $6.8 million (2009)from operating race tracks (in 2008 ISC had a net of $134.6 million). So all this dither by us (the “small people” in the words of BP) about paving, schedules, etc., simply doesn’t matter one iota.
If you could actaully deliver better ratings then Brian would do ANYTHING you want.

07/06/2010 01:16 PM

I for one don’t have the kind of patience or time to sit around all day or night waiting for track personnel to fix potholes in 30 year old pavement. It’s bad enough having to wait out rain delays week in and week out. One can only take so much Larry Mac and DW. Furthermore, the racing at Talladega is just fine on new pavement.

And it looked to me that the attendance at New Hampshire was pretty sparse. You know they flat lie about the attendance figures when they’re announced, not just “pad” them. With ACS loosing a race date Vegas will have better odds of selling out two dates.

And as for our so called president, the clueless wonder? He’s illegal and should not be in office.

07/06/2010 01:38 PM

Prof Jeff is correct. Nascar hasn’t been a sport since it’s inception…it’s about entertainment BUT at least the entertainment used to be centered around automobiles….now even that has been taken away with the idea that the drivers are what we are supposed to focus on. And one more thing…the moderator of this blog better get on the ball and get the political crap off of this sight or go the way of FOX and their “entertainment” form of “news”.

07/06/2010 01:49 PM

JerseyGirl, 75% of the fans on this site hate the Chase because they hate the results. If their favorite driver was winning all the time, they would be just fine with it. The travesty of Friday night proves that beyond question!

07/06/2010 02:25 PM

If the Chase was scrapped and the racing season went back to the old style of points scoring, and then JJ or whoever broke out to a 400 point lead with about 5 races left to go, how would the ratings and attendance look then? Not too good is my guess. I’m sure a lot of you remember when Kenseth ran away with the points just before the Chase thing was devised. Nothing to look forward to but one given driver winning that week’s race and watching Kenseth do his points racing. Harvick has a 200 point lead now. With no Chase, he could start points racing his way to the finish ala Kenseth, having it locked up with 6 – 8 races to go easily. How exciting would that be?

07/06/2010 03:30 PM

Bryan Davis Keith —- I agree with those who suggest you leave politics out of your articles. It really adds nothing to the point you are making.

07/06/2010 04:01 PM

When the New York Yankees win their division by 15 or more games, does MLB change the rules?

If a team wins the Super Bowl 46-3, does the NFL change the rules?

Emperor Brian, who is counting the money while NASCAR burns, said
“The reality of it is, that’s sports. There are World Series that are not as exciting as others, that’s just the nature of a dominant performance quite frankly.”

Now tell us again why we need the chase. The old point system had some of the closest finishes ever. During the Chase there were lots of times when the old system was closer and Johnson wouldn’t have won.
1979 11 points
1989 12 points
1990 26 points
1992 10 points
1995 34 points


07/06/2010 04:27 PM

Yes, no politics please. Racing only, thank you.

07/06/2010 04:28 PM

Wow you all are a bunch of complainers. First the “politics” was a one line jab that meant nothing and is an opinion of the writer of basically a blog.

Second, the biggest problem Nascar has is that all the people watching are becoming increasingly ADD in the information age. People can’t watch a race anymore without complaining about the lack of passing or the “hard racing” they seem to think was all over the place back in the good ol’ days.

I have no problem with the chase as long as racers not in the chase race the “chasers” just as hard and go for wins.

And fix the Nationwide series easy. Nascar drivers can only drive in one race a weekend. Their pick

07/06/2010 04:55 PM

JerseyGirl, if you don’t like the length of the season now, you would have hated it “back in the day”! There was a time that if the checkered flag fell on the last race of the season in November, the first race of the next season was one week later! The first 500-mile race of the year was run in January, a full month before Daytona. Heck, Daytona was maybe race number 4 or 5 of the year. There were also anywhere from 45 to as many as 55 races a year. Even at this time of year, there was a “Northern Swing”, 8 races in 2 weeks! They would go to the old Islip Speedway in New Youk; Oxford, Maine; Thonpson Speedway, and Watkins Glen! Granted, the drivers didn’t run all the races, but guys like David Pearson, Richard Petty, Bobby issac, and James Hylton would run most! Nobody held a gun to their head and said race every race. Now today, you would have Edwards, Cryle Busch, and a few others would run the 45 or 50 races. But would everyone? I doubt it! They didn’t back then! Look at the record Fred Lorenzen (my first racing hero) ran up! As far as I’m concerned, there is nothing wrong with the length of the schedule. It is just fine! But then, I’m from the old school, one of those people DansMom is always saying should just go away! Heck, again, I’d like to see some more short tracks and maybe even a dirt track or two! Do a 6-race short track with a dirt track thrown in swing over a two week period! I wonder who would run the whole swing? Admittedly, Brian France is doing his best to drive us away! As for the chase, well, blame the whole mess on Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman. Kenseth won one single race and drove the most consistant season ever. Ryan won 8 races and finished 37th or worse in 8 more! For the record, I don’t like the chase and wish it would go away!

07/06/2010 06:17 PM


Then everyone that complains about Hendrick should shut the hell up.

07/06/2010 09:41 PM

OK…..time to institute a 1000 word limit…Geez Ken!

07/06/2010 09:47 PM

The problem I have with repaving Daytona is that I don’t believe NA$CAR/ISC can leave well enough alone. Look at what happened to Bristol. You know they’re just gonna have to “tweak it” just a bit. Brainless France can’t leave anything alone.
I always have to chuckle anymore when the media wants to hype the big lead Harvick has when, if the Chase started today, he’d be third. Whoopee!!!

KIR - Keeping It REAL
07/06/2010 11:07 PM

Brian David Keith – three first names. Hmm. Almost same as “Billy Bob Joe”. Oddly he hates a democratic president who scored higher on the IQ test than any previous president. Can you spell REDNECK?!?!? Don’t like the name calling? Keep politics out of your articles. i happen to be Independent and find lots of fault on both sides. But calling out either side is going to bring fire, 3-named one.

Bad Wolf
07/06/2010 11:55 PM

I bet you think they should have left Indy alone and still run the races on the original bricks.

07/07/2010 01:36 AM

I got a great Racertainment idea. Let them run all year not knowing what the points system is. Keep track of where they all finished. Brain France comes up with 30 possible chase formats, all of them sponsored by someone. At the end of the second to last race, they will have a sponsored fan vote on Na$ to pick the top 10 formats. At the end up the last race, one of those 10 formats gets picked out of a sponsored hat by some really hot chick sponsored by someone. That format determines the champion but then a twist is thrown in—- the order is reversed and that driver will be named Cup champion.

You like?

Vito Pugliese - FS Staff
07/07/2010 01:53 AM

Easy there Laxbro…Fronstretch is not a blog. I have a monogrammed polo shirt emblazoned with our logo. That is not blog material, my friend; that is an equalizer.

Mary in Richmond
07/07/2010 12:08 PM

LOL because President Obama doesn’t care about public opinion (see polls about the AZ ILLEGAL immigration law) and neither does Brian France (see poll results about the Chase).

07/07/2010 02:39 PM

The rumor around Daytona last weekend was that another pothole was found and fixed before the race if that was the case I would say that a repave is in order. Bryan if the reason that a track should keep a date over another is percentage filled you are the Village Idiot in this article. What is better Indy filling 2/3 of their seats with attendance of 180,000 or New Hampshire selling 3/4 of of their seats with attendance of 80,000. As for ISC moving a date to Kansas from another track they have multiple choices Auto Club and Phoenix’s attendance are Both horrible and Chicago and Homestead are awful considering they have 1 date and these tracks are in Big markets at least Darlington and Martinsville have excuses that not to many people live close to them. But you are exactly right about the Chase it has to go. Unlike stick and ball sports where you don’t play all your competetion every week or at all throwing out all your hard work does not make any sense.

07/08/2010 01:38 AM

Obama and Gw are both a holes

Kevin in SoCal
07/08/2010 01:34 PM

I agree with Jim at 2:25pm. How exciting is it now to see one driver with a 200+ point advantage? Would you really care to see him maintain that advantage for the next 15 races? Be honest, did you really get excited watching Matt Kenseth lead the points by 300 over second place the last half of the year? The only real challenge was when he blew up at Talledega. The following week he was back over 200 points again and never looked back. Some of you have rose-colored glasses about the “good old days” when drivers won races by a lap or more, or there were only 3 people on the lead lap.

Richard in N.C.
07/08/2010 06:05 PM

Only 2 things are certain any more – death and that the media will find something wrong with everything NASCAR does. Thank goodness, the people running NASCAR are smarter than those running newspapers.

07/08/2010 08:27 PM

If a driver wins the Championship by 300, so be it. At least he won it with points that were earned through out the season. And there are plenty of opportunities to pay attention to the other 42 drivers, AND their sponsors, for the whole season.
Richard, there are actually 3. Loyal, old time fans, will always believe the Chase sucks as much as racing in California.

Stephen HOOD
07/10/2010 09:21 AM

I thought your article was interesting except I thought your swipe at the President was unfortunate. How about this: “Like President Obama, Brian France has an impossible job. As the leader of NASCAR, he has to please the fans, the owners, the drivers, and the press, all while attempting bring the sport out of a ratings and attendance downturn. This writer questions whether France has the capacity for this difficult job.”