Racing to the Point · Brett Poirier · Tuesday July 30, 2013
NASCAR failed post-race inspection at Indianapolis.
Sunday’s race produced a great headline for the newspaper on Monday, with Indiana native Ryan Newman winning his first Brickyard 400. Not to mention that Newman was informed a couple of weeks ago by car owner Tony Stewart that he was out of his ride at the end of the season. He was a true underdog on Sunday, beating the series’ Goliath, Jimmie Johnson, to kiss the bricks.
If you didn’t watch the race, you might be convinced that you missed one for the ages, but those who did know that it was anything but that. Sunday’s race was another Indianapolis snoozer in a long line of Indianapolis snoozers. The track just wasn’t made for stock cars, and it’s apparent each time NASCAR shows up. There was very little passing after initial restarts; if a bogus caution wasn’t thrown when Timmy Hill slowed on lap 60, Johnson and Newman might’ve lapped the field. Hill made it back to the pits on his own, by the way, so why was the yellow flag thrown the second he began to slow? That’s a topic for a different day.
NASCAR’s second-biggest race was a Kwame Brown — that’s a fancy term for flop. Brown was the first overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft by the Washington Wizards, who never could match the hype that followed him, much like the Brickyard 400.
Also on this list is the 2013 Daytona 500, which attracted more viewers, and probably more disappointment than any other race this season. Sixty-six percent of viewers took at least one nap during either this season’s Daytona 500 or Brickyard 400. I made up that stat, but it sounds it like it could be accurate, right?
The sport’s two marquee events both turned out to be duds. And here’s why it’s important. These events more than any others on the schedule draw in the casual fan with weeks of hype, in which memorable moments are aired while the prestige of the track and the drivers who have conquered it is glorified. These races are built up into the “can’t miss” sporting events of the year. Yet thirty minutes after the green flag waves, most of those fans have either changed the channel, or lay in the fetal position with their tongue pressed up against the seat of their sofa.
I wonder how many of the casual fans that gave NASCAR a chance Sunday, over the “Arrested Development” marathon on IFC will even consider tuning in next week at Pocono. And once the NFL starts up, forget about it. If the hype leads them to believe Daytona and Indianapolis produce the best racing of the year, they must think the racing at Pocono is as thrilling as pulling up a lawn chair next to the interstate to watch 18-wheelers pass by.
The Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 did little to attract new viewers, and might’ve provided the exit door for many old ones. It’s a shame because there has been quality racing this year, particularly at Bristol, Fontana and Richmond. But those races don’t receive the hype or the ratings that Daytona and Indy do. They lack the glitz and the glamour, I guess, despite pretty consistently putting on good shows.
Indy and Daytona each have their own separate issues. Indy is a one-groove track that was drawn up before stock cars existed. It doesn’t suit them. Passing is nearly impossible and the cars become more spread out than houses in rural Wyoming. The opposite was true at Daytona, where 40 cars raced right on top of one another, at least on short runs, but they couldn’t actually go anywhere. On long runs? That same group raced single-file, all the way from first to 40th to the point it became meaningless how close they were on the racetrack.
NASCAR and the television networks gave fans plenty of reasons to watch this season’s Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400, but the on-track product has given them little reason to stay tuned. I don’t know what the solution is to fix the racing at either track, if there even is a solution, but something has to change. The sport’s two showcase events — both during ideal times when there isn’t much competition on TV — can’t keep falling short of expectations. The two biggest races can’t continue as two of the most boring ones. It’s bad for the sport.
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