The Frontstretch: Duel Races in NASCAR? No Thanks by Garrett Horton -- Thursday June 16, 2011

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Duel Races in NASCAR? No Thanks

Garrett Horton · Thursday June 16, 2011


You have to give credit to the IndyCar Series and the staff at Texas Motor Speedway for trying something different. The 1.5 mile speedway has hosted some of the most memorable Indy races in all of motorsports, with photo finishes occurring on a regular basis. However, the last few events run there have been somewhat of a letdown, with the leader running away in the final laps. It was time to do something different, and having two shorter races with two race winners was the chance for TMS to once again host amazing finishes. Under this methodology, teams would have double the chance of going to victory lane, there would be a greater sense of urgency to make it to the front, and of course, fan favorite Danica Patrick would have twice the odds of winning. The open wheel series has also been getting beat by NASCAR for years in attendance and television ratings, so two short races would cater to what has suddenly become an ADD nation, where instant gratification is a must. Thanks Twitter.

The contests went just about an hour apiece, with too long of a half time show in between. For a casual or rookie fan in attendance, this change of pace might come off as more appealing than three or four straight hours of racing. As a diehard fan of NASCAR, though, you can only hope this doesn’t happen to stock car racing.

For all the flak Pocono races have caught for being too long, moving to a two-race split format would do nothing to improve the quality of racing or event that fans would see.

This experiment will likely continue in the IndyCar series as it would only be fair to try a few more times before judging whether or not it is a failure. Regardless of the outcome, however, NASCAR should not even think about trying this. In fact, the only twin races that belong are the Daytona qualifiers. One can’t help but wonder if NASCAR is thinking of trying duel point races in the near future; after all, the duels at Texas this past weekend occurred the day before what many people say is too long of a race at Pocono, where the media had a field day with 5 Hour Energy sponsoring the race. Whether the distance at Pocono needs to be shortened at all is a whole different topic (personally I believe 500 mile races are a good thing; more on that later), but two events are clearly not the answer.

First of all, the opportunity to have two winners on the same day is ridiculous. It may be good for the sponsors having an extra chance to appear in victory lane, but it cheapens the overall feel of an individual victory for the fans and the drivers. Dario Franchitti had to be the most frustrated winner of all time last Saturday, mostly because the man he is chasing in the points, Will Power, got lucky with a good starting spot in the second race while Franchitti did not. After winning the first sprint, the defending IndyCar champion started in the back of the field and made a nice charge to finish seventh, all without the aid of a caution. Unfortunately for him, Power took advantage of his top five starting spot to pick up his first career win on an oval.

The end result was having both Power and Franchitti pose in victory lane, celebrating their triumphs. It was awkward, and as a fan of either driver, you couldn’t help but have an empty feeling in your stomach. It wasn’t enough to feel like a complete victory; after all each race was only half the total points. While some critics would like NASCAR to try this at Pocono or some of the cookie cutters where little goes on in the middle portion of ther race, imagine the backlash that would occur from longtime fans. Something like this would be the final straw for some who have stuck with the sport through all the controversial changes made in the past few years.

Another item that supporters of these sprints brought up was the greater sense of urgency to get to the front. Quite frankly, this is an argument that has gone stale. (Just look at ARCA races, the rush to the front is just the same as it is in NASCAR or any other series). Those that buy into it say that shorter races mean the drivers will try to get to the front quicker and not conserve their equipment. Maybe so, but part of the attraction to racing is that it is long; seeing who is best early on, what strategies will unfold, whether parts will fail, all while watching certain guys work their way up through the field does nothing but add to the intrigue. Franchitti is a perfect example. While he made it exciting by working his way through the pack in event number two, the distance was too short for him to make something out of it. However, if Franchitti had started 28th in a 500 mile bout, he would have had time to make it to the front, potentially providing for a more climatic battle at the end.

The fact is, in any series, most of the time one guy will run away with it and win by a few seconds. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it helps make the occasional side by side photo finishes all the more memorable. The problem today is everyone wants a dramatic end to every race, and that is simply not possible, no matter what is tried, whether it is two short pursuits (as we saw Saturday), or throwing a caution with ten laps to go to bunch up the field (like we see in the All-Star race). The product NASCAR brings on Sunday is fine just the way it is, and if they were to make any changes to that, chances are it would drive away more fans than it would gain. Just look at what happened in 2004 as the perfect example.

NASCAR needs to follow the oldest cliché on this one – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Contact Garrett Horton

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Today on the Frontstretch:
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The Frontstretch Five: Flaws Exposed In the New Chase So Far
NASCAR Writer Power Rankings: Top 15 After Darlington
NASCAR Mailbox: Past Winners Aren’t Winning …. Yet
Open Wheel Wednesday: How Can IndyCar Stand Out?


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Bill B
06/17/2011 07:24 AM

Well said.

don mei
06/17/2011 07:39 AM

I think duel races would be terrific!! First one, of course, Harvick VS Busch, helmets on, creampuffs at twenty paces. However on the matter of dual races, (i.e. two) I agree with you. Lets just shorten the ones we have now. It would cut back on the boredom.

06/17/2011 10:10 AM

What was wrong with points be awarded at the halfway point? At least that made for something interesting at the mid-point of the race. Nascar really needs to put a carrot on the stick for the whole race, not just the end.

06/17/2011 11:19 AM

Well said.” x2

06/17/2011 11:21 AM

I don’t see a problem with two drivers winning in one day. Most times I’ve been to the track, more than one race has been run. Often the same drivers compete in multiple races. I’d rather two Cup drivers win two Cup races in one day than two or three Cup drivers winning three races on one weekend, of which only one is a Cup race.

Shifting has brought back some of Pocono’s mojo, so it might not be the place for twins. Still, it’s not an idea to dismiss out of hand… certain teams benefit from shorter races, and certain teams benefit from longer ones. Playing around with the lengths of a few races might not be such a bad thing. (Besides, it might be the only way to either stop the #48’s streak or at least make it more exciting when he invariably gets another one of those silly silver flag trophies.)

Bill B
06/17/2011 12:13 PM

Maybe the reason that the middle part of the race doesn’t mean anything has more to do with the wave around and lucky dog rules. The first half of the race used to be where those that weren’t very good lost laps. Now, since it’s so easy to get back a lap, only the last thrid of the race matters.
Also, if NASCAR would fix the aero problem then maybe people wouldn’t be bitching so much. They keep changing the rules to compensate for their inability to fix the aero problem.

06/17/2011 12:41 PM

Exactly Bill, but we will only get more band-aid fixes.

The last thing they need to do is play with inversions and multiple winners. It will turn a race into a carnival. What’s next? Mario Kart turtle shells and turbo-boost mushrooms?

06/17/2011 12:43 PM

I enjoyed having the two IndyCar races at Texas. The intermission between them was too long but other than that it was fun to watch to see how drivers that did well in the first race were able to make their way forward in the 2nd.

Whether they draw or invert the field for the 2nd race, it would still give you cars to watch come forward. Better, IMO, than a single NASCAR marathon race.

06/17/2011 08:29 PM

I prefer DUAL races or even triple headers. Like twin 75s or triple 50s on the short tracks.