The Frontstretch: Five Points to Ponder: NNS, More NNS, Trucks, Coverage, and Indy by Huston Ladner -- Tuesday July 23, 2013

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A rather quiet weekend at the tracks for the national touring series. Just the Nationwide series ignited their engines, with Joey Logano earning the victory in Chicago. Without looking at the stats, that should be the 89th win by a Cup driver in Nationwide this season. But hey, you can’t win if you don’t race. Sarcasm aside, here are a few thoughts to mull over:

Hey look! It’s Joey Logano winning a Nationwide race! Nationwide driver? Who? Why would we know anything about them.

ONE: Nationwide Solo

That’s not the name of Han Solo’s kid or something like that. Is the point of having a solo Nationwide race to gain exposure for the series? Is the point to maintain the NASCAR brand in the sporting world during a slow weekend? Or better yet, what is the point? But maybe here’s a different idea – if the point is to hype the drivers of that series, how about keeping the ones from Cup out?

No issues with Joey Logano getting seat time – it’s hard to remember that he’s still only 22 years old and can use as many laps on the track as possible (why Gibbs didn’t run him full-time in both Nationwide and Cup is still baffling, but that’s a different topic.) Aside from Logano needing track time, NASCAR should make some adjustments so that fans can focus on the drivers who are competing for that big trophy at the end of the year. With the Cup series off, it was a perfect time for Nationwide to be the only show, which would have spotlighted the close battle in points. Instead, fans saw Logano keep alive the string of Cup drivers stealing wins and trophies from those in the second series.

TWO: Nationwide Schedule

The Cup schedule endures like the United States Constitution: fixed, and with any amendments requiring an act of Congress. Fans have been clamoring for all sorts of changes for the past few years, and NASCAR turns its obstinate head and walks away. Rather than make changes to the Chase, or switch up tracks or do something different, it’s the same ol, same ol.

The Nationwide and Truck schedules, however, ostensibly change all the time. After this weekend, it is clear that more change needs to happen with Nationwide. If you’re going to hold a stand-alone event, how about not holding it at a track that Cup will be visiting in a month or so? How about holding it on Saturday night – especially when the track has lights? Or maybe here’s the better thought – give everyone the weekend off. Why race at all? It’s not like some of the engineers, crew, and others at the Nationwide race aren’t also involved in the Cup side of things. A break for everyone wouldn’t hurt.

THREE: Trucks at Eldora

The Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora may be one of the most anticipated races in a long time. It’s a total curiosity moment. How will they race? Will it be exciting? What’s it going to be like with something like a truck on dirt? All in all, the decision for NASCAR to make an innovative decision (holy crap, is that in print?) was long overdue, and this one could be fascinating.

For all the positives, there are some logistical aspects that seem like they might be problematic. First, one thing that NASCAR is good at is being slow. Just one example, caution flag periods seem like they take a week sometimes. So with so many heat races to determine the field at Eldora, will NASCAR get everyone lined up quickly and get the races going, or will it be like parts of the All-Star race that just drag? Second thing to wonder: will this race be good or will it be a wreckfest? Yes, a number of drivers have extensive experience on dirt, but this race is still unique, and having the lumbersome trucks race there might be a disaster. But here’s hoping to that not being the case.

FOUR: NASCAR and Slowness

In what seems like a baffling move, NASCAR announced last week that cameras running on cables along the track are banned from use. The decision comes from the incident at Charlotte when a line broke, injuring 10 fans, causing damage to cars on the track, and bringing a 30 minute delay to the race. Seems like a good decision (that’s two remarks like that in this column, the world will surely end tomorrow).

The question here is: how come the cameras weren’t banned already? With ESPN taking over coverage of Cup with the race at Indianapolis, the announcement brings unnecessary attention to how the network can cover the race – as they had planned to use the overhead camera system on the frontstretch. Most people would not have thought about the camera had the announcement not come out. That ESPN uses a different company for the camera is something of an aside. Overall, the whole thing just seems a little strange and creates strange news.

FIVE: Indy

Nope, not another Harrison Ford movie reference here. Without knowing (and nor caring) about what the numbers indicate the annual Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway just isn’t all that special any more. #Kissingthebricks is probably a trending hastag. But whatever. That clichéd act shows the staleness of the race itself. Though it would likely cost $8 billion to make happen, installing lights at the track and having the race at night would be a great way to kick off the ESPN coverage. Perhaps one of the reasons that attendance is down is that it’s hot sitting in the midday sun in August in Indiana.

As for the viewership numbers remaining stagnant, that probably has to do with Jimmie Johnson winning every race at the track since 1949, or something like that.

Hope everyone enjoyed the summer break, Cup is in action for 17 straight weeks beginning this Sunday.

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07/23/2013 06:36 PM

In keeping with the Indy theme, my favorite line from Indiana Jones, which is Brian’s mantra, is “I’m making this up as I go.”