The Frontstretch: How I Would Save NASCAR by Jeff Meyer -- Wednesday September 20, 2006

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How I Would Save NASCAR

Voices From The Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Wednesday September 20, 2006

 

If you read the Top Ten list posted yesterday here on Frontstretch.com, you now know that the news is out that I am forming a Brian France Fan Club. Members will get the chance, among other things, to be the head of NASCAR and deal with all the duties that come with it. Since this is my club, I am going to go first. (Before I begin, keep in mind that in the spirit of “been there, done that,” I am going to skip the diaper changing of Brian’s kids…at least until the grandkids come along.)

So, as the grand poombah of NASCAR, what would I do? First and foremost, I would "tweak" the Chase…tweak it to the point that it no longer exists. When the new format was first announced, I held off on my judgment until the end of that year. At the time, I decided that it was marginally OK, but reserved the right to change my mind at any time.

While the Chase format did make the end of the year mildly more interesting, it was never a secret that it was contrived solely to increase television ratings to compete with the NFL. At first, the ratings did increase, and the Chase was hailed as a success; but by this year, the ratings for ALL NASCAR races have gone down across the board, with only one or two exceptions. The reason for this, I believe, is due to a couple of simple things. One, the newness of the Chase format has worn off for the casual fan, and two, the television coverage itself is downright disgusting.

So, in lieu of trashing the Chase format, I would simply get rid of it, instead making a change awarding a win with at least 75 more points than second place. The possibility of one driver locking up the Championship early would be greatly reduced, unless he/she were drastically ahead of the rest of the field…in which case that driver should probably be the Champion, anyway. Think about this: Tony Stewart could win all the remaining races and still not be listed in the record books as finishing in the Top 10 in 2006. What would that say about the validity of the current Chase format? To me, it says it’s a publicity stunt that needs to go.

Moving on, I would work to make changes in the way NASCAR is portrayed to the average viewer, both through changing the TV coverage and encouraging the personalities of the drivers to shine through. It is my belief that the one race that started the growth explosion for NASCAR was the 1979 Daytona 500, the first start-to-finish live coverage of a NASCAR race on TV. What made that race so appealing to the television viewer was not who took the checkered flag, but the last lap crash and fist fight that happened between Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough. The viewers simply loved it, and clamored for more. Of course, viewers clamoring for more is what makes sponsors and networks salivate; it's that simple. Give the viewers what they want to see, and they will view the races without a problem.

In that instant in 1979, NASCAR became sort of the “reality TV” of the sports world. Here was a world of tough guys in tough cars going head to head on the track and in the infield. NASCAR should embrace that. Everyone loved Dale, Sr., not only because of his skill behind the wheel, but also because of his "bad boy" image. NASCAR itself could be the "bad boy" of the sports world…not the "entertainment show" it has become. The most important thing, again, is to give the viewers what they want to see.

Perhaps the biggest step I would take to save NASCAR is to bring the Labor Day race back to Darlington! California never has and never will sell out its dates, no matter how good the shopping is under the grandstands. While I do believe it is a good thing to expand racing to other parts of the country, don't do it simply because it is the 2nd biggest "market" in the country. Moves such as this only convey greed on the part of the NASCAR powers that be. It is OK to try things…but be flexible. If a second date in California isn't working out, move it back to Darlington. If the Northwest doesn't want to pay to build you a new track, race in a place that WANTS you, such as Kentucky or North Wilkesboro. Real fans see through all the NASCAR generated propaganda and see that simple greed is the real motive for these changes, not diversifying the fan base at tracks where fans don’t even come.

Another change, and probably the most controversial, that I would make is that EVERYONE must "time in" to the starting field. That’s right; no guaranteed spot for anyone, not even a past champion’s provisional. There are 43 spots available, and the 43 fastest times get to race. If you don’t make it…sorry, try again next week!

Those are just a few of the changes that I would make to save NASCAR. If you want to join my new Brian France Fan Club, let us hear what changes YOU would make. Just remember…the diaper changing experience is optional.

Stay off the wall,

Jeff

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betty
09/21/2006 05:37 AM
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All good ideas. How can we make this happen before I stop watching Nascar altogether because it is getting so boring?

D.J.
09/21/2006 06:43 AM
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you are preaching to choir. I have been a fan for years, but I don’t know how much more I can take!

Marc
09/21/2006 07:20 AM
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“One, the newness of the Chase format has worn off for the casual fan, and two, the television coverage itself is downright disgusting.”

While I agree with the second point, how does “newness of the Chase” effect all TV ratings? The reality is this years ratings may be an outlier, we won’t know until next year. Secondly this years ratings are still very near the record year of 2004.
Think about this: Tony Stewart could win all the remaining races and still not be listed in the record books as finishing in the Top 10 in 2006.”

Why think about a hypothetical? R. Petty holds the record of consecutive wins at ten in 1967. It will never happen again.

One solution would be have some way to have a “floating” 9th and 10th place in the Chase.”

In other words structure the points so the 11th (or further back) place driver could race his way back into the top ten during the Chase. I would agree with an increase of the winners points, but limited to something less than 20 for a win. At the same time eliminate the bonus for leading a lap. Or modify it so a driver only got the bonus if he led five green flag laps after assuming the lead.

“If a second date in California isn’t working out, move it back to Darlington. If the Northwest doesn’t want to pay to build you a new track, race in a place that WANTS you, such as Kentucky or North Wilkesboro.”

While no defender of the Cali track I don’t see a point in giving up on it this soon. The second date there is only a couple years old and the Cali market is very hard to crack for a number of reasons.

Darlington? Sure they desire their date back, I suggest a Busch date on Labor Day and make it their signiture event of the year and 500 miles long.

North Wilkesboro? No way, no how. The “save the speedway” efforts early this year fell flat on it’s face. It’s a bad location with little to no infrastructure to support large crowds. Not that they would need it, small crowds is why they lost the date.

The folks in Kentucky don’t want a date. They want to set up their own “France-like” cabel via a bidding process. Who do you suppose would win an open market bidding process? It wouldn’t be Kentucky and very possibly Martinsville as well.

Expand the starting feiled to an even 44 cars and allow only the current Champ a provisional and only for 5 or less events.

Here’s one “out of the box” Chase change.

After event 26 take those from 11th down to 43 place, split them into two groups. On Wednesday or the Friday prior to the first Chase event hold two 100-200 mile events for those drivers. The top 2 finishers in each of the two “feature races” would get a pass into the Chase and be placed in 11th thru 14th positions in the standings.

T.L. Headley
09/21/2006 08:44 AM
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Here’s a really radical idea—how about supporting local and regional racing? After all, that is how NASCAR got started and it still has the kind of racing everyone is talking about. NASCAR is now pretty much taken over by corporate blandness. The best driver/personality in the sport—Tony Stewart—has basically been tamed in the name of corporate respectability. Same is true of Harvick.
Don’t get me wrong … I watch NASCAR every weekend. It is still far better than F1, IRL or Champ. The best racing is, of course, the truck series.
But I suggest instead of talking about what NASCAR should do, you vote with your feet and head down to the local track.

JC
09/21/2006 08:54 AM
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While I do not like the top-35 in points being locked in, I also don’t like the idea of everyone having to qualify in. At the 1st Dover race, Jimmie Johnson was leading the points and spun out on his qualifying lap. So, you would send the points leader home that weekend?! Ridiculous. Teams should be allowed 2 “mulligans” per year. Not to be used if your time wasn’t good enough, but to be used if something happend during your qualifying lap (Johnson at Dover, Biffle at Watkins Glen, as well as both Bill Lester and Kenny Wallace who were never Championship contenders). There are others as well that don’t come to mind right now. To make my point even more valid, let’s pretend that there is no Chase, and Matt Kenseth is leading the standings going into Homestead. Kenseth spins on his qualifying lap and is not among the 43 fastest. Would you send him home, and hand the Championship to Jimmie Johnson (assuming he was still 2nd)??

Gary Hammond
09/21/2006 09:42 AM
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Aboslutely can the chase for the chump points scam. Its a sleazy road-side carny gimmick that has taken what was the best racing in the world and turned it into just another stupid and insulting network sitcom. Put the Southern 500 back to its rightful place on Labor Day where it belongs… PERIOD. Get back to racing with TV coverage (sport)instead of this TV show with a little racing thrown in (sitcom)and you will see the viewers come back. Who wants to see Brian’s version of the WWF with cars?

Sean
09/21/2006 09:45 AM
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All great ideas. But let’s not limit our discussion to improving jus the chase. How about improving the quality of racing. Here’s on idea that should make for more exciting racing. Let’s go back to double file restarts for all lead lap cars. I realize that doesn’t sound fair for cars not on the lead lap, but that’s their fault for getting a lap down. Besides they have the lucky dog to get their lap back. On double file restarts for lead lap cars you will get exciting racing at every restart instead of the usual occurance of the first place car pulling out ahead of the rest of the field. Also, double file restarts for lead lap cars will eliminate those cars a lap down from interfering with competitive race cars on the restart. How many times have we seen cars a lap down interfere with lead lap cars and either cause an accident or hold up an otherwise competitive lead lap car. I say let the lap down cars fight it out at the back of the pack to see who will get the lucky dog at the next auction. Besides on many times have you seen a lap down car restart on the inside and actually get their lap back by racing in front of the leader. Almost never. Double file restarts for lead lap cars will prove to make the racing much more exciting.

Joe
09/21/2006 10:59 AM
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Save your breath, all the BS is here to stay! I gave up years ago! NA$CAR suits SUCK!!!

smyler
09/21/2006 10:59 AM
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No matter what NASCAR brass says, I believe we all want to see a picture in picture, like ABC does during IRL races, whenever there is a commercial. I don’t like watching numbered dots going around the track during breaks (Trackpass). There have literally been 50 times (this season) when I’ve seen at least half a lap go by and they have not come back from commercial. Also, it would be kind of nice to see a replay of what caused a caution, whether or not someone in the top 10 in points was involved.
As odd as it may sound, I think they would be better served by making the watching of the races more enjoyable and stop treating us like profit centers. We all love to spend our money on driver gear and products produced by the sponsors (or avoiding certain sponsored brands if it competes with your driver) so why hammer us over the head?
One last thing, it’s kind of ridiculous that some tracks have minimum ticket prices approaching $100 each. Yeah, races still sell out (most of the time) but it didn’t used to be a sport that was just for the rich. It’s hard to spend less than $1000 on race weekend if you are coming from out of town. $3000 isn’t unusual.

T.S.Wolf
09/21/2006 01:26 PM
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I totaly agree with Mr. Gary & Joe But I have to add something How about we get rid of the suits and Nextel Give it back to Winston,Oh and bring back Rockingham!!!!

Mike
09/21/2006 01:35 PM
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I do not have a problem with the fastest 43 being in the field, if you switch back to two qualifying sessions. If a team has a problem in one session, they still have a chance to time in during the second session. If they can’t get it right in two sessions, too bad. If you are only going to have a single qualifying session, then you have to have some kind of provisional system.

Jerome
09/21/2006 02:28 PM
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Wonderful ideas!! NASCAR was once “Must See TV” for me, now I can barely tolerate the crap we are forced to watch. Crummy television coverage, boring tracks, Stepford Drivers, artificial excitement, all generated by greed. I now tape races and may or may not watch them. I may spend my time on more worthy pursuits like reading a book or watching the WNBA.

Marty
09/21/2006 02:46 PM
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It is definetly time to get rid of the chase. I never liked it since the time it was introduced. Start from scratch with a new point system. If you want to keep the points close so no one runs away with the championship half way through the season, I suggest a 43 point system. The winner gets 43 points, Second place gets 42 points and so on all the way down to the last place car who would get 1 point. If you lead a lap you get 1 additional point. Lead the most laps and you get 1 additional point.
The points would be kept very close, no one would run away with the championship, and all drivers have a fair shot at the championship.

Jerry Wolfe
09/23/2006 01:13 AM
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I believe it is time to get rid of the chase also. However everyone keeps talking about giving the winner more points for each win. How about thats the biggest part of the problem. There are too many points flying around. This is why the fields are always so spread out. I run an online Nascar Racing Series using an EA Title and have been going on 3 years now. In my series I took the points away. I now give 1 point for leading a lap and 2 points for leading the most laps. I give 1 point for a pole and then start the points at 45 and have a 1 point spread between each driver. Our fields are always tight at the end of each 36 race season. There have been up to 20 people with 2 races to go bidding for a championship season. I have a pretty elaborate scoring system and I have for 2 years now entered the real nascar drivers into my scoring system following their season and the point difference between each driver is much lower. STOP GIVING OUT SO MANY POINTS. Its killing the sport. As for the TV and marketing side of Nascar. Dont even get me started. I think it is ridiculous. I would like to see Nascar back to 1-2 car teams and that is it. Maybe other not so fortunate drivers could compete then.

Tom
09/27/2006 12:19 PM
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Maybe it would help if the RACING were interesting again. Common templates and the Car of Tomorrow may be the two worst stock car racing ideas EVER!

It’s up to a manufacturer’s engineers to make the cars a shape that will go fast. If they do that well, it is then up to the other manufacturers’ engineers to catch up. Real races with something approximating the real product would make NASCAR a lot more interesting than the common “run-in-a-pack-until-someone-wrecks” show we get now.

 

Contact Jeff Meyer

Recent articles from Jeff Meyer:

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