The Frontstretch: Matt McLaughlin Mouths Off : Blow This Mother Up And Start Over With A New Stock Car Series by Matt McLaughlin -- Thursday July 3, 2008

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OK, I’ve reached the limits of my tolerance. Sunday’s race at New Hampshire was so terrible, I’ve finally given up on NASCAR ever being able to fix things. First and foremost, there doesn’t seem to be anyone within the organization smart enough to realize they have a real problem on their hands with this new car, the new points system, and some of these new tracks. And if they aren’t even smart enough to sense that there’s a problem, they certainly aren’t smart enough to solve anything.

But that leaves me with a problem; I still love the sport of stock car racing, even as I give up on the current chief purveyors of the sport. I’ll always be fascinated by the concept of stock-appearing cars with engines, based on something I might build out in the garage to power a hot rod. But NASCAR has strayed so far off that trail over the last decade that a pack of bloodhounds couldn’t find them. Thus, I’ve decided its time for somebody to start a rival stock car racing series that returns the sport to its basics; not this glittery, unsavory, contrived spectacle of a monotonous parade of truly ugly cars that is passed off as stock car racing today.

Obviously, designing a rival stock car racing series is a huge undertaking, and for the new series to beat the odds and become viable, it needs to have clearly defined goals.

First and foremost, the guiding principle is to return stock car racing to the fans as an exciting and affordable alternative to the current Cup series. A second required goal is that no race sanctioning body should be involved in designing cars like the current “Car of Horror” being foisted off by NASCAR on the fans right now. But no foreign car makers need apply; we’re going to race what Detroit builds, nothing more, nothing less. The sanctioning body can still mandate the necessary safety equipment — in the cars and at the track — but we’ll let the Big Three do what they do best, come up with vehicle designs for these drivers to use. Ugly cars don’t sell, so all approved models for the new racing series will be based on two door, V-8 powered, rear-wheel drive coupes like the Mustang, the Challenger, and the upcoming Camaro. No deviations from the stock body design will be accepted.

While the Labor Day tradition would be great to bring back to Darlington, Matt McLaughlin wants to go a step further; he’d love to see stock cars both open and close their season at the egg-shaped oval.

The engines in these approved cars will finally join the 21st century, featuring fuel injection, alloy heads, electric fuel pumps, and computer controlled ignition systems. Very few deviations from stock will be acceptable, but our new race cars will feature true headers, open exhaust systems, and dry sump oiling systems in light of the demands that will be placed on the engines in oval track races. (And in case you’re wondering, all our events will be run on the ovals…no road course lunacy, thanks). But other than safety equipment, wheels, tires, and the above mentioned power train modifications to the cars, the new series will race what will indeed be “stock cars.”

That sort of car will greatly reduce the costs involved in racing. My goal is to allow a team owner (and no one will be allowed to own any more than two teams) to compete for a season at a cost roughly 1/10th to 1/20th of what the Big Boys spend in the Cup Series these days. That will allow new team owners and new sponsors a seat at the table that’s been taken away from them in recent years.

In another cost-saving measure, the new series will feature 20 race dates a year, starting in early Spring and ending in the Fall, with no more than three races run consecutively without a weekend off. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, races will be held on Friday nights to free up the weekends for fans to pursue other pleasures. Our events will be single day shows with practice in the morning, qualifying in the afternoon, and the races in the evening to cut down on the costs of attending an event. To better suit the needs of TV, lower costs, and to keep the fan’s interest, our target race lengths will be 200 to 250 miles, or about three hours of racing — including the post-race interviews. The two exceptions would be 500 mile long events at the open and close of each season.

As for the points structure, we’re going to have to radically revamp the system to get drivers back up on the wheel for the season championship. Winning will pay 500 points, second place will earn 250 points, and third place will be worth 125. Positions from fourth to tenth would then pay from 70 to 10 points, going down in 10 point decreasing increments. In addition, a driver would earn a point each time he made an on-track, green flag pass of another Top 10 car. I want to see drivers racing again — not riding. I want to see fenders crunch, tires smoke, and tempers bubble over. I want to see the fans back on their feet, cheering and loving every minute of the show they paid their hard earned dollars to see. As a result, no less than eight of our 20 races will be held on short tracks, and two more will be held on dirt tracks. Ideally, I’d like to see the season open and close at Darlington, though that’s unlikely given the current owners of the track. But you know what? Harold Brasington built Darlington on his own in the late 1940s. Certainly, we can replicate that layout and abrasive track surface somewhere else in the Carolinas ourselves. If the folks up at Bristol would be kind enough to have us, we’d race there twice a season as well; but no other track would have more than one race date, and no races would be held west of the Mississippi. Remember, we’re trying to control costs here.

Right from the get go, we’d awarding franchises to teams that choose to run in our series to give those teams an inherent value. But they’d have to play by our rules, the most important being that no one would be allowed to have any more than three race cars. In fact, we’d be so strict on this rule a car would have to be deemed unrepairable by the sanctioning body to allow it to be replaced.

And while we’re blue-skying ideas, I’ll add some new ones. Pits would be awarded by random draw — not qualifying position — to put the real race back out on the track. And no more than five individuals would be allowed over the wall during a pit stop to slow the stops down and make pit road safer. While we’re at it, let’s go all out on controlling costs, mandating that all cars must arrive on open-wheeled trailers towed by one ton pickups. In contrast, motorhomes and big rigs would be banned from the infield — after all, this is going to be a workingman’s sport once again.

At the end of the season, our champion’s check would be limited to 1/10th of the amount of the race purses for our 20 events. After all, we want drivers who go all out every week to make money, not earn a big check for points racing. And if that method was good enough for Richard Petty… it’s good enough for today’s drivers.

Is my new form of stock car racing likely? Hardly… I’m long on ideas but short on cash. Still, it could happen if someone like Bruton Smith decided it was time. The beauty of the plan is the powers that be at NASCAR have become so arrogant and stupid, the war could be won without a single shot fired. They’d never know what hit them before it was too late, since NASCAR officials are convinced that the fans will accept whatever crap they decide to present.

Some might call these ideas a little far-fetched; but if the sport of stock car racing is to be saved, it’s going to take some radical thinking. And the idea of Brian France actually thinking is more radical than anything I’ve proposed.

Contact Matt McLaughlin

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Jo
07/03/2008 01:01 AM
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Great idea – sounds like something from my youth. Where can I get tickets? (at the gate I hope) no ticket fees, no “specials” where I have to buy things I don’t want. What a bold idea stock cars – racing.
WOW

sherry
07/03/2008 03:43 AM
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omg….I love it! count me a fan already!!!

Michael T
07/03/2008 04:42 AM
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You can have pretty much all of this right now. It’s called your local short track.

It’s good to see your plan doesn’t include anybody “west of the Mississippi.” You look down on NASCAR for turning their backs on fans, yet you’re willing to exclude anybody that’s not in your neck of the woods in a heartbeat.

Larry
07/03/2008 04:58 AM
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I think it’s great! I definitely agree on what you said about Brian France. Like you say, I don’t understand why Nascar doesn’t see the things that’s obvious to us. Anybody can see that the COT is not cutting it. It may be a little safer but the racing is definitely not better. Now, the drivers can’t complain about the car cause the big wigs at Nascar has told them to shut up and keep sucking like the car will fix itself. Not talking about a problem has never fixed anything and Nascar ought to know that. Telling the drivers that their comments were one reason the crowds is off is ridiculous. The crowds or off because of the racing, Nascar inconsistent calls, tracks where the racing aren’t good, COT, and maybe the economy has a little to do with it too. Funny though, I don’t see Nascar lowering their prices for races, concessions, or trying to get special rates for hotels, motels to help fans save money. Of course, when your dominant car is a Japanese Company and Brand that might have a little to do with it too. I don’t think Brian understands that us “core” fans or still fans of Dodges, Fords, and Chevys. If you are going to get your core fans back then having a Japanese Company dominant the trucks, Nationwide and Cup Series is not going to do it at least not for me!

Shayne
07/03/2008 07:46 AM
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I look forward to the day when someone like Bruton Smith starts a new racing series. NA$CAR has held us hostage long enough. There are plenty of tracks outside of ISC control that could host the races.

Ed
07/03/2008 08:09 AM
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My sentiments exactly. Race what you bring. No extra qualifying setups. If you qualify well, you run well. Real people as drivers, no media made talking heads. Dirt tracks, definitely, and no “tri-ovals.” Nothing west of the Mississippi, like God intended stock car racing to be. I like it. When can we start?

baker
07/03/2008 09:00 AM
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matt, as a racing fan and medical professional count me in on the safety crew…no charge!

janice
07/03/2008 09:05 AM
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i thought bruton had tried to set up a series a few years ago, using maybe vipers and vettes. i though he had planned that the series would run 20 races a year. that idea sizzled cause the big name drivers wouldn’t jump the mother ship.

i’d love to see a new racing series started. however, it’s all about the money. so we’re left out in the cold.

John
07/03/2008 09:17 AM
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USAC has a new president — let’s get him busy on this project — they used to have a stock car division

John
07/03/2008 09:22 AM
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lify everyone then let the top 15 be in the “big show” and everyone else runs in a 100 mile / 100 lap qualifier run just prior to the big race — if you finish 1st in the qualifier you start 16th in the big show and so on

John
07/03/2008 09:23 AM
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that first word is supposed to be “qualify”

mmack
07/03/2008 09:47 AM
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Matt,

As an open wheel fan who follows “stock” car racing from time to time, can I give you three words from personal experience:

Recipe For Disaster.
(See IRL VS. CART, IRL VS. OWRS\CCWS)

Our side of the racing world JUST got over twelve ugly years of civil war between the established power (CART) and the upstart (IRL) where both sides HAD to merge because NEITHER side was going to be able to field enough cars for this year’s campaign.

Tony George started out with the same idea that you had of lowering costs by providing a limited number of approved spec chassis and “stock-block” engines that would allow drivers who wouldn’t normally get a chance at racing Indy Cars (and the Indy 500) to compete.

For the first four years this concept held true, but by year five, certain “concessions” were made to expand the number of cars and teams (engine leases to get Toyota and Honda to compete, Road courses added to appease former CART teams that came over, more foreign born drivers with needed sponsorship money joining the league) so that now the IRL could be considered CART 2.0. In other words it’s very close in structure to what it was back in 1993-94, BEFORE the IRL ever surfaced in discussions.

And Tony George was able to outlast his opponent because he owned the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and ironically, had the proceeds from the Brickyard 400 to help fund the IRL.

So for your idea to work, you’ll need the sugar daddy of all sugar daddies to fund your “upstart” league, because it’s going to take mucho dinero, even with cost reduction plans in place, to keep a new series going. The second big strike you’ll have is who is going to join this new series and drive for it? One of the IRL’s BIG problems was a lack of big name drivers when it started back in 1996. The truly big names in the sport at the time (Andretti, Unser Jr., Rahal, Fittipaldi, Tracy, etc.) stayed in CART. The IRL got drivers like Luyendyk, Cheever, Brayton, Lazier, and some rookie named Stewart. (As for that last guy, you never hear about him anymore. wonder where HE got off to?)

So who do you entice to drive your cars to get a marquee name? How much $$$$$$$$$ is your sugar daddy going to put up to get a name like Earnhardt, Gordon, Busch (Ok, current NASCAR fans may PAY to send Kyle to your new series, bad example) to give your new series some legitimacy in the general public’s eyes?

And what’s your centerpiece race? Because you’ll need one to get sponsors to make the new league financially viable. Yes, you’ll get butts in the stands, but ticket sales only bring you so much $$$. The IRL had the promise of an internationally known race, the Indianapolis 500, to entice sponsors. And having the Indianapolis 500 ensured that some broadcast network would cover the series, since the deal was “You want the Indy 500? Well you have to take the other races in the series too.”

I don’t like NASCAR and the direction it’s going, but I wouldn’t want to wish the level of turmoil of the last 12+ years in open wheel racing on any NASCAR fan.

D. Brown
07/03/2008 10:23 AM
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“Race what Detroit Builds”. Does Detroit even build cars anymore?

The Dodge Challenger is built in Brampton, Ontario. Canada.

The Camaro will be built in Oshawa, also in Ontario, Canada.

Well, at least the Mustang is built in Dearborn, MI.

john
07/03/2008 10:36 AM
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You know it’s funny… You know the current cars are a cheap joke when… I was watching the Busch East race at Watkins Glen, and heard Phil Parsons call every car in the field that WASN’T a Toyota, a Monte Carlo. This included the Dodge “Chargers” that Steve Park and Ricky Carmichael were driving. You know it’s a joke when a long-time racer can’t even tell the cars apart.

Flash
07/03/2008 12:18 PM
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Don’t they have this series already…goes by the name of th ARCA Remax Series?? If you don’t like NASCAR then don’t watch it…no one is forcing any of you to watch the Cup Series.

dawg
07/03/2008 12:28 PM
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Matt,

I agree with most of what you say. One place we differ, maybe. This deal would probably have to happen W/O any factory halp. But then the origional NA$CAR started W/O factory help either. NA$CAR is going to be facing some real challenges probably soon. I’m like you, the current leadership hasn’t shown the ability to sucessfully deal with the challenges, I see coming.
Kevin in SoCal
07/03/2008 12:40 PM
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“Nothing west of the Mississippi, like God intended stock car racing to be.”

Well its good to know your god is intolerant and unaccepting of people different than you are. However, my god loves all his racing fans, no matter which side of a river they happen to live on.

Dennis
07/03/2008 01:41 PM
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Matt what about those tracks up North?

See folks this is why I lost it on my last post. He hates NH for some of the same reasons as the West.

But what he neglects to admit is that us Yankees have a longer history of racing than some of those Good Ole Boys.

As soon as Springfield Mass cranked out the second Motocycle in 1901 they raced ‘em.

We all know about NASCAR being born out of those “Bootlegger” days. And I am not trying to take anything away from that but we were racing cars, and bikes, and anything else up here as soon as the snow melted just as long if not longer than “where God intended”.

It is a poor man who can not build himself up without tearing others down.

NASCAR was started by someone who saw a better way to make $$$ off of others hard work. Shame on us all for letting them.

Hell look at how many years they bled drivers to death. No retirement, healthcare, forgot them as soon as they walked out the gate.

It would be foolish to start apart. The way to do it is parallel. Do it at tracks (obviously not NA$CAR owned ones) during current races. At an off time and day.

Drivers from the “Big Show”, like Tony does with the modifieds at NH, will come because they love racing. Before you know it if it is done right, with STOCK cars and all, it will take off. It may even force the needed changes to the Cup series.

I don’t even care if some are foreign cars. As long as they are a car you can buy and drive on a DOT road yourself.

danabarrett
07/03/2008 01:50 PM
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You know, there are a lot of us out here “west of the Mississippi” who would enjoy a good stock car race. That said, if this would truly be a sport for the “working man” you’re gonna have to do your racing, etc on Saturdays as most “working men” will be at work on Fridays.

Ed
07/03/2008 03:31 PM
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There is actually another world west of the Mississippi? Who would have thought…? You folks out there don’t have much of a sense of humor, do you?

Robert Eastman
07/03/2008 04:54 PM
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What’s the latest scoop on the proposed “Old School” racing series, (or whatever name it is called)? Is that idea DOA or is that still going to happen? I thought that it could be a viable series, but of course with the economy in the dumpster, who knows? Are local tracks getting bigger crowds as fans cut back on the “luxury of NASCAR” and stay closer to home?
Hopefully NASCAR’s loss will be the local promoters’ gain! Nothing beats short track dirt racing for excitement, when enough racecars show up!

JOE
07/03/2008 06:01 PM
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AMEN!

Matt
07/03/2008 09:15 PM
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Dennis,

I need to remind folks occasionally “my neck of the woods” isn’t the Southeast. I live outside of Lancaster PA in Amish Country. Born in New Jersey and having lived briefly on Long Island I’ve been a Pennsylvanian for the last 30 some odd years.

I’ve got no quarrel with New England fans or thier place in the sports growth and history. I love the Mods. I used to wrench on one with a buddy. I just happen to think, honestly, the track configuration at NHIS sucks. No slight to those in the Midwest our out west, but I feel the same about Fontana and Joliet. I wouldn’t go to a race at any of those tracks if they were located across the street from my house and I had a private entrance to them.

As for “no races west of the Mississpi” keep in mind a primary design goal is to allow team owners to spend one twentieth of what they do know. In this era of five dollar diesel, the costs of transporting cars, crew, and equipment to the west coast is prohibitive. It doesn’t pay any more to win at Phoenix than it does at Charlotte, it just costs a lot more to get there.

If a new series were to succeed, sure, we’ll start a sister series out west. At the end of the season we’ll bring the top 10 drivers from each division to a more central location and run a three race, big bucks, big bragging rights, no points showdown.

Mary D
07/03/2008 09:47 PM
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I’ve been advocating for a new stock car racing series for a few years now….actually, watching Tony Stewart & others’ actions, buying existing tracks, like Kenny Wallace, Ken Schrader, and building new facilities like Dale Jr., it’s crossed my mind that this may be what they have planned. I hope it is…

Kevin in SoCal
07/03/2008 11:16 PM
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Flash has it right, there already is an alternative to NASCAR. Its called the ARCA Remax series. And it uses the “old” Cup cars that you guys rave about having so much more passing and excitement.

M. B. Voelker
07/04/2008 02:38 PM
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OK. Put your money where your mouth is.

Work up a real business plan and start shopping it to investors.

If you’ve truly got a good idea there it won’t be difficult to find the money to get your new series on its feet.

If you don’t have the confidence in your own idea to put together that business plan and to start seriously shopping for investors then its time to stop griping about how terrible Nascar is because that would prove that, down in your heart, you know you couldn’t do any better.

Ed
07/04/2008 08:23 PM
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It’s a column M.B., a fantasy, wishful thinking. Get it?

SS Mike
07/05/2008 11:26 AM
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As for “no races west of the Mississpi” keep in mind a primary design goal is to allow team owners to spend one twentieth of what they do know. In this era of five dollar diesel, the costs of transporting cars, crew, and equipment to the west coast is prohibitive.

So if the West Coast fans want to attend a race in this new series they get to spend a fortune traveling across country?

Matt old buddy, you really need to get over this anti West Coast thing. There is probally a hundred tracks in California alone.

Fontana does not count. That place sucks.

There are a lot of RACE fans out there. Just not a bunch of NA$CAR fans.

Wolfman NH
07/05/2008 06:45 PM
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Make it sound like no fan out there is in favor of the plan, like the “chase for the championship”, Labor Day in California, and the wing on the back of the car. Then NA$CAR will surely go for it.

Susie
07/07/2008 12:11 AM
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Um…yeah screw that whole “west of the Mississippi” crap.

So what? Now I bear the burden of cost to travel to races out on the East coast or the Southeast, or where ever you think it would be more cost effective for the teams??? That’s a bunch of BS. They (the teams) need to control cost so that they (the teams) can travel to destinations across this fine Country. What good is a race series like that? Pretty much good to those who are or can afford to travel “west of the Mississippi.”

Susie
07/07/2008 09:44 AM
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Oops…I meant “east of the Mississippi” on my last point. Duh.

And damn good thing I paid attention on the playground during recess at Wilson Elementary School. That little jingle…M-i-s-s-i-s-s-i-p-p-i…sure came in handy for these posts.