The Frontstretch: NASCAR Mailbox: Penalties, Seating Capacity, And Pit Crews by Summer Bedgood -- Thursday July 11, 2013

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NASCAR Mailbox: Penalties, Seating Capacity, And Pit Crews

Summer Bedgood · Thursday July 11, 2013


So did you hear that Jeff Gordon would be fine and dandy with NASCAR running races in the middle of the week?

Oh, yes, it’s true. Mr. Four-Time told the Motor Racing Network earlier this week that running mid-week races would be something he’s in favor of doing, similar to the way the National Football League has Monday Night Football.

“I think when “Monday Night Football’ ends, we should start “Monday Night Racing,’” said Gordon. “But that is just me. Of course I came from “Thursday Night Thunder,’ and … (it) was ridiculously successful back in the day. I am not saying we need to do it every week, but if we could find the right week in the schedule and mix it up, make it special, and make it make sense for the fans at home as well as the ones that could attend, then I think it would be awesome.”

You’ve got to admit, he has a point. Almost every other professional sport runs in primetime at some point during the regular week, and there are several short tracks across the country that run features on a weeknight. Even the Camping World Truck Series has a few primetime races each season, with three in 2013. Sure it’s not “tradition”, but sometimes it makes sense to change things up a bit. After all, things can’t stay the same way forever.

I know that some concern exists over other programming that would be on at the same time, as I’m sure most of you who watch reality television (blech…) probably have. I mean, gosh, how could NASCAR ever compete with “The Bachelorette?”

However, I think this is an idea NASCAR should consider exploring. There wouldn’t be much that could make a Monday better than some night racing at a track like Bristol, Richmond or, heck, a mile-and-a-half. It doesn’t matter where it is, but it would be a great evening for race fans everywhere.

Now onto your questions:

_This reminds me of the penalties to Gibbs, the drivers, crew chiefs and Toyota over a piece of equipment being a tiny bit over the weight limit, even though this did not affect the cars or safety. It was a manufacturing “whoopsie”. When I think of that, I don’t understand NASCAR giving no penalties of any sort when the teams deliberately broke the rules with the spacers. No, it apparently didn’t affect safety and, we are told, speed but it is comparable. I believe this decision will affect NASCAR’s credibility with me in the future. I had a lot of respect for their consistency.

“I also felt disconcerted over Denny Hamlin’s fine for talking about the new car on TV. Can someone just roll Brian France into a tube and shoot him over to a deserted island for the duration of the season?_ — Ella

I think the problems with inconsistency are rooted much deeper than Brian France, but I see your point. Though I fail to understand your comment that you, “admire their consistency”, since you just did a fine job of pointing out they are anything but.

Anyway, as much as NASCAR denies it, I think that the “no call” certainly had a lot to do with the sheer number of teams involved. 31 teams is way too many for them to be coincidentally and simultaneously cheating, and I think NASCAR realized that there was something else going on here. That “something else” would be that the roof flaps manufacturer doesn’t provide the teams with any aerodynamic advantages that the teams can’t more efficiently design for themselves.

Had this been, say, a Ford Racing problem rather than a garage-wide problem, I think there would have been more heavy handed penalties. But since every single team had a reasonable explanation for why they did what they did, NASCAR had enough reason to take their word for it.

That doesn’t mean that NASCAR was okay with it, but maybe that it wasn’t worth the effort to figure out the best way to dish out 31 penalties. They’re basically saying, “Just don’t do it again” and are going to look at options for just that down the road, including working with the spacer manufacturers to incorporate the modifications into the finished product.

As far as that deserted island idea, Ella… he probably owns one somewhere. I doubt he’d argue with your solution!

I heard ISC is going to cut seats at many of their tracks. Won’t that drive up prices? How exactly does that help them sell tickets?! — Eli

It definitely could drive up prices at many of those tracks, and in some cases it will. However, their thinking in selling more tickets is that, when tracks have fewer seats, it also drives up the demand. The difference between a few thousand seats could be the difference between sporadic ticket sales or a sellout.

Consider for a second that a sellout at Martinsville is great, but when a track like Indianapolis Motor Speedway sells the exact same amount of tickets, it’s pathetic. If Indianapolis cut down their seating to that level, they could sell out every time. It’d be a dramatic drop-off in the number of sales, but it would look much better on television. It would be much better PR to say “instant sellout” than “lots of seating available” — albeit to the detriment of the Indianapolis 500; so don’t expect that to happen anytime soon.

In an attempt to help eliminate the appearance of poor attendance, ISC plans to remove many seats at its tracks on the NASCAR circuit. Clearly a better plan than improving the product or lowering ticket prices and providing an incentive to attend.

Also, the fewer tickets there are, the more urgent people are to get them. At several tracks right now, you can walk up to the ticket booth, buy a ticket, and walk right in without a problem. If there are fewer seats available, you will be more likely to buy well in advance.

Now, the current state of things might not immediately create that sense of urgency, but I wouldn’t leave it out of ISC’s discretion to keep making changes until it does. If they feel like this will be the best way for them to make a profit, they will definitely do it. Can you really blame them?

I read that a pit crew member got injured from some flying debris in Daytona during the last lap crash. Shouldn’t NASCAR create a rule where everyone on pit road has to stay back so this doesn’t happen? — Hershel

Why would they do that? To protect crew members from themselves?

Hershel is talking about Jay Hackney, the front tire changer for Joey Logano’s team. He was hit by a piece of debris on the wrist during that gigantic crash on the final lap of the race. He was fine, but it was a scary moment, since the piece of debris was about a foot long.

Look, things happen in racing. The pit crew members know the risks they are taking, and they are in much bigger danger during pit stops than they are watching the end of the race in Daytona. If the pit crew members want to stand at the front of the pit box and watch the end of the race, they should be able to.

Joey Logano’s crew member Jay Hackney was struck by this chunk of debris following the last-lap crash coming to the checkers at Daytona last Saturday.

Here is the thing: NASCAR doesn’t need to babysit these race teams. They are perfectly well-functioning adults and can decide for themselves whether or not they are in a good position. When cars start spinning, flying, and bouncing around at the end of the finish, if the pit crew members need to get out of the way, then they need to get out of the way. NASCAR doesn’t need to tell them to stay behind some magical red line and make them safe.

Now, in fairness, sometimes things happen in a split second and there just isn’t enough time to get out of the way fast enough. However, the pit crews know that. They are well aware that, at any time, something crazy could happen and put them in danger. A meteor could also fall from the sky. It doesn’t really matter. The crew members are at their own discretion when it comes to their safety. Let them make those decisions themselves.

Now it’s my turn. Here is my question to all of you: Over the weekend, Jeff Gordon flew to Pocono just to see the IndyCar race in Pocono. It must be nice to be able to up and fly to any race you wanted, right? If I handed you a private plane and told you that you could use it to go to any one race in the world, which one would you choose?

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Bill B
07/11/2013 07:02 AM

If it’s all expenses paid then the F-1 race at Monaco. Short of hitting the lottery that’s the only way I’d ever get to go there.

If it’s just fly to a race, watch the race, and come home then I’d pick the Daytona 500 or the fall race at Bristol.

07/11/2013 08:21 AM

Monaco baby! That’s where I’d be.

As for fans in the stands…ALL sports will have to lower ticket prices. There is no other choice with this economy going nowhere. It will get worse before it gets better. Of course with Jimmie Johnson on his way to “SIX TIME!” who knows? That may really pack the stands…..NOT. LOL.

07/11/2013 08:47 AM

I think Ella was saying that she DID (past tense) admire Nascar’s consistency.

And basic economics dictate that removing seats (reducing supply) will NOT raise prices unless there are fewer seats than people who want them (more demand than available supply).

07/11/2013 09:52 AM

I think the issue with the pit crew was that they were actually out in the pit box in front of the wall, rather than behind the wall. If they had been behind the wall, they could have at least been able to duck.

07/11/2013 10:14 AM

Daytona 500. But I would like to camp down there for all of speedweeks.

Carl D.
07/11/2013 10:35 AM

How do you know I don’t already have a private plane and fly to races whenever I get the urge? Okay I don’t, but if I did, I’d also fly to Monaco. Because it’s Monaco. Who doesn’t want to go to Monaco?

I hope Brian France does own a private island. And I hope he goes there and stays there and leaves Nascar to be run by someone who is able to run a business and who has respect for the sport and its fans.

Michael in SoCal
07/11/2013 11:11 AM

First off, a mile-and-a-half race during the week would still be a boring mile-and-a-half race, just on a weeknight.

And to answer your question, I’m with Tony, Speedweeks down in Daytona in a motorhome in the infield, Turn 4 nearest to the start / finish line.

Bill B
07/11/2013 12:30 PM

I really think NASCAR is being honest with their agenda on removing seats: to get more people to buy tickets in advance. As it is, those most likely to attend a race (less than 4 hour drive) are more apt to wait until they know the weather forecast to make a decision on attending a race if they know there will be seats available. Personally, with the current on-track product and the shakey economy, I think they are 5+ years away from having any opportunity to raise prices regardless of how many seats they take out. There are a lot of people already on the fence that a price increase would push to the wrong side.

Kevin in SoCal
07/11/2013 01:16 PM

Whats the difference between standing in the pit box, and standing 2 feet further back when something is coming at you at 100 MPH? I doubt you have time to move either way.
Summer is right, the pit crews know the danger they are in and they choose that danger. They know the risk.

Glen H.
07/11/2013 03:51 PM

If I had the use of a private jet, I’d have to go to the 24 Hours of Le Mans; the greatest endurance race of them all. Second choice would be Monoco.

07/11/2013 05:10 PM

As much as I can’t stand Jeff Gordon, I do agree with him about mid-week races. I remember a time when there were more than 50 races a year. I also remember that, if the teams were heading to say Loudon from Daytona, they would have swung past a track like Oxford Plains and ran a night race mid-week! Lit-up tracks like Richmond and Bristol would be perfect for a mid-week night race!

Think about it this way. For all the ADD crybabies who complain that the season is too long, NASCAR could start the season at Daytona in say Early April and end it by the end of September if they scheduled several races mid-week from late May until the beginning of September, when the weather is usually good, although this year, that seems to be a real hope rather than an excepted fact! Too, NASCAR could add some more short track races, as they are better suited for night racing. And it is possible to have the usual double- and triple-headers, as most Truck and Nationwide races are on Friday and Saturday. Truck races on Monday night, Nationwide on Tuesday Night, and the Cup series on Wednesday night!

Oh wow!! I’m back in 1965!

Good idea, Jeff!

Fed Up
07/11/2013 05:22 PM

I guess NA$CAR erased the old rule, suggestion,
pleading, or wish that all parts must be approved by them. Robin Pemberton should run for a political office. No one believes a word he says. I don’t think they can pull out seats fast enough to cover the loss of fans.

07/11/2013 08:09 PM

I was surprized that NASCAR didn’t lower the hammer on all the teams over these roof flap spacers. I was particularly surprized that Roush wasn’t hammered to the point where he would have been driven from NASCAR altogether. But, I wonder, if the real reason people are so upset was because Roush wasn’t hammered hard. After all, one of his companies made the kits that were found defective. I know most NASCAR fans hate Roush’s guts and wish he, and Ford, would just go away. Could that be the reason behind the anger about NASCAR not issuing any penalties?

07/12/2013 01:24 AM

“I know most NASCAR fans hate Roush’s guts and wish he, and Ford, would just go away.”

Huh? Never heard a single person ever say that.

Ron Schwalbe
07/12/2013 10:53 AM

The spacers in the kits that Roush supplied were MODIFIED by the teams – NOT illegal because of Jack Roush !