The Frontstretch: Four Burning Questions: Consistency, Repaves, and Movin' on Up... by Summer Bedgood -- Friday April 20, 2012

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Does Greg Biffle’s early season “dominance” reveal a flaw in the points system?

Roush Fenway Racing driver Greg Biffle has held the points lead since the third race in the season at Las Vegas, but only got his first win at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend. While that’s not much of a surprise to any longtime fan of the sport, any casual fan must look at that, tilt their head like a dog when you ask them if they want to go “bye-bye”, and wonder how that’s possible. Why aren’t any of the other five winners this year already leading, such as Tony Stewart who has more victories than any other driver (two).

The simple answer—as most of you probably know—is consistency. Even this new 43-to-1 points system rewards consistency moreso than wins. Yes, every position is emphasized arguably more than the old system because of how tightly the points are awarded, but the difference between first and second is only slightly marginal to that between 14th and 15th (the winner receives a three-point bonus for his victory). As such, every position is important.

On paper, that sounds like a fantastic system. There will be a fight for every position, which makes the racing tighter and more exciting. In reality, though, losing a position is just as costly—if not moreso—than gaining one is a reward, which is enough to deter someone from dive-bombing for a position, instead just holding a top 5 position with a few laps remaining. There are certain drivers who will do so in certain situations, but for the most part just running consistently is enough.

Which is exactly what Biffle has done up to this point. His finishes haven’t all been great, but they’ve been good … and consistently so. Even with last year’s down-to-the-wire championship, there is still enough evidence based on Biffle’s performance alone that consistency is still a bigger name of the game than victories, and in some cases that may not always be a good thing.

What is up with this recent trend in tracks repaving or reconfiguring?

The Kansas Speedway is slated for a repave just as its current surface is aging to prime racing condition.

Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway will be the final race on the current surface and configuration of the mile-and-a-half track, with the track citing harsh weather conditions and the addition of an infield road course as a reason. The track is also planning to go from 15 to 20 degrees of variable banking.

As a native Kansan, I understand that harsh weather conditions can create the need for improvements and maybe a full repave. Still, though, Kansas is just another in a long line of tracks who have felt the need to “change” their tracks in order to “improve the racing.”

With very few exceptions—and even those I’m not sure everyone would agree with me on—the changes haven’t been positive. Mile-and-a-half racetracks that typically put on a dull show finally started to show some quality racing as the surface began to age, only to have a bulldozer come in and tear it up right after the fact. Classic tracks like Bristol’s and Darlington’s repaves didn’t sit well with race fans. There was such an outcry from the last Bristol race that Bruton Smith is even changing it back!

I don’t have the solution, but one of these innovators of the sport needs to find a way to fix any issues with the surface without taking away the “attitude” that an older surface tends to show. Smooth-as-glass tracks don’t typically make a race exciting(as much as the drivers will tell you otherwise), and I really wish the head honchos at these tracks would think twice before changing everything about a place that in most cases is starting to improve. Unless you’re turning a cookie cutter into a short track, leave it alone!

Is everyone asking too much from Rockingham?

Let’s get this out of the way right now: The Truck Series race at Rockingham was awesome. Great racing, great crowd, and great TV ratings. It couldn’t have been a better show for Andy Hillenburg.

However, because of the quality of the weekend, numerous people are now calling for not just the Nationwide Series but the Sprint Cup Series to be given a date at the storied racetrack. The historic event apparently gave throngs of people an incurable case of nostalgia and they want racing back at the Rock now.

Here’s the thing. The track isn’t even guaranteed a date for the 2013 Truck Series, let alone for either of the other two series. Yes, Rockingham made a great case for a second appearance on a NASCAR schedule, but until that’s guaranteed there is no need to rush anything. If “The Rock” can maintain its numbers for another couple of years, then it will be a fair question to ask for a higher series.
Until then, hold your horses. Asking too much of a track might be its ultimate demise.

If Kurt Busch loses his ride for lack of sponsorship, will that be the kick in the pants he needs to tone it down?

You can BS me all day about how Kurt Busch has “changed” and is supposedly calmer and more resigned than—oh, say—five months ago.

I’m not buying it. The only reason he hasn’t been as noticeable lately is because he’s been so uncompetitive that he’s flown under the radar. The media only paid attention long enough for it to be relevant, but in this business you either perform or go home.

It’s the same way with sponsors. Busch might have a name, a championship, and 24 career wins backing him, but a driver is only as good as his equipment. And despite being a past champion, he had to settle for the only team in the garage area that was willing to put up with his crap for an entire season. Now it looks like they won’t have to do that if more funding doesn’t come on board.

It sucks for the other members of his team, but maybe being in this position is exactly what the hot-headed Busch needs right now.

Contact Summer Dreyer

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Tom Dalfonzo
04/20/2012 03:39 PM
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The only “repaving or reconfiguring” I want Kansas to undergo is for a complete demolition of the entire speedway, especially the casino, and for its two Cup dates to be rewarded to tracks that deserve them, like Iowa and Rockingham.

jason
04/20/2012 05:52 PM
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Do we really want the busch brothers to calm down? I think people who want this are not seeing the unintended consequences of what this truly means. I mean unless you are finding this season where nothing on the track has been memorable? I mean really if there is not a bad guy, then who are we supposed to root against? Who is supposed to drive the controversy that fuels NASCAR so much? Sorry but NASCAR is not exciting this year and I am probably going to start skipping races…something I have not done in 11 years….

DoninAjax
04/20/2012 07:28 PM
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They should blow it up and make it a one-mile oval so it’s not a cookie-cutter?