I will admit when I am wrong.
In April I wrote about how despite its winning ways, consistency was still necessary for Stewart-Haas Racing to contend for the Sprint Cup.
Well, I was half wrong. Consistency still played a part heading into Homestead-Miami Speedway, but I certainly did not think Kevin Harvick had a realistic chance months ago due to his fluctuation of finishes.
Given any sort of points system there is no doubt in my mind that Harvick is a deserving champion at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series level. The question that must be asked now is will this new format, which seems to have split reactions between those for and against, sustain over time. Will it be this thrilling and unique event at Homestead every year, or will it eventually turn into a usual and monotonous moment?
The hype has done what it should for this year. The season concluded with track sellouts and slightly higher television ratings, but that momentum now needs to ride into the first 26 events of the 2015 season. The Daytona 500 should have no problem attracting viewers with its prestige, as well as the return of the sport’s top level after three months of hibernation. Each facility does a tremendous job at telling the public why its event is the must see show of the year. The television networks put a good amount of effort promoting that their program is the one to watch on a particular Sunday afternoon or Saturday night. NASCAR markets its sport like many other professional organizations, but I feel like this is where the communication needs to get even closer.
On a couple occasions throughout the season I spoke about how some tracks are doing it right in regards to fan engagement. NASCAR needs to work hand-in-hand with them to get the word out, and in addition work with the broadcasters and air what the fans sitting on their couch at home are missing. Richmond International Raceway had a massive post-race Chase party and I hardly remember seeing anything about it on ABC. It was a rather popular topic on Twitter, but as viral as social media can get it still does not amount to the number of eyes and long-term attention that are laid on a TV screen. Even if there is a disconnect, the fan still has the final word in the direction this sport goes at the professional level and in its entirety.
If you like what you have seen throughout 2014, then ignore the naysayers and get out there and support it as much as you can. If you are on the other side of the fence, instead of complaining week in and week out, shut off the television, cancel those tickets and head out and support your closest local short track. If you long for the simple times where stock car racing was not compared to or transformed to be similar to other professional sports with Game 7 moments or playoff drama then you will feel at home.
If enough people actually show an interest and gravitate toward the grassroots then something will need to be done at the top. We witnessed the results of much feedback come to fruition with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Eldora Speedway the last couple years. The powers that be will have to listen.
This moves toward one of the points from which I feel we have gotten away. So much focus has been shifted toward creating an exciting championship that we have forgotten a major aspect of auto racing: the event itself. Of course some events are going to have more prestige in the eyes of competitors and fans, but each and every one of the 36 points-paying races should be something extraordinarily special in its own way. Having potentially the biggest moment in NASCAR history should not be at Homestead-Miami Speedway every year, no offense to the track as it produces some pretty stellar racing for an intermediate layout. We are taking an idea of winning having a more important role, all the while ignoring important winning milestones.
Jimmie Johnson won his 70th career race at Texas Motor Speedway. Did anyone notice? After a strong season, Jeff Gordon is reaching numbers that mirror Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty in their eras. Whether you think he is a four-time or a seven-time champion, that statement cannot be denied. I fear that we are teetering along the line where championships could vastly overshadow versatility. Drivers like Johnson, Gordon and Tony Stewart being versatile enough to win on almost every single track or configuration on the schedule should be celebrated rather than getting lost as an afterthought.
That’s my take. What is yours? It is in your hands after all. We are each just one person, but as a whole making our own unswayed decisions will steer the future.