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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

The Frontstretch 5: Rules NASCAR Should Ditch

Welcome to the Frontstretch Five! Each week, Amy Henderson takes a look at the racing, the drivers and the storylines that drive NASCAR and produces a list of five people, places, things and ideas that define the current state of our sport. This week, Amy follows last week’s rules she says NASCAR should add with a list of the ones the sanctioning body could do away with.

1. The Chase

Fans’ opinions of the Chase are widely varied, but in poll after poll, unscientific as they may be, the overwhelming majority of fans would like the see the Chase become an unfortunate part of NASCAR history. That should be reason enough to scrap a playoff system that doesn’t befit the sport. Racing is so unlike stick-and-ball sports that trying to fit their system of determining a champion is detrimental. To many fans, especially those who have been in the sport a long time, a playoff system doesn’t improve the championship – it cheapens it instead.

There’s a reason that NASCAR has had to make so many changes to the playoff system in the decade it’s been in place: they’ve never been able to make it work. Take a look at sports with long-standing playoff systems. Those have evolved in a minor way, adding a round as expansion makes that necessary, but the basic system and rules, whether series-based or single-elimination, have been in place for decades with few fundamental changes. Compare that to NASCAR’s system, which has undergone several large overhauls in the relatively few seasons it’s been around, and the flaws become apparent. It’s not working for the sport because the sport itself does not lend itself to the type of system its leaders want for it.

2. Restrictive suspension and gear packages

The racing would be better if teams had areas in which to make their cars different from the competition. If NASCAR were to give teams more options on which to build, it would increase competition on a weekly basis because with more room to work, teams could adapt to different tracks and to their drivers’ individual preferences.

Allowing choices also reintroduces an element of risk to the sport that has been absent for several years. Gear choice used to give teams a choice: a slightly faster car that put enormous strain on the engine and transmission or a slightly slower one that wouldn’t self-destruct during the race. Now, the cars are so durable that there’s little room for the excitement that different strategies used to lend it. Would a car make it to the end, or would an overtaxed engine give up? Would that loose but fast car jump out from under its driver at any moment? A certain sense of uncertainty is good for the racing as it forces teams to use different strategies and keeps fans wondering what will happen if that car keeps turning those laps or if that driver can hang on until the next scheduled pit stops. Risk is good; it’s what auto racing is about.

3. Restrictor plates

Surely in this age of technology, there’s a way to effectively slow the cars down without the restrictor plate, which was implemented in 1988 as a temporary measure to reduce speeds that were climbing upwards of 210 mph. Keeping speeds down at Daytona and Talladega is imperative; today’s cars would travel at an estimated 240 mph or higher without them, and those speeds would be far too dangerous. Smaller engines have been suggested and that presents one possible solution. The electronic fuel injection could eventually be used to reduce speeds, or most likely there is another solution still to be found if enough people put their minds to it. But something needs to happen; the racing on those two tracks is not up to par.

4. The yellow line at plate tracks

While we’re on the subject of Daytona and Talladega, it’s time to dump the yellow-line rule. It’s not a bad rule in theory because it’s for the safety of drivers. After all, many a crash has been triggered on those tracks by someone trying to wedge their way in coming up off the apron heading into the turns. But it’s a bad rule in practice because NASCAR has never enforced it well. They’ve penalized drivers who were very clearly forced below the line and failed to penalize others who could have moved back up. They’ve gotten the calls wrong far more often than right, even taking a win away from Regan Smith. If it’s too difficult to enforce with any kind of accuracy, perhaps there’s a better way to keep drivers from causing crashes.

5. Unlimited races in all series

Finally, it’s time to take an active interest in the health of NASCAR’s other series, in particular the Xfinity Series but also the Truck Series. That means reducing the participation of the Cup drivers running for their Cup owners in cars with more money than the series regulars have. There are any number of solutions, but perhaps the best is to simply not allow a driver to run for the same owner or for a team affiliated with the same owner, in more than one series. That would allow the Cup drivers to drive for other teams, perhaps help a small team to sort out its equipment or to make a hometown race while limiting their options to run for the biggest teams. Their veteran presence is a good thing for the young drivers in the series as a learning tool, but if most of those youngsters can’t actively race with them for more than a lap or two because the Cup stars can buy the best of everything, it defeats the purpose. Their presence is good for fans and other drivers only if the results aren’t practically predetermined.

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kb

Once again Cup drivers are demonized as the bad guys for riding in Xfinity, despite just about every Cupper has done so and forever, to me just part of the whining social media has created. Some drivers are just never going to cut in advancing onto Cup, and most make a very good living for their families driving for years in the same series..it also employs a lot of people. This is NOT a baby series or the natural ladder to gain acceptance to the top. Not every is just that talented, I don’t think anybody is being denied exposure when a Cupper races, I think just the opposite what a great gage to see who can make that next step. I know the next week I am looking to see what they can do. But that is me.

If whine needs to be had with cheese, maybe the bigger elephant in the room (if there must be one) is the financial resources healthy and not so robust who are in competition with each other week in and out. Money does trump the have not’s and what type of health would the series be in without that money. How does one fix that problem?

kb

…and where and who the sponsors chose to park their dollars..ah..what a tangled web.

Bill B

Hmmm… I think this article could have been written 5 years ago and probably will be just as apt 5 years from now.
And that is the news.

Brian

Yep.

rg72

I can’t stand the Chase but end it today and you still have a schedule heavily weighted with the 1.5 and 2 mile tracks, because that’s what was built during the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The comments after Saturday’s race are most telling. The general consensus was that “it wasn’t that bad”, which is the highest compliment an intermediate track race can generally receive. If you’re hanging your hat on a race that isn’t that bad, you’re in a world of trouble.
NASCAR is on course to have a race soon with a TV rating of zero point something. This past weekend was 1.5 (yes, the weather was a factor). Wait until we hit the summer stretch of less than thrilling races and almost every one of these races in on FS1 and then NBCSN. I could see the Saturday night Kentucky race in July hitting uncharted territory.

DoninAjax

A possible title for an upcoming column could be “Another Five Rules That Should Be Ditched.” And Another…

I’ve said for years that Cup drivers should have real “race” cars that can be adjusted the way crew chiefs want.

Brian’s ego won’t let him get rid of the chase. He’s still in denial and thinks it’s a brilliant idea.

There are a lot more than just this five.

jerseygirl

Brainless will never ditch the chase, he’ll run the sport totally into the ground first. Since he, the tracks and teams get a lot of their $ from TV, until that bottoms out completely, he’ll just keep doing what he’s doing.

I agree with you about too many “fixed” parts from NASCAR. It goes to making this even more of an IROC series than ever and since that became non-existent some years ago, well, NASCAR may go the same way or at least become irrelevant.

I’m not a fan of Cup drivers running in the # of races they do in the xfinity and truck series. Yes, cup drivers have always participated to some degree in the lower series, but usually with their own teams, not their Cup teams as part of the deal. I no longer watch xfinity or truck races. It simply isn’t worth my time when I’ll see the same names at the front of the field as I will the following day – usually ones I’m not particularly interested in. I used to enjoy seeing “new” guys in those series or sometimes even the “old” guys who were racing trucks instead of Cup cars.

If I’m not having fun, I’m not watching any more. NASCAR can keep fiddling with all of its rules trying desperately to find a way to catch the wave that they lost when Bill Jr turned the business over to sonny boy, but that doesn’t mean the house isn’t burning to the ground.

Tim Krantz

Number 6- A claiming rule in the 2 lower divisions would go a long way to leveling the playing field, but that would be too simple. How many more Chase Elliots are out there that could use better equipment.

fan4jm

how many good driving females might get a ride if they could get better equipment. Look at poor Johanna Long or JJ Cobb or Chirsty Wallace

Dennis

The cars are far too streamlined now to get away from pack racing at Daytona and Talladega. If you want some better racing then dirty the cars up aerodynamically. Have a special body that’s more like a brick that punches a huge hole in the air. Then guys will get runs where they can pass. Substituting one lower powered engine configuration for another won’t make a difference.

JohnQ

I’ll never watch another truck or Xfinity race until the Cup drivers are gone, period. That said, if NASCAR implemented the other four changes mentioned I’d be back in all the way.

Fred

But JohnQ, don’t you know we need tons of cup drivers in the lower series to draw crowds?? Because that’s what the brain surgeons on na$car along with the many called “journalists” on this site keep telling us. Can’t you tell my the thousands of fans in the seats what an incredible draw these cup stars bring? Not to mention the ego boost these egomaniacs require when they go to these practice sessions and destroy a field of underfunded teams, then get told how awesome they are for winning?

Bill B

Fred,
Don’t forget that they also take away the lion’s share of the purse money from those underfunded teams.

Bill B

…ensuring that those teams will remain underfunded.

Tim S.

I don’t think they need to eliminate the Cup drivers completely. But not having as many companion events could do that job for them.

JohnQ

I think the plan now is to eliminate the fans completely!

GinaV24

and NASCAR is doing a fine job of that – in all of the series.

Let’s face it before Brian took over, there was a waiting list for tickets at most tracks, the ratings on TV were enormous and people were excited and having fun with the sport. Since BZF took over and instituted his “vision” for the sport, the tracks are taking seats out, not putting them in, heck Daytona decided to add a theme park atmosphere to try and draw people; ratings are down and the racing is a bore.

Steven

I don’t like the “competition cautions” and wave around rule. These seem to benefit the #10 car especially, Nascars little Princess. Not to mention the debris cautions without debris. Just unbelievable. Nascar damages their own sport by dishing out this crap.

fan4jm

not only are the cup drive/owners taking the lions share of the winnings in the lower series – they are taking
the lions share of sponsor ship dollars

JohnQ

That is because they ARE the bad guys in the lower series. Get them out and maybe the product becomes watchable.

Kristy Herbert

So glad someone else agrees with me that item #4, yellow line rule, should be done away with. I’ve hated that rule since it was put in place. And I don’t believe it makes anyone safer – we’ve had just as many bad restrictor-plate accidents after that rule was put in place. There is no way to effectively enforce this rule so it should be done away with – before more people lose races that they should have won.

Germy

Let’s see…

#1. I don’t really care about this one. However they decide to crown the champ is fine. I’m more interested in the weekly races being more exciting and fun to watch.

#2. Agree totally, the suspension needs to be brought back into play and stop the resting on bump-stops to get the car as close to the track as possible. But think it needs to go further than just suspension/gears. IMO the car body templates need to match 100% the “base” model sold in showrooms (and not some “limited edition” super streamlined version made solely to get a leg up in NASCAR) with maybe some NASCAR approved modifications for safety (such as the rear spoiler, flaps or strips to keep the car on the ground when spun, etc.). The radiator openings need to match the stock car, and no more allowing them to “tape up the grill” for more downforce (this could be instituted right now and I think it would help some). Give the manufacturers back their identity! Also, beef up the body panels so they can rub and bump a little bit without totally killing the speed of their car.

#3. Restrictor plates are the devil! Get rid of them and find a way to get the cars to NEED to slow down and set up for the corners. Gotta get handling back into these tracks. Perhaps less rear spoiler, skinnier (and/or harder) tires that won’t grip as well. Use gearing to make them take more power/time to regain speed (making handling well and getting back to the gas out of the corner even MORE important).

#4. Totally agree. If they think they can run on the grass around the inside wall and go faster, let them try it!

#5. Agree… to a point. I think the top tier cup level drivers should be excluded from the lower series races. But cup level drivers, say 30th or below in points I have no problem with them running *occasionally* in the lower series. And then it should be limited to only a few cup level regulars per race (maybe 3 to 5) and only a set number of races per driver (maybe 5). Give those seats to the up and comers, or those who are making the transition and maybe need a little more seat time at certain tracks they struggle with.

I’ll add a couple… #6, the tracks. I agree with Harvick, they need more diversity in the tracks. More road courses, more short tracks. I think they need more surfaces too, namely DIRT.

#7. Races need to be shorter (except for a very few traditional races like the Daytona 500, Southern 500, and Coke 600), and more evening races during the week. Look, I love racing, but when it’s sunny and 80 outside on one of my 2 days off per week (some people get less than that), please don’t make me choose between being outside enjoying the weather and sitting in the house on my butt watching a race! NASCAR will seldom win in that situation. But a mid-week evening race that starts at 7 or so and ends by 10? I’ll be glued to the set EVERY WEEK. Or even races that are over in 2 hours (like IRL), I would probably squeeze that in around lunch or something even on a sunny weekend.

NASCAR won’t listen though, but thanks for giving me a place to air my opinion! :-)

DoninAjax

Red Farmer says, “Dirt is for racin’. Asphalt is for getting there.”

Bobby Allison says, “Asphalt is for racing. Dirt is for potatoes.”

Dave in Ohio

Dittos on track diversity. With today’s parity of equipment, the only way for drivers to shine is to get off the boring ovals. Here’s an idea: In order for any track to host more than one race in a season, the second race has to be a road race. There are plenty of tracks with an infield road course, or room to add one. Imagine the Firecracker 400 on the Daytona road course. A second Indy date on the F1 circuit. Fun for all! Finally a road course where the fans in the stands can see the whole race!

Brett

great column Amy. I agree on all points.

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