1. The Yellow Line Rule
While it’s not a bad idea in theory, has NASCAR ever made a correct call on it in the 15 or so years it’s existed? If they have, I can’t recall it. Drivers have been penalized for being forced down there and not penalized for moves that could have been avoided. While the thinking behind it is sound – drivers dropping to the apron and then trying to blend back into line in the corners is a recipe for a big mess – in practice it’s too much of a judgment call, and a rule that’s all but unenforceable isn’t helping anyone. Here’s an idea: if a driver does race down there and causes a pileup, penalize them and don’t make it light. No, that doesn’t avoid the crash, but it does make the apron self-policing. If you’re going to lose anything you’ve gained and more, there’s zero reason to race down there.
2. The No-Pushing Rule
OK, so a few fans hate the tandem drafting, which has been eliminated in Sprint Cup by the rules package but could still pop up in a Truck or Xfinity race. But NASCAR needs to find another way to eliminate the rule, though why they need to eliminate it is questionable at best. A lot of fans hate the Chase, too, but that hasn’t stopped NASCAR from making it worse every year. The sanctioning body needs to establish a precedent that doesn’t involve another rule that can rarely be correctly enforced. It’s pretty hard to say that if someone drops out of line to make a run at the leader, and only one other driver goes with him, that he’s breaking the rules by trying to race for the lead. Isn’t that sort of the point of racing? How can that possibly be punished in good conscience?
3. Glorifying The Big One
This one’s more on the broadcasting networks than anyone, but it’s kind of in poor taste when NASCAR says in one breath that they don’t glorify wrecks and then have a commercial for plate races showing huge wrecks in the next. Watching the broadcast, a lot of airtime is devoted to the Big One, who will trigger it, and when it will take place. Unfortunately, that is the nature of this type of racing – it’s not a matter of if there will be a multi-car crash, but when it will take place. While it’s true that a big crash can happen anywhere and catch up with drivers who did nothing wrong, it’s practically inevitable at Daytona and Talladega. It’s not entertainment. It’s an expensive demolition derby, and it shouldn’t be painted as something other than the cluster it is.
4. Any Placement of These Tracks in the Chase
Like I said above, a driver can get taken out by someone else’s mistake anywhere, but Talladega is such a luck-of-the-draw track in terms of whether you avoid trouble and contend that it has no business determining someone’s title hopes based on a single incident. Make no mistake, without a win, any driver can be taken out of contention with an ill-timed crash, no matter what his standing was. Saying he should have finished better elsewhere doesn’t hold much water. Sure he wishes he’d won Charlotte or Kansas. So do a lot of guys who didn’t. One race, one other driver’s bonehead move, shouldn’t be the end of an otherwise championship-caliber season.
On the other hand, Talladega being what it is, it would be a better fit if the fall dates were swapped between it and Richmond. As the final chance to make the Chase, the race would have some appeal. It puts the field on equal footing and if the Chase really is simply about winning and being an instant contender, why not give a real underdog an equal chance to make the playoffs? Plus, it would certainly keep a lot of the field from simply riding to avoid trouble. Meanwhile Richmond, which typically puts on a better show, would be an excellent test of real driver skill as an elimination race.
5. Restrictor Plates
Surely in 30 years, somebody could have come up with a better way to slow racecars down than the temporary measure adopted a generation of drivers and three generations of racecar ago. But has anyone even tried? Why not simply have a different engine rule for those tracks, allowing full throttle response with less horsepower? Surely there’s enough technology available to make plates a thing of the past. Give the cars some throttle response, and the racing would be safer… and probably better. The huge pack of cars would no longer happen, while true slingshot passes might. Hanging at the back waiting to make a move would be long gone. It’s time to come up with something better.