Race Weekend Central

Mid-season NASCAR Report Card: Does Segment Racing Work?

At the beginning of the season, I listened to NASCAR’s announcement that we’d be testing out this whole segment racing deal.  I really thought it might drum up some interest for me when watching the weekly race. Teams would be charging to the front to gather up those extra points that would be so valuable come the playoffs…yeah…

Each week as the cars string out with the leader driving off into the distance, I tune out during the long green flag laps and tend to look up long enough to figure out who has a green checkered flag next to their name. I pay less attention to the points accumulation and standings, as the whole system is more complicated than I’m prepared to deal with in the end. I’ve decided that I’ll check off the winner’s column each week and simply wait for the fall to arrive before getting all involved.

Was this what NASCAR hoped to achieve with all the tweaks to the rules this year? Not exactly.

Yes, the five-minute repair rule has helped to reduce the number of cars flying apart on the track, lowering the number of times NASCAR has thrown the yellow for debris.  That is a good job.

Yes, NASCAR is dropping the hammer regarding rules violations in a consistent manner.  However, I’m not totally sold on the number of crew chiefs that have been sat down for multiple races this season.  It really doesn’t seem to make a difference on how the teams will approach the construction of their cars.  Ultimately that change is a wash for me.

Yes, teams are racing to the green checkers, creating some kind of strategic shuffling mid-race. However, it isn’t materially affecting the outcome of the race and definitely hasn’t raised my enjoyment of the NASCAR product.

It’s like we are in a holding pattern for excitement.  We’re being treated to glimpses of future greatness as the young guns take to the track while the veterans continue to execute at the level to which we’ve become accustomed.

It’s, well, sort of vanilla.  The same ten teams always appear in the Top 10. We don’t have to hang on every word being uttered by our favorite drivers because we can practically write the script for their sponsor approved appearances. NASCAR Nation is bored, which has been a common thread among NASCAR fans since Jimmie Johnson took home Cup number 5.

So, now what, you might ask. What can be done?

NASCAR could deregulate the vehicles.  Stop dictating the engines, brakes, exhaust, tires, etc. etc. etc. We could do with a few more engine failures and mechanical difficulties.  It’s a variable that has all but vanished from NASCAR broadcasts as the rules book keeps getter thicker. Between technology and homogenization, one of the great levelers of our sport has been white washed.

Yes, the championship would still be awarded to one of those select top 10 teams, but the journey along the way could be a whole lot more interesting.

SOMETHING SHINY

It’s not every day that Victory Lane is situated on the frontstretch.  Kyle Larson once again took advantage of this unique layout at Michigan and left his No. 42’s autograph across the checkered stage by doing donuts on Victory Lane.

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