- Dominant performances happen
They just do. And there isn’t anything wrong with them—just like there’s nothing wrong with fuel mileage races, races that are won on rain strategy, long green-flag runs, or any of a dozen other things that happen over several hundred miles of competition that don’t result in a door-to-door finish. It’s part of the sport … and it always has been. Racing has never been perfect. Yes, some races are better than others. But there are no “lesser” victories in the scheme of things. No, a dominant run like Martin Truex, Jr. had on Sunday doesn’t make for the most exciting finish you’ve ever seen. On the other hand, it’s not every day that fans see records shattered and history rewritten. Those things are worth getting excited about, too. Also, while someone is running away up front, there can still be great racing in the pack, and we saw a lot of that Sunday. Spotters were kept busy throughout the night.
- So do boring races
There’s a difference between drivers not being able to pass someone because he’s faster than they are (isn’t that the point of racing?) and not being able to pass because the cars aren’t aerodynamically capable of passing. The Coca-Cola 600 was mainly the former, and NASCAR is improving the aero package by leaps and bounds. They’re already trying some things to make what’s been, for the most part, excellent racing better. What has not been addressed is a key component of the races that have, in general, received poor reviews from fans—they’ve all been night races. The day-night component of the 600 and the flash of the night race at Bristol as notable exceptions, the next step that NASCAR really needs to take is to return every single other race on the schedule to Sunday afternoons. Even so, there will be races that are less than exciting. There have been races that are less than exciting since long before NASCAR and during its long history. To expect otherwise is completely unrealistic and unsupported by history.
- And bad TV coverage of good races
I’ve said this before, but there was some fantastic racing Sunday night. But if you weren’t at Charlotte, you didn’t see most of it. It wasn’t that nobody could pass — it was that nobody could pass Truex, because he was in a different time zone. The rest of the field
raced each other. It’s a safe bet to say that most race fans would rather see intense racing in the pack than one person leading by five seconds for the majority of the night, but NASCAR’s television partners don’t seem to want to hear that. Fans are bored by the racing in part because they don’t actually see the racing that’s going on. That’s a shame. The sponsors of the teams doing the racing you don’t see probably aren’t very happy you don’t see it either. And that’s something that could have a long-term negative effect on the sport.
- Nothing happens overnight
NASCAR isn’t done working on the racing package. The lower downforce we’ve seen in 2016 has been a huge boon for the sport. Could it still be better? Of course. And NASCAR is trying some things—we saw a difference with rear-end skew during All-Star weekend that looks promising, and there will be a splitter change coming at Michigan and Kentucky that may make a difference as well. It’s likely there are other tweaks in the works as well. But to throw the kitchen sink at the cars mid-season would be a mistake. Small changes, one at a time, can be measured and tried in different combinations. If NASCAR were to throw three or four things into the mix at once, there’d be no way to know what was really working. One thing is clear, and that is that the sanctioning body is taking the quality of racing seriously. As long as that continues, there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic about what we’re going to see on the track.
- Points will always matter
Short of not having a championship (a move that would likely be a massive blow to sponsorship), there’s nothing NASCAR can do to keep teams from points racing. What that means is that teams are going to conserve equipment over the course of a race. Which in turn means that racing like it’s the last ten laps isn’t going to happen for 200 laps and more. And really, it wouldn’t be as great as it sounds—unless you’re a fan of blown engines, mechanical failures, and other issues. While it can be argued that racing needs more risk of attrition, too much isn’t a good thing either. I’d love to see the importance of the championship diminished and the importance of individual races increased, but it’s unlikely that NASCAR is going to put less of an onus on winning titles anytime soon, and sometimes the consequence of that is that teams will opt for safe points rather than risk their race for a couple of spots.