- Movin’ on up…
While NASCAR rolled out several rule changes prior to this season, one that went mostly unnoticed until last weekend at Charlotte was to add some adjustability to the start times of races with 24-hour notice to fans if there is impending weather. That came into play Sunday, when afternoon rain was in the forecast in Charlotte and NASCAR made the call Saturday morning to move the start time to just after 1:00 p.m. rather than the original time an hour later. It was tweaked again Sunday morning by a few minutes to the top of the one o’clock hour. The weather got dicey late in the day, and some fans got some rain on the way home, but all 500 miles of the event went off without a weather-related hitch.
A few fans were vocal about not knowing about the change, but in this day and age, where that information is available from any number of channels…that’s on them. Many vented on social media, the irony of which was that the change was broadcast all over those sites on Saturday. Hopefully fans are now aware that the time may be changed and will make sure to check for updates.
The one criticism here is not with the change itself. That was absolutely the right call. The issue is that the start times are so late to start with. There was no reason the race should not have been scheduled at 1 to start with. The fans paying for race tickets shouldn’t be forced to choose between the race and getting home at a decent hour for work the next day.
- Back it up, boys
On the same token, NASCAR did a solid job getting Saturday’s XFINITY Series race in on the scheduled day. While in that case, it’s unfortunate that it ended so much later than expected, there wasn’t much of a window in the expected forecast for several days.
In general, for Saturday races, postponing until Sunday morning is probably the option I’d choose whenever it’s practical over keeping fans waiting for hours, but with the Cup race already moved back and the forecast no sure thing Sunday, that wasn’t a great choice either. Could they have run the race on a timer Sunday? If there was no other option, sure, but this was a playoff race and an elimination event to boot, so NASCAR made the right call on this one, too. Waiting out weather on Sundays isn’t generally a great idea; Saturdays play out a bit differently.
- Hey, you with the tape!
It was such a minor thing, securing some tape on the damaged No. 83 of driver Brett Moffitt, but it proved costly to the BK Racing team as there were too many crewmen over the wall on pit road, and the consequence was that the team was sent to the garage.
The rules, as written, were enforced correctly. That’s something fans have asked for (see the outrage over Jimmie Johnson’s loose lugnuts, below), and NASCAR delivered.
If you’re mad about the lugnut non-call, then you don’t get to be mad about this one, too. Yes, it was a small team who already had issues, and sure, it was only a piece of tape. But judging by the incident with Johnson’s nuts, had it been a playoff team, or whichever team is the punching bag du Jour, fans would not have been happy with a non-call.
- But hey, you nailed the one…
One out of…how many? Okay, so that’s not exactly a great track record, but now that the 2017 NASCAR playoffs are underway, it’s pretty clear that awarding the playoff points that teams could earn by winning a stage or a race all season were a good move.
I’m still no fan of any kind of playoff system in racing, but this addition stacks the deck in favor of a team who puts together a stellar season, all but guaranteeing that team, in this year’s case the No. 78 of Furniture Row Racing and Martin Truex, Jr., inclusion in the championship round at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
There’s still no guarantee that Truex will win the title, but it’s hard to argue that he doesn’t deserve it more than any other driver in 2017. Fans wanted the regular season to count more, and this does give the best driver all year a boost in the title quest.
It doesn’t make up for the one-race title format, because that’s a terrible way to determine a season championship. But at least this year, it gives the driver who deserves the title in the first place the best chance to get it without ditching the playoff format altogether. Since NASCAR won’t make that move, they gave fans the next best option.
- But maybe tell us about it next time, OK?
Here’s the deal with the aforementioned Jimmie Johnson and his “nut” problem: if NASCAR has been consistently inconsistent on this as they have later admitted, then it’s kind of hard to say they should have penalized Johnson for something they’ve been letting slide for a couple of years. You can’t let everyone do something until someone notices and then say, “sorry, Jimmie, but fans saw this on TV, so you’re going to be the example even though a bunch of other guys have done the same thing recently.” If, indeed, teams have been getting away with the same thing all along, it’s hard to say the call was wrong now.
The mistake here was not telling teams outright that tightening a couple of lugnuts outside the box is okay if the stop was otherwise completed in the confines. At the end of a race, a couple of loose nuts can cost a team its crew chief, so calling the driver back to fix it is necessary, and it is in itself a penalty; NASCAR was correct in that assessment.
But while I can see that by not making the situation an official rule and telling teams that it’s a-ok, the practice isn’t being encouraged, hey, it’s out there now. If it’s been enforced this way for months now, it needs to be made official, and then there will be no question of when it’s allowed and when it’s not. The call was wrong according to the rule book but also the one NASCAR has been making all along, which suddenly makes calling it different also wrong.
In this case, a rulebook change is in order so that the situation is transparent.