It’s been reported that the France family is looking into selling NASCAR either completely or in part. Would this be a good or a bad thing for the sport?
Michael Finley: It depends. This sport needs new leadership desperately, somebody who can come in with new ideas on how to develop a new audience for racing with a brand new financial system than the current sponsor-driven one. At the same time, just look at how far the UFC has fallen ever since being bought out by a giant company that had never been involved in fighting before. I just hope the France family cares enough to leave the sport in the right hands going forward.
Vito Pugliese: On the surface, it appears bad. Between Monster dragging its feet for over a year only to finally say, “Nah, I’m good,” and the continued carping and moaning about ratings and not-packed-to-the-gills-
Christian Koelle: Interesting that the Monster deal is coming to an end following next season and now we’re hearing rumors that the sport could be up for sale. A lot of ways could come out of this in a long run, including a split like IndyCar did a while back. It’s also possible that much of the sport could step back and reevaluate what is going on, and that could result in some good things in the future — anything from new tracks in new markets (Northwest) to returns to old tracks like Rockingham Speedway.
Amy Henderson: It completely depends on who’s buying. If it’s someone (or a group of someones) who actually understands and cares about the sport and the fans, it could be good. But if it’s someone from the stick-and-ball world, I fear they’d cave to even more gimmicks, and that’s the last thing the sport needs. I hate a lot of the things Major League Baseball has done to speed up the games. If I pay for a ticket, I don’t want it sped up; I want it to last forever. Whoever buys would do well to look at ways to scale back that make sense — simplify, shorten the schedule, take a hard look at where they race and how the champion is determined. I worry that whoever buys will do none of that.
In the event that new ownership takes over NASCAR, you are appointed czar of the sport. What are the first three things on your agenda to return NASCAR to the top tier of sports?
Pugliese: Five-point plan: 1) Reduce to the schedule from 36 to 30 races; scarcity helps build value. 2) Make the broadcast TV partners YouTube races and how they were called on CBS from 1983-1998; you don’t need 20 cameras, just four and a couple of in-cars positioned properly. 3) The Camping World Truck Series to go back to short tracks. These are NASCAR machines on half-mile tracks. SAFER barriers shouldn’t be a requirement. If they were, your local track would be a morgue every Saturday night. 4) Sonoma Raceway goes back to the Carousel Course. 5) Bias ply tires return. Yeah, I know, Goodyear only makes radial tires for street use. Well, nobody drives on 15-inch slicks daily either, so let’s get back to stagger, slip, sliding and sideways action.
Matt McLaughlin: 1) The stage format gets consigned to warehouse of ludicrous ideas where it will reside with the Car of Tomorrow, the caution clock, the backstretch restart line, etc. 2) Starting in 2019, the championship format reverts to a full-season (as in no playoffs) format with huge points bonuses for wins and substantial points bonuses for top-five finishes. Finishers below 20th place receive no points. 3) Starting in 2019, the three short tracks will be the only venues that host two races. Every race with the exception of the Daytona 500, the Southern 500 and the World 600 will have its race length cut back to two-thirds of the present distance. All races with the exception of the Bristol Motor Speedway night race and those at tracks in the Pacific time zone will start at 1 p.m. ET. The Brickyard 400 is gone. If a satisfactory rules package that allows the cars to run unrestricted at speeds in the mid-180s at Daytona and Talladega can’t be devised, those tracks will exit the schedule in 2020. And the season will end by mid-September. 4) NASCAR will host a huge retirement party for Darrell Waltrip to celebrate his retirement from the booth. One award he’ll be given is a 20-foot-high plush Little Digger stuffed animal.
Michael Massie: 1) I’d bring back the season-long points battle so the fans would see the champion as the rightful champion. 2) The rule book would open up. I’d let the crew chiefs and engineers be the geniuses that they are and find innovative ways to win. 3) It would go back to something closer to cars on the street. They would closer resemble Mustangs, Camrys and Camaros, would be less aero-dependent and splitters would be gone.
Finley: 1). Cut Indianapolis Motor Speedway and every second Cup date outside of Daytona International Speedway and the short tracks. Make overtures to buy the Lucas Oil Raceway Park oval from the NHRA and add a date for that to the Cup schedule along with a date at Iowa Speedway, Road America and Circuit of the Americas. 2) In year one of my reign, I’d hold a poll among fans as far as what playoff format they’d want to see, including every format used since 2004 as separate options and an option to just have a one-year-long, no-playoff-format championship. The poll winner would be the direction we’d go with for the next 10 years at least. 3) Figure out a new financial system, one that’s not as dependent on corporate sponsorship, while also cutting spending across the board and making the financial hurdle of starting a Cup team lower.
Koelle: I am a huge advocate of timed races. The charter system should be eliminated; yes, I understand the reason it was brought about, but was the old system really broken? Have the fastest 35 cars qualify for the race on time and the remaining spots filled by provisionals. I’d also take a good look at the schedule and how it’s laid out. Some tracks need movement, some races need changing.
Dover International Speedway XFINITY Series winner Justin Allgaier was slapped with a L1 penalty after the race, meaning his win will not count towards the playoffs. But in the record books, not only does he keep the win, but he also gets to keep the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus money. Should any sort of prize money or bonus be awarded a car found to be illegal after the race?
Koelle: You look at the way Justin Allgaier and Elliott Sadler were beating and banging at the end of the race on Saturday and something tells me that at least something on the car broke or something else happened to result in the failure. If we’re going to start being this picky about handing out things to cheating teams, we need to just stop everything and inspect the car thoroughly after the race and then declare the winner. Otherwise, nothing is going to change.
Henderson: Nothing should be awarded to a car found to be illegal after the race, most especially the win. But no, because that would confuse the fans, so it’s said. Like, hey, race fans, you’re too dumb to understand that Billy Bob cheated, so we’re just going to let him win because thinking is hard. Nope. The first legal car to take the checkers should get the win and all the spoils. If anything, post-race inspection needs to be more thorough.
McLaughlin: “Legal” is like “pregnant”: You is or you ain’t. If a car is found to be illegal the driver and team should lose all points, prize money and bonuses. It’s funny how cars are never found out of spec in some way that might have slowed them down, only where there’s a slight advantage. Which is like being a little bit pregnant.
Massie: It’s not like he had a rocket strapped to his car that fired him up to 300 mph. We don’t know that it gave Allgaier that much of an advantage, and for that reason, the win and bonus money should remain his. At the end of the day, it was Allgaier driving the car, and he did a remarkable job holding off Sadler.
Finley: If you cheat enough to get an L1 penalty, you should have the win and all prize money stripped before any other fines or penalties.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway at the end of the month marks the unofficial end of what used to be called the opening stretch of the season. The summer stretch lasts from the first Pocono Raceway race to the Southern 500, and the rest of the season is the stretch drive (or now playoffs.) What event during the summer stretch are you most looking forward to?
McLaughlin: The Bristol night race might not be what it once was, but it’s still short track racing, and the potential for fireworks is still there. And of course the Southern 500 is my favorite race of the year.
Pugliese: Watkins Glen International. It’s the most beautiful place in the country not named Colorado or Wyoming, and an excuse for me to take a road trip to a friend of mine and watch a race. Selfish, yes, but I’m petty.
Massie: The Southern 500 might just be my favorite night of the year. I love seeing all of the throwback schemes and appreciate that NBC goes all out with its own throwbacks during its coverage. Then, after all of the wonderful pageantry, we get to see 500 miles as one of the best tracks on the circuit. While there are a few tracks that should lose a date on the schedule, Darlington Raceway deserves a second.
Henderson: The races I look most forward to in summer are the two road courses and, of course, the Southern 500. The road courses are interesting, usually produce good races and often showcase some different drivers than the usual. Darlington is just such a special place, and the throwback weekend has made it really fun to attend.