NASCAR Race Weekend Central

The Frontstretch 5: Ideas for NASCAR So Crazy They Just Might Work

1. Let someone else design the cars

A couple things here. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was NASCAR brought down overnight. In other words, there is no quick fix here. New cars, new venues and new ideas all take time, and lots of it, to do right. But it may just be time to try some seemingly huge undertakings, starting with the racecars.

It’s no secret the current car doesn’t race as well as NASCAR and the fans would like, but the sanctioning body and the manufacturers are seemingly unwilling to make the radical changes needed. So, here’s an idea: let engineers, shade tree mechanics and anyone else who thinks they can do better take a crack at it. Impose a few simple rules: certain areas of the production template must also fit the racecar, including the body shape nose to tail while others, such as ride height, are not; all current safety features must be a part of the design; and room for teams to work in certain areas (suspension, gear selection, some geometry).

From the submissions, have a panel of engineers choose the five best in terms of the racing they’re likely to produce, and build enough of them – say, 10 – to test on the track, including a full-distance race. Of course, test at Charlotte, the type of 1.5-mile track where the cars need the most help. Get driver input, heck, get fan input. And when all is said and done, choose a car that works the best. If nothing works, nothing is lost except a few days of test time. Sounds crazy, right? But maybe it’s the kind of innovation the sport needs.

2. Cap the spending, not the innovation

Some parity in the sport is a good thing.  While some underfunded teams will never be frontrunners, they should be able to be a part of the sport and have a chance to be competitive if they can get things right. And to NASCAR’s credit, they have tried to equalize things by reducing choices teams can make and what they can do on race weekend with the cars. The problem is, it’s the wrong approach.

When NASCAR was booming in the late 1990s, dollars weren’t quite out of control yet, and the difference between the haves and have-nots wasn’t quite as great. When UPS came into the sport and overnight nearly doubled what a full-season primary sponsor was spending, the big teams and big sponsors found the money to keep up. In the process, they priced many teams and many sponsors out of the game completely, and that’s overall detrimental to the sport.

Capping spending and sponsor dollars wouldn’t be easy. The big teams would protest. They don’t want anybody to be able to compete with them. And the small teams wouldn’t be instantly better off because the big teams would still have equipment they don’t. But over time, cutting spending would bring things into line and give back something the sport is missing: the idea, or at least the illusion, that almost anyone has a shot at a win or at least a good finish on any given Sunday.

In the late ‘90s, part of the appeal was that feeling/illusion that no matter who your favorite driver was, he might be able to pull one off. As a result, there were fans pulling for everyone and the general feeling that they could relate to just about anyone in the field. You could go to a race and see a fan with paraphernalia of every driver in the field. Reducing the gap while allowing teams to choose where to cut costs for themselves and to work in more areas on their cars is perhaps the one thing that could bring new sponsors into the sport.

3. Saturday night short track, All-Star style

Fans have been asking for more short tracks on the schedule, and there’s a perfect opportunity to give it to them with the All-Star Race. But wait, there’s more. Why not have a one-day, tripleheader of All-Star races for the Cup, Truck and XFINITY series run similar to a local short track?  Each series gets a short practice session, then a last-chance heat race, qualifying and then the Truck, XFINITY and Cup All-Star events. Perhaps the winners of the Truck and NXS races could run the Cup event if they could find a car and someone who missed the cut would likely oblige as it means sponsor exposure.

Both Martinsville and Bristol are close enough to the teams’ home base in Charlotte to keep that home race feeling and make it a one-day show. Again, it would take some tweaks and some time to sort things out, but it could also put some spice back in the All-Star event that has gotten all too mild over the years.

4. Simplify

Tying in with the idea of a spending cap, it’s time for NASCAR to relax some of the rules that were implemented for cost savings that never materialized. Teams once had a choice on things like gears and suspensions that meant both an advantage on the track if they could find one and a greater risk of an early exit if faster proved less durable and more likely to cause trouble.

If a team wants to race a gear or suspension part that makes the car faster but increases the chance of a failure? Let them do it.

Engine failures have been cut dramatically because of tighter gear rules, and that’s not necessarily a good thing for the sport overall as unpredictability is all but gone in the wake of teams no longer having the choices they once did.

While there are some areas of the car that should be sacred, such as body, engine and safety features, there are some that teams could work with to find their own advantage.

NASCAR has tried to create parity, and while it’s necessary for many reasons to keep teams in the fold and with a chance for a good finish, mandating too many things isn’t the way to do it. Cap how much teams can spend, but let them choose how to cut the spending.

5. Vintage

Here’s the problem: fans want racecars to look like streetcars, and they should. After all, it’s called stock car racing for a reason, but they also want them to race like a 1982 Buick (or fill in the car of your choice here). So, why not create a series that runs cars with the body specs of a given time frame and today’s safety features? Perhaps as a 10-race companion series to the Cup Series, which would have the added bonus of creating more stand-alone weeks for the Truck and XFINITY series as well as allowing the Cup drivers to compete.

Obviously, the hard part here would be to get teams to take the plunge in a new series, so keeping costs down would be at the forefront. But if tackled from the start, that’s manageable. Beyond that, keep the rulebook as close to the one from whatever year is chosen as possible in terms of engines, body templates and everything else. Alter only what must be altered to accommodate today’s safety innovations and go race. Would it take off? Maybe, maybe not, but it might put some fans in the stand on Saturday to see what the racing might have looked like back in the day with today’s drivers.

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Bobby DK

As in the movie ” Grumpy Old Men”, ” You can wish in one hand and crap in the other and see which one gets filled first”. Think I’ll go fishing instead.

bob

I don’t think Nascar even cares about the cars or the racing anymore…

Its all gimicks and marketing and BS..

As for changing the cars.. They have this splitter thing stuck in their head,
suck it to the ground, suck it to the ground, suck it to the ground.

I think somebody should grab some old cars out of a museum, from back
when the racing didn’t stink.. 90’s, maybe even early 2000’s, and see what
kind of drag and downforce #’s they produced, how much dirty air they were
throwing.. ETC.. And then try and replicate those #’s on the current race cars.

I’d like to see the #’s.. But, even if Nascar did do this, I can guarantee they
wouldn’t let you know what they were.

David Edwards

lots of old stock cars still racing today. Of course they are on the vintage circuit with SVRA, HSR etc., which isnt what you want I dont believe.

However how many races would it take before the novelty wore off and people felt the same way about them?

DoninAjax

The ideas begin and end with Brian but they’re he’s too close to the end of the slippery slope. The Golden Goose is ready for the guillotine.

Charlie Bean

More Saturday night short track style. Four heat races, a B feature and an A feature. Top 5 in heats advance to the A and to p five in the B advance to the A. Cars should be showroom stock specs. Take limitations off the engines. Allow engine chages during race if tme permits. Qualifying should be done on the day of the race and then impounded.

salb

I think #s 1, 2, and 4 are perfect! Now, to get anyone with a voice to listen….

joe

just no fuckin spec motors if its a ford it needs a ford motor if its a chevy it needs a chevy motor

Moparjeff

#1 is great – but with one change. Don’t pick one chassis for the whole series. Let the teams build cars and the fastest one wins. Like most racing once was. If your car design isn’t fast enough, make changes. Keep the spending caps in place and let the teams and engineers be creative.

SmarterThanYo

Here’s a suggestion: How about great racing like we saw on Sunday? Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson are more valuable to NASCAR than Gentleman Jimmie and all the rest of the polite, inoffensive drivers who comprise the majority of the ranks.

Of course, Amy wants to legislate excitement, but that is what NASCAR has been doing for 15 years with negative results. So, typically, she wants more of what hasn’t worked.

The demise of NASCAR probably started with the “team concept” and nice guy Dale Junior replacing his irascible father. Now drivers are so afraid to touch each other (especially teammates) and especially on restarts, that the leader gets such a huge jump that the race may as well end on Lap One. Allowing drivers to choose their lane may help that issue, but the real problem is drivers whose main goal is to not offend any other competitor or sponsor. And to have “fabulous hair.”

Yeah, we have podcasts, social media galore and drivers who are a sponsors’ dream as opposed to MAR’s occasional nightmare. But we have lost all sense of “win at all cost,” and the paltry finishes show it. Until Chicago happened.

Don Volk

1. Shorten the length of the event. No one wants to sit for 4 to 5 hours watching a race. How many times have you heard”just going to ride around for 300 miles then get after it with 50 or so to go”
2. Why does it take 5 caution laps to pickup a single piece of debris off the track? Pick it up and go green.
3. If the track is green, no pit speed limit. Put the excitement back into a green pit stop.

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