The biggest debate among NASCAR fans and media was typical: Was Las Vegas a good race? Over the years, one thing is for sure, whenever that question arises, we are not likely to see the race we just saw featured on a NASCAR Classics presentation down the road. The Pennzoil 400 wasn’t a horrible race and it wasn’t a terrific race — it was somewhere in the middle. But this week, I will explain the tough decision NASCAR is faced with and why they have a tough job right now.
NASCAR’s Tough Decision
Moments after the end of the Pennzoil 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the inevitable “Loved It” and “Hated It” debate started on social media. The usual cast of characters in the media lined up to either rile up the fans or try to calm them down.
But the most unusual participant in the “It Can Get Better” side of the participants was NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell. The interaction makes @OdSteve one of the best NASCAR follows on Twitter.
It dawned on me that NASCAR has an impossible choice to make when it comes to the rules package, and they are sure to alienate one fan group or the other. Old timers like myself want to see daring passes for the lead while drivers are on the edge of losing control. Newer fans want to see the three- and four-wide racing, even if they linger there lap after lap without being able to close out the pass. Old timers like myself don’t care if a driver and his team occasionally stink up the show with a car so dominant on a slick track that they win by half a lap, as long as we got some great passes for the lead before the romp. Newer fans could care less about daring passes — they want to see close racing from start to finish.
It is virtually impossible to come up with a rules package that both sets of fans will love because you can’t have the high horsepower daring passes for the lead without an occasional romp. The post-Brian France era is off to a great start! You can’t fix a problem until you admit you have a problem, and you can’t understand what NASCAR fans really want until you engage the racing fans and actually listen to their comments.
One thing that is NOT for debate is that the 2019 rule package for the intermediate tracks is better than the 2018 package for those tracks. That gives me hope that we will see much better racing this season. While I will always subscribe to the “Dan Gurney Theory of Racing” that less downforce and more horsepower gives us the best racing, I do understand the tough balancing act NASCAR is trying to make, and I do appreciate the effort.
Sponsor Spotlight: Surface Sun Systems
Another one of the new marketing partners new to NASCAR this season is Surface Sun Systems. If you are tired of the old-fashioned gooey creams or sprays to protect your sensitive skin from the sun, then you might want to give SurfaceCorp.com a visit. Guy Trotter, the co-founder, has teamed up with Matt Tifft this season to get out information about their sun care and skin care line, which are perfect for the active outdoor lifestyle because it quickly dries instead of leaving that heavy residue. If you want to find out more about their products, check out this interview with Guy.
Pa-Hoe-Nix Fantasy Insight
Last Week’s Picks
Win: Martin Truex Jr.-Eighth
Place: Joey Logano-WINNER
Show: Kyle Larson-12th
Long Shot: Aric Almirola (20-to-one odds) Seventh
Listen to the drivers who did well at Las Vegas and Atlanta Motor Speedway and they love this new rules package in NASCAR. But listen to the guys who didn’t finish well and you will hear lots of complaining. Even though he raced strong, Kyle Busch still complained — but he complains about everything.
The one thing for sure is that the new package is hurting some guys who are known for how deep they can drive a car into the corner and how fast they can get back on the gas. Jimmie Johnson and/or his Ally Chevrolet is not responding well, with finishes of 19th and 24th in the first two races with this new rules package.
The Ford Mustangs have been strong to start the season in this new package, with two wins and 10 of the 20 possible top-10 finishes between the two events. This should come as no surprise since Roush Yates Engines has always built a good restricted-air engine. Now, the Cup circus heads down to ISM Raceway at Phoenix, where the tapered spacers will not be used and the cars will have as much horsepower as they had last season. NASCAR will not use this package at tracks smaller than a mile and a half.
Win: Kevin Harvick-28 percent winning percentage and only one race outside top 10 since 2012
Place: Kyle Busch-Only one finish outside the top five in the last four years
Show: Brad Keselowski-Win-less here but a strong second-place finish last fall
Long Shot: Aric Almirola (22-to-1 odds)-fourth and seventh here since moving to Stewart-Haas Racing