NASCAR Race Weekend Central

4 Burning Questions: Where’s the Credibility?

Who will be fastest under the new (old?) qualifying format?

This week, in what looks to be the series finale of General Qualifying, NASCAR has finally decided to stop pouring Coca-Cola on a bullet wound and has reinstated single-car qualifying.

Multi-round qualifying is dead, and group qualifying is done everywhere except for road courses in all three national touring series. Big tracks (more than 1.25 miles in length) will have teams make just one qualifying lap, while smaller tracks will give teams a second hot lap if they choose to take one.

Although it would have been smarter for NASCAR to simply stop group qualifying at big racetracks, this was probably the correct move. Standardizing the rules and making everything less complicated is going to make it easier for fans to know what’s going on; imagine how many tweets Bob Pockrass would get every Friday asking if it was group- or single-car qualifying that week.

The only thing to nitpick is NASCAR’s method of determining the order of qualifying. The last 20 cars out in the session will be randomly assigned to the top 20 in the last race of that series. It’d probably be easier to line them up in reverse order of practice speeds or owners point standings if practice is rained out, but ultimately that doesn’t really matter.

However, in some ways, the ends do not justify the means to this solution.

Will NASCAR ever become more credible?

If there’s one thing made apparent over the past month, it’s that NASCAR has a credibility issue.

“One of the things we wanted to hold true to is not to go back to single-car qualifying,” Scott Miller, NASCAR svp of competition, said following a disastrous qualifying session at Auto Club Speedway in March. “Single-car qualifying is two things – it’s boring and it’s expensive. It also doesn’t create a good show. Anytime we go on the track, it should be a show. Certainly, we are in, first and foremost, the racing business. But we’re also in show business. We definitely have to provide our fans with something that’s intriguing to watch and gets them excited about coming back and watching the race.”

So why should any fan want to tune in now to qualifying? The sanctioning body just said less than 40 days ago that single-car qualifying is boring. This is why you do not publicly disparage possible solutions to a problem, as you in effect burn a bridge of credibility when doing so.

Now that NASCAR has decided the only way to solve this problem is to cross that burnt bridge, it’s lost integrity doing so. And keep in mind that there was absolutely no reason for Miller to make this statement or for NASCAR to include it in its initial press release announcing the move.

This is a funny statement, considering that Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s evp and chief racing development officer,  blamed the teams last month following Texas Motor Speedway qualifying.

One thing you may have noticed reading so far is just how much NASCAR has alluded to show business when it comes to qualifying. It’s all a show, we’re in show business, etc. And this isn’t a new thing.

In fact, it isn’t just a qualifying thing.

Notice how in none of these statements is the word sport used. It’s because we’re not talking about what’s good for the sport (and thus credibility), it’s about the show! Watch all of these cars scrambling onto the racetrack! Don’t stop dancin’!

And then NASCAR gets offended when people criticize it and call it fake. Or when media commentators don’t consider it a sport.

Well, NASCAR can’t really have it both ways, can it? Sports are shows and show business, don’t get me wrong. Sports depend on people being excited to watch them. But at the same time, every other sanctioning body/league has a better time walking the fine line between both than NASCAR. And sports executives do not call their product show business out in public. Imagine if the NFL made a rule change and explained that “we’re show business” and the ridicule it would face from the public.

There are ways to explain this concept to the general public — “we’re trying to make our sport more exciting to watch” or “we’re making our sport more watchable.” But no truly valid sports organization outright says this is all show business, and if it were to do so, it’d be hard to take it seriously.

And because stuff like this has been going on for years in NASCAR, it has either no or low credibility with hardcore racing fans or hardcore sports fans.

Who will win the special golden Monster trophies?

2019 marks 50 years of racing at Dover International Speedway. The Monster Mile is one of the most unique racetracks in the sport. A concrete mile oval, things can go from zero to 100 there in just a couple of restarts due to how narrow and fast the track is.

It’s also played host to some great moments in the sport’s history, with my two favorites being Jody Ridley’s surprise win in 1981 for owner Junie Donlavey (which was Donlavey’s lone win in 50 years of fielding Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series cars) and Joey Logano flipping in 2009.

As far as who can win this weekend, the field is wide open. Kyle Busch is a threat everywhere the Cup Series visits, but Martin Truex Jr. should never be counted out at his home track. Kevin Harvick has an all-or-nothing track record at Dover; he always unloads fast on raceday and either wins walking away like in 2014 or something dumb stops the No. 4 Ford from competing for a win.

Kyle Larson is going to be back in the saddle again this weekend. Dover is perhaps his best racetrack he hasn’t been able to win at, and the pressure is now on for the California driver following his flip at Tallladega Superspeedway. Speaking of:

Will FOX be able to capture all of the action in this weekend’s races?

What else is there to say about this?

FOX Sports pays NASCAR a lot of money every year, like a lottery-sized amount, in order to have to rights to cover races. And yet, somehow, it didn’t have a camera that caught Larson flipping?

In what was probably one of the more spectacular shots of the season, FOX missed the boat and instead focused on the race for the lead, even though it was all but over once NASCAR waved the caution flag.

I feel awful for the camera operator in this instance. They’ve probably gotten a lot of grief about this internally and externally over the past week. But ultimately, it’s FOX’s fault for not having another camera there to capture a wreck, which we all know never happens on the last lap of a superspeedway.

Hopefully this isn’t a problem that comes up again as we begin to reach the homestretch for FOX’s coverage of NASCAR this season. If it does, FOX might have bigger problems than who will replace Darrell Waltrip to work out this coming offseason.

Share this article

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

7 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
DoninAjax

If Baby Busch goes out first and sets a time, everyone except his fan wants somebody, anybody, to beat it. If he goes out last and wins the pole a lot of people aren’t happy. If Elliott wins the pole there are a lot of cheers. If Elliott has the fastest time and Logano beats it there won’t be as many cheers. Qualifying is not the same for everyone. Watch and enjoy it for what it is. Qualifying at most of the “events” is not as sleep-inducing as the actual “event.” It’s about anticipation for the favourite driver.

Jeremy

Well then, if it’s all nothing more than a show, let’s throw them on some dirt tracks. Run some figure-8’s. The non-points events can be figure-8 trailer races. Build a track with NEGATIVE banking in the turns. Make all the cars run a lap in reverse for qualifying. Or make all the drivers run a lap on foot for qualifying while wearing some ridiculous corporate sponsor costume (Fastest Chicken in the South…). Put in some jumps, a car-cannon, maybe make half the field run clockwise while the other half runs counter-clockwise. Blast “Entry of the Gladiators” over the PA system during the whole event!

To create more drama, when drivers get mad at each other give them the option to “Call out” the offending person to an MMA fight immediately after the race – the track crew could tow out a portable boxing ring, and a drunken Brian France could referee! Their wives could join in with a “totally not scripted emotion filled impromptu” catfight just outside the ring. But it’s a family sport, so let the driver’s kids join in the brawl too! Jerry Springer would be proud!

After all, if it’s all nothing more than a show to entertain, then NASCAR can be anything we dream it to be!

I’d rather they just go back to racing cars.

Brian

The show biz started when the France family anointed Brian “The Marketing “Genius”” France to be the head of NASCAR. How has that gone with all of the crashes in attendance, ratings, fan following etc.?
Even these types of articles about NASCAR can be used as exhibits of NASCAR’s fall from grace. Used to be even in the late 2000’s the fan input sections like this would fill up with dozens or hundreds of responses, replies, opinions, wishes, trash-talking, etc.
Now I have seen articles posted for a couple of days on interesting topics not even have 5 “replies” such as this.

This might be the most telling sign of how bad NASCAR has gone off the rails with public and fan perception, engagement, and just flat out not caring anymore.
At this point, there may be no “saving” NASCAR racing to what it was. Only might have a chance to bring it back to how it should have been all a long. A sport unlike any other that stands on its own and is proud of it.

It was so obvious to many longtime fans, back in 2004 that Brian France had no clue what he was doing or what NASCAR was to the paying fanbase. His Dad and Grandad got it even though the drivers and teams may have had issues with it.
To the points in the article, unless there is a complete overhaul of NASCAR top brass, the credibility issues will be essentially gone forever. Many fans are fed up with the b.s. First sign of credibility issues 2003 NASCAR announces BZF as new top dog.
They once again messed up on the “fix” to qualifying as they could have had the best of both worlds. Group quals, 1 and 2 with rd 3 being single car with no major changes done to the cars. You still get what is wanted and then a legit top 12 based solely on speed.

Bill B

Brian, they would have still been drafting in the first two rounds. Everyone would sit there until the last two minutes, then they’d all run their lap. Maybe that’s good entertainment to you but to me it’s just stupid. It would also allow the last round to filled with cars that might have gotten their speed from the draft. Once again, to some of us, getting help from another car during qualifying is bogus.

Jeremy

OK, time for a serious comment on the article.

IMO, qualifying can be done one of two ways: Heat races, or single car lap times.

Fact is, NASCAR is trying to boost attendance and ticket sales for part of the weekend that is necessary for the teams, but not all that entertaining for fans. Practice is time for teams to unload and get the car fine-tuned for the race. After that is qualifying to set the starting grid. Neither of these are “the show”, rather, they’re the dirty work (for lack of a better term) before the Event.

Some fans may enjoy hanging out watching practice/qualifying (I have), but it’s not going to pack the stands. I think this would be a great time for sponsors to have events to promote their products around the speedway. Garage tours, perhaps some driver autograph sessions before practice or after qualifying (maybe during if they’re hanging out during garage tours). There are other options to draw fans already in town, no need to mess with practice/qualifying format.

paltex

It is obvious, the upper management of nascar does not have a clue on running the series. They sound like a bunch of just out of college grads that have been handed a job,
As far as fox spending a ton of money, they are trying to get it back with an overload of commercials. It is impossible to follow the race when they have a commercial every 8 to 10 laps. And they wonder why viewing is down and has been for several years. NBC will be no different.

Fidgets

Qualifying is simply a necessary procedure to establish starting order and pit selections, and the all important POLE POSITION— awarded to the QUICKEST CAR — !
Those who enjoy all aspects of racing, also enjoy watching qualifying.
It was NEVER inTENDED as a “show”.
Years ago, you got into watch qualifying by showing your race day ticket.
It eventually got popular enough, that they kept upping the price to watch.
Then, NASCAR got invaded by PR guys, Branding “EXPERTS”, – and MARKETING GENIUSES- ( along with …. 🥴🤪 “BRIAN” 😖🤤) — and the emphasis changed from serious RACING – to micromanaged gimmicks and fake “entertainment” !
Suddenly, the quickest car of all was no LONGER on the pole —
We started playing musical chairs and introduced DRAFTING into the equation- to get FAKE SPEEDS !
The actual RACE TEAMS understood the damage this craziness was causing, and had to do everything they could, to be COMPETITIVE- in SPITE of the new “gameshow” mentality out of Daytona’s IVORY TOWER, no longer run by racers.
Fortunately, it seems like SOMEONE had a moment of sanity, – and qualifying is actually RELEVANT again —
Unfortunately, there STILL is NO relevant SEASON CHAMPIONSHIP anymore – and the racing is FILLED with micromanagement, and super-hitech picking the “flyturds out of the pepper” inspection procedures & over the top punishments – but – restoring normal, standard, sensible QUALIFYING, might at least START – to regain some of the CREDIBILITY that the Suits at NASCAR have been throwing away for many, MANY years now . 🤞

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com

Frontstretch