Race Weekend Central

5 Points to Ponder: Should Stewart-Haas Racing Hit the Panic Button?

1. Did Kansas mean more than ‘Dega for 23X1?

You never forget the one that was first, and that’s usually true in racing. Kurt Busch‘s victory Sunday at Kansas wasn’t the first win for 23X1 Racing; that came last October in Talladega with Bubba Wallace‘s win.

As sweet as that was, especially for Wallace, you can easily make the case that while Sunday at Kansas was not the first win for Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan’s race team, it was the high point for this organization, so far.

Wallace winning a restrictor-plate race didn’t come out of nowhere. He had been a strong contender at Daytona and Talladega already, and you had to figure a checkered flag at either track was a foregone conclusion.

Sunday was different. Busch had what was among the best cars in the field following the first stage, and Wallace probably unofficially passed more cars than anyone else. It was very evident that the light was finally on, so to speak, for the first time this season for both Wallace and Busch. You can only wonder if it’d have been a 1-2 finish for both drivers had Wallace not had pit road issues, to put it lightly.

Both the 23 and 45 were among the top five cars. A day like Sunday was likely what was envisioned when this idea of 23X1 Racing began.

2. Is the All-Star Race still relevant?

Back in the 1980s, NASCAR entered uncharted territory with the institution of The Winston. It fired things up even more in 1992 when the stroke of genius from Bruton Smith and his team at Charlotte Motor Speedway and others opted to run the event under the lights.

Over time, for various reasons, that buzz has worn off. Between race formats and others incentives, efforts have been made to spice the race up. Although an anomaly, the 2020 version being run at Bristol was a nice departure from having a race on a 1.5-mile track and hoping the race was somehow exciting.

That path diverted back in the opposite direction last year, going from Charlotte indirectly to Texas. The racing was about like you’d see at any other track of its layout, not much different than seen elsewhere.

It’s a well-known and documented fact that running the 1992 edition under the lights was a move done out of concern for how useful the event is.

In a sport that has run one race at the Los Angeles Coliseum and turned one track into an infield road course at the ROVAL, that creativity is needed again.

Gimmicks like offering the race winner a million bucks were a great idea in the 1980s. But when bank accounts are a bit larger than that, offering a driver that amount of money as an incentive to win is an insult.

NASCAR has two moves with the All-Star Race: Either think very outside the box to make it relevant or give the teams an off week in the spring and not run it at all.

3. Is it panic time for SHR?

11th: That was the highest finishing position on Sunday for a Stewart-Haas Racing car.

The 2020 regular season where Kevin Harvick and Hamlin dominated the win column seems a distant memory not just for Harvick, but SHR as a whole.

Other than Chase Briscoe‘s win earlier this year, no other driver from that stable has a win. Harvick and Aric Almirola are among the drivers who’d have to fall back on points, but with the number of drivers having won this year, that may not be a good cushion to lean on.

Harvick’s fourth-place finish two races ago at Darlington snapped a four-race stretch of finishing outside the top five.

Somehow, someway, SHR is in need of a shot in the arm going into the summer.

If not, it’d lend more belief to wondering if Harvick’s 2020 postseason efforts were the changing from one era to another for Stewart-Haas Racing.

4. Should televising pre-race events be expendable?

On Sunday, race fans were shortchanged as the race ended. Other than a quick interview with Kurt Busch and Hamlin, there was no post-race coverage to speak of. This coming as a team co-owned by Michael Jordan, something that would have resonated with fans outside the sport, should have garnered lots of attention.

Nothing against the NHRA, but the story of Busch winning was a lot bigger.

If the time window of broadcasting is an issue, one of the sacred cows of NASCAR should be discussed: whether or not to televise pre-race ceremonies.

Times change in NASCAR. Growing up, fans were plainly told that NASCAR won’t race on Easter or Mother’s Day. It was an unwritten rule. But as we have seen this year, some things change.

If the TV networks are truly interested in getting more coverage on the broadcast, using that extra 10-15 minutes of pre-race coverage and moving that to the end for post-race interviews should be at least considered.

Various other sporting events go on the air and don’t air pre-race events. That does not mean they don’t happen, it just means that you don’t see it on TV.

If the TV networks really want to do right by the fans, every option for getting more post-race interviews in the broadcast needs to be considered, and that includes how much, if any, of the pre-race events should be televised.

5. Is the intermediate track problem solved?

There are still some faults that irk drivers and pit crews about the new car. One of them starts with T and ends with IRE.

There were, obviously, lots of goals with this new car. But if it did not do anything else, it has appeared to make the racing at intermediate tracks more compelling. Think about it. A good load of intermediate race chatter the past few years was about how bad the racing product was. Kansas was the latest example of that. Of course, the All-Star Race this week at Texas could straight-up prove me wrong, as can a 400-lap, 600-mile race at Charlotte.

But all of that is to be determined.

At present, the new car may have some things that are still in bad need of being fixed or rectified, but the racing on intermediate tracks is not one of them.

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johndawgchapman

All your points are worthy of comments, but I’ll just pick one here.

SHR, seems to be an org. that it looks as if both the named principals have moved on from.

Haas seems to be content being a back marker in the most expensive form of racing on the planet.

Stewart has his All-Star Sprint car series, the SRX, & now with his marriage, & NHRA teams as well. That’s a pretty full plate

That would seem to leave the fate of SHR, resting on Zippy’s shoulders. looks like he could do with some help.

Bill B

Very good point.
I am sure others have seen the speculation of Dodge coming back in the near future and that Stewart (SHR) might be the most logical place for them to land. There is a possibility that they are biding their time and riding out their last year or two with Ford and the end of Harvick’s career.

Charlie

No panic at SHR. You have a driver learning the ropes in Briscoe, one leaving in Amerola, and the owner connection in Custer, who should never have been given the ride to start with, but Joe Custer is the person hired by Gene Haas to run the team.
Harvick will get it together and win maybe one or two more races maximum. NASCAR has a thumb that works for the younger drivers. No panic needed. NASCAR will penalize Ford teams for success. That is just a fact. I would love for someone to sue them and put Phelps, Helton, O’Donnell, and Miller under oath for a deposition. I would pay to see the transscripts. I would coach the attorneys.
The All Star race is held in Texas for goodness sake. If you want it out of the south, run it in Pocono or Dover. The sport is an east coast sport with some interest in the west coast. Want to make it interesting, give the top 10 one playoff point and the winner an automatic bid into the playoffs. Also the person who passes the most cars in the last 10 laps gets an additional point.
That would spice it up!

Matty

I have a really great idea for the All-Star race. Put it on a track not currently on the circuit. Like Nashville Fairgrounds.

Mr Yeppers

I seriously doubt, with the decrease in ratings and driver salaries going with it, that any of them consider winning a million bucks an “insult”

DoninAjax

Forget the “All-Star” farce and have them go to a third event at Martinsville.

stubbscupseriesdotcom

This may be odd-sounding (it’s also not my original idea) but that if we brought back the quarter mile track on the backstretch at Daytona for the All-Star race. They raced all right at the Coliseum, don’t see why they couldn’t do it again.

Shayne

I attended a soccer game at my granddaughter’s high school where there’s a 1/4 mile track around the field. That gave me a good perspective of what running Cup cars in LA was like. Seriously? I’d rather watch paint dry.

NASCAR just announced the new Walmart series. Fans can immerse themselves in a never been before seen racing experience. Imagine the parking lot with orange cones that can be moved at NASCAR’s whim to downsize fan favorite tracks. All of this, plus shopping cart cams to capture the multitude of shoppers incapable of using the self-checkout lanes.

Coming soon to a Walmart parking lot near you.

DoninAjax

Richard Petty’s first Cup race was on a 1/3 mile track around a football field in Toronto at the CNE where I saw my first race in 1966.. Put a guard rail around your granddaughter’s 1/4 mile track, pave it and put the top 21 Cup cars on it for 100 laps (with no TV time outs) and you’ll change your impression real quick.

DoninAjax

They could have used the 3/4 mile track at Pocono but they extended the pit wall. They raced the Modifieds on it for their Race Of Champions.

Joseph Gray

Maybe let the crew chiefs use their brains a bit. Open up the rules, keep higher hp engine and let them hang bodies the way they want. Let them use their ideas on front and rear suspension. Let them legally cheat for 1 race. Preferably a short track or as mentioned before a track not currently on the schedule.

KU

I have been thinking for a while now of just ditching most of the pre-race B.S. We don’t need MW walking the grid – just start with induction, anthem, start cars right after the anthem (that be cool) then go to commercial during the warm up laps, then formation lap to green! If that would help get more racing and post race analysis that would be great.

Last edited 1 month ago by KU
stubbscupseriesdotcom

My ideal pre race show for the top 3 series in general would be similar(though not exactly) to old ESPN Speedworld pre race coverage: 10-15 minutes starting with the theme song, an overhead shot of the track, and maybe a short “hype” video before cutting to the announcers. Go over any big stories, the points standings, then send it down to pit road and interview to polesitter, the points leader, and the driver who won the previous race. If either the polesitter is one of the drivers mentioned above, interview the guy 2nd in points or the 2nd place starter. We don’t want skits, we information on the race. For Post-Race, have a 30 minute show recapping all 3 stages individually, discussing how Stage Points impacted the overall points, and the final results. End looking at the points standings and giving a short preview of the next race with a TV and radio schedule for the next weekend.

Jeremy

Are you insane? That’s the kind of stuff people liked, the stuff that helped make NASCAR popular and drew people to give up a whole afternoon every week just to watch. We can’t have any of that!

Bill B

That just makes too much sense.
Making sense is not what NASCAR does.

DoninAjax

When CBS started televising the Daytona 500 the telecast started at 12:40 and the green flag flew at 12:45. What a concept! Ain’t progress wonderful?

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