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Gimmicky Racindeals

January 30th, 2014

As you can see, this is my first post in a long time. My on-again/off-again relationship with racing has been more off than on over the last few years. But there’s enough stuff happening right now that warrants comment, so here goes.

Formula One: I’ve never been a big fan of F1 racing. It always seemed like whoever won the pole would eventually be the race winner. Over the last couple of years though I’ve made it a point to watch as many F1 races as I can. I found it interesting that they’ve eliminated refueling the cars during the races. Without that burden, pit stops are an incredible 2 or 3 seconds. Of course, they’ve got 20 people over the wall  servicing the car (3 on each tire, a front and rear jack man plus a backup for each, plus some other folks who do who knows what).

It still seems like qualifying up front is the best way to win races, but there’ve been a few times over the last couple of seasons that someone from outside the front row won. I guess that’s what keeps it slightly interesting; watching the field head toward turn one to see who gets the lead (and probably the eventual win). I do like the fact that they have to run two different tire compounds during the race; that does add a little bit of uncertainty, and racing in the rain is certainly more exciting than not.

This season, F1 has changed their engine package quite a bit, and mandated higher fuel economy. Those changes should be interesting.

NASCAR Qualifying: NASCAR has changed the qualifying procedure this year for the top three series. To say it’s a gimmick is an understatement. I get the fact that they’re borrowing ideas from other racing series, but if they’re going  to borrow ideas, borrow ideas that make the racing better. Basically, they’re going to let all the cars on the track at the same time to run qualifying laps. There will be two or three sessions and you have to be in the top so many positions to move to the subsequent rounds.  Teams can’t change tires between rounds,  so expect the fastest times to be in the first round. And expect to see a car on the pole that has a qualifying time slower than quite a few other cars that only ran in the first round.

“Knock-out” qualifying isn’t new to NASCAR, and multiple qualifying sessions isn’t new either. But what is new is that rather than have the cars go out one at a time and run  one or two laps,  all 43 or however many cars will be on the track at the same time in the first session. So if 50 cars show up at Bristol, will they all be on the track at the same time? The potential for wrecks during qualifying is a lot higher, with multi-car wrecks taking possibly taking out top teams.

Championship Points: Not content with messing up qualifying, NASCAR has also changed the way the championship is awarded.  This system is so convoluted I would refer you to another web site to get the details. NASCAR leadership seems to think that NASCAR is declining because the drivers don’t have a ball to play with, or something. This whole “chase” format was created so NASCAR could claim that they had a playoff system. Anyone with any common sense could see it wasn’t anything like a playoff system. So now NASCAR has created elimination rounds in the Chase.  After three races, they get rid of four drivers, then so on until they’re down to only four who are eligible to win the championship. Then in the very last race of the season, all those points and wins from the first 35 races become meaningless. Whichever of the drivers finishes ahead of the other three wins the Championship.

I’ve seen a lot of people say “this will eliminate points racing”, like points racing is a bad thing. About the only time a driver will “points race” is if he wrecks and repairs the car so he can come back out and gain a spot or two. Most drivers always race to win. But a smart driver in a car that can’t win a race, will do his best to stay out of trouble to get the highest finish he can.

I’ve always contended that a driver who finishes consistently higher in races than other drivers is the one who deserves the championship. A driver who wins one race and gets 30 top tens versus a driver who wins 10 races and has 25 DNFs is the better driver. Going for a win is one thing; going for a win recklessly is stupid.

But, Brian France is determined to make this “his” sport, thus all the gimmicks.

EIRI: I see that NASCAR left open the possibility of having more or fewer than 16 drivers eligible for the chase (Except In Rare Instances). They created that precedent last season whey they manipulated the number from 12 to 13 and disqualified a driver from the chase.  The fact is, it really doesn’t matter what the rules say; if NASCAR wants to make sure a particular driver is in the chase, or not in the chase, then they have the power to do that.  They would have a lot more credibility with these types of issues if they actually disqualified drivers from races  when found to be running an illegal car. Sorry, Jimmie Johnson, your car that won the Daytona 500 was illegal, so you not only lose all the points from the race, we’re going to eliminate you from the results (and prize money). But for whatever reason, NASCAR has this mentality of “even if a car is illegal, we’re not taking the win away”.  But they’ll take you out of the chase in a heartbeat for a perceived infraction.

Travis Pastrana: I’d gotten pretty much bored with Sprint Cup Lite (AKA the Nationwide Series).  It’s great for the big name drivers to drop down into this series occasionally and run with the up-and-comers. But to basically steal all the prize money from already under-funded teams is just lousy. That’s why I’d pretty much stopped watching that series.

Then a few years ago, Travis Pastrana announces he’s going NASCAR racing. He ran some K&N Series races and I watched those for the first time ever (at least the ones I could find on TV). Then right before he was supposed to debut at in the Nationwide Series, he injured himself at the XGames. That delayed his move to the Nationwide Series by a little while.  When he did start running, he drove for Michael Waltrip Racing (or as they called it at the time, Pastrana-Waltrip Racing). He raced for that team for a year and I figured he’d be back with them again, but somehow he ended up at Roush Racing.

He had better equipment at Roush, but no sponsor. Which was puzzling, since he has a sponsorship deal with Red Bull (perhaps they were still stinging from their foray into Cup racing).  But despite having no sponsorship (I assume that Pastrana funded the car himself), he showed flashes of brilliance. He won a pole and led a few races, and it was amazing to see him learn what to do and not do during the course of a race. He had a few DNFs, most of which were caused by other drivers, and he messed up a few times too. But he was making progress.

That’s why it was so surprising when he announced that he was giving up his NASCAR quest. It still puzzles me why no one would sponsor that team. Travis Pastrana is the anti-Kyle Busch.  All of his media interviews showed a polite young man who was so appreciative of the opportunity he had; he never had a bad thing to say about anyone, not even when he was knocked out of a race by another driver.

NASCAR has this “diversity” program that gives people rides based on their skin color. It’s too bad they don’t have a diversity program that gives guys like Pastrana a chance.

To Be Continued: I’m probably going to write more about racing this year, especially since  there’s a lot of stuff that’s new. I’m not sure how often, but definitely at least once a month if not more.

Gambling Cliche Racindeals

March 9th, 2011

PRESS CONTROVERSY: Apparently after the victory by Trevor Bayne at Daytona, the members of the press in the press box cheered. As a result, one reporter was fired. From around 1995 to 2000, I had press credentials and covered all of the Talladega races and a couple of Bristol races. You were expected to not ask the drivers for their autograph (I actually had to decline Dale Earnhardt’s autograph one time at Talladega) and generally behave in a somewhat professional manner.  I never personally witnessed any cheering in the press box, but I’m sure the reporters who had money in the pool were rooting for their driver so they could win a few bucks.

On reflection, it’s a wonder that any racing reporting is “balanced”. Winston provided free cigarettes in the press box and they routinely gave away other items. When they announced the No Bull 5 events, each reporter got a nice cap. I have a long sleeve Winston sweatshirt, and a very nice Winston Gore-Tex rain jacket. Slim Jims were freely available in the media center as were other sponsors’ products. You could walk to any transporter and they generally had some of their sponsor’s products available.

And while the reporters were sitting in the infield media center before race day eating and smoking, each drivers PR person was delivering press releases so the reporters wouldn’t actually have to, you know, go out and talk to the drivers. A few of the old school reporters would go in search of stories, but most of those post-race and post-qualifying driver quotes you read come from those press releases.  The drivers are taken to the infield media center after qualifying and to the press box after winning a race for a question and answer session, and those answers are typed up by the track’s PR person for use by all reporters.

I guess what I’m saying is that reporters covering racing are not quite like reporters covering news events. Maybe they were in the old days, but the modern day race reporter can barely be bothered to get off his butt and go seek out a story. Of course, there are exceptions, but I think for the most part race reporters could probably do their jobs from their own home.

YOU GOT TO KNOW WHEN TO HOLD ‘EM: If I hear one more gambling cliche from the broadcast booth, I’m going to explode. It’s just as bad when they come to Nashville with the music cliches (actually, NASCAR hasn’t had a race in Nashville in over 10 years; they call the super speedway located in Gladeville “Nashville Superspeedway”; I just hope the city is getting some licensing fees for that).

THE ANTHEM, AGAIN: I guess the singer of the National Anthem before the Cup race did a good job, but if I didn’t know the words already, I’m not sure I would have understood her. Again, the Anthem is not a “showcase” song. Just sing it like it was written.

WINNING ISN’T EVERYTHING: The Cup Series has a tie for first between Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch. Neither driver has won a race. Of the three drivers who have won Cup races, only one is in the top 12 in points. A Grand National regular has yet to win a race in that series so no one with points in that series has a win. The same is true for the Truck Series.

DOUBLE SECRET PROBATION: Robbie Gordon is on “probation”, supposedly for an altercation he had in the garage area with Kevin Conway. Seems that Gordon provided Conway (and his sponsor) with a car to drive last year, and has the gall to expect them to pay for it. And Conway has the gall to expect to be paid for winning “rookie of the year” while he was driving for Gordon. Lawsuits abound. I’m not sure what the deal is with Conway; he seems to have a sponsor in his pocket and can buy rides coming and going, but not enough talent to get the job done.

TV RATINGS: So the TV ratings for the Cup races this year are up over last year. Not sure why that is, unless it’s the “Bayne Effect”. Ratings rose after Dale Earnhardt’s death, probably because people wanted to see who would get killed next. Maybe the “Bayne Effect” is people tuning in to see what unknown driver will win next. I suspect that once they see that racing at the other tracks is not like racing at Daytona, the interest will fade. If they were putting on good races, the grandstands would be fuller.

BEST FINISH BY A WOMAN: So, I completely missed the Las Vegas Grand National race, so I missed Danica!’s 4th place finish. I guess some people are saying she got the finish based on better gas mileage.  I have mixed feelings about “gas mileage” races, but I guess since everyone has to go by the same rules, it doesn’t matter if you get the finish by passing a ton of cars on the track or passing them while they’re in the pits.

Phoenix Rising Racindeals

March 4th, 2011

GORDON’S STREAK: So Jeff Gordon breaks a 66 race losing streak at Phoenix, and I actually found myself rooting for him. Ten years ago, I’d have been rooting for someone to wreck him on the last lap. Ah well. I guess everyone has mellowed over the years. I’ll be sad though to see him pass Allison and Waltrip on the all-time win list.

START AND PARK: There was apparently some controversy over one Cup team not just starting and parking, but announcing their decision to do so. Dave Blaney crashed his Baldwin Racing car in practice and the only car the team had left was their Las Vegas car. So rather than risk that car in the race, they decided to start and park. But what NASCAR seemed to have a problem with was the fact that the team issued a press release stating their intentions. I personally don’t see what the big deal is. If they’d have done it without the press release, why would that have been different? I think what NASCAR didn’t like is having their nose rubbed in the start-and-park problem directly. Not sure what the solution is, or if there really is a solution. As long as a car is fast enough to qualify for a race, there’s really not much else that can be done once the race starts. Perhaps if they only awarded points to the top 35 finishers that might stop it.

A SELLOUT: They announced that the grandstands at Phoenix were sold out for the Cup race. I didn’t really pay attention to the stands, but I did notice there were quite a few people on the hill. And while I completely forgot to watch the Grand National and Truck races, I hear there were a ton of empty seats for those races. Someone needs to learn about supply and demand.

REPAVING: Phoenix is repaving their track, and not just repaving it, but doing a slight reconfiguration. The reconfiguration is designed to facilitate more entertaining racing. Well as I’ve said before, the first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one.

E15: I hate to see NASCAR giving in to the green folks. But they’re slowly doing it. This year, they’ve mandated that the fuel be E15; that is, 15% ethanol. It’s bad enough that consumers are forced to buy E10 (in most cases; there are a few places where you can still purchase gasoline without ethanol), but I don’t understand why NASCAR felt it necessary. Well, actually, maybe I do.  As in most things, follow the money. The National Corn Growers Association has paid NASCAR to be an official “partner”. So, thanks, NASCAR. You’re not only pushing an inefficient fuel (gas with ethanol results in lower gas mileage), but you’re contributing to higher food costs (you want to eat that corn or drive on it?).

WHAT’S THE POINT?: So, after six races in NASCAR’s top three divisions, only one race winner has earned points.  Another win in the Cup series by a driver not running for the championship probably won’t happen again this season, but I daresay in the Grand National division, it’ll be the norm. I predict that the 2011 Grand National champion will be someone who will not have one any races in that series.

LOST VEGAS: The next race in the Cup series is at Las Vegas. Other than the first Grand National race held there, I’m not sure any of the races have been nail-biters; they’ve mostly been snooze fests. Who knows? Maybe the new cars will help that. I firmly believe that NASCAR should choose racing venues based not on some “market” but on the excitement that the venue provides. One driver leading 200 laps in a Grand National race is boring, and that’s one reason fans are staying away in droves.

Two to Tango Racindeals

February 21st, 2011

GET YOUR DANCE PARTNER: So the Daytona 500 played out pretty much like everyone expected, with two-car drafts the order of the day. That led to a record number of lead changes, and apparently a record number of cautions. The racing was relatively interesting though.  Although two cars in tandem were fast, once they got out in front they seemed to slow down a bit, which let other two-car tandems pass. No one was able to dominate the race, and that’s always good for the fans.

CELEBRATING DEATH: I’ve always been uncomfortable observing the day that someone died, and that was true for the 500.  That silent lap three nonsense was just that, nonsense. You want to pay tribute to Dale Earnhardt, do it at the race closest to his birthday at the end of April. Celebrate his life, not his death.

DANICA!: I’m still a Danica fan, but after Saturday’s performance, I have to wonder about her dedication to stock car racing. It seemed like during one of her radio transmissions, she was wondering why the car that had been pushing her suddenly wanted her to be the pusher. Hello? Danica, where were you all week? Did you just show up during practice and then leave? Why in the world did you not know (or did someone not tell you) about the two-car draft?

ANTHEMS AND FLYOVERS AND FIREWORKS, OH MY!: If you have a recording contract, does that exempt you from having to audition to sing the National Anthem? Apparently it does. Saturday’s anthem was performed by a pretty well established country artist, and she got some words wrong and just went too crazy with the melody. And Sunday’s was only marginally better. I’ve said it over and over: the National Anthem is not a song you “jazz” up with your improvisations or use to show your vocal range. You sing it note for note, word for word. I’m beginning to believe that tracks should just get the closest military band to come and play the anthem; they never screw it up. Regarding the flyovers, those were pretty impressive. I don’t recall seeing fireworks go off at the point of the anthem where it refers to it, so maybe people have finally stopped doing that.

THE GRAND NATIONAL SERIES: With NASCAR’s mandate of having to choose the series in which you’re awarded points, we the Grand National series will have a series regular who’s the champion for the first time in I don’t know how long. I daresay that we’ll also have a champion who hasn’t won a Grand National race. NASCAR should limit the number of Cup drivers in the lower series. Not awarding them points is just stupid, especially since they have “holes” in the points awarded (e.g. no one was awarded first place points in Saturday’s race).

THE TRUCK SERIES: It was good to see Michael Waltrip win the Truck Series race Friday night and for him, very emotional.

COLLUSION: One thing that I absolutely did not  like about the Daytona 500 was the collusion among drivers. And that’s just what it is: collusion. It’s bad enough when two or three drivers who drive for the same owner talk to each other during the race, but there were reports that some drivers were able to talk to 10 or 15 other drivers. NASCAR needs to put a stop to this right now, before it gets more out of hand.

PHOENIX, EUROPE: Next week’s race is at Phoenix, where they apparently use the metric system. The race is the Subway Fresh Fit 500 which sounds more impressive than the Subway Fresh Fit 300. Hey, ISC, this is the United States of America! We don’t use the metric system here. Just how stupid do you think we are?

Shootout Racindeals

February 14th, 2011

So I watched the Shootout Saturday night at Daytona. It was the most excitingly boring race I think I’ve ever seen. The fact that NASCAR seems to be ok with speeds nearing 210 mph is interesting. I still say they’ll decrease the size of the hole in the restrictor plate before the 500.

•  At first I thought the two-by-two racing was going to be exciting. And parts of it were. But after having a few hours to think about it, I miss the three-wide, ten-deep racing that we used to have.

• NASCAR has made more rule changes to limit this two-by-two racing. Of course, they did that before the Shootout too.  Supposedly the cars won’t be able to stay behind one another for long due to cooling issues. I guess we’ll see what happens Thursday.

• With the new package, it looks like you don’t want to be first or second. Being in third or fifth place seems to be the place to be.

• Hey, Danica? Why don’t you like Nashville? (Actually, to be accurate, why don’t you like Gladeville?)

• I think it’s going to be funny seeing all those Jeff Gordon fans wearing AARP shirts and caps.

• It’s time for a Cup car running #3 to be on the track. Don’t really care if it’s a Childress car or a EGR car or a Front Row car. Ten years is long enough for a number to be “retired.” I see Daytona wants a silent lap 3 during the 500 to honor Dale Earnhardt, Sr. Why not a silent lap 7 since he won 7 championships? Or a silent lap 76 since he won 76 races? I’m sorry, but this deification of Earnhardt is a little tough to swallow. I’ve always questioned the taste of commemorating the death of someone instead of their life,  like on their birthday.

• Hey, Charlotte? How’s that NASCAR Hall of Fame working out for the taxpayers? If NASCAR wanted a hall of fame, they should have built it using their own money.

• How about that all Hendrick front row? Can Little Earnhardt back it up with a good run on Thursday and Sunday?

• Why does determining the starting lineup for the 500 have to be so complicated? Before NASCAR enacted the “35 cars get a provisional” rule, it was relatively simple: you had to finish in the top 15 (or 14 if the pole sitter was outside that number). Then they went on speed for the next six, then the seven provisionals. I still don’t like this whole deal where 35 teams get a guaranteed starting spot. You want to mix up the championship, how about a race where Jimmie Johnson doesn’t qualify?

The Twin 150’s should give us a better idea of what to expect during the 500. Despite the Shootout, I’m still looking forward to the 500. After that, not so much.

…is admitting you have a problem.

NASCAR seems to have figured out that they have a few problems. News this week is that they’re thinking of changing the points system, qualifying procedure, and having drivers declare in which series they’re running for a championship.

I guess NASCAR doesn’t want to change things too drastically. For example, they’re not limiting the number of Cup drivers in the lower series. But preventing a Cup driver from running for a Truck or Grand National Series championship is a start.

It seems they’re also going to change the points system, while still keeping the goofy race for the chase. The winner will get 43 points and each position on down gets one less. No mention of how bonus points will be awarded. I think this is a mistake; the Latford system works fine. The new points system is apparently designed to keep consistency from being a big factor in the championship. But as I’ve asked before, who would be more deserving of a championship: a driver who wins 5 races and has 35 top fives, or a driver who wins 5 races and has 5 top fives? Any scenario that gives the driver with no top fives the championship is, in my mind, not a legitimate way to award the championship.

Not sure why they’re messing with the qualifying procedure. Apparently they’re going to let cars go out in the order of their times during practice. Not sure if they’re still going to let the ones who actually have to qualify to make the race (those outside the top 35) qualify together.

Last year, NASCAR standardized the start times for the races. This year, there’s word that they’re going to abandon that. Not sure whose bright idea that is, but they need to work on solving actual problems, not ones that don’t exist.

NASCAR has downsized the plate at Daytona. With drafting speeds during testing nearing 200 mph, my prediction is that they’ll make it even smaller. They just seem to have this thing about 200 mph as being an upper limit for some reason.

The races I’m going to watch for sure this year are the restrictor plate races at Daytona and Talladega, and maybe one or two others. I guess it depends on who’s running well.

What Is Wrong With NASCAR

January 15th, 2011

[Note: I originally wrote this after the last Cup race in 2010. Interesting how some things seem to be changing.]

I watched the Homestead race today (actually, these days “watching” a race consists of setting it to record on the DVR and a couple hours after the start time put it in play and fast forward through the commercials and the boring parts of the race). I think the last race I watched was Talladega. The only reason I watched this one was because of the championship question.

You have to hand it to Jimmie Johnson; he’s got this Chase format figured out. Notice I didn’t say he necessarily deserved to be champion. And that gets me to the first of NASCAR’s problems.

• No suspense. Oh sure, there was a little suspense before the Homestead race. But the race wasn’t 30 laps old before the suspense became “how much will Johnson win by?”. You also had two drivers lead all the laps. BORING. No wonder the stands had empty seats.

• Too many races. NASCAR needs to learn about supply and demand. When even Bristol has empty seats, you know something is wrong. There are just too many races in the Cup series. Pare it down to 30 and if you must have the Chase gimmick, then let it be the last 5 or 6 races. Cutting back on the number of races will help the teams save money, and by lessening supply, the tracks will be full of people who want to see the races.

• Too few owners. By allowing an owner to have up to four cars in the field, NASCAR is potentially limiting a Cup field to just 11 owners. When they reduce the number of races and make it less expensive to run, then more owners can come in.

• Too much collusion. I find it extremely incredible that NASCAR allows drivers on the track to collude with one another. Racing should be an individual driver sport, not a team sport. I want to see my driver win on his own, not get a free pass to lead a lap by his teammate.

• Too much “Official this” and “Official that”. NASCAR takes money from the race teams by stealing sponsorship dollars from them. NASCAR should return to being a sanctioning body, not a marketing body.
Too many Saturday night races. I’ve said this for years. NASCAR is killing local racing when they go up against it on Saturday night with Cup races. But they don’t seem to really care, as long as they’re getting their money from the big races.

• Too many big name drivers stealing the money in Grand National and Truck series. Back in the ’80s and ’90s, there were only a few Cup drivers who raced in the lower divisions. The ones that did were not what you would call successful Cup drivers (e.g. Michael Waltrip). You had the occasional run by someone like Dale Earnhardt, but for the most part the Grand National Series had its own drivers running for their own championship. But some time in the last 10 years, some Cup drivers decided it was a good idea to take candy from a baby, and now it’s been quite a while since a non-Cup driver has won a Grand National championship. While it’s not as bad in the Truck series, there are a few Cup drivers who, when they run, dominate the race to the extent that it’s boring.

• The points system is just out of whack. I realize the Chase system was put in place to add “excitement” to the championship, and that going into the last race, this year’s championship was the closest it’s been in a few years. But yet again, the driver who won the most races didn’t win, and a driver who won as many races as the third place finisher didn’t even qualify for the Chase. I think the points system needs to go back to being based on a full season. The Chase format pretty much erases any points advantage a driver might have during the season. I understand that NASCAR has to straddle the line between pure competition and pure entertainment, and I think the reason ticket sales and ratings are down is that they’ve tilted a little too much towards pure competition.

    I’ve been to both weekends of racing at the Fairgrounds Speedway this year, and by all accounts the turnout has been incredible. I daresay that more people have attended these two races than attended all weekly races last year.

    Tony Formosa is certainly drawing the crowds. But I’m concerned that continued mistakes during the running of the show will start to have a detrimental effect. No, I’ve never promoted a race in my life, but I’ve attended racing at the Fairgrounds for almost 20 years as a fan, a reporter, a webmaster, and again as a fan. I’ve seen races put on by seven different leaseholders in that time. Some of them were promoters and some of them were just track operators.

    First of, let me say that I do appreciate Mr. Formosa stepping up to the plate and taking on this responsibility. But I feel that if the mistakes he’s making aren’t pointed out to him, the instant goodwill he’s had with the fans will disappear and by the time the last race weekend rolls around, fan interest will have dissipated.

    With that being said, here are some things I think that need improvement (in no particular order of importance):

    – I got to the track Saturday about 15 minutes before the races were scheduled to start. Imagine my surprise when I saw that qualifying was still going on. If you advertise a green flag time of 5 pm, then you need to start the race on time. Qualify the 5/8 mile divisions, and then if you have any time left, qualify the 1/4 mile divisions. But whatever happens, qualifying must be done by 30 minutes before race time. Divisions that don’t qualify can draw for starting positions.

    – More is not better. Last year the main problem was that there were just too many divisions.  Fans want to see the action on the big track. In the track’s prime in the mid- to late-nineties, they only ran five divisions: Legends and Pure Stocks on the 1/4 mile, and Street Modified, SuperTrucks, and Late Models on the 5/8 mile. Legends and Street Modified ran two features each. Now I realize that there are only three race weekends left, with one of those being the All American 400. So in reality, just to “normal” weekends remain. Get rid of the Dwarf and Frontrunners. If you must keep the Open Wheel division, put them on the 1/4 mile track.  As far as race length, 125 laps for the Late Models is fine, but unless you have more SuperTrucks, I’d say to only have 25 or 30 laps for them. Cut the Sportsman (I still think of them as Street Modified) to 25 laps (or do what Bob Harmon did and run 20.5 laps), the Legends and the Super Streets to 25. All of these suggestions should give you about two hours of green-flag racing time…figure about three hours overall.

    – Speed. Speed. Speed. I’m not talking about the cars on the track going fast; I’m talking about eliminating the 20 minutes between each race. The next race should be staged before the currently running race is at the halfway point. As soon as the winner has finished his interview, move the next race to pit road. The cars should keep their engines fired, and the pace car should lead them out (on each division, not just the 5/8 mile divisions).  Let the winner get his car to the inspection area, and then start the race.

    – It shouldn’t take 20 minutes to clean up a single car wreck. It’s painfully obvious that the current towing company is, to be charitable, slow. I get the impression that they don’t have much experience with moving race cars. There should be two wreckers and one rollback (I saw two wreckers there Saturday night, but one never moved). When there’s a red flag, have one of those wreckers behind the field in case a car can’t re-fire after the red flag. The Open Wheel race ran so many caution laps that two cars ran out of gas. The eventual winner had time to go to the pits (not pit road, but where he was parked in the garage area), get gas and come back out. The leader ran out of gas and was unable to finish. That’s just unacceptable.

    – For divisions that require spotters, have the spotters cross the track before the race before their division. In other words, the spotters for race 4 should be in their positions before race 3 starts. Waiting on missing spotters before starting a race just slows down the show. If a spotter is not in place by the time the race starts, black flag that car and park them.

    – This is show business. The fans want to be entertained. From what I could tell, if inversions were used at all, they were small inversions.  Perhaps Mr. Formosa, as a former racer, doesn’t like inversions. If so, he needs to stop thinking like a racer and start thinking like a promoter.  I’m not sure any of the local divisions had a pass for the lead. It seemed as if the fastest car started on the pole, and there was no more suspense after that. The formula that worked great before was inversions of 5, 7, 9 and 11.  Anything less than 5 is really not effective. If the racers don’t like it, ask them how they’d like to race in front of no people at a track that doesn’t exist.

    – Why Joe Williams is not in the booth is beyond me.  There was at least one division that didn’t get their starting lineup introduced at all Saturday night. And we had no idea of the qualifying times of those that were introduced. Put Joe in the booth and the current guy in the infield. Or better yet, put Malcolm West in the infield.

    – The All American 400 should be one race that’s 400 laps. Don’t play numbers games like previous promoters did and call it a 400 when it’s not. Run the 400-lap race on Sunday with the supporting races (and last chance races) on Saturday.

    – Why do 125 lap races need a break? The answer is, they don’t. Late models have run as many as 200 laps, at the speedway. Adam Petty ran a 125 lap race one time without pitting at all; I believe he finished second to Andy Kirby.

    – Scoreboard issues. That scoreboard needed to be replaced 20 years ago, so I understand that it’s going to be flaky every now and then, and the lightning strike last month didn’t help things. So here’s an idea the next time it goes out: fans can pretty much keep up with who the leader is, but it’s harder keeping up with the lap count. At the very least, get a bunch of copy paper and a Sharpie and write the lap in large numbers and hold it up next to the window. Fans can turn around and see what lap is being run. Or pre-print three sets of 0-9 numbers and have them ready to hold up.

    There were several times during Saturday night’s races that the fans got restless between races. There’s no better way to make sure those folks don’t come back than to waste their time. I actually left at 11 pm when the 125-lap Late Model race was stopped for the 10 minute break. I understand that the race was called after about 20 minutes.

    There’s also no better way to keep the fairgrounds neighbors on the warpath than to run races past 11 pm. The future of the track is still very uncertain, and you can bet that any ammunition you give the anti-fairgrounds folks will be used to make the case against the fairgrounds.

    I know a lot of folks who are working at the track, and I hope they don’t think I’m picking on them. I think everyone wants to see this be a great season that will give the Metro government pause when they finally make the decision about the future of the fairgrounds, and this is written in that spirit.

    Easter Racindeals

    April 5th, 2010

    “OFF” WEEKEND: NASCAR’s Cup division was off over the weekend, but the Truck and Grand National series were at Nashville Superspeedway on Friday and Saturday. I was surprised to see that both races were apparently unsponsored (or if they were, Speed and ESPN didn’t mention the sponsors’ names). And it was an off weekend in more ways than one. The grandstands at the superspeedway are said to hold 25,000. I’d be willing to bet there weren’t 25,000 in the stands on both days combined.

    STAR POWER: Whenever someone talks about it being a bad idea for all the Cup drivers to keep running in the Truck and Grand National races, one of the arguments used to defend that practice goes like this: at tracks that don’t have Cup races, this is the only way for those fans to see these Cup drivers run. In other words, people go to the races to see those Cup drivers, not the Grand National or Truck drivers. I think that argument got thoroughly discredited over the weekend with the lousy attendance at the Superspeedway. Or maybe they are right, and it’s just that Harvick, Busch, and Edwards aren’t the stars people think they are.

    LYING LEFFLER: NASCAR really needs to do something about idiots on the track. Case in point: Jason Leffler (see Carl Edwards at Talladega). Leffler thought he was hit on purpose by a rookie driver which caused him to wreck. So, he pulls an Edwards: they get the car running well enough to go back out 60 or so laps down. Then he intentionally wrecks James Buescher and then has the gall to lie about it on national TV. NASCAR parked him, but what they really need to do is have a rule that says if you’re down more than 10% of the laps in a race, don’t bother coming back out. It’s also a safety issue: how many cautions have had to be thrown because a car comes back out leaking oil or shedding sheet metal?

    PHANTOM CAUTIONS: I’d meant to say something about this last time, but I just forgot. At Martinsville, that last caution was completely inconsistent with how NASCAR had been calling the race. There were several instances where cars slowed on the track or were spun, but NASCAR held off on throwing the caution flag. Then in the last few laps a car spins and gets going, and they throw the caution?

    LENGTHY CAUTIONS: And while I’m on the subject of cautions, I don’t know why NASCAR seems to think that they need to give the drivers time to pit when the caution comes out. The purpose of a caution should be to clean up the track… period. If it takes 15 laps or 1 lap, when the track is clean, they need to give the one to go signal. I know they have these so-called “quickie” cautions, where they let everyone pit, but I’m talking about these cautions where there’s nothing happening on the track and they just go on and on. There’s no need for it that I can see.

    BY THE TIME I GET TO…: If NASCAR ever decided to shorten the Cup season to 30 races, Phoenix is a track they could eliminate completely.

    Rain Delayed Racindeals

    March 30th, 2010

    THE WEATHER OUTSIDE IS FRIGHTFUL: Wow, how about three major races being affected by rain on the same day? The Cup race in Martinsville, the open wheel race in St. Petersburg, and the drag race in Charlotte were all affected in one way or another by rain on Sunday. They all had to run or finish running on Monday.

    FOUR WIDE, BABY! – A few years ago, John Force and his family had a reality show called Driving Force. Watching that got me a little interested in watching drag racing…not to the extent that I planned my weekends around it, but if I happened to be channel surfing and came across it, I’d stop and watch. And that’s about the extent of my interest these days. But when I heard that they were going to race four wide at Charlotte last weekend, I had to make sure I watched. I set the DVR for the Saturday qualifying and the race on Sunday. Saturday during Funny Car qualifying,  two cars lost their bodies in the same race. That was quite a site, and thankfully, no one was hurt (one guy even made it to the finals). The rain on Sunday forced the postponement of the Funny Car and Top Fuel finals, so I didn’t get to see that until I got home. The above mentioned John Force won the race, with his daughter Ashley finishing second. I have to say the four-wide format is a lot more interesting than two wide. I was surprised that the grandstands were only about half full; I would have thought the uniqueness of the format would have drawn a full house. Ah well, Bruton Smith says he’s going to build another one in Las Vegas. Maybe it’ll catch on.

    ECONOMICS 101: It’s no secret that NASCAR races are no longer selling out. Bristol had tickets available on race day I hear. I think NASCAR needs to hire an economist. And the first thing that economist will tell them is that when there’s too much supply and not enough demand, you’ve got a problem. What NASCAR needs to do is remove about six races from the season. They go to some tracks twice that they shouldn’t even go to once. Fewer races should meet the current demand, and give the sport time to grow back into a longer season schedule.

    PROMOTION 101: Bruton Smith’s four-wide drag strip is an example of a promoter thinking outside the box. NASCAR needs to do the same thing to garner more interest in their product. Here are some ideas stolen taken from Saturday night races:

    1. Double points – have two or three double-points races during the season. That would give some drivers a chance to make up some ground. Having those at places like Talladega and Bristol would make it even more interesting.
    2. Heat races – we already have “heat races” to determine the starting lineup at the Daytona 500. Why not do it at a few other tracks? Have four heat races with the top five in each race moving to a semi-final.  Then the top five in each semi move on to the final.
    3. 50 lap points races – Remove the pit crews from the equation, and put the whole thing in the drivers’ hands. Take the top 10 or 20 from qualifying or heat races, and let them go.

    NASCAR needs to realize soon they need to do something to get their product back in the minds of sports fans.

    MARTINSVILLE: And finally, how about that finish at Martinsville? I DVR’d the race, and unfortunately, wasn’t able to avoid finding out who won. So rather than sit through three hours of the race, I watched it on 2x Fast Forward. I could still see who was leading and only slowed it down to see what caused the cautions. But I did watch the last 30 laps in real time. Knowing who the winner was, it was interesting to see how that last pit stop played out. Not sure if it was luck or skill that won the race, but congrats to Hamilin for making it exciting.

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