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Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

January 25th, 2010

I’ve awoken from my long winter’s nap to the news that NASCAR has seen the light and will be making changes to make the racing better in 2010.

Since Dale Earnhardt, Sr. died on the track, NASCAR has made safety their number one priority… to the detriment of the sport. They’ve forced drivers to wear devices attached to their helmets, they’ve put roof-flaps on the cars, they’ve even completely redesigned the car. While it’s great to try to make the sport as safe as possible, in the end, it’s still a dangerous sport.

NASCAR mistook the jump in popularity after Earnhardt’s death as people being actually interested in the sport and becoming fans. What I think really happened is that people tuned in to see who would get killed next.

Before I go too much further, I can see where some might think I’m advocating making the sport more dangerous to the extent that it kills someone so that the popularity goes back up. I’m just stating what I think has happened, not what should happen.

Anyway, here are a few of the changes in the Cup Series and what I think about them:

  • Bump-drafting will be allowed again. This was one of those safety over reactions that resulted in one of the most boring races I’ve ever seen. Should make the restrictor plate races more interesting.
  • Larger restrictor plates at Daytona. My prediction is that they’ll be smaller before the actual race. NASCAR will lose its nerve and change them after the qualifying races.
  • Replacing the wing with a spoiler. I’m not so sure about this one. The reasoning is apparently to make the cars easier to drive. Uh, excuse me, but isn’t the ability to drive an ill-handling car part of the sport? How many times did Earnhardt, Sr. take an ill-handling car to victory lane? And it seems to me that they’re missing out on a legitimate safety improvement: they put a hinge on the front-facing side of the wing, and when the car goes backwards, the wing pops up (like the roof flap) and helps keep the car on the ground.
  • The “promotion” of John Darby. Yeah, that was a promotion all right. I think he was made the scapegoat for the lousy competition last year.

NASCAR also announced some changes in the Nationwide and Truck Series.

  • Nationwide teams will be limited to 15 crew members. NASCAR is making a lame attempt at helping teams curtail the costs of running in the series. That just gives the rich teams more money to spend back at the shop. They didn’t really address the real problem with the Nationwide Series, and that’s the 10 or 15 Cup drivers who seem to be in each Nationwide race. In the past, I’ve not really advocated limiting the number of Cup drivers who can run in a Nationwide race, but I’m beginning to change my thinking on that. I do have a couple of ideas that might help though:
    • Make drivers in each series declare what championship they’re going to run for. You want to run all races in the Cup and Nationwide series? Fine, but you can only run for the championship in one of them.
    • Only allow the top three fastest Cup drivers to run in a Nationwide or Truck race. This would apply to Cup drivers in the top 15 in Cup points. That would still allow teams with inexperienced drivers to get the track time in the lower series, while leaving spots open for full-time Nationwide teams.
  • The Truck Series will use double-file restarts. Eh. I don’t think that whole double-file restart thing was as exciting as everyone hoped it would be. I remember when drivers were able to earn their laps back by actually racing for them. That’s no longer the case. Ah well.
  • The Truck Series will go back to traditional pit stops. This was one of the most stupid rules I’ve ever seen, where they couldn’t fuel and change tires on the same stop. Frankly, I wish the Truck Series would go back to its roots: have a 10 minute time out in the middle of the race. That would do more to reduce costs than anything. I remember Bobby Hamilton racing in one of the first Truck races at the Fairgrounds here in Nashville. He had a couple of guys and a small toolbox. That was his pit crew.

I’ll give NASCAR credit, they may have finally realized that people actually want to be entertained while watching a race. I hope the changes make the races more exciting. I guess we’ll see.

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