Cory Mccartney
Thursday April 15th, 2010

1. The fans have spoken, and who is the Racing Fan to not listen? After discussing NASCAR's sagging attendance and TV ratings in my last column, I was inundated with e-mails from Los Angeles to Radford, Va., with fans' takes on not only what's wrong with the sport, but how to fix it.

I've sorted through the proposals (sorry, to all you Southerners, but there won't be any reverting to the days when NASCAR ran primarily in the land of Dixie) and present to you, and to one Brian France, the Fan's Three-Step Guide To Fixing NASCAR.

Impose a three-car limit on teams. The vast majority of fans aren't as tired of seeing Jimmie Johnson win as they are of seeing four super teams as the only real competitors for the Cup title. As reader Jeff Spoehr of Neenah, Wisc. astutely points out:

"The big four (Hendrick, Gibbs, Roush, Richard Childress Racing) are too big. They are the UConn women of NASCAR."

In fact, only once in the last 15 years has someone outside of those four teams won the title with Yates Racing's Dale Jarrett winning in 1999. Putting a three-car limit on owners would give smaller teams a legit opportunity to compete for a title by spreading superstars and sponsorship money across more teams. No longer would Rick Hendrick be able to horde the sport's biggest cash cows. Of course there would be ways around it and NASCAR would have to take a stand on "alliances" like Stewart-Haas and Hendrick, that basically give HMS a six-car stable. But cracking down on these team monopolies would give the Prism Motorsports of the world an actual chance of landing a big-name driver.

Shake up the Chase tracks. Currently, the 10-race playoff includes six intermediate tracks (Dover, Kansas, Los Angeles, Charlotte, Texas and Homestead), two trips to flat tracks (New Hampshire and Phoenix), one short track race (Martinsville), one restrictor-plate event (Talladega), with no road courses. Intermediate tracks may make up the brunt of the first 26 races, but shouldn't the final sprint to crown a champion be a fairer taste of the series' challenges? Think about this: NASCAR adds a third race at Daytona for the finale (who would have a problem with the sport's most storied track adding another race, and the last race of the Chase, no less?), cuts the second trip to L.A., switches Dover's second date with Watkins Glen and the Bristol night race with Kansas' current slot. That would give us a Chase schedule that includes three intermediate tracks (Charlotte, Homestead and Texas), two short tracks (Bristol and Martinsville), two plate races (Daytona and Talladega), a road course (Watkins Glen) and two flat tracks (New Hampshire and Phoenix). A killer slate, no? I'm tingling just thinking about it.

Bring back the actual "stock cars." The subject was truly tackled in SI.com's Remember When series last summer, but I'm not the only one who longs for the old days when a Chevy looked like a Chevy:

"Up until the '90's, at least the outside of the car actually looked like one you could buy off the lot," wrote Scot Randall of Trussville, Ala.

Is it a coincidence that the American love affair with American-made cars began to dwindle when NASCAR moved to a standard chassis? It's difficult for fans to develop relationships with cars that are truly stretches to label Ford Fusions or Chevy Impalas. At this point, NASCAR may as well change that S in its acronym to "standard."

2. Frustration had clearly set in for Kyle Busch. First there was the late caution after he led 113 laps at Phoenix, then there was crew chief Dave Rogers' call to take four tires, which wound up putting him eighth on the restart and cost him a shot at his first win in 19 races. This came on the heels of another call by Rogers at Martinsville that derailed Busch's charge to the front. It was enough for Busch to storm off after the race without comment.

As confounding as the night was for Busch, he still finished eighth, bumping him up to 12th in the standings. It's the kind of production that Rogers was brought aboard for and the kind of mental frustration he was hired to help re-direct.

There's a reason that Busch has the nicknames "Rowdy" and "Wild Thing," it's the all-or-nothing mentality that's made him a real life Ricky Bobby, you know "If you ain't first, you're last." Rogers' task has been convincing Busch that consistency outweighs landing in Victory Lane and so far, it's hit home with Busch registering five top 15s in the first seven races; a year ago, it took him 17 weekends to reach that number.

Busch may not have liked the way things turned out in Phoenix, or Martinsville for that matter, but aligning him with Rogers, who has been able to curb his natural tendencies, is developing into a successful partnership, even if fate and the tire guessing game have kept them from a win.

286: Number of races run by the No. 39 car

22: Drivers who have driven with the number

1: Wins by the No. 39, the first of which Ryan Newman delivered at Phoenix

Matt Kenseth. Mr. Consistency has lived up to his nickname at Texas Motor Speedway with an average finish of 9.3, the best among any active driver, and he's came in lower than ninth in just one of the last nine races. It's been a remarkable rebound for Kenseth, who missed the Chase for the first time last season and has finished outside the top eight in just one race. In fact, if not for a Jeff Gordon bump at Martinsville, Kenseth would be the points leader heading to Texas. After weeks of running at the front, he'll break through with his first victory since winning the first two races of '09.

So he drives with the family name on the hood, but when was the last time Menard actually saved big money at Menard's? In the latest edition of our video series I discovered the answer, along with the 'Jazz Singer' that was the inspiration for Menard's trademark sideburns and his love of heavy metal. For past Inside The Helmets, check out the archive.

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