Hendrick isn't unstoppable, wave-around rule issues and more
It doesn't take long to make a first impression. What takes forever is changing that perception once it no longer reflects reality.
Take the seemingly endless dominance of Hendrick Motorsports as an example. Sure, the organization has won four straight championships and started this season by winning three of the first five races with
No matter what happens during the race, I get a handful of these e-mails each week (along with a few unprintable ones). But before anyone engraves the 2010 Sprint Cup trophy and simply hands it to someone at Hendrick Motorsports,
"Look at where the [No.] 17 car is versus last year," Johnson told me on Thursday. "I think Matt's going to be a player this year. And Denny and that team, they have everything there to win championships and win races."
So why won't fans believe the No. 48 has competition? Unfortunately, their past Chase performances have as much to do with it as anything. Despite a four-year habit of testing during the regular season to prepare for the playoffs, Johnson is likely to make the 12-man cut, and he'll be ready to slice up the competition when it's time. Without a serious challenge to JJ for the title from a non-Hendrick driver (Kenseth was the last in 2006), people will think it's Hendrick versus the world until JJ actually does get beat.
But if you dig deeper, Hendrick isn't in as good of shape as it should be. None of its other drivers are inside the top-5 in points, and
Now, ownership is another topic for another day, and it's true the spending of Hendrick, Roush and others is making it impossible for new guys to get in on the action. But for now, those who've not been watching because "Hendrick is ruining the racing" can feel free to tune back in. The organization hasn't made another mockery of the playoffs quite yet.
Another Bowles! Perhaps I've seen you at one of our giant Italian gatherings through the years. But let's move on to your question. Grumbles remain, from the garage to the grandstands, about the wave around and how it changed the outcome of the Richmond race. It's not just the rule but also NASCAR's two debris cautions, occurring within 20 laps of each other, that took a dominant performance by Busch and turned it into a free-for-all. While Busch wound up winning, the wave around, in theory, gave almost 30 cars a chance to win the race after most ran like junk for the first 150 laps.
While Busch was able to withstand their onslaught, others, like
That's the problem with the wave-around rule: it makes running hard early in the race a waste of time, and we're having enough problems getting drivers to be aggressive as it is. Giving cars half-a-lap back wouldn't work, though; all it would take is one quick caution to put them back in the same spot as before. Putting them in front of the leader would be confusing, so I'm in favor of creating a limit on the number of cars that can get this type of "free pass."
Here's my simple solution: When the caution comes out now, cars line up behind the pace car, single-file, based on where they were running on the race track, starting with the leader. So if you're a lapped car running just behind the leader when the caution comes out, you're second in line.
With that in mind, what I would do is award a lap back to any cars lined up behind the leader but
Any better suggestions out there? Fire away, because the current rule just doesn't seem to be working. Let's hope NASCAR agrees.
Let's end with one last look at Talladega...
Mike makes a great point, one backed up by Nielsen research. In actuality, the final rating was a 5.2, but peaked with a 6.3 in the final half-hour of the race. Typically, the final portion of these events rate higher, but that's definitely above average for NASCAR. You wonder if NASCAR might as well just change the mileage to "49" from "499;" after all, it'll still create the same crazy result with these plates.
One other ratings note I found interesting: Despite the ratings increase, men 18-34 registered just a 1.6 in the Nielsens, down 16 percent from last year's 1.9. Not only is this market crucial for potential advertisers, but also it's the building block of the sport's future. If the younger generation isn't watching NASCAR in high numbers -- especially considering how young many of the title contenders are -- there's a disconnect that has to be addressed. It's great for the sport to be winning back its older fan base, but that's not how you build yourself more long-term supporters.
"Woke up to bright sunshine and no clouds.... maybe I should look out the window to make sure I'm at the racetrack." - @