Last week, there was a flurry of emails after the first of our two-part series over how fans would fix NASCAR. It seems everyone and their mother-in-law has a concept they think would recharge the national interest in this sport.
Who knew the Canadians held the answer right under our noses all along?
Hidden under the radar in NASCAR's off week was a Nationwide Series thriller up in Montreal, a Triple A baseball-like nail-biter that had all the major leaguers blushing and congratulating their supporting cast for showing them up. During an action-packed race that ended with
The race that day was almost four hours, longer than most Cup races and right about the time most fans would scream for it to be shortened. Only half a dozen well-known drivers were in the field, leaving name recognition to those who eat and breathe this sport 24/7. But no one was complaining about the length of the race, or the fact
So between the "Oh, Canada" and the smiles of everyone from winner Said to third-place finisher
Of course, if everyone subscribed to that simple theory, we wouldn't have a column each week, right? So let's go over the rest of your big ideas before returning to a regular SI Mailbag next week. As always, don't forget the best way to make your voice heard: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at
Blake, a lot of people share the same sentiment. I agree that right now, NASCAR is treating road courses like 3-year-olds treat a really cool swimming pool in the summer: dipping their feet in the water, but refusing to dive all the way in.
Well, it's time that kid gets a gentle shove from the powers that be. Assuming the Chase system stays, it's ridiculous for teams to spend money on a two-race, regular season road course program that has no impact on the ten-race playoff. Either increase the number of road courses, assuring one is part of the postseason each year, or claim stock cars were meant for ovals and pull out of right-turn racing altogether.
Personally, my vote would be for No. 1. Wouldn't it be great to see Montreal part of the Chase schedule in 2012? Or how about Road America? The only issue is that the rest of the fan base may not agree: through 24 races this season, the lowest-rated Cup race on TV (rain delays excluded) is Infineon's road race out in California.
No. 1 has been discussed at length in this column and in various fan forums throughout the summer. I've seen polls on other websites where 80, even 90 percent of fans have asked for a return to the old format as an alternative to the current playoff system. For years, NASCAR has trumpeted the Chase as a way to keep fans interested in the sport during football season. So why does
That's a 17 percent decrease, in case you're wondering. As for leveling the playing field, keep in mind that all NASCAR owners are private contractors, not bound under a common system like the other stick 'n' ball sports in America. That means if
That's left the gap between rich and poor as a common theme throughout NASCAR history. I think the reason you see it more pronounced now is not corporate sponsorship, but how much technology plays a role in making these cars go fast. Just look at Roush's recent resurgence, credited not to the men behind the wheel, but a bunch of engineering geeks playing in the back room with computers trying to get it right.
Come on, be honest: Do you like watching a
Great idea, Wayne. I'll let this one stand on its own, while adding one note: If your system was put in effect this year, it would be
It's a great idea in theory, Eric, but won't hold water over the long-term for two reasons. First off, racetracks change so dramatically from race to race an old setup hardly ever works twice in a row anymore. Time and again, you'll hear a driver pull off a season sweep while admitting they had to start from scratch in Friday practice, their winning setup from the previous race as good for the car as the garbage can located across from their pit stall.
Also, while in theory the gap between rich and poor would be closed, keep in mind a lot of the smaller teams still get chassis and engine combinations from the teams they're "taking" setups from. Who's to stop a Hendrick, a Roush, from providing a subpar chassis/engine combination for a race in which they know their rivals have a "leg up" in regards to setup?
You're right, Adam; it is too radical. The elimination format is just too complicated in a world where people are struggling to read beyond simplistic 140-character Twitter feeds and Facebook status messages. You don't win fans back to the sport by forcing them to take five minutes to read the rules. And throwing cautions every segment to eliminate those drivers? Don't we already have enough yellow flags?
Now when you're talking the All-Star race, that's a completely different story. Submit that idea to Charlotte ASAP.
Works for me, Jeff. There has to be some way to limit Cup drivers in the Nationwide and Truck Series, a practice fans seem very vocally opposed to -- at least in my email inbox. The problem for NASCAR right now is, they're staring at a series in NNS where ratings are up six percent. That leaves the title sponsor happy with the product, so if fans keep watching -- a recent report claimed consumer awareness for them has increased 50% since 2008 -- what incentive is there to kick out the Cup guys putting fans in the seats? There's short-term pain for long-term gain in kicking the major leaguers out, and right now NASCAR doesn't want to draw more blood.
This fix is one many NASCAR fans hoped would happen this year, but the 2011 schedule has just one Chase rookie: Chicagoland replaces Fontana, an intermediate swap that's about as exciting as watching backgammon on ESPN. Why would you dumb down the hype, saving your worst tracks for last when your whole series is built around a ten-race playoff?
I just don't get it either, Kevin. The Chase should start with Bristol, end with a solid intermediate (Las Vegas?), and give us about four to five surprises in between. Chicagoland? Then Loudon? Wake me when it's over.
That's what I felt like made the Montreal race so exciting. Could you imagine if
Quick show of hands: When
For those stats to change, NASCAR needs to loosen the rules and allow all teams to get more creative with their chassis and horsepower setup. But with the Chase system in place, preaching conservatism, you wonder if philosophies would actually switch ...
All solid suggestions, capping a good 6,000 words of them from devoted NASCAR fans (sorry if yours didn't make the cut). All of them rally around a central theme: no matter how bad the racing's been the last few years, there's plenty of fans out there waiting to jump back into NASCAR world under the right circumstances.
With projects like the sport's Fan Council and drivers even soliciting for feedback, I feel the sport is responding to their cry for changes. At this point, we're all along for the ride, and only time will tell if that reaction is good enough to win them back -- or if it's already too late.
"Speaking of golf, why is it the more you practice the worse you get, it's the only thing I've ever done that works that way!" -