Welcome NASCAR race fans to my NASCAR blog. This week fines were given out to two drivers for saying things that NASCAR felt were detrimental to the Sport. It started out very hush, hush. No one knew exactly who were fined, how much they were fined, or what exactly was said. And for me, it still isn’t very clear.
I do know Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman were the drivers who were fined. And also, apparently, when NASCAR gave the drivers the nod to “have at it, boys”, they were given a list of things they couldn’t say!
Denny mentioned late race cautions flags for phantom debris. He feels that such cautions to reset the field change the outcome of the race. NASCAR feels they make the ending more exciting. And insist they don’t do that. For me, Denny only voiced the opinion of the fans. If there is legitimate debris on the track, certainly the track crew can pick it up and show the camera the debris. But too many times a caution has come out when a driver is leading by too much, or when certain drivers are about to go a lap down. And the camera can’t find the so-called debris.
Denny also made the mistake of Tweeting about it with reporter Jeff Gluck. Mr. Gluck insisted that late cautions make racing more exciting for the fans. And they get to see a great finish. Hamlin maintains that those late cautions for no apparent reason changes the outcome of the race. Hamlin even asked the fans about it. He asked the fans, if someone was leading by a large margin late in the race, even if they disliked the leader, would we want a caution to come out to give someone else a chance to win instead? And the fans agreed that racing should unfold on it’s own. Even when we don’t like the leader who is running away from the pack.
I personally do not like cautions, for whatever reason. And phantom debris cautions to make the race more exciting are the worse. When someone crashes, you throw a caution. Of course. When debris is on the track and must be removed, you throw a caution. Agreed. But Denny was not telling the fans not to watch anymore. He was only voicing an opinion the fans already had.
It is still unclear what exactly, Newman said to deserve a fine. It was said that he commented about racing at Talladega and how it shouldn’t be a points race. However, that race was in April. So, I’m not sure if that was what he was fined for. He did make a comment about not trying to make too many changes to the chase for the championship. I, as a long time race fan, do not like the chase. I call it manufactured excitement and believe it is not needed. But NASCAR loves it’s version of a playoff.
In my opinion, playoffs are needed in stick and ball sports to determine a champion. Because they have divisions and leagues. The division leaders play each other to determine the league champion. And the league champions play each other to determine the overall champion. In NASCAR, there are no divisions or leagues. And there are still 43 drivers racing, even in the chase. The chase was contrived to make the last ten races more exciting to compete with football for viewership. Again, I don’t believe manufactured excitement is more exciting than just racing.
Personally, I would rather the media talked about who was racing their way into the top ten in points those last ten races. I remember the season finale the year before the chase. Terry Labonte raced into the top ten and Kurt Busch fell out. In that last race. Now, THAT was exciting. With the chase, the top twelve are locked into the chase and any of them cannot do any worse than 12th. Is that more exciting? I don’t think so. And neither do the long time fans. But Brian France and NASCAR think a playoff system is exciting.
NASCAR is talking about making changes to the chase to liven things up for those last ten races. The chase started in 2004. And has already been tweaked once to include twelve drivers instead of just ten. Ryan dared to voice his opinion that maybe too many changes would not be a good thing. However, like what Denny said, he is only voicing what the fans have already been saying.
In my opinion, instead of fining the drivers for voicing the opinions of the fans, they should be listening to what the drivers and fans have to say. Viewership has been steadily shrinking. So we know the chase isn’t doing what NASCAR wants it to do. And to me, tweaking it again will not help with the viewership. As it is, if you aren’t in the chase by the 26th race, you can’t race your way into the top ten. The driver in 13th place can win all the chase races and still remain only 13th in points. And I, for one, do not find that very exciting.
Instead of changing NASCAR to be more like football, they should put it back to the way it was before the fans stopped watching. And get rid of the chase. It isn’t working. Admit you were wrong and put the sport back to racing instead of truing to be more like WWE. The fans want natural, wonderful racing. Not manufactured excitement. We want racing, not entertainment. Give more points for the winner of each race and the driver with the most wins should be the one with the most points. And racing can again be about winning. And not just getting into the top twelve by race 26.
Brought to you by Sheila Hawley. I love NASCAR. Thank you for listening.