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The Indy 500, a brilliant race, puts NASCAR's problems in clear focus

The Indy 500, a brilliant race, puts NASCAR's problems in clear focus

Dover, fall 2011: Jimmie Johnson leading Kurt Busch...until those final restarts (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)




   By Mike Mulhern

   DOVER, Del.
   When Brian France, the NASCAR boss, was asked last weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway about boring racing on the stock car tour this spring and drivers complaining that the playoff points system had forced them to become less aggressive, France curtly dismissed the issue: "Drivers complaining? Like we've never had that before."
   However Sunday's arch-rival event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – a brilliantly played out Indy 500 – has put the NASCAR Sprint Cup tour's dilemma in exceedingly sharp focus.
   NASCAR racing is suddenly boring?
   Ya think?

   Kasey Kahne, the 600 winner, in yet another less than thrilling stock car race this spring, says the real issue is clear: "You have to be consistent in this sport. It's how the points are. You have to finish races. If you're crashing, you're not finishing – you're losing points.
    "The 'chase' is what it's all about.
    "If I was to keep crashing, and keep having issues, there's no way you're going to finish – or make the chase."

   Blame it on Tony Stewart.
   In last fall's NASCAR playoffs Stewart showed that the regular season's 26 races – from February through mid-September – are virtually meaningless. As long as a driver and team can limp into the playoffs, they've got a chance to win the championship. Which Stewart did so spectacularly.
    Even five-time champion Jimmie Johnson worries drivers may be "gaming the system," in not racing hard, hoping more not to make mistakes that might take them out of the playoffs.

  If it's Dover, keep an eye on Martin Truex Jr. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Las Vegas, Kansas, California, Texas, Bristol, Richmond, Darlington, Talladega, now Charlotte: all less than thrilling events, to be honest.
   NASCAR keeps track of many stats but not one of the most important – passes for the lead on the track under green.
   Those passes have been few.
   Much may be made of the 'official' lead changes, but they include all those green flag pit stops.
   And much more should be made of the few cautions seen this season for anything other than debris on the track.
   Consider the Coke 600, nearly four hours of it, and only one minor scrape?
   Denny Hamlin's take: "Everyone is so concerned with points. You know if you wreck and finish in the 30s, it's going to take 10 races to get that back.
    "So everyone's just a little bit more patient on restarts…as crazy as that sounds.
   "It's just not as wild on restarts as it used to be a couple years ago. Everyone is minding their p's and q's, trying to get the best finish…knowing the one thing you can't overcome in a race is a crash."

   And now Dover, one of the tour's meanest tracks, where Friday morning practice runs are typically thrilling, at least for the drivers barreling off downhill into the turn one concrete.
   Think North Wilkesboro Speedway, just twice the size, and much faster uphill into turn three.
   This is usually a great track for Jack Roush men, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, and  Sprint Cup leader Greg Biffle, who continues to show one of the strongest cars on the tour.
   But Dover is more than just high-speed concrete; it's also a very tight pit road.
   "Darlington and Dover are probably two of the toughest we go to," Biffle says. "They are really super-hard to get on, because it's so flat and the track is  going away from you because the corner is tightening up.  
    "It's sandy, and it's just hard to get down there and get slowed down to get on pit road, because you've got to have the right speed before you get on the apron because on the apron you can’t slow down and you can’t turn -- so if you're not going the right speed, you're going to miss it, period."

  Indy 500 drama king Takuma Sato. Wonder if he can drive a stock car? (Photo: IRL)



Maybe it's just a coincidence but I swear the

Maybe it\'s just a coincidence but I swear the more Brian France is involved in any sort of decision making, the more boring racing becomes. Not to mention, his attitude stinks. Attendance & tv viewership is down (no matter what kind of spin NASCAR tries to put on it) yet he either sticks his head in the sand or gets annoyed at fans who actually care about the sport & its history.

That being said, maybe NASCAR should tweak the new points system a bit. Award 10 bonus points for a win, 7 bonus points for P2 & 5 bonus points for P3. Drivers would be a little more prone to race hard. I have to admit tho, it does sadden me to see that winning for the thrill of winning isn\'t enuf for drivers anymore. What happened to the pure adrenaline rush of intense competition? I don\'t think The King or the Allisons or Buck Baker or The Intimidator would be content to ride around for \"a good points day.\"

To me it was more the PEOPLE than the race

To me it was more the PEOPLE than the race itself. The ABC crew was really good, but the Waltrip brothers nad Larry MacScreech ruin any race!!


I really don\'t see a real problem with the idea of the Chase. The \"idea\" is okay, it\'s the structure that\'s bad. I\'d fix it thusly:

1. Winner gets more points (5 or more)

2. Points from 11th (inclusive) on back to position 20th get 3 points, 21st to 30th get 1 point, 31st on back get zero.

3. Points from 2nd to 5th place drop as follows: 2 points for each position, from 6th the drop is 5 points per position.

4. I\'d do away with the Top 35 and make it the Top 20 guaranteed starting spots, everybody else races their way into the field on speed.

5. And speaking of the field, I\'d shorten the field(s) based on length of track. 43 cars at 2 mile plus tracks, 1 mile plus tracks 40 cars, and shorter tracks the field drops to 38 or less cars.

6. The schedule: 26 points races and 6 \"all-star\" format type races that offer double bonus points. 32 races in all.

7. I\'d also give bonus points for most laps lead, pole position, most positions gained from starting spot, and bonus points and money for certain laps being lead.

8: I\'d have a regular Season champ and a Chase champ.

9. Once the Chase started points would be re-set to \"0\" but the seeding would be done by regular season points and everyone would be eligible for the Chase Cup - points to be awarded only to the top 10 finishers per race.

Finally, I\'d adopt a new format for qualifying: an elimination - knock out type based on speed and with the top 12 moving forward for extra bonus points.

The Chase isn't the problem

OKAY so if the chase didn't exist, they would still say the same thing about how important finishing is. Apparently a lot of people don't have good memories but that is ALWAYS how it was. You never wanted to do something that could make you have a DNF unless you were racing for the win. The Chase is not the problem..... but the overly aero-dependent cars are. Now tell me, if you want the drivers to race aggressively how are you supposed to do that when as soon as they get within 10 car lengths of the car in front of them they come screetching to a halt due to a barrage of aerodynamic problems? Aero push isn't so much a problem anymore, but it's still there. What's more the problem is the lead cars now a days have less turbulence to deal with than the cars following them. Turbulence doesn't just make the car feel off, but it also slows them down. It used to be the cars in the draft had aero push, but at the same time they were faster if they could get the car to still handle. Now it's like there is so much downforce that the leader cuts through the air so well all the cars behind have to deal with that air rushing back into the pocket.

They need to reduce spoilers, trim the side skirts more, and get rid of the splitter. None of which are rules that we need to wait until the end of the season to see changed!

5&5 Myth Of Auto Racing Doesn't Work

Why do people like MadCowRacing never get it that the 5&5 Rule Myth of Auto Racing doesn't work?

"The Chase is not the problem." MCR is grossly underestimating that the mentality of the racers did change with the advent of the Chase - it escalated the points-racing mentality to a new level - and this new points system has escalated it even more.

As for the racecars, MDR betrays almost belligerent ignorance. "They need to reduce spoilers....." STOP! Did you not notice that NASCAR reduced spoilers NUMEROUS times in the last 15 seasons? Just since 2004 NASCAR mandated at least three spoiler reductions, several tire changes, and at least two swaybar changes. They also raised the airdam of the cars before going with that godawful gapped airdam in the COT for 2007-10, which made aeropush worse. Now they're cutting the side skirts.

And what is the net result of these changes you recommend? Aeropush ONLY GETS WORSE. There is NOT ONE example in the last 15 seasons (or any other time for that matter) where aeropush was reduced by reducing downforce. Not one example.

He also ignores that in the days when the draft worked trailing cars did not have aeropush - they were sucked forward in the draft. What changed was how air was being displaced and what it was now doing behind a lead car - the draft vacuum not only shrank (Eli Gold in 2000 made the key point in noting how the cars weren't doing anything to the air to get noticed, whereas the Trucks were causing the turn announcers to get buffeted by air), it changed to a wall effect (Dale Junior has called it a beach ball effect) even at Daytona.

The sport has not figured out how to change it back; all it's done is adhered to the 5&5 Myth of Auto Racing like MadCowRacing recommends - and people wonder why the racing is uncompetitive.

This article probably explains the NASCAR

This article -- http://indy.st/K2wG2B --probably explains the NASCAR fans' disappointment with the lack of crashes this season better than anything written so far.
The crashes (for most folks) aren't applauded for the destructive act itself. But they appreciated for what they represent, an extra effort (even if a failed attempt). The effort, itself, of going to the edge is appreciated and then over the edge is acknowledged.

Most people are conservative in measuring the risk-reward balance. Those who take greater risks than themselves are considered daredevils. Daredevils are respected and idolized for taking on those risks. Lewis & Clark, Charles Lindbergh, Chuck Yeager. You get the picture.

Most people recognize they can't take risks without the occasional failure. A failure in racing translates into a spin/crash or mechanical failure. With the lack of crashes/spins/DNFs there is the perception of the lack of effort.

Connecting that to the IndyStar story, people are impressed by Taku's attempted Hail Mary. People who probably had never heard of him until last Sunday. It seems in some regards that Sato's failed pass got more attention than Dario's measured, tactically calculated third win (Sound familiar to how Jimmy Johnson won his titles?)

One driver example I can think of is Colin McRae. It was said he knew more ways to destroy a car than anybody else.
His trail of destroyed cars was the result of his constant effort to find the limit of his ability and the machinery. Learning he very rarely made the same (car destroying) mistake twice. (There are plenty of the wrecks on Youtube)

So when he got it right the results and legend came. Since his death he has been canonized as WRC drivers have become more like NASCAR drivers and less like to take the risks chasing championships.

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