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How about pumping up things here...like running Talladega under the lights

How about pumping up things here...like running Talladega under the lights

Time to light up the night? Well, not like this.... (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Is this sport holding its own or losing ground?
   Can we perk things up by solving a few problems?
   Here are some idle musings on a long, long Saturday afternoon, awaiting Round Five of the NASCAR championship chase.
   Hey, let's fix this Daytona-Talladega problem. Let's make Indianapolis more competitive. Let's get Los Angeles back in the sport.
   Let's make qualifying more exciting. Let's make pit road safer.
   Let's run Talladega under the lights, like Daytona.
   Let's put some fire back in this sport.
    First, let's look at the big picture, as best we can.
   Glass half-full, or half-empty?

   When the Talladega grandstands are as empty as they were last weekend, this sport has a problem.
   When Talladega Blvd is traffic-free at 8 a.m. on race morning, this sport has a problem.
   When even rock 'em, sock 'em Talladega, the wildest track on the stock car tour, has trouble selling tickets, this sport has a problem.
   When Talladega Sunday those 40 TV sets at the Lake Norman sports bar, in the heart of stock car country, are all tuned to something else besides the big race, this sport has a problem.
   When race tracks on Fridays, be it Talladega or Dover or Atlanta or wherever, are only large aluminum echo chambers, this sport has a problem.
   And that's before Dale Earnhardt Jr. dropped his bombshell on this little neck of the woods...making it oh-so-ironic that this Charlotte 500 looks to be the first NASCAR race since 1961 without a North Carolina driver in the field.

With Dale Earnhardt Jr. sidelined for two weeks, the sport faces more problems (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Is there a real problem, or is it just 'optics'?
   Maybe the sport is just one great race away from bouncing back.
   Certainly NASCAR has an battalion of workers firing away.
   But is it working?

   Now maybe NBC is indeed wining and dining Brian France in hopes of spinning out ABC/ESPN for the second half of the Sprint Cup season, when that new TV contract comes up for debate.
   And maybe an NBC-NASCAR reunion might really be just what this sport needs, to create a new dynamic. This sport had some of its best-ever TV ratings back when NBC carried NASCAR each fall.
   But that's still a while off.


NBC returning to NASCAR? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   More immediately perhaps could be the looming 'death' of SPEED, with parent Fox planning to use cable tier channel for more general sports shows.
   What does that say about how Fox execs look at NASCAR?
   Meanwhile, with the death of newspapers (now even speculation that USAToday may "30" in a couple of  years), ESPN has become the American sports world's pre-eminent quasi-journalistic portal, with its multi-channel approach and its army of sports specialists...although it sometimes appears to view NASCAR racing as a niche sport. Then again maybe that's what NASCAR has fallen back to.
   And maybe NASCAR is going the way of Formula One, where the live crowd is only peripheral to the really important TV audience.


   SPEED? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   However an Old School look at this sport might show things in a different light.
   Should NASCAR be playing more to its traditional strengths? Can NASCAR reenergize its classic demographic?
   If so, how, with whom?
   For all its heavy-hitting marketing, NASCAR execs may need to consider that this sport's most poorly served demographic is the blue-collar demographic....people who remember when Richard Petty, after the race, would sit on pit wall signing autographs until everyone in the crowd was satisfied.....
    ...before drivers and team owners took to helicopters and jets and $1 million motorcoaches.
   (Do you sometimes get the feeling that some people in this sport have just gotten too big for their britches?)


  Richard Petty: remember when he'd sit on pit wall after the race until the last fans got their autographs? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   So let's solve some problems here...and perhaps pinpoint where the logjams really are:

   -- Competition.
   Maybe the challenge facing this sport boils down to something really simple: competition. The late Bill France Jr. focused on "good competition" as the bedrock of this sport, the most important selling point. With good competition, everything else pretty much falls into place.
   But this season in particularly, with so many gas mileage races and less than thrilling action, competition on too many NASCAR tracks has been less than compelling.
   What's wrong here?
   Are too many key people in this sport simply going through the motions, week after week after week?
   Are there simply too many races? Maybe less is more.
   Does the Sprint Cup tour calendar need some major revisions?
   Is it time to drop the 'chase' championship format, as now counter-productive for this sport?
   Is it time for NASCAR to get back to basics and limit owners to no more than two teams, to clean up this 'satellite' system of farm teams, to get more owners into the sport? With only five big owners running this sport, there is heavy incentive to keep it a closed shop, unattractive to newcomers. And that's not good for this sport, which needs more owners and more engine builders.


   Why not the Daytona Twin 150s under the lights, prime time TV? But is Daytona really pulling the plug on the 150s? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   One wag, when looking at the empty grandstands on too many Fridays, says the problem is easy to see: "No one's home."
   Now that might be a bit harsh, and even hard-core NASCAR officials have glazed eyes at this point in the nearly endless season.
   But there is the distinct sense that there's a dearth of common sense in several areas... a sense of no more fire in the bellies... a lackluster, even disinterested leadership class... a sense of too many people in this sport just going through the motions, trying to get to the end of the year.
   Sometimes -- take the 2013 car marketing fiasco -- it's like no one is really in charge, or no one is paying attention. Sheet metal, sheet metal?
   Maybe it is time for Jim France to hop on his motorcycle and head this way to straighten some things out....


   California fans robbed by rain. NASCAR needs a new rain policy (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   -- Why is it there a sense of 'us versus them' in NASCAR marketing versus NASCAR competition?
   Marketing may complain that it's hard to market this product without better competition out on the track....and yet Competition too frequently seems to be oblivious to big issues?
   Like, uh, too many gas mileage races, and increasing costs, and continued hemorrhaging of sponsorships.
   For example, the cost of racing is about to go up yet again with the introduction of some new $500,000 piece of laser inspection machinery, that teams are probably going to have to buy.
   That piece of machinery will improve competition and put more butts in the stands and eyes on the tube just how?
   And with the new chassis rules and body rules for the 2013s, how many of these hundreds of 2012 cars are within six weeks of total obsolescence?
   Where is the Director of Commonsense here?
   Where is the man, or woman, with a good big-picture sense of this sport?
   Where is the next Jim Hunter?
   Too many good sponsors have been leaving the sport....and it may be because this sport doesn't appear to provide them a good return on investment -- why?

   Time to fix the Brickyard 400. Single-file racing just doesn't get it. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   So let's look at a few quick and easy fixes that could help:

   -- Los Angeles.
   One of the most populous and diverse metropolitan areas in the world, it has been a NASCAR tour staple since 1958. It once boasted three big tour events, in late January, mid-June, and early November. RJ Reynolds marketers realized how important that market is.
   However since spiffy new California Auto Club Speedway opened in 1997, at the junction of two of this country's most important Interstates, the racing has been deathly boring. Year after year after year.
   That's 15 years now, and NASCAR and its sister International Speedway Corp (ISC) have steadfastly, inexplicably, refused to change up that dynamic.
   And there is an easy fix: raise the banking to 18 or 20 degrees or more.
   It's current 14-degree corner banking was a major design flaw, and at the 210 mph speeds racing is single-file and long strung out.
   To make the point of NASCAR/ISC lethargy here even sharper, Homestead-Miami Speedway, which opened in late 1995, has been reconfigured twice. To make that point even sharper, Kansas Speedway, which opened in 2001, has just been reconfigured too. Talladega, Daytona, Darlington, Michigan, Pocono, Bristol, Phoenix, all have had major redesigns/repaves in the 15 years since California Speedway opened.
   Why NASCAR/ISC have refused to give Southern California fans a better racing product simply defies logic.
   The solution -- fix the track, more banking, new asphalt.
   Just do it.


  Jimmie Johnson: here's one NASCAR demographic (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)
   -- Indianapolis.
   Despite its storied history and allure, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, since NASCAR first raced there in 1994, has featured more boring racing. Single-file, strung out. At the sizzling speeds into the flat corners, drivers have fought aerodynamic issues the nearly 20 years now.
   Moving the Saturday Nationwide event from the IRP short-track nearby to IMS this summer was misguided and a disaster. The race was boring; the crowd was negligible. It only accentuated the problem at that track.
   Perhaps the solution here is to look to the past, to Ontario Motor Speedway, a virtual copy of IMS, which hosted NASCAR races from 1970 to 1980 (when it was sold for $3 million, for a shopping mall). Ontario races were something like this:  http://bit.ly/WgTZNB  When was the last time you saw stock car guys going three-wide into the first turn at Indy?  They could go three-wide at Ontario because the cars were 30 mph slower, and boxier too.
   The solution: fix the cars, slow them down.
   It's one of this sport's most important events. So just do it.


  Brad Keselowski: the future of NASCAR? Hope he doesn't get too polished (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   -- Qualifying.
   The most boring part of the race weekend, better of two laps, no sex appeal at all, and typically no crowd to speak of, even for the Daytona 500.
   Fix it.
   Why not qualifying races, like the Daytona Twins?
   Well, now word is Daytona is dropping those two Thursday 150s. Lack of sponsorship...and then Thursday afternoon isn't quite prime time TV.
   But those two 45-minute shows typically feature some great action, in a tight time frame. Why NASCAR/Daytona isn't running them Thursday night under the lights, as has been suggested for years, would seem to point to a major missed opportunity for increased visibility for the sport.
   And maybe Talladega should be running one of its 500s under the lights too, to liven things up.
   Sometimes thinking in this sport seems too lethargic.


   Grassroots, and diversity: Darrell Wallace Jr. But maybe a national powerhouse sponsor might pump up NASCAR's weekly racing series (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   -- Half-way racing.
   It's time to reconsider this 'get to half-way and we all go home.'
   The California 500 back in the spring was a definitive case. Fans effective got robbed by rain.
   Can't fix the weather, but the sport can make it up to the fans by give them half-price tickets to the next 500 if rain forces an early end. That's only fair, particularly in some of this sport's key, tough markets like LA.
   It's not 1975 any more. Fans spend a heck of a lot of money, on more than just tickets, to attend these races.

   -- Grassroots racing.
   One of the great marketing moves during the RJ Reynolds era was the weekly short track program. It tied in perfectly with Sunday's big shows.
   Again, it is one of the great mysteries in this sport why NASCAR and Sprint have not used that classic marketing idea.
   Yes, NASCAR's K&N Series is a good one, and a lot of hard work is going into it. But the heart of the weekly racing series marketing concept is nationally recognized marketing with a nationally recognized sponsor.
    The solution: NASCAR and Sprint launch a weekly racing series marketing program. Cheap and easy.
    Just do it.

  Maybe it's time for Bruton Smith to weigh in on how well NASCAR promoters are doing these days. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    But if officials aren't even moving in those obvious directions, why expect them to fine tune other problem areas:

   -- Pit road.
   Drivers are becoming increasingly careless when pitting, putting crewmen in danger.
   NASCAR has steadfastly refused to penalize a driver for hitting a crewman on pit road. It has numerous pit road safety rules, speed limits, and enforces drive-through penalties for violations.
   But remember the reason for all those pit road safety rules -- Mike Rich. Killed on pit road at Atlanta in 1990.
   Why not the logical safety rule of a penalty for hitting a crewman on pit road too?
   NASCAR's response: that might prompt crewmen to jump out in front of a rival's car, to get hit and thus draw a penalty.
   The solution: a pass-through penalty for hitting a crewman.
    Another solution: keep pit road open the entire race, so any driver can pit at any time. 'Closing' pit road, with that traffic light, was done originally because NASCAR could lose track of scoring. That is no longer a legitimate rationale. Open pit road.


  Pit road is tough and tight on the best of days....and some days are tougher than others for over-the-wall guys (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   -- Scoring.
   Just where was the finish line for last weekend's Talladega 500? Why are officials the only ones privy to that?
   Now with embedded scoring loops, NASCAR scoring these days is usually without question. However last weekend's 500 ended in scoring chaos, with that 25-car crash, and no clearly delineated finish line scoring loop.
   It took NASCAR officials an hour to sort things out, and the results are still pretty much 'just trust us.'
    That chaos and those questions are not fair to the fans.
    The solution: paint the scoring loops, so fans can see just what is going on.


  Would you want to have to score this finish? Where is the finish line anyway? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Those are some easy problems to solve.

   Here's a much tougher one:

   -- Demographics.
   It's not even clear what the demographic shape of this sport is today, much less what it should look like, or where the marketing attacks should be made.
   Focus groups? Focus-hocus-pocus....
   Fathers bringing kids to the track is a pretty simple way to handle demographics. How well is NASCAR doing at that? How successful are promoters?
   Does NASCAR's current crop of promoters need to get cracking?
   How about something like Free Fridays? Qualifying on Friday afternoons, Truck racing Friday night...and make it all free.


   Wonder if Mad Money Jim Cramer has a buy, sell or hold on NASCAR racing? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Now maybe America doesn't have the car-culture it once had.
   Can Detroit and these 2013s maybe help revive that?
   Or is that wishful thinking....
   Does NASCAR racing face a 'cultural gap' because it is so car-centric?

   Hispanics? How is that program going? Is NASCAR's diversity operation all but dead in the water because sponsorship monies have been so hard to come by for too many years now, the U.S. economy being what it is?
   This sport's new 'integrated marketing' operation, with an army of specialists and technocrats, may see the big demographic battle in a different light.  
    How does the current crop of 18-24s really view this sport?
    How do the 29-45s see all this?
   Is NASCAR in danger of losing a key generation of fans?
   Maybe if competition were better we wouldn't have all these questions.


   They just don't make 'em like Harry Gant any more (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    Is it another example of marketing miscues or misdirection that NASCAR is pushing 'Breast Cancer Awareness' month with 30-year sexpot Danica Patrick? What is the demographic for that campaign anyway?
   Remember when  every owner and sponsor wanted 'the next Jeff Gordon?' Well, the garage appears filled with Jeff Gordons now.
   So where's the next Harry Gant, the next Dale Earnhardt, the next racer that the common man can relate to?
   Can that be Brad Keselowski? Or will he too become too polished?

   Perhaps there is an even more basic problem here: Maybe this sport needs a working class hero.
   A blue-collar guy, like Harry, Dale Sr., Neil Bonnett, Cale Yarborough...
   And let's make this point: working class heroes don't have townhouses in Manhattan, working class heroes don't fly to the tracks in helicopters.
   Think optics.
   Think Neil and Dale bush-hogging the Back 40.
   Think Harry roofing houses on Monday's after the race.
   Jimmie Johnson could have been such a working class hero; he grew up in a rough-and-tumble area near San Diego, his mom was a school bus driver, his dad is trucker. And sponsor Lowe's, a North Wilkesboro company originally, remember, could have been perfect for some of that 'Harry Gant' marketing.
    Missed opportunity.
    The sport opted for sophistication instead. Not necessarily a bad idea, now, but the sport needs to figure out a way to better relate to its blue-collar core.
    The solution: change up some of this marketing, find some Old School racers, stop trying to polish everything up to such a sheen.

    But then sometimes it's not even clear if anyone really cares.  


  "And then I decided to go low and block Michael, and the next thing I knew...." (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)



Right on track

This article is right on target. This sport is dying due to over saturation. Get back to short tracks!

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Mike. I think you really got it this time! I believe you have shown us how smart your really are. Now if someone will just......

Don't Laugh, Lights WILL Happen at Indy and Dega

I hate to spoil the party for a lot of folks, but, Lights will happen at Indy and Dega because NASCAR of the Mid2010s and the Terrible Teens would have to say Lights need to happen at Oval Tracks for insurance reasons. There aren't a lot of folks my age, mid to late 20s talking NASCAR, and I feel the High School and College Kids aren't doing NASCAR because of School and Sports. I feel NASCAR needs to change that at least for the folks who have families of their own and I feel sad that why can't they change qualifying further to do Qualifying Races Weekly?

Hey Mike, easy fix, one car teams, race what ya

Hey Mike, easy fix, one car teams, race what ya brung, figure out how to keep cars outa the stands, free hot dogs, reduce admission price$, last but not least NASCAR needs to shrink rule book and get off every ones backside.

Racing demographics gas, plate, chase

First the demographic lost is the blue collar build it yourself demographic ie the car guys who like the engineering and building of the cars. When is the last time a shot of an engine been shown on TV. The engines now are race only and don\'t even trickle down to any other series.... Saturday night Bowman Gray for instance..

Second the demographic 18 to 24 and even the 24 to 45 hardly know how to raise the hood on the cars they own and drive. The cars are exceptionally reliable. No tuneups at 10000 miles with money saved if you learn to do it yourself. Therefore racing is NOT relevant for this group and this demographic will never be back except for the few remaining real car guys. And the few car guys are losing interest in Nascar.. Take a look at the age of the guys driving new Camaros, Mustangs, etc. Go to a cruise in and see the age of the guys there and building cars.

Third Gas mileage races. Have required gas stops. Qualify 43 cars. Run the race one tank or x number of laps then have a required pit stop for 10 minutes. Allow teams to work on cars during this time. Start the next segment with 43 cars and run till the next gas stop again 5 minutes to work on the car BUT only the top 20 start the next segment. Next stop 5 minutes tweak what you can and go back. Do this for however many fuel stops are determined for a given race. This format would take gas mileage out of the mix and force drivers to race. No more dangerous pit stops.

Fourth Get rid of plate racing. come up with some method to slow the cars. Cut the banking, smaller engines. No race only engines, Use stock factory engines blueprinted like in the past.

Fifth Get rid of the chase gimmick. Fix the points so winning means something and use the average highest finish for the season winner. That is who the real season champion is anyway.

Of course Nascar is really just trying to figure out how to keep the golden eagle dropping golden eggs so track owners, car owners, drivers, crew chiefs have a helicopter, motor home, million dollar houses etc. Blue collar guys can’t relate to this wealth so they are tuning out. They can relate to Pawn Stars, Restoration shows and the like.

Harry Gant and the rest are gone. Bill Elliot will never make up laps on the field at Talledaga under green again. Now we have chrome and billet drivers that speak the government line, toe the line, and are polished for TV and their sponsors and even drive the government cars.

Can Nascar racing ever return to its previous level and may not even survive.

Amazing read! Nascar needs to definitely have 1

Amazing read! Nascar needs to definitely have 1 Talladega race on a saturday night!
Nascar also needs to stop letting the sponsors make the calls. IE who drives that car, etc.
Nascar also needs to stop letting sponsors telling them what sponsors can come in and sponsor the drivers/teams.
Also, Nascar does need to change their qualifying deal.
For example, most tracks charge full price for a child to watch quals. At Texas I know its $25 per person to watch quals. Even for a child to watch qualifying its $25. Qualifying should be included with ticket price.
Nascar also needs to get rid of the top 35 rule. AND get rid of the start and parks.
If I can think of anything else, I\'ll post more :)

This may be the best article I have read in a

This may be the best article I have read in a long time! I totally agree - get the competetion better and MOST will fall into place. The challenge thereafter is just how much these Cup guys are paid...they have become too elite compared to the roots of the sport. If they didn't make AS much, there would be more budget to fix banged up cars...you know from those better,competitive races;)

Your comments are excellent. I always liked a

Your comments are excellent. I always liked a "race", not a single file parade. I loved Bristol and Talladega in the past, but do not attend anymore because, frankly, the racing is boring. If that can happen at the two most exciting tracks, then the sport will die. I hope it doesn't, but I often just check out the race at various intervals just to see what isn't happening. NASCAR needs to remember actual racing is what fans want to see.

I don't like changing California. I'm more for

I don't like changing California. I'm more for getting rid of it completely.

Roger Penske built that track for open wheel cars and they put on a spectacular show there. The IndyCar finale was a great event. The IndyCar series in general puts on FAR better shows than NASCAR these days. It's unfair to change a track for an event noone cares about anyway when it was built for another type of car that puts on amazing shows.

NASCAR lost it's steam when dumb and dumber(Brian France and Mike Helton) were put in charge. You can see everything just spiral downward the minute these 2 got their hands on the keys.


This is hands-down the BEST article I have read regarding the state of NASCAR. Are y\'all available to take Brian France\'s place? NASCAR needs you!!

I hate the stupid chase. I refuse to even honor it with capitalization. In my opinion, it has created many of the problems with the racing. It\'s become all about the \"good points finish.\" Can y\'all imagine The King or Yarborough or Sr. being satisfied with \"a good points day?\" I can\'t. Fuel mileage is important as PART of a team\'s strategy but should not be the WHOLE strategy. Running at half or quarter throttle to save fuel is NOT racing. Taking a Sunday drive in the back of the field at \'Dega is NOT racing. Not going door-to-door at Bristol in fear of losing a couple spots is NOT racing.

Y\'all also hit the nail on the head regarding missing the boat on missed opportunities & demographics. What NASCAR \"demographic\" wants to see Snooki as an honorary anything? The use of \"celebrities\" only concerned with promoting THEIR latest project is ridiculous. If the person also has a real interest in NASCAR, or any racing or hell any sports at all I could understand it. And in speaking of missed opportunity together with the right demographic, one needs to look no further than Clint Bowyer. If he wasn\'t doing so well right now would anyone other than hard-core NASCAR fans know who he is? Here we have a hard-partying, straight-shooting, hard-nosed guy that has to appeal to any core fan. But until very recently, nobody ever bothered to interview him.

It\'s so easy these days to point the finger at the economy. But the economy has always had ups & downs & never has NASCAR dropped attendance like it has the last few years. I believe it is more Brian France\'s \"take fans from the NFL\" way of running NASCAR than anything else. How many times has he said things that are pretty insulting to the core fans in an attempt to kowtow to new ones? The first time I heard him say something about \"pulling NFL fans into NASCAR\" I said it would never work. For argument\'s sake, let\'s say he was able to get 20,000 \"new\" fans. Once the novely wore off, he might have kept 5,000. And in the process, he pissed off 50,000 core fans. Even if he was able to somehow get half of them back, he\'s still got a net loss of 20,000. And in my honest opinion, I\'m giving him way too much benefit with those numbers.

Fans\' financial issues have been discussed. I\'ll use my own group\'s personal experience. We used to go to both Dover races, both Pocono races & at least two other races per year. Financial issues (not only personal but the ridiculous increase in lodging, etc) reduced the number from 6 to 4. In the last couple of years, the boring racing reduced it to 2 & next year we\'re contemplating going to 1 race & adding a couple of baseball-related trips. So we\'re still taking sports-related trips, just not to races. And we\'re a group who have been fans for going on 3 decades! When the economy takes a bad turn, some people stop spending altogether but many more are just concerned with how their money is spent. Sponsors, as y\'all stated, are no different. It\'s all about the return on investment. I would rather spend $200 & have a great time than $100 & be bored out of my mind.

Thanks for having the balls to express in writing what so many fans have been saying for years. I just hope NASCAR doesn\'t hit y\'all with a $50K fine &/or 2-race suspension!! :)

Great article, Mike. You asked the questions

Great article, Mike. You asked the questions that need to be asked...and came up with some great solutions. The fact that the Nascar 'brain trust' refuses to adress the real problems. Lackluster racing at Kansas? build a casino. Teams running out of sponsors and money? Let's change the rules every two years and make them more reliant on expensive equipment. There is a definite disconnect between Nascar and the fans it hopes to attract/keep. If something doesn't change soon, things aren't looking good for the future.

nascar has a problem?

In case you haven't noticed. Have you checked the NFL, or MLB those sports have a lot of empty seats as well. Its more economics than product. You sound like half of these so called "fans" who aren't watching anymore, just because Jr isnt racing. This is just another Blow hard editorial piece. Just complain About the racing, and yet you dont give one suggestion on how to fix it? Its easy to snipe from the cheap seats. Isn't it?
The question I have is, if you don't like what you see? Why watch it? Why make your living on covering a sport, that no longer interests you?

Laundy List Of Legitimate Subjects

The sport definitely is struggling - it no longer is what it thought it was. And the reasons are many, but it would seem to boil down right now to this - the championship chase has turned off fans and there is no evidence it has brought in any new fans because the way it is structured now, fans see it to be a fraudulent concept via artificially locking out 3/4ths of the field from ANY top-ten points finish and then focusing all the racing (other than Talladega) onto the Chase 12 instead of on the racing itself.

NASCAR needs to admit what it still seems in denial about - the Chase (i.e. playoff) concept doesn\'t work for racing because racing is not conducive to Brian France\'s fantasy about \"Game 7 Moments.\" The points battle needs to revolve around PERFORMANCE - winning races and most laps led. The Chase needs to be dropped altogether; go back to the 36-race points structure; the Latford Point System needs to be brought back and beefed up with huge point bonuses - 125 bonus points for the win, ten for leading, 100 for most laps led; if we get circumstances of 15-25th-place finishers outpointing almost everyone finishing ahead because that driver led the most laps before falling out, so be it - fight harder to not let any one driver lead that many laps.

Racing gravitated to the basic Latford System because drivers raced to win and that structure made for dramatic points battles - and dramatic points battles don\'t necessarily need close season-ending finishes - 1976 was one of the sport\'s best point battles in the point lead changing hands numerous times (David Pearson, then Richard Petty, then Benny Parsons, then Cale Yarborough, then Parsons, then Cale, and it wasn\'t until November\'s Dixie 500 at Atlanta that Cale salted away the title).


But the sport\'s competitive issues go beyond the points system. For all the hysteria over the Talladega melee, that race produced the best racing for Cup all year - and it was with the wrong rules package because of NASCAR\'s absurd hatred of tandem drafting. The Nationwide Series had three plate races in 2012 with the \"old\" package (big spoiler and generally more cooling power for the radiators) and the lead changed 117 times with spectacular upsets in both Daytona N\'wide races. And largely unnoticed was that the N\'wide series saw rampant tandem drafting but it also saw solo cars able to counter the tandems to a legitimate extent - solo passing also happened in those races. NASCAR needs to go back to the pre-2012 spoiler and radiator package; drivers have been figuring out how to sidedraft tandems to break them up or at least stall them out, so the racing won\'t be all tandems all the time - and the cars should never be so unstable or overheat so easily that the drivers are being \"too conservative\" (Jeff Gordon\'s May quote). The mixture of tandems and conventional drafting was developing before the 2012 changes.


And the bottom line there is the racing at Talladega was superior to everywhere else. This past National 500 at Charlotte saw some surprisingly good nose to nose racing for the lead, but yet again it could not be sustained between the cars being too fast and having too little grip, the cars still not reacting well to dirty air (remember, as late as the mid-1990s the draft actually kicked in at Charlotte), and the drivers points-racing above everything else.

That the cars are too fast away from the plate tracks (and even on them) was illustrated by the Dale Junior concussion story; Kansas\'s tire test showed that a track where the cars are already too fast for the original layout now sees the cars even faster - and the severity of crashes greater. It makes nonsense of the hysteria over Talladega \"big ones\", but even there the cars are hitting 200-plus in the draft. Slowing them down by four or more seconds a lap on the non-plate tracks should be a goal for NASCAR, and they certainly can mandate a smaller plate for the plate tracks and get the draft speeds under 194.


The issue of scoring illustrates one of the underrated problems NASCAR has for its credibility - the running and finishing orders are supposed to be determined at the start/finish line, NOT by a scoring loop. Direct NASCAR meddling in the racing - using scoring loops instead of the S/F line; closing pit road and throwing everyone onto the pits at once instead of letting them cycle in and out of their own volition (and the related issue of speed limits on pit road); and dictating what part of the asphalt the racers can race on (they\'ve never been able to cite one example of a crash that was caused by racing below the yellow line) - insults the credibility of the sanctioning body because such meddling is only there for its own sake, not for any legitimate safety or competition issue. Get rid of such meddling.


NASCAR needs working-class competitors, no doubt. It also needs working class team owners. The spending issues in the sport need to be addressed, and addressed with greater determination than is being shown by the sanctioning body. It also applies to the other series under NASCAR sanction - from what I understand only Cup gets any money from the TV deals; N\'wide, Trucks, lower-level stock car series, and the Modifieds get next to or outright nothing in the way of media rights fees. Having seen a sellout crowd at Thompson, CT for the Modified Tour\'s season finale today (October 14), I can vouch for a fanbase that loves racing.

The demographics NASCAR has been trying to reach realistically are not that interested in it. NASCAR needs to work to get back those demos it already has; make those demographics want to care more about racing again.

Promoters should certainly work more; I am encouraged by the social media efforts of Pocono, Talladega, Michigan, and Charlotte, to name four. And in their promotion, NASCAR needs to change the approach - stop promoting The Brand and promote RACING.

So Much Info, Where do I Start

- Qualifying: Agree wholeheartedly there. The 1940\'s style of qualifying needs to be done away with. Fans want to see racing, and not cars making laps by themselves. Make the drivers race their way into the field; all of them. Have the qualifying races on Friday, or have them on Sunday. They can run the qualifying races, run a lesser series, and then run the main event. 6 hours of TV filled. Race fans will love it.
- Racing: Not sure what to do to make the racing more entertaining other than simply changing the format. Slower cars, yes. Less aerodynamic cars, yes. But as a fan, how do you make these guys race instead of ride for \"a good points day\"? They make too much money, and most aren\'t going to risk derailing the gravy train trying to win when they can finish Top 10 and have \"a good points day\". The only way to change this is to open up the competition. They have to get more teams in the mix, and more drivers in competitive cars. How to do that, begin by reducing costs, then make them race their way into the show.
- Costs: The cost to race is unbelievably expensive, and the cost to be competitive is astronomical nowadays. Now enter the COT II, and NASCAR is going to escalate these costs again. Why? They say \"to make the competition better\", but if you have to buy all of your parts from NASCAR, guess who\'s getting the money? It\'s another racket, but NASCAR must think we\'re too dumb to see what\'s going on. But, that leads me to the real costs, the price to attend these races. Who\'s lining up to pay to see races now with tickets \"starting\" at $60 for the antifreeze seats? Not me, and judging by the empty seats at many tracks lately I\'m not the only one. It\'s on TV, along with college football, the NFL, and MLB postseason. Gone are the days when the race was one of a few entertainment options, in person or on TV. NASCAR needs to wake up and see that fans aren\'t going to pay ridiculous ticket prices when they can watch from the comfort of their couch for free, and not have to deal with the crowds, the overpriced concessions, and the inability to see the whole track and the replays of the action. If the TV money and the production of the race on TV is so good that they\'re not worried about butts in seats at the track, so be it. But they better realize that if the racing keeps declining that those ratings are going to hit bottom and the cash cow will be slain.

MikeFinally an honest article on how NASCAR has

Finally an honest article on how NASCAR has lost its way. I have some thoughts based on your article.
Tracks- Charlotte used to be the only 1.5 mile tri-oval used now there are 4 more (don’t count Atlanta)I don’t see how progressive banking has increased competition so change banking on opposite ends of track or even the curve angles themselves(Think Darlington) You might end up with 14 degrees on turns One and two and 24 on three and four or increase from 14 in one until you hit 24 on the exit of two. Track owners who won’t do that just tear down the 1.5 track and build and ½ to ¾ track.
Cars: So the COT was supposed to eliminate all aero problems? I actually think they had some success as the cars were harder to handle. COT 2 went backwards. Who knows on the 2013 but NASCARS track record stinks. Who actually designs these cars?
Solution- open up the rule book. Kit cars are not the answers. Maybe some F-1 inspired rear wings that open on the straight for passing. Let the crew chiefs get creative again. It was always part of the sport. Reduce car weight (safety bonus) and cut engine size by half. Who drives a car with a 358 V-8. Cost is the same as today because teams already spend millions looking for that extra 2hp on a restrictor engine.
TV/Media: Get rid of the banjo music and the Waltrips. SPEED channel going away may actually be a good thing. Most NASCAR programming is repetitive and juvenile. Digger, Really?! Put the professional race broadcasters back in charge. The sport gained popularity from people listening to Bob Jenkins, Larry Nuber and Ned Jarrett. Professionals. The Waltrip/FOX comedy team have been unbearable for a long time. David Hill was never as good as people said as no one ever concentrated on building a story line for the race as it happens. Everything is canned. Think Danica, sponsorship story lines. If MRN can do it so can TV.
Driver personalities. There aren’t any. Theresa beat down Dale Jr. and Hendrick put him on Prozac. Kyle has been villainized to the point NASCAR will have him arrested some day. Clint Boyer offers hope and the old Tony pops his head up occasionally. JJ is ok but could be so much better. BK may be the everyday man people can relate to. He is hungry and has forced his way into the big time. ( Think Talladega/Edwards) The rest are phony.
Solution: Dale Sr and Bill Elliot were horrible when they came into the sport. One word or unintelligible answers to questions. They learned how to be comfortable with the media without being losing their personality and became spokesmen for the sport. Today’s drivers can do the same. Learn how to speak well, just make sure it is still you speaking.
Leadership: Oh my, where to start. The root of the problem. Brian France never wanted the job his father forced him to take. He wanted to stay in California and play marketing genius. His personnel life is a reflection of his professional life. Not good.
Solution: Give Brian a ceremonial position and send him back to California. Jim France, Lisah France I don’t know. Maybe the gene pool is too diluted after 3 generations. Maybe there is someone from another stock car series with the knowledge and stones to turn this around. Bottom line is Bill made a mistake and it needs to be fixed.
Good news: Went to the race in Charlotte Saturday night and still got goose bumps at the start of the race.
Bad news: after 24 years I will probably not go back. I still enjoy racing but not sure what I am watching is racing anymore.
Random Thoughts.
Car Models used to change yearly, NASCAR just needs to deal with it. It was always part of what the sport was.
Fewer night races. Charlotte October? Figure it out Bruton
Get ahead of the injury curve for once. Full time traveling professionals at each race.
Back out of the FOX Deal today. RUN! Produce your own broadcasts for sale.
Ex drivers on tv must be able to speak English and will have a shock collar installed to limit talk of when they were driving or if they attempt to talk over the professional broadcaster in the booth.
Each driver will be made to park outside the track and walk to and from the race once a year.
If NASCAR can advertise AT&T on broadcasts then owners can have phone sponsors.
Pick a paint scheme and keep it on the car year round
Qualifying . You are in or out period. OK, maybe two provisionals, no champions.
Lower ticket prices. Out of control

Your questions about Nascar

Mike, I have been a fan of yours since you were on the speed tv show. Your a great fan of the sport who tells it like it is. This country is losing the middle class family. They are the backbone of dollars for the entertainment dollar. They can not afford tickets and gasoline. Everything cost more due high gas prices and the lowering of family the income. The Baseball playoffs are having empty seats too.

The people in charge can sell things to the rest of the world, but the entertainment dollar has to come from us, but we can not afford to anymore and it is only getting worse.

I live in El Cajon, CA and I was a 17 year season ticket holder at Phx, but can not afford them anymore. I am 64 and have followed the sport since the 70's when I lived in Ohio. The racing today is the best it has ever been and people can not afford to go and enjoy it in person.

Nascar Future

It seems that everyone wants to look everywhere else for an answer to attendence and viewership issues. The reason we love Talledega,Daytona, Bristol, Richmond is because we get to see 400/500 miles/laps of cars RACING. NASCAR has the same problem as the NBA with 3 quarters of high paid athletes jogging around & 1 quarter of great basketball. It's star only want to perform for part of the race.


Mike - No disrespect intended (and actually a thank you for addressing a lot of these items), but with Fontana the best option would be to build something new. The existing track is a great multi-use venue, good for Indy Cars, sports cars, motorcycles. It is not good for stock car racing. Raising the banking to 18 degrees would make it Michigan. Raising the banking to 20 degrees would make it Vegas on steroids. Neither is needed. What is needed are more short tracks. Why not give those of us here in SoCal a new short track? And no, Irwindale doesn't count (although a Camping World Truck race there would be SO SWEET!)

And as for Indy, take the Nationwide race away from this track IMMEDIATELY and move it back to IRP with a companion Truck series race, on a different weekend then the annual Brickyard parade. The Rolex / Grand Am series as the companion race should remain. But put the Trucks & Nationwide cars BACK ON THE SHORT TRACK where there is great racing, unlike the venerable Brickyard.


Seems like back in the day, NASCAR to Sponsors was like, "This is NASCAR as is boys! Don't like it, git outta the way and let someone else git some!" Today's NA$CAR is more of a suck-up to money grab for anyone with a dollar, sacrificing the product in a world of political correctness who really don't give a damn! It really has become a Pimp n Hoe game with NA$CAR being the latter.

Nascar Today

Mark me as a car guy. That is what got me interested in all types of motorsports. I will admit my 61 years date me in this regard, but how many people of my age who were diehards have now lost all interest. The cars were always the stars in my mind. I did not care who drove them.
When Nascar started to take the stock out of stock cars my interest started to fade. There was a time when you had to use stock sheet metal and floor pans to get through tech. Now, who knows what they are. I cetainly don\'t associate with the cars like in the past.
The car of tomorrow was the last straw. Their aero matching nonsense has totally driven me away.
They really should take stock car out of the name. To prove my point in closing, just look at the Mustang in the Nationwide series. What a joke its half Mustang in front and from the B pillar back its Nascar generic. What a joke.

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