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Ryan Newman's 400 victory is heart-warming, yes...but the Brickyard trendline keeps weakening

Ryan Newman's 400 victory is heart-warming, yes...but the Brickyard trendline keeps weakening

Ryan Newman shaking hands with teammate/owner/promoter Tony Stewart (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   Tony Stewart has it wrong.
   And he knows it.
   He knows it better than most, because he's a track promoter.
   But he's only defending his favorite track, the legendary Brickyard.
   This 20th anniversary running of the summer 400 was once again a snoozer.
   Yes, Ryan Newman's victory was an emotional one.
   But there was honestly precious little action out on the track.
   Newman's win didn't come in a daring pass. It came because of a two-tire pit stop gamble by crew chief Matt Borland and a 17-second pit stop by dominant Jimmie Johnson put Newman out front down the stretch. And Johnson couldn't run him down.


   NASCAR teams preparing for Sunday's 20th annual Brickyard 400 (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Stewart, who owns Newman's team and who finished fourth himself in his own car, was pressed Sunday evening here about the lack of passing and the general lack of hard-nosed action at Indianapolis Motor Speedway when the stock car guys come to town each summer.
    He responded sharply: "What we're doing here is racing. It's racing, not passing."
   And he went on to grumble about people complaining about the general lack of passing lately in this sport.
   But this is not just 'racing.'
   This is also 'entertainment.'
   NASCAR racing is not just about winning but about 'the show' itself.
    In fact the entertainment value is more important than just the racing.
   And promoter Tony Stewart knows that well.
   One of the cardinal rules of promoting is to make sure no one stinks up the show.
   NASCAR racing should not be just some high-tech engineering game.
   It's time to stop ignoring the problem, time to stop glossing over it, time to stop castigating those who point it out.
   It's time to fix the problem.

   Eldora promoter Tony Stewart, keeping an eagle eye on the pre-race action for Wednesday night's NASCAR Truck tour debut (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Why NASCAR officials seem so powerless -- or unwilling, or too busy with other things -- to make the changes needed to bring the Brickyard 400 back to prominence is not clear. And it is sad.
   NASCAR executives need to put a full-court press on at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
   This event should be a keystone of this sport, an anchor.
   Right now this race looks to be more an albatross.
   Newman's win may give him and his team momentum, but this sport itself needs to regain momentum here.
   The buzz all week leading up to the 400 was about 'Where's the buzz?'

   Let's look at some numbers. Crowd figures (estimates) for this 400 over the years:
   1994 -- 350,000
    1999 -- 250,000
   2003 -- 300,000
   2004 -- 250,000
   2005 -- 280,000
    2006 --280,000
   2007 -- 270,000
   2008 -- 240,000
   2009 -- 180,000
   2010 -- 140,000
   2011 -- 138,000
   2012 -- 125,000
   2013 -- ?

   The technical issues here appear pretty simple: these stock cars are too fast for the downforce they have.
   Indy-cars, which had a stunning 68 passes for the lead in the May 500, have tons more downforce.
   For NASCAR stockers, this is a one-groove track. It's been that way for nearly all these 20 years.
   Maybe Chad Knaus' idea of having Goodyear bring two sets of tires might work: one set good for long runs, one set better for short runs. Let crews decide which set to pick.
   That would change up the dynamics of the race.
   Maybe NASCAR should start testing other aerodynamic options for this track. NASCAR already has special rules used only at Daytona and Talladega. Maybe NASCAR needs some special rules designed specifically for Indy.
    Doing the same thing year after year and expecting different results is the definition of....

   But let's consider one other relevant point.
   Ontario Motor Speedway.
   Now the site of a shopping center, just down the street from California Auto Club Speedway, the Ontario track was built as a nearly perfect copy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
   Ontario -- with its flat 9-degree corners, just like Indy -- was a NASCAR tour staple for some 10 years.
   And some of the NASCAR races at Ontario were filled with drivers passing and passing each other back, each lap even.

   Yes, NASCAR's race cars have changed over the years....and apparently not all for the better.
   What did those crew chiefs know that today's crew chiefs don't?
   Or maybe the current roster of drivers just isn't filled with men as talented as Petty, Pearson, Yarborough, Allison and Baker....
   These 2013s, as neat and spiffy as they are, have simply exacerbated the problems at this track.
   What is the correct speed-versus-downforce balance for these flat corners? This sport certainly has enough engineers to figure that out.
    It's about time someone did.
    It's about time someone did something here.


  NASCAR's Brickyard 400 fans deserve better action than they've seen lately. Is anyone working on a solution? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


Aero vs weight

Hey Mike, don't you think the debate should be about the weight of the cars vs. aero? To me the heavier the cars the more energy is stored in the chassis of the cars, making the sport much more dangerous than they should be. I would like to see 1,000 lbs. removed, horsepower reduced and more downforce on the cars. That would make any type of accident critical to performance. The cars would be more drivable with less HP, and so much less potential to cause injury to drivers and fans.

Lighter Isn't Necessarily Better

Bill Gray, I've heard the argument about weight before, and people seem to forget the cars have lost about 500 pounds since the latter 1980s and weight used to be the car itself, without the driver. In the competitive heyday of the sport - 1970s to the end of 1984 - the cars were in the 3,800 pound range.

They need less horsepower, no question, but if anything NASCAR should be adding back weight rather than taking it out.

Maybe it's the speed diff...

In 1976, David Pearson sat on the pole @Ontario with a speed of 153.964 mph. Ryan Newman's pole speed @Indy was 187.531 mph. That's over 23 mph! With the cars carrying so much speed down the straightways, maybe they don't have time to pass and set up for their marks in the turns. You can't really go side by side in the turns at Indy without taking the chance of getting caught up in the marbles and hitting the wall.

Also, Ontario was the last race of the year back in the day. So everybody was probably going for broke for track position to win the race, position, and the Cup Championship.

Good stuff to start...we see many more problems.

Good stuff to start...we see many more problems.

Current Nascar

I believe what has happened in NASCAR is definitely related to money. Just look who wins most of the time - Hendrick, Gibbs, Roush, Penske - Those that invested millions to do one thing, win on Sunday!

The other cars on the track to me are also-ran cars. Those that wish they had a budget like Rick Hendrick. Hey, he's done nothing wrong in my eyes other than win. When he wins he makes the other teams look like they can't keep up. Why? MONEY.

I remember when Richard Petty won, I truly believe it was his talent and his crew's ability to be innovative. Today if you're innovative, you're fined.

To me the sport has become boring. Especially if the same few teams always win.

I remember when Morgan Shepard won a race several years ago in a Buick. He out drove most of them and was there at the finish. When he got out of the car he was crying.
A no name winning-beating a Goliath..that's the best racing in the world

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The big issue with NASCAR in general over the

The big issue with NASCAR in general over the last 15 years is really pretty simple. It's the lack of competition, the lack of single owner and driver based teams racing each other week in and week out. The sport has lost its rivalries, it has lost pretty much everything that made the sport great to begin with. 3 teams run the show. One for Toyota, one for Chevy and one for ford.
4 car teams have ruined this sport, along with everyone buying engines from the mega teams. How can anyone possibility be able to beat a flag ship team from any of the big 3 with motors and cars built by the big three.
Everyone knows it that is a fan of the sport that it's all motor and aero. It sounds bad but it's the truth.
20 years ago I would turn on a race and not know who was going to win and for what team. Every now and then somebody get a suprise win in here and there; but it's too few to keep people interested unless youre a Hendrick fan or Gibbs fan.
The talent level of racing was so good, there were so many car owners, and more teams built their own cars and motors. It's still fun to watch, but it has lost its soul.
All anyone has to do is take a real good look at the 1992 NASCAR season and there is the answer to how NASCAR should be.
Which I turn would lead NASCAR back in the right direction: One race car per team. You must build your own motors, and let the mechanics and drivers run this show like it used to be.

All good comments here but I'd like to add a

All good comments here but I'd like to add a different perspective. In order to make racing exciting again we might consider evening the playing field somehow and possibly cut and cap costs. The three Mega-teams have a huge advantage with a near lock on all the best sponsors with the deep pockets and staffed with armies of engineers they simply out-spend everyone (OK with NASCAR apparently) by showing up in the garage every week with lots more new and expensive exotic parts everyone else now has to figure out how to buy if they hope to keep up. Do we really need $250,000 "stock" cars with carbon fiber and titanium parts and expensive to lease 10,000 RPM, 850hp engines? What say you James Finch?

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