And it gets worse for NASCAR. TV ratings for the Chase in 2015 have been dismal and the moving of the Diehard 500 at Talladega to NBC Sports Network instead of airing it on NBC (which aired the USGP for F1) was not a good sign for the Cup Series; adding insult to that injury, the Truck 250 was aired on FOX's over the air network.
But what transpired at Talladega is bound to anger even more people. Not only was the racing once again enormously under-competitive due to NASCAR's ridiculous diktat against push-drafting, the finish was the biggest insult to competitive integrity in years, certainly since the absurd Regan Smith yellow line penalty that cost him a last-lap win in the 2008 Diehard 500. NASCAR dictated only one green-white checker finish for this Diehard 500, apparently thinking having the normal three would produce more crashes; what they got instead was two, the first coming on what NASCAR disingenuously claimed was not an attempt - the green light came on as the cars hit the gas, but a crash occurred in the trioval and NASCAR waved the yellow, claiming it was not an attempt, this even though the radio chatter from drivers indicated it was an attempt.
NASCAR tried again and as Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr took off Logano got the lead but another wreck, involving among others the eminently-forgettable Denny Hamlin after a bad day where he had to get a roof hatch repaired, erupted and NASCAR wasted several minutes trying to determine who was leading at what scoring loop even though it was obvious Logano was the leader and thus, under NASCAR's field-freeze rule, the winner.
The wreck happened because Kevin Harvick - who took out Denny Hamlin at Daytona and thus launched Austin Dillon into spearing the fencing - swerved into Trevor Bayne. But of course Harvick refuses to be accountable for it - and NASCAR as usual will not hold the responsible driver accountable for it.
It combined the worst of everything for NASCAR.
Without push-drafting the cars basically are stuck sidedrafting with the leader basically immune from challenge; for most of the race the top five hogged the bottom line without any challenge, where the racing should have been about rocket-surges from midfield into the lead by lock-bumper two-car superdrafts, the lead thus changing at a spectacular rate, and the field able to keep up and sort out without being stuck in place.
Then there is the chronic problem that NASCAR gives the officiating tower the power it has to determine the outcome instead of the racers, That the restart was declared not a restart by NASCAR was doubletalk; that it was important is also absurd both for the aborted start and for the one that was stopped after the leaders hit Turn One; because NASCAR ostensibly doesn't allow racing to the line, instead freezing the field when the caution comes out - this even after numerous examples (such as the 2004 Firecracker 250, the 2007 Daytona 500, the 2008 Talladega Truck 250, and the 2011 Firecracker 400) where NASCAR left the green out amid a crash and let the field race to the line. The result all these times was that racing to the line is not the safety problem NASCAR seems to pretend it to be.
What transpired was Joey Logano was declared the winner, based not on the start-finish line but by the officiating tower reading a scoring loop. No matter how it is sliced it is not a legitimate win; Logano didn't race to the line to earn the win. Such rule-induced fraudulence has been a depressingly frequent occurrence, most infamously illustrated in the 2004 Winston 500 and 2004 Pocono 500.
The tower wasn't supposed to make the call - it was supposed to be determined by racing to the stripe. That it was officiated like this shows anew NASCAR's credibility problem.
At Talladega such problems are easily fixable - let the cars (and Trucks) push-draft again; it's the strongest power to pass ever seen, and what matters is passing, period; give the racing at Talladega and Daytona back the 60-plus lead change average it had just a few years ago. Reduce the officiating tower's role and give some control of the racing back to the racers - let them race to the stripe and thus legitimately determine the outcome. And stop pretending a restart is not a restart.
NASCAR's credibility issues of course extend far beyond Talladega. The Chase concept has no legitimacy and the disintegration of TV ratings shows it; drop the Chase, go back to the Latford Point System, and increase the points bonuses for the win and for most laps led - incentivize going for the win above everything else. The issue of costs and team spending need to be addressed by NASCAR and the new Race Team Alliance - the low number of winners in 2015 (just eleven with the Talladega outcome) is indicative of a disturbing lack of competitive depth for the sport.
It was a lousy race even for the winner, and it certainly stunk for the rest of the field. Joe Gibbs Racing was dismal even though it led some laps; Stewart-Haas Racing was basically MIA; so were any Fords outside of Penske Racing; Ganassi-Earnhardt had a forgettable day. That racing always produces more widespread disappointment than cheer is true enough; that even the winners couldn't honestly feel good about how it all transpired merely shows how dismal a day it was for a track where it should always be so much better.