Wednesday, March 08, 2017

NASCAR's Ministry Of Silly Ideas

In its history NASCAR has never lacked silly ideas and in a 2017 season where it is trying to rebuild eroded popularity - and got off to a good start at such with a boffo Daytona Speedweeks - silly ideas are coming again to NASCAR's fore.

The first is word that Speedway Motorsports Inc. will transfer one of its races - widely reported to be the New Hampshire 300 in Loudon, NH - to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for a "Chase" period race.   The notion that NASCAR cannot add a 37th race to its Cup schedule if of course always trotted out even though it's not plausible, and the notion that any of SMI's dates is somehow worth switching to Vegas is more preposterous, considering that New Hampshire is a proven racing market and Vegas has yet to prove itself even a worthwhile sports market.   

The shame of it is Vegas is a good speedway and racetracks are supposed to be working together - speedway fratricide has never solved anything.  

The next silly idea is that Charlotte will run its October National 500 in 2018 on the track's infield road course.   I hear over and over "90 percent of fans want another road course in NASCAR," yet nowhere does anyone try to explain why.   The reason is fans are so frustrated over lack of passing on ovals that they think they're getting back at NASCAR by lobbying for road courses.   It's not a constructive reason, it's a self-defeating one.

The blunt reality is road racing is the least competitive form of racing in all of motorsports.   NASCAR has a long history of road races with the Winston Cup Grand National series competing at Riverside, CA, Watkins Glen, NY, and Sears Point, CA.    In 48 career races at Riverside NASCAR's Grand National cars averaged a paltry ten to eleven lead changes a race (506 total) - only five times in Riverside's history did it exceed fifteen lead changes in a race.   In 34 career Watkins Glen races entering 2017 the track has averaged only nine lead changes a race (312 total), while Sears Point in 28 races entering 2017 has averaged a paltry eight lead changes per race (240 total).  

Road races in NASCAR - and other classes - have produced some of racing's most vicious crashes, perhaps the highest violence of crashes with the lowest incidence of passing in motorsports. 

The other argument I hear is "NASCAR needs more diversity in racetracks."  No, it doesn't - it needs more lead changes.   Road courses are incapable of producing competitive racing by their very nature - short to medium straights (Watkins Glen's lengthy straights make it something of an outlier), constant switchbacks and tight corners, general narrowness, lack of room to generate any consistent momentum to pass.    Driving a racecar is not racing a racecar let alone racing other racecars.  

Defenders of road courses will cite exciting finishes at some events, except they are so rare that when they do occur they become more memorable than they really warrant.   Not that the 2011-12 Watkins Glen victories by Marcus Ambrose weren't dramatic, but they were both set up by a mistake by Kyle Busch......

.....the second time a backmarker's blown engine and subsequent a cheapshot by Brad Keselowski set off that finish; it was far less any intrinsic competitive value in road racing and certainly nothing unusual for most ovals.  

The blunt truth is there is no valid competitive reason to add another road race to NASCAR, and fans and media really should analyze the sport a lot better than just repeating some subliterate mantra because they're frustrated over lack of passing on ovals.

NASCAR should tell Charlotte to say no to the road race, be it 2018 or whenever.  

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