Wednesday, March 08, 2017

The Hypocrisy And Thoughtlessness In Racing Analysis

The word that New Hampshire International Speedway has been sacrificed for a second Las Vegas Motor Speedway Winston Cup date and that Charlotte will run the road course for its National 500 in 2018 has brought out not just foolish media analysis but worse, it has exposed the hypocrisy involved in the whole issue of what kind of speedways ought to have Winston Cup dates.

Twenty years ago New Hampshire debuted its second Winston Cup date with some spirited racing

The first issue to dispel - New Hampshire is a far better racing and sports market than Las Vegas - and worth adding in is Kentucky Speedway, also a superior sports market than Vegas, is itself being jerked around with the seizing of its stand-alone Xfinity Series race for Vegas.   The claim made is they can get more money at Vegas than at New Hampshire (or Kentucky) but that's never been true, and the same issue shows itself with Los Angeles, like Vegas a transient market with no substantive support for sports.    There simply is nothing in Las Vegas that warrants getting a second Winston Cup date and nothing has happened at New Hampshire that justifies taking away a date.

Quite a few fans hooted that New Hampshire deserved to lose one of its dates because "it's the most boring track." Certainly competitively it hasn't lived up to the bigger ovals, but the criticism draws out the fraudulence involved in the issue of racetracks and who "deserves" a date.

One of the subliterate mantras from fans is "we need more short tracks."   New Hampshire is a short track - but bigger and wider.   To this some counter with the foolish claim "no, New Hampshire is an intermediate track," except by no stretch can that claim hold water.    The Loudon track has the qualities of a short track but is much wider and is bigger, with substantially more room to race than most short tracks.   A fan criticism that Loudon "stole" its second date from North Wilkesboro ignores that Wilkesboro was woefully weaker a track than the Loudon oval - the reality is while the specifics of getting the date should have played out better, North Wilkesboro could not compete with New Hampshire.

The hypocrisy of course long predated the condemnation of New Hampshire.   When Bristol's corners were altered to open up a raceable high groove, the result was a striking improvement in passing and a noticeable reduction in cautions.

Bristol got back the competitive moxie it had had in the 1989-91 period - and yet a lot of fans criticized Bristol because now it was about passing and actual racing instead of constant crashing.   "There's no beating and banging at Bristol" became the new mantra, and it is silly.   By any sober measure Bristol became a better racetrack than it had been.

The hypocrisy then extends to advocacy for more road courses.   Fans say they want better racing, but the reality is they're advocating for facilities that are not better racing.   By now it is well know road courses are the least competitive venues in racing.  The claim having eight to ten corners as a typical road course has opens more opportunities for passing is laughable because the opposite is the truth - the extra corners and switchbacks do nothing but stifle passing.

Road courses don't offer anything safer than superspeedways, either.

So fans say "we need more short tracks" and "we need more road courses" ostensibly for better racing - except one of the tracks they condemn (New Hampshire) is itself a short track type, and it isn't better racing on either venue.   Short tracks certainly are excellent for local racing and smaller touring series but it's the superspeedways - of which the "cookie cutters" are part - that are the most competitive venues in motorsports.

The heart of the issue is fans are being disingenuous through and through.   The real reason for advocacy of more short tracks and more road courses is a fundamentally negative and self-defeating one - fans are beyond frustrated at the lack of passing on the bigger ovals.   If fans would be more honest and acknowledge this frustration then the substantive discussion can begin.   People have been hypocrites for attacking "cookie cutter" tracks and demanding more short tracks and road courses even though the "cookie cutters" by any measure are superior racing venues with higher incidence of passing than short tracks and especially road courses.   This is why the racetrack boom of 1997-2001 so emphasized intermediate ovals instead of short tracks or road courses.

So what fans should do is ask the real question - why is it so damned hard to get more passing on the bigger ovals?   Having more short tracks is not the answer and having more road courses is not the answer - addressing the balance of downforce, tire, horsepower, and drafting strength of the racecars - something the Trucks finally have gotten a handle on the last six-plus years on the bigger ovals, as Indycars finally found in the latter 1990s to where they've had a striking number of excellent battles on intermediates as well as the bigger ovals from 1998 onward - ultimately that is the answer.   Addressing the related issue of incentive to go for the lead has been done with NASCAR's new "segment" bonus points structure.

Sports analysis - heck, analysis of any major issue - always is in need of substance.   For racing it is doubly needed to truly solve the problems the sport faces.


Lee Reed said...

I am actually an advocate for road course racing. It was my introduction to NASCAR. And I love it. I am extremely disappointed that KY is losing the Xfinity/ARCA September race.

Monkeesfan said...

When I criticize road racing it is in comparison to ovals. It it not that road racing completely lacks any competitive value by itself - there are likely times when I should make that caveat known.