By Toby Christie (Originally appeared on RubbingsRacing.com)
We are closing in on the ball dropping on another year, and for the first time in recent years our sport is in serious trouble heading into the next season. Fans have stopped filling the stands, and they have stopped watching it on television as much. Not only that but there is a severe lack of rivalries on the track, lack of personalities off the track, and a certain most popular driver is noticeably missing from victory lane more and more each season.
Now I know Nascar can’t control all of these things, but they sure can make a few New Years Resolutions that will begin to fix a lot of what is decaying the sport we love so dearly.
Here are five resolutions I’ve come up with that will help NASCAR prosper yet again:
1. Get a plan in place to weed some cookie cutter tracks off the schedule in favor of some good ‘ole short tracks – NASCAR rose to a national level by winning over fans with good close short track racing. As the sport grew however, it out grew the capacity of the great tracks that helped build the sport and in came the cookie cutters. These tracks built in the mid to late 1990’s are mostly 1.5 mile intermediate speedways with a dog-leg that hold over 150,000 people in the stands… thats all great and everything if you can get that many people to show up.
Well now the sport is starting to slope off in fans that are attending the tracks, so the time is right now more than ever to get back to our roots. Back in the ’80s and early ’90s we had eight short track races on the schedule… we still have six currently, but just think of how it would help to cut two snoozer races (one of the Pocono races maybe…) and replace them with intense bumper to bumper short track racing. Just a thought
2. The C-O-T handles terribly as is, so let the crew chiefs do what they do best… make the cars better – The “car of tomorrow” was brought in to be a safer car that would reduce costs for race teams, well it’s now tomorrow and we know that the car has not at all saved teams any money. In fact teams were burning so much money with the project of this new car that NASCAR had to ban testing to help save teams money.
If NASCAR would finally just decide to relax its rule book on this new car and let the crew chiefs work their magic this car would finally have a real chance to succeed. We know this car brings the safety that is crucial, but if it isn’t able to put on a great show consistently then it will just continue to contribute to the dwindling ratings for the sport.
3. Have a meeting with drivers to have them come out of their shells – In the NFL do other teams pat the Patriots on the back when they are in the middle of a dynasty run? No way… In the NBA do teams bow down and give the Lakers kudos when they destroy them in the finals? Not a chance!! Well it disgusts me that so many drivers are happy that Jimmie Johnson has walked away to a fourth straight championship. Don’t get me wrong its an amazing accomplishment and deserves praise, but by fans and members of the media, not his rivals on the track.
The drivers need to learn to not be pushed around so much. They need to learn they can be themselves, and not just corporate pitch men. They need to take a step back and look at the 1970’s to 1980’s. In that time you had some amazing personalities, incredible talent (just like today), and some guys who flat out didn’t like to lose… and never made it a secret.
Some of the drivers get out of their cars today after a second place finish and you’d think they won the race. It’s time to stop being politically correct, time to stop being happy with failing and time to start letting the emotions fly. I know Kyle Busch gets a hard time for his hissy fits, but at least its genuine emotion… good or bad for the camera the sport needs more of this, and NASCAR needs to let these drivers know just how crucial this is to the survival of the sport.
4. Find a way to make pole positions matter again – Long gone are the days that people cared who was the fastest man on Friday. There was a time when winning a pole for a Sprint Cup race was a very prestigious event, well it seems that we are getting further and further away from that anymore. There used to be an exhibition race at the beginning of the season that was for strictly pole winners, but beer sponsor conflicts have ended that, and its a shame. The Busch Clash / Bud Shootout was one of the most exciting races of the season back in the day.
It was set up as a fast and furious “shootout”. The race the way it is now is no longer a shootout its a full fledged race. This year the “shootout” has 28 eligible drivers for the 70 lap event. Daytona should actually be sued for false advertisement as 70 laps doesn’t qualify as a shootout, but I digress.
Poles need to mean something, I don’t know what anymore, but definitely more than what they mean now.
5. Move Talladega to the final race of the Chase – I know this one sounds crazy, and will never happen because NASCAR wants the final race to not be at a “wildcard” track, but think about it for a second. The reason NASCAR wont let it happen is because anything can happen at Talladega, well last time I checked any track where drivers were going full bore for 500 miles anything can happen. If I was wrong then why would they even chance having Talladega in the Chase?
It just makes too much sense to make this happen. How else would you keep people glued to the screen when Jimmie Johnson (or whoever the point leader is) has a 100 point lead going into the finale. Did you see the two Talladega races this season? Now I know they had cars flying through the air which isn’t a good thing, but both events had at least 57 lead changes.
Do you know how many lead changes there were at Homestead? 18, yep that right, 18… 40 lead changes less than the fall Talladega event that produced 58. So knowing that why would you not want to put Talladega as the final event of the season? Not putting your most exciting race at the end of the season is anti-climatic and silly, and its gone on for far too long. If this changes NASCAR will finally be able to compete with the NFL in ratings in November.
Here’s to a safe end to 2009, and a wonderful 2010. Happy New Year everyone.