Lugnuts: NASCAR Needs More Short Tracks
This past weekend the traveling circus that is NASCAR was in Thunder Valley for some short track racing. The Sprint Cup Series and the Nationwide Series put on fantastic races for the fans. The Cup race saw a lot of beating and banging and former teammates getting into a shoving match. The Nationwide race saw pretty much the same as well as an incredible photo finish between one of the best drivers to ever race in the series and a young kid who many say is the future of NASCAR.
Bristol Motor Speedway’s slogan has long been “It’s racin’ the way it oughta be,” and that’s exactly what we saw this past weekend. And it makes you wonder why NASCAR only has three short tracks at the top level. This sport was built on short track racing. Almost every single driver grows up racing at their local short tracks. And then when they get to the upper levels they run on these behemoth 1.5 mile ovals. NASCAR needs to go back to the short tracks. It doesn’t make any sense.
Real racing takes place on short tracks. There’s a reason that Bristol Motor Speedway has 165,000 seats. There’s a reason that the races at Bristol, Martinsville and Richmond usually the most memorable races every single season. People love when race cars are bumping each other and beating on each other, and that’s what short tracks are all about. Rubbin’ is racin’ and it doesn’t happen enough in NASCAR anymore.
It’s a shame that Bruton Smith bought Kentucky Speedway instead of Iowa Speedway. Both Cup races at Kentucky have been forgettable and every Nationwide and Truck Series race at Iowa have been memorable. Iowa should be on the Sprint Cup Series schedule, but unfortunately Kentucky was chosen instead.
It’s a shame that the race track planned by International Speedway Corporation on Staten Island in New York wasn’t built. That track was supposed to be just like Richmond and Iowa, but it faced a lot of opposition from the locals. NASCAR’s plan was to put that track Sprint Cup schedule upon completion, but instead it was never built and Kansas Speedway (another 1.5 miler) got a second weekend.
It’s nice to see that NASCAR is returning to its roots a little bit at the lower levels. The Camping World Truck Series is going to race on the dirt at Eldora for example. Now NASCAR needs to do the same at the Sprint Cup level. It would be fantastic to see them go back to a place like the Nashville Fairgrounds.
Unfortunately that isn’t going to happen any time soon. ISC and SMI have invested too much money in these 1.5 mile race tracks to just abandon them. But a return to a schedule burdened by short tracks instead of intermediate tracks is needed. It will put the fun back in NASCAR and I guarantee it would bring back a lot of the fans that have abandoned the sport in recent years.
A New Rivalry?
There seems to be a new rivalry brewing in the Sprint Cup Series and those involved used to be teammates. Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin got into a Twitter battle after the Daytona 500, and yesterday they got into a confrontation in the garage after the race.
Let’s start at the beginning of what we know: Logano and Hamlin were teammates until the start of this season at Joe Gibbs Racing. Now Logano is at Penske Racing. During the late stages of the Daytona 500 Logano tried to make passes work in the middle line rather than the low line and that disrupted the progress of the inside line. Hamlin took to Twitter and “apologized” to Logano’s teammate Brad Keselowski for not being able to help Keselowski beat Jimmie Johnson. Hamlin’s tweet read “Sorry I couldn’t get close to you cuz your genius teammate was too busy messing up the inside line 1 move at a time.” Logano replied back “I remember when you were MY genius teammate #LoveYouMeanIt.” Fast-forward to Bristol yesterday and Logano is running second and Hamlin right behind in third. Logano got loose underneath Jeff Gordon for the lead and washed up the track in front of Hamlin who gave Logano a bump exiting the corner. Then he gave Logano another bump in the middle of the next corner which turned Logano around. Logano backed it into the wall. After the race Logano confronted Hamlin who was still in his car, but was shoved away by one of Hamlin’s crew members which started a shoving match between crews.
Afterwards the feud once again took to Twitter. Logano told Hamlin “Hey @DennyHamlin great job protecting that genius brain of yours by keeping your helmet on.” After a couple back-and-forth tweets Hamlin ended it with “Last time I checked he had my cell and direct message button to choose from if he’s got a problem…Otherwise hush little child.”
This is a feud that most likely won’t go away any time soon. Logano is frustrated because his team hasn’t gotten the finishes that he feels they’ve deserved. He’s been in the top 10 almost every race and has yet to actually finish there. Keep an eye on the 22 and 11 cars every time they’re near each other in the future, specifically at Martinsville Speedway in a few weeks.
I spoke about the amount of commercials last week, and unfortunately I have to do so again because Fox’s broadcast was even worse this week.
It wasn’t that there seemed to be a lot of commercials this week. It seemed that there were just as many commercial breaks as usual, but the timing of these breaks were just horrendous. It seemed that on four occasions Fox went to commercial just as a battle for the lead was heating up. On one occasion they went to commercial, Kasey Kahne took the lead, lost it, got it back, then got loose coming off the corner and almost spun out but saved it. The fans at home missed all of it until Fox showed the replays. While showing those replays a caution came out. On another occasion Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth were battling for the lead as well as lapped traffic. While they were battling the rest of the top-seven started to close in on those two. Then Fox went to commercial. Right after going to commercial Gordon’s right-front tire blew. He shot up the track right in front of Kenseth who plowed into him. Just like that both of the leaders were taken out and the broadcast was at commercial.
Now obviously Fox cannot predict that Gordon was going to blow a tire and take out Kenseth. However, it could have been seen if Fox used their side-by-side format. The side-by-side commercial format was only used twice on Sunday for the first and last commercial breaks. And both of those breaks were under caution. We missed green-flag racing because of commercials, but we were able to see them circle the track at 35mph under caution on two occasions. That’s ridiculous.
Last season Fox used side-by-side for what they deemed to be the last hour of the race. This year they’re only using it twice during a race. What happened? Side-by-side is something that should be used all race long. Not twice during a race. Side-by-side is something that should be used during green flag conditions. Not under caution.
Earlier Sunday morning Formula 1 ran their season opener in Melbourne, Australia. It was NBC’s first broadcast of a Formula 1 race. They aired the race on NBCSN. And they used side-by-side for most of the race. Out of a 58 lap race the fans missed about six laps of racing because of full-screen commercials.
Someone on Twitter said to me “NBCSN’s broadcast of F1 this morning made NASCAR on Fox look like a high school broadcast.” Someone else told me “Fox had the privilege of covering the best overall race in years and they’ve blown it big time.” I’m having a hard time disagreeing.
Another issue I had with yesterday's broadcast came from the always annoying "Mid-Race Report." At the halfway mark of every race Fox shows the race on half the screen and on the other side each one of their commentators explaining what they think the fans should watch for in the second half of the race. Even though it's annoying, normally it goes off without a hitch. Until yesterday. During yesterday's Mid-Race Report a caution came out when Aric Almirola spun around and backed it into the wall hard. That happened right at the start of the Mid-Race Report when Chris Myers was talking. Myers interrupted his own sentence and said there was a caution on the race track. And then he continued talking. And then Michael Waltrip went, and then Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip, Larry McReynolds, and Jeff Hammond. Three minutes later they still had yet to show a replay of what happened. They finally showed Almirola's destroyed race car and then showed a replay. Four minutes after it happened.
That should be unacceptable. If you want to do your Mid-Race Report every week, that's fine, but when something happens on the race track like an accident that story should be bigger than whatever story you are updating in your Mid-Race Report.
Near the end of the summer NASCAR will start negotiations with TNT and ESPN about broadcast rights. NBC is rumored to be a player in these talks as well. Hopefully NBC becomes a broadcast partner for NASCAR. After watching Sunday morning’s F1 race I will be more than happy watching NASCAR on NBC. The broadcasts on NASCAR’s current broadcast partners have become stale. NBC may be just what the doctor ordered.
Kyle vs. Kyle
If you missed the finish of Saturday’s Nationwide Series race you missed a classic battle. Kyle Busch has the most wins in series history. Kyle Larson was making just his fourth career NNS start. But those were the two drivers battling for the win at the end of 300 laps at the Bristol bullring.
Larson stalked Busch for the final few laps but just couldn’t get close enough to make a move. Until the last corner. Busch went low to in the corner to avoid a lapped car, which gave Larson the faster high line. Larson took advantage of that but had to hope that lapped car that Busch was attempting to avoid wouldn’t be in his way. It wasn’t. Larson swung around Busch on the outside and Busch squeezed him into the wall. Busch nipped Larson by a fender at the line.
It was a classic finish at a classic race track. It was a finish that will be talked about for a long time. Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson are two drivers that will be talked about for a long time.
Larson and Busch both have the ability to win in any vehicle they race. Busch has proved he has the ability to win in the upper levels of NASCAR. Larson is just getting there. He only ran a handful of Truck Series races last year before moving to the Nationwide Series full time this season. His season didn’t get off to the best start possible. He was in that huge crash at the finish of the Daytona race, finished 14th in Phoenix and crashed hard last week at the end of the Vegas race. But hopefully for Larson things will turn around after his run in Bristol.
Larson lost a lot of respect from the fans and drivers in Daytona when he spun C.E. Falk for the win in the late model race at the Battle at the Beach. That was clearly on his mind at the end of the race on Saturday and he said as much afterwards. He raced Busch hard, but clean. You can bet that his finish on Saturday gained back a lot of respect among his fellow drivers.
Larson’s career is just getting started. It’s going to be a lot of fun watching this kid’s career progress over the years.