Sunday's Race Not the Best Way to Attract New Fans
My weekend to the Granite State is now in the rear-view mirror. It’s always a lot of fun to be at the racetrack for a NASCAR weekend. Between sites-seeing in campgrounds, doing activities in the fan-zone, and actually sitting down to watch the races, it’s impossible to not have fun. But there was one thing that bothered me on Sunday and that had to do with the Sprint Cup race itself.
I’m an experienced fan. I know what to look for to enjoy a race. I can find enjoyment in just about every single race there is, no matter what kind of racing. In a sense I’m like Michael Waltrip. He always says, “I’ve never seen a boring race.” I usually echo that statement. But Sunday’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301 was a boring race. I’d give the race a 5 out of 10, and that’s being generous.
When we arrived at the racetrack Sunday morning we took a tram from our parking lot to Gate 11 and 12 in Turn 1. We sat next to two gentlemen who were attending their first race and didn’t know exactly what to expect. I didn’t get to talk to them after the race, but I have a feeling that they probably didn’t get hooked on NASCAR because of that race.
There just was no excitement in that race. Restarts produced a lot of excitement, since there were only three caution flags that excitement was short-lived. There was barely any passing, and nobody spun out or even came close. There was nothing in that race that could get a person to become hooked on the sport that we all love.
In my opinion, there are two ways to fix that.
The first way is the easier way. Goodyear needs to do something with their tires. Tires need to have what is called “fall-off” over the course of a green flag run. A team shouldn’t be able to run 70 laps and then take only two tires instead of four. Over the course of a long run the tires should lose grip and the car should start sliding around the corners causing the drivers to have to work hard to hold on to it. Tires falling off over the run would allow the better handling racecars to pass other cars.
Even Jeff Gordon agrees.
“Goodyear needs to go back to the drawing board,” said Gordon to Dustin Long of SI.com. “They came here with a new tire and it is not a very good tire.”
Many people felt that the Atlanta race on Labor Day Weekend last season was one of the best races of last year. Gordon and Jimmie Johnson sliding through the corners for the last 20-plus laps battling for the win was memorable.
The track surface at Atlanta Motor Speedway is so old and abrasive that it eats tires up naturally. The key for Goodyear is to develop a tire for each racetrack that has fall-off, but does so in a safe manner. That is one way to improve the racing.
The other solution is to change the way the car reacts aerodynamically. When a car gets too close to another car the back car picks up the dreaded “aero-push,” which is when the turbulent air from the car in front makes the back car tighter. That makes it hard to pass.
Look at the first 60 laps of yesterday’s race. Kyle Busch was leading with Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin under one second behind. But neither Kahne nor Hamlin were able to attempt a pass for the lead because they just couldn’t get close enough. Kahne got to within two car-lengths of Busch’s back bumper but couldn’t get any closer than that because his car got too tight.
Unless the trailing car is way faster than the car in front, the trailing car won’t be able to make the pass.
Near the mid-point of yesterday’s race, Jason Ratcliff, crew chief for Joey Logano asked Logano if he developed an aero-push when he got closer to the 55 of Brian Vickers, because his times dropped off. Ratcliff said over the radio “Did you just develop a push when you got closer to him (Vickers)? Because you ran a 29 the last five laps, and then you ran a 49 when you caught him.” Logano replied with a simple “10-4.”
NASCAR has already made some rule changes to the cars that the changes would help the cars race better from an aerodynamic stand-point. NASCAR made the teams shorten the side-skirts on the cars to take away some downforce. NASCAR also made a rule change to the type of sway bar the teams could run.
But NASCAR is mainly hoping that the 2013 cars will be more competitive.
From a race fan’s point of view, I really hope NASCAR is right about that.
Where Was the TV Coverage?
NASCAR’s oldest division, the modified series, races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway twice a year. They always run on the Saturday for both NASCAR weekends and the modifieds usually put on the most exciting race out of the whole weekend.
That was exactly the case this past weekend when Mike Stefanik beat Ron Silk by 0.003 second to win the Town Fair Tire 100. Stefanik and Silk swapped the lead back and forth 17 times over the last 48 laps.
But only those in attendance on Saturday got to see it.
Usually this race is aired on SPEED with a tape delay. But this year it wasn’t even on at all. That is not fair at all to those modified series fans that live too far away from the racetrack or couldn’t afford to make the trip up to NHMS. There are many people who fit those categories that look forward to seeing this race every year, but this year they weren’t allowed to.
Usually the Whelen Modified Tour only has two or three races shown on TV; two from NHMS and one from Bristol. This year it is uncertain that any race will be shown on TV.
My question is “Why?” When the Whelen Modified Series runs at NHMS and Bristol all the equipment and personnel needed to televise the race is already at the track for the Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Camping World Truck Series events. The equipment and personnel are already being used for the race because the event is shown on Sprint Vision at the racetrack. With full replay capabilities as well.
So why choose to not broadcast the race? There really isn’t a good explanation for it.
The modifieds provide very exciting racing with an old school feel. It’s a real shame that NASCAR’s oldest and usually most exciting division of racing is almost hidden from the race fans.