Before I jump into what I thought about the action is past weekend at Daytona, I have to do some house cleaning first. With this site I’ve admittedly neglected it over the past year. Without diving too much into, I needed a break and needed to re-find my focus on what I wanted to do with Start ‘N’ Park Blog. When I started this many years ago the mission was simple, give unfiltered opinions. Then I tried to be an information hub re-posting press releases, which was fine but a lot of work. These teams put out a lot of press releases beyond the news. Then I became unfocused and drifted around until taking a break last year. Continue reading “Post Daytona Thoughts”
If you let time go on long enough, things tend to repeat themselves. We see this in movies, music, and of course NASCAR. While NASCAR is not trading in the 1.5-mile paved tracks for .5-mile dirt tracks, it is going into the past by awarding points for this year’s Daytona qualifying races. Continue reading “Paying Points For Daytona Qualifying Races Is Nothing New”
The year 2015 marks the final full-time season from Jeff Gordon, who will undoubtedly go down as one of the best drivers in NASCAR history. While it is sad to think Gordon will be done after this season, the good news is we can spend the whole season celebrating his career. Odds are good we could see Gordon drive in the Sprint Cup Series after 2015, but when it comes to Daytona it is a big NO to running here again. “I definitely won’t be running another restrictor plate race,” Gordon told media members last week. Continue reading “Jeff Gordon Flashback: The Daytona 500”
There is an old saying that what drivers hate, fans will love. Sunday afternoon’s qualifying for the starting two position of next week’s Daytona 500 proved that saying wrong. Both fans, drivers, and media alike classified the knockout qualifying rounds as “idiotic,” “dumb,” “the worst,” and “not even entertaining.” The only group that seemed to enjoy it was the FOX broadcast team who had to enjoy the ratings as fans watched in horror at what the Daytona 500 qualifying has become. Continue reading “Daytona Qualifying Disaster”
Like most things in NASCAR, something that started as a simple concept has spun out of control and needs to be stopped. The two all-star events for NASCAR, the Sprint Unlimited run at the Daytona International Speedway, and the Sprint All-Star Race run at the Charlotte Motor Speedway have ran their course and should be retired.
All-star events are cool, but when you take away the factor of meaning (points, win/loses) behind them, they always seem to lack something. This point is not a NASCAR exclusive issue, other sports like hockey, basketball, and famously football have seen their all-star events called into question because of a lack of interest by participants and fans. Baseball had to respond to declining interest by awarding the winning league of the game home field advantage for the World Series, aka give the event some sort of meaning, but that has been met with mixed results.
The Sprint Unlimited was originally created to honor drivers who won poles the previous season. After it was realized that there, on average, were only 10-15 drivers who won poles the rules started to be adjusted to add more cars. Especially at Daytona, where pack racing is king, only having 10 cars (extreme low example) makes for nothing short of terrible racing. This week it was announced how the 2015 field would be made up and that is how I know this event has “jumped the shark.”
To get into the 2015 Sprint Unlimited you need to have won a pole in the previous season (like how it all began) and be running the full 2015 season (I call that the Brian Scott rule). It doesn’t end there, because if that didn’t get you in and you made last season’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, you’re now in this event. Because part of the new rules say a minimum field of 25, the next way to get into the field is to have previously won a Daytona 500 pole and are running the full season (I call that the Danica Patrick rule). And finally, if 25 drivers can’t be found that way, they’ll round out the field with the highest placing drivers in the last season’s point standings who are not already in.
The interesting part about how this field is made up is how often it was emphasized that it was a minimum field of 25 drivers. That means, in NASCAR’s favorite scenario, we could see 30 or more drivers compete in the race. This was add excitement to a sometimes bland event, but at that point how is it an all-star race and not just a normal race?
Let’s take a quick look at the Sprint All-Star race. That was created originally to honor race winners of the previous season and up to that point in the current season. Again, great concept, but they found out early that there weren’t that many drivers winning, especially back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The solution was a race prior to the event to allow a few drivers (typically five) the ability to race their way in. That worked for some time before additional one off races and additional rules were added.
To make the event exciting, segments were added with the possibility of field inversion to keep drivers from running away with the race. The problem with this is every year the rules have been adjusted so much that most (drivers, crews, fans, etc.) don’t know the rules until the day of the race how the race is to be run. That should have been a red flag right there that gimmicks were needed to keep fan interest on TV and in the stands.
Besides the dilution of the honor of getting into these races, I think the biggest issue, and why I feel so strongly about dropping these races, is there is nothing that different going on from any other race. Sure there’s segments and mandatory pit stops, but the cars are running at the same tracks they always run at.
For me, if you’re going to do an all-star race, make it something unique and different. Other sports do this, be it playing in a different city from normal like football or how the teams are made up of players from all different teams. In NASCAR it’s the same drivers with the same teams running the same cars. They should just call these test sessions for the teams that have the money to run them and go all out.
My suggestion is ditch the Unlimited, there is already almost three weeks of practice at Daytona there doesn’t need to be anymore. NASCAR sort of agreed by ending preseason testing in January there because it is honestly ridiculous how much time they have on track for this race. You keep the all-star race though, but don’t run it at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, instead run it at the little dirt track across the street. Then you don’t have the drivers run their Cup cars, instead have them run late model cars.
This would be an instant hit, just look at what Eldora Speedway’s inclusion in the Truck Series schedule has done for that facility and the Trucks. While a smaller venue, the dirt track would be packed to see the NASCAR stars do something different. Then you can do all the segments and tweaks the race already has, but it would make more sense being on a small track setting. And most importantly, you’re going back to the roots of the sport in one of the most historic cities for NASCAR.
If NASCAR won’t go to a different model for their all-star events, they might as well make those two weekends additional races that pay points. We are closing in on a time when nearly everyone makes these special events and takes away from them being special. Change is needed and if they keep with the status quo, I’ll not hesitate to find something better to do with my time on those Saturday nights.
A lot has happened over the past few months in the world of NASCAR. Change is the big word for the 2014 season, and that change has been met with a lot of resistance. First with rules the Chase field was expanded and now features a four driver dash in the final race to determine a champion. Qualifying procedures have been changed drastically to feature knockout rounds. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the famous number 3 of Dale Earnhardt has returned to the track and old fans are in an outrage.
NASCAR has kept their head down as they plugged forward with all of these changes. While they do listen to fan feedback, there’s no going back at this point to what some would call “the glory days” of NASCAR. Then over at Richard Childress Racing, they have gotten more grief than they should about running a “sacred” number once again.
All of this noise was going on, but it was silenced late Sunday night. That is when Dale Earnhardt, Jr. crossed the finish line first and won the 2014 Daytona 500.
With the victory, Earnhardt is a near sure thing for making the Chase this season. For all the press Austin Dillon got for driving his father’s stylized number 3, Earnhardt will get even more for winning the biggest event on the NASCAR calendar.
The talk will now shift for fans away from how silly this playoff Chase is to “can you believe Earnhardt is already in it!?” He’ll be the big topic once again and with the win has confidence on his side. If Earnhardt can stay competitive and actually pull of his first title, I’m sure none of the complaints we heard at the beginning of the season will matter for most fans.
This is exactly the sort of distraction NASCAR needed from its loyal fan base. It might also win a lot of them over knowing that it was just that easy (well not in reality) for their favorite driver to now make the Chase.
Last night’s Budweiser Duels provided an interesting insight into what we can expect in Sunday’s Daytona 500. With most of the early practices gear towards single car qualifying, it wasn’t until the Sprint Unlimited where we saw how the racing could be with this new package on the Daytona International Speedway. Continue reading “What Can We Learn From The Budweiser Duels?”