As I keep thinking about my NASCAR fandom and the things that get me down on the sport, I didn’t want to be the negative guy without a suggestions. Well, since no one asked, here’s my suggestions on what I would do if I ran NASCAR to get it back to what it once was.
Get rid of the playoffs – Motorsports is supposed to be a cumulative effort for a full year of points racing. It sucks that most of the time a team can get such an advantage it leaves the finale with little luster. That’s life, nothing usually goes as planned. So to artificially set things up so NASCAR can have their “game 7” moment has just been crazy. For the record, since 2014 when NASCAR re-did everything to ensure winner takes all final race, there has only been 5 finals in baseball, hockey and basketball that have made it to game 7 out of 18 series. Even the stick and ball sports can’t always get what they want, but they don’t change the rules every year as a reaction.
Get rid of stages – Stages made sense in an era when mechanical failures we common place in the garage. Now a day’s equipment is near bullet proof and team finish the complete races, so there is no point in rewarding mid-race finishes. In addition, the breaks are no longer than a normal caution, so trying to imitate a stick and ball halftime doesn’t accomplish that either. The only benefit is phantom debris cautions have nearly stopped, which emphasizes that it was manufactured all along.
Side note, the first two points emphasize how NASCAR was on a full on mission to turn racing into a stick and ball sport and it’s painfully obvious by the dropped attendance that is not how racing should be.
Cut the schedule by six races – 30 races is plenty for the NASCAR season. Those extra six weeks for crew members and drivers to be home is huge. We just had another driver, David Ragan, who at 33 is retiring to spend more time at home. It used to be it took until you were 33 to get to Cup, now by that point you’re burned out and need to stop. Carl Edwards, while older, is a prime example of a driver who was still winning to his last season, but had enough. Some tracks that should lose a race include Texas, Pocono, Michigan, Texas, Phoenix, Dover, Texas, Las Vegas, Kansas and Texas. Add challenge is add some more short tracks and road course while keeping it to 30.
Cut the race distances – If NASCAR wants to catch the attention of millennials, well then they’ve got to cut the distance of their races. I think around two and half hours is enough time to accomplish that. You leave marque events at 500+ miles, but everything else should be 300 miles or less. Yes, including Talladega because you’re just cutting out 70 laps of them riding around waiting to wreck.
Get rid of the All-Star events – I’m all for the accolades of being on an all-star team, but we do not need races for this. Both the Clash and All-Star event are not even close to what they were when first created. It was all about the pole winners (Clash) and race winners (All-Star), but since no one wants to watch 10 cars race, everyone got invited. If that wasn’t maddening enough, now it’s been turned into a glorified test session for potential rules changes. Even the All-Star race tries to build up its $1 million prize, but that’s nothing to a bunch of drivers who are already millionaires. Now, as driver salaries continue to drop, maybe this will become a good selling point again.
Side note, everyone keeps holding their breath that “big changes” will happen with the 2021 schedule, but I get the feeling there won’t be. They might “shorten” the schedule like they did in 2020, but that will be mid-week races or some other smoke and mirrors trick.
Undo this rules package and give back horsepower – The concept of lowering horsepower to entice new manufacturers into NASCAR is bull. IndyCar just added a new manufacturer without having to lower their standards, so how can NASCAR not? Also, making the cars so aero dependent that even at Bristol last night clean air was king is just a crazy thought. Raise the cars up and low those spoilers.
Get rid of the Xfinity Series – I like what the Xfinity Series represents, but as long as the schedule and top teams mimics the Cup Series, there is no point to having it. At least the Trucks are (visually) a different animal out there, but then again, they have to start racing their own schedule and not be Cup Lite. This one is debatable, as if they became more independent of the Cup Series I could see keeping it.