NASCAR took last week off for its traditional Easter break; the first one of, like, one this year. The two-week hiatus has given me a little time to reflect on the first two months of the 2017 campaign.
And I have some thoughts. And some ideas.
1. The racing has not been good. Texas last weekend was OK, but, as a whole, I’m going to put the quality of the racing product at about a C-, D+.
2. The attendance has stunk.
3. TV ratings have stunk.
4. On a good note, Monster has done a respectable job as the entitlement sponsor.
5. My 3-year old is turning into quite the race fan. He is a big fan of Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott (despite a hatred of Chevrolets in general) and Kevin Harvick.
OK, so that last one may only interest me, but the other ones are relevant and two and three are definitely related to one. But, again, I have some ideas to address one and two and three will come along in time.
I have been saying this for years – along with thousands of other people: the car is too aero sensitive. Any little disturbance causes a car to wreck. A driver pulls up along side another car, wreck. I car gets behind another car, wreck. Some guy coughs in the stands, wreck. Some other guy shotguns a beer in the stands, you guessed it, wreck. Someone in Australia mutters “Buckshot Jones,” and half the field is in the wall or upside down and on fire.
So, change the car. Back in the aughts when this became a big issue and NASCAR was playing with spoiler heights and valance kick outs for different models, Rusty Wallace had a novel idea (not really, but going to give him some credit): take the nose of the car off the ground and no one is going to want a big spoiler on the cars. I say, yes, let’s do that. Right now.
NASCAR made some moves in the right direction with the low-drag package it has rolled out, but it’s not enough. Get rid of the front splitter, unlock the nose of the car from the track and let ‘em race.
This one may be more of a challenge and is less technical and more logistics and economics. I have made this suggestion before too and it is based on two questions: why does NASCAR have to go to the same tracks on the same weekend every year and why do a most tracks have two dates every year? Nearly one-third of NASCAR Cup races take place on 1.5-mile tri- or quad-oval tracks. Next year, that number will going up with Vegas getting a second date. There are only six races that take place on tracks under a mile, only two road courses, three at two-mile tracks, three at 2.5-mile flat tracks (they can go away), four at restrictor-plate tracks, and six on one-mile tracks. Honestly, not a lot of diversity.
Here’s my thought: Add some more short tracks and add another road course. Hell, add a dirt track. But don’t increase the number of races. Make your sanctioning agreements with the tracks cover a two-year period and give them three races in that two-year period unless they are the road courses or Indy, California or Homestead (tracks with only one race a year now, except Darlington. Give them three. My idea, my rules).
It works like this: take your 72 points-paying races over a two-year period and recognize that some tracks are going to get two dates every year. Actually, other than Daytona, I can’t think of a track that has been healthy enough attendance wise to warrant two dates a year. But that’s irrelevant. Take those 72 events and spread them over, say, 30 tracks instead of the current 23. Add a Road America, Road Atlanta, Indianapolis Raceway Park, Iowa (NASCAR, you own the joint), Willow Springs (a personal favorite), Memphis, Rockingham, Orange County (great little racetrack) or Myrtle Beach.
Sure, these places would have to make some upgrades and the economics may not work initially, but NASCAR could help some with sanctioning fees and help sell sponsorship. You have a rotating schedule. Two races at some tracks in year one and one at the others and vice-versa in year two. It gives the tracks the scale they need to keep moving and making money without the racing product getting stale.
I’m sure if someone spent enough time, they could poke holes in my ideas. I say let them. The bottom line is NASCAR has been making changes kind of willy-nilly over the last decade and said changes have not had the impact they had hoped. So, now that I’ve had two weeks to think about this, why not try mine.
Andy Cagle writes a weekly NASCAR column. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.