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NASCAR rant: Not drinking the Daytona 500 Kool-Aid

Discussion in 'Sports and News' started by Bubbler, Feb 19, 2007.

  1. Bubbler

    Bubbler Active Member

    I preface the following point by saying I love auto racing. Racing is right next to baseball and football in my personal sports pantheon and ahead of basketball.

    Until NASCAR's dumb ass gimmicky crap like the Chase and the Lucky Dog rule, I was a big NASCAR fan, watching every race. I still respect it, and I still watch Daytona because, if nothing else, it IS the first major race of any of the big leagues of the year. It's like Opening Day no matter which racing series captures your allegiance.

    Folks can't get enough of yesterday's Daytona 500. What A Finish! said the headline in my own paper. Many have opined breathlessly how great the final laps were.

    I'm calling bullshit. Part of the way I define exciting is something that doesn't happen all the time. Sadly for NASCAR, and it hasn't always been this way, these last lap contretemps are becoming the norm instead of the exception. When the NASCAR chips are down, these drivers can't get out of their own way. Some love it, I think its become hackneyed and it sucks, especially if you respect racers who did it right. The end of NASCAR races are becoming as predictable as pro wrestling.

    I can't remember the last NASCAR race I watched where there wasn't a pile-up of some sort in the final 20 laps. It's either that or NASCAR flies the mystery debris yellow in the final 20 laps to bunch the field up. I don't even know why NASCAR teams and NASCAR commentators waste their time planning out strategy over a long run at the end of the race, it never happens.

    They said during the broadcast that seven races ended last season in "overtime". I don't think that's exciting, it's fake excitement, due in large part to the inability of the drivers to not bust their competitive nut in the final 10 percent of a race and prevent running into each other.

    Might as well get a truism no one ever wants to talk about out of the way now -- wrecks aren't what draw so-called "real" fans to racing, but "real" fan would be lying if they said wrecks don't fascinate them.

    That said, wrecks should not be predictable, the "appeal" of them -- if that's what you want to call it, comes in their unpredictability. Wrecks in the final laps of a NASCAR race are sadly predictable, so what made the finish exciting? We've seen it all before.

    Just once I'd love a NASCAR race to end with a true duel. Not some yellow-flag created artificial scenario like Sunday's race. The Harvick-Martin battle was exciting, THAT'S the kind of shit which draws most of us to racing in the first place, but it would have been so much more exciting had they been sparring for the final 10 laps, without interruption from fuck-ups in the back of the field.

    At some point, you have to get past the bullshit notion that these "boys" are so competitive they can't get out of each other's way and concede to the notion that maybe a lot of them just aren't very good drivers. Or maybe on a milder tick, NASCAR leaves so much margin for error -- unlike open-wheel racing, where there is none -- that these guys start bumping each other and can't control the effect of their contact in late-race situations.

    As much as NASCAR celebrates the lore of Yarborough-Allison brawls, etc., there was a time when late-race yellow flags in NASCAR were as rare as they are in other series. I wasn't a Bill Elliott fan, but I can remember watching Elliott trying to hold off a train for about 15 laps or so to win Daytona, THAT was exciting. I can remember a time when these guys would bump each other and not manage to wreck each other. Trading paint is exciting so long as you don't trade paint with the wall, but that's the norm rather than exception now.

    I'd like to blame a lot of this on restrictor plate racing, but these things happen at non-restrictor plate tracks too. Bristol, supposedly the most exciting venue in NASCAR if you listen to NASCAR fans long enough, has become a yellow-flag filled, fake-rancor joke. The obligatory dust-up between a pair of drivers at Bristol (or the post-race two-car bump coming into the pits, didn't see that coming!) is as predictable as a WWE brawl.

    Even if you call bullshit on my points, I can't believe anyone thought that was compelling television. The last 10 laps of Daytona was like the last minute of a NBA game with each coach having all their timeouts and a Tony LaRussa-managed bullpen in a playoff game all rolled into one -- it took for fucking ever! But that just left time for Darrell Waltrip to say more inane shit like the Roush drivers wanted Mark Martin to win more than they wanted to win themselves. Shut the fuck up already, Darrell, you've become a caricature of yourself.

    In short, learn to drive when the chips are down good old boys. Then I'll get excited again. Well that, and when they lose the Chase and the stupid fucking lucky dog rule.
     
  2. Armchair_QB

    Armchair_QB Well-Known Member

    With apologies to Michael Wilbon, would it not be accurate to call the Daytona 500 "Redneck Thanskgiving"?
     
  3. imjustagirl2

    imjustagirl2 New Member

    Bubs, you must not have seen last year's duel between Kenseth and Burton at the end of the Chase Dover race. THAT was racing, and it lasted a good 10-15 laps. Just the two of them, door to door.
     
  4. Bubbler

    Bubbler Active Member

    But that's the exception, not the rule. It used to be the rule, not the exception.

    These guys can't get out of each other's way most of the time. And failing that, NASCAR throws the mystery yellow to artificially bunch the field. That is not good racing.
     
  5. imjustagirl2

    imjustagirl2 New Member

    I know. But you're saying "you can't rmember the last time" and since some races are complete dominations in which there's no racing for the front, I thought I'd bring one up that was only like 8 races ago.
     
  6. Michael_ Gee

    Michael_ Gee Well-Known Member

    Bubbler, many of your points are well taken. The NASCAR rules are so skewed towards parity, skill gets lost in translation. Harvick's win, which was spectacular IMO, will only make things worse. He was the lucky one in the lead pack. The guys who wrecked were trying to be him.
    I think, and I sure could be wrong, too many drivers take their cars over the edge in NASCAR because their skill level is beyond the engineering sophisication of the cars themselves.
     
  7. fmrsped

    fmrsped Active Member

    Bubbler, good points, and I found myself thinking the same thing when the red came with three to go. I like the sport, and can't deny its popularity.

    But when I do watch, it seems like every race ends in a green-white-checkered.

    It seems contrived.
     
  8. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    I wouldn't say "skill level" so much as I'd say "invincibility factor."

    They bump their cars around like go-karts because the sophistication of car safety has left them immune to the possibility of getting hurt. Their cars flip and burn and cross the finish line upside-down, and they walk away. They walk away. And it happens over and over again these days.

    Can't say for sure without looking it up, but how many current drivers were even in Cup when Earnhardt got killed? It doesn't affect them like it does the older guys, who had a certain level of fear and respect for their cars and their jobs, knowing that an over-aggressive lovetap could put you into a concrete wall -- permanently.

    You don't see this stuff in open-wheel racing because there's no margin for error -- if they get crazy, they are playing with their lives. And they know it.

    In stock car, and more specifically in NASCAR, they can get away with a lot more. So they do.
     
  9. shotglass

    shotglass Guest

    Ah just wanna thank Mr. Buck for sayin' what needed to be said. ...

    It's still REAL to me, DAMMIT!

    [​IMG]
     
  10. Jeff Gluck

    Jeff Gluck Member

    Come on.
     
  11. crimsonace

    crimsonace Active Member

    I really got into NASCAR slightly over a decade ago, drawn by the familiar names, the close finishes and what seemed like a bunch of good guys racing.

    Like its drivers, NASCAR has turned into a circuit that really can't get out of its own way. NASCAR has such visions of grandeur (and NFL envy) that it has to "grow, grow, grow" and as long as there are other forms of sport -- NFL/MLB/NBA -- that are more popular on a national scale, it *must* keep growing.

    The formula that made NASCAR popular was ...
    1) Fights in the infield (see Daytona 1976)
    2) The decade-long Earnhardt fans vs. Gordon fans drivel (and before that, Petty v. Waltrip)
    3) Close, door-to-door pack racing with close finishes (at a time when IndyCar races usually had three cars on the lead lap)

    So, we need more of those things. When races get boring, throw the "competition yellow" with 15 laps left. When racing to the line becomes dangerous, freeze the field at the point of caution. When it looks like the race might finish under yellow, throw the red (unless Earnhardt is going to win, then let it finish under yellow). When Jeff Gordon wins a race under yellow, install the green-white-checkered rule in midseason. When one engine manufacturer makes a crappy motor, change the rules for them so they can be competitive.

    And when the championship chase looks like it's going to be boring and decided early, throw a competition yellow with 10 laps left and put only 10 drivers on the lead lap.

    Even Daytona is contrived. The restrictor plates lead to pack racing, and also lead to the race being decided by who has the best friends on the last lap. (Harvick won because he got a great push on the outside, while Martin's "pusher" was spinning sideways in Turn 4, causing the pileup). Yesterday's finish was great, but very contrived, because of the yellows and the pushing. It would've been better -- an incredible 10-12 lap duel between Martin and his former teammates -- had there not been several occasions of bumper cars in the final 20 laps.

    The packs in NASCAR lead to drivers who make dumb decisions causing big wrecks, which happened (predictably) multiple times in the last 50 laps. And, as has been pointed out, the safety of the cars leads to an air of invincibility among drivers. The older drivers -- Elliott, Martin, Jarrett, et al -- respect the danger of playing bumper cars. Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer of them around.

    Thanks to its marketing muscle and the incompetence of Chris Pook, Bobby Rahal, Roger Penske, Carl Haas, Gerry Forsythe and Tony George, NASCAR has basically been able to forge a monopoly on American racing (save for two and a half hours on the last Sunday in May), so I'm not sure why the series has felt this need to contrive EVERYTHING.

    I have basically quit watching NASCAR over the last four or five years because the races are dull (and way too long), everything is too contrived and there are WAY too many yellows. Despite all of the political nonsense, I turned back to following IndyCar instead just because the races are a manageable length, they provide the wheel-to-wheel product and close finishes NASCAR claims to provide, and do it without restrictor plates (although with mandated wing angles) and contrived yellows -- several IRL races have only one or two yellow-light periods for the entire race. Basically, it's a 180-degree turn from the IndyCar that I grew up with (with races being won/lost in the garages and engine shops, a lot of yellows and very little action on the track). And I've talked to several hard-core NASCAR fans who have begrudgingly admitted the same thing. The lack of recognizable drivers has really been the one thing that's kept them from following open-wheel even more.
     
  12. spnited

    spnited Active Member

    Has it occurred to anyone that maybe these guys can't get out of each others' way because 43 cars is just too fucking many to put out there at one time, especially on the mile or shorter tracks?
    But maybe NASCAR wants it that way because it causes wrecks and you draw more fans --- maybe not you turn-left purists -- with wrecks than with good racing?
     
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