The NASCAR season ended Sunday, and I wasn’t watching. Partly because the race started at 3 and I have church at 5, but also because I wasn’t really all that interested. I’ve been a NASCAR fan since probably the second grade. It is the first sport I remember caring about and the first major sporting event I ever attended was a Bush race at Bristol. Lately I have lost interest to some degree. I am only a fan, I’m not an insider and I don’t work in sports, but I do love NASCAR and I would like to see it improve. So here are some suggestions in the form of an open letter.
I’ll start this letter by addressing the major problem with NASCAR. The season is too long. It begins in mid-February and it ended 11 days from Thanksgiving. That means that December and January are the only months without racing. This problem is not limited to NASCAR, it is a the problem with most professional sports, long seasons make for boring seasons. I’m especially talking to you MLB and NBA. Have any of you ever heard that absence makes the heart grow fonder, or to leave 'em wanting more?
I have put some thought into what can be done about this problem of the 10 month season. Here is my suggestion. I only want to improve things.
NASCAR needs divisions. This actually solves 2 problems. First, it shortens the season. Second, it makes use of some of the tracks that could use a second race (or a first, such as Nashville, Northern Kentucky, or Rockingham) Here’s how I propose it to work. Divide the drivers by the previous year’s standings with a snaking order. (1st place in div A, 2nd & 3rd in div B, 4th & 5th in div A, etc.) Then both divisions (Petty & Earnhardt?) have quality drivers and regardless which event you attend, you can see stars, just not all of them. Make that a 20 race schedule in the divisions, then put the top 6 from each division into the chase and the top 20 into the races for the chase. This gives NASCAR more television revenue, more tracks get to sell tickets, more fans have opportunity to see races, and the season ends nearly 2 months earlier.
The only real problem I can think of with this plan is how to deal with the Brickyard or Daytona 500, but someone can figure it out. Maybe even in the comments.
The second suggestion is to put a variety of track types into the chase. Maybe nobody has pointed this out. But a team that makes the chase and is particularly good at the mile-and-a-half quad-oval has a decided advantage. How about a Pocono or Bristol in the chase? If you are going to race stupid road courses, make one of them be in the chase. If weather concerns create the current schedule, take my first suggestion. If the season ended in late September you could race in Watkins Glen, or Pike’s Peak for that matter. But in mid November you are pretty much stuck with Phoenix and Homestead.
If some other teams had a chance it would help as well. Of the 35 races this season, 30 were won by a Roush, Gibbs, or Hendrick team. If you went to divisions, and kept 35-40 teams per race, it would definitely give some other teams a chance to win some races.
Mix in some minorities. NASCAR is no longer a sport of good ol’ boys from the south, but it is lily white. With the exception of Montoya, there is nothing resembling a minority anywhere around the track. I don’t know how to fix that problem, but seriously the future is in jeopardy as long as it remains the way it is. America is more diverse and will become more so. If golf can have a non-white superstar, surely something that’s actually fun like driving fast can as well.
Don’t bow to the environmentalists…yet. The sound of a stock car is unmistakable, and if they switched to ethanol and sound whiny like Indy cars, it would lose some of the magic. (Maybe I’m showing my ignorance here, somebody can straighten me out in the comments. Feel free, as long as you can be respectful.) The day is coming when everyone will get around on some new fuel, but until then, let’s not have silent, hydrogen cars going around the track.
I really like NASCAR and want to see it continue to be great. These suggestions are just my 2 cents to improve it. The outlook is not all bad I took this quiz and got 100% so the sponsors are definitely getting their exposure.
Feel free to comment on this. I'd like to know my readers' thoughts on this one. Do you think I'm way off base, or have better suggestions?