His most recent brainstorm, however, is not one of them.
|Smith wants mandatory stoppages in NASCAR|
“Call it what you will, but you have got to have caution flags," said Smith Saturday. "That creates excitement. You can't just sit there while nothing happens. It ruins the event and it damages our sport. Look at some of your other sports. (They) have a mandatory timeout period, TV timeouts and things that generate excitement. We need to be creative in what we do in NASCAR, as well."
Smith also took great pains to deflect criticism of the sport’s myriad 1.5-mile speedways -- many of which he owns – and shift the blame to others. "In my opinion, we cannot go out and start condemning mile-and-a-half speedways," huffed Smith. "They've been around a long time. I built Charlotte in 1960 and it has stood the test of time.
"Don't tell me it's the speedway,” he insisted. “(That’s) bull. What we have is a tire problem.”
Smith has always been in touch with the common fan. While many old-school promoters offered their customers little more than a wooden plank to sit on and an opportunity to stand in line for an overpriced, cold hot dog, Smith built infield “Fan Zones” at his speedways, offering ticket buyers something to hold their interest in the hours before the green flag flies. Those efforts have been copied at other tracks, nationwide.
|"Don't worry Jimmie, the caution's coming."|
He dug up a perfectly good race track at Bristol Motor Speedway recently, after 30% of responding fans – “a majority” in his world – said they preferred the type of single-groove, wreck-strewn racing the track featured prior to a recent resurfacing.
Now, Smith wants to take the next step, inserting artificial stoppages in NASCAR races to eliminate long runs of uninterrupted competition; something he claims fans dislike.
Unfortunately, his latest brainstorm will create more problems than it could ever hope to solve.
The Speedway Motorsports CEO speaks glowingly of TV timeouts utilized in other sports. However, no major professional sport halts its contests artificially to do so, the way Smith says NASCAR should. Instead, they wait for a natural stoppage – incomplete pass, ball out-of-bounds, penalty, or other call – before extending the break long enough for television to air a few commercials without missing any of the action.
NASCAR could easily do the same, but that’s not enough for Smith. He wants the sanctioning body to alter the very fabric of the sport by inserting mandatory, planned cautions at specific points in each event. Doing so would virtually eliminate all strategy from the event, since crew chiefs would no longer be required to calculate (and often gamble on) fuel mileage in an effort to improve their track position. The men on the pit boxes would know when the next yellow flag is going to fly, since NASCAR told them about it in their pre-race briefing.
Forget about gambling on the weather, as well. Planned cautions take all the fun out of playing amateur meteorologist, since once again, everyone knows they’ll be coming to pit road just a few laps from now; rain or shine.
Worst of all, Smith’s scheme will encourage drivers to give less than 100%. There’s no reason for anyone to get “up on the wheel” and abuse their car in an effort to erase a 3-4 second deficit anymore, since one of Bruton’s phantom cautions will do the job for them in just a few more laps. There is also no point in racing hard to accumulate a big lead, since it all disappears as soon as Bruton’s next bogus stoppage occurs.
Mandatory caution flags will bring NASCAR one giant step closer to professional wrestling, since while the end result may not be fixed, many of the most important moves will be.
NASCAR's longtime Man of the People, Smith now mandates robbing the fans of their hard-earned entertainment dollar by presenting -- not a race -- but a show. “If we're in show business, let's deliver that show,” said Smith Saturday. “Right now, we're not delivering it.”
Unfortunately, Smith’s latest scheme is not “show business.” It’s manipulation, gimmickry and outright hucksterism.
And it has no place in NASCAR.
Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR