Monday, January 23, 2017

COMMENTARY: Time To Add Some Spice To The Soup

NASCAR is set to shuffle its competitive cards in a big way later today, announcing a series of sweeping format changes for all three of its national series.

Beginning next month at Daytona International Speedway, Camping World Truck, Xfinity and Monster Energy Cup Series races are expected to be divided into three distinct segments, with planned stoppages in between. The opening two stages of each event will comprise 25-30% of the race total, with the final stage accounting for 40-50%. Each stage will pay championship points to the Top-10 finishers in descending order (10, 9, 8, etc.) with stage winners receiving a single bonus point for seeding at the start of the post-season playoffs.

Monday’s announcement will be controversial in some corners, with fans bemoaning the latest in a series of changes made to the sport in recent seasons. Ironically, the sanctioning says the changes were spurred by suggestions from that very fan base; an ever-changing group that seems to want more action, fewer lulls and a more compact product.

Today’s announcement will be a clear attempt by NASCAR to inject some excitement back into the first half of its events. For far too long, the sanctioning body has been dogged by complaints of “boring” races, with fans tuning in for the green flag, then wandering away – often for hours at a time -- to cut the grass, shop for groceries or tend the barbeque; confident that they won’t miss much.

More and more these days, they’re right.

In modern-day NASCAR, engine failures have become virtually non-existent. Cars don’t erupt in plumes of white smoke anymore, spilling fluid on the track while being chased down the backstretch by their own connecting rods. Mechanical failures of all kinds are down dramatically, with a vast majority of the 40-car starting field still on-track at the drop of the checkered flag. Tire technology has improved, leading to fewer blow-out related crashes. An increased dependence on aerodynamic downforce keeps cars glued to the race track like never before, resulting in fewer spins and crashes. Fewer caution flags means fewer pit stops, fewer restarts and less excitement; a trend that NASCAR cannot afford to ignore any longer.

Awarding 10 points to segment winners will incentivize drivers to go the front immediately and stay there, all day long. No more “riding in the pack,” no more “saving your car” for a points-paying finish that is still hours away. Modern-day NASCAR fans want action now instead of excitement deferred, and Monday’s announcement should deliver that, in spades.

Today’s announcement will be a difficult pill to swallow for many NASCAR fans. Personally, I am uneasy about a system that could – at least in theory – award the 2017 championship based on a driver’s ability to win the Daytona 200, 300 or 400. I’m a traditionalist, and appreciate the endurance aspect of our sport. I’m willing to sit through the occasional mid-race competitive lull, knowing that business usually picks up at closing time. But I’m in the minority, and I know it.

For every fan like me, there are a dozen who say they doze off during those mid-race lapses, lulled into a competitive coma by a sport that has contented itself for far too long with the idea of a dominant leader, cruising along with an eight-second lead, lap after lap after lap.

Is NASCAR’s new format manipulative? Perhaps. But there are worse things to be called than "manipulative."

Boring, for instance.

NASCAR cannot continue to be the sport you sleep through. With races routinely requiring more than three hours to complete, NASCAR has become a marathon event in a microwave society. That trend cannot be allowed to continue any longer.

There is too much on the line. 

We cannot expect a fan base increasingly raised on thrill-a-minute video games to sit and wait – often for hours at a time – for their final-lap payoff. It was time to add some spice to the soup, before we lose another generation of fans.

Adapt, or die.

30 comments:

  1. Moody, you have gone and drank the kool aid! How many times have I heard you argue against awarding midway points on your radio show? Too many to count, that's how many! I'm waiting to hear more later today, but if you've got the inside scoop I sure don't like the sounds of things to come.

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  2. Your right Dave. Like you it is a tough pill to swallow for me. We can never go back. Technology won't allow it. I will learn to enjoy this product and try not to compare it to the past.

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  3. Your right Dave. Like you it is a tough pill to swallow for me. We can never go back. Technology won't allow it. I will learn to enjoy this product and try not to compare it to the past.

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  4. Once again NASCAR resorts to doubling down on gimmicks. Nothing less should be expected from the same geniuses that have destroyed its historical relevancy of the championship, created the chase, debuted the COT and thought reality TV like eliminations for a championship was a great idea, and saw ratings decline steadily for more than a decade.

    Sure...by all means keep doubling down on gimmicks when the product is the problem. The cars are TOO fast in the corners, have tires that don't wear out, are TOO aero dependent, too reliable, too equal, and too much disincentive for a poor finish due to how points are distributed.

    FIX THE CARS and it will fix the sport. No one cars if a car is 15MPH slower in the center of a corner...if cars can race side by side. Cars cannot be all equal. Equal speeds means ZERO passing.

    To make NASCAR great again, the following should be announced rather than gimmicks: 1. Tires need to go back to bias-ply. 2. Cars need to go on a diet to 3000 pounds or less. 3. Eliminate "Common Template". 4. Splitter and side skirts need to be removed. 5. 5" minimum ride height established. 6. 1" maximum front sway bar. 7. No offset of rear end or body. 8. Chase be eliminated. 9. Schedule reduced to no more than 30 race weekends. 1/2 of schedule to be on tracks 1 mile in length or less. 10. Restore the Latford system. 11. Champion is driver with most points at end of season. 12. No gimmicks!

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  5. Anonymous5:12 PM

    Fans who want points to mean something again may be satisfied, for a while. But segment winners still have to qualify for the Chase and win at Homestead to win the Cup. WTH, bring back half-way money. And maybe a side pot for the driver with the most segment points who didn't make the Chase.

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  6. Was going to happen st some point. The collective attention span if younger fans is about equal to a gnat. Well done I say.

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  7. Change the cars they race so they can race and it won't be boring. It sux when the leader pulls away and the only way to pass him is on a restart. Nascar is barking up the wrong tree Aero Aero Aero

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  8. Should be fun, but I would love to find the old quote when they changed to the 43 points for first and 1 for last stating they wanted to make the points system easier for fans to follow. Now, I have to make sure the calculator is fully charged for the race.

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  9. The lastest #48 rule! Be prepared for a lot of wadded up cars, fights and oh by the way, fines! NASCAR's newest way to generate lost revenue from their failed Cup sponsorship deal!

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  10. The only way this works is if they truly live by their "boys have at it" statement and allow boys to be boys without fining them for the expected fallout from their latest rule change! Good chance of that happening!

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  11. Anonymous8:02 AM

    I honestly thought I was going to hate the news that was coming, but I actually like it. My biggest concern was how long the final segment would be, and the halfway mark is more than enough. I like the addition of playoff points, and to me its a throwback to the Winston Cup system as every race now truly counts again through to the second last race. My only complaint with the system is the one race finale to decide a champion. You wouldnt have the Red Sox and Dodgers meet for a one game World Series after three multi-game rounds and 162 games. I certainly would be okay with a three race final round though. It would be the best of both worlds for the traditionalist part of me along with the guilty pleasure fan part of me who does enjoy the drama of the system since 2004 (usually because until the #78 team, I was a fan of drivers on the outside looking in :).

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  12. Wayne8:29 AM

    Does this mean the Coffee Cup Yellows will be fewer. I still don,t think the races will be a better view. Watching then in a recorded fashion will still be my choice.

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  13. Anonymous8:56 AM

    NASCAR 2019, a look into the future.

    After Monster Energy decided not to return as the title sponsor, we at NASCAR spent a long time finding a new title sponsor that would fit our profile. Now, & only halfway through the 2019 season we're proud to announce that Red Wigglers, "The Cadillac Of Worms" will sponsor the rest of the season. It was a long & stressful period of negotiation, but we managed to get them to offer fifty cents & a cup of live worms to be awarded to the season champion, or the playoff champion, or, whoever we can figure out is in front at some point. Correction, that's fifty cents or a cup of live worms awarded, not both.

    There are other changes to our points format as we endlessly tweak this system:

    1-After each race segment, the drivers will have to get out & chug a beer. The driver that chugs the fastest starts on the pole for the next segment & gets ten points.

    2-For the first segment, the drivers have to have a U-Haul trailer attached to their cars, filled with their most valuable belongings. Each time something falls out they lose a point. Expect lots of debris cautions in this segment.

    3-Segment two will start with a ten lap foot race around the track.

    4-For segment three, the drivers will pay musical cars, switching cars & teams every two laps. Except for the last ten laps, where they get back in their pwn cars & run the opposite way around the track.

    5-We're adding a fourth segment, where we'll lay out an obstacle course on the track with orange cones. For each cone a driver knocks down, they lose a point & have to pit & chug a beer.

    We're also starting a NASCAR "Ride Along" program, where at random times in random events we're going to make random numbers of drivers carry along a lucky fan as their passenger. It may be for a lap, ten laps, an entire segment, or an entire race, who knows? We sure don't!

    Also we're changing the driver introductions. There are now so few fans attending that it will be faster for the fans to introduce themselves to the drivers, rather than vice versa.

    We hope you find these changes as exciting as we do!

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  14. As we roar down the IROC mountain! Letting the car owners build their cars to their own manufacturer's spec and not the sanctioning body's would add competition and interest. Absent that, I'm all for figure8.

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  15. Anonymous9:09 AM

    Nascar has changed the chase format so much in the last 10 years that yet another change (even as drastic as this) doesn't move the needle much for me. The continual ratings, sponsorship, and attendance declines seem irreversible at this point no matter what Nascar itself does. I thought around 2012 or 2013 if Jr. won the title that could draw some folks back in, but i think the ship has sailed on that notion too, even if he did somehow win one.

    I will always fondly look back on my afternoons spent watching almost every race from start to finish year after year and my annual treks to the spring race Dover, but at this point I have no interest in passing on any interest in Nascar to my two young sons, nor watching more than 15 minutes of racing every other weekend or so.

    Still support our two local tracks though and go several Saturday nights a season!

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  16. Anonymous9:49 AM

    You want better racing on the track? No Lucky Dogs, no wave a rounds, no passing in the pits during cautions when the field is supposed to be frozen. Don't run 10-12 laps of caution to pick up a water bottle someone threw out. Let driver pay be what they earn on the track.

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  17. Harley0810:45 AM

    Why should I care about trying to figure out points. It seems NASCAR does that for me. All I want to know is did my driver win and if not, where did he finish. I care about competitive racing from the start to the finish of a race and if this keeps me from using the DVR to watch a race until the last 10 laps, then I am all in.

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  18. Dwayne in Memphis12:09 PM

    Yeah...more changes for change's sake! This is why Fred Smith isn't handing the keys to FedEx over to his kids. Being related doesn't mean you know how something works. So they gave it to David J. Bronczek who started as a courier way back when...and he learned as he moved his way up the ladder.

    Meanwhile back in NASCAR, Brian France is chasing his own butt in circles faster than Rusty Wallace without a restrictor plate in 2004. Meanwhile, longtime fans who actually care about this sport are leaving it in droves as one-by-one we get tired of seeing the nickel and dime changes as NASCAR chases new fans.

    Is the fan base aging? Sure it is. Is NASCAR pushing the aging fan base away faster than it's dying off? Absolutely.

    Although, it's not entirely NASCAR's fault. Winston's exit cannot be understated as an origin of the problem. For over 30 years, NASCAR had a title sponsor that was more a title partner. Winston seemed to content to hear "Winston Cup champion" and "Winston Cup series" and throw in "The Winston No Bull" million incentives to push their brand awareness.

    When Winston had to go and Nextel (Sprint) came in (and now Monster Energy Drinks), they're not bringing in a title partner, so to speak, as they had with Winston. Nextel, Sprint and Monster Energy want to see the most bang for their marketing buck...not saying that's wrong for them...just saying that it has consequences.

    Races are irrelevant. People were tired of hearing "good points day" but now the winner of the Daytona 500 jumps out of the car and yells, "I qualified for the Chase." Why? Because title sponsors have put forced so much emphasis on a title that winning races is put on the back burner.

    Instead of "let's have a season of racing, and crown a winner at the end," the emphasis in on a gimmick title that changes every other year while the racing suffers because the title sponsor doesn't care about the racing week-to-week. The title sponsor wants all the emphasis on the title (ironically enough :o) ), so the importance of the actual race is diminished...but not just to the title sponsor.

    Apparently NASCAR can't find the problem. They stumble on a low downforce package that improves the racing, but instead of going further down THAT path, they back up and go down the "let's try more gimmicks" path that Brian France seems to be infatuated with.

    My dad got me into NASCAR, finally, after he'd been a fan for many, many years. Alan Kulwicki was the first champion I watched crowned. Jimmie Johnson may very well be the last. I've hung on more out of habit, tradition, and roots than for the actual product for several years now.

    The racing isn't great: it's slot car racing. The cars are glued to the track and, like you said, Dave, mechanical/tire failures are a thing of the past. It's part of what made the Coke 600 so exciting...those cars were made for 400 or 500 miles - not 600. Now it's just another mile and a half race. The other problem with Nascar. To the drivers, each track has its nuances. To viewers, it's another "D" week after week.

    Now we're going to gimmick the real races like we do the All-Star race. I think I'm done. There's only so many times you can substitute ingredients for your favorite dish before you realize that it's not even the same thing anymore. Maybe it's time to relegate NASCAR to a "boxscore" sport that I check on Monday mornings. I just don't care anymore.

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  19. This new points idea is a step in the right direction - putting more incentive toward winning and most laps led needs to be the goal as the result inevitably becomes the kind of racing we saw last year in the Trucks at Daytona, Kansas, Texas, and Michigan as well as with Indycars at the 500, Texas, and to a lesser extent Pocono.

    The only real here criticisms are -


    It should never have come to this, as all NASCAR needed to do for 2004 onward was keep the Latford Point System and add 125 bonus points for each race win and 100 bonus points for most laps led - put the incentive toward winning the race, winning the most races, and leading the most laps, to where drivers have no alternative but to go for the lead. As it is an outright reversion to the Latford System with such big point bonuses would work even more toward the same goal.

    The continuing obsession with how other sports like football and hockey gauge their champions - racing isn't other sports, Game Seven Moments don't exist, and playoff formats are inherently artificial points reracks that simple don't work in racing. The closest thing to a Game Seven Moment was the 1992 Dixie 500 and how Alan Kulwicki won the championship - even though in actuality Davey Allison LOST the title in that race. Moments like that really can't be replicated and Brian France's attempts have been farciful - 2011's points tie he may think was a wonderful NASCAR moment; in reality it was a contrivance to which no stock can be put precisely because it was a contrivance.

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    1. Dwayne in Memphis3:49 PM

      Could NOT agree more with your criticisms here. We got away from the "Old points system" because it was too confusing. Now we're earning points mid-race. They should have just added huge points bonuses to winning/leading most and moved forward. The 3 and 1 were never enough because the reward for dominating 6 races would not be enough to offset one blown motor and a last place finish.

      And it hurts the legitimacy of our sport and our champion when we constantly tinker with this "playoff" that Brian has fabricated chasing the other sports as you've mentioned.

      I just wish they'd set it and forget it (to borrow a phrase). Latford champions lasted from 1975 to 2003. Now we're changing championship formats and points awarded every 3 to 5 seasons since.

      And that's not supposed to hurt our sport's integrity at all?

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  20. Anonymous1:31 PM

    I thought they were going to switch to ethanol and really mix things up.

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  21. Anonymous1:48 PM

    Wow. This is amazing. I've attended more than 50 races in the last 25 years. I was a hard core fan, but I'm officially done. Good luck to NASCAR. I really hope it all works out, but as of now I'll be spending my entertainment dollars in a completely different way. However, I will keep an eye out to see if NASCAR adds a future segment whereby all the drivers get out of their cars and race horses around the track for bonus points.

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    1. The only way NASCAR is going to get any better is after France decides to leave the sport all together!

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  22. This is not why I started watching NASCAR. But it is what made me stop.

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  23. I suppose I'll have to see how the racing plays out. I'm trying to keep an open mind in hopes the changes greatly improves on-track action at the beginning stages of the race. With that said- I wish there was a way to steer clear of manufactured cautions. If NASCAR feels that fans need occasional breaks like in stick-and-ball sports- maybe they should have considered shortening some of the races in the first place.

    And I think we are kidding ourselves with the notion that NASCAR and the networks will air more green flag laps because they know there will be scheduled breaks in the action where commercials can be shown. I'm sure these breaks will be filled with interviews from crew chiefs and drivers with the majority of the commercials shown just as they are now...when green flag runs are underway or during a caution after a wreck.

    I find it interesting there has been a lot of talk about many fans thinking the races are too long and that the latest generation doesn't have the attention span to sit through a 3-4 hour race. If that holds any truth- why would NASCAR focus on a plan that will make the races take more time to run?

    It's easy to be a critic and I'm willing to see how things play out. Most drivers seem to like the new rules but I'm in the camp of being tired of constant changes. It seems NASCAR is throwing more sh** against the wall before even looking to see what stuck the last time.

    I wish the governing body utilized their so-called Fan Council more. I belong to that group and never once did NASCAR ask if more changes were even welcomed at this time...and the same goes for any other time a new rule change is announced. Their tactic is to always send out a survey after the fact to get the fan's knee-jerk reaction. By then it's too late and we are left to adjust to change...only to see those changes fail and NASCAR quickly moves on to something different.

    I'm hoping that NASACR hits on something soon because I see more and more fans distancing themselves from the sport.

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    1. Anonymous2:23 PM

      Reading your reply it hit me. This is about MORE commercial time not better racing. Ever watch a race streaming on FOX or NBC/SN? The commercials are hideous and relentless, sometimes repeating 3-4 times in a break. They also break away in the middle of the action and don't come back when the green flag drops again after a caution.

      This is a money play. There's no excitement to breaks between periods. If I want to see that I'll go to a hockey game and wait for a fight to break out. Nothing's breaking out here, just more corporate dollars in someone's pocket.

      These will also make the race LONGEr because the goal is to be in the top ten NO MATTER WHAT EVERY POINT COUNTS. More cautions, more commercials. bah.

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  24. It's more fun to find out the new rules every year than the actual racing

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  25. Already looking forward to the next off season

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  26. If this is NASCAR's attempt at " more action, fewer lulls and a more compact product", why don't they just run shorter races with cars that can pass each other????

    Football, baseball, basketball & hockey haven't strayed from their core roots, maybe there is a lesson in that for NASCAR.

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    1. I'm not sure they haven't strayed - I still hear complaints about the NFL's five-yard chuck rule as though improved sophistication of offenses and players was somehow irrelevant to the growth of offense; "in the old days they could play defense, today they're not allowed to play defense" is the hoariest gripe I hear and it's laughable.

      Shorter races simply don't work for the major leagues.

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