Monday, November 28, 2011

Three Changes NASCAR Needs To Make In 2012

NASCAR will crown its 2011 Sprint Cup Series champion later this week in Las Vegas, when Tony Stewart accepts the accolades for his third series title. The 2011 season was one of the best in NASCAR history, with five first-time winners, 19 overall victors and a much-needed resurgence in both at-track attendance and television viewership. There’s not much that needs fixing in NASCAR these days, but on three specific counts, the sanctioning body can -- and should -– do better.

Job One on NASCAR’s off-season "To-Do List" is to end the annual outbreak of owner point chicanery. NASCAR’s Top-35 system was instituted with noble intent. In an effort to reward teams for supporting the full-36-race championship schedule, NASCAR offers guaranteed starting spots in the first five races of each season to the Top 35 teams in the previous year’s owner points. Unfortunately, the system has been horribly manipulated over the years, until now, it frequently rewards teams that did not even exist the previous season.

It’s time to end the monkey business.

NASCAR should institute a new, “Use It Or Lose It” owner points system for the 2012 Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series campaigns. Under this new system, only the Top-35 in this year’s owner points (Top-30 in Nationwide and Trucks) will be allowed to claim a guaranteed starting spot in their respective season-openers at Daytona International Speedway. No more five-week guarantee, no more bogus ownership transfers, no more selling of owner points to the highest bidder.

And best of all, no more asking, “How did HE make it into the Daytona 500?”

If only 33 of the Top-35 teams return next season, so be it. Thirty three teams will be locked into the 2012 Daytona 500, with two additional spots made available to teams attempting to qualify on speed.

Once the 2012 Daytona 500 is in the books, NASCAR will be free to make much-needed changes to the qualifying system for the remaining 35 races. Since only seven cars actually qualify for a race these days, there’s no drama, no excitement and no reason for anyone to care. “Qualifying Day” has become “Arranging Day,” with nothing at stake other than the starting order for Sunday’s race.

NASCAR can do better.

Next season, old-style qualifying should be scrapped in favor of a new “Happy Hour” qualifying format. Teams will take to the track en masse -– just like they do on race day -– for a 60-minute, free form session that awards the pole position to the driver who turns the fastest lap. It’s simple, it’s exciting and it gives fans a reason to turn out on Qualifying Day for the first time in years.

Finally, NASCAR needs to eliminate the controversial practice of assessing “secret fines” to drivers and teams. Anything worth doing is worth doing in the light of day, and NASCAR demeans itself by operating behind a false cloak of secrecy. It is virtually impossible to keep secrets in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck garages these days, and by attempting to do so, NASCAR gives the impression that it is somehow ashamed of its actions.

If NASCAR truly wants to be accepted as a major professional sport alongside football, baseball, basketball and hockey, it needs to act professional. “Double-secret probation” has a decidedly Bush League feel to it, and should be done away with, once and for all.


  1. Anonymous11:44 AM

    Right on Dave! Those are three terrific ideas.You ever consider running for President? You make more sense than the guy in the oval office.

  2. Anonymous11:57 AM

    One final thing I would add is mandate every driver to come out and sign autographs at the track sometime during the race weekend....This is something I applaud the IRL Series in doing every race.It would be good for NASCAR,the Tracks and most important the Fans.

  3. Anonymous12:00 PM

    I would add one more. GREEN FLAG ONLY Pit Stops. No pit stops under Yellow. Then we will know which team is really fastest and the best.

  4. Every other major sport allows fans to view (for free), a copy it's respective rulebook. Any legitimate reason why NASCAR's couldn't be published online for all to see each year?

  5. Spot on Dave! There really isn't much that needs to be changed, but I would say if anything was going to change, your three are the ones to go with!

    Regarding a comment above, I feel some fans are being a bit greedy when it comes to "mandating drivers to sign." We have so much more access to the professionals in this sport than we do in almost any other sport. If you mandate the drivers to sign at some point over the weekend I think you change the attitude of the driver and don't have the unique experience you have now.

  6. Anonymous1:07 PM

    100% Agree with Matt. Just did a google search:

    NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, IRL, NHRA, ARCA, World of Outlaws, IMCA, and the NCAA all have their respective rulebooks posted online.

    What is NASCAR gaining by not making it public?
    How can you be a legitimate sport when your fans do not know the exact rules?
    Are the rules complicated? Yes, I'm sure they are, but, transparency is key.

  7. Kat Neely1:48 PM

    You are so right! This NASCAR season was awesome and I didn't think any changes were needed until I read your article. As usual, you are the man!

  8. anonymous internet genius1:54 PM

    baby blue broken lines on the track to show scoring loops.

    orange broken lines on pit road to show timing lines.

    do away with the winners circle and other payout programs. pay by finishing positions. i can understand sponsor contingency payouts on a small scale, but there is no way a guy in 40th should get paid more than 20th. the top 35 has made these practices ancient.

    if nascar doesnt make everyone change four tires during competition cautions, stop having them.

  9. Anonymous1:57 PM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  10. Tony Atwill2:02 PM

    As usual "DEAD ON DAVE" has thought long and hard before he spoke. A lesson that some NASCAR drivers could learn from. And maybe someone in NASCAR is listening and will consider these needed changes. Thanks Dave for all that you do!!

  11. maddmike3:24 PM

    A change I would like to see is the Champions Provisional. I think it should be only for the year after you are Champion, that would eliminate the Rent-A-Champ for the lower teams.

  12. Anonymous3:26 PM

    Love all the ideas!!!!!!!

  13. 1 point for leading a lap, but ONLY UNDER GREEN FLAG CONDITIONS. Staying out under caution to ge that point requires no real work.

  14. Anonymous3:37 PM

    great ideas! but have 2 spin this around and say DONT change the points system or mess w/ the chase format. its not broke. its perfect!
    eric in PA

  15. Dave, no credit for my online rulebook idea? Ouch. Glad you think it's a good one though. I think it's long overdue...

    Love the show,

    Matt in NH

  16. Anonymous4:32 PM

    Make it mandatory for all races to be covered in the covers by the Bagman and Moody only!!!!

  17. Anonymous4:33 PM


  18. I like all three of your proposals. I think there should be a change regarding start-and-parks. One thing that irritates me is seeing a sponsored car DNQ and not be able to race and then someone else gets in the race and runs just a couple laps then bail out of the race. Any team that is going to be a start-and-park must declare themselves before qualifying and give up their start to a sponsored car that DNQs. I think potential sponsors would be a bit more willing to give money to a new team if there was that little extra assurance that the car would get into the race.

  19. anonymous internet genius5:04 PM

    SD80MAC, as moody would say, how do you enforce that?

    i could declare myself sponsored. i have a sponsor. they only gave me enough money to buy two sets of tires. so i will practice with one set and qualify with the second set and run through a fuel run in the race. but i have a sponsor.

  20. Matt in NH, your idea was obviously a good one, but it wasn't yours alone. I got 4-5 Tweets saying exactly the same thing. Thanks for the suggestion, though, it was a good one!

  21. Dave I agree 100% about not being able to sell or transfer owner points. It has already changed the history of this sport by allowing teams to play this charade.

    If this rule was in place for the 2011 Cup season we would have probably seen a different Daytona 500 winner this year. The Wood Bros were given the #19 RPM owners points. It was these points that insured Trevor Bayne a starting spot in the Daytona 500 field. Officially Richard Petty was listed as the car owner of the #21 for the first 5 races of 2011. If I remember correctly Wood Bros actually changed the name of the company to Wood Bros 2 or something like that for the first few races.

    I look forward to seeing in the history books and in the NASCAR Hall of Fame someday that Richard Petty the owner of the #21 Wood Bros 2 won the Daytona 500 in 2011. My guess is NASCAR will leave that tid bit out?

  22. Gerald Barnes1:50 AM

    Fourth rules change, you only get a bonus point for leading a lap under green. No more staying out under yellow to get a point. Make the bonus point mean something.

  23. Joe Counts5:59 AM

    I disagree with your idea on qualifying. I think what they need to do is scrap the top 35 deal. draw numbers for qualifying positions. Every body draws then there is drama in who wins the pole. Nowadays the slowest first and fastest last ruins qualifying because you already know who is gonna run faster. Also the top 35 deal is bad because racing has always been the fastest cars make the race and the slowest go home. Of course NA$CAR won't drop it because it's money in their pockets and that's all NA$CAR is all about today. That's why I quit going to NA$CAR races and now spend my money on USAC and World of Outlaw Sprint Car other words REAL RACING!

  24. Charlie9:41 AM

    I would make one change to the points system, reward the points leader at the end of week 26 3 bonus points, stops drivers from laying down once the know they made the chase.

  25. Anonymous12:01 PM

    Qualifying at the plate tracks would certainly change for the better. Right now there is no better waste of three hours than plate track qualifying. I'm a big fan, but there is no way I can sit there for that without sleeping.

  26. Do away with the Top 35 as it was enacted to protect 2 sponsors who were beat out by some unsponsored cars.

    Get rid of the restrictor plate. It's been a temporary measure for well over 2 decades. With the EFI that's being introduced, the installed chip could easily take the place of a restrictor plate.

    Get rid of the Chase. Over 80% of the fans still dislike it. It hasn't made NASCAR competitive in the ratings against the NFL. And even though the ratings may have gone up a little this year, they're nowhere near what they were 3-6 years ago. The Chase is an idea that has failed despite all of the manipulations, tweaks, and changes that have been made to it.

  27. Mikie, I'm calling you out on your statement that "over 80% of the fans still dislike" the Chase. Where does that number come from? I've not heard a complaint about the Chase in a long time, and I talk to more NASCAR fans in a day that most people do in a year. Can you provide proof to support that number, or is it just something you pulled out of some deep- dark orifice in your mind? ;)

  28. Joe W.3:48 PM

    I disagree that Trevor Bayne would not have made the Daytona 500 without the owner points. He had a fast car and would have been in on speed. I think we need some sort of provisional situation. I DO NOT want a big name driver running for the Championship to lose out due to a qualifying wreck. It's about racing and where you finish, not qualifying and where you start.

  29. Anonymous4:01 PM

    So how many people would you say dislike the Chase, Dave? I'm interested to hear this number because you made it sound like everyone loves the Chase. I"m guessing people just don't voice their displeasure anymore because it has fallen on deaf ears for 7 years. If Johnson had won again, you certainly would have heard about it more. But with someone new guaranteed to win, the voices are not as loud. I'd still be willing to bet more people hate it than like it. No numbers to back it up but an educated guess.

  30. Anonymous5:09 PM

    I like all Dave's ideas but I'd be in favor of locking in only the top 12 in points from the previous race and lettng the other 31 cars qualify on speed. At the start of the season that applies to Daytona only and not the first 5 races . So if you made the chase the previous year you are guaranteed to start Daytona. If you are running that good then you are likely the drivers the fans want to see and would likely qualify anyway. Everyone else goes hard or goes home.

  31. I have no idea what percentage of fans like (or dislike) the Chase. That's why I don't throw out phantom statistics that I cannot prove. I will tell you this, though. Not EVERYONE likes ANYTHING!

  32. Anonymous12:42 PM

    I for one hate the chase. I think it produces bogus racing thru the 1st 26 races. Drivers are point racing just to get into the chase instead of pushing the evelope. Although I like Tony I find it very strange that here's a racer who didn't win one race all year but manager to win 5 of the last 10 races. Where was he at all year? My guess - playing it causious just to stay in the hunt. I also find it strang that there were so many 1st time winners this year. And how could they manage to win a race but not be competitive all year long. Make me say - HUMMMM.?????

  33. "If Johnson had won again, you certainly would have heard about it more."

    That sounds more like not liking Johnson than not liking the Chase.

  34. Anonymous3:40 PM

    I also hate start and parks. if they only race 10% of the laps then they should only get 10% of the prize money for their final position. you should not be able to go out and turn a profit on 5 laps!