|DIBENNEDETTO NASCAR'S ROCKY BALBOA
|FROM JOURNEYMAN DRIVER TO HALL OF FAMER
|WINNERS NOT ADDING UP
|THE 600 IS STILL A CROWN JEWEL
|NEXT TWO WEEKS COULD BE TOO GOOD
|WALTRIP A TWO-WAY HALL OF FAMER
Time to Find Out If That Dog Will Hunt
Everyone agrees, the racing on the 1.5 to two-mile tracks with the current rules package is in most cases dull and uninspiring and if it isn't fixed NASCAR will not be able to attract new fans or hold on to staunch supporters, whose interest may now be waning.
That's why NASCAR was given such high marks for the dramatically different rules package they came up with for the All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway and their willingness to use it in competition to get a real-world feel as to whether or not it was truly a step forward. While a few drivers grumbled, the side-by-side racing was at times exhilarating and certainly a big hit with anyone who was watching. It certainly gave us something much better to make a judgment than if all the teams had just showed up for an open test.
Now, it's time to see if that dog will really hunt. They need to run it in a point race this year. They just can't sniff around waiting on next season and time is running out to get it done before the Playoff begins.
NASCAR Senior Vice-President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell went on Fox Sports last weekend to say they are considering just that for one and up to three of the upcoming races. According to the garage gossip under consideration are the second races later this summer at Pocono and Michigan along with the Monster Energy Cup Series regular-season finale in Indianapolis.
"I think they did a nice job at swinging for the fences with a game plan," said Bubba Wallace. "But now, swing harder."
That's exactly what NASCAR should do and they seem willing to step up to the plate, going for a home run.
It's the logical next step and following the All-Star race Kevin Harvick alluded to that. "As far as the package goes, I'd like to make sure we don't jump and say this is the save all, do all package. I'd like to see it slowly transformed into points-paying races because I think the preparation level will be a little bit different from every team in the garage."
"I just want to make sure we cycle it
The man who oversees the show at Stewart-Haas Racing, Greg Zippadelli, agreed. "I think it's doable. Back to what Kevin said, is implementing it the right way, learning it. It's going to be different than our other packages. It's a motor package, potentially a body change from what we race on downforce racetracks. We're just creating more work for ourselves which just takes more resources."
"It puts good racing on, the races are spread out, we'll all figure it out as teams. It would be nice to go to another racetrack."
Admittedly, this will really create more work and more havoc for race teams right in the middle of their final push to either prepare for the Playoff or get into it. It's not like they just take one of the current cars throw a restrictor plate on the engine, a taller spoiler on the back, big air scoops in the front bumper and then, in the words of Darrell Waltrip "let's go racing boys.". They could do that, but all the top operations will completely rebuild cars and bodies to be the best they can be. The engine builders will do hundreds of hours of dyno testing maxing out the horsepower.
All this to create a kind of racing that rubs a driver's natural instincts raw, like sand in their bathing suit.
Perhaps, Alex Bowman summed it up best. "I have pretty mixed views on it. There is my view as a race car driver and then there is my view as a member of the sport. I think for the fans the racing was great. There is no denying that. It was a great race and the fans are why we are here, why we are allowed to get paid to be a race car driver. From that side of things, I loved it. I think the fact NASCAR is always trying to make the racing better is very good."
But he added, "As a race car driver, it's pretty easy to drive and we are the premier stock car series in the world. So, obviously, you would like to be a little more difficult to drive. You don't want to just go everywhere and be wide open."
I can certainly understand that attitude just as well as the drivers have to understand the current rules package for the intermediate speedways could leave us crashed and burned.
So, again, NASCAR is considering using the All-Star package in from one to three of the upcoming events. I vote for three to give everyone a big enough sample size to agree on any tweaks that need to be made and decide if these rules can be used universally or will there need to be slight variations for each individual track.
It's going to cost a lot of time. It's going to cost a lot of money. It's going to be worth it.
It's got to happen.