BAKER: New Ways To Lose The Chase

Tom Baker Cup, NASCAR, Staff Columns, Tom Baker Blog 0 Comments

Technical inspection issues could play a role in determining this year's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, thanks to new rules released by NASCAR this week. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR photo)

Technical inspection issues could play a role in determining this year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, thanks to new rules released by NASCAR this week. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR photo)

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — As NASCAR’s traveling roadshow gathers in the Windy City this weekend, those in charge have let it be known that no tomfoolery will be tolerated in this year’s championship Chase.

If you fail the post-race laser inspection system, or if you have three or more lug nuts loose on your tires (at the end of an event), you will lose your wife, your kids, your dog, your truck, your birthday money and your Grandma will be suspended from Christmas dinner for the next three years.

OK, that was a slight exaggeration. But if you win, your win won’t count toward Chase advancement, you’ll be fined 35 driver points, $65,000 and your crew chief sits out the next three races.

Now, I don’t want you to misunderstand my poking a little fun at this sudden fit of tough love that NASCAR’s doing here. I think it’s high time we started to stiffen penalties for these teams who intentionally try to skirt the rules.

I have two issues with the specifics, though.

First, I wonder why they are so eager to shut the bad guys down in the Chase but not in the first 26 races. I am hoping this is the precursor to these rules being permanent, because I think every race should be run the same, Chase or no Chase.

Second, if you’re going to make a win not count in the Chase, why would it still count any other way?  I’ve never, ever understood the concept of “Oh, you cheated, but you can keep your win.”

If you were illegal, shouldn’t you be disqualified to last and have all monies and points for winning taken away? Shouldn’t it be the firsts legal car across the finish line who wins the race?

Isn’t that how short-track racing is done? If it works for a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series race on a Saturday night in middle America, why wouldn’t it work at Daytona or Bristol or Chicagoland or Kansas?

If you’re going to let cheaters win, why have rules?

Young people growing up today aren’t naturally inclined to be gearheads, and they’re surely not inclined to be race fans. When my generation and those before me were growing up, you didn’t have a “new” car as your first car. You got a hand-me-down or maybe you or your father went and found an older hot rod or whatever to restore.

In that light, the “fans” of previous eras understood the sense of accomplishment and the excitement behind innovation and finding creative ways to make it necessary for sanctioning bodies to put another rule they hadn’t thought of into the rule book.

Now it’s different. In an age of computer phones, Pokemon and going to the dealership to get your first car, young people just see cars in a circle. Their ability to focus on anything not visible on their phone screen lasts less than five minutes, so they aren’t going to take the time to understand all these different levels of penalties and who’s on top of the box or what that even means.

Sure, a portion of the population still does their own car repair or grew up around racing so they’ve “inherited the disease”, but those numbers dwindle with each generation. People, especially young men, will always have a zest for “racing”, but they can feed that need at the local drag strip instead of sitting in the grandstand at a NASCAR race, wondering what level the penalty is going to be for destroying your car in your post-race burnout.

Those in power in all forms of motorsports should really focus more on simplifying the rules both on-track and car-related, and make tech far more black and white. If you cheat, you lose. Period. Now, if it’s something minor that isn’t a performance enhancing situation, write it down, tell them to fix it before the next race and then check it next time to see if they did.

NASCAR has ended up with too many things to pay attention to during a national race. Caution clocks, overtime lines, infractions by level, restart boxes … what in the world are we doing? It cannot be any easier for the officials to pay attention to everything and interpret than it is the fans, can it?

Here’s a novel idea … let the flagger start the race. Isn’t that what he’s for?

Oh, and use the ARCA rule of every race finishing under green no matter what. Isn’t that what your paying customers came to see?

If you cheat, you’re disqualified. We don’t care who you are, who your sponsor is. Rules are rules. Isn’t that the easiest way to keep things level and understandable for all involved?

The checkered flag is black and white. The rules should be as well. Gray is a terrible color. It always leads to interpretation, and interpretation leads to inconsistency. Inconsistency leads eventually to more rules to make it more consistent, and so on and so forth.

I like the tough-man stance NASCAR took with these rules announcements. I just hope they keep it for all season and, in doing so, simplify things for their own good, and the good of future generations of fans and participants.

Let’s go racin’, Chase style!

The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Race Chaser Online, Speed77 Radio, the Performance Motorsports Network, their sponsors or other contributors.


About the Writer

Tom Baker HeadshotTom Baker is the Owner and Senior Editor of Race Chaser Online, as well as creator of the Stock Car Steel/SRI Motorsports Show — airing Thursdays at 7 p.m. Eastern on the Performance Motorsports Network.

With 27 years of motorsports media, marketing and managerial experience, Baker serves as coach and mentor for several next generation racers as well as Race Chaser’s passionate lineup of rising motorsports journalists.

Email Tom at: [email protected]

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