Tom Time: As NASCAR Turns — Jumping Off The Fanwagon

Tom Baker Carolinas Racing, Featured, MidSouth, Midwest, NASCAR, New England, Northeast, Plains, Southeast, Uncategorized, West 0 Comments

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Column By Race Chaser Online Senior Editor Tom Baker — Photo Credit   –

With the 2015 NASCAR Chase For The Sprint Cup down to just four races, social media has been buzzing like a Texas-sized hive of bees all week, with the Monday morning NASCAR CEO’s all bitching about the latest dumb thing that NASCAR did and swearing they’re done as fans and never going to watch another race again.

It’s pretty funny to watch.

My response to those claiming they’re going to jump off the NASCAR fanwagon…

If you’re going to say it, do it!

Otherwise, you’re just bitching to be bitching and that’s you’re right, but it’s also my right to throw the caution flag and put you to the back of the longest line so I can make fun of you.

There are a large portion of these chronic complainers who still wear their Intimidator hats and shirts and turn on the TV every Sunday just pining for the days when Dale Senior ruled the roost.  Nothing can ever match those days, they say.

I understand the pain of losing your favorite driver, because I can’t talk about the night my first racing hero, Jimmy Shampine, was killed in a Modified on September 4th, 1982 at the Oswego Speedway without tears to this day.

I understand thinking the old days were better, because in many ways I would agree with that – not just in NASCAR but in our sport in general.  Innovation and ingenuity make racing interesting and unique, but the unfortunate consequence is escalating cost when someone comes up with a great idea and everyone else has to throw away what they have and upgrade to the latest, greatest and most expensive in order to keep pace.

I get it.

But this is not 1990. It’s 2015.  If NASCAR has passed you by, I hate that.  But, please…spare us the idle threats.

Here’s the deal – if you’re going to sit at your keyboard every Sunday afternoon and carry on with your “I’m all done with NAPCAR” rants, why don’t you actually stop watching?

It will save you the time of having to recycle your rant every weekend, and save all of us from having to re-read it.

Some of you spend way too much time posting based on emotion, and when you argue emotionally, you rarely ever add value to a discussion.

Then, those of us who are left can spend some time logically, thoughtfully and reasonably debating the issues of the day, like Kevin Harvick’s inability to go on a green flag, Matt Kenseth’s latest issue with Joey Logano, or what NASCAR could do to fix whatever problem we think they had that day.

Here’s my rational take on Talladega.  Agreement is not required.

I don’t think Kevin Harvick intentionally crashed Trevor Bayne.  I’d like to believe he has higher regard for human life than that, because he surely knows what can happen when you do such a thing on a high-speed track like Talladega.

Remember Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski?  Harvick was there that day.  I am pretty sure he knows better.  He just forgot to turn on his blinker before he turned right.

I do think, however, that NASCAR should have put him to the back of the field for the last restart, because they knew on the first attempt that he slowed his lane down at least ten car lengths before they ever reached the finish line.

When that happens, naturally the drivers behind you are going to look for any hole they can find to get around you and catch back up to the field.  This may not be as important on a lap 10 restart when you have a hundred or more laps left, but every inch of track position is critical on a green-white-checkered.

Had NASCAR put him to the tail, they would have eliminated the possibility of Harvick causing a mess like he did, and he still would have had the chance to drive back up through in the event that someone else caused a mess and finish high enough at the checkered to advance to round three.

It’s not often you have a scenario where a car is in that situation mechanically like Harvick’s was, but in my opinion NASCAR or any series has to have a “big picture” way of dealing with it consistently that takes the whole field into consideration and not just one driver.  Again, that’s my opinion.

I also understand NASCAR’s rationale for using only one green-white-checkered attempt.  They were trying to prevent finishing the race with five cars, and they wanted to create fewer scenarios for Days-Of-Thunder-like crashes that jeopardize drivers’ safety.  Fair enough.

But I disagree with their rationale on the basis that, especially in a “playoff” scenario, a race that ends under yellow is like an NFL playoff game ending in a tie.  Nobody actually “wins” because the race remains forever incomplete.

It is my opinion that if NASCAR would simply adopt the ARCA series rule that “all races must end under green flag conditions”, I would argue that drivers may not feel the need to try to advance 20 spots before they reach the start-finish line and choose to exercise a little more patience on these restarts instead.

Maybe we wouldn’t have what we had on Sunday because maybe Trevor Bayne would have waited an extra second or two before going to the outside of Harvick instead of feeling like every second matters because we might decide finishing positions by where drivers were at a scoring loop when the race-ending yellow comes out.

“But you can’t spend all day trying to get 2 laps in because you might only have two cars left at the finish!”

Why not? It’s the playoffs, isn’t it?

The Mets and Royals took five hours to decide the outcome of the first game of the World Series on Tuesday night.  The NFL will have as many overtimes as necessary to decide a true winner in a playoff game.

If NASCAR wants to be like those other sports and have a playoff, it seems logical that we “play” until we get a real outcome.

“But the drivers don’t want unlimited attempts”.

Then tell them to stop screwing it up the first time.

It’s always helpful to get input from your racers, because they often know better than you when it comes to the cars they drive, the way they should be built and set up, and the configuration of a track.

But, other times you have to tell drivers what’s best, because sometimes the right foot starts trying to do the job of the brain.

I don’t mean to question their intelligence, just their priorities now and then.  If they knew that NASCAR wouldl sit there all afternoon and keep restarting, maybe they’d be just a touch more patient.  NASCAR cannot drive the cars for them.

If you’re the promoter, then it’s your show.  You have to decide what’s best for those who pay to get in the front gate and sit in the grandstands, because if you make the wrong choice, then it won’t matter much what the racers think, the show will go on to empty seats.

I have been a fan for over 40 years and an “insider” working in the sport for nearly 30.  My experience has ranged from media and marketing work to track and series management and promotion, spotting, announcing, race directing, driver coaching and working on various pit crews.

I don’t point that out for applause, I point it out to say that I feel like I bring a well-rounded perspective to the conversation.

Those that don’t like NASCAR’s current Chase format are holding on to a system that I don’t think was never very exciting in the first place, be it in NASCAR or any other form of racing.  How many of you ever sat at a race and counted points during the race prior to 2014?

Now we all do, especially if our favorite driver is involved, and even the novice fan can relate to the elimination concept because every other sport has it.  Every lap counts ten times as much as it did before, and one mistake can ruin it all, just like a Tony Romo fourth quarter interception.

Tell me again how that’s a bad thing?

NASCAR has created a reason to hang on every lap, at least for those of us who are true die-hard fans of the sport and not just of one driver.

Let’s face facts here – watching cars go in circles for three or four hours is equivalent to root canal for those without a specific reason to watch, and even many of us who have a reason to watch can fall asleep in no time.  I fall asleep easier through a high-speed F1 Parade, mind you, but you get my point.

So, if you’re Brian France and you’re trying to do your best to compete with football in the last three months of the season, having a “playoff” with eliminations makes sense.

It at least gives everyone a reason to care about the final ten races and feel like the champion brought their “A” game to every race instead of riding around “points racing” and not walking the razor’s edge, which is the one thing we all expect a racer to do when we watch!

I would volunteer in thirty seconds flat to sit in on a NASCAR race rules meeting in the offseason and share some of my constructive thoughts on how they could improve the sport, because I believe that my quarter-century of experience at the grassroots level and my connection to the everyday fan through my work in the media could help to generate some different perspectives and ideas.

I’m surely not the only one, and my ideas aren’t always the best.  Many of you could do the same thing better than me.

But let’s be clear..NASCAR runs 36 races (more than any other national series) and operates under constant scrutiny and pressure to make 200 mph decisions right.   There are no time outs or 7th inning stretches.  Not only are the drivers and crews on mental tilt for three or four hours every week, so are the officials.

It’s a damned tough job.

If you think you have constructive ideas to help the sport, by all means don’t just talk to each other about them, go to NASCAR’s Facebook or Instagram or website and share them in a constructive manner.

Let me clarify – “NASCAR paid Allgaier to blow up his motor”, or “NASCAR tried all day long to make sure Junior won”, or “Hendrick runs NASCAR and always gets away with cheating” is not constructive.

It just makes you sound like a dork.

NASCAR does actually “hear” (or “see”) much of what is being talked about, and they are working much more closely today than they have in a long time with drivers and teams to take steps to improve, like reducing Aero and make the cars handle more  like they did in the  “good old days” again for 2016.

That isn’t being done to put more money in their pockets – it’s being done to make racing more exciting for all of us who watch or are involved, drivers and fans included.

I don’t want to take away your first amendment right to whine and bitch and sound like a dork.  I’m just asking you to mean what you say.

If you’re done with NASCAR, please be done.  Otherwise, you don’t just sound like a dork, you really are, in fact, a dork.

After all, only a dork would keep doing something they hate over and over again for no reason, right?

See y’all after Martinsville for the next round of “As NASCAR turns”.

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