Wednesday, December 6th, 2006 5:19pm UTC
By Luke, Thunder Lounge
Published on Thunder Lounge.
[thumb:248:l:s=1:l=x]OK, I’ll be the first to admit I’m a little spun up. But it’s something that’s been on my mind for who knows how long, and regular readers can probably pick out some of it flowing through in other articles. However it took a reference/article over on SceneDaily’s blog by Steve Waid to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak. We’re talking ISC, NASCAR, the future direction of the sport, and mixed in with a little “what the hell are they thinking” kind of stuff.
First, for clarification, Steve’s article is about how ISC has abandoned their hopes (at least for now) of a track on Staten Island. This isn’t something directed at Steve, for the record, as his article is right on. This is more of an expansion on it, and the entire can of worms.
Next, I’ll quote you my reply/comment to the article, which (hopefully) they see fit to moderate since they have been known to make things disappear from time to time.
Steve, I’m not surprised either.
You know what they say, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make the drink.”
It would have been a good thing (economically) for the area, but apparently they have other things on their mind.
The question in my mind is this, what will ISC do now?
The proposed track was going to be (at least as reported) a 3/4mi speedway. This is good, very good. It means, or is at least a sign, that the cookie-cutter philosophy is on its way out.
Why beat around the bush? We all know that the ISC track, had it been completed, would have had a date for Cup. How they would have arranged it, is anyone’s guess but it would have happened.
So now, where will they try to target another track? In the same general area? Will they bounce back to the cookie-cutter philosophy if they have more room? What impact will this have on the sport 10 years from now? It’s going to have an impact in some form or fashion.
On another note, but something that does tie into the big picture, is the whole Kentucky fiasco. The whole “I want a date, give it to me or I’ll sue” mentality, if you will.
With 38 events on the schedule already, people still building tracks, Brian pushing towards a global market, and everything else with all of this, something somewhere is going to have to give.
It’s starting to become apparent that moving too far from the roots is slowly doing more harm than good, but where is the happy medium? It needs to be found, and soon.
Could it be that in the future we’ll see more Busch/Cup location separation? Possibly, but tracks want Cup. That’s where the money is for them.
Eventually, at this rate, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see Cup divided into 2 divisions. How it would be pulled off, I don’t know. But either NASCAR is going to have to accept that it can’t be everything to everyone, or it’s going to have to pull out the magic stick.
I had more to add to it, believe me, but I figured that here was the place for it and not on their site. Why give them the free goodies, you know?
So, let’s continue on and expand.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not ecstatic about the state of our sport at the moment. I’ll be dead honest, and direct. I personally feel it’s getting far too big for its britches. While growth is always good, massively quick growth has more drawbacks than benefits. They also trickle down to every level of detail as well.
In order for this growth explosion to continue, NASCAR absolutely can not abandon the people that made it what it is today. They can’t abandon the philosophy that got it where it is today. No matter what the topic is, too much of a good thing spoils it. To put it into perspective, you could eat a steak every night for dinner. Eventually you’re going to want a pork chop. That’s just how it is. It’s what is known as reality.
Brian France is a very intelligent, and innovative man. Where the problem lies is not with ideas, but implementation. As my comment above implies, you just can’t be everything to everyone. No matter what Brian does, everybody isn’t going to love NASCAR. While being the #1 sport in the nation is an aspiring goal, the question comes down to is it worth it? How much will the sport suffer, and is it a good idea to push it too fast?
On point, the basics need to be applied. What is NASCAR about, in its most simple form? Racing. That’s where it needs to start. If the racing isn’t good, and it isn’t sometimes to be honest, failure is in the cards for the future no matter the hype.
Racing is the product of NASCAR, and is what needs to come first. Rockingham being closed for a second date in California was a bad move. Period. Why? You tell me what’s better racing. The Rock, or California. If you say California you either need therapy, more time in the sport, a dose of reality, or all of the above.
In order for NASCAR to grow, it has to have strong roots. Think of it as a big oak tree. No matter the size of the tree above ground, it has to have the roots to support it. Without them, the tree will die.
While I do agree that some sacrifices must be made in order to grow, killing off the primary roots of the tree will knock it out dead in the ground quicker than you can say, “What the hell happened, Margret?”
There are some moves that have cut these main roots, and we’re just now beginning to see the results.
The Southern 500
Moving California from before Richmond to replace this race was bad. Damn bad. Attempting to move Darlington to Mothers Day didn’t help. All for market exposure, and not keeping the product in mind.
This is a big sticking point with a lot of long time fans. Although some can’t handle any change at all, that’s just how it goes. However, this is one big point that more long time fans than not hold over NASCAR’s head.
Continuing on, let’s get into ISC and the tracks.
With their debacle up in Staten Island, what’s their next target? They want to build a new track, and you can bet they will. Technically, they want to build two new tracks. We won’t even get into the Seattle version of this.
Track-wise, this S.I. deal would have been great. No more cookie-cutter! Yay!
Is that now dead in the water, as far as track design? We’d like to hope not.
Next on the agenda, what in the world was going to “give” on the current schedule for the ISC track up there to get a date. We all know that ISC = NASCAR = ISC. While they claim separation, we all know that ISC carries more than their fair share of the weight in NASCAR. So, we all know it would have gotten a Cup date up there, and there’s more than one way to do it.
What would have been lost on the current schedule to accommodate this new track? I for one would have hoped that one of the California dates would have been pushed off in favor of the NY market. That would make sense, but would that have happened? Not likely, to be honest. The snake would have chosen another victim to prey upon. Would ISC give up one of its own dates at another track? Not likely either, if it didn’t have to. And the chances are it wouldn’t. If both Seattle and NY went through, maybe one of the two dates would need pulled from one of their other tracks, but two is pushing it. I wouldn’t take those odds in Vegas. Would you?
So we’re left with wondering where the date would come from. Most likely not an SMI track, Bruton wouldn’t stand for it. Then you’d have Brutongate all over again. So that leaves us with the few independant track owners on the circuit. My first thought would be Pocono. To be honest, it’s always been a little much for me to see two 500mi races there, and so close together. Nothing against y’all up there, but one would be sufficient. New Hampshire? Maybe, but less likely than Pocono. The end result, no matter how you slice it, is someone is/was going to get screwed out of the deal no matter how it fell. The easiest result to swallow would be California going back to a one race shot, but we’re past talking about quality of product (racing) here and on to talking about the root of all evil (money).
Now, you would think that people have wised up already. Too many tracks, not enough dates, something has to give. Yes, it does. Will ISC back down from building two new tracks? I doubt it, although the timetable has definitely been moved back now. Let’s not forget other tracks being built, just opening, or suing for a date.
– Credit and Kudo’s to Iowa Speedway for their handling on the issue —
Kentucky… Thanks to their owner’s for their selfishness, and driving up costs across the board so NASCAR can foot the additional legal bill. Nice way to handle it. If by some miracle you win and get a date, I hope it’s a miserable failure. All due to your approach in getting it. I for one, will boycott it if it ever happens. OK, back to reality, as it isn’t going to happen.
Now, Dale Jr’s building a little slice down outside of Mobile, and there’s other plans being put into action for tracks from NJ, another California track, and although it looks like the Auburn relation out to the northwest isn’t going to get off the ground, who knows.
Think that’s it? Nah, there’s more to it. Anyone hear anything about Denver? You will, in time.
Before any of these projects get off the ground, and Kentucky needs to ask this as well, ask yourself (being the track owner or proposed track owner), “What will I bring to racing that is unique?” Kentucky? Nothing. Oh wait, you’re in Kentucky, and that’s it. Shouldn’t have built a cookie-cutter track, fellas. ISC’s proposal would have brought something different, as it wouldn’t have been a Richmond, but it wouldn’t have been a Bristol either.
The time of the putting up a 1.5 mile track, and thinking you’re going to even have a snowball’s chance to get a Cup date is over. It’s dead. Unless you’re ISC, of course and then you know if you build a track you’ll get a date. Even if it’s moving dates about in your arsenal. SMI is the same way, as they could build a new track and move a date as well. I doubt they’d do it though, as Smith is still looking to buy out an independant track with a date so it can be moved to Vegas.
So, let’s bring this all together now.
Let’s see, we have so far:
- an already strained schedule
- new tracks being built (still)
- additional tracks being proposed/considered
- a sport growing so fast it’s killing itself from the inside out
- more existing tracks still wanting/suing/begging for a Cup date
That about sum it up?
So what is NASCAR to do? It has to be able to get these things in check, else the decline seen this season will continue.
First, I’d say cost control is an issue. However, we have to learn from history. Teams are going to spend. Block it in one area, and they’ll move it to another. This testing restriction was supposed to help curb some costs, among other things, and it didn’t. Yes, it saved in “testing”, but look what happened. Teams went to non-sanctioned tracks in record numbers. Tires limited? Hello Hoosier. What about the “impound” procedure? Nope, it failed in 2005. Miserably, I might add. Why? Think about it. You’ve got crew members sitting around a track, getting paid, and they can’t work. With Busch it isn’t so bad. But Cup was a big difference.
What about the COT? Have you read the press on it? Read between the lines and you can see its development and implementation by the teams is costing some big bucks. Down the road, it might save a few bucks. But as we’ve learned from the past, it’s only going to be spent elsewhere. The COT is about safety and competition. And more competition than safety, and moving away from what the race vehicles of today have become. Just wait and see the COT 5 years from now, and see how the teams have massaged it to make it faster.
NASCAR, from a team perspective, is about winning. If you have “X” amount of dollars, and NASCAR says you can’t spend it here, you find a way to spend it to make your team better. Be that in research, testing, or whatever you can get your hands on to get a leg up on the competition.
Chevy had an impressive year this season. Where were the Ford’s? Roush heading out of 2005 looked damn strong. OK, Mark and Matt Chased this year, but what about Jack’s other three teams? What about any other Ford out there? Yates? Wood’s? Bueller? Fusion. That’s the deal there. Plain truth. What the teams thought of the initial prototypes, being similar to the Taurus, came down in a whirlwind and they played catch-up all season. Same goes for Dodge, for the most part. Evernham excluded to a great extent. But then again, that’s a credit to Ray and all his employee’s too. They found something, hit on it, and it was working. The remaining Dodge teams had troubles. Ganassi continued to slide with the Charger, Penske had issues with it, and just as Yates was with their continuing struggles, the new model didn’t help.
So why was Chevy so dominant this season? Well, you do have to consider they have the most horses in the stable, but also their teams notes from the season previous were all still good. Who knows what 2007 will bring with it, but you can bet that the Dodge and Ford camps are going to be doing a ton of research over the break. Hmmm… more money being spent? Yep. You can bet on it.
So what can you do about cost control? Set a maximum cap? Yeah, OK. Not going to happen in any realistic fashion. Teams want to win. Sponsors want their teams to win. It’s an unbreakable bond tied directly to funding. Without adequate funding in place, your running for mid-pack on back. It’s not a lack of effort, mind you, it’s the resources that the additional dollars bring with it. Research, engineering, testing, special testing equipment (6-post shaker, anyone?), and all that jazz. It’s an endless cycle. You can’t get better without more funding, yet you can’t get more funding without getting better.
Enter Toyota. Oh c’mon, you knew it was coming sooner or later.
It’s not Toyota’s “spending budget” that has brought it success in the Truck Series. It’s their organization and structure that they put in place. They were able to see how it’s being done, and how to improve on it.
Bodine knew what Benson was running, and Benson knew what Bodie was running. That’s how Toyota works. Their teams are required to share information across the board. So, OK, maybe the driver didn’t know exactly what the other was running, but their teams did.
That being said though, what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another. Each driver has a feel they like, which might not be right for another driver. Does the phrase “Sometimes you gotta turn right, to go left” ring a bell?
Toyota won’t come in and dominate. The odds are against them even being fairly competitive off the bat. Just watch them though. Keep tabs. They’ll come up to speed quicker than if it were another manufacturer entering the sport. Think of Toyota like you would Roush. All the teams under Jack’s hat know what each other is doing. So will be the case for Toyota. Of course, they have to make races first.
So what about our little list up there?
How about a big picture summary?
Too many tracks, and their numbers are growing or will be growing. Plus now you have how many teams trying get into the races? How many teams folded after this season? One? Two? Maybe three if the rest of the competition is lucky. Now what about all the new teams coming in? OK, trying to come in. It’s shaping up for a record number of qualifiers come February. And their all going to have major sponsorship in place. Inevitably, someone’s feelings are going to be hurt when they have to take their car and go home. While the 500 is always a big draw for qualifying numbers, it won’t get much better in the following weeks. Eventually, some teams will drop their dreams. Some won’t though, and you can bet on it.
So far that’s (lots of tracks + lots of teams).
The schedule, in all it’s 38 events glory, is already strained beyond belief. Overall length isn’t something that can change towards the longer end. However that doesn’t mean some dates during the week couldn’t be filled in as well. Wednesday night short track, anyone? Hey, don’t laugh. Kyle Petty’s talked about it.
So now we have the above, plus a schedule that’s ready to burst. What is one to do?
Does the sport continue to grow? Or do they settle for second best sport in the country (in terms of popularity)? Do they cast aside the fans upon who’s backs they climbed to grace? Or do they admit to their new found friends that they truly aren’t the giant they played to be?
Something has to give.
Either it will be the long loyal fans moving on, and causing NASCAR to wonder what happened, or it could be NASCAR coming to terms with what they are truly about, or it could be something completely off the wall that could perhaps cater to both.
A divided Cup series.
Don’t ask me how, or details of how it could be done. Your guess is as good as mine. Although I’ll share my thoughts a bit.
There are enough tracks to support it, there could be enough teams to support it, but would the fans support it? Think of the NBA playoffs, as an example. How many teams make it in? You would have to have a split series for say, 16 races. Top 20 from each series rolls on, with new points. Those who didn’t make it, still could fight it out on in a separate race somewhere, just to race and “get better”, or the split could just be done at that point.
Next, the top 40 would duke it out against each other for 10 races to see who’s in the fight for the championship, and who’s not. Then, run the Chase for the 10 (or whatever) drivers that make it in, and open up qualifying to anyone who competed (and qualified) for any of the previous 26 races.
OK, it sounds crazy. It is crazy. But then again, so is the current state of the sport. At least it’s getting there, and some would say it’s been there for a while.
With the above line of thinking, essentially you would be adding another 16 races to the schedule, without increasing the number of races per teams schedule.
You could also throw some bones to those that have supported NASCAR from their roots, and bring back some of the tradition and flavor. The Rock, for example. North Wilkesboro, anyone? You know, a baloney burger form South Boston sounds real good right now.
What we haven’t touched on it NASCAR and it’s increasing global appeal. Oh yes, it’s on Brian’s mind. He even mentioned it last week if you’ve been reading up around the net.
But for this purpose, we’re going to leave that can of worms closed. This isn’t F1, after all.
So we’ve went from the logical, to the illogical, and come around 360 in a donut in the infield grass.
What a spin, huh? Yes, we know, it’s a crazy ride. Just hang on though, because no matter which direction this train called NASCAR is headed, it’s going to be one hell of a ride.