May 9, 2012
A fool's errand.
By Peter M. De Lorenzo
(Posted 5/7, 10:30 a.m.) Detroit. Last week's column generated tremendous feedback, with readers taking in my shortened schedule proposal and weighing-in with some suggestions of their own. Rather than eliminating certain NASCAR tracks from the schedule altogether, several of you proposed a schedule "rotation" where tracks would be visited once very other year instead of twice a year. That way the local communities affected could still look forward to a NASCAR race every other year. (The room price-gouging wouldn't go away, I'm guessing, far from it in fact. Local hotel operators would be even more eager to make hay while the circus was in town.)
Others suggested adding a dirt race to the schedule, which I proposed a couple of years ago, and still others suggested going so far as to split NASCAR into Western and Eastern divisions, mimicking some of the sports leagues, in order to curb the monotony and make a "playoff" more relevant.
And that's all well and good. I've been advocating bringing change to NASCAR for going on thirteen years now. I've pounded the idea of adding technical relevance to the series, which would help manufacturers remain interested, and that meant bringing on fuel-injection, the use of unleaded fuel or alternatives like E85, the use of stock dimension or stock appearing sheet metal for instant brand identification, dramatically lighter weights, smaller V8s (or embracing alternatives like V6 and 4-cylinder engines if the manufacturers chose to showcase that particular technology). I've suggested eliminating the gas cans in favor of overhead fueling rigs, and adding on-board jacking to reduce the number of people exposed to incidents in the pit lane. I've urged shortened schedules in the interest of creating some "buzz" again. I've even advocated adopting the Australian V8 SuperCar formula altogether, and on and on and on.
Yet why is talking about change and NASCAR in the same sentence a fool's errand? You only have to look as far as Talladega to figure it out.
NASCAR's steadfast refusal to deal with the inherent problems of restrictor-plate racing is glaring. Here is a racing organization that willfully goes back to Talladega twice a year knowing full well that it will cost its teams hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage and wrecked cars, yet they refuse to do a damn thing about it. To understand the absurdity of this you only have to savor Tony Stewart's comments about the situation after the race here.
If NASCAR insists it has to do it this way because of the fans, I'm not buying it. The majority of NASCAR's drivers aren't buying it either. Certainly there are fans out there whose sum total interest in racing revolves around seeing "gnarly" wrecks, but if NASCAR thinks it needs to pander to that ilk in order to survive, well, then they're in a lot deeper trouble than I thought.
What transpires at Talladega isn't "racing" in my book, not by any stretch of the imagination. It's formation flying interrupted by inevitable wrecks. If drivers manage to hang around until the end with body work somewhat intact, then they might have a shot at survival, which might even result in a top-five or a win. But it has nothing to do with racing. It's a sick dance of absurdity that could result in serious injury at any moment, and it's flat-out ridiculous.
So, in contemplating NASCAR's inability to deal with Talladega, why would anyone assume that real, substantive change to the schedule or other pressing issues will be dealt with by that same group of decision makers in a rational, progressive manner?
The cars may look dramatically better in 2013 but absolutely nothing else will change about NASCAR, which is almost too painful to even contemplate.
And that's the High-Octane Truth in the motorsports world this week.
Publisher's Note: As part of our continuing series celebrating the "Glory Days" of racing, we're proud to present another noteworthy image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD
(Dave Friedman, courtesy of the Ford Racing Archives)
Indianapolis, Indiana, 1963. The Dan Gurney No. 91 "Lotus Powered by Ford" sits empty while the No. 92 "Lotus Powered by Ford" (Jim Clark up) has just pulled in from a practice run for the 1963 Indianapolis 500. Parnelli Jones (No. 98 J.C. Agajanian/Willard Battery Watson Offy) would win that year but not without controversy, as his car was puking oil at the end of the race. Colin Chapman insisted that Jones should be black-flagged as Clark was in 2nd position and could win the race, but Indy officials let it go. Clark finished second in his debut at The Speedway while A.J. Foyt (No. 2 Ansted-Thompson Racing/Sheraton-Thompson Trevis-Offy) finished third. Watch a video clip here.
Publisher's Note: Like these Ford racing photos? Check out www.fordimages.com. Be forewarned, however, because you won't be able to go there and not order something. - PMD
See another live episode of "Autoline After Hours" with hosts John McElroy, from Autoline Detroit, and Peter De Lorenzo, The Autoextremist, and guests this Thursday evening, at 7:00PM EDT at www.autolinedetroit.tv.
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