Quick Late Thoughts on the New Owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Classes are done, grades are in, and the school semester is finally over! Which means I can get back to doing my labor of love-this blog. Now, with my volunteer hiatus over to focus on school, I’ve missed some pretty big racing news.

For example, Roger Penske buying the whole show, he got the entire chimichanga, the is eating his cake. His purchase of not only Indianapolis Motor Speedway but the series of IndyCar is nothing short of impressive. While the news of this purchase came as a massive shock to the racing world, I can not think of a better person this speedway, and series could have gone too.

First of all, he has the financial understanding needed to make Indianapolis Motor Speedway blossom into a worldwide spectacle again. He has grand plans to bring in more and doing more to elevate the speedway and IndyCar. He referenced the possibility of a 24-hour race on the road coarse that would be amazing for a series like IMSA or the WEC. Formula One is on his mind, as well as luring a much needed third manufacture for the IndyCar series.

With Penske’s purchase of both the speedway and the series, is wanting to see a true double-header between IndyCar and NASCAR. It could unite racing in America overall and something that seems to be long overdue.

But one thing that I believe everyone has overlooked with this purchase, at least to me, is more about the legacy he can leave behind for American open-wheel racing than it is about his ego. History dictates that it would be about asserting his dominance and becoming “The Captain” everyone knows from his involvement in the open-wheel civil war to the way he conducts his racing operations. But honestly, when I watched his interviews and heard the inflections in his voice, it’s of joy.

Most importantly, he understands the magnitude of what Indianapolis is. The track, series, and American open-wheel racing are in the right hands. 

Scott Masom

photo credit: AJ Mast, AP

NASCAR has Changed the Way We Should View Points Racing

Featured

There were many stories and take-aways to have from last weekend’s NASCAR race at the Roval. Chase “From the Same Place” Elliott crashed from the lead and then won in a dominating fashion as he drove back up through the field. There was the controversy between Alex Bowman and Bubba Wallace along with the clock striking midnight on the #6 Roush-Fenway Ford Mustang.

Ryan Newman narrowly missed the next round of the playoffs by making a mistake in the closing laps that cost him the several precious points needed to advance after serving a penalty. His whole race centered around the points battle for that coveted 12th place points position that excluded you from elimination. Newman’s race concerned only those that surrounded him in points, just like points racing in any other form for motorsports.

Clint Bowyer, the driver of the #14 Stewart-Haas Ford Mustang, referenced many times throughout the year that stage points were critical for him to not only make the playoffs but advancing when in them. Jimmie Johnson, who missed this year’s playoffs for the first time since the playoff/chase format began in 2004, echoed those statements when his bid into NASCAR’s version of the postseason seemed weary.

A premium has been placed on points that I don’t believe motorsports has ever seen. Being competitive all race long at the front of the field yields your greatest reward at stage end. As earning stage points on top of your race result is the only real way to separate yourself from the pack. Teams have built their strategies for the race weekend around them.

I know, I’m preaching on a points system that was introduced in 2017, but I don’t think we as fans appreciate what it brings to NASCAR as much as we should. It creates excitement, it produces pressure, it requires drivers to be exceptional all race weekend.

I enjoy that; especially when a chance to advance forward for a championship is on the line, much like it was at the Roval.

So that is my take away from last weekend’s race. That points racing has become more than managing a gap and being happy with the finish you got. It has become about pushing on every lap and attacking when the opportunity presents itself.

You know, like racecar drivers are supposed to do.

Scott Masom

photo credit: roushfenway.com

My 5 Things to Watch for During the 2019 NASCAR Playoffs

The NASCAR Cup series has raced 26 of the 36 races for the 2019 season, but one can argue that the season has only just begun. The collection of race wins, stage wins, stage points and finishes have culminated into creating a 16-car field that will battle elimination to the conclusion of the season at Homestead-Miami.

The biggest story going into the playoffs isn’t about the drivers who found themselves in, but about a driver who found himself out in Jimmie Johnson. For the first time since the inception of the Chase/Playoffs, he finds himself on the outside looking in. A 15-year consecutive streak broken for the 7-time champion.

This year I will give you my five things to watch for along with giving you my dark horse to win it all, and of course, my pick at who will be the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion.

For context, these are the 16-drivers fighting for the championship:

1. Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing: 2,045 points

2. Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing: 2,030 points

3. Martin Truex Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing: 2,029 points

4. Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing: 2,028 points

5. Joey Logano, Team Penske: 2,028 points

6. Brad Keselowski, Team Penske: 2,024 points

7. Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports: 2,018 points

8. Kurt Busch, Chip Ganassi Racing: 2,011 points

9. Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports: 2,005 points

10. Erik Jones, Joe Gibbs Racing: 2,005 points

11. Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing: 2,005 points

12. Ryan Blaney, Team Penske: 2,004 points

13. William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports: 2,001 points

14. Aric Almirola, Stewart-Haas Racing: 2,001 points

15.Clint Bowyer, Stewart-Haas Racing: 2,000 points

16. Ryan Newman, Roush Fenway Racing: 2,000 points

#1. The Team Dynamic of Joe Gibbs Racing

By far, the best team on the grid is JGR. An excellent team dynamic happens because everyone chips in for the betterment of the organization. JGR has done very well for themselves as an organization by getting all four of the team cars into the playoffs. But now the organization will splinter and turn into four individual teams for the final ten races of the season. Will teammates give an extra inch? Will there be team orders? Will there be a disfunction that causes one or more of these cars to not advance to at least the Round of 8?

I believe that at least two cars from the JGR stable will be racing in the Championship Round in Miami, the question is which two and what will their journey look like to get there?

#2. Erik Jones Will be a “Dark Horse” Contender For The Championship

 

#3. Kurt Busch Will Continue to Carry the Flag for Chip Ganassi Racing During the Playoffs

And possibly into next year?

Kurt Busch has been steady, reliable, and most importantly, a 2019 race winner. Something that his teammate, Kyle Larson, can not say. What the older Busch brother has done since taking over the #1 from Jamie McMurray is show the potential of what those cars at Chip Ganassi can do. When Kurt signed with the team, I instantly thought, “upgrade.” He will make the Round of 8 and have consistent runs within the top-10 to be a thorn in several drivers sides.

#4 The Roval

It was unknown last year, but it produced one of, if not the best, races of last season. I do not doubt that this track will continue that trend. Teams are prepared for it. Drivers know some of the secrets and the fans will be catered to the first elimination race of the playoffs. It was must-watch TV last season as Ryan Blaney took the checkered flag on the final corner of the last lap, and I assume we will have similar drama this year. Whatever you do, make time for this race. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

#5 Logano vs. Harvick

I am predicting that this will be the battle for the last spot to get into the Championship Round. They have had polar opposite starts to the season as Logano began the season strong as Harvick has just found his groove as of late.

There is history between these two, and I don’t believe the authors’ are done writing it yet. Another chapter between these two for a chance to at a championship; sign me up.

My Champion: Denny Hamlin

He is having the best season of his career since his runner-up finish of 2nd in 2010. His new crew chief of Chris Gabehart and everyone on that #11 FedEx Toyota has been on par, at times better, than his JGR counterpart of Kyle Busch.

This season will be the one that Denny puts his stamp on being a sure-fire Hall of Famer. He has two wins at Homestead-Miami in 2008 and 2013, and the path of tracks that lay between him and that elusive championship, are all in his favor with Richmond, Martinsville, and being the winner of the spring race at Texas, he has the potential to secure this championship with dominating finishes in each round of the playoffs.

The real challenge will be defeating teammate Kyle Busch who secured the regular-season champion. The reason he is 15-points ahead of Hamlin in the standings. The intensity is ramping up. The real season is starting, and for 16 drivers, it is their chance at NASCAR glory.

Scott Masom

photo credit: NASCAR

Understanding Life Through My Favorite Racing Quotes

School starts for me this week, and I didn’t want to miss a chance on creating one more post before it got going.

I love quotes. They can be snippets of clarity and inspiration or moments of cloudy judgment or anger; there seems to be no in-between when it comes to them, and that is what makes them great.

I want to share some of my favorite racing quotes that I have come across over the years that have given me some real inspiration.

“Sometimes you’ve just gotta lick the stamp and send it.”- Daniel Ricciardo

A daring move, late on the brakes to pass Valtteri Bottas for the top step of the podium during the 2018 Chinese Grand Prix is what concocted this beautiful quote from the self-proclaimed “Honey Badger” of Formula One.

This quote is my absolute favorite. It inspired me to branch out and apply for other jobs and be more daring in my writing. This quote is about having the right mentality, and when he saw an opening to pass Bottas, he took it. At the time, he didn’t know if it would work, but he took the chance anyway.

Take a chance. Lick the stamp.

“When you put on your helmet… you’re invincible.” – John Force

Is this the thing that has kept John Force racing for so many years? Achieving his 150th NHRA win at the age of 75, one might argue that it is.

When you are genuinely in your environment, whether that is as a professional or as a hobbyist, there is no better feeling. I’m starting to find mine within this blog, and it is something I hope everyone can discover for themselves.

“You will never know the feeling of a driver when winning a race. The helmet hides feelings that can not be understood.”- Aryton Senna

We revere our favorite race car drivers as genuine heroes-they are the men behind the mask that wheel machinery only a few can fathom.

We do not see the fear in a driver’s eyes, nor do we see their confidence. Only the driver knows the truth of their emotions. Winning is everything to these drivers; it is the purest form of validation.

Only you know your genuine emotions. Only you know when you’ve achieved validation.

“If you don’t come walking back to the pits every once in a while holding a steering wheel in your hands, you’re not trying hard enough.”- Mario Andretti

It is okay to give everything you have and still fail because failing is a part of life. It is better to try for more than to never try at all because being content is not acceptable when you can do more; be more.

Sometimes, you’ve just got to leave it all on the track.

“Simply racing a Formula One car is an achievement”- Sebastian Vettel

It is essential to have a perspective on life. We all have plans of becoming the best in our fields. We want to become the race winner, the champion, the legend. In our endless pursuit to try and be the best, we often forget that what we have achieved is monumental in itself.

I have a medium to express my thoughts on motorsports, and for right now, this is a considerable achievement.

Scott Masom

Should We Develop a Hard Criteria for the NASCAR Hall of Fame?

“Hall of Fames” are cliques.

And with any clique, it is governed by the select few that hold the vital power of inclusion. For many, it is exclusion. Nominations not based on any set of fixed criteria like championships or individual records, but made with subjectivity and prejudice to particular individuals. Look no farther than Major Leauge Baseball and the way they conduct their Hall of Fame voting.

I bring this topic to the forefront of this blog as I was thinking about NASCAR’s recently voted 2020 Hall of Fame class. The names of Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte, Buddy Baker, NASCAR team owner Joe Gibbs, and crew chief/engineer Waddell Wilson will become the eleventh class to be inducted.

With no hard criteria, what makes a driver worthy of a Hall of Fame induction? Or for that matter, a person who is a contributor like a car owner, crew chief/engineer, or broadcaster? If we are to commemorate those that mean something to our sport, then I believe that we need to create specific criteria that Hall of Famers need to satisfy even to be considered for a nomination. It is the Hall of Fame; not the Hall of “ok, good, or possibly great.”

Every time someone questionable gets inducted, the Hall of Fame loses credibility. At this point, NASCAR has not had this problem due to it still being relatively new.

I once heard that if you are going to induct a person into a Hall of Fame, then you need to ask yourself a simple question. Can you tell the history of the league by excluding that individual’s career? If you can’t, then they should be a Hall of Famer.

But does that statement only count for classic stick and ball sports? Where there is only one league, like the MLB or NBA, to measure your dominance? A place where development and previous successes in the minor leagues do not matter when that player arrives in the big leagues?

Take, for example, Greg Biffle or Carl Edwards. Both drivers had fantastic careers in the lower levels of NASCAR. During Biffle’s meteoric rise through the ranks, he claimed a Truck and the now Xfinity Series championship. Edwards dominated the Xfinity Series by collecting 38 wins and a 2007 championship. But when both drivers arrived in the Cup series, championships escaped them.

Should we count their entire NASCAR career as a whole that makes them bid worthy to the NASCAR Hall of Fame? Or does not achieving a championship at the Cup level, the highest series within NASCAR, ultimately blemish their careers despite their previous achievements?

What level of NASCAR should we be emphasizing for those that are lucky enough to make it to the Cup Series full-time? After all, that is the end goal, and I think their Cup career should take the first priority when thinking about nominating someone to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Those two drivers are no doubt fan favorites but should that be enough to get you into the Hall of Fame? Yes, I’m referring to a 15-time fan favorite, Dale Earnhardt Jr. A two-time Xfinity Series champion in ’98 and ’99, he too, never captured a title at the highest level. I do not doubt that he will get into the NASCAR Hall of Fame due to his enormous reputation. I ask, will it be because he was a great driver or a popular one? Without his last name being Earnhart, would we adore him in the manner that we do?

Statistical benchmarks need to be set to achieve a Hall of Fame status. As a sporting community, we tend to view three statistical references as the most important across all various forms of sports: wins, championship(s), and longevity. So for NASCAR and their Hall of Fame, where should these benchmarks be placed?

For wins, thirty should be the minimum. When looking at the all-time NASCAR win list, there is a division at this number that separates the good from the great. Names above that line are Dale Jarrett, Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, and Kevin Harvick. The driver who currently sits at the thirty win-mark is the 2010 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Champion, Brad Keselowski. Those below the mark? Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, and the one and only, Dale Jr.

One of the strangest questions to me is, “should championships matter?” I mean, that is the ultimate goal every season when the engines fire up for Daytona, is it not? Can you have a fantastic career but never capture a championship? Yes, Mark Martin is the shining example; that is perhaps the most significant stain on his career.

But when talking about the greats in any sport, their championship count matters. We refer to Jimmie Johnson as “7-time”. Looking outside of NASCAR and into other forms of motorsports, Scott Dixon has 5 IndyCar championships. John Force claimed 16 NHRA titles. Michael Schumacher found himself on top of the Formula One world 7 times.

Now, I understand that I am referencing some of the greatest to ever strap into a race car. The importance of having at least one championship means that you were, at one point, undoubtedly the best in your field.

So, yeah, having a championship(s) should matter.

It isn’t enough to have one or two strong seasons and be mediocre for the rest of your career. Those that we consider greats in our sport dominated an era and continued to win in the subsequent years after their period of dominance. When viewing a driver’s length of dominance, I find that most lasted around five years throughout various disciplines of motorsports.

For instance, Dale Earnhardt’s dominance of the late ’80s and into the early ’90s; Jeff Gordon picked up that torch of dominance into the ’00s. But these drivers continued to win. They continued to be in championship conversations, which help in preserving their longevity in the sport for at least a decade at the highest level.

Again, I have to reiterate the highest level because NASCAR is very open in its interpretation and requirements to get into the Hall of Fame. This isn’t a knock to drivers that found themselves in stable careers at the Truck, Xfinity, or lower levels. In fact, I think much of the same hard criteria should apply to those drivers if we are to recognize them as being outstanding during their tenures at that level for NASCAR.

The requirements for drivers currently are to have at least a ten-year career in NASCAR and be retired for two. For those that aren’t a driver, they need to have worked in the NASCAR industry for at least ten years.

The Hall of Fame is the ultimate achievement an individual can have. And yet, it is ultimately decided on the subjectiveness and prejudice among those we deem worthy to justify their greatness. Instead, I urge that we start to use hard criteria to let drivers fully validate themselves by their on-track performances.

Remember, it is the NASCAR Hall of Fame; not the NASCAR Hall of “ok, good, or possibly great.”

Scott Masom

Developing Into a Crown Jewel Event

Motorsports has many crown jewel events. The 24 hours of Le Mans, Indianapolis 500, Monaco Grand Prix, Daytona 500, The Kings Royal, Bathurst 1000, Baja 1000, The Chili Bowl,  etc.

I mean, I could go on, but I had a question. What makes a race a crown jewel event?

Is it the culmination of history tied to the event? The purse paid to the winner? Is it the names that have taken the checkered flag, or is it about the names that continue to participate in the race? Does the track have anything to do with it? Is it the upward trajectory that a driver’s career could take if they win the event?

A culmination of some/all of the above?

I ask this because on Thursday, starting at 6 pm central time on FS1, the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series will race their annual Dirt Derby on the famed half-mile dirt oval of Eldora Speedway. That’s right. I said the words NASCAR, race, and dirt in the same sentence. This year will be the seventh edition of the race, and I do believe that this race is becoming a crown jewel on the NASCAR schedule.

Maybe, more importantly, it is becoming a crown jewel amongst high-level dirt racers. Drivers like Ken Schrader, Kyle Stickler “The High Side Tickler,” Jeff Abby, Justin Shipley, and Stewart Friesen have participated in previous years. Several of these drivers will race again this year.  Image if one of these drivers do well at this event? Their exposure within the sport grows tenfold.

Ask Christopher Bell about that after his 2015 win with Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Will it ever be as big as the current NASCAR crown jewels of The Daytona 500, The Southern 500, or The Coca-Cola 600? No, there is too much history, but that doesn’t mean that this race can’t develop a history. One can argue that it already has.

I get excited thinking about the positive exposure that dirt racing will get because of the Dirt Derby. The grandstands will be filled to the brim with not just NASCAR fans, but dirt racing fans. Dust will be in the air, sparks will fly, and the golden shovel that goes to the winner will find a new place to call home.

I hope that home will be with one of these dirt racers that are trying to prove their worth to the enclosed world of NASCAR.

Scott Masom

photo credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

 

 

 

Where Will Christopher Bell Go?

Joe Gibbs has an unusual dilemma on his hands. He has too many drivers and not enough race cars. As it currently stands, NASCAR allows team owners a maximum of 4 cars per team. Hendrick Motorsports, Stewart-Hass Racing, and Joe Gibbs Racing being the only teams at that current threshold.

So, who’s the driver at Joe Gibbs Racing that will be left without a seat when the music stops to begin the 2020 NASCAR season?

I believe it’ll be safe to say that the 2015 and 2017 series champions of Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. have nothing to fear. With seven wins this season between them, and with both drivers comfortably in the playoffs, it seems ridiculous to finish writing this portion of the blog. So I’ll move on to the next subject of Denny Hamlin.

With his victory in this year’s Daytona 500 and collecting a win in my home state of Texas, he has all but secured his seat for next season based on his performance. Going winless last season for the first time in his Cup career, Denny Hamlin looked to be starting to decline. I know that it may have been a knee jerk reaction, but if you had asked me this question before the season, I would have made a strong case for Christopher Bell being in that #11 car for the start of the 2020 season. It seems as though the changing of crew and car chiefs have done wonders for Denny. With Denny’s two wins, JGR has claimed victories in nine of the fifteen races this season.

So this leaves the seat of Erik Jones and that #20 car for any real debate for Christopher Bell. The question Joe Gibbs has to be asking himself is when is it too early to give up on young talent, and how do you justify his development? With only one career win in a wreck infested Coke Zero 400 last season, is that enough to secure his seat?

He is currently talking to JGR about a contract extension as his current deal ends at the end of this year. I have to believe that if he doesn’t have a strong playoff run, there would be no real reason to bring him back to drive the #20 when Christopher Bell seems primed for the opportunity and might arguably have the better talent. Jones has become more consistent. He has currently collected six top-tens this season, but at the time of me writing this post, he sits 18th in point standings, 7 points back from that critical 16th place playoff cut line.

I do believe that Jones will need to secure a win to get into the playoffs.

Racing at Joe Gibbs Racing isn’t the only place that Christopher Bell could find himself when the 2020 season rolls around. Leavine Family Racing, owners of the #95 Toyota Camry, does have a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing. Much like the now-defunct Furniture Row Racing did for Erik Jones, Leavine Family Racing could field a second car for Christopher Bell. Or will it possibly be Erik Jones in that seat?

Will Leavine Family Racing want to add that kind of commitment to their small team operation?

There is no question that with his dominating four wins and 760 laps led in Xfinity competition, (you can not forget his impressive Chili Bowl win either) Christopher Bell is ready for the bright lights and big stage that is the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Is the Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs ready to take the chance? I have no doubt Toyota Racing Development will have a strong opinion about it.

Scott Masom

photo credit: Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can Society Continue to Withstand 600 Mile Races?

Heading into Memorial Day weekend, I scrolled across an article from autoweek.com written by Greg Engle where Denny Hamlin stated that NASCAR doesn’t need a 600-mile race. Denny added on to his statements by saying, “I don’t think that anything is totally necessary.” “If the race was 300 miles, you’re going to have the same, I believe, core group watch the race and possibly even more that are interested because it’s not five hours long.”

Denny Hamlin seemed to be in the tiny minority on this thought. NASCAR Series Champions Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, and Kyle Busch have been in unison about wanting to protect the history and tradition of the Coca-Cola 600. To that, Denny Hamlin says “Tradition, ‘shmadition.’” “It’s whatever. All sports adapt and change. I hate it when people say, ‘Well, that’s the way it always was.’ Things are different. I’d be just as happy with a Coke 300 trophy as a Coke 600, to be honest with you.”

I agree with Denny Hamlin to a point; sports do ebb and flow. They change and adapt with the times, and there isn’t a better example of that in sports than the three-point line in basketball. While The Cola-Cola 600 might not be the same test of man vs. machine it had the reputation of being throughout the race’s history, I rebuttal Danny Hamlin by saying why not have a 600-mile race? NASCAR is a pinnacle of motor racing, and I believe there needs to be something that tests not only the equipment but the drivers and their crews as well.

However, this subject of lessening the miles/time of a race does entice a couple of interesting questions from me. Those are what will be the next adaptation to auto racing and who will be their target audience going forward?

NASCAR has been on the leading edge of adaptation with the chase/playoff system, the stage racing, and the lucky dogs. Have they been bad adaptations to the sport of auto racing? Some might say yes and that these changes have tarnished racing forever, but to me, they have only added to the excitement. (The word “added” being key there) We have yet to see other racing series adapt to a similar style and I believe that is because of two reasons:

#1. No one likes a copycat.

But more seriously,

#2. Other series have not been as committed to trying to attract a specific audience other than hardcore race fans. (i.e., casual fans or younger generations)

Changing an entire sport that can conform to the social norms of our point and click, instant gratification, and ever-growing impatient lifestyles are what sporting leagues around the world are currently trying to do. Instead, these leagues are finding that this balance between being cutting edge and keeping to the traditions and history of the game is not as clear cut as it may have initially seemed.

In baseball, their league executives believe shorting the number of innings played during the game is the solution. The NBA is looking into shorting their total time played in their games from 48 minutes to 40. These are just examples of some of the changes to try and satisfy the societal need for instant gratification. To try and cooperate with short attention spans that go along with the glamorization of the casual fan.

Often, this glamorization will leave those who are loyal to the sport with no place to voice their opinion. Leagues and series continue to turn a blind eye toward them in favor of the short-term gain casual fans can often provide. Again, look no farther than NASCAR for being a prime example. They have admitted to doing this to what used to be a strong, unified, and loyal fan base.

I believe several other factors contributed to the loss of fans for NASCAR. For example, the passing of Dale Earnhardt, the loss of the “good ol’ boys” mentality, the emphasis put on mile and a half-tracks, the 2009 stock market crash, and the weird and somewhat awkward introduction to the beginning of the “Car of Tomorrow” era but more on this in a possible future posting.

Can racing conform to these growing social norms? Do we have to concede to having shorter races to stay relevant? Is it possible that The Indianapolis 500 becomes The Indianapolis 250 one day? Or the upcoming 24 Hours of Le Mans be changed to the 2.4 Hours of Le Mans? The Coca-Cola 300 has an excellent ring to it according to Denny Hamlin.

Doesn’t all of that sound absurd?

Well, that’s because it is but auto racing has been at the forefront of using social media platforms, like YouTube, to illustrate the balance between satisfying the hardcore fans and the casual. Many series like NASCAR, IndyCar, IMSA and Formula E upload not only races in their entirety but various lengths of recaps and highlights. This kind of adaptation allows fans to watch when they want, where they want, and however they want. Not to mention, social media has allowed fans to access drivers and teams for instant practice, qualifying or racing updates. This type of availability has become perfect for today’s point and click, instant gratification, and ever-growing impatient lifestyle without having to change the sport for the hardcore fans.

Significant events like those on Memorial Day will always attract casual fans but just as easy as they can come, they go. No amount of changing a sport will retain casual fans throughout the season. The only way to convert the casual fan into an avid fan and then into a hardcore fan is by having that fan make a personal connection to the sport. I say this as a warning to other leagues by asking if the addition by subtraction is the addition they need?

Racing is in a stable place within the sports world. There is no need to make it unstable with something like The Coca-Cola 300.

Scott Masom

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Acronym for NASCAR at the Moment

Keep it simple, stupid.

This acronym is perfect for NASCAR at the current moment.

If’ you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I’ve been a massive NASCAR supporter and have been very proud to say so. Then’ Friday’s qualifying session at Texas Motor Speedway concluded and’ I’ve been shaking my head with rosy cheeks from embarrassment ever since.

For those that may not know, NASCAR switched to multi-car qualifying sessions in 2014. This process was a massive change from the single-car qualifying sessions that had been used since NASCAR’s inception. This change mimicked the “knock out” qualifying sessions of Formula One, IndyCar, and several other motorsports around the world. NASCAR saw many positives as it made qualifying shorter, more intense, and for the fans, entertaining. Unfortunately, with this year’s new aero package putting such an emphasis on drafting, this qualifying format doesn’t work at the moment.

The warning signs started in Las Vegas, where every driver waited until the very end of the final 5-minute session to not be the lead car of the draft. At Auto Club Speedway, not a single driver made an official timed-lap during the final session. This session resulted in the top-twelve positions being set on their second-round times. After that debacle, NASCAR made changes to the qualifying procedures that were to be introduced at Texas Motor Speedway to help alleviate specific problems.

Staging lanes were introduced to decongest traffic at the end of pit road to discourage the “gamesmanship” strategies played at Auto Club Speedway and penalize a driver if they did. NASCAR also introduced that if a driver failed to complete a timed qualifying lap before the session expired, then their time would be disallowed. In turn, that driver would have to start the race at the rear of the field. Even after all their efforts to help, NASCAR made qualifying more confusing for the drivers. NASCAR seemed unsure as to how to enforce its own new set of qualifying rules.

NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller has double-downed on multi-car qualifying by stating that “Single-car qualifying is two things – it’s boring, and it’s expensive.” “It also doesn’t create a good show.”

A show? Excuse me if I sound a bit naive but’ I’m confused as to when we, as a fan base, thought that qualifying had to be entertaining? Qualifying is just a procedure to set the field for Sunday. It doesn’t need to be overly complicated, it doesn’t need to be flashy, and it certainly doesn’t need to be a show.

I’m sure NASCAR is going to take another look into their qualifying procedures, and before they do, I have some suggestions:

Single Car Qualifying
Heat Races
Invert the field based on points
I know, I just quoted that NASCAR doesn’t want to go back to single-car qualifying but dang it, K.I.S.S.. This type of qualifying isn’t, nor was it ever, really broken but yet, NASCAR wanted to fix it. It always felt to me that this change in qualifying format was NASCAR trying to “fit in” with the rest of motorsports. Sometimes it is better to lead in your own direction than to follow the crowd. This change is the most simple NASCAR could make, and I think it would benefit all involved.

No better way to connect with grassroots racing than having heat races!’ Let’s run a 30 lap heat race divided into ten cars every Friday after first practice. Each heat would be divided by points placement while the first place finisher in every heat gets an extra 3 points for the weekend. Placement for Sunday is determined by a’ driver’s average lap time during their heat race to deter drivers from sandbagging and saving their cars for the race on Sunday. Is this extreme? Possibly, but’ didn’t you want an entertaining way to qualify?

Inverted fields are a staple at local tracks and a real treat for fans. The fast guys start in the back due to their high points position while the slower guys start up front due to their lower point position. This suggestion eliminates the need for qualifying altogether. But think about how exciting the first stage of a race would be? Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick weaving their way through traffic, mid-field drivers getting a chance to be upfront, and positions would be even harder to come by. Entertainment value would have to go up at least 20 percent.

Now, I do want to admit, that since switching to the new format in 2014, qualifying this season has been the outlier. Even if my suggestions are a bit extreme, if not brilliant, (Yeah,’ I’ll toot my own horn) I believe a radical change, even if it is for this season only, needs to be done. NASCAR, as a sanctioning body, needs to assert themselves again and try to stop the exploitation from drivers and teams.

Or, NASCAR could say that they have made all the changes they are going to make this season and continue to let the drivers and teams look silly on their own accord. Either way, 40 cars are going to start the race on Sunday.

Qualifying is just a procedure, not the show.

Scott Masom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Quest for 200

Earnhardt. Pearson. Allison. Yarborough. Gordon. Petty.

All these drivers are legends within NASCAR and all Hall of Famers in their own right.

These men made records that are meant to be challenged and broken.

Record-breaking is where we are with Kyle Busch. His win in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race last weekend at ISM Raceway puts him one win away from Richard Petty’s magical mark of 200. The only difference is that Busch has done it among NASCAR’s top three series of Trucks, Xfinity, and Cup; while Petty’s 200 wins came only in the top flight of NASCAR.

Kyle Busch’s current total wins among the three series currently are as follows:

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series-52
NASCAR Xfinity Series-94
NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series-53
He is the all-time win leader in the Xfinity AND the Truck Series. At the age of 33, Busch currently sits 11th on the all-time win list for the Cup Series. That is one below Lee Petty’s 54. If Busch continues at his average of 3.25 wins a year and retires at 45 (Jeff Gordon retired at 44 for reference), he would have 93 wins at the Cup level. Yes, that would be tied for third on the all-time win list with Jeff Gordon. I believe Busch has the potential to collect more wins than that in Cup. I don’t think it is crazy to think that 105 Cup wins wouldn’t be too far out of his reach if he keeps his current form.

The point I’m making is this: HE IS GREAT.

When Busch achieves 200 total wins it will be absolutely, and unequivocally different from Petty’s 200 wins. So stop trying to compare the two like it is apples to apples because it isn’t and won’t ever be a fair comparison. Two completely different eras, two completely different drivers, and quite frankly, there isn’t enough respect for what Kyle Busch has done throughout his NASCAR career.

Appreciate his greatness while it’s happening because we might never see anything like the future Hall of Famer ever again.

Scott Masom