July 9, 2012
By Matthew Pizzolato
It's common knowledge that you can only please some of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time.
Nowhere is that old axiom more evident that in NASCAR's Sprint Cup division this season.
There has been a noticeable lack of caution flags this year, leading to long stretches of green flag racing where the field gets stretched out. The speculation is that perhaps drivers are being more cautious, or perhaps the Car of Tomorrow being so equal contributes to it. Yet, the fact is no one has the answer and many are scratching their heads and looking for ways to make the racing more "exciting."
Track owner Bruton Smith created a firestorm of controversy recently when he suggested that NASCAR should have mandatory cautions.
"You just can't sit there and nothing is happening. It ruins the event. It's damaging to our sport," Smith was quoted as saying in an Associated Press article on espn.com. "Look at some of your other sports -- they have a mandatory timeout, TV (commercial) time and all these things, and that creates things within the sport."
"If you have (cautions) every 20 laps, I don't care. It adds to the show," Smith said. "Someone once said we were in show business -- if we're in show business, let's deliver. Let's deliver that show. Right now, we're not delivering."
Sure, NASCAR is in show business, but it is not scripted. It can't be, or it's not racing. Comparing NASCAR to the stick and ball sports is like comparing apples to oranges. One of NASCAR's slogans is "NASCAR: Everything else is just a game." In a game, there can be television timeouts and manufactured excitement, but not during a race. It defeats the purpose of the cars being on the track.
Of course, just about every driver out there has an opinion on ways to make the racing more exciting and some ideas are more radical than others. Jeff Gordon suggested changing the style of racing altogether.
"If you really want to know what I would like to see, I would like to see heat races and invert the field and have a 50 to a 100 lap shootout," Gordon was quoted as saying during a press conference in Daytona. "I mean that is what I grew up racing. It’s exciting, it’s fun, and I never knew what a 500 mile race was until I came into NASCAR other than the Indy 500."
Yet NASCAR has been built on 500 miles races and going to that extreme would probably do more to drive away fans than it would to create excitement.
Officials have done already gone to great lengths to make the racing better, such as the Green-White-Checkered finishes, double file restarts, and the Boy's Have at It policy. But that is about as far as they can go. Carl Edwards warned against Bruton Smith's idea.
"When we start using cautions to make the race 'more exciting,' I think that's going down a slippery slope," Edwards was quoted as saying during a press conference at Daytona. "I don't think that's good for the sport. You can’t fabricate competition. That’s what’s so great about sport. We might as well just leave sports alone and may the best man win."
Things seem to generally go in cycles. Last season, the complaint was that there were too many cautions and conspiracy theorists ran rampart when their favorite driver was kept from Victory Lane by a late race caution.
Going down the road Bruton Smith suggests would indeed be a slippery slope. It would detract from the integrity of the racing. It would create something that racing is not and will never be. Following Smith's suggestion would be a death knell for NASCAR.
If you would like to learn more about Matthew, please check out his web site at matthew-pizzolato.com.
The thoughts and ideas expressed by this writer or any other writer on Insider Racing News, are not necessarily the views of the staff and/or management of IRN.