Minter: New Rules Will Be A Total Wreck
By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
Some Thursday observations:
Hampton, Ga. – Sitting in the media center at Atlanta Motor Speedway this week, listening to drivers answer questions about proposed rules changes for races at Daytona and Talladega, the foregone conclusion was that no matter how the rules are written, the Sprint Cup races at Talladega will once again be known for spectacular wrecks.
Two of the drivers doing the talking, Mark Martin and Carl Edwards, know all about that. Last year, they both finished races at Talladega with their cars flying through the air.
The discussion at AMS, like hundreds of others in the months and years past, focused on changing the cars and the rules; not the race track which has been a problem since the first laps were turned there back in 1969.
There’s widespread speculation that NASCAR will relax its ban on bump drafting and possibly modify the rules prohibiting racing below the yellow line.
Away from the microphones, most any driver will say that the only true fix for the two mammoth tracks on the circuits, tracks engineered and constructed with the goal of facilitating maximum speeds, is to make radical changes to the tracks.
But few will say it publicly, so the discussion continues to focus on tinkering with the rules.
As in the past, the talk of rules changes followed races that were labeled boring by fans and some in the media. More and more it seems that the definition of a boring race is one without several bone-jarring crashes. The race promoters and many in the media have hyped the crashes, making it more difficult to come up with a fix because then the sport then would have to sell races at Talladega by focusing on aspects of the race other than wrecks.
But it seems that those who prefer crashes over other racing drama need not worry.
Mark Martin’s comments indicate that he sees nothing in the proposed changes that will change the wreck-filled nature of Talladega races.
“Based on the way we wrecked there last time, I don’t see how much worse it could be allowing bump drafting,” he said. “Certainly it will lend itself to creating more accidents, but it will be hard to have more there than last time.”
Martin also said changes to the yellow-line rule could produce something worse than complaints of boredom from fans.
“Jeff Burton had a great statement to me on that and it was that when you go in the corner five-wide and someone is on the flat, the driver on the way to the hospital is going to say they shouldn’t have changed that line,” he said.
Edwards said wrecks are inevitable and a part of the allure of the sport.
“I think one of things that’s exciting about auto racing is the potential for something to happen,” he said. “That’s what makes this the most exciting sport in the world. As long as we’re racing we’re going to crash. As long as NASCAR keeps on making safety advances like they have, then it’s just part of it.”
But wrecks don’t have to be such a big part of it. Big league auto racing shouldn’t be looked upon like a demolition derby. It should be about pit strategies and driver skills and innovations by engineers and mechanics. And a great finish shouldn’t mean cars flying through the air and into the catchfence.
Instead, how about a photo-finish between two drivers beating and banging but still running on four wheels, like Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson at AMS, or Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch at Darlington?
That’s racing. Wrecking is not.
NASCAR fans who long for a return to the good ‘ol days may want to be more specific in their wishes, especially in light of news this week that ESPN-ABC’s portion of the schedule will air mostly on cable TV this year. All but three ESPN-ABC races, including nine of the 10 in the Chase, will be on ESPN.
This represents a major shift from 2001 when the announcement of a new TV package boasted about Cup races being shown on “free TV.” Last year, ABC showed 11 of its races on network TV. This year there will be three, all at night, at Charlotte, Bristol and Richmond.
– Rick Minter can be reached at email@example.com Comments