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Woody: Non-Racing Has Become NASCAR Norm

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, March 29 2011

There was good, close racing at the end of Sunday's race in California. But for most of the day, the action was pretty scarce. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer

I don’t know what tickets cost for Sunday’s race at California cost, but whatever it was, fans deserved about 90 percent of their money back.

They paid for 200 laps of racing and got maybe 10.

Part of the problem was the track – big and wide and relatively flat, which allowed each driver plenty of wide open space for his leisurely Sunday cruise.

And part of it is the malaise of non-racing that has become increasingly common in NASCAR’s top division.

NASCAR frets over start-and-park drivers; it should be more concerned about start-and-snooze racing.

The race finished with a dramatic flourish as Kevin Harvick ran down dominant leader Kyle Busch, while anticipated challenger Tony Stewart went backwards. The boys in the  booth were correct when they prattled on about what an exciting finish it was.

But they were remiss in not addressing how boring the remainder of the race had been, just as they were journalistically negligent the week before when they ignored the glaring sea of empty seats at Bristol.

If they’re going to editorialize about the few good laps, seems they should likewise address all the boring laps that kept their audience dozing through most of the race.

That see-no-evil approach is intentional. Some drivers and administrators complain that any non-positive media comments create a negative perception and add to the sport’s problems. TV is careful not to nip the hand that feeds it.

Ignore the empty seats at Bristol they’ll go away. Ignore 190 laps of rotten racing and gush about the

Empty seats were the norm at Bristol and not just during practice. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

10 exciting ones and fans won’t notice. That seems to be the theory.

Here’s a news flash: the media can’t fool race fans. It can put lipstick on a pig and fans will still recognize the painted porker.

Ignoring the problem contributes to the problem. Pretending that the racing is not boring makes it harder to fix.

Last Sunday’s non-race at California was typical of the ride-around non-racing that has become typical at most tracks. What we saw at California (10 percent of a race) explains what we saw the week before at Bristol (empty seats). You’d think NASCAR and the drivers would get the connection between declining racing and declining attendance.

In fairness to NASCAR, I think it HAS caught on. It continues to try to inspire its racers to race – implementing a playoff, tweaking the points system – but nothing seems to work. NASCAR has become like an NBA game – tune in the final few minutes and you’ve seen it all.

Action will pick up at Martinsville this weekend because on a short track there’s no place to hide and lollygag around for 90 percent of the race. They can’t go into a prevent defense at the start and spend most of the race logging laps. Martinsville will take fans’ minds off last Sunday’s California Snoozin’ – for awhile.

But sometime, somehow, at some point NASCAR has to come up with a way to consistently make its racers race. Fans have served notice that they won’t continue to pay full price at the ticket booth, then get short-changed on the track.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, March 29 2011


  • Charles says:

    Until Nascar “gets it” in that I mean we fans go to see a great race on raceday,not counting points for the Chase!! it will stay the same!

    Its the “mid laps” of races especially on 1.5 to 2 milers that need to be spice up!! Giving extra points or money to lead laps in this area would surely spice up the race!

    I agree with Stick, paying points to lead laps, and exchanging the lead is what racing is about! All the point paying Chase does is give incentive for drivers to ‘take a top 5’ instead of racing for the win!

    I have never carried a caculator to a race, but I do carry binoculars!!!!!!!

  • Jon says:

    Most of the race on sunday was a nap. California always gets spread out. Doesn’t matter what kind of cars you put out there, its gonna get spread out. If nascar wants more exciting racing, start replacing all these 1.5-2 mile tracks with short tracks…that will provide more interesting racing. This year we added a kentucky race (1.5 miles) and gave kansas a second race (1.5 miles). At the rate we’re going, in 5 years the whole schedule will be 1.5 – 2 mile snoozefestivals.

  • Britboy says:

    Too many drivers talk about getting a top 20 finish. Guess I go to far back and remember when drivers needed the money from a win or good finish to keep going. They are paid to much today (see Scott Speed lawsuit), not hungry enough anymore. And we are constantly nagging Kyle Busch, Harvick and others who have some personality left when they are the ones who are exciting. Who needs more Hendrick type drivers who toe the corporate line and are like drones.

  • Vince says:

    You want to see racing? Only award points for the top 10 finishers. Then you’ll see some racing!

  • jerseygirl says:

    You hit it with this one. I used to watch every race flag to flag. Now at home, I watch the start and the first 10 laps, go off and do chores, errands, whatever, check and see what’s going on at the mid-point and come back when I think they’ll be running the last 20 laps. This has made watching racing a lot less fun and going to one even worse. At least when I’m home, I can do other stuff, last year at Dover’s spring race, if I could have found a place to lie down and nap for the middle of the race, I would have. I’m no longer interested enough to waste my entire day.

  • Slug Writer says:

    Anytime you have races that are 500 laps or miles, the races will be all about survival not racing. You hear it all the time, “…To finish first, you first have to finish.” It’s only logical. Sometimes you hear this, too: “…That guy always races me hard, it’s lap _____ (fill in la number here), what that hell is he thinking? It’s too soon to be racing people that way.”

    What can be done to improve the racing? the answer is probably not much. Though…

    If I were running Nascar, here’s what I’d do:

    1. Shorten races according to the length of the track. 2.5 mile tracks: 500 miles. Intermediate tracks: 400 miles. Short tracks (less than a mile): I’d leave them alone.

    2. I’d figure out some way to take the engineers out of racing and put the racing back into the hands of skilled drivers.

    3. Points: Awarded only to the Top Twenty. And place the emphasis winning, aka a bigger gap between first and the rest of the finishers.

    4. Lap Points: Bonus points for winning. Points for leading laps, AND points for specific laps during the race.

    5. The Field: Again, according to the size of the track and distance of the race with a max field of 40 cars (really, are 3 cars that important?).

    6. The Cars: If you can see the EXACT same car in a showroom, it ain’t a production car and it ain’t a “stock” car.

    7. I’d dump the Chase.

    8. Schedule: I’d rearrange the schedule so it opens in California (remember the days of Riverside?), go next to Daytona for Speed Weeks then go full tilt into the season with a single week off.

    9. I’d have more ways for racers to get into the race, i. e. qualifying races like they do in local races.

    10. Finally, I’d quit trying to be all things to all people, i.e. I’d forget about trying to get into a market like NYC and focus on taking the races to places that actually follow stock car racing.

    And I’d put a muzzle on Waltrip (both of ’em), Hammond, McReynolds, and all of Fox for that matter. And ESPN/ABC? I’d fire them, too.

  • …..the first 95% were a borefest…but it did pick up for the last ten…since they only want to race hard for 10-30 laps I say they start doing heat races…a 100 miler and the bottom 10 are parked at the end, then another 100 mikler with the next 10 knocked out then maybe two 50 milers and again more are knocked out then a 30 miler dash for the win with about 15 cars!

  • stick says:

    Nascar needs to give more points for leading certain laps not just one lap. Maybe lap,20, 40, 60 and so on. Give an incentive to be out in front. Don’t pay all the cars just the top 15.

  • SB says:

    That is precisely why fans are not going to Bristol the way they used to. Give drives lots of racing grooves and you have California…or MIS…or Kansas…or Chicago. Bristol and Martinsville both used to be unique…close quarters, lots of traffic, and aggression and passion on display. Ten laps of racing (only because a caution closed up the field), do not make an exciting race.

  • NASCAR is not what it used to be. And I do actually tune in at the end just like basketball. lol