Anyone who watched Sunday’s race at Kansas now knows what many have suspected for a long time – NASCAR has lost it’s integrity. It’s a show, not a race.
To recap, rain comes after halfway in the race (which made it official and the restart unnecessary) with Stewart out front by not pitting for fuel. Team Hendrick is caught one lap down (by poor pit strategy) below 25th place. NASCAR decides to re-start but shorten the race since Kansas doesn’t have lights. Tony pits, comes out #2, but in the middle of the pack. Big wreck happens in turn one on the restart (which we all knew was coming, except for NASCAR), taking out a bunch of cars – including Tony and Cousin Carl. Stewart finishes thirty-something.
NASCAR says it will be dark, so they’ll run to lap 225. But the extended yellow means they decide to shorten the race again to 210 laps (after the restart), blowing the strategy for fuel-mileage guys. Then JPM wrecks with 3 laps to go, so we’re setup for a green-white-checker? Nope. NASCAR decides to stop the race anyway.
There were so many possible “winners” Sunday, all depending on NASCAR’s “opinion”. That’s the problem. It’s not a race, it’s a show, and the old-time fans know the difference. Maybe that’s why since the 3 car isn’t there anymore, the fans are leaving – both from the track and television. Earnhardt never would have tolerated this situation, and NASCAR would have listened.
And we won’t get started on the ending and what a “reasonable speed” means.
Team Hendrick comes back to finish top 10. Jeff Gordon says restarting the race was “the right thing to do for the chase”. Funny, he didn’t say the same thing at Pocono when the rain got him the win (and he wasn’t anywhere near the best car). We lost ALL respect for the 24 yesterday by his comments.
But the real problem with NASCAR isn’t Sunday’s race, it’s the inconsistency in applying the rules which even a casual fan has seen all year. Consider what’s transpired during the season; the problem is NASCAR continues to move the goalposts so nobody knows what the rules are. Who wins anymore is just the person who got the lucky break when the goalposts are moved.
- Daytona. When the caution comes out, the field is frozen. But not at Daytona. But it was at Talladega last year when Earnhardt and Johnson wreck. So it’s not a last-lap we-don’t-want-to-end-under-caution, so what exactly is the rule? (Hint: it’s just a show) Nobody knows.
- Pace car speed. Robby Gordon in the Busch race this year verses Biffle Sunday. NASCAR got it right Sunday, and messed up with Robby earlier in the year. But what is the rule? It’s applied differently, at different times. Just for show?
- Rain. The 24 wins at Pocono during a rain delay as it’s dark, but at Kansas they restart the race with similar daylight remaining. The 24 benefits both times. So what is the rule? Who knows? Just for show?
And on and on. It’s like NASCAR doesn’t have a rule book. NASCAR is still fun, but we give up on the integrity of the sport – there isn’t any. Whoever wins the championship (hint – they’ll be driving a Hendrick car) must know they only benefited from the bizarre nonsensical application of “rules”. If NASCAR changed the rules again, someone else could be on the podium. It’s not about who’s the best driver anymore, it’s about who benefits when NASCAR arbitrarily applies “rules” and their “opinion”. It’s all for show.
… Truthfully, that’s not a surprise. NASCAR is an entity that has rules piled upon rules, many of them written in language that would stymie a tax attorney. It’s a sport where everything, even something that seems cast in bedrock, can be twisted into a judgment call. It’s a series where the target doesn’t move, it’s tossed around like a Frisbee. It’s a sport where even the competitors are hazy on the statutes that govern them. It’s a strange world where the winner of the race can be the guy who, according to the scoring system, crossed the line fourth.
It all leads to nights like Sunday, when drivers and owners and crew chiefs were all apparently operating under a false sense of beliefs. A sport based on judgment calls fosters that type of environment. And it makes it only a matter of time before the next credibility crisis arises.
Television ratings are down, ticket sales are down. Maybe because the old-time fans figured out it’s not about racing anymore or being the best. It’s about surviving phantom debris cautions, and NASCAR changing the rules during the race. The best car won’t win the Championship, just the luckiest.
NASCAR isn’t a race anymore, just a show. And the drives are just actors in the program. It’s still fun, but don’t believe for a second it’s fair or equitable (or even reasonable or logical). It’s all for show.
Maybe NASCAR can join with the WWF, wrestling on Saturday, NASCAR on Sunday – or is that the other way around?
If that 3 car was still out there….