Monday, December 13, 2010

8 Bold moves NASCAR should make before the 2011 NASCAR season to get fans back.

Today, I’m finishing off my three-part series that focuses on looking back at both the 2010 NASCAR season and the 2010 Motorsports season. In this edition, I’m putting myself into the shoes of NASCAR for one day and addressing some of the hot topics and problem areas in NASCAR.

In 2010, NASCAR had amazing competition on the racetrack and they had a good product too, however that was over shadowed as I would actually describe the 2010 season as a year of frustration and that was primarily due to NASCAR announcing last January “Boy’s Have at it”. Nevertheless, here are my top 8 bold moves that I would make before the 2011 or at least 2012 NASCAR season to get NASCAR fans back.

1. Repeal “Boy’s Have at it” and replace with a simple set of rules including conduct.
Right now NASCAR seems to want to be more like the NFL and if that’s the case, then they need to have black and white rules like the NFL does too. With the introduction of the “Boy’s Have at it”, it opened the door for blatant take out moves on the racetrack. One example of that was and is the Carl Edwards vs. Brad Keselowski. That feud got way out of hand and needed to be handled, but all NASCAR did was meetings with no penalties. Someone could have seriously been hurt and not just these two drivers neither. What about fans, other drivers, crew men and what about all of the damages to other cars as well.

The point is giving driver room to breathe and be themselves is one thing, but to be reckless on track is another and this was a huge turn off for several fans including me. It’s like “letting the inmates run the asylum”, it’s not right and it is a turn off. Basically NASCAR should get rid of “Boy’s Have at it” and the blatant take out moves like Edwards vs. Keselowski, Kurt Busch vs. Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch vs. Keselowski just to name a few. There has to be a balance with the rules period, otherwise it’s not entertaining to watch.

2. Shorter Races
I know that there are some NASCAR fans including me that like long races, but even I have to admit that some races are just too long. So with the exception of The Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600, Brickyard 400 and the Sharpie 500 (August race at Bristol), all races should be 300 miles (not laps) in length. So that means that Bristol, Richmond, Martinsville, New Hampshire, and Phoenix are all the right distance races. But the other races such as Charlotte, Texas, Atlanta, Daytona in July, Chicagoland and more all need to be shortened. Shorter races should equal more excitement. There is less time to get to the front, less pit stops and more racing to the checker flag. And the final races are the most exciting, drivers are going for the victory.

3. Road Course race added to the chase
Currently the chase for the Sprint Cup is all ovals and that includes mainly cookie cutter racetracks. If NASCAR wants fans attention, they need all different size racetracks and that includes a road course. Try moving Sonoma into the chase. Moving Sonoma might increase attendance with cooler weather as well. Or try adding another road course that isn’t currently on the schedule.

4. New simple Points System.
Currently NASCAR’s point system is a decades old system that needs some serious over haul. No other Motorsports series has such a huge point system. I would like to see a tighter points system. What about:
- Award 2 or 3 points per position for #1-30.
- Award 1 point per position for positions #31-43. That would help with brokens coming out of the garage to gain extras while getting in others way.
- Award 5 extra points for qualifying on the pole, leading the most laps, and leading one lap.
- Award 20 points for winning a race.
- And if NASCAR is going to keep the chase, award an extra 50 points to the points leader at the end of the regular season.

5. Retire the chase or change the chase to 5 or 6 races and 10 drivers without a separate points system.
One aspect of NASCAR that several fans aren’t a fan of including me is the chase. I have to go with the old school way of thinking in letting drivers race all season long, best driver in points wins the championships. And not manufacturering a champion. Plus, without the chase, each of the 36 races in the season mean the same.
However if NASCAR really wants a chase, they need to make it simple for everyone to understand and watch. I hate awarding drivers for mediocre performances, so shorten the chase to 5-6 races, the top 10 drivers make the chase and if a driver falls over 200 points back from the leader after 4 races, they are dropped from the chase and have to once again fight to be inside the top 10. Plus 11th spot should be awarded $1 million dollars for winning the position and can go to the awards banquet.

6. Limit commercial breaks
The television package is getting out of hand, each network nails the broadcasts with a lot of commercials. I know that the TV coverage has improved over the years especially from the 1970’s, but NASCAR wants fans to watch, but with all of these commercials, what are we watching. How about more races with TNT’s wide open coverage or side-by-side coverage like the ESPN has for the IRL IndyCar Series. Even just putting a sponsor at the bottom of the screen during the race coverage would be better than just keep going to commercial. Fans want to watch the race, put the race on.

7. Set fair race start time for east coast to west coast NASCAR fans.
In 2010, NASCAR made a bold move that worked for east coast fans, but not really for west coast fans and that was the 1pm, 3pm, 7:30pm start times. Personally I love a set start time, it made it simpler for the fans to know what time the races start and shows has a uniform look.

But to help the west coast fans, maybe a simple change would work better. So what about 2pm for east coast races that helps during football season. Typically the NFL starts at 1pm, so NASCAR could start at 2pm and gain fans due to switching over 1 hour into the football game.

So 2pm for east coast races, 3:30pm (12:30pm local) for west coast races and 8pm for night races, all eastern times. Night races should be 2.5 hours to 3 hours tops in length for fans. Anything over 11pm isn’t going to go well with some NASCAR fans. And NASCAR should even consider Saturday afternoon races too. Any movement for NASCAR away from the NFL schedule should help in ratings.

8. Shorter schedule or better schedule including more Saturday night races.
It’s simple, one Cup Series date per racetrack except Daytona, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Bristol. I see it every year, several racetracks that don’t deserve two Cup Series dates while other tracks have only one date or none.

How to determine which track gets one date or two dates is simple, it’s the product that NASCAR puts on namely the racing, is it exciting or not at that track. And second, the attendance. No one should be looking for a sellout crowd, but each track should have good attendance.

Both New Hampshire and Bristol are classic examples of two tracks that pack in the fans. While California, Atlanta, Kansas, Charlotte don’t. Even Indianapolis and Chicagoland need help.

In addition, NASCAR should add more road courses like Laguna Sega, Portland, OR or something as well as Iowa Speedway and a racetrack in both Washington State and Canada. Canadians have been showing up at the Montreal Nationwide Series race for years now and they have earned a Cup Series date.

And with that, what about my readers, what would you like to see NASCAR do, what would you like to change above, comment in the comment section and let me know what you think.