NASCAR fans now have two races in the 2012 books for the much anticipated opening weekend at Daytona International Speedway. And at this point, it seems NASCAR has accommodated the request of fans with two wreckfest feature events in the Camping World Truck and Nationwide series’ races. The net result is two unexpected winners with John King of Red Horse Racing in the Camping World Truck series and James Buescher from Turner Motorsports in the Nationwide series.
From all appearances, it seems we now have a new hybrid between two-by-two and pack racing. Drivers are still capable of racing in tandem, knowing this is still the fastest way around the track and in some cases, the only way to advance in the field. But now they’re doing two-by-two drafting within packs instead of independently throughout the field. The result is exactly what fans wanted…right?
Add in that NASCAR has eliminated radio communications between teams and now we have the back pushing driver with no visibility of what is happening in front of the car being pushed. When something does happen the pushing driver has no time to react going at 195-200mph – the only concluding result is collecting any and all within reach. And in pack racing, within reach means the “Big One.”
When Denny Hamlin was taken out of the Nationwide event in one of the Big Ones in Saturday’s race, his comment was somewhat ironic as he said, “So hard to control your own fate.” Why was this ironic? Because in post race comments after the Bud Shootout, when asked about the return of pack racing, Denny Hamlin said this, “I am happy to see the big pack return. I feel it puts it back in the drivers’ hands with how they want to run the race…There will be a little more carnage as a product of the big packs as opposed to the tandem racing we have seen the last few (restrictor) plate races, but you no longer have to rely on someone else to control your destiny…”
So in a matter of days Hamlin went from being happy that drivers “no longer have to rely on someone else to control your destiny” to “So hard to control your own fate,” after becoming an innocent victim of the anticipated carnage on the track. Somehow I suspect, this same change of opinion will be repeated throughout the garage, one-by-one, or perhaps, ten-by-ten as they become by-standing victims of the “Big One.”
And is that really the point fans? Are we that caught up in the “not” knowing what is going to happen next? Are fans really craving the element of suspense when drivers, at 195-200mph cannot see what is happening in front of them and have no means of communicating with their tandem partner to coordinate their efforts? Do we really want the top-ten drivers taken out of the race at the finish line so we can celebrate the survivorship of those left after the carnage on the track?
For those fans that have asked for the return of the pack and for NASCAR to do something to bring it back, one can only hope, it’s not the same fans that criticize NASCAR for becoming more like the WWE. NASCAR has given fans exactly what they asked for and now the sport at restrictor plate tracks looks more like the WWE with that same excitement factor than ever before. Does anyone else see the irony – or perhaps mixed message – in this?
Already, we have an owner, Jack Roush saying it may be a good idea to let the teams take a mulligan. In essence he is asking that every team be given the chance to take their worst finish out of the equation when determining their points for the season and ultimately the champion for the series. For those thinking this might be a good idea, fans of the sport of “racing” must be wondering what new twist will next be suggested as a means of bringing more excitement to NASCAR?
It’s only a matter of time before fans and drivers begin their dawning of realization, that restrictor plate racing could mean the difference between winning a title in NASCAR’s elite series’, with four such events in the 36-race schedule.
Think not? Think again, last year’s competition came down to a tie in points when the dust settled on the last race of the season – the determining factor was the number of wins. How would you like to be a contender for the championship and lose a restrictor plate race as a hapless victim of the “Big One?”
In the most recent previous years, this fan saw some skill and strategy used in restrictor plate racing to coordinate tandem drafting within the full race. The skill was directly in the hands of each team to coordinate their strategy and skill to win the race. It was tandem racing that gave us some of the closest finishes we’ve seen in recent history. And to this fan, watching the team dynamics at play while coordinating their unfolding strategy as the race progressed was fascinating. It wasn’t just the end of the race that held my attention, it was the strategy discussion and watching the teams working together throughout the race that held my attention. The close finish at the end was the culmination of skill, strategy and good hard racing!
This year, and in this one fan’s humble opinion, those elements are now gone. The communication has been restricted between teams, strategy goes out the window when teams are caught up in random wrecks on the field and good hard racing may very well net nothing at that the end of the race.
At the request of ‘the fans,’ restrictor plate racing has taken a turn right down the path of the WWE and the Lucky Lottery games that are so popular. Will fans tune in to the next episode of NASCAR Survivor to see which lucky driver has maneuvered their car to be in position to win after the carnage of the “Big One” takes out the top contenders of the race, allowing them to become the next Lucky Lottery Winner?
Further irony? Today, the person waving the green flag to start our next episode of NASCAR Survivor is none other than the face of the WWE, John Cena.
Welcome to the Wide World of Excitement in Daytona!