Friday, October 5, 2007

The New Bristol: Love It or Leave It?

Note: This was originally posted on August 29, 2007.

I watched what I thought were 3 pretty good races at Bristol this past week. Apparently a lot of folks disagree with me.

I thought the Truck race was it's usual wild self. I saw beating, banging, and great passes, and just plain great racing. I thought much the same about the Busch race as well.

As for the Cup race? I liked it. 3 Wide racing at Bristol and green flag pit stops are something that many of us have never seen before. I thought the race was anything but boring, I was totally into it the entire race.

I think one reason that many people didn't seem to enjoy the race Saturday as much as in years past, is because of the Car of Tomorrow. On a brand new track configuration, no one really knew what to expect in cars that all the teams are still trying to get used to. I really enjoyed the race. Maybe not the eventual winner, but I thought I saw good racing all night long.

Ever since Saturday night, I've been reading about how boring it was, and then I've read that if you thought it was boring, then all you want to see are wrecks, and blah, blah, blah. I'm not going to question anyone's reason for watching a stock car race. I'm sure we probably all have different reasons.

I love the competitiveness of racing. I like watching drivers rub and bang on each other. I don't really enjoy seeing anyone wreck though. If you're a football fan, you probably hate to see anyone carried off the field on a stretcher, even if that player is on the other team. At least I don't.

I like it when a driver I'm not pulling for, but has lead most of the laps in a race blows an engine. I like it when they have bad luck like cutting a tire. I don't want to see them wreck, but I do like watching them in the pits while my driver is blowing on past out on the track.

The Car of Tomorrow was supposed to be the great equalizer. It was supposed to level the playing field. In some ways, it probably has, but we still have engines blowing, tire problems, and drivers with tempers more comparable to a 5 year old than a major professional sports figure. As much as Nascar tinkers with the equipment and the rules regarding conduct, the real difference between teams is the human one. I'm not just talking about the driver, even thought that is a very important part, but also about the crew chief, the tire changers, the jack man, the catch can man, the engineers back at the shop, even the guy that sweeps the shop floor late at night. It's the one thing that Nascar can't totally control. It's the human spirit.

Sometimes I think that Nascar's ultimate goal, besides making money, would be to have 43 identically prepared cars, remotely controlled by 43 identical computers. Just take the human element out of it. Honestly, I can understand making things fair, but leave a little inventiveness to the crews and drivers, please!

Tracks change. Crew chiefs, tire specialists, chassis engineers, and finally the driver adapt to them. It's in the interpretation of the changes needing to be made is what separates good teams from bad teams. A team with a zillion dollars as a budget will not win races or championships if they don't have the right people in the right places. That literally includes every single body on every single team. The big owners such as Hendrick and Roush seem to have unbeatable resources, but sometimes the little teams do well, and even sometimes win a race or two. Personally, I think Nascar should cut down on the ownership limit of teams even more, if they really want to even the playing field. Cut the maximum number teams per owner down to 2. Increase the field limit to 44 or cut back to 42. Or leave it alone. One guy out there just won't have a potential team mate. That's fine. Let the guy with no team mate duke it out and beat the others. That's fine with me.

Back to Bristol though. The track was rebuilt, literally from the ground up this summer. Variable degree banking, wider racing lanes. These changes weren't made to make the races boring. Bristol is already the toughest ticket to get in the sport. I've read about long time ticket owners wanting to sell their seats now. Hey, I'll pay cost for them. Anywhere inside the track. Bristol remains maybe the only track on the circuit that doesn't have a bad seat in the house. 3 wide racing? I'm all for it. I wish more tracks offered 3 wide racing. Fewer cautions? I'm all for that too. Cautions often mean wrecks, and I'm not for that.

Seriously, if you thought the race was boring, and want to sell your tickets at cost for next year? Let me know! I'm not kidding!

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