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S.D. Grady

It’s Time for a New NASCAR Storefront at the Track

It’s Time for a New NASCAR Storefront at the Track

Signed up for the FREE Frontstretch Newsletter? If not, let’s give you a sneak preview of what you’re missing out on. S.D. Grady writes her Fan’s View Commentary, every Tuesday for our dedicated readership and this week, she’s taking a second look at souvenir row. To sign up for the Newsletter, click here. This past week, NASCAR announced that it is looking into revamping souvenir row — the collection of colorfully decaled semis that sell the T-Shirts of your favorite ... Read More »

Great Racing at Michigan – It’s All a Matter of Perception

Great Racing at Michigan – It’s All a Matter of Perception

There’s been many a year where I’ve teetered on the see-saw of loving or merely dismissing the racing at Michigan. In decades past, horsepower and engine durability was king at this two-mile track.  With a wide racing surface combined with high banks, drivers could almost hold the pedal down all the way around. Who would win?  It wasn’t so much a who as a what. Whichever engine did not detonate was a fairly safe answer. For the past few years, life has ... Read More »

2014 Sprint Cup Predictions: Our Staff Tells All

2014 Sprint Cup Predictions: Our Staff Tells All

JOIN OUR FANTASY RACING LEAGUE!! The Frontstretch has a big league on Yahoo!, once again and we’d like you to be a part of it. Come compete with your favorite racing experts by clicking here and signing up. Our Group ID is 10532 and the password is stenica… so don’t miss out! Let’s not waste any time. Here’s a look at some of our columnists’ predictions for 2014, along with a peek at where you’ll be able to find them ... Read More »

NASCAR 2014 Season Preview: Nationwide & Trucks Attendance & Ratings

NASCAR 2014 Season Preview: Nationwide & Trucks Attendance & Ratings

New playoff system. New qualifying procedure. New attitude. As NASCAR heads towards Daytona in 2014, all around the sport are focused on the positive, looking for the perfect season to recapture a nation currently preoccupied with other sports, along with the Olympics in Sochi. Can they do it? As Speedweeks dawn, both NASCAR’s Sprint Unlimited and the 56th Daytona 500 usher in a long list of questions along with them, the answers to which could define the sport for not ... Read More »

NASCAR 2014: The Year of the Rookie

Welcome back, my friends, to another year of speed and hopefully fun. While 2013 ended on a predictable note, at least after the controversy of Richmond, there are many things happening at the start of this season that may manage to jump NASCAR out of its proverbial rut. However, despite a new Chase/Points system, new qualifying structure and a less opaque penalty system, I’m not looking to the sanctioning body to bring about the true winds of change. Something more ... Read More »

Pay-Per-View vs. a Highlight Reel: Fixing FOX’s Terrible Coverage

Which would you rather have, four hours of uninterrupted NASCAR race coverage or a one hour highlight reel? That’s a tough question these days. One I used to be able to answer unequivocally. Why would I want the Sprint Cup Series to go pay-per-view? Well, when FOX cuts to commercial every five minutes, regardless of what is happening on the track, I start to give the idea of paying to actually watch the race I gave my Sunday away for ... Read More »

NASCAR Forgot to Tell Them, “Keep it Clean, Boys.”

“Boys, have at it.” Brian France and Co. all agreed this ought to be the credo of NASCAR several years ago. Collectively, the fan base proceeded to cheer. At long last, our heroes would not be fined and suspended for failing to control their tongues in moments of extreme stress, or worry that rubbing a little too hard would sit them down for an inordinate amount of time. Awesome. However, it has come to my attention that while no official ... Read More »

Side By Side: Was Last Fall's Bristol Repave The Right Move?

_Welcome back to Side By Side. There are always two sides to every story, and we're going to bring them both, right here, every week. Two of our staff writers will face off on an important racing question … feel free to tell us what you think in the weekly poll and also in the comments section below!_ *This Week's Question: Last Fall, Bruton Smith ground down Bristol Motor Speedway, what he said was a fan-motivated move to create better racing. Is the \"new new\" Bristol a better choice? Or was it a waste of cash?* <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike Neff, Senior Writer: The Repave Was a Waste of Cash.</span> In the Summer of 2007, Bruton Smith spent a ton of money to put truck loads of new surface onto the race track at Bristol Motor Speedway. Not only was a new surface put in place but also variable banking that allowed drivers to, say it with me, _run side-by-side_ competitively, on a half-mile race track. Unheard of in the modern era of NASCAR, fans were allowed to see people on the outside at Bristol actually make passes and advance their position. Better yet, they were able to pass people without having to, at the least, shove them out of the way or at worst, wreck them to get by. Races were filled with two- and three-wide racing throughout the pack for laps on end without detriment to one lane or the other. Somehow, that irritated or bored fans to a point that more than a third of them stopped showing up to see the races there. As a result, Smith ground down the banking at the top of the track and attempted to return the single groove bump, dump, and wreck racing back to the facility. <div style=\"float:right; width:275px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/10421.jpg\" width=\"275\" height=\"181\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">Mike Neff says the side-by-side racing we saw from 2007 through the spring of 2012 was the best Bristol has seen in years…</p></div> Thanks to Smith at least trying to bring the old parade back to town, the track was nearly sold out last August for the night race at Bristol. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your perspective, the drivers figured out that they could make the top groove work and the race ended up being a two groove event still. While the race was fantastic from start to finish and the ending was edge of the seat theater, the number of cautions was limited and almost no cars were wrecked. As a result, the jury is still out on whether the fans will like the new surface more than the altered surface before the grinding. From where I sit, which was near the top of the grandstands in turn two last summer, there is nothing more enjoyable that watching cars racing side-by-side with first one and then the other gaining slight advantages each lap. The great thing about Richmond is that a driver can get to the inside of another competitor but has to struggle to complete the pass because they can't use the whole race track. That never-ending battle to gain the inches necessary to eventually complete the pass is why Richmond is still one of the best race tracks anywhere. When Bruton Smith added the progressive banking to Bristol, he put the track on the same plane as Richmond and the racing became fantastic from the front to the back and everywhere in between. With the ground-down top of the track, the surface at Bristol is offering enough grip up top to give drivers an advantage running up there, but going to the bottom won't give the drivers enough of an advantage to make a pass, so the race is going to lend itself to a single groove; it will just be around the top now instead of the bottom. Close racing and passing are the two things that make for great races. With the varying degrees of banking the “old†new Bristol had allowed drivers to run on all three lanes around the track and make passes in any of them. The drivers could pass someone on the top at one point in a run then on the bottom another part and finally in the middle at yet another point. However the drivers were running and wherever they were running, they put on a fantastic race and did it all without tearing up a bunch of race cars. And that is the rub right there. Based on the statement made by fans with their wallets and their keyboards, they don't want to see racing at Bristol, they want to see wrecking. If what you want to see is cars destroyed for no reason, then the “new†new Bristol is more for you than the old one. I'll stick with cars running in three lanes on a half-mile race track with any of them having a chance to win. <span style=\"color:orange; font-weight:bold\">S.D. Grady, Senior Editor: The \"New, New\" Bristol Is Just Perfect!</span> \"It's the new, NEW Bristol!\" Okay, so we may have said that a few times too many in 2012. Much hype surrounded the re-engineering of the track in 2007, introducing variable banking to the reported 36-degree mixing bowl. During the following races, though, it became clear that somehow Bruton Smith had managed to create a mini-cookie cutter atop the mountain. The CoT did what it did so well, got in line and we were entertained (uh huh) by a 40-car train on one of NASCAR's most storied venues. Gone were the days where a third of the field had to wreck out in order to make enough room for the front runners to go at it, door-to-door and bumper-to-bumper. Previously unobtainable tickets became an easily snared stub. Where fans used to cling to their seats peering down over the carnage, many chose to depart early seeking a faster way home. Clearly something had to be done. And Smith did it. <div style=\"float:left; width:275px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/13955.jpg\" width=\"275\" height=\"181\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">…but S.D. Grady says that kind of racing lacked the emotion of the old-style chrome-horn racing, and that's just not cool.</p></div> Last fall the latest incarnation of the track was introduced. Sitting in the stands at the exit of Turn 4, I thrilled as I watched team after team discover that not only was there a second groove, the upper reaches of the towering banks were actually where the racing was best. My husband and I nudged each other, pointed at the burgeoning \"Darlington Stripes\" appearing on just about everybody's right side panels and grinned. Yeah, this is what we wanted out of Bristol. A little slick, real tight, and not nearly enough room for 43 cars to take each other on. The track once again became part of the race, something that Thunder Valley has always been known for–at least up to 2007. The Sprint Cup circuit is littered with a bunch of mile-and-a-half tracks where the pavement is miles wide, the banking climbs just enough into the sky and the drivers can find all the clean air they want. They've earned the moniker \"cookie cutter\" because not only do the configurations appear similar, the competition suffers from similarity, as well. The legendary tracks of the old-school NASCAR have never suffered from the look-alike ennui. There's the Martinsville paperclip, wild rides of Fast-lanta, sandy banks of Darlington, the concrete monster in Dover … need I go on? Bristol has always served up a furious day of racing. The tempers, fenders and very stands scream with frustration when the field takes the flag. It pulses with life. But Bristol very nearly lost that when Smith introduced the graduated banking. Gone were the afternoons of car munching fury. We ended the race day wondering if we had missed something. The drivers smiled–smiled!–at the cameras and headed off to their lives. Nobody seemed particularly upset. Even the cars were more than able to roll into the garage area. Boring. Placid. Safe. None of those words had ever been applied to Bristol in the past. And I really don't want it known as such in the future. Bruton Smith did what had to be done–he saved the half-mile coliseum from being fed to the lions. Now the gladiators have returned, drivers will use all available sheet metal to fend off their neighbors, and mayhem ensues. Not every race should run in the great Bristol bowl, but I'm glad the ones that do have returned to the days of the Bristol Stomp. *Connect with Sonya!* <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/laregna\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/6502.jpg\"></a><br> \"Contact S.D. Grady\":http://www.frontstretch.com/contact/14360/ *Connect with Mike!* <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/mneffshorttrack\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/6502.jpg\"></a><br> \"Contact Mike Neff\":http://www.frontstretch.com/contact/14354/ Read More »

Side-by-side – Bruton Smith threw bad money after good by grinding the top of the race surface at Bristol

In the Summer of 2007, Bruton Smith spent a truck load of money to put truck loads of new surface onto the race track at Bristol Motor Speedway. Not only was a new surface put in place but variable banking that allowed drivers to, say it with me, RUN SIDE-BY-SIDE competitively on a half mile race track. Unheard of in the modern era of NASCAR, fans were allowed to see people on the outside at Bristol actually make passes and advance their position. Better yet, they were able to pass people without having to at least shove them out of the way or at worst, wreck them to get by. Races were filled with two and three wide racing throughout the pack for laps on end without detriment to one lane or the other. Somehow, that irritated or bored fans to a point that more than a third of them stopped coming to see the races there. As a result, Bruton Smith ground down the banking at the top of the track and attempted to return the single grove bump, dump and wreck racing back to the facility. Thanks to Smith at least trying to bring the old parade back to town, the track was nearly sold out last August for the Night Race at Bristol. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your perspective, the drivers figured out that they could make the top groove work and the race ended up being a two groove race still. While the race was fantastic from start to finish and the ending was edge of the seat theater, the number of cautions was limited and almost know cars were wrecked. As a result, the jury is still out on whether the fans will like the new surface more than the altered surface before the grinding. From where I sit, which was near the top of the grandstands in turn two last Summer, there is nothing more enjoyable that watching cars racing side-by-side with first one and then the other gaining slight advantages each lap. The great thing about Richmond is that a driver can get to the inside of another competitor but has to struggle to complete the pass because they can't use the whole race track. That never ending battle to gain the inches necessary to eventually complete the pass is why Richmond is still one of the best race tracks anywhere. When Bruton Smith added the progressive banking to Bristol, he put the track on the same plane as Richmond and the racing became fantastic from the front to the back and everywhere in between. With the ground top of the track, the surface at Bristol is offering enough grip up top to give drivers an advantage running up there, but going to the bottom won't give the drivers enough of an advantage to make a pass so the race is going to lend itself to a single groove, it will just be around the top now instead of the bottom. Close racing and passing are the two things that make for great races. With the varying degrees of banking the “old†new Bristol had allowed drivers to run on all three lanes around the track and make passes in any of them. The drivers could pass someone on the top at one point in a run then on the bottom another part and finally in the middle at yet another point. However the drivers were running, and wherever they were running, they put on a fantastic race and did it all without tearing up a bunch of race cars. And that is the rub right there. Based on the statement made by fans with their wallets and their keyboards, they don't want to see racing at Bristol, they want to see wrecking. If what you want to see is cars destroyed for no reason, then the “new†new Bristol is more for you than the old one. I'll stick with cars running in three lanes on a half mile race track with any of them having a chance to win. Read More »

Side By Side: Should NASCAR Award Bonus Points Throughout Each Race?

_Welcome back to Side By Side. There are always two sides to every story, and we're going to bring them both, right here, every week. Two of our staff writers will face off on an important racing question … feel free to tell us what you think in the weekly poll and also in the comments section below!_ *This Week's Question: NASCAR is looking at all sorts of ways to make the racing early in events more competitive. To do so, should they begin awarding point \"bonuses\" for segments of events (first 100 laps, second 100 laps, etc.) so drivers will be encouraged to race harder?* <span style=\"color:gray; font-weight:bold\">Mike Neff, Senior Writer: Segmented Bonus Points Are a Must</span> We’ve heard the same ol’ song and dance for years and it has never been more prevalent since the advent of the Chase. Drivers ride around for most of the race and then drive hard at the end because that is when they pay the money and the points. There is no incentive to go hard during the middle of the event unless you’re trying to lead the most laps, and with the current point system, where you only get one point for leading the most, the danger of losing twenty or thirty points due to a crash is far more daunting than trying to get the one bonus point. As a result, fans are turning away from the sport more and more because the only parts of the race worth watching are the beginning and the end. The time has come for NASCAR to give the drivers a reason to push hard throughout the event. The tracks on the NASCAR circuit, as well as the events themselves, come in a variety of different lengths, so it would not work to pay points at a specific numbered lap. Instead, what NASCAR must do is decide what percentage of the race will result in the awarding of in-race points. The most logical, and easiest for the fans to understand (which is a priority apparently for the folks in Daytona) is to pay points at the quarter marks of the race. However many laps are to be contested, divide that number by four and pay the points after each segment of the race that contains that many laps. <div style=\"float:right; width:275px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/15500.jpg\" width=\"275\" height=\"172\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">Would awarding points in designated segments throughout each race create close racing…</p></div> In simple terms, the Daytona 500 is 200 laps long. Divide the total number of laps by four and you get 50-lap segments. When the first 50 laps of the race is completed, points are awarded. Then, you do it again at the halfway point and finally at the three-quarter mark before the ultimate points are awarded for the finishing order. You will have the same formula at every track; there will just be different numbers of laps in the segments. The drivers will know before the race starts what the lap numbers are so that they can focus on being in the best position at those points in the race. You wouldn't want NASCAR to award full race points at each of these segments, but rewarding the top 5 or even the top 10 would make things much more interesting. If they paid 10 points for leading at each quarter point of the race, a driver could actually score more points than the winner by leading at the three-quarter mark but coming home second in the race. Some fans might object to that, though, and NASCAR could obviously tweak the points so that the winner is guaranteed the most points on a race weekend. But the point is that it will give drivers an incentive to go hard for the whole race and someone can actually make up some ground in the standings, something that is extremely hard to do these days. Paying points for more than the quarters might give too much to the drivers leading or near the front of the pack for most of the race but not at the finish. However, it will encourage the drivers to go hard early and often during the race to keep themselves in contention for the bonus points throughout the event. Race strategies will develop around these point milestones. Some teams might stay out under a caution to garner the points while other teams pit. When the points are earned the teams who stayed out will then pit and the cars at the back of the pack will now be up front. It will open a myriad of possibilities which will all add excitement to the event. Would this idea be harder to follow than the current point system? A little bit. However, the thing that most fans want to know is where does their driver sit at the end of the day? They really don’t care about the points that are earned throughout the race or where their driver runs. As a result, the drivers will know when they want to be up front and getting there will add excitement to the events. It will also open up sponsorship opportunities for race promoters because each segment could have a sponsor paying a purse to the leader. It would hearken back to the old halfway bonus. For those who don’t remember, there used to be a halfway bonus of $10,000 for the driver leading at the crossed flags. It cost Dale Jarrett the Brickyard 400 one year because he tried to stretch his fuel to the halfway point and ran out. Racing should be about trying to lead the most laps and beating the competition. Unfortunately, it has come down to a points management game now. The only way to get the competitive excitement back into the sport, while still allowing the bean counters the chance to keep track of points is to offer them more often throughout the events. In the end, it will make for a much better show. <span style=\"color:orange; font-weight:bold\">S.D. Grady, Senior Editor: There's no need for more bonus points</span> And welcome to the New Hampshire 100, three times the charm, trophy awarded to all comers, presented by NASCAR and your local T-ball team. No, it is not worth your while as a top-notch professional stock car team to go balls to the wall all 500 laps, proving to the world that your machine is the most durable, that you've hired a pilot with both endurance and wits, and that you've the wherewithal to garner enough sponsors to pay your bills. No, it's quite all right. We've got you covered. <div style=\"float:left; width:250px; margin: 20px; border: black solid 1px; padding: 3px;\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/15495.jpg\" width=\"250\" height=\"375\"/><p style=\"margin: 3px; text-align: left; font-weight:bold;\">…or would it simply mean everyone gets a ribbon while the winner's accomplishment is diminished?</p></div> Instead of pushing every limit on man and machine, we've got a brand new way of doing business for the Sprint Cup Series. We're going to fully embrace the title sponsor's name and turn Sunday's marathon into a Saturday Night Special. Every 50 laps we'll award a ribbon to the boy or girl who slips past the start/finish line first–there's a new flag designed for the moment – it features a cartoon character. We're just waiting for the fan poll to come through so we can name it. We've also decided to print a certificate for the best fuel mileage, snazziest pit crew uniforms and most dramatic performance by a crew chief. If that's not enough, there's the 75-lap, 50/50 raffle to keep the fans interested. During the lap 150 scheduled break, the track mascot will scamper up and down the stands awarding the brightest fan (that's brightest…as in t-shirt color) free tickets to come back again. On lap 225, there will be a Twitter poll with random participants earning points toward a meet n' greet with the lap 275 leader. Victory Lane? That has been abbreviated into a photo op with the State Troopers in the parking lot while the team tries to escape the traffic jam. No, you cannot improve the racing of the Sprint Cup Series by chopping up the event into shorter, lucrative segments. By doing so, you will have devalued all that the teams have worked so hard to achieve in reaching the upper echelon of stock car racing in America. There are no 500-lap features at your local Friday night track. The cars won't last. The drivers aren't as good. The ruts in the surface would probably crumble. By reaching the Sprint Cup Series, you have proven that you've got the goods to go the distance. When you take the trophy, you've done what many others have only dreamed of accomplishing: beat the competition by being the brightest, fastest, strongest, most adaptive, focused, intelligent and on the occasion just plain lucky. And yes, by driving smart for the first 499 laps. The fat lady only sings once a race. That's what we hand out the big checks for and that's the way it should remain. Otherwise, we should close every major racing venue and excuse ourselves to the splintered benches of Thompson, Irwindale, and Eldora. *Connect with Sonya!* <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/laregna\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/6502.jpg\"></a><br> \"Contact S.D. Grady\":http://www.frontstretch.com/contact/14360/ *Connect with Mike!* <a href=\"http://www.twitter.com/mneffshorttrack\"><img src=\"http://www.frontstretch.com/images/6502.jpg\"></a><br> \"Contact Mike Neff\":http://www.frontstretch.com/contact/14354/ Read More »