“I think we ought to make it a figure eight.”
Most assuredly awkward silence reigned amongst the media reporters as they exchange confused glances at Tony Stewart‘s declaration on what to do with Talladega. And I sat here and thought, “Well, why the hell not? Great idea!”
After the unusual conclusion to Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 (May 6) – where the field did not wreck coming to the checkers or even in turn 1 like the Nationwide Series did the day before – Stewart met with all and sundry to answer questions. Except he didn’t.
It was more like a Q&A from the Twilight Zone, where the answers belonged to some other place and time. These sarcastic comments, made with an expressionless face as only the best straight man in the business can summon, could not possibly be part of a NASCAR PR session. The fact it was says much about the state of affairs at Talladega and the general dissatisfaction a visit to the aged venue always generates.
We hate it. We – as in the fans, the drivers, the owners … the list goes on. We hate the carnage, the crazy simulated racing which can short circuit the most stayed racer on the roster and the irrelevance to NASCAR as a whole. Generally, by the end of a plate race I am angry at somebody, and it’s usually difficult to pinpoint at just who. This week the irritation drifted more in the direction of those that thought reducing the effectiveness of the tandem would benefit the overall show.
We got what the lower ratings and dropping attendance at the plate races seemed to indicate – NASCAR fans didn’t like the tandem. So, we got the pack back. Yeah, like that is so much better than a day-long game of strategy conducted via the spotter stand.
The pack, combined with no communications, brought back three- to four-wide and six-deep racing which when the drivers come to a restart or near the end of the race invariably results in a heap of shredded metal. On Saturday, we even got the trip to the local trauma center via helicopter.
That sucks. That’s about as polite as I can phrase it and not get called to the principal’s office.
Talladega isn’t a race, it’s a demolition derby. I, for one, have never shilled out cash to attend one of those events, NASCAR-sanctioned or not. I can’t even think of a single redeeming reason I would attend a race at ‘Dega. Not when it’s a fact the fastest car won’t win, and it’s a long shot that an also-ran has an equally good chance of capturing gold on any given Sunday.
Where is the value in an event where Lady Luck not only will wreck an even playing field but send in a bulldozer followed by a tilt-a-whirl to finish the job off?
Yes, Cup racing is the home to spectacle in America. It preys on the basest instincts in humanity, dangling carnage and body parts before our eyes in hopes of stealing a few more of our hard-earned dollars. Unfortunately, the fans of NASCAR have spoken and trained the suits that we respond well to those stimuli. The coliseums at Daytona and ‘Dega stand as proof of our willingness to spend cash on bloodletting.
And now we watched another race at the aforementioned shrine to speed and we are unhappy … again.
We didn’t like strung-out fields. We dissed the metal-eating packs. Men ran shrieking into the night when the cars paired up for their debut. Slam-drafting, enlarged radiators, shrinking fuel cells, rear wings, missing SAFER barriers, tires, shredded pavement … all of these things have been blamed for some travesty of a race in the past decade.
Every post-race meet and greet with the drivers has sounded much like Stewart’s diatribe of suppressed anger. Every year there is a new list of regulations designed to stymie the much bemoaned problems of the previous meet. Yet, the cycle continues to repeat.
So, if ISC and NASCAR have been unable to fix the racing via re-engineering the rulebook and the actual car, what is left to blame?
The track. Talladega and Daytona are too damn big to race on. It’s a simple equation. Unrestricted, the cars run too fast. Restricted they become 195-mph time bombs unable to escape the eddies of their comrade’s airstream. There’s nothing to be done except perhaps …
Turn it into a figure eight.
Why not? The resultant race couldn’t possibly be any worse than what we’ve got now.
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The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.
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