Race Weekend Central

4 Burning Questions: All-Star Expectations, Hall of Fame Hubris & Cup Drivers

Are expectations for the All-Star Race too high?

Some spectacular racing in last Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star Race (May 19) was overshadowed by one minor flaw in NASCAR’s new format. This flaw was generated by NASCAR’s reward system for the winners of each of the first four segments.

It looked great on paper — and honestly, the racing was spectacular — but the safety net of winning the segments and thus having first dibs during the mandatory final pit stop gave eventual winner Jimmie Johnson and a couple of others the opportunity to “play it safe” through the remainder of the race. Playing it safe in this instance meant sandbagging and hanging out at the back of the pack like a smaller version of Talladega.

What I don’t understand is why the otherwise very competitive racing was so overlooked. The only part that completely sucked was the final 10 laps, since Johnson made out like a bandit on the restart. Yet it’s that lack of a close finish that is compelling everyone to call it unexciting or uneventful.

It seems to me that any race, especially the All-Star Race, that isn’t an instant classic is suddenly deemed a snoozer … which isn’t fair. The classics wouldn’t be classic without a few lackluster events and even then it doesn’t make those “lesser known” races boring. Heck, even some of the most classic finishes had horrible racing throughout the entire event and only picked up at the end, yet they live in the history books forever.

If you’re being honest, you’ll say the racing was good but the finish was disappointing. NASCAR will tweak the current format and fix some of the problems with the system, but consider this: Johnson would have more than likely dominated that event without the current format. Then it really would have been boring. But give the race some credit when the racing actually is competitive.

Does the order of the Hall of Fame inductees really matter?

With the newest inductees finally announced came a debate that has plagued the NASCAR Hall of Fame since its inception: Who should get in first? Mudslinging and CAPSLOCK ensues over the Internet, as everyone has an opinion on who should get in now and who needs wait their turn. This year’s argument was Rick Hendrick, who already has an astonishing resume in the series but isn’t yet finished adding to it.

Honestly, it frustrates me yearly how much energy people put into the order. At the end of the day, they are still in the Hall of Fame and I’m sure that’s what matters most to them.

The only argument I’ve actually agreed with in that regard would be that it would be nice to get some of the older nominees in first so they can attend the ceremony during their lifetime. The loss of Raymond Parks before he would see his name inside the Hall is an example of this, as he sits on the nominee list but passed on before he was inducted. Apparently he didn’t “deserve it” more than the others.

Let’s not forget that NASCAR has over 60 years of history to catch up on. That’s a difficult way to sort all of the names out, so it’s not so much certain nominees getting the shaft but simply that there are too many to choose from.

Can series regulars and Cup Series crossovers co-exist harmoniously?

Brad Keselowski no longer respects Ron Hornaday. That’s what he told everyone after last week’s Camping World Truck Series race after he was horribly disrespected by Hornaday, oh my gosh, racing him. The horror!
Keselowski was heard saying that he cared about the regulars and always raced them with respect, but would no longer do so with Hornaday.

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It seems to me that racing any series regular with respect when you yourself are in the Sprint Cup Series is an oxymoron. The Cup drivers aren’t in that series to treat series regulars with respect. They’re there to win races. If they were there to race them nice and clean and to give them room in their own series, they wouldn’t be there. They might not crowd them out or run them up the track into the wall, but even just competing in the series isn’t showing much respect at all.

What can Twitter do for NASCAR?

The surge in the popularity of Twitter within the NASCAR community led to an announcement the Friday before the All-Star Race that the two entities would be combining to give already interactive race fans an insider’s view into what happens at the track. Which is, you know, what they already do anyway.

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Honestly, it’s a nifty idea. Starting in Pocono, there will be a page specifically dedicated to the live broadcast and tweets will be handpicked specifically to enhance the user’s race-watching experience. Again, Twitter always does that to an extent, but this is supposed to enhance that.

It might not seem like a big deal to you sticklers who still seem to think social media is some sort of evil, but make no mistake, Twitter is a huge market with millions of active users who are drawn like moths to a light with anything related to social media. The partnership between NASCAR and the social media giant was all over the place and I saw comments from many non-racing fans reacting to it. In other words, people were taking notice.

Basically, what you have here is a new, younger audience for NASCAR (which they’re lacking) and a way for the sport to engage with fans who might otherwise feel detached (which they have said they do). It’s a win-win if they use it correctly and I look forward to seeing what happens with it. If you care anything about the sport, you should too.

I’d say you should care about the Internet, too, but considering you are reading this online, I assume that’s already a given.

About the author

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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