Race Weekend Central

Search for On-Track Improvement Needed after Off-Track Drama

We have heard it all too much recently: the fan commenting to the world that “the race was boring, but what happened afterward was awesome!”

For those with an eye for excitement, one would have to agree to a point. In the short term, drama draws attention to the sport and may even increase viewership from race to race.

In the long run, though, there is a bit of a problem. Post-race shenanigans between competitors should not be overshadowing the story of who won.

Especially at this time of the season, where winning is pretty much everything.

I do not fault the drivers involved in the scuffle at Charlotte Motor Speedway over the weekend at all. They have the right to settle their differences and that is their own business as long as it is within the lines of the law.  But if drivers were fighting each other for the win on the race track under green flag conditions, I guarantee it would be the story of the day no matter what occurred after the checkered flag flew.

(Credit: CIA Stock Photography)
Matt Kenseth’s scuffle with Brad Keselowski may bring in viewers in the short term, but what about the long term? (Credit: CIA Stock Photography)

The day following the Bank of America 500, some of short track racing’s finest converged at the extremely daunting Winchester Speedway in Indiana for the annual Winchester 400. Erik Jones, a name becoming increasingly familiar in households, and Travis Braden, a name many outside of the Midwest may have never heard, battled with little space between them on the high banks with 10 laps to go. Jones achieved the victory for the second straight season, but it was a hard-fought duel between two drivers with respect for one another. A competition like that will likely never be forgotten for those that witnessed it.

Obviously I understand that Charlotte and the country’s short tracks are two completely different animals, but competitive racing can still be achieved at an intermediate facility. I applaud NASCAR’s efforts for testing different rule changes which will hopefully result in more positive results, but the pace of improvements needs to increase. We simply cannot keep waiting for continued solutions week after week – and in some cases year after year – or the fanbase is only going to keep their ears out for events such as what transpired between Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin. After that it’s back to the woodwork they go.

Close quarters competition is also a reason I can attribute to road course racing becoming more popular in recent years. Some of these conclusions to all three top NASCAR series road races have been more comparable to a Saturday night feature at a bullring than a winding multi-turn facility. On the other hand, you have the restrictor plate tracks, where it becomes too close for comfort and you might as well pick a driver out of a hat for your fantasy team in order to determine who is going to be victorious.

Some may argue that when the boys have at it, it shows the passion involved in the sport. That’s true, but I just don’t see Talladega Superspeedway bringing out the sheer emotion even if championship contention is on the line. We have seen it before, whether it was driver error or something beyond anyone’s control. Reluctance followed by acceptance seems to outweigh anger or frustration when something goes wrong at the superspeedway. It’s Talladega. Anything can happen.

Perhaps it has to do with why I have never been fully sold on the Chase. Unpredictability should be countered by emotion, and although I could be proven wrong this last race of the Contender Round, I just do not see a whole lot of what we saw at Charlotte.

Once again, it is going to be a matter of what progress we see in the long run. Continuous drama may be what draws the attention now, but the week-to-week competition on the race track is what will make or break the lifelong fan’s interest.

About the author

A former contributor to SBNation, Aaron handles marketing on the short track level and can be seen at a different local bullring virtually every weekend over the spring and summer, working with teams in various capacities. He’s a native of central Pennsylvania.

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The race itself wasn’t as bad as I expected. There was some passing at the front. Some of the guys were able to make the high line work. Others were able to pass down low. The tires seemed to hold up fairly well. I’ve seen plenty worse races at NASCAR’s elite level.

The fireworks after the race was interesting. But, the Chase is a pretty flawed way of awarding a Championship. It should reflect the team that had the best year. Instead they are trying for a stick-and-ball playoff vibe. It doesn’t work. In fact they made it worse this year. The Championship will be quite hollow. All it represents now is someone who survived till the end of the year and had a better final race than 3 others.

Also, it ruins the end of year points standings. As an example, Larson can finish no better than 17th in the points. He barely missed out on making the Chase and, if he had, he’d be flying high right now.


You raised a good point Dennis in that anyone that has a good run for the last ten races can only finish 17th in the standings and conversely drivers in the top-16 can have a lousy run for the last 10 races and never do worse than 16th in the standings. How does that make any sense?

Don in Ct

None of it makes any sense. It’s a flawed process designed by someone more interested in grandstanding than in serious championship racing. I can’t be bothered watching it anymore. Sad..

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