Race Weekend Central

Full Throttle: So What’s with All These Changes?

As is customary during the annual NASCAR Media Tour, Brian France appeared before the media to give his annual State of the Sport address. After extolling the success of the 2015 season, from increased fan attendance to the wild success of the latest iteration of the Chase, he turned his attention to the 2016 season. A significant part of the portion devoted to this coming year is the addition of a Chase-style playoff format to both of the national support series, heat race qualifying for the Dash 4 Cash XFINITY Series races and an experimental caution clock for the Camping World Truck Series.

Depending on the side of the fence where a fan resides — and there are many sides to the Chase-era fence — they either subscribe to France’s vision of the sport’s success or feel as though he is living in an alternate universe where he sees racing that they do not. For the fans who are on board, they believe that the racing is great and there are nothing but good things on the horizon. For those who feel the wheel man at the head of the sport has lost his compass, this is just another nail in the coffin that will house the remains of their beloved sport in the not-too-distant future.

The Chase is France’s baby, and he continues to nurture it with everything he can muster. A large portion of his argument for including it in Trucks and XFINITY is getting drivers ready to compete in that playoff format when they get to the Cup Series. He also cited survey results that indicate a majority of fans and competitors like the playoff style rather than a historical, season-long champion. That data encourages NASCAR to change the championship format for two series that have had title battles come down to the final race of the season for the majority of the last decade.

One interesting twist for the XFINITY Series is that the Dash 4 Cash will be back in 2016. That program is a race within a race where the top-finishing XFINITY Series regular who is qualified for the Dash in that given race wins $100,000. There are four Dash 4 Cash races throughout the season: Bristol, Richmond, Dover and Indianapolis. Unlike previous years where the drivers qualify for the Dash in one race by their finish in the previous Dash race, this year there will be two heat races that determine the starting positions on the inside and outside rows for the race. The top four qualifiers from the heats (first and second from each heat) will be the drivers eligible for the $100,000 bonus in the given race. The end result is four drivers who have shown they are capable of running up front on a given race day at the track will be battling it out for the oversized check.

The Truck Series will have its own unique twist this season with the addition of a caution clock. When a green flag flies during an event, a clock will begin. If the race stays green until the clock hits the 20-minute mark, a caution flag will be displayed. There won’t be any long, strung-out green-flag runs as a result; the teams will be ensured more opportunities to tune in their cars and it will also keep more cars on the lead lap.

There’s no question that both of these tweaks are designed to gauge their success and popularity with the fans. NASCAR continues to try and play around with qualifying to make it more appealing to fans. The addition of heat races now gives fans more bang for their buck and would also give race tracks a chance to provide more Cup experience during a weekend. Heat races on Saturday with the feature on Sunday will certainly increase the total gate for venues.

Also, the caution clock will eliminate a serious credibility issue for NASCAR. As recent as the end of the race in Homestead last season, a caution that was questionable, at least in some fans eyes, dictated the finish of the race. By having scheduled cautions there isn’t a need for the mystery debris caution when there is a long green run that results in 10 cars on the lead lap. The only drawback is that green flag pitstops will almost certainly become a thing of the past unless there is a car issue.

NASCAR continues to try to alter its product to draw more fans into the stands. It doesn’t always succeed, but it doesn’t always fail either. The hardcore fan base of the ’80s and ’90s is aging. The new millenial demographic does not have the love affair with the automobile that the older generations did. The short attention span, video-game generation seeks technological stimulation and constant action.

Will the changes succeed? Only time will tell. One thing is for sure: It is a fork in the road that is less traveled, and it may lead to nowhere or it may lead to the promised land.

About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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The term “race” has been around forever and is very simplistic in meaning. This anger that is exploding all over the internet isn’t about “age” or appeasing the ADHD crowd, it is about altering something that is fundamentally obvious in nature and now telling us that this is the new definition of what we call a race, and this is how we crown a champ etc. It is manipulative, phony, self serving and not true in any form. To me it is like the clown telling me it’s raining when he is whizzing on my leg. Come on Nascar.

I just want BZF to come out and say this is a show, 100% a show, then I will know. It is insulting the excuses for these changes. Saying enough does not make it true.

Is this the WWE on wheels or not Brian? Come clean! Cause this garbage is beyond logical. Come clean, at least we will know the truth from the horse’s mouth. We have seen the backside plenty..now speak some truth. Then at least I know and others know that we are logical and not crazy. This stuff keeps getting weirder and weirder. :(

Bill B

For someone who is at a crossroad as to how much they want to be vested in the whole NASCAR dog and pony show, Brian France is certainly doing everything he can to make sure I’m out.

This 20 minute caution rule is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. What really needs to happen is for NASCAR to greatly diminish the number of 1.5 mile tracks on the schedule. Trust me they won’t need a 20 minute clock on a half mile track, the cautions happen naturally. Unfortunately NASCAR has invested way too much in the larger tracks and they don’t want to lose all that money or spend more money to fix it so they have painted themselves into a corner. So, as usual, we get a restrictor plate solution to the problem. What a bunch of idiots.

The only question left is how long until it becomes the norm in all three series?
NASCAR racing = WWE = reality television.

Wow, this is just mind boggling. I will say that it’s nice not to really care that much. And it’s also nice that the decisions that keep coming out of Daytona are helping me with my personal goal of divestiture in NASCAR.

Good luck with all that.


This is not reality television. Reality is dropping the green flag and letting the race play out. It used to be that way. Remember?


Wow. Letting a race play out on it’s own? That’s such a crazy idea…it just might work!


Brian doesn’t want to understand the concept.


We’ve been waiting with bated breath for the next of Brian’s “brilliant” (to only him) ideas and we haven’t been disappointed. He’s taken them to the next level. Of insanity.


Hey yall, lets not dump on WWE. They make no pretense about its authenticity –that’s part of its appeal (that and the divas).


Having seen many of the polls that are supposedly showing fans giving the ‘chase’ rave reviews, I can attest to the fact that most questions regarding the subject are worded so that any real criticism of the format is not an option. Skewing a questionnaire so that it gives you the answers you want, rather than the answer that reflects reality is worthy of any political candidate.

Tim S.

Sample question:

Do you find the Chase format to be:

A. Perfect
B. Nearly perfect
C. Well on the way to perfect
D. Dale Earnhardt Jr


Laughing out loud at your “sample question,” Tim! You have captured the spirit of every fan poll NASCAR has executed over the last decade. (And of course, the winning answer will always be “D.”)

Ron Schwalbe

Lets go full moron and INVERT the FIELD every twenty laps !!!
I STILL can’t help but feeling that there is SOME kind of issue with inheritance tax, that has made Brian do everything in his power– to destroy and bankrupt – what was once the most popular form of auto racing on the planet -expanding at EXPONENTIAL rates every year – –
NONE of this makes any sense …. the “musical chairs’ Championship is irrelevant – the regular season is now irrelevant – total wins– most total points –all irrelevant – – even QUALIFYING means nothing anymore.

Biff Banyehouse

BOtLO alert: Please report any & all information regarding the possible where-abouts of Brian “Danny-Boy” France’s missing thumbs! Lolz! :D~
01/19/2016 – the day NASCAR died!
You seem to be “one of those fans” Mr. Author, & frankly, imo it’s a little scary to think you are an author on a complex topic that you don’t fully understand. Anyone can stack up statistics & say WWII or Vietnam was a popular success. With Nascar, the facts are it will never be as popular as it was & the “Chase” compromises the integrity of [what once was] the premiere motorsports championship in the World. New fans [presumably like you] were not around when practically every race sold out before the season started, sometimes, at some venues, years in advance. So, it seems you lack the historical perspective required to accurately draft some of your deductions.
For example, how many of the 2015 “chase” races were sellouts (at today’s venue capacities, not even considering how many seats venues have removed)? And, how many “chase” races toped the TV ratings of comparable events in pre-“chase” years? Very few I suspect! And imo, that is because, in attempting to garner interest amongst “short attention span” kids & people that have no interest in motorsports, they have failed. Because, people that have no interest in motorsports are LESS inclined become involved after the integrity of the sport has been destroyed, NOT MORE. In doing so, Nascar has essentially turned their backs on a once dedicated fan base & run a large decent percentage of them off in the process. And, my dear Nascar enthusiast, THAT IS ALL PRE-2016!
CWT & NXS “chase” “…getting drivers ready” is a moot, if not comical point. Prior to the advent of, & during the “chases” drivers gave 100% effort for wins & best finishes, all the time. It is impossible to give more than your best effort & “chases” do not change that unassailable equation. If anything, “chases” create an environment where there fiscally responsible to coast at certain times & during certain races. If you have won early in the “regular” season, (ie: in ’15 Cup, #4 & #2), you are locked in the “chase” &, in a way, it makes sense to dial it back & not tear up race cars or waste tires. And cause the utter BS we saw with #4 at Dega & the whole #20 vs #22 mess, neither of which there is no “getting ready for”!
Seasons where championships that were decided prior to the last race where so because drivers & teams earned it via dominate season & DESERVED IT! “Chases” PENALIZE dominate performers (in ’15 – #22) & creates an environment were teams & drivers who [miss 11 or 24 “regular” season races, &…] don’t deserve it, are handed the Cup at the end of the season. This is systemically manipulating & devaluing a season long, historically righteous & iconic 36 race championship into one race! Why would people with no interest & short attention spans watch, go to or pay attention to any of the “regular season” or “chase” races, if it is all boiled down to what happens during the final race? Imo fans that enjoyed “regular” championship, devoted their attention year in & year out & attended multiple races annually won’t be sold on gimmicks & are disenfranchised & alienated. They [presumably & hypothetically] are being replaced by new fans that pay attention to one or two races per season & don’t go to tracks. Imo, that is not nurturing, that is turning your back on your real family & adopting a new one!
I will reserving option on the NXS heat race stuff. I know AV8SC does something similar. They will typically have 2 short (10 laps) races on Saturday & one long (70 lap) race on Sunday. They are not technically “heat” races, bcuz they are all for points & have separate qualifying sessions. But I rather like it. So, I am negotiable on the NXS heat race stuff, in that it seems exciting, all be it non-points [gimmick] oriented.
The caution clock is an affront to any rational concept of the definition of the word “race”. Lolz! Imo CWT’s main issue is simple – scheduling. They frequently practice & qualify during the heat of the day & race in the cool of the night. This disjoined individual venue session schedule is what is throwing off the trucks set-ups & makes the start of races guessing game. And since CWT races are so short & drivers do not have adjustable track bars, teams that are off at the beginning, have little or no chance to get caught up. A (proper & rational) fix for this it to add 50 – 100 miles, or so, to each race! Or offer an abbreviated practice session, perhaps with a lap count (10 laps max), just prior to the race (or at a time, in the preceding days, that mirrors the scheduled race start). A short version of the old school “happy hour” if you will (for you newbies, YES, Cup used to have one full hour of practice Sunday morning before the main events). This “caution clock” is absolutely idiotic & grossly counter intuitive! If you or anyone believes the solution to under-competitive races is to break the race up into 20 minute session ..THIS is your brain on drugs (*&#$*%*#&*)! This decision will single handedly & irreparably DESTROY the most exciting series in Nascar. And it is absolutely 100% ****-up beyond all recognition!
And Mike, the paragraph that starts with “Also, the caution clock will eliminate… is a baseless & entirely implausible theory. If you think “clocked cautions” will “eliminate” “mystery cautions”, you, my friend, are clueless. Both are repulsive to race fans, but the way to correct “mystery cautions” it to train track workers & officials on what does & does not constitute caution worthy debris. But breaking races into segments with “clock cautions” is neither here, nor there. They two are wholly incomparable & unrelated issues.

Biff Banyehouse

Apologizes to Mike. While I still disagree with many of your premises, I only now see & am very surprise by your head shot & bio below …& realize I am guilty of grossly miss-characterize you. Sincere apologizes Sir.


TimS, Precisely! That is the type of ‘questionnaire’ that BZF is basing his ‘fact’ that fans l0ve the ‘chase’.


Being a ‘hardcore aging fan’ can certainly be difficult these days.


Each silly change causes me to care just a little less. My racing dollar can be spent at many places.

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