Race Weekend Central

The More NASCAR Changes, the More Things Stay the Same

After parking his mangled No. 19 ARRIS Toyota behind the wall Saturday night, Carl Edwards shared a stunning new fact with the viewing public. “Brad’s still not gonna lift and let me in.”

<big empty silence>

Really? This is news? Perhaps this myopic view of his fellow NASCAR drivers’ intentions explains a bit of why Edwards has not managed to win a Sprint Cup yet. He’s expecting something that is simply not given in motorsports: the right of way.  You have to take it with elbows jutting out and your foot firmly glued to the pedal. That’s the way it is done, the way it has been done, and will continue to be so in the future.

On Sunday afternoon, Chase Elliot held the “21 Means 21” flag up for the cameras after running the fastest lap in the Daytona 500 qualifying. When he took his brand-spanking new No. 24 NAPA Auto Parts Chevy out on the track, he was able to bring it up to speed a little faster, took a slightly different line than the masses and was able to find that smidge of a second of speed needed to land the pole position.

The fastest team will lead the pack to the green on Sunday–just like it’s always been.

When you attend an event at your local short track, and they’ve got the little kiddies in their year one go-carts on the tiny track, how many times will you see the flagman attempt to get the drivers to take a green flag? Somebody jumps the line, they throw out the yellow. Somebody takes a dangerous turn, put it out. For some reason the seven year olds just can’t line up the way they are supposed to, so bring the fluttering scion of caution to the fore. The officials in series after series all the way up the ladder will call back multiple restarts due to somebody doing something wrong.

Hey! Guess what the Sprint Cup Series just did? They created an official “overtime” line for those last restarts that seem to consistently have problems getting going. They simply clarified where on the track they will call a restart official when on that final restart somebody smacks the wall on the Frontstretch. Do they race? Or do we call it back? They sorted that out, because no matter if you’ve lined up double file once or a thousand times, there always has been and always will be the possibility of somebody doing it wrong.

Last week NASCAR announced the introduction of their Charter system, whereby 36 teams that own NASCAR Sprint Cup Charters will be guaranteed starting spots in every race. These teams have had to be competing full-time for several years, which means they have the financial means to bring competitive equipment to the track on a regular basis. The remaining four spots on the roster will left open for those who can race their way in on time. With this announcement, and the Wood Bros. being left on the outside looking in, NASCAR Nation reacted to the news with shock and dismay. Competition would be materially altered in the top tier series because of this ridiculous alteration to the rule book that has been set in stone for all of three seconds!

But, guess what? In the past two decades, NASCAR has always had varying systems where the cars that were competing successfully and consistently were offered more guaranteed starting spots. If you cheered for Kyle Busch, with his big ticket sponsor and successful team, it would be very likely that the No. 18 Toyota would be starting the race when the big boys stopped by your Sprint Cup venue. If your team cobbled together a car once in a while and loaded it up on a borrowed hauler, you would be hoping they might manage to race into Sunday’s event.

Sort of sounds like how the new Charter system is set up.

As always, a new NASCAR season is often heralded by all the changes to our sport. We scurry around trying to wrap our poor heads around the new info by the time Daytona’s green flag flies. But is all that noise worth the effort?

After all, our favorite teams are still coming to the track every week, they will mash up a few late race restarts, the fastest car will parade the field to the green and yes, Brad Keselowski will refuse to let anybody cut him off.

So it has always been. So it shall always be. Carry on, NASCAR.

Something Shiny

This year’s video segment will highlight what is shiny and new at the track each week. Maybe it’s a YouTube from your driver’s off-track life, a fun commercial or like this week, a new piece of technology displayed at the track. Whatever makes me stop in my tracks and smile. Enjoy!

Digital Dashboards

Gone are the analog clusters on the dashboard of a NASCAR stockcar. Now they’re installing digital dashboards that have more in common with your Taurus’ navigation panel than something that you might see running the 1/4 mile in 1972. They are awful pretty! And appear to be highly versatile.

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