Race Weekend Central

The Frontstretch 5: Things to Consider About the Racing in NASCAR

  1. Dominant performances happen

They just do. And there isn’t anything wrong with them—just like there’s nothing wrong with fuel mileage races, races that are won on rain strategy, long green-flag runs, or any of a dozen other things that happen over several hundred miles of competition that don’t result in a door-to-door finish.  It’s part of the sport … and it always has been. Racing has never been perfect.  Yes, some races are better than others. But there are no “lesser” victories in the scheme of things. No, a dominant run like Martin Truex, Jr. had on Sunday doesn’t make for the most exciting finish you’ve ever seen. On the other hand, it’s not every day that fans see records shattered and history rewritten. Those things are worth getting excited about, too. Also, while someone is running away up front, there can still be great racing in the pack, and we saw a lot of that Sunday. Spotters were kept busy throughout the night.

  1. So do boring races

There’s a difference between drivers not being able to pass someone because he’s faster than they are (isn’t that the point of racing?) and not being able to pass because the cars aren’t aerodynamically capable of passing. The Coca-Cola 600 was mainly the former, and NASCAR is improving the aero package by leaps and bounds. They’re already trying some things to make what’s been, for the most part, excellent racing better.  What has not been addressed is a key component of the races that have, in general, received poor reviews from fans—they’ve all been night races.  The day-night component of the 600 and the flash of the night race at Bristol as notable exceptions, the next step that NASCAR really needs to take is to return every single other race on the schedule to Sunday afternoons. Even so, there will be races that are less than exciting. There have been races that are less than exciting since long before NASCAR and during its long history. To expect otherwise is completely unrealistic and unsupported by history.

  1. And bad TV coverage of good races

I’ve said this before, but there was some fantastic racing Sunday night. But if you weren’t at Charlotte, you didn’t see most of it. It wasn’t that nobody could pass — it was that nobody could pass Truex, because he was in a different time zone. The rest of the field

(Photo: NASCAR via Getty Images)
Truex put on a clinic in the Coca-Cola 600, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the competitors weren’t putting on a show behind him. (Photo: NASCAR via Getty Images)

raced each other. It’s a safe bet to say that most race fans would rather see intense racing in the pack than one person leading by five seconds for the majority of the night, but NASCAR’s television partners don’t seem to want to hear that. Fans are bored by the racing in part because they don’t actually see the racing that’s going on. That’s a shame. The sponsors of the teams doing the racing you don’t see probably aren’t very happy you don’t see it either. And that’s something that could have a long-term negative effect on the sport.

  1. Nothing happens overnight

NASCAR isn’t done working on the racing package. The lower downforce we’ve seen in 2016 has been a huge boon for the sport. Could it still be better? Of course. And NASCAR is trying some things—we saw a difference with rear-end skew during All-Star weekend that looks promising, and there will be a splitter change coming at Michigan and Kentucky that may make a difference as well. It’s likely there are other tweaks in the works as well. But to throw the kitchen sink at the cars mid-season would be a mistake. Small changes, one at a time, can be measured and tried in different combinations. If NASCAR were to throw three or four things into the mix at once, there’d be no way to know what was really working. One thing is clear, and that is that the sanctioning body is taking the quality of racing seriously. As long as that continues, there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic about what we’re going to see on the track.

  1. Points will always matter

Short of not having a championship (a move that would likely be a massive blow to sponsorship), there’s nothing NASCAR can do to keep teams from points racing. What that means is that teams are going to conserve equipment over the course of a race. Which in turn means that racing like it’s the last ten laps isn’t going to happen for 200 laps and more. And really, it wouldn’t be as great as it sounds—unless you’re a fan of blown engines, mechanical failures, and other issues. While it can be argued that racing needs more risk of attrition, too much isn’t a good thing either. I’d love to see the importance of the championship diminished and the importance of individual races increased, but it’s unlikely that NASCAR is going to put less of an onus on winning titles anytime soon, and sometimes the consequence of that is that teams will opt for safe points rather than risk their race for a couple of spots.

About the author

Amy is an 20-year veteran NASCAR writer and a six-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found working on her bi-weekly columns Holding A Pretty Wheel (Tuesdays) and Only Yesterday (Wednesdays). A New Hampshire native whose heart is in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

5) Points ALWAYS matter. NO, THEY DO NOT!

The whole column is Amy selling, selling, selling! Wonder what her partner in crime Ryan “Suckup” Mcgee is writing about? Can’t wait till that asshole Marty Smith gets going. We will have the Holy Trinity of Nascar butt kissers. The emperor will be most pleased.

Charles Jenkins

Don’t forget Moody !!!!!!


Good Grief, so true. That man is a piece of work who makes a nice living out of being a total douche and other not so nice terms. Not to mention a flaming hypocrite.


Golly KB, that’s kind of harsh. With that kind of temperament you should run for president. What are your views on Mexico? Just kidding I don’t want to know but I do agree with your point, not your tone. You’ve got to let the passion go. Our NASCAR is long gone, an unpunished crime against America, Apple Pie and For Which it Stands, all perpetrated by BZFs insatiable greed and delusion. It’s taken me ten years to let go but now I don’t even consider DVRing/watching but a few select regular season races and a little more of the drama filled chase. I wish I could grab you and shake the passion out of you right now.

Charles Jenkins

J.Smith, How true that our NASCAR is gone and…. it is not going to return. It is now NA$CAR which is in the motor sports entertainment business. I am somewhere within your 10 year window. I have gone from hardly missing a lap to watching most of a few select races and just reading about what used to be a joy to watch. Best wishes to all that like and defend today’s “product”.


Thanks for taking the time to respond J. Smith. Appreciate it. You don’t like my tone, I don’t either! Who wants a passion they are mad at? I don’t! I feel like the players who have helped this mess get to where it is, deserve zero kernel of respect. Scorn to all of them, they suck. I view this sport (in it’s purity) as something amazing, and am saddened that this once great sport of Americana has been reduced to the crap that is now considered normal and business as usual, and you are the nut for questioning it! I like you have been removed, like I have never been before (my family too, and friends). We all are saddened that we have invested so much and now we want too but can’t get crazy about a race anymore. The weekend used to be around the event. At the lake we had a radio station that we listened to on our beach, when at the ocean we would “record it” for grilling viewing. Meh, I didn’t even know the ALLSTAR race was on, and then I saw snippets…(because I heard about the whining). Thanks for wanting to shake the passion out of me, but I think I am getting there by myself. Thanks again for your words of wisdom J. Smith!


Re: point 2. There’s no difference whether the lack of passing is due to a lack of aero or due to the leader having a better car. No passing (for the lead) is no passing for the lead. Fans – whether at home or watching in the stands – aren’t mollified by reports that Car X was just so much faster, all they know is that they watched hours of racing and there wasn’t a real pass for the lead.

Claiming otherwise is drinking NASCAR kool aid, where they claim that what we’re watching is really better than what we know we’re watching.

The same holds true for claiming the new aero package makes for better racing because the cars are harder to control. Fans don’t see – and don’t care – if the driver is having to pay more attention, all we know is what we see – a continued lack of passing, a lack of cars losing control due to their really pushing the cars.

As the expression goes, don’t pee in my cup and tell me it’s lemonade

Fed Up

Fox couldn’t show racing if it ever happens. The director went to an in-ground shot at the start of the 2nd
lap, showing cars passing a fixed point. How can that show racing? The doggie cam (in-car) is another
poor excuse for showing racing. Looking out the windshield or window is only good for advertisers. Keep the
cameras high and the shots wide open just like the views from the stands.


It sure looks like DW is calling the shots on who gets shown.

Broken Arrow

Every one of Amy’s points is a defense of the bad product NASCAR regularly puts on the track for its consumers. Fans watch auto racing because they want to see RACING. Is that such a hard concept for Amy to grasp? Sunday night there was no racing for the lead and precious little racing in the pack except on restarts (per usual). I watched NASCAR timing and scoring, and during the green flag runs, there was a separation of 1-2 seconds between positions behind the leader. That is not “great racing in the pack.” Cars with lap times equivalent to Truex were not able to make any forward progress, as the aero-push again reigned supreme. Even NASCAR’s chief development officer Steve O’Donnell said Tuesday that NASCAR was “going back to the drawing board” after Sunday’s race. Consumers have a right to expect a good product for their investment of time and money. Stop blaming the fans, Amy, because without fans, there won’t be any reason for sponsors to pay big bucks and there won’t be any product or personal agenda for you to shill at all.


Well said.

The Mad Man

NA$CAR…Moto-rasslin’ at its finest. The WWE on Wheels. Any bets Vince McMahon writes the script? LOL


I love how people are whining and bitching about Sunday’s race being a total bore. It’s not like there hasn’t been any races dominated like Truex did. Anyone remember the day Cale Yarborough lead all 500-laps at Bristol? Or how about the day in October, 1993, when Ernie Irvan spanked the field at Charlotte, not long after taking over the driving of the #28 Texaco Ford a few months after the death of Davy Allison? Irvan lead 328 of 334 laps, with only Mark Martin (lead 2 laps), Dale Senior ( lead 3 laps), and some kid named Gordon (lead 1 lap) the only other drivers to lead. Irvan’s win average was 98.2-percent. Truex, on the other hand, lead 392 of 400 laps, with only Johnson (lead 5 laps), Menard (lead 2 laps) and Logano (lead 1 lap) being the only ones to lead a lap. Truex’s average is only 98.0-percent!

See, and you thought the lousy races are only happening lately!

Share via