Race Weekend Central

The Frontstretch 5: Things to Like About NASCAR 2017

2017 is already seven races old, and so far we’ve been treated to six different winners and some new faces. And the drivers at the top aren’t the only thing that sets 2017 apart from the last few seasons. And there’s a lot to like. There are some concepts fans aren’t sold on and we’ll take a look at what might not be to like as well, but this week, here’s what has been enjoyable so far this season.

  1. New faces

I’m not just talking about rookies, though there is a strong rookie class this year with Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez in particular standing out, but in general about having some different drivers in the spotlight. Kyle Larson is beginning to live up to the expectations heaped on him, leading the points and making himself a threat nearly every week. Chase Elliott is second in points in his sophomore season, and like fellow second-year driver Ryan Blaney, it looks like just a matter of time until Victory Lane is a regular stop.

Jamie McMurray isn’t new by any means, but he’s having a great year so far, and Clint Bowyer is back in the mix after a dismal 2016.  It’s refreshing to see a top 10 that’s not the same old, same old, and it’s good for the sport as well.

  1. … and old ones
    There has been a healthy mixture of old and new competitors at the front of the field this year. (Photo: Logan Whitton/NKP)

At the same time, there are some familiar faces in the mix, including 2012 champ Brad Keselowski, 2014 and 2015 titlists KevinHarvick and Kyle Busch, respectively and, yes, now seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson after finding his footing at Texas.  Having to fight for every position with a slew of old and new rivals only elevates everyone’s performance and makes the racing better.

Johnson is chasing history, approaching the sport’s legends with each win, and in an era where wins just might be more indicative of a driver’s talent than titles, each one he ticks off puts him closer to the best ever. Talent only elevates talent, so the young guns boost the veterans, and they return the favor. There’s truly someone for every fan to pull for every Sunday.

  1. Looking ahead?

NASCAR has already said that it will look at some changes for 2018, even though 2017 is just seven races old. One of these potential tweaks is something fans have asked for already this year, which is having the laps spent under caution at the end of a stage not count toward the race total.  I like that the sanctioning body is willing to listen to fans in some areas, because that’s a departure from the past, and a positive for the sport overall.

This year’s All-Star event will feature a choice of tire compounds: a harder, more durable but slower tire or a softer, faster one. For that race, teams who opt for the harder tire will have a starting advantage, whereas the ones who take the faster option will start in the back.

So… is that a harbinger of things to come?  I’ve said for years that a choice of tires would make for great strategy and good racing. Will it become reality?  It’s certainly worth a second look if it works in May.

  1. Changes that don’t sacrifice integrity

I understand why many NASCAR fans don’t like a lot of the changes they’ve seen, in particular surrounding the championship format, because they feel like it cheapens the championship. What I like about this year’s changes, including stage racing and the lower downforce package, is that they are an honest attempt to improve the racing fans see every Sunday with the least amount of impact on the end result.

While the stages do bring planned cautions, are they really worse than debris cautions that were a too-late attempt to inject some closer racing?  They give drivers a real incentive to race hard and create strategy at a point in the race where there was no reason to do so previously. Yes, it seems like there are way too many caution laps as it should really be a quickie yellow where everyone pits and the race restarts in five laps of fewer, but NASCAR is willing to readdress that for next year.

If the sport had to change, and that is certainly debatable, considering the “pre-Chase” era was arguably the most popular the sport has ever been, then this kind of change is the right one.

What should be next?  I’d like to see NASCAR back off the rules in some areas, like gear and suspension choice. I don’t like the look of the over-skewed cars and neither did many fans, so I don’t think letting it get out of hand would be beneficial. Giving teams room to work -and to make mistakes – would only strengthen the racing every week.

  1. These commercials

You’ve seen the one where Kevin Harvick is three inches tall and hanging out in some poor guy’s car engine. When asked why he’s three inches tall (fair question), the reply, in true Harvick fashion, is “why aren’t you three inches tall?”

While looking for that commercial, I found this series, with three-inch Harvick and approximately-four-inch NBA player Dikembe Motumbo have apparently set up house under the guy’s hood.

They’re not quite as good as the original, but still worth a look.  Because it’s not good to take racing too seriously…


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.

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Fans “FEEL” it cheapens the Championship???? IT DOES!!!!!!! How in the hell can you logically say Jimmie Johnson got a legitimate SEASON LONG CHAMP trophy, because of a dust up that happened with 10 laps left to go at Homestead, and he literally lucked into? And the sheep fall in line, cheer, the fireworks are spectacular, his name is mentioned in the ever diluted history books, blah, blah, blah.

Jimmie Johnson on the true measure of POINTS AND PERFORMANCE for 2016 was P7 and 152 points out of first place! THAT IS HUGE!!!! That means he could have sat home for 4 and a quarter races….THAT IS HUGE!

He lucked into misfortune which is a normal part of racing, we all know it. But to put that luck of the misfortune of others with ONE RACE and try to tell the world…he was the best all year, is absurd!!!!! But this is the way the world wants to go..blinders on, truth does not matter…HE WAS P7!!! Meaning 6 other drivers were better than he…and he was 152 points out of first place…BIG BIG DEFICIT..no wonder people can’t stand the scoring of this sport..it is beyond stupid!!!!!!!!!

And Grizzly Adams walks around like he actually deserves it based on merit. LOL. Well let us see, no scratch that…if NASCAR decided to pull names out of a hat, the likes of the Jimmies in the world, and sheep who scream “those are the rules”, will think it actually equates to season long, hard fought merit Championship! Participation trophies for all!!!!!!!


Looks like Brian’s making changes to things that shouldn’t have been changed in the first place. Like the chase and the new “simplified” points system for the new fans that haven’t shown up yet.

How about Five Things Still Not To Like? Try to settle for just five.

I’d like to know what questions Brian has been asking the fans he is listening to.


So far the most glaring change that needs to be made either yet this year which causes issues with NASCAR fans, or should be done for next year is to have the stage caution laps count for the laps leading up to the green, Yes at Dega and Daytona need to maybe have an extra caution lap to sort out the order but once the pits are open, no longer than 2 laps after the yellow, have that lap, the lapped car pit lap, and then the following lap or two count 4-5 at most then caution laps stop counting until the green flag is waved. The field is frozen and the pits are “closed” teams could still pit but then lose a full lap. The reason to keep a couple caution laps after pit stops counting is for dealing and handling pit road miscues loose lug whatever, teams coming back down to fix some of the minor damage and the like. This would be a good compromise and likely has the least impact on the actual racing and finish.

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