Ever since the turn of the current millennium, NASCAR has taken steady steps of change as the sport has evolved.
Whether it’s driver safety, track modifications, schedule overhauls or pushes for diversity, some changes have left behind positive impressions and impacts, while others have blatantly left behind negative ones (need I remind you of the caution clock?).
Unfortunately, in this never-ending pursuit of progress, several longtime traditions have been left by the wayside, leaving a bitter taste in the mouths those who stood by them and understood the roles they served in the sport. Achieving progress is one thing, but abandoning longtime traditions on a whim for the sole sake of change isn’t always the most sufficient way to do it.
We’ve all heard the adage, “If something isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” Here are five examples of things that NASCAR should’ve left unbroken.
1. All-Star Race at Charlotte
We’ll begin with the All-Star Race, most recently held on Sunday (June 13) at Texas Motor Speedway. Kyle Larson and Hendrick Motorsports continued their hot streak in the NASCAR Cup Series by winning their third straight race and a sweet $1 million prize. It was the third time in the race’s history that it wasn’t held at its longtime venue of Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Because of North Carolina’s COVID-19 restrictions, the All-Star Race was forced to relocate to Bristol Motor Speedway in 2020. The venue swap continued into 2021 with the race being held in the Lone Star State. While it’s cool that fans from different areas get to have the chance to attend, the one major problem with this is how costly it can be for many teams to show up and compete.
With the Charlotte area being the primary shop location for many NASCAR teams, logistically it makes the most sense for Charlotte to continue hosting the All-Star Race. Since the race is only for bragging rights and not points, lower-budgeted teams have less of a financial risk when they enter, considering they won’t have to drive both ways to Texas or Bristol to race.
With an undetermined location for the All-Star Race in 2022, NASCAR shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to bring the event back to its roots in Charlotte and keep it there. Team owners would approve of it. All the fans in NASCAR’s backyard would too.
2. The Revitalization of North Wilkesboro & Rockingham
Speaking of racing in NASCAR’s backyard, close by lie the abandoned facilities of North Wilkesboro Speedway and Rockingham Speedway: two tracks which have their own distinct places in the history books of NASCAR, but have been left behind for otherwise petty reasons.
North Wilkesboro was a part of the original Cup schedule in 1949 and remained that way every year until 1996, when the track lost its date to Texas and New Hampshire Motor Speedway the following year. There have been races of any sorts at the speedway for close to a decade. But thanks to Dale Earnhardt Jr., the speedway underwent a cleanup effort to be scanned for iRacing and the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series raced there virtually (Denny Hamlin won).
Rockingham is another place that has a storied history of its own. The speedway had at least one NASCAR event on the calendar from 1965-2004, losing its date on the calendar to, you guessed it, Texas. Former NASCAR/ARCA Menards Series standout Andy Hillenburg went so far as to purchase the speedway to keep it alive as much as possible. ARCA held four races there from 2008-10, while the Camping World Truck Series raced there twice from 2012-13.
Thankfully, the racing community is hopeful for the roar of engines to return to these places sooner rather than later. Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis pledged $1 million to revitalize North Wilkesboro. And with Rockingham already having SAFER barriers around the track, not much would need to be done there other than a little landscaping. Not to mention that both tracks recently received $10 million each from the state government. Plus, the towns and counties of these speedways would get a big financial boost from a NASCAR event taking place there.
The Cup Series schedule may be full, but the Truck, Xfinity or ARCA series can absolutely find room to squeeze in a race at these longtime tracks. Can’t hurt to try.
3. Independence Day Weekend at Daytona
Another broken tradition that left many fans scratching their heads was the rescheduling of Daytona International Speedway’s summer race, normally held on Independence Day weekend. From the track’s opening season in 1959 to 2019, the Coke Zero Sugar 400 (formerly the Firecracker 400) has been the marquee event for NASCAR racing on the weekend of one of America’s most celebrated holidays.
Then, when 2020 came around, NASCAR took the bold and divisive step of rescheduling the race towards the end of August as the regular season finale. The Brickyard 400 replaced Daytona’s former July date on the calendar, but just didn’t have the same “fireworks” feeling that Daytona normally brought. The 1998 edition was the only other time that the Coke Zero Sugar 400 did not run on its traditional July 4 weekend date, as it was postponed to October that year due to a wildfire crisis plaguing Florida at the time.
Some will argue about how rainy the Daytona Beach area can be during the summer months. But that argument hardly holds any weight considering the race was forced to end early only three times because of rain: in 1996, 2014 and 2019. Every other race in its history was completed in full.
NASCAR was able to give Darlington Raceway back its historic date, reconnecting the Southern 500 with Labor Day weekend. Rescheduling the Coke Zero Sugar 400 back to Independence Day weekend would revive the same old-time firecracker spirit that fans have been looking to retrieve for the past two years. End the regular season with another race instead.
4. Door Number Placement
Numbers. You know them, you love them. The all-time greats of Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Rusty Wallace, Bill Elliott and others all had numbers that became iconic because of them. And the biggest thing they all had in common? They were all placed square center on the door.
Even though there has been no word on whether this will go away or not, this is something that must be addressed before it meets an unfortunate demise. Rumors are beginning to boil that the centered placement may come to an end with the Next Gen car in 2022, with the main alleged reason being more exposure for sponsors on the car. This was first put to the test in the 2020 All-Star Race at Bristol. While there were some paint schemes that stood out and looked good, many other designs fell short of expectations.
Aesthetically, the move would be pointless, as teams can already adjust the amount of sponsor exposure on the car as much as they want to without changing the number placement. Plus, drivers can utilize their firesuits and do TV ads to expand their sponsors’ presence without morphing anything on the car to do so.
Numbers have stayed on the same spot on the car for decades. It’s one of the best ways for fans to establish a connection with their favorite drivers. Leave them be.
5. A Classic, Non-Playoff Points System
Yes, folks, the can of worms has been opened up again on this one. We’ve learned to deal with the playoff system for the last 17 years, but it’s easy to see how it might be tiresome for the more traditional fans.
Remember Brian France, the man who was essentially the mastermind behind the entire concept of the playoffs and implementing it soon after becoming NASCAR’s CEO? Well, he hasn’t been around the sport since his poorly-timed DUI arrest in August 2018. When France had to leave, the playoffs should’ve left along with him. Makes sense, right? NASCAR had the opportunity to discard it all after 2018 with France no longer in the picture. But as we all know, it’s still being kept alive to this day, albeit on life support.
The odd thing is, in the classic system, drivers could still earn valuable championship points during races without any playoff pressure. Lead a lap? Lead the most laps? Qualify on the pole? Set the race’s fastest lap? Then you’ve got areas where drivers can score bonus points in, points that can add up along the way. Several well-known championship battles in NASCAR’s history have come down to a slim margin of points. Bring back the emphasis on the above objectives, and it will give drivers and teams a willingness to do their best and excel in every race throughout the whole season.
This is the most genuine and gratifying way to crown a champion in racing. Not a full-count, bottom-of-the-ninth, game 7 situation in one race. That stuff is meant for other sports leagues. Not in racing. As the late Ernest Hemingway once said, “There are only three sports: bull fighting, motor racing, and mountaineering. All the rest are merely games.”
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Defintely need to leave the “playoff” system. NASCAR is not stick and balls.
Not gonna happen in your lifetime!
One other tradition I would like to see restored is the Pit crew challenge as originally intended. Held at a real race track with a car coming off the track down pit road. Hold it at Charlotte so friends and family can be there to cheer for their team members. Easy to do if they keep the All star race there!
1 How about Bristol, Martinsville, or Darlington for the ASR. Not that far a ride for the teams. Charlotte has been less than spectacular the last several years (I thought Texas produced better racing than Charlotte).
BUT THEY WOULD STILL GET THEIR TRADITIONAL TWO POINTS RACES.
2 Dream on!
3 I do miss the July Daytona race, but I also like it as the final regular season crapshoot race of this crapshoot playoff system. So I will say if you can get #5 back in, then YES, let’s move this race back to July.
4 Who cares. This topic has already gotten more discussion than it deserves.
5 Love to see a season long format but I don’t necessarily want to award points like a pinball machine for every little accomplishment. Assuming stages have to stay, keep things just like they are, and give the winner enough bonus points to be guaranteed 25 more points that week than anyone else . It wasn’t that broken before the chase started, they just needed to award more points to the winner.
The Playoff format is not going away. At this point, writing about it is simply click-bait for those who stopped caring about racing when Earnhardt died.
Drop Stage Racing!!!!
NASCAR will never rediscover ANY of its former glory without a simple, season long points system. Until they’re willing to address that, these never-ending changes will continue to erode away their once strong brand identity, loyal fanbase, and their status among legitimate sports organizations.
Let’s do it! All of them!
I agree with all of these. However, NASCAR cares NOTHING about traditions or about what their long time, hardcore fan base wanted. They did what THEY wanted to do, NOT what the fans wanted, so a huge majority of the hardcore stock car racing fans, that NASCAR built the sport on the backs of, are gone and with each additional break from tradition, each new gimmick, etc., more of those hardcore fans leave. It is to the point that most of us are gone. In our place, NASCAR has brought in fans that are barely even casual fans, that know little to nothing about the sport and will be gone, as soon as they get bored. Congratulations NASCAR, you have killed, what was once the greatest racing series in the country!
Thank you Richard !!! You said it well for me !!!
Amen. And to charge$100 for handicapped to park at Daytona. WTF?
I agree 100%. NASCAR probably won’t read the above article or care. They have politically ‘kow-towed’ too many times and will not be able to ‘ever go back’; should have remained neutral and moved on. I’ve been a fan a long time and have watched it go downhill. Bring the traditions back…new fans don’t care because they aren’t into racing – they’re into being ‘entertained’ (bands, contests, non-race celebrities,etc.). Even Race Hub is like a game show and/or who is the most popular ‘talking head’. Who cares, I want to see racing, not who has how many kids. Show more of the garages and inspections – not people in the seats, celebrities walking around – just more information about drivers and cars. Uggh! I could go on and on. I attempt not to watch anymore, however, true race fans are addicted to racing.
Moderate as you see fit. Thank you. Love the articles!
Bring back the rebel soldier with the dreaded flag jumping on the hood of the winning car in the Southern 500. Bring back beauty queens in victory lane. Bring back a Miss Hurst beauty queen during the parade laps. Bring back drivers with personalities.
I am.all for a traditional points system. Larson could get 12 wins loothis season then have a tough couple races and be locked out like Harvick was. I mean I know everyone loves chase but was he really the best year long driver last season?
He should have been penalized for the early pit crew over the wall but they bent the rules because he races for ine if the most ‘important teams’.
There was NO BENDING OF THE RULES! If you could actually read, you’d know the rules stated that if a pit crew member was over the wall too soon, he could “reset” by going back and touching the pit wall.
Most NASCAR fans are not able to read and understand, but fortunately for Chase, his crew member was not an illiterate like you.
To many rules on the cars in the old days fastest car won period
Bring back Rockingham!
Totally agree with all points! Great article.
Thank you very much Becky!
Edit: Wow Jobe. Not sure of what point you were trying to make, but your comment was not one bit constructive, or sensible. Not everyone is out to pee in your Cheerios, so don’t talk to me and other commenters as if we did.
Really preaching to the choir, aren’t you? You don’t look like you’re 75 years old.
And sure, base the Championship on somebody leading a lap under caution? SMH!
What about victory lane? Why does TV have to shove a mic in the drivers face a soon as he does the burnout/ cheating coverup. Here is one for the points if you want to have your final race for the championship fine but dont do a playoff. Divide the year into quarters and the winner of the quarter by points is one of the contenders for the champions ship if they win more than 1 quarter then then there is only two or three contenders. That would give a better chance for the team that had the best season a better chance of winning the cup. Not the team that can limp into the playoffs on points sneek by the first two rounds luck out in the third round because something happened to the best team and make a lucky call in a rain shorted final race and win the title. Thats nearly impossible but it could happen.
I would like to see NASCAR adopt two distinct point systems. All drivers continue to accumulate points after the cutoff. I’m fine with the bonus points assessed at that point for wins. Then you are ranked by your playoff points and add more during the first three races. 16 points for first among playoff drivers through 1 for last, no matter where you finish. 1 bonus point for winning a stage and automatic promotion to the next stage for winning the race. How you finish each race in the playoffs you still add to your pre cutoff point total and when you are finally eliminated from the playoffs you take your ranking according to the sum total of your series points. That way every driver is racing for every point and position they can get. No more insurmountable bonus between the playoff cutoff and the three race elimination cutoff points. This gives the drivers who just miss a cutoff mark a chance to drive better and move up. Once you are eliminated from the playoffs the best you can achieve is 17th place. After each elimination race you fight with the four other drivers for ranking in that group. That could be why very few playoff races are won by those not in the playoffs. I have to wonder if they are the best or the rest just aren’t trying because it will not make that much of a difference.
totally agree with all 5 points that were stated. Let’s go back to the traditional roots of the sport. Plus N. Willsboro & Rockingham are short tracks which are the roots of NASCAR.
Yes flush the chase points chase sysytem down the toilet, more short track races on the schedule with traditional start times. Stop changing the rules to punish the drivers and teams that win the most. 2020 Harvick won 9 times and Hamlin won 7 neither has won in 2021 and the season is half over and
hms teams nascar has catered the rules in their favor outside of Kyle Larson the young drivers are mediocre at best there, no one wins unless they luck into outside of Martin truex we all love nascar but it favors wwe wresting ever since Earnhardt passed, thanks
BRING BACK NASCAR !
Get rid of stage racing.
Do not count yellow flag laps with 20 laps or less to go.
Green / White /Checker isn’t even 2 full laps if race is over after getting white flag and a yellow is thrown. So make it 5 full laps under green to complete the race.
No more ‘free pass’. This doesn’t help lower teams, just the elite ones, which get enough ‘free passes’. You need to pass the leader under green to get lap back.
No more rules changes like Kyle Busch allowed to win championship after missing 1/3 of the races, total BS all for the sponsor $$$$$.
When caution flies , race back to flag ! Do away with lucky dog and pass the leader to make up lap ! Bring back the beer and chicken bones ! Boogie-D Boogie-D Boogie -D let’s go back to old school racing. Block a man trying to pass you- Bullshit !
Ditto. And forget stage racing. What is that? I’m in track running a 100 yard dash. We do it in 4 stages? I think not! You do it ’till something gives or it’s over, period. Next will be a friggin’ potty break for these new”kid’s” coming in. It won America as well as other countries over. So now you’re changing everything? What if you went to see a fight and a hockey game didn’t happen, what then?