Race Weekend Central

IMHO: 2016 Edition

So, here we are: on the brink of another NASCAR season. Before our lives get too wrapped up in wins, lap times, points, and sponsors, it’s a good time to review where we are and what may lie ahead in 2016.

It’s a good time to find a baseline, which is essential when examining the potentiality of future conditions. Consider it a launching pad, or a point of departure. You need to know where you are before heading off into the unknown. Race teams try to achieve a baseline before searching for a successful setup, and so do other organizations when preparing to face a particular challenge.

We use baselines in education when we assign projects intended to cover a specific learning outcome. Before assessing how well students have mastered a skill, faculty usually take part in what’s called a “norming” session. Everyone scores a collection of projects as a group. After discussing grading similarities and differences, a baseline is created to provide everyone with a starting point from which to assess either success or failure.

Since we face the uncertainties of another racing season, it might be a good time to get a sense of where we are after a long winter break and put recent events into some kind of perspective.

All of this, of course, is IMHO: “In My Humble Opinion”….

The low-downforce package for 2016 better improve the quality of competition each week. If this configuration doesn’t make racing better, I’m not sure where NASCAR can turn to find another fix.

I’m not a fan of the 20-minute clock added to the NCWTS, but it’s also too early to tell if its use will be an issue or not. Give it seven or eight races; the clock may not even be a factor.

I’m also not a fan of the new charter system, but then that’s all about business models and return on investments. If I had millions of dollars tied up in a Cup team, I’m sure I’d have a totally different opinion on the matter. The thing is: I will likely never have a million dollars. Not that I haven’t been trying – I did buy some Powerball tickets the other week.

The march of time and the frailty of life has been all-too apparent the past six months or so. NASCAR Nation has lost, in addition to so many others, such luminaries as Buddy Baker, Ron Bouchard, Judy Allison, Don Arnold, Fremon Treadway, Marvin Panch, Barney Hall, and Lennie Pond. We also lost ASA founder Rex Robbins. And tomorrow marks the 15th anniversary of losing Dale Earnhardt. Those who are gone are never really forgotten, unless we allow such forgetfulness to occur.

The unveiling of the new “Motorsports Stadium” at Daytona International Speedway should be a wake-up call for other racetracks. The changes at DIS will revolutionize how we expect speedways to be. “Daytona Rising” became a Tomorrowland of expanded facilities, improved concessions, easier access to superior seating, and vast “injectors”/concourses of convenient wireless coverage. Other tracks need to take a hint from Daytona. If you build it and make fans feel comfortable, they will come.

Bill Nye’s recent suggestion that NASCAR go electric might actually be something to explore, especially as younger audiences/the future of our sport embrace a more environmentally-friendly approach to life.

I remember when colleges and universities ran electric cars in exhibition races one summer during the early 1990s. I was a doctoral student at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and we campaigned an E-car on short tracks throughout the Midwest (some of the races were even shown on ESPN as part of its “Thursday Night Thunder” telecasts). The main problem: balancing battery strength with speed. There was no sadder sight than the leader suddenly coasting to a last place finish, the only sound coming from dirt crunching under slick tires.

If Formula E racing can be a reality, there’s no reason NASCAR couldn’t try a similar deal. The kids just might love it.

And speaking of the kids, starting grids in NASCAR seem headed toward a diverse and eclectic future. Check out the roster in the K&N Pro Series race at New Smyrna the other night: the top-15 included drivers named Noah, Riley, Dominique, Collin, Gracin, Trey, and Kaz. Nary a Buddy, Cale, or “Coo Coo” to be seen.

The K&N Pro Series might be the best feeder division in the business right now. Lots of excitement, talent, and controversy, and it’s only the first week of the season! This is the kind of racing that will insure the future of the Your-Company’s-Name-Here Cup Series.

And what about the future sponsor of the now-Sprint Cup Series? Can we expect to see a tried-and-true corporation assume the role, or is it time for a new company to hitch its money to the NASCAR wagon? Might we be talking next year about the Nature’s Bakery Organic Fig Bar Cup Series? What about the Microsoft Cup Series?

I’m thinking not, but then that’s just IMHO….

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.

Share via