A Change Is Recommended
I bid you welcome gentle readers and hope you are enjoying the opening weeks of another new racing season. My season has yet to get off the ground in many ways. When the new year begins with the near demise of one of my favorite racers, that isn’t good! No, I’m not about to launch into a long dissertation on my dislike of plate tracks and plate racing… and that goes for you too, tapered spacers. I watched the 48 hours of Daytona… because it was Daytona and the start of a new season. Then, when the TV moved on to regular programming, we got to wait… and wait some more, for any word at all on the condition of Ryan Newman. When it finally came, it came from Roush Racing, NOT from NASCAR! Thanks Jack! Heal quickly and come back to us Ryan!
That wait was eerily similar to the wait after the same race in 2001. This aged fan would prefer not to begin a new season with death or even the mere thought of death on the race track. What’s that you say? That was 2 races ago? Yes, I’m aware of that, but are you aware that telling the story of that race in 2001 necessitated moving my column from Friday back to Tuesday, February 18 of last week, thereby giving me no chance to comment on the Daytona 500 until now.
So… they moved on to Las Vegas, or Lost Wages as I’ve long been fond of calling it, which proved to be a romp for Joey Logano who took all the marbles and went home richer for the experience. Like many others, I had looked forward to seeing what young Ross Chastain could do at Vegas, having been handed the keys to Newman’s #6 Ford Mustang until further notice. Well, we saw and were disappointed with a poor 27th place finish for Chastain, who says he made “silly mistakes.” This scribe still believes this kid is a talented driver who shows promise for the future, so I’ll be watching him again this coming Sunday at Auto Club Speedway.
Speaking of Auto Club, or Fontana, which I find easier to say, it’s Tuesday morning as I type and the entry list for that race is already out. One might guess it’s not too difficult to “assume’ that the 36 teams with Charters will be racing, since those spots carry a guaranteed starting spot. Only 2 others will brave the asphalt at Fontana this coming weekend… the #96 driven by Daniel Suarez and the #66 driven by Timmy Hill.
That’s only 38 drivers trying to fill a 40-car field. The simplest math tells us that won’t be happening. 36 are already in the race… just vying for positions. The other two will race by default because there is no chance anyone will go home. Sadly, those numbers or ones that look a whole lot like them are now the regular order of the day, and that brings to mind a question I’ve asked several times before, but it’s never been answered by anyone with the authority to change it. If we are down to having not enough teams to fill even a meager 40-car field, and everyone is going to race anyway, why in Heaven’s name are we still holding qualifying? We hear over and over that we have to save money! Well, here’s an unnecessary expense coupled with a real chance of damaging a very expensive racecar that we run to no viable purpose whatsoever. 38 cars are entered at Fontana and all 38 will race. Just draw numbers for car placement; save a day and a huge # of dollars. Don’t even suggest that they do it for the dollars at the gate. We all have TVs, so we all know that almost no one even goes to the track on qualifying day except perhaps a few wives of drivers.
As I sit here asking the question, I’m already ahead of myself since I know the answer. For NASCAR it makes NO sense to run that extra day, punish those carefully tuned cars and chance wrecking one or more of them in the bargain. If you think about it for a minute, the answer becomes obvious. We live in a world governed by contracts, and to whom is that day contracted? Why, the monitoring TV Network of course! So, we are sending 38 cars out this weekend on a fools’ errand, qualifying for a race they already know they will race in… all for the greater honor and glory of FOX Sports.
It bothers this scribe that our sport has become so beholden to the TV Networks that they, not our own officials, get to say when we race and when it will be seen. I can see people savvy about the workings of the business world shaking their heads at the old lady who “Just doesn’t understand.” I understand this much. Contracts expire! There is no earthly reason that they have to be renewed as written. The ones with the TV networks, to the best of my recollection, expire at the end of the 2024 season. I wish it were sooner, but that leads me to yet another question. Has anyone with authority even suggested any changes to the existing contracts and schedules?
It would take a rework of the way we’re doing things this year, since qualifying is now scheduled for Saturdays in most cases, with practices on Friday. To skip Cup Qualifying that would have to change to Friday, which could then become a day for teams to arrive prior to practices on Saturday. Arrivals now occur on Thursdays or in some cases even Wednesdays. She understands that it cannot happen this year, no matter how much sense it makes. Schedules have been out for months; tickets have been sold and things throughout the year are already planned and cast in stone. The same does not apply to next year, which already promises a myriad of changes to cars, engines, track schedules and more, I’m sure. Eliminating unnecessary qualifying and track time would be just one more change, but one that makes imminent good sense.
With that, we’ll close out for this week. Our Classic Country Closeout features a segment from “Country’s Family Reunion.” It just popped up when I opened YouTube and I couldn’t think of anything better! So many old friends to be seen here… most all of them gone now. Please enjoy!
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!