If you know me, you know I am a fan of the Baltimore Ravens. My usual playoff-contending team had its fair share of misfortune this year spanning from season ending injuries (17 players on the Injured Reserve List) to some of the most ridiculous officiating I’ve ever seen as a fan. Maybe I’m biased. Anyway, I don’t get to go to a lot of games at the stadium in Baltimore. I hit maybe one or two per year. When I do go, I listen, just like everyone else in attendance, for some magic words about fan conduct and what to do if you need assistance, that kind of thing. At the end of these announcements, there is a funny ending, and the entire stadium joins in on the last line. It says:
“Have fun, root hard, show respect for the fans around you, and...DON’T BE A JERK!”
These are the words I would have for NASCAR fans, although maybe not so direct and harsh. There were some big announcements made yesterday during the 2016 NASCAR Media Tour, and the changes regarding those announcements will most assuredly have an impact on our sport, from the way races playout to the crowning of a Champion. The NASCAR fans immediate reaction, the knee-jerk reaction, is to paint the doom and gloom masterpiece.
Take, for instance, the conversation I heard yesterday. A long-time fan immediately, after the announcement of the Caution Clock for the Truck Series, stated how this was going to double the number of cautions for each race, interrupt the flow of the event, and manufacture drama. Before my retort, I have to tell you that this long-time fan, multiple times in the past year, said how much he dislikes when a driver gets our front by a huge margin and leads, and how he wished they could close up the field. Yes, those words were tossed back at him, along with the fact that, bumped against last season’s stats, the caution clock would only introduce one additional caution to some of the races. I then said he had to be happy that the Dash For Cash races were going to be heat races, which would surely present a tighter field by the final main race of the day. He shrugged and remained silent.
But that’s okay, everyone has an opinion and we like to hear them. It gives me something to write about, and more importantly and enjoyably, something to argue with people about.
And I’m sure I’m going to do that right now with the next topic. NASCAR has introduced a Chase Format for the Truck and Xfinity Series.
I know I’m going to be in the minority as far as responses to this article, and especially from those on this site. I don’t mind the Chase, really. As far as eliminations, drivers have been getting mathematically eliminated from Championship contention for as long as they have awarded Championship points. As soon as a driver is more points behind the leader than there are left to score in the season, poof…elimination. The Chase just gives it a structure. I’m also a fan of the last race of the season, just like the last game of a season in any sport, meaning something. How would you like to watch the Superbowl and not have it determine the Champion of the pro football season? How about that Game Seven Moment in baseball that actually happened in Game Four? How fun is that? Plus, it has that “Holy Smokes” factor of the element of surprise, be it a shocking elimination or a last-chance victory to advance to the next round.
While I’m not sure I would have mimicked the Cup Series Chase format across the board, I’m glad to see that format come to the other series. One of the big things to come out of this new format is the fact that the regulars from higher Series will not be able to participate in the Championship races in the preliminary series. I like that, too. No more free practice sessions for the privileged ones who have a seat in the Xfinity or Truck Series.
Remember when the original new Chase with the eliminations was first announced? NASCAR fans, at least a good portion of them, hated it without even seeing how the new system would play out. Emails were written, phone calls were connected, and threats were made. Now, and this is completely unscientific, I have no stats to back it up other than my own perception of what I see and hear, but more people like the Chase now after giving it a chance.
You’re always going to have those that blame the lower ratings and attendance on the Chase. Tell me…how does the Chase affect the attendance of the first ten races of the year? The first twenty? Those races are still run as they always have been, with a green flag, a winner, a bunch of people who had wanted to win, and a lot of laps turned. And if you’re a fan who decided not to go to a race in the Chase or not watch a race in the Chase just because you don’t like the format, well, then I’d have to say you were not a great fan to begin with. I don’t see pro football fans lining up at the exits because the extra point placement has been moved, and that can certainly affect the outcome and determine a winner and a loser.
No one’s name here is “Claire Voyant.” I don’t know anyone with a crystal ball, at least not one that works. I don’t have any Tarot cards and the Magic Eight Ball, while entertaining, is unreliable. The only thing we can do, aside from announcing a major hatred for things we’ve not even witnessed yet, is sit back and watch it unfold. Speculation can be fun, but before you initially turn your back on the sport and decide to never watch or attend a race ever again, I urge you to give these changes their due time and keep the knee-jerk reactions to a minimum. Then, at the end of the year, once we’ve seen where it all goes, unleash your judgements.
Until next time, my friends...