Daytona 500 and the Four Laws
The last article entitled “Three Laws ~ Plus a New One” discussed how Four Laws apply to NASCAR. With the 2020 season underway it didn’t take long to see how each came into play. Let’s review and see how the Four Laws applied to 2020 edition of The Great American Race-
Law #1- The buyer not the seller determines the worth of any product.
A sellout crowd decided that the 62nd running of the Daytona 500 was worth whatever they paid (tickets, lodging, travel, eats and other expenses) to get there and be in their seats for the start of Sunday’s race. I’d like to report how many that was but since attendance is no longer reported except on a pass(sellout)/fail(silence) basis let’s just go with a whole bunch thought whatever they paid to be there was well worth it.
11.193 million viewers thought their time was worth watching the initial tune-in. That was 32% more than last year. 10.935 million decided the first 20 laps of racing was worth their time.
Then the rains came. The race was postponed to Monday at 4:00 PM. This changed the cost of the product for a lot of people. For fans in the stands, another overnight stay, more food, for some a missed day from work, etc. drove up the cost. An eyeball estimate of 40%-maybe 50% decided that those costs were still worth it and returned to their seats the next day to see the final 180 laps. The rest who decided it wasn’t worth it for whatever reason(s)-maybe they chose to finish watching it on TV which saw the remainder of the race that now 7 million viewers decided was worth their time to watch.
This produced an average of 9.184 million viewers and was up overall 19% over last year’s broadcast per Adam Stern. This had to make the folks at the Beach happy.
But we see how the rain changed the worth of the product as fans made their decision whether to buy the remainder of the race, be it in attendance or viewership? They chose. They determine the worth. It is something that cannot be overlooked.
Law 2 -A body either remains at rest or continues to move, unless acted upon by an outside force.
We saw lots of movement with another sellout crowd. 11 million plus viewers tuned in at the start is more movement than we have seen in years. What outside force caused all the bodies to move? How much that force can be attributed to the laundry list of changes NASCAR implemented? How much can be attributed to the “Trump Bump” that resulted by having the President in attendance for pre-race and the start of the race? How much of it was the “Barstool Effect”? They say significant.
Ma Nature was a negative outside force as the rain brought millions of viewers to rest-neither returning to the track nor tuning back in when the racing resumed on Monday.
Tuesday saw another huge spike in viewership for the weekly racing shows NASCAR America and Race Hub as fans and non-fans alike were seeking out any information they could find on Ryan Newman’s medical condition. We all know the outside force that created that movement.
I think it’s safe to say, there were numerous outside forces that caused the major positive movement of bodies the sport experienced for this race. How much-time will soon tell as the Series progresses through the season and becomes increasingly dependent on Product and Coverage of the Product for force. Can those two build upon the momentum created by these outside forces? All we can do is watch and see.
Law #3 - Good Coverage can't make a bad race good, but Bad Coverage can make a good race bad.
I was on the road and away from the TV this weekend so saw none of the race. I did watch the various replays on YouTube and one takeaway is the two-man booth seemed to be less “competitive” and more “race-centric” which is a step in the right direction. The broadcast booth did seem lost at the finish of the race, not sure if the caution flag ended the race or not.
More on observations from the YouTube replays in the next point.
Law 4 - “The law of unintended consequences is the only real law of history.”
This is the newest Law and the Daytona 500 and its aftermath provided plenty of examples. Here are just a few-
This was the first Daytona 500 with tapered spacers. Previously, engines were restricted through the use of restrictor plates.
Intended Consequence: Slow the cars down... hopefully below “take-off” speed.
Unintended Consequences: Speeds soared over 200 mph. Restrictor plates came in a variety of sizes that gave NASCAR increased “adjustablity” to reduce speeds. With just two tapered spacer sizes, NASCAR and the competitors were left with one choice and flirt with the dreaded lift-off speed. “It is what it is”
This horsepower/aero package created racing where two or more cars could hook up to get a run on cars ahead to complete a pass. This resulted in quick closing rates between passers and the passee.
Intended Consequence: Exciting racing with lots of passing
Unintended Consequences: One or more cars pushing another was the only way to get a run and pass. Blocking was the only way to stop a run. Quick closing rates caused some to misjudge their blocks. When that occurred the results were not pretty.
NASCAR found itself on the last lap of a second attempted Green-White-Checkered Finish. Chase Elliott, running mid-pack, spins going into Turn One. There is smoke. There are other cars around. There is chance of debris. Elliott pulls away and resumes the race. NASCAR allows the race to continue so the remaining cars can race to the Green Flag finish.
Intended Consequence: Green Flag Finish. That’s what the fans expect and want to see.
Unintended Consequences: The finish we got. Everyone knows what that was.
Down the backstretch, Ryan Blaney pushes Ryan Newman past Denny Hamlin to the lead. Once Newman was in the lead though Hamlin side drafts the trailing Blaney, slows him separating him from Newman. This slows Newman and allows Hamlin to get on Blaney’s bumper to push him and give him a chance for the win.
Intended Consequence: Blaney and Hamlin get a run for a chance to win.
Unintended Consequence: They have a run on one of NASCAR’s toughest drivers to pass-leader Ryan Newman.
Newman sees Blaney getting a run on him and throws a block. Blaney makes a second move which Newman blocks. Hamlin leaves Blaney to go high.
Intended Consequence: Newman blocks Blaney for the win
Unintended Consequence: Allows Blaney to get on Newman’s bumper with a good run.
Seeing that he can’t win and is now on Newman’s bumper with a good run, Blaney attempts to push Newman to the win.
Intended Consequence: Blaney pushes Newman to a Ford win.
Unintended Consequence: Bumpers don’t hook up straight, Blaney turns Newman and the wreck is on. Ryan Newman hits the outside wall, goes airborne and is struck by Corey LaJoie in the worst possible spot. Denny Hamlin, driving the FedEx Toyota side drafts Blaney and wins his third Daytona 500 in the second closest finish in the history of the race. Newman has to be extracted from his car and is transported to Halifax Medical Center. Corey LaJoie takes a massive hit but escapes.
Unintended consequences can be negative or positive. We have touched on some of the negatives. Let’s move to some positives, things that weren’t intended but provided an unintended positive outcome.
The wreck puts all of the safety systems to the ultimate test.
Intended Consequence: Protect the driver in the event of a major accident.
Unintended Positive Consequence: Ryan Newman not only survived the horrific accident but walked out of Halifax Medical Center within 48 hours much to the relief and amazement of the racing community and watching world
The wreck was picked up by and replayed by every news service, sports outlet or otherwise.
Intended Consequence: None. It was the news, and everyone wanted to get the news out. It is what it is.
Unintended Positive Consequence: By Tuesday, the only people who did not know about the wreck were people who had been under a rock. The entire world knew about NASCAR, the Daytona 500, the wreck and Ryan Newman. There is a chance some might have tuned in for the Las Vegas or Phoenix race to see more.
Now we have discussed positive unintended consequences, the remaining situations that followed that produced positive and/or negative consequences.
Information concerning Ryan Newman’s condition through that period was limited to a series press releases - Monday night, he was in serious condition but injuries were not life-threatening, Tuesday, he was awake, talking with doctors and family, walking and joking with staff and finally Wednesday, Ryan Newman was walking out of the hospital with his daughters.
Intended Consequence: Limited information protected the privacy of Ryan and his family and controlled the runaway speculative “reporting” display we have all seen in other unfortunate incidents.
Unintended Negative Consequences: The information void pushed many to speculate the worst. Veteran NASCAR fans know what the information void means. We went through it with Davey Allison. We went through it with Neil Bonnett. New fans who watched the Neil Bonnett tribute “Winners: A Neil Bonnett Story” that ran after the Daytona Truck Race learned what the information void means.
As daughter, Kristen explained the call after her father’s wreck at Daytona, “They said that Dad had had a serious wreck at Daytona and that NASCAR was sending a jet. Dad had been involved in several bad wrecks before and never had they sent a jet. So I knew.” Extended silence usually does not forebode favorable outcomes. Fortunately, and much to the relief of a watching and praying NASCAR Nation and beyond, this was not the case here.
Unintended Positive Consequences: Social media exploded and TV ratings for sports shows soared as everyone with an interest tried to fill the information void.
Ryan Newman leaves the hospital. Will not be able to drive until additional recovery, rehab and medical clearance.
Intended Consequence: Precautions for Ryan and the other drivers’ safety. These are the procedures for re-entering driving after a serious crash.
Unintended Positive Consequence: Numerous. Ross Chastain gets his first top tier Cup ride. Chastain’s car owner Chip Ganassi and Chevrolet’s Jim Campbell give their blessing to allow Chastain, a Chevy driver to sub for the injured Ford driver. A tremendous display of cooperation rising far above business interests for the greater good. Ryan Newman has more fans than he ever had. Ross Chastain picked up some fans as well.
NASCAR releases their official race report saying race ended under green.
Intended consequence: The Official Race Report is what NASCAR does. It is their official record of what occurred at the Daytona 500.
Unintended consequences: No one considered there may be questions raised.
With Newman out of the hospital and everyone breathing easier, things move on. Various folks begin to go back and look at the end of the race.
February 20, 2020, NASCAR releases on YouTube “Full Race Replay: 2020 Daytona 500 | NASCAR at Daytona International Speedway”. It has the following caption:
February 22, 2020 Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer, John Bobo, NASCAR Vice President of Racing Operations, Dr. John Patalak, Senior Director of Safety Engineering give a Safety Update on the Newman wreck. (Thanks Speedway Media)
In it, Steve O’Donnell gives a remarkable timeline on the safety team’s near immediate response to the crash and the promptness of getting medical attention to Newman.
Intended Consequences: Bring the public up to speed on the responsiveness of the AMR safety crews and medical teams. All are to be commended. Very impressive by any standard. Also discussed were the safety features NASCAR has incorporated into the cars which performed as designed to allow Ryan Newman to survive this horrific crash. The restatement to never being satisfied when it comes to safety.
During the following Q & A, questions are asked about possibly reevaluating overtime procedures or last lap caution flag procedures, which O’Donnell replies “I’d say the overtime rules we’re not going to change. The caution procedures, I would stand by how that worked for the Daytona 500.”
Intended Consequence: To restate and show confidence that procedures are working and were followed.
Unintended Consequences: None. What could go wrong with this?
Along the way, various videos from various angles begin to surface showing the Caution light on before Hamlin and Blaney take the checkered flag. Social Media starts to ask questions.
At this time, a review of NASCAR’s “FULL replay” on YouTube has a bit of a problem. The FULL Replay is FULL up to the 4:06:32 mark. This is when Newman has turned and is about to hit the wall. The remainder of the wreck including Newman hitting the wall, getting upside down, LaJoie hitting Newman, Newman and LaJoie sliding across the finish line has been edited out. What we see at this point for “FULL” coverage are two low angle clips of Hamlin and Blaney crossing the line and Victory Lane. The most noted, most memorable moment from the entire race - gone. The only thing non-fans know about the race - gone. This is highly unusual as previous FULL Replays contain the raw feed (race without commercials) in its entirety with no edits.
Intended Consequence: I have no earthly idea.
Unintended Consequences: I can only speak for myself but What the heck? The only conclusion I can draw is the replay contained something in that deleted section that the posters of the video-NASCAR did not want us to see. What conclusions do you draw?
It did not help that YouTube had other FULL versions posted that showed the FULL FOX broadcast including the wreck in its entirety and the finish footage.
February 24, 2020 a recheck of the NASCAR “FULL” replay on YouTube shows that it has been taken down and is no longer viewable. Clicks on that link brings up “The uploader has made this video unavailable” screen.
Current searches do not even bring it up. You can see NASCAR highlights or watch the race in condensed versions, but no FULL Version posted by NASCAR can be found on YouTube.
Intended Consequence: Remove the edited NASCAR “FULL” Replay video from any view.
Unintended Consequences: Draws more attention and raises more questions that no one seems to want to ask and NASCAR is in no hurry to answer.
On the same day NASCAR issues the following statement:
Intended Consequence: Maybe to correct an error... or set the record straight?
Unintended Consequence: Bad optics to start the season... especially after the earlier O’Donnell statement that he stands by the Daytona 500 caution flag procedures.
Maybe I missed it, but to date I’ve found no press conference called to explain the reversal and how the determination was made that no positions changed as a result.
Intended Consequence: Here, we fixed our mistake.
Unintended Consequence: Sanctioning Body missed a golden opportunity to explain how they arrived at the reversal and showcase the procedures and technology used to determine no position changes. A perfect opportunity to address any changes that are being considered to ensure it’s right going forward. Renew the commitment to get it right the first time. They missed a chance to restore any lost credibility and re-instill any lost confidence by answering questions that may exist and address concerns going forward.
Instead, they chose a faceless press release. No one who can ask questions, appear to ask them. Another week; another race. Nothing to see here.
Six days after the last lap of the Daytona 500 we have another Green-White-Checkered finish at the next race, Las Vegas. The leader, Joey Logano, who is driving a car sponsored by the race sponsor-Pennzoil, takes the white flag. Behind him and beyond the start-finish line, mid-pack William Byron spins. He makes contact with other cars. There is smoke. There is chance for debris. All cars drive away (any of this sound familiar?). NASCAR throws the caution flag instead of letting the field race back to the line for a Checkered Flag finish.
Intended Consequence: Safety, I assume
Unintended Consequence: You draw your own conclusions.
By the way, if you missed it you can go to YouTube and watch NASCAR’s FULL Replay.. Best I can tell, unlike the last lap of Daytona replay, the last lap of Vegas is intact and hasn’t been edited.
Oh, and that Daytona FULL Replay... it’s still MIA.
Pretty interesting races and series of events.
As stated at the conclusion of the previous article “The sport may change but these four Laws don’t. Please don’t forget that racing forward.”
Daytona and Vegas are great examples to show these Laws exist and are applicable. Those races also show that recognizing and heeding still have a long way to go.
Remember, there is only one who made a career out of unintended negative consequences.
Not sure that’s the image the sport needs moving forward... unless ACME is coming on board as the Cup Series Sponsor.