Does Our Future Keep Going Around in Circles Or Will Other Options Bring the Fans Back?
Now that some people have driven on the Charlotte “roval” and pronounced that racing there likely won’t end NASCAR as we know it, maybe it’s time once again to explore the other variations on oval track racing that we might use to regain some of our sport’s lost luster. Having been a champion of that innovative approach for some time, I’ll gladly attempt to advance the conversation here.
In past rambles, I’ve advocated for the following:
** Split some races into two or three separate features - not stages - with separate purses and points.
** Have “eliminations” for some races, with the bottom half of the field parked at the halfway mark, another quarter eliminated around 10-20% from the race’s end, and a sprint to the finish. I know this sounds kind of like the Charlotte all-star race, but if the format works there…
** Have “triathlon” events, featuring a portion of the race on an oval, a portion on a road course, and a portion on a dirt track. There’s already a growing movement within the sport called “democross,” which uses courses that are partially paved and partially dirt, so this seems like a logical next step.
** Have celebrities or selected fans race go-karts between segments of the race, with their performance determining restart positions for the drivers.
From my point of view, all of those remain on the table.
Also, we’ve talked many times about Curtis Turner’s suggestion of putting a speed bump on the backstretch at Charlotte. I’d combine that with a former promoter up here in Pennsylvania who had a “construction zone” for one lower division, with traffic cones narrowing the track to a single lane at the end of the front stretch. It made for exciting moments and could translate to Cup.
Just imagine these cars with numbers and (some of them) sponsors.
Ooooo . . . caution for an incident in Turn Three.
I’ll add an option here from my often-ranted desire to resume the kind of racing where the local Saturday night hero gets a chance at the big time. It also might help NASCAR’s really struggling lower touring divisions. All you need to do is really dumb down Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series rules and allow local tracks to adopt them for weekly racing, then hold a series of national events for each series that would be open to all. This takes us back to the glory days of Late Model Sportsman racing, when many tracks would skip running on Charlotte’s fall weekend because so many of their drivers were headed to the World Service Life 300. (This happens these days with sprint cars and the Knoxville Nationals.)
Note that the cars also sort of looked like cars back then.
But here’s what’s new. The growth entertainment industry remains video/computer games, and if NASCAR wants to appeal to the video/computer game generation, it needs to pick up some elements of that world. The Monster Girls are a step in the right direction, but the one thing I see in most of the games is that they have increasing levels of difficulty. Maybe that’s where we need to go with racing.
Think of this: It’s a 300-lapper with the first 100 laps unchanged from the present. The second 100, however, features different tires and gearing to make the cars much less responsive or easy to control. The final 100 turns them into the equivalent of ‘72 Buick LaSabres on recap snow tires. OK, I’m not the most creative person in the world, so somebody else can come up with better examples of ratcheting up difficulty. (Of course, if it was virtual racing, we could vary the banking on the track dramatically, or throw in a chicane, or speed bumps.)
This might be a few years away.
These may not be great ideas, but somebody has the variants that would qualify, and if we can find them, maybe we can come up with something that will please enough new fans and hold onto enough old ones to at least keep the sport going until driverless cars take over.
Frank’s Loose Lug Nuts
Sometimes when I’m looking for photos for these articles, I see ones I can’t use but love so much I can’t give them up. Here’s one, Dale Earnhardt and his dad, Ralph, at the old Concord Speedway.
Two good men.
The photo below was even harder to not blow up and put on the wall. My hero as a young race fan, Ray Hendrick, in 1976 after winning his second World Service Life 300 Late Model Sportsman race at Charlotte. The Charlotte event and the Permatex 300 the day before the Daytona 500 were the penultimate contests for weekly racers, and when Rapid Ray was in his prime, he could beat just about anybody, anywhere.
“Mr. Modified” was pretty good in a speedway late model, too.