Man, I Wish "Race for the Green" Was in Place This Weekend
If you have been following any of my stuff for any length of time you know one of the concepts I’ve been advocating for improving the sport is a new way to set the starting lineup called “Race for the Green.” It throws out the current, meaningless run against the clock and uses the previous week’s race finish results to set starting g positions for this week’s race.
Simply, last week’s P1-8 start this week’s race in P1-8. Last week’s 9-24 line up in that order for a short “Heat” race with that finishing order setting P9-24 in this week’s race. Last week’s P25-whatever is left, plus any new entries, line up and run a heat for P25-40 (if we have that many).
If ever there was a week I wished this was in place, this week going into Kentucky is it.
After the melee at Daytona, can you imagine the talk this week? Erik Jones, after his first Cup win, starting on the pole. Talk about an additional reward for that Daytona win. The NASCAR “Young Guns” media machine could have a field day with this additional week of guaranteed buzz with this bit of assurance. Knowing where he is going to start vs guessing and hoping as under the current system would make a huge difference.
Erik would have defending race champ Martin Truex Jr. to his outside fighting for the clean air. Can you script this any better-new winner vs The Champ-Race and Season Champ? Newest winner vs one of the “Big Three.” Under RFG we knew it as soon as the Checker dropped at Daytona and after discussion of the restrictor plate carnage subsided, the buzz would naturally pick up and flow into this... all week long.
Another story line which is automatically set up is Toyotas make up the front row. For Toyota, who build the Camry in nearby Georgetown, KY, knowing they own the front row for this race at their “home” track a week in advance would be a marketing bonanza for them. Again, more buzz.. and buzz about something different than how many cars Ricky Stenhouse Jr. took out this week.
A.J. Allmendinger, who kept his streak of top-10 Daytona finishes alive would be rewarded by rolling off third. This would be a huge boost for his primary sponsor KROGER, based out of nearby Cincinnati, Ohio. Kasey Kahne, who scored his best finish of the season would roll off fourth, which would be a huge boost for his team. Chris Buescher, Ty Dillon, Matt DiBenedetto and Ryan Newman would round out the guaranteed positions of 5th through 8th, rewarded for their performance at Daytona. Don’t you think these guys would get some much needed attention this week? And talk about a boost for each of those teams. They have to feel good rolling into Sparta.
Under RFG, the first “Heat” to set positions 9-24 would be an interesting one with the following lineup-
Dillon, Alex Bowman
Jeffery Earnhardt, Brandon Gaughan
D. J. Kennington, Bubba Wallace
David Ragan, Ray Black, Jr
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., J. J. Yeley
Kevin Harvick, Trevor Bayne
Ross Chastain, Clint Bowyer
Jimmie Johnson, Landon Cassill
That’s a lot of names who normally don’t start up this far, all fighting for Saturday night’s starting positions of 9-24. If you don’t think that would pump some of these drivers up, think again.
The final “Heat” would be a humdinger with the bulk of the “Big Dogs” fighting it out for positions 25-40. It would look like this-
Gase, Michael McDonnell
Aric Amirola, Paul Menard
Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray
Corey Lajoie, William Byron
Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott
Daniel Suarez, Brad Keselowski
Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin
Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney
Timothy Peters (Daytona DNQ), any new entries here
Think about it. These guys not only tore up cars and got no points at Daytona, but now they have to run a heat race to get at best 25th starting position and pit selection. Talk about a heat race! Talk about pressure! Talk about story lines! And because this lineup was set as soon as Daytona was finished we could talk about it all week.
The best thing would be when the green flag dropped Saturday night-seeing that pack of “Big Names,” starting in the back, busting their way through the field to try to get to the front for Stage points and the “No Names” up front trying to hang on to the great starting positions. Betcha there would be lots of passing going on. It would make for great racing. It would make for great TV. It would truly be something to see-maybe a reason to buy a ticket or at least tune in and see what it looks like on the tube.
Again, since under “RFG” this week’s lineup is based on last week’s finish we have all week to look forward to it, anticipate it, talk about it, cuss and discuss it. Plus we get two “Heat” races with cars racing against cars instead of cars racing against a clock. That in and of itself is an improvement.
By the time this is posted, Cup will have probably done their little knock-out qualifying against the clock and set the line-up. The “Big Names” will be up front. No surprise. The little guys and their fantastic runs from last week will be a thing of the past as they will reassume their positions at the back of the field. Passing... yeah, right. Get real.
And what did we talk about all week? Wrecking last weekend. What may be this weekend? All went well at the R&D Center, so no mention of penalties. But the glow is already off of Erik’s win as is the luster from some nice finishes for some guys who haven’t seen some in a while.
That’s a shame. Didn’t have to be. That’s opportunity lost. In this day and time, how many of those can NASCAR afford to miss?
It’s also a shame other story lines, other positive stories that could be explored, aren’t only because the Sanctioning Body refuses to let go of one of its final, truly sacred cows-the meaningless and wasteful qualifying against the clock to set the starting lineup.
Man, I wish “RFG” was in place for this week. With it, I believe the attitude and energy going into Kentucky would be a lot different, more positive, and more exciting.
At this point in the season that’s something we all could use, don’t you think?