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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

If I Were French...Simple Changes for Nascar

Many of the issues fans want to see changed in NASCAR do not have simple solutions. Often the problems have so many parties and variables involved, there is not a simple quick-hit solution. It is impossible to reinstate a race at Rockingham, solve the Buschwhacker dilemma, or reduce the number of commercial breaks without spoiling the interests of others (legitimate interests or not). However since the France family and NASCAR do wield considerable power, it does allow for some simple changes that would improve the sport, no democracy needed.

Take away the 5pt bonus for leading a lap under yellow-There is no skill in a 32nd place car staying out under caution to lead a lap. He should not get the same bonus points as a front runner negotiating through the field or beating everyone out of the pits. If a car that’s 36th in owner’s points wants to get bonus points, then stay on the lead lap, stay out longer during green flag pit stops or build a faster car.

Chop the 500 mile races-Races like Daytona and Atlanta tick off the laps fast enough to justify 500 miles. Other tracks can decide winners in less time, without altering the shape of the race. Aside from fewer blown engines, the outcomes will hardly change. Reduce races at California (especially the late starting Labor Day race), Pocono, and Texas to 400 mile events. For its uniqueness, the Coca Cola 600 stays as is. I admit this is not that simple, because track owners, networks and sponsors want the maximum amount of time to push product. However, if they can have a quality 400 lap race instead of a droning 500 lap slumber fest, the value of the time is ultimately increased. Ah, I know, good luck with that.

Modify the Lucky Dog rule-Drivers can only use the free pass once in a race. Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch made this change obvious earlier this year. Busch took great advantage of the rule to regain five laps and finish 10th at Watkins Glen. It's not Busch's fault there were no other lapped cars, but the rule is intended to prevent racing back to the line, not give mullignas tor teams with major mechanical problems. Racing back to the line is not an option, it's too dangerous and could result in more foolish crashes involving lapped cars and lead cars.

Consistency from the Nascar Hauler-If competitor A runs into competitor B during a caution, driver A should always get the same penalty regardless of the situation. Make the rulebook public and limit in-season addendums to safety concerns only. Review competition rules only at the end of the season. If a team devises a trick shock that currently falls under the rules, allow them to take advantage until after Homestead. Reward ingenuity instead of striving in vain for blanket equality. On the flipside, if a team is blatantly violating a rule there must be consistent punishment.

Obviously the huge fuss right now is about the points. I agree more points should be granted to the race winner, but there needs to be a balance between winning and consistency. There must be a better way, but that is for another day. Plus the last thing Nascar needs to do is constantly change their Championship criteria. If they want legitimacy among the big three sports, then they can't react to yearly situations.