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The End Zone Seat: NASCAR Woes Still Evident
So far the best news is the 48 car has yet to find victory lane en route to a sixth-straight Johnson, I mean, Sprint Cup title.
With Trevor Bayne's victory at Daytona and Jeff Gordon's drought-ending win at Phoenix, the early going has shown that no one is poised to dominate the early part of the season.
This is not to say that NASCAR still doesn't have the same serious problems that caused much handwringing during the off-season.
Fans are still not flocking to the tracks—it didn't look to me like Phoenix was packed to the rafters—or watching on TV like they used to do.
There are some things that NASCAR can do to improve and others that are out if its control.
Obviously, the still shaky state of the economy is a factor and that will not be helped by the rapid rise of oil prices because of the unrest in the Middle East.
If gasoline hits $4 or more per gallon by the time the season hits full stride during the summer vacation season, I think those stands will still go unfilled.
Certainly, there's little that NASCAR can do about fuel prices, and I'm sure they'd like to since it also raises their expenses for hauling and on-track activities.
Only Congress can help the situation by forbidding oil to be traded on the commodity markets and ending the also criminal fuel price hikes that come anytime someone in an oil-producing nation sneezes. Congress should also get serious about promoting the development and use of alternative fuels in this country.
What can NASCAR do to turn things around?
I do like the change they made in the points system. Nobody ever really understood the old system and it won't be missed.
The nice thing about the new one-point per position system is its simplicity and the fact that a bad race is just that. A last-place finish won't be overcome in a race or two. To qualify for the Chase, a team will have to be consistent throughout the year.
NASCAR also opened the door for teams that win a lot to sneak into the Chase as long as they finish close enough to the point leaders.
There are a couple things I would change, and I know they will never get done for various reasons.
First, the season is entirely too long. No one, except the real die-hards, really cares to watch racing after the NFL season begins.
Running races into November is simply silly, especially when you are up against the number-one sport in America.
Now, thanks to the utter stupidity of the NFL owners, NASCAR may actually get the autumn to itself if there is a lockout of the players.
But, even if there is, fans will come back to football in the future. They have before and they will again.
Secondly, many of the races don't need to be as long as they are.
Americans' attention spans are not long enough to sit through four-plus hours of racing, such as the snore fests at Pocono.
If races at Pocono and some of the slower tracks were 400 miles, instead of 500, it would be much easier on the fans at the track and keep the attention of the viewers at home and the TV broadcasters.
Almost no race should run longer than three hours under normal conditions.
Neither of these will happen because of money.
Shortening the season to run from mid- to late-February to mid-September means some tracks would lose races. Just the potential lawsuits from cutting the season from the track owners would be enough to prevent NASCAR from considering it.
Cutting the length of races would mean that fans at the track would have less time to purchase food and items at the track.
One thing I would really like to see is the return of something that resembles real stock cars.
I'd like to tear all the aerodynamic junk off those cars from spoilers to front dams and make them actually look like cars we drive on the streets.
Fans could actually identify with the cars and, better yet, drivers would have to be drivers again.
The speeds would be slower, but the racing would be better because only the best drivers could control the cars well enough to take them to the front.