Spice it up – In search to add drama, NASCAR vows: ‘No gimmicks’
By RICK MINTER / Universal Uclick
A trip back to Daytona International Speedway for the traditional start of the second half of the NASCAR season has become a time to reflect on the good and bad of the first half of the year.
And while Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona had plenty of excitement late in the race due to multi-car crashes and cautions, the conversation at Daytona before the race was about the lack of such at many races this year. The first half of the 400 was relatively uneventful as well.
The week before at Kentucky Speedway, track owner Bruton Smith proposed mandatory caution periods or timeouts at certain intervals in the race, with the idea that the double-file restarts that followed those cautions would provide action and drama that has been missing in many races.
“Call it what you want, but you’ve got to have caution flags,” Smith told reporters at his Kentucky track. “That creates excitement. You can’t just sit there with nothing happening. It ruins the event. It’s damaging to our sport.”
NASCAR chairman Brian France said in his mid-season session with the press at Daytona that Smith’s ideas won’t fly.
“It’s a very clear line to us,” he said. “What we’re not going to do are gimmicky things. I’ve heard we ought to throw a caution every ten laps. That’s nonsense. We won’t do gimmicky things. But we’ll do things that incentivize performance, incentivize wins. That we are open to. The wild card does that. It does it in an authentic way.”
NASCAR has, in recent seasons, added double-file restarts, the free pass rule, green-white-checkered-flag finishes and even the Chase format and several modifications to it in attempts to spice up the action.
Some say that many caution flags thrown for small pieces of debris on the track were actually displayed to break up dull stretches of racing.
Drivers asked about Smith’s mandatory caution idea generally said they were opposed to it.
“I just think when we start using cautions to make the race ‘more exciting,’ I think that’s going down a slippery slope,” Carl Edwards said. “I don’t think it’s good for the sport. That’s my opinion from where I sit. That doesn’t mean it’s right, that’s just my opinion.”
He said that auto racing, by its nature, isn’t going to have a “Game Seven” moment every time.
“That’s what makes some races great,” he said. “If you start affecting the competition like that, that is analogous to stopping a basketball game if the score gets too far apart and putting the score back even.
“That, to me, is not what auto racing is about. If you let these races play out naturally, and let the racing be racing, sometimes there are some wild things that happen, and things happen that are unexpected, and that’s what makes that true, real drama that happens every once in a while.”
And sometimes races don’t play out that way, and that’s OK, too, he said.
“If a guy wins by three laps, well, he was meant to win by three laps, and you don’t want to take that away from that guy and that team,” he said.
Edwards said that doing things any other way cheapens the sport.
“You can’t fabricate competition,” he said. “That’s what’s so great about our sport. There’s a whole other world there – politics and the real world – where everybody is changing the rules all the time to try and get an advantage. We might as well just leave sports alone, and may the best man win.”