NASCAR News

Does NASCAR need shorter races?

 

June 8, 2004

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THE QUESTION ARISES OFTEN IF SOME TRACKS SHOULD CUT BACK ON THE LENGTH OF THEIR RACES. POCONO (PA.) INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY, THE 2.5-MILE TRIANGULAR-SHAPED SPEEDWAY WHICH HOSTS A 500-MILE NASCAR NEXTEL CUP RACE SUNDAY, IS ONE WHOSE NAME ARISES OFTEN.

DOVER (DEL.) INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY, WHERE THE SERIES RAN LAST WEEK, CUT BACK FROM 500 MILES IN LENGTH TO 400 MILES SEVERAL YEARS AGO. OTHER TRACKS SUCH AS DARLINGTON, S.C., AND ROCKINGHAM, N.C., CUT BACK IN THE PAST TOO.

WOULD CUTTING THE DISTANCE ON SOME RACES BE GOOD OR BAD? HOW WOULD IT AFFECT THE RACING?

HERE IS WHAT SOME COMPETITORS HAD TO SAY:

KYLE PETTY, Driver, #45 Georgia-Pacific/Brawny Dodge:
“A lot of it depends on if you are looking at racing or looking at entertainment. Is the issue what works best for television or what works best for the grandstands or what works best for the competitors?

“I think one of the reasons we’ve had so much success with NASCAR racing is that NASCAR looks hard at the fans first. Sure, they make the racing as good as they can, and make the ‘playing field’ as level as they can. But what the people watching on television and what the people sitting in the grandstands think is the main thing.

“The question isn’t distance as much as it is time. Five-hundred miles at Talladega (Ala.) takes about three hours, but if you tried running 500 miles at Martinsville (Va.), you would be there all day. That would be way too long.

“We should probably look at making our races fit into a time window. I’m not talking about timed races so much as having the chance to finish the race in, say, two-and-a-half or three hours. If that means cutting the distance on some, well, maybe we need to look at cutting the distance on some.

“Look at Formula One. There has to be a reason they draw so much interest all over the world and, while I don’t think it’s everything, it’s a lot of it – the races go about two hours. They come on TV at 7 o’clock in the morning and they are off by 9:30 – and that’s pre-race, post-race and everything in between.”

EDDIE JONES, General Manager, #49 Schwan’s Home Service Dodge:
“Shorter races would be better for everyone – for the fans, for the teams, for television, for everybody involved. I think they would be more entertaining for the fans, and they would cut back on some of the costs for the race teams.

“Look at your longer races now. You start and, up to the first pit stop, everybody is trying to get positioned. Then you try to hold what you have until the last 90-100 miles, or laps, and then you get going again. So the fans watch guys basically riding around for a lot of the race. The only real racing you see is a guy trying to get his lap back, and normally the lapped cars don’t have enough to do it anyway.

“I think shorter races, at least at some tracks, would be the way to go.”

JAY ROBINSON, Car Owner, #49 Advil Ford (Busch Series):
“In the Busch Series, there isn’t a whole lot of ‘down time’ once the race starts. Those guys have to get up on the wheel from the start of the race and go as hard as they can until the checkered flag. The races are shorter, so you don’t have a lot of time to wait around for the race to come to you. You have to go get the race.

“Shorter races would probably help the Cup races too. The drivers have to get up on the wheel and go. I don’t think they need to cut them back to 200 miles, like we were at Dover last week, but dropping them back to, say, 300 or 400 miles in some places, could help them a lot. That’s what we’ve seen with the Busch guys anyway.”

STANTON BARRETT, Driver, #91 AmericInn Chevrolet:
“From a personal standpoint, I’d just as soon be out there racing. Three-hundred miles, 500 miles . . . neither makes any difference to me. I start when they say start and I quit when they tell me to quit. So it works out really well.

“For the sport itself, I can see where shorter races could make a big difference in the entertainment factor. I’ve been in the entertainment business and I know the attention span of the American public is getting shorter and shorter. If we are going to compete as a sport, we’re going to have to adjust as well. Shorter races, something that would fit that attention-span time period, are probably the answer – at least, as far as the Cup series is concerned.”

The author can be contacted nascar@autoracing1.com

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