NASCAR could learn from IRL and F1
If there were a race between IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard and NASCAR CEO Brian France to see who can bring more excitement to his series, Bernard's lead would be at least a straightaway.
While France is lofting one trial balloon after another about possible changes to the Chase, Bernard is thinking way outside the box.
Actually, he's taken a box cutter to the box, especially with his most recent move.
IndyCar announced this week that its summer race next year at Texas Motor Speedway will become two races -- twin 275-kilometer races of 114 laps each, each awarding half points.
Bernard's partner in this is Eddie Gossage, TMS president and prince of promotion. "Drivers have two shots at winning and fans get an opportunity to see not one but two great races in one evening," Gossage said. "It should be a tremendous show."
It's actually not even a radical idea. USAC and CART hosted 17 doubleheaders from 1967 to 1981 with the same driver sweeping both races 10 times. The starting order for the second race was determined by the finishing order of the first.
Details of the Texas Two Step are still to be worked out, such as how to set the starting field for both races and how much time to allot between races.
However it ends up, it's bound to be a winner. Fans get to see two intense races instead of one race with a lot of lap-logging in the middle.
Drivers with mechanical problems or who wreck in race one will have another shot at race two.
It's not all that surprising that this idea should come out now. IndyCar has been moving rapidly into the orbit of Bruton Smith and Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns TMS, and away from the France family's International Speedway Corp.
When IndyCar's schedule comes out soon, it may well drop ISC tracks at Homestead, Watkins Glen and Kansas while adding SMI's Las Vegas and New Hampshire.
Which brings us back to Brian France, who has stated a desire to have more "big moments" in the Chase. What better way to do that than a Sprint Cup doubleheader?
And what better track to do it at than Talladega Superspeedway?
A 500-mile race at Talladega is often marked by 300 miles of follow-the-leader with a slam-bang finish -- literally. It's like a football game with three quarters of three-and-out followed by a 35-point fourth quarter decided by a Hail Mary.
So why not cut out the boring part? Drivers constantly complain about the length of Talladega races and the necessity of driving cautiously in order to be around for the end.
Nobody wants to watch cars logging laps.
So split the race into two 75-lap segments of about 400 miles each. That doesn't leave as much time for playing it safe.
It also means that a driver who gets caught up in the Big One in the first race can pull out the backup car for race two. And with two races you get two smackdown finishes.
There are purists who would be horrified at such an idea. They say the title should go to the most consistent driver over a long stretch -- that such a race would be a monstrosity, a gimmick throwing the Chase into turmoil and putting the championship up for grabs.
As if that's a bad thing.
Talladega is already referred to as the Alabama Lottery. With a doubleheader it would be the Powerball.
And who would have the most to lose? Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus, who aren't fond of Talladega because so much there is beyond their control. Multiply that by two.
But it won't happen. NASCAR isn't known for adopting ideas from other racing series.
Speaking of which, wouldn't Formula One's knockout qualifying format turn qualifying at Talladega from a snoozefest into something actually worth buying a ticket to see? AL.com