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Saturday, January 17, 2009

New rule change makes Bud Shootout an even more convoluted mess

In a few weeks, we’ll be seeing the Bud Shootout -- the first race of the year for NASCAR’s stock cars.

A week ahead of Daytona, we get a sneak peek at the cars and drivers we’ll be rooting for all season. And there’s no points on the line, so in theory it should be a solid race where the drivers let it all hang out and take some chances.

But with all the rules changes this year, exactly what the hell does the race even mean anymore? In previous years, When Bud also sponsored the pole award each week, the race featured all the pole winners from the previous year. Now, in a strictly sponsor-driven move in response to Coors taking over the pole sponsorship, Budweiser decided in 2008 that this year’s race would be more like a manufacturer’s battle and feature the top six drivers for Chevy, Ford, Toyota and Dodge.

But a funny thing happened along the way. Tony Stewart got left out of the mix, as he’s moving to a Chevy team that finished well down in the standings. So what’s the next move? Well, they changed the rules so a “wild card” can enter for each manufacturer, allowing Stewart into the race with his new team.

To make matters more confusing, Robby Gordon, who is switching to Toyota this year from Dodge, will be allowed to compete in the shootout in a Dodge, then make the switch. If this is the case, it’s possible others drivers switching makes, such as Juan Pablo Montoya, could do the same so they have the right to compete.

I don’t know about you, but my head hurts just thinking about the rules of this race. Anyone who doubts this rule change is about anything but Stewart is fooling himself. I’m a longtime supporter of Stewart and think he’s a great driver, but that doesn’t mean the rules should be changed just to accommodate him. Between this and the bad call giving him the win over Regan Smith at Talladega, I’m beginning to wonder whether he has some compromising pictures of NASCAR bigwigs.

I’m not saying the race will be terrible. I’ll watch it with the usual excitement I have for the races, and it may be amazing.

But all of these rules changes, made simply due to a sponsorship war, have taken away some of the meaning of this race. Instead of a race between pole winners for the year, it’s a race between pretty much everybody. With almost 30 cars in the race, why not run the entire field? Is there really much of a difference?

I mean, seriously, Michael Waltrip is in the race … what’s wrong with this picture?

EGR to two cars?
As I recently hinted could happen, the drivers at Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing have hinted in recent interviews that there might not be three full-time cars at the team this year, as it’s looking more and more likely the #41 won’t run at all and the #8 has no guarantee to run after Daytona.

So let’s look at this situation … This big merger comes through, making headlines about a new four-car team that hopes to compete. Now, they may only have two full-time cars, a situation that makes it even harder to take on the big teams. The big loser is Almirola, who had shown glimpses of talent and would be wise to go to a team that will actually let him race

Overall, it’s clear this team is struggling even before it gets off the ground, and barring a major turnaround in their luck this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if one or both of its main owners (Teresa Earnhardt and Chip Ganassi) decides to get out of NASCAR completely.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been a big fan of Nascar since the 1996 season and am now feed up with the changes. Unlike the NFL, NBL and other professional sports, Nascar simply does not know what it wants to be. When they finally decide, maybe I'll follow it again. Until they do, I won't pay much attention to it. From 1996 to 2007 I watched nearly every race on TV and went to several in person. Well, I'll never go to one again, and in 2008 I watched about 3/4 of them. This year, most likely less then half. Good going France, way to run a company. If my cable company changed as much as Nascar, I'd throw the damn TV away.

January 18, 2009 at 11:05 AM 
Anonymous Chad said...

This race has turned into a joke. Just when it couldn't get any worse they throw in the Tony Stewart Rule. Bring back the Busch Clash. A 20 lap shootout worked great. This is a mini-500. It may have been Budweiser's call, but this looks just like a Brian France move too.

January 19, 2009 at 8:03 AM 

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