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Thursday, July 5, 2012

BAD IDEA: Bruton's Smith idea of adding in cautions would lead to claims of "set up" races

Nobody likes a boring race with no cautions to help allow drivers to catch up to each other and have a decent race to the finish. It happens sometimes. Cars get strung out, there is no decent action on track, and fans fall asleep at home (probably not in the stands, but you never know.)
So Bruton Smith, master NASCAR marketing genius, has an idea: Let’s plan breaks -- think of a competition caution like they do on green tracks or when we have new tires sometimes, but planned at the end or throughout the race so we have guaranteed battles up front and through the field.

There are two sides to this argument.
1. Sure, I want to see as close a finish as possible, and stretched out finishes like that are terrible to watch. I would this.
2. Hell no. That is ruining the integrity of the sport, disrespectful to those drivers leading the races and the teams that built their cars, and puts NASCAR closer to WWF wrestling.

The truth is somewhere in the middle most likely. I would say that most drivers hate this rule -- even if they say they don’t now -- and if they don’t they will when they are leading by a mile and the forced caution comes out.
And most fans would probably like the outcome -- closer racing late in the race -- even if they hate the method of how it happened.
Me. I’m not really a fan of this plan. Some, like Jeff Gordon, argue that it’s better to have it planned than to see a phantom debris caution, and maybe that’s true. But I just can’t wrap my head around the concept.

I get the idea: Fans want excitement -- and the sport wants to give it to them. But at what cost?
No, the integrity of NASCAR wouldn’t be irreparably harmed by something like this, but it certainly would take a blow. Imagine if a planned caution happened with 20 to go, then Dale Earnhardt Jr. went on to win. How many people would say the fix is in? Trust me, a lot.
So sorry Bruton, but I don’t think this idea will fly. It might be a nice marketing strategy, but the reality of the situation is that it just doesn’t look good from any angle, and I don’t think NASCAR wants to be accused of trying to fix races.

Here are some sample reactions from drivers:
Kevin Harvick was the harshest. When asked about Bruton Smith’s idea, he simply said:
“Same guy that ruined Bristol.”


Matt Kenseth:
WOULD YOU LIKE MANDATORY CAUTIONS? “No, not really. I mean, we kind of do that with competition yellows and stuff when the track is green. I don’t know that it matters a whole bunch. I think when the track is green and there has been rain and they do it, it’s always good because some guys maybe didn’t get as much practice or something like that, but, other than that, I don’t think we need that. I think you have a pretty good mix of some races with long green-flag runs and some races with short runs. I think some of the races that people have called us out on for not being exciting with those long greens at the end were actually pretty exciting. It just depends what you’re looking for because every race isn’t gonna be green-white-checkers with cars all over the place. I think of Kansas where they had that real long green at the end. I think it had two full runs and it took Denny a run-and-a-half to run down the 56 car and pass him with like 10 to go, so I think some of those races are really good races, it just depends what you’re looking for.”

Denny Hamlin
What do you think about the idea of putting mandatory cautions in races?
"Gosh, I don't know. It's 50-50 on whether you want stuff like that. I'm more in favor of the green flag runs. It allows us at least to be, the drivers to be in control of their tire wear, to manage their equipment and car. I think when you have mandatory cautions, what can happen is everyone just drives as hard as they can every single lap with no -- there's no disadvantage to wearing out your equipment and that takes the driver out of the equation even more. When you have long green flag runs, typically setups and drivers makeup the difference on long runs -- the better drivers and the better cars. That's when you'll see the passing. I think it really could be dangerous for these car owners and things like that if you had mandatory cautions. You'd end up having more fluke winners and more fluke champions when it's all said and done."

Greg Biffle
YOUR THOUGHTS ON BRUTON SMITH’S IDEA OF MANDATORY CAUTIONS? “We don’t want to create WWE or create something that one could look at it and say, ‘Oh, well that’s set up,’ but I do agree that cautions create a little bit more excitement for the fans. This is an entertainment business. Fans are sitting in the grandstands and watching at home and restarts tend to create a little more excitement and a little more action. We know that from sitting in the car, but, there again, now you’ve got to talk about how would you ever do that. The other thing I mentioned is if you look at it and dissect it, the caution is always benefitting somebody. The guy that’s about to go a lap down or the guy that just got in the lucky dog spot. When the caution comes out, it’s helping those two guys so it’s always disadvantaging somebody and helping someone else. So you’ve got to figure out how to not do that if you want to create some kind of caution.”

Tony Stewart
“I think the more that you interrupt and disrupt the race, I don’t know; I don’t know that I necessarily agree with that. Bruton has been a pretty successful promoter for a long time, so more times than not he’s going to be right.”

Jeff Gordon
“TV time outs. I don’t see why we shouldn’t have some TV time outs; I’d rather have that than some mysterious debris caution to be honest. I don’t know the integrity of racing and to me what it’s all about is letting the race play out and sometimes that can be the most exciting finish you just don’t know. Sometimes it’s not, but trying to get in the middle of that can be challenging. If you are going to do it obviously it’s got to be something that is planned in advance and you take a break and you know it going into it. I’m not totally against it, but I’m also more leaning toward just let the race play out the way it’s supposed to.”

Carl Edwards
ARE YOU AWARE OF BRUTON SMITH’S PROPOSAL OF MANDATORY CAUTIONS? “I’m not aware of it. I have to preface what I’m gonna say with a disclaimer that I’ve never been a race promoter. I don’t have any stake in any of the race tracks. I don’t understand how tickets sales are going and things like that, but from a competitive standpoint, to me, auto racing is auto racing. That’s what it is. It’s not gonna be a Game 7 moment every race. That’s what makes some races great. To me, 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. That’s why it’s so appreciated in our sport, and once you try to create those things, it’s my humble opinion, I’m not saying what’s right or wrong – it’s my opinion – that that takes something away from the sport. 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.”

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