The Joke That Is NASCAR
The Daytona 500 took place this past weekend, at least most of it. I generally watch the Daytona 500 each year, and maybe the Talladega 500. That’s about all the NASCAR I can stand each year. This is an odd thing for someone like me who is really into racing in general.
This is worth exploring.
NASCAR stands for National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. The key word in there is “stock.” Originally, stock car racing was about cars that resembled something you could actually buy at a car dealership. Manufacturers would presumably compete, in part to make their cars better, and in part to encourage sales (the old “what wins on Sunday sells on Monday” adage).
Consider, this same formula is used within other professional racing series, like AMA Motocross and Supercross, and World Superbike. True, those bikes are modified forms of stock, but at least there is a resemblance to something I can buy. Yamaha can’t run EFI on James Stewart’s YZ450F, and the only reason is because they don’t sell a fuel injected YZ450F. And in series like AMA Superstock, the bikes are bone-stock.
Of course, there’s another way this can work. You can ignore stock altogether and race pure racing prototypes. This is the method used by Formula One and MotoGP, which is also awesome.
What is not awesome is what NASCAR does – pretend their cars are stock when they are not. This started some 20 or 25 years ago. I don’t know if it was the first one, but I remember wondering how Ford could race their Ford Taurus in NASCAR when it was a front-wheel-drive V6, but NASCAR races 350ci V8 engines driving the rear wheels. Of course it started long before this, where teams were building their own cars in their own shops instead of starting off by acquiring a stock version and building from that.
Now, they are racing the Car of the Future, whatever that is. So what you have out there are Fords, Chevys, Dodges, and Toyotas that all have the same body style. Even the front grilles are the same on each car, the only thing different being the stickers that are made to look like front grilles.
Since they have run out of ways to mess up the car, they’ve started trying to mess up the program. Last week’s race had at least one hour of preliminary garbage before the race actually began, including:
- Interviews with every single driver and crew chief
- A detailed explanation of the sport, the cars, the rules, etc.
- A country music concert
- Some famous person singing the national anthem
- A prayer, wherein an appeal was made so that all the participants would compete safely, despite the fact that they were participating of their own free will in a dangerous sport on a Sunday instead of going to church
- About twenty parade laps
Hey, I’m totally fine with the national anthem, and I’m a religious person so I guess I’m okay with the prayer also, although I think God has much bigger things to worry about than a NASCAR race. But I think we could skip a lot of that stuff and just get to the race already.
But then I find out they are planning to have a “competition yellow” around lap 25, whatever that means. It’s bad enough that they throw a caution flag anytime they have the slightest inkling that there might possibly be a hint of something unsafe on the track. Now they are throwing yellow flags for no reason? And then, they end the race early, because it rains?
What is going on here? I mean, we’re treating these guys like NFL quarterbacks!
In Formula One, for example, they don’t have four hours to figure out how to win – they have somewhere between 90 and 120 minutes. If it rains, they run anyway. If there is oil on the track, they run anyway. The best car wins – not the one that just so happens to be able to slingshot to the lead on the back straight on the last lap. And the drivers need to know how to turn right as well as left.
And a fat slob like Tony Stewart in F1? Please – he’d pass out from exhaustion after one lap.
Now the Daytona Motorsports Group is going to manage AMA Racing. Considering what they’ve done with NASCAR, I can hardly wait to see how they ruin the AMA.