Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Races that don't count

What took place this past weekend in Charlotte was confusing and pointless. For the lucky folks who chose to avoid the recent happenings at the Southern capital of the racing world, Saturday's "All-Star" event can be described thusly:

Boring- Part of the allure of a race that does not count towards year-end points is the promise of exciting racing. In fact, this is the only allure such a race has. If the race is not visually stimulating (and Saturday's race was certainly not. It had the visual appeal of Stacy Keach in a muscle shirt) and no points are paid, what the hell is the point? The only mildly interesting part of the event came when A.J. Allmendinger and Sam Hornish Jr. raced their respective selves into the final segment. The final segment itself had no drama. None. I had even "tapped the Rockies" four or five times by the final segment, and was still decidedly not-enthralled There was no three-wideness, no Ricky Bobby-esque "checkers or wreckers," Christ, there was no passing in general. The event had the feeling of NBA playoff game (fireworks, hiphop music, other absurd and prolonged pomp, followed by a substandard product. The only difference being NBA playoff games count towards something).

Overly-complex- Your average NASCAR fan is not a member of MENSA. If NASCAR thinks as such, they have a serious problem inside their fortified compound on Daytona Beach. To fully understand the convoluted process of advancing through the "All-Star" event, one would have to devote the better part of a weekend to sift through the rules and regulations. Here is a taste of the published rules:

Between segments 1 and 2, there will be a yellow flag during which teams may elect to pit for fuel, tires and normal chassis adjustments. Teams pitting will not retain their position on the race track and will restart at the rear of the field in the order they leave pit road.

Between segments 2 and 3, there will be a 10-minute break during which teams will pit and may elect to change tires, add fuel and make normal chassis adjustments. Changing of springs, shock absorbers or rear-ends will not be permitted. Teams will restart segment 3 in the same position they finished segment 2.

My eyes glazed over after reading the first sentence. Why in the name of Tim McCarver would anyone take something as simple as a motor race and attempt to foul its forthrightness with overly incoherent terms?

Pointless- Kasey Kahne made $1,012,975 for winning the final segment on Saturday night. The overall purse for the event was a staggering $3,308,251, meaning the contention by many that this race is a winner-take-all deal is pretty erroneous. Sure, Kahne took a lion's share of the cash, but big money went to the other participants (examples, Biffle took $455,950, Kenseth got $132,975, Kyle Busch blew an engine and still netted $199,601) as well. The other schlock portion of this race is its "exhibition" status, meaning no points are distributed. Honestly, this system seems fair enough, and could possibly be conducive to creating excitement, but somehow it failed miserably this year. Here are two quick fixes: 1) $1 million to win, no other positions paid. 2) 100 points paid to the winner.

A few tweaks in the format could make things more tolerable. Aside from the payment and points scheme above, make the feature race 100-laps with a transfer race of 50-laps run right before. Pit stops should be open. Finally, for the love of Christ, no burnout competition and make the whole package under 3-hours. Period. The end.

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