New Hampshire Motor Speedway is a fine facility that signed its first event with NASCAR after its construction was completed. Busch Series, Busch North and Modified Tour events were held there and the racing community was shown that the venue could play host to quality racing. Two Sprint Cup Series dates were earned. But as much as everyone likes the venue, the place is not known for producing historic door-to-door Cup Series action.
Loudon has exciting moments for fans to remember, but there are no classic battles that hang in Cup Series lore. Attendance is always strong, which is impressive, because fans have come to know what to expect. What I saw Sunday was more than expected.
NASCAR’s four-week-old rule for double-file restarts in the Cup division has changed the game. Another strategic dimension has emerged and the most important aspects of this sport, racing and passing, have been improved.
Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch put on some dandy racing on several restarts as they tussled for the lead. Leader Gordon, who would finish second to Joey Logano in the rain-shortened race, repeatedly chose the high lane to restart, as allowed by the new rule. Busch challenged on the inside each time and treated the fans to some close, paint-swapping action.
Competition was not limited to the front. The other starters jostled, traded spots and smoked tires. I believe we all saw an extra bit of courage installed in the driver’s seat as well. Drivers are going from a potential of moving one or two positions on each restart to multiplying their possibilities.
Crashing does not make for a good race; cars passing each other does. Crashing can take good cars out of the race and dilute the quality. But crashing does add excitement. The eight-car turn-one restart pileup probably would not have involved so many machines had the previous single-file policy been enforced.
I feel for the teams that had their machinery damaged. But the race’s thrill factor was not damaged when the pileup occurred. Any double-file restart detractors need to be referred to crash victim Jeff Burton’s statement, “We’ve crashed here on single-file restarts too”.
There are thousands of grassroots racers who successfully navigate double-file restart procedures on short tracks every weekend and have for decades. I often have wondered why Cup racing did not invoke this style years ago. In this day of trying to improve ticket sales and television ratings, the double-file rule did nothing but help the cause.
(Patrick Reynolds is a freelance writer and contributing columnist to All Left Turns.)
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