NASCAR’s announcement to move the 2012 Indiana Nationwide Series race from Lucas Oil Raceway to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway pissed me off.
The move itself was aggravating enough. But this news drafted behind a near decade of decisions that have taken away from the racing, not added to it.
The current management group has a vision that is damaging for NASCAR’s long-term health. Fifty-plus years of building up a strong product are propping up a sport that is receiving small wounds that cut away at the fan base. NASCAR can only stand so many of these “improvements.”
For decades, the top priority of Bill France Sr. and Jr. was on-track competition. Keeping that healthy would keep fans, sponsors, and therefore NASCAR, strong.
Today, there is no way the on-track product is still any kind of priority if the Nationwide race is moving from LOR to IMS. There is more racing action in one event at the short track than five years worth of Brickyard 400s.
This change reduces the stand-alone Nationwide short track venues to Iowa Speedway. Little by little the series is removed from the roots that made it great. More short tracks would be welcomed not shunned.
The Truck race will also disappear from the LOR schedule. That race traditionally lost money being on its own. But paired with a Nationwide race and a USAC preliminary night, the short oval turned those three days into its biggest of the season. Now they are being sacrificed in an attempt to save the IMS weekend.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is hallowed ground in auto racing worldwide. Decades ago the place was so special it held one race per season and that was all. The track was that elite.
NASCAR Cup grew enough to have its own place within the Brickyard. Now 17 years removed from the inaugural event, the 400s attendance is fading. Adding more divisions seems to water down the former spectacle.
The big track has been in a NASCAR free fall since the 2008 Brickyard 400 tire fiasco. The fans bought tickets to the Brickyard 400. They did not see a Brickyard 400. I feel every ticket holder is owed a free race ticket or a refund. They did not get what they paid for. Check attendance at the speedway every year since. Thousands of others apparently feel the same way.
The unpopular Indy decision follows others that die-hard fans have complained about over the years.
- The May race in Darlington is called The Southern 500, but it in the eyes of true racers, it isn’t. Until the 500 returns to its rightful place on Labor Day weekend the Southern 500 does not exist.
- If guaranteeing the top-35 in Cup championship standings a starting berth in each event does not go against the original spirit of stock car racing, I don’t know what does. Again, if the on-track product is of the utmost concern, the best cars that legitimately qualify for a main event need to be the ones that compete, not the cars with the best sponsors.
- The Chase has never been popular with fans. I have written many times about my dislike for the system. We proudly waved the flag of how different we were from stick-and-ball sports. So we need to stop trying to emulate them with a playoff style. If the Super Bowl score is reset at the two-minute warning, it will guarantee a close finish. But would NFL fans embrace the champions and this system? I know the answer and so do you.
Poor decisions have been justified by presenting a spreadsheet or graph that contains skewed data to a boardroom. This goes against any business model that has future prosperity in mind.
Quick, big money that is made today at the expense of building a long-term, lasting relationship with fans needs to be enjoyed quick. It won’t last long.
The original group of NASCAR pioneers showed so much vision at the Daytona Beach Streamline Hotel in 1948. The imaginative view that captured so many, needs to applied to more choices today.
Patrick Reynolds is a former NASCAR team mechanic who hosts "Motorweek Live" Mondays at 7pm ET/4pm PT. Listen at www.racersreunionradio.com.)