Sunday’s AMP Energy 500 at Talladega raised several serious issues about a sport in transition, a transition that is upsetting many drivers, teams and fans.


NASCAR claims to be one of the major sports in America. What sport changes its rules hours before an event? Could you imagine Roger Goodell walking into the Pittsburgh Steelers’ locker room three hours before a divisional playoff game and letting them know they only need one foot in bounds for a catch instead of two, but it will take 12 yards to get a first down instead of 10? Could you imagine David Stern moving back the three-point line during the Orlando-Cleveland series? Could you imagine Bud Selig … having a pulse?
NASCAR changed the rules the morning of the race, informing drivers that bump-drafting in the corners wouldn’t be tolerated. NASCAR went so far as to say a driver bump-drafting at the end wouldn’t win the race even if he crossed the finish line first?
It’s fair to say some drivers were going to use bump-drafting as a strategy. It’s not fair to the competitive balance of the sport to change the legality of that strategy without giving teams a chance to appropriately react. NASCAR officials had to know their decision was lowering the probability of some drivers to win the race.
No wonder nobody bets on the races in Vegas. No wonder fantasy NASCAR is dwarfed. There’s at least a veil of objectivity in the other major sports. NASCAR changes rules on the fly, muddles the playing field and defends itself under the veil of safety. Ask Ryan Newman and Mark Martin how safe that race was. Speaking of which:


I like Brad Keselowski and think he has a great future. But NASCAR calls the Chase its version of the playoffs. Brad Keselowski isn’t in the playoffs. But Keselowski sparked an accident that caused Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin to wreck, effectively handing the 2009 Sprint Cup title to Jimmie Johnson.
If NASCAR wants to have a playoff, fine by me. But only drivers who have a chance to compete for the season title should be on the track. If NASCAR wants to change the format to allow more drivers to enter the playoffs, like the PGA Tour, I can live with that. But you don’t see a Kansas City Royal breaking Alex Rodriguez’s hand with an inside pitch in November because the Royals aren’t allowed to play baseball in November because they suck.
Yet NASCAR’s playoff gives rookie drivers, dreadful drivers and drivers tweaking their rides to get ready for next year a chance to totally alter this year’s results. It’s not a real playoff. As much as I respect Jimmie Johnson’s run and consider him one of the greatest drivers of any era, any Chase title is tainted because of the faulty criteria established by NASCAR.
Only drivers eligible to compete for the championship should be allowed on the track. The regular season would be more relevant. Talladega would be safer because only 12 cars would be out there. Fans would see a better, more eventful, more meaningful race.
Make a real playoff or don’t have one and go back to the way things used to be. This middle of the road stuff isn’t working.


I am the fan NASCAR wants to keep. I never watched a race growing up and got involved in the sport because I met many of the drivers and found almost all of them to be likable. As I watch with friends, the same questions pop up:
  • Why do all the cars look the same?
  • Why do the cars have those ugly things on the back of the car?
  • Why is nobody passing?
  • How do we know who’s winning the race?
  • What’s up with all the points drivers get?
  • When can we switch the fifth TV over to the Texans-Bills game? I’ve got Matt Schaub on my fantasy team.

I can’t answer any of those questions. All I know is that when given an opportunity to start raking 16 bags of yard waste, I jumped at the opportunity. One viewer down. How many others followed? More importantly, how many more will follow if this keeps up?

Related links:
Fan watches squirrel eat corn over NASCAR race
50 things more exciting than Sunday’s race at Talladega
NASCAR stole the show
Newman criticizes NASCAR
The Big One Talladega 2009
Ryan Newman Talladega crash