So far, the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series campaign is the Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch show. It’s no “manufactured” rivalry. It’s Toyota vs. Ford. JGR vs. SHR. It’s two guys who’ve rattled sabres more than once. These guys really don’t like each other. It could make for great drama at Homestead if this continues.
Now here’s the question: is it a bad thing for NASCAR if two drivers dominate? Let’s consider Sunday’s race. Harvick ran into trouble and wasn’t a factor. Busch opened a can of whoop ass on the field, leading 377 of 400 laps. More than a few fans didn’t care for it. Whether he really does or not, I saw where one reader said he was done with NASCAR after the Coca-Cola 600 until serious changes are made to improve the racing.
I mean, think about the Super Bowl. Which ones do you remember? It’s those heart-stoppers: Giants vs. Patriots, Steelers vs. Cardinals, Pats vs. Seahawks. It’s certainly not the Broncos vs. the 49ers, or New England vs. the Bears. We like drama in our sports storylines, and sometimes we just don’t get that.
I would have been three at the time, but I wonder what the mood of NASCAR Nation was back in 1967, where Richard Petty won 27 out of 48 races- including 10 (!) in a row? Dominance gets quite boring after a while. But is this really bad for NASCAR?
I’ll tell you what’s bad for NASCAR is manufactured parity. The introduction of the “Car of Tomorrow” ushered in an era of what I will describe as a sports version of socialism. It’s one thing if 40 drivers are pretty close to each other int terms of equipment and talent. That is, if it’s organic. If you have tight competition as a result of talent, that’s one thing. It’s another when you put everyone in essentially the same car.
Here’s the thing: while watching one or two drivers spank the competition gets old in a hurry, at the same time, a season like this one can have the effect of cementing the legacy and greatness of two really fantastic drivers. What’s more, they’ll be the first to tell you they didn’t get there alone, so there are two teams sharing in the spoils of glory. Every once in a while, a season like this tells us something about the talents of those who are the best.
This is provided that this holds up. The point has been made that the current playoff format NASCAR employs, with eliminations down the stretch could waylay the seasons of Harvick and Busch. It’s not a stretch to think the final four at Homestead could be Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano and perhaps a Brad Keselowski. One bad race in the playoffs can finish even the very best. Worse yet, it could be the result of getting caught up in someone else’s wreck.
If you think about it, though, it happens in other sports too. How about that Patriots team that went undefeated in the regular season? How about that the Dodgers of 2017 that won over 100 games? It’s part of the storyline of sports.
Can we say that a season like this is ok provided it doesn’t happen every year? As long as it happens organically, sure.