Thu04172014

Last updateTue, 04 Nov 2014 9pm

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Ever get the feeling Brian France just doesn’t get it?

Today January 26, 25 days before the season opens, NASCAR Chairman Brian France is expected to announce the new points system for the Sprint Cup Series. He is also expected to announce the latest tweaks to the method of selecting the drivers who will qualify for this year’s “Chase for the Championship.”

Common wisdom suggests the new points system will be a simple scoring of 43 points for the winner and one point less for each finishing position down to 1 point for the last place finisher. Funny thing, the current points system has been in effect since 1972, the beginning of what is considered the sport’s modern era. The system has worked well throughout the period that took NASCAR from a largely southeastern sport to a national circuit with a television audience second only the National Football League.  
Sometimes you just can’t see the forest for the trees. Race attendance is dropping steadily, the television ratings are in steady decline. So what do you do? It seems the sports answer to every problem is gimmicks. It started going down hill when Brian France implemented the “Chase” format and the “Car of Tomorrow.” From that point on the answer to every problem has been pile on more gimmicks.  
A big name driver misses the set up and gets a lap down? Can’t have that. It’s bad for the ratings. What to do? Bingo, the Lucky Dog Rule. Gotta keep the name drivers in contention.
On a given weekend, a driver really hit the hot set up and starts running away from the rest of the field? Can’t have that, gotta keep the field bunched up. Debris on the track - caution flag. Yeah that’s the ticket.
There is no doubt the death of Dale Earnhardt instigated some badly needed safety updates, but the final outcome, the “Car of Tomorrow, ” has been an unmitigated disaster. The sport was “Stock Car Racing”. Since the circuit began in the late forties, you were a Ford lover, a Chevy lover, or a Chrysler fan. Seems management is at least beginning to get the message on making cars look a bit  more like the brands they represent.  
Fed up with having to police the creativity of the sport’s mechanics and engineers?   
Was the occasional “cheating incident” really bad for the sport? I think not. Blatant  cheating, like King Kong motors is one thing, but the amazing creativity some crews came up with when the teams had the breathing room to work in the margins of the rules was frequently fascinating, and often led to improvements in the sport going forward. At the moment the sport has knuckled down so hard on the slightest deviation from any tolerance or template, they have pretty much eliminated any creative thoughts.  
But the crowning Jewel of the Brian France era of NASCAR has without a doubt been the “Chase for the Cup”. Since auto racing’s beginning, the season championship was earned by the race team that consistently, over the long haul of the season, performed better than any other race team on the circuit. It’s a simple premise, in reality it is a very difficult task to accomplish, the winning team truly earned the title.  Whether the ultimate winner each season was your man or not, you had to respect their accomplishment.
Now we have Brian’s World.  In Brian’s World the Champion is determined by which of the top 10 or 12 drivers in the first 26 races has the best record over a ten race sprint.  
Well, first it was the top 10, then it became the top 12. Today Brian is expected to announce his latest gimmick. The hot rumor is that this year the “Chase” will include the top 10 drivers after Richmond and the two drivers with the most wins that did not otherwise qualify for the “Chase”. Yeah, that will get it.  
One thing about getting older, as you reflect back you realize you got to see a lot of stuff.  When I was a kid growing up in the 1950’s, the top rung of automobile racing in the United States was the open wheel racing circuits. The Indianapolis 500 was the ultimate race. NASCAR was just the upstart cousin from the south.   If you had predicted then, the mess open wheel racing would become in the latter part of the 20th century, fans would have said you were nuts. Not sure how you get that message to NASCAR, but I hope someone can.
You may reach Pete Barber at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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