NASCAR making major changes

Wow! For this to be an off-season week it has been a busy one in the motorsports/gearhead world.

I planned to talk about the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction in Scottsdale, Arizona. However, I’ll wait until next week to review it. I will mention that prices seemed to really be up there for customs and resto-mod cars. There was a resto-mod ’60s VW 21 window bus that sold for $275,000, setting a new world record for these vehicles. There will be more on this great event next time.

NASCAR announced Monday evening sweeping changes for all of its top three traveling series events for this year. This was brought about by taking fan’s input and comments and trying to make the races more appealing to the younger audience.

These “enhancements,” as they were called, will change the way teams will prepare for the events, and the drivers’ attitudes will have to change also, if they plan to race for wins and especially for a Cup championship.

A committee that included NASCAR, car owners, current and former drivers, track owners and management was formed to address the issues that fans have voiced. I will try, without confusing you too much, to give you an understanding of how these changes will work.

First of all, for the first time since back in the 1960s, the 125-mile qualifying races for the Daytona 500 will give championship points to the top 10 finishers. Ten points will be given to the winner and it will drop one point per position to 10th place, which receives one point.

Following are the main points of the new race/points system:

1. Each race will be divided into three segments or stages. This is much like the format of the All-Star races in Charlotte each year. This will give the teams a chance to adjust the cars or stay out to gain track position and will also give the TV networks a place for commercials so that racing action will not be interrupted as much.

2. There will be a winner named of each stage and the top 10 finishers in each of the first two stages will earn championship points. Ten points for winning and one point for 10th, or one point per position. There will be one playoff point awarded to the winner also, and these points will carry over through the 10 playoff races. The chase will now be referred to as a Playoff.

3. There will still be a race winner of the total event at the end of the third or last stage and race points will be paid throughout the starting field as in the past. The race winner will receive five playoff points that will carry over through the playoff also.

4. There will be a regular season Points Champion named at the end of the first 26 races, and those top 10 finishers will also receive Playoff points in the same way as above, 10 to the champion and one less per position.

Now, are you as confused as I am? I hope not.

Overall this should mean that drivers will be rewarded for their performance throughout the races and that each and every race really means something to the drivers. In the past, a team could score an early season victory and not have to really worry about making the Chase. Also, at the restrictor plate races, drivers would sometimes ride around behind everyone and try to avoid being in a big crash, then race hard for the win. This strategy will cause major point losses now.

I’ve been thinking about all of this and I realize this is not my father’s NASCAR. Gone are the days when showroom stock cars were modified for racing action. Todays “stock car” is a very sophisticated, refined piece of engineering equipment designed for the rigors of 500 miles of racing at close to 200 mph.  Every car is now capable of completing each and every lap and many of the starting cars are still running at the end of the race.

NASCAR racing is no longer an endurance contest. It is now a contest to really see who can drive these cars to victory lane as fast and as hard as they can. Races today are settled by fractions of a second, not multiple laps, as in the good old days.

Monster Energy Drinks promised to bring excitement back to the sport with their sponsorship and this new era seems to be a step in the right direction. Brad Keselowski summed it up in an answer to a reporter’s question.  He stated, “Tune in or buy a ticket and watch how the races unfold and I think you will be pleased with the outcome.”

I say, “Time will tell.” And change is hard to accept sometimes. I really feel that this may end the NASCAR era of races where you could sleep for 400 miles, then watch the final 100 miles to see who wins.        ∫∫∫

This past Friday evening, the NASCAR family came together in Charlotte at the Hall of Fame Museum to induct the class of 2017. Three car owners and two drivers were added to this elite group of racers. I will just list who they are in this column and next week I’ll detail their contributions to our sport individually.

First up was a car owner from the earliest days of NASCAR, the late Raymond Parks. Second and third were modern-day team owners Richard Childress and Rick Hendrick.

The two former drivers named were the late Benny Parsons and recently retired Mark Martin. All of these men deserve to be a part of the Hall of Fame and in their own way have truly helped the growth of this sport.

The 24 Hours of Daytona takes the green on Saturday around noon for the sports car racers at Daytona, and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series is just around the corner. So, sit back and watch as the greatest drivers in the world take on the twists and turns of the road course, and remember, at the end of the tri-oval there’s a hard left turn into the infield part of the course.


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