Dancing at the Beach

Jun 29 2011 - 1:53pm

Well, we're headed back to the beach this weekend for the annual summer bash in Daytona, and what do we have to look forward to?

Luck of the draw, who is the best dance partner and who times the last rush the best, is what I come up with.

It's less about racing, per se, than it is about finding a pusher. A pusher needs a pushee he can work with, and once that is determined, then they go about racing nose-to-tail a couple of laps at a time before switching heading into Turn 1 or Turn 3.

To me, it can be exciting, but so is doing the same thing on the interstate with a car you're traveling with. In other words, this is the box the rules have the drivers in, and they have to live and work within it.

Dale Jr. doesn't like it. Several others don't like it, either. It's an exercise in limited options. Drivers like to be able to, when needed, go to the whip and win the race on their own. They don't like having to trust another driver with pushing or leading, and when they want to go, they have to take that into account.

That dog, as they say down here, don't hunt.

Given the fact that NASCAR has four plate events a year, two at Daytona and two at Talladega, there's not a whole lot of options for the rules. Unless NASCAR wants to have teams build plate-only cars...well, they already do, don't they? Why not trim the cars out and add some plate-only bodywork for the races? It's only for four races, which happen to be four of the biggest races of the season...

NASCAR is finally getting rid of carburetors after 60-plus years. It's finally given the teams some fuel-injected technology. What is so hard about making the cars so they don't have to go two-by-two to go fast?

I know team guys who could solve this problem in about 20 minutes, with about $400 of sheet metal and a boatload of wind-tunnel data. Might even get rid of the aero push while they're at it.

But NASCAR won't do that. I understand, it's about 36 races, not four, but when those four are arguably the most-watched of the season, can you afford not to make some strides in that regard?

Boring racing is boring racing, and I listen to fans every day. I hear what they say and what they don't, which is arguably more important. Hardly any of them today say the racing is exciting, and most of them remark that their insomnia disappears when NASCAR's on the tube.

Know what the most common viewing method is among NASCAR Nation? Watch the pre-race and the first 25-50 laps, go about their business and then tune in for the last 40-50 laps. That's not a guess; that's empirical data gleaned from message boards, social media and good, old-fashioned chatting.

It's not close. The number of fans who will sit through three hours at Michigan could fit in the lobby here at ONMC (now I am guessing). It's no longer a sporting event; it's a spectacle. Sonoma and Watkins Glen are a little different, and TV ratings were way up for Sonoma.

But Daytona and Talladega? You'd get more action standing on the corner of Harris Road and Mallard Creek at noon on a weekday. That's in Charlotte, by the way.

Well, I'm not going to solve this by the numbers here today. NASCAR can do that, and they better do it quick, before the audience finds better things to do.