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Published on May 20th, 2009 | by Michael J Smith

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Shortening Races Is Not A Good Idea

Saturday night’s All Star event provided excitement, daring moves, and great racing over the last 10-lap segment. As a result, Jeffrey Owens, of NASCAR Scene, wrote for FoxSports.com:

[NASCAR could make races] shorter, turning the 500-mile races into 400 miles and the 400-milers into 300 miles. If you threw in a mandatory caution flag with 10 or 20 laps to go, thus forcing the field to line up for a double-file (lead-lap cars only) restart, it would set up a shootout similar to that of the All-Star Race. And such a move would ensure that nearly every race had a dramatic finish.

With all due respect, no. That’s not a good idea.

First off, the fact that there’s no points on the line for the All-Star event is why you saw daring moves, and a lot of risk-taking. If this were a points-paying race, do you think Kyle Busch would have been as aggressive on the restarts? No.

Busch has proven to be a master on the restarts, and sometimes does things in the car that make you scratch your head. But, he isn’t stupid. He’s mature enough to figure out how to finish races. And, while he races to win instead of finishing well, he doesn’t win it or wreck it.

Throwing a caution with 10 laps to go takes the strategy out of the end of the race. Most, if not all, teams in a position to win would plan their race around that final mandatory pit stop. It would take a lot of unpredictability out of the final laps of the race.

With the clear advantage that the car out front has thanks to the COT, a mandatory caution could take the excitement out of the final laps of the race if a car builds a huge lead just by being in clean air.

Owens continues:

The sport is going through a tough time. Attendance is down, sponsorship is hard to come by and TV ratings have declined. NASCAR is investigating the current trend, looking for ways to better engage fans and stem the tide. But the easiest way to get fans to watch again is to produce better racing.

I agree with this sentiment, but I don’t think shortening the races is the solution to NASCAR’s problems. The majority of people, I think, have stopped attending races because they can no longer afford to spend on recreation, and perhaps because of what the COT has done to competition.

That said, shorter races aren’t a solution. People don’t invest the amount of money it costs to attend a NASCAR race to sit in the stands for an hour and a half.

Maybe tweaking the COT is a better idea. But, I’m not sure how willing NASCAR is to do that.

Owens wrote:

Shorter events would likely lead to better finishes, keeping the drivers, teams and cars fresher at the end and reducing the chance of someone pulling away and dominating the race. Drivers would likely race harder in shorter races instead of pacing themselves and saving their equipment and themselves for the end.

No. When points come into the equation, drivers race differently than when no points are on the line. Most drivers want to win a championship and will drive to secure the best possible finish they can. If they have a top 10 car, and position, they’re not going to get crazy and try to win it, if they are in championship contention. So, that won’t change the racing.

I don’t think shortening the race is a good idea, and it doesn’t make sense. The length of races isn’t broken, so don’t try to fix it.

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About the Author

Michael J. Smith is a NASCAR enthusiast and blogger. In addition to founding this website, Michael is a journalist with over a decade of experience writing for prestigious media organizations.



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