Saturday, March 22, 2008

"It's about...."

I was at PPIR in 2003, when Scott Wimmer celebrated his most recent win, previous to his victory today at Nashville. He had come close to winning the championship the previous season, and had run well in races in the 2003 season up to that point, but had yet to close the deal. By the time he crossed the finish line, leading the rest of the field by more than half a lap, he had nearly 40,000 fans in the stands cheering him on. The consensus among the fans applauding and shouting for him was "it's about time he won!"
We can say the same thing about him after his win at Nashville, as he has gone five years without a victory. And we can feel as good about him winning as we did then. As an "underdog" among the Nationwide and Cup drivers in the Nationwide series, Wimmer doesn't have a full time ride anywhere in NASCAR's upper tier. He was not running for championship points except, for the owners points that would go to Richard Childress. He was only going for the win.
The race itself could have been better--the only excitement to be had was Kyle Busch's spin--due to his own driver error--which pretty much took the dominating car out of the running for the top spots. The other part of the excitement for the entire race was, would the car make it to the finish line with the fuel it had.
I know this has been mentioned on this blog, before, but the NASCAR Nationwide series needs to find an identity. The spacer plates that have been implemented in the series do not produce good racing, and the jury is still out on whether they make for safer racing or less expensive racing, as is their intent. This is not the way to uplift the series.
The Nationwide Series regulars can not get the recognition they deserve as long as the series is being run as the "Cup Lite." This doesn't mean that the Cup drivers shouldn't be allowed to drive in the series--if they can qualify, there should be nothing to keep them from racing. What it does mean is that something needs to be done in support of the regular series drivers and teams to help them become more competitive. It is an insult to these drivers and teams to think of the Nationwide series as the junior league, or the little league, as these drivers and teams do have the talent to compete with the Cup level drivers.
Perhaps the series would do better if more of its races were at venues where the Cup series doesn't race, or when at the same venue, on a completely diffeent weekend. Make the track promoters earn their pay by figuring out ways to get as many people to show up for a Nationwide stand-alone event as they do for a Cup event. Promote the drivers, such as Brad Keselowski, David Stremme, Mike Wallace, or Jason Leffler, as the talented wheel men they really are. Promote the cars as having the ability to show a different kind of racing than the Cup races present. Bring special events, such as concerts, or companion open wheel, or motorcycle races to the track on the same weekend, or even same day as the race.
And perhaps NASCAR and Nationwide could do something more to promote the series as well. Get rid of the restricter plates and make it racing the way it is supposed to be. Increase the value of the purse, even if it takes some of the budget away from series promotion. Race at Rockingham, and replace Cup races at venues where there are two Cup races when there should only be one. The main thing is to make the series stand on its own, with its own identity.
And the best way to do that would be to make it about racing.

1 comment:

Charlie said...

The biggest problem for the Nationwide-only teams is the costs associated with competing in the series. The plate rule is supposed to make engines last multiple races, which Toyota proved could be done last year. I talked to Mike Bliss. His Fitz Racing team, one of the more successful in NS, is barely surviving. The new NS CoT may kill them. NASCAR has fundamental problems with the series and I'm not sure that protecting the current NW only teams is their priority.

I miss tracks like PPIR and the Mick-Yard. When the IRL was just starting and those tracks were a part of it, I thought that series had some uniqueness to it. Then they went away, and so did the panache.