Friday, May 23, 2008

What makes a race exciting or boring?

The answer to that question is different for different fans. For instance, to many NASCAR fans, watching a Formula 1 car run by itself for an hour and twenty minutes is boring, but F1 fans liken it to watching jet fighters performing precision maneuvers, and think that cars going in circles turning left is boring. Some "Old School" NASCAR fans enjoy seeing the lead cars lap the field several times, while those that have adapted to the changes in NASCAR, or those who are relatively new to the sport, prefer to see more side by side racing and lead changes.
There are those of us who enjoy the thrill of stock cars racing on a road course, such as Infineon (Sears Point) or Watkins Glen, while others will not even watch a race on a road course.

Many fans get bored if there is not a good crash during the race, and you can see the excitement when there is a crash and their favorite driver is involved. Even those of us who are not fans of crashes get involved in that excitement, so that could be one definite answer to the question of what makes a race exciting.
It should be noted here that those of us who have a favorite driver who happens to be the type who is always where the action is are likely to see our driver involved in a crash, whether it is that driver's fault or not.

NASCAR has attempted to present races that have plenty of side by side action by introducing the restrictor-plate to races at Daytona and Talladega. The restrictor-plates pack the field closer together, and increase the opportunities for crashes. At venues where the restrictor-plate is not used, track officials will sometimes call for a caution for "phantom debris" to bring the field closer together. However, that practice has been criticised heavily by both fans and drivers, and doesn't occur as often as it once did.

Because of the characteristics of the new Sprint Cup car, once known as the CoT, a car in the lead will often be hard to catch, as it is able to run faster in "clean" air than it does in traffic, where the turbulence of the air has a direct effect on the aerodynamic performance of the car. But that is not to say there isn't excitement in the field trying to catch the leader. Most of the great racing happens back in the field, as drivers vie for position in the top ten or fifteen places. It is more exciting for some of us to watch our drivers make their way up through the field than it is watching the lead driver running by himself. Unfortunately, television doesn't always show us the best racing on the track. That is why it is often preferable to mute the television and listen to the play by play of the race on MRN or PRN, whichever racing network happens to be broadcasting the particular race.

The upcoming Memorial Day weekend is the biggest day in racing of the year. On Sunday, we will see three of the biggest annual events in racing history, the F1 Gran Prix of Monaco, the Indianapolis 500, and the World 600, aka the Coca-Cola 600. If there isn't enough excitement for the fan in at least one of those races, there will be a live broadcast Friday evening of a World of Outlaws Sprint car event from Charlotte, on Speed at 7:00 PM EDT. There will also be the always exciting prospect of a Truck Series race from the short track at Mansfield, Ohio on Saturday, at noon-thirty, also on Speed. And, if you are the type who may prefer restrictor-plate races, there is the Nationwide Series race from Lowe's Motor Speedway Saturday night, at 7 PM on ESPN 2.

This weekend there is something for everyone, no matter what kind of racing one enjoys. I will be enjoying all of it, boring or not. Here's wishing a happy race weekend to all!


Ovalscream said...

Good article, Rev'nd. Consider my eyes glued to the boob tube this weekend. Might be kind of difficult to manage when I'm weeding in the garden in 95-degree heat, but I'll try.

I'm sure races were more exciting when they were less safe, when rolled and exploded and hurled showers of parts into the stands and all that. Ballsier, more bullish, a whiskier braggadoccio, et cetera. The boys live longer now though the tradeoff is that the wilderness gets fenced out. Oh well. Will there be anything but virtual racing in another 20 years?

Jim said...

Nice work, Rev. I like the bumpin' and gougin', the pit calls and strategies, the sheer speed. I loe all of it.
I've never figured out why I can't get into the other series. That may where personalities come into play, but I'm a NASCAR guy all the way.
It'll be a great day tomorrow!