I think we can all agree that the sport of stock car racing has gotten a little bit stale. It used to be that you would tune into your favorite race and get invested in the outcome. Sure, you might check the standings and see who was leading the race or who was knocking on the door with a few laps to go, but for the most part, you were just there to watch the cars go round and round.
Times have changed. While the cars are undoubtedly faster and more maneuverable than they’ve ever been, the amount of strategy and planning that goes into each corner has decreased. It’s basically a numbers game now — see who can get the most cars in the most turns on the longest straightaways.
Whether it’s deliberate on the driver’s part or not, it’s clear that the sport takes a lot less of the ‘sport’ out of it than it used to. That said, it doesn’t have to be all bad. The good news is that it seems like the fans are once again becoming invested in the outcome of the races, due largely in part to the recent revitalization of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. We’re seeing more and more people talking about the races as they happen and more people coming to races just to follow the action, rather than just tuning in for the “top 12″ at the end. This is a wonderful development.
Revitalize The Chase
The Chase for the Sprint Cup has brought with it a new energy and excitement to the sport that we haven’t seen since the days of the Monster Energy Cup Rally. This year’s edition of the Chase promises to be one of the most exciting yet, with many heavyweights in the sport battling it out for the coveted title. Leading into the season, it was difficult to pinpoint just who was going to challenge for the championship. As the season progressed, it became apparent that there were several teams that were just as good as the next. Despite this, there was a clear line drawn between the teams that knew how to win and those that didn’t. Going into the final round of the season, the team with the best record was able to claim the championship title, flanked by their pit crews, musicians, and fans, all enjoying the celebration together. It was a wonderful feeling to be a part of — especially since this was a season wrought with parity. If you weren’t careful, you could easily get sidelined by the team with the least amount of success, no matter what their record might have been. This is what makes for a compelling championship story. People want to see the best, even if they aren’t necessarily sure how the best is going to do. The drama alone makes it worth the time it takes to follow the series.
Faster Is Better
It’s difficult to put into words just how much faster the cars have become since the advent of independent suspension. Before independent suspension, the handling of the car was largely governed by the size and shape of the tires, making it much easier to predict how the car would react to different road conditions. Not so anymore. In addition to being faster, the cars are now much more engaging to watch because of the way they handle. They are so light, yet so responsive, that it’s almost like being in a completely different vehicle. The handling characteristics are still there, but now they’re accessible to everyone, regardless of skill level or experience. That’s what makes it exciting. You don’t need to have a genius-level understanding of the game to have a blast watching NASCAR race cars go round and round. It doesn’t get any more basic than that.
Downsizing To Increase Performance
One area that has become a distinct advantage to the smaller teams is the engine department. The reason behind this is simple. It takes a lot of parts to make a car go round, and a lot of those parts are heavy. The more weight you have pulling you down, the less speed you are going to be able to achieve. This is the major reason that most NASCAR teams have kept their sizes small. In order to improve their performance, many of them have had to get creative, coming up with different ways of getting the most out of their cars. Some teams have resorted to swapping out entire engines, others have had to scale back their ambitions, focusing on a couple of victories instead of a championship. The downsizing has allowed for the teams to get back to what they do best — putting on a show. Engines have become such an integral part of the sport that they have been honored with their own display at the racetrack. One need look no further than the Indianapolis 500 to see engines taking over the frontstretch, with each team bringing their “A” game, as it were. The sheer amount of horsepower that was on display that day was enough to make anyone a believer. It’s clear that engines and their corresponding teams have a special bond, and it’s made its way into the hearts and minds of the fans. The engines are a great way of connecting with the sport, as they are a symbol of what it takes to accomplish something in NASCAR. Plus, who doesn’t love an underdog story?
It’s clear that for decades, NASCAR has been on a downward spiral, with fewer and fewer people tuning in to watch the sport grow more and more stale. It’s great to see that the sport is finally coming back around, with the popularity of the Chase for the Sprint Cup bringing the excitement back. Hopefully, more and more people will get invested in the outcome of the races as they happen, rather than waiting for the end to discover who won.