Lessons learned from Nascar at Darlington
Lessons the FIA, Indycar, Moto GP and other series might want to have a look at.
In a week in which we had the chance to watch two top tier NASCAR races we can't say we have been deprived of real racing. Indeed the action was plentiful and emotions were running high.
The first race on the 17th of May was quite emotional for me, because I had been deprived of real racing for around two months. Which for someone like me, who is a fan of nearly every motorsport was quite painful. I mean on a given weekend I look forward to watching F1, Indycar, BTCC, NASCAR etc. racing. That first race then was quite the thrill for me, even if the on track product would have turned out to be absolute rubbish I would have still watched. Fortunately, that was not the case and the racing was fantastic. For a couple of laps we even saw Jimmie Johnson back to his former form, unfortunately that quickly came to an abrupt stop via what I can only describe as a rookie mistake. Later on Harvick took the lead and never looked back. For some people who want to see lots of lead changes and battles for the lead that bit may have been boring, however I did appreciate his dominance over the field. Don't get me wrong, I love close racing as much as the next fan, but watching someone show everyone else how it should be done is also very interesting to watch.
Then in the middle of the week /20 May - Wednesday/ we saw the second race in a week at Darlington. With an inverted grid and no practice and qualifying. Which was the case with the first race as well. However, in the first race the drivers had not driven a race car for quite a while and they did have to get used to racing again, whereas for this second race I felt that most drivers were now fully reacquainted with their cars and race craft. This in turn meant that the racing was far closer, because the fast cars were starting at the back and had to come to the front. The cars at the front however were cars that were normally not there so were trying their hardest to stay at the sharp end. It may have been a gimmick to invert the grid, but I did like it. In these circumstances I accepted it and liked it, in turn it made for sum great racing. Furthermore, having no practice for both races meant that set up on some of the race cars was not exactly on point and so you could see which drivers can adapt quickly and which struggle. May the best rise to the top I though. That is how I knew Bowyer was somehow going to throw it away, despite being the driver to beat in the 1st and 2nd stage.
What are the lessons?
I think we should have more mid-week racing. Not just in NASCAR, but in other series as well. There are probably too many obstacles that will stop other top tier series if they ever thought of mid week races, but they are not the series I have in mind. F1, Indycar, Moto GP etc. are already well established series that would never think to disrupt the normal weekend format in a significant way. However, it may be good to have some other racing on a weekday. Say some lower formulae. I think it would be nice to have the odd event on a weekday. It would be something interesting and would give non-football fans something to watch while everyone else is screaming at their "streaming device", trying to get a message across to the goalkeeper or some Ronaldo-like person.
We could end up seeing more of this. / Image from Wikipedia by Morio
And how about we give the drivers less practice time? That would mean they have less time to set up their cars and would have to adapt and race with something that isn't as perfect as they would like it. That in turn could produce more exciting racing. I mean everyone is always moaning about how predictable F1 is. So maybe if you gave them one practice session on the Saturday, followed by qualifying and the race on Sunday things would become more unpredictable. As an added bonus the expenses of being an F1 team would go down, because you would only spend two days on track, instead of the three days that are currently spent. Then having a practice session so close to qualifying would pose its own set of challenges. Do you push hard and rush stuffing it in to the wall in order to set the car up as best as you can, or do you take it a bit easier, focus on long run race set up, and end up nowhere in qualifying.
As for the inverted grid I am not so sure it would work so well had everything else been in the form of a normal race. But if you cut down on practice I think that you would end up with the odd driver or two who have qualified out of their normal positions and that can make things interesting.
Finally I think some stock car races would reach a wider audience if they were shorter. Not all of us are blessed with 5 or 6 hours of absolute freedom every Sunday. So shortening some races may do NASCAR good and help it reach a wider audience. I mean just go from 500 miles to 500 kilometres. It would still be the "something" 500 after all. Who would realise it if you don't tell them. But don't do that to the Daytona 500. That one is too precious and historic.
What do you think?
Did you watch the Darlington races and do you think these lessons should be looked at by other forms of racing? Tell me in the comments.