NASCAR 2012 Looks Like More Of the Same
Well, the 2011 racing season is done, and the clock just struck 2012 everywhere. Well, everywhere except NASCAR land, where they continues to work on their 1960s inventions and machines, proudly being as ungreen and unclean as the come.
First 2011: The only hilight of the year is Tony Stewart winning the cup. Let’s just say that “anyone except boring Jimmy Johnson” is a plus, however Stewarts team runs the same cars and engines as Johnson’s Hendrick team, and Hendrick cars made up the vast majority of the players in the chase. No surprises then! 2011 also goes down as a year with continued weak attendance, and the media getting excited when the TV ratings were as good as the previous year – which was way off peak anyway. The first 26 races leading up the chase as safe as houses cruises for the top teams, as they generally just work to “finish well” each time and cruise into the championship round, and the start and park crew out back assures us plenty of open space on pit road by the first caution, as upwards to half a dozen of them retire with various mystery ailments.
Now 2012: Hold onto your hats, NASCAR is jumping forward into the 21st century for technology. No, not really. They are jumping forward to the 70s, dumping the carburators that have fueled the cars for years and replacing them with high tech, high end throttle body fuel injection. Yup, the same concept that was in the 1976 Cadillac Seville is now the leading, bleeding edge of NASCAR. Oh my! Talk about a leap forward. Teams are closing down, with Rousch down a team, Red Bull pulling the plug on both of their cars, and even some of the start and parkers are calling it a day. At this point, even Jayski’s enthusiastic pro-NASCAR chart only shows about 32-34 full time teams, and many of them have big question marks in the sponsorship and driver areas.
One of the announcements for 2012 that caught my eye is that Dover raceway is expanding seat width to make fans more comfortable. Well, at least, that is the story they are working with. Actually, Dover is one of many tracks in the NASCAR family that expanded rapidly as the series grew, and kept adding seats to their venue. But some less than spectacular races, the slowing economy, and the downturn in the fortunes of NASCAR has meant they have been hiding significant numbers of seats under banners to try to make things look fuller, and still they couldn’t sell the place out. The place can seat a mind numbing 140,000, and with announced attendance at about 82,000 for each race this year, the place has looked empty. The “widening of seats” addresses that by dropping the available seat count down to 113,000. Cover a couple of sections over with ad tarps, and they could get back to a “full house” scenerio by only putting a few more people in the place. NASCAR could use to run at some venues that look full, because running in front of half empty grand stands isn’t doing the image any good.
Further, the racing in 2011 for the most part wasn’t that good. The two car tag team drafting at the large tracks is a joke, it is truly sad to think that having the fastest race car still makes you 10 mph slower than a tandem team. The first 26 races featuring some truly uninspired point driving, with teams less worried about the win, and more worried about getting the proper precentage of points out of the weekend of the make the chase. They play it so safe now that you can DVR the race, skip the first 475 miles, and just watch the last few minutes and get the whole story. In the case, things were a little heated up, but only another manipulation of the point system and chase system conspired to make it close. Tony Stewart won half of the chase races, there is no reason it should have been close.
Looking forward to 2012, it looks like more of the same for NASCAR. They will diddle with the rules trying to limit the tandem drafting, they will try fuel injection, and they will attempt to smile and say “43 is only a number” when they get to the 5th or 6th race of the season and have only 39 entries – which will grow to 43 entries when the “big” teams roll out specials to fill the grid for a few laps.
Try to enjoy NASCAR 2012 – I prefer it on a video game myself!