Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Let's get NASCAR fans' attention again

   Let’s try to get some people’s attention.

   I’m a history buff and certainly appreciate tradition, particularly in NASCAR. The importance of tradition ranks as high among racing fans as those in baseball in my opinion.

   But there is also a time for a change. And for NASCAR a big one needs to be made now.

   It’s time to shorten the NASCAR Sprint Cup season and shorten the races.

   Yes, that’s right. Cut the season and cut the race lengths.

   I compliment NASCAR on the changes it has made in recent seasons to cater to fans’ desires, in making the racing safer and better, in trying to enhance excitement through rule changes. I’ve never been a proponent of the Chase format, but I give NASCAR credit for at least trying something.

   Let’s face it. Even with the Chase enjoying its closest points race since its inception, TV ratings are still dropping week after week.

   The racing product is good – last week’s Talladega race was one of the better ones I’ve seen from start to finish in my 13 seasons and the race still lost almost a fourth of its audience from last season.

   Is it football? Maybe so, but if it is, then something has changed because NASCAR and the NFL have shared Sundays for decades.

   What I think has changed are fans’ attention spans. In an Internet, Twitter, Facebook, photo-phone world, four-plus hour events are taxing people’s patience.

   Everyone who has watched races have heard drivers saying things like, “We were riding around biding our time,” or talking about “staying out of trouble until we could race for it at the end.”

   Fans – and media – rate Truck and Nationwide series races typically better than Cup and that’s in large part to their shorter length. Cup races have become in large part endurance events rather than a race to see who is truly fastest or has the best car.

   My solution? Cut the Cup schedule by six races so the season ends as the NFL season starts. Every race in Cup should be 400 miles/laps or less except for the Daytona 500 and Coca-Cola 600.

   There are two choices here: Give up and wait the situation out and hope it gets better on its own or try again with a big swing at big change.

   You want to produce better racing? Create more of it by removing all the riding around.