Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Keep it simple, NASCAR

   Simpler always seems to work better in racing.

   Anytime issues in NASCAR get bogged down in the wording and interpretation of rules and regulations, generally confusion reigns and competition gets lost in the shuffle.

   The new rules unveiled for this season’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, unfortunately, seem headed in that direction.

   The motivation behind the change is a good one – encourage drivers to have to reason to win one of the four 20-lap segments by offering to those who do a “reward” heading into the final 10-lap segment, which decides the winner of the $1 million payout.

   The method chosen for the reward – making segment winners the first four cars to pit prior to the last segment – doesn’t sound bad on the surface, but in effect has the potential for complications.

   The new rule works great if four different people win the first four segments. But how often does that really happen? Answer: Rarely.

   Then comes the tricky part. If the winner of Segment No. 2 is the same as Segment No. 1, the runner-up in Segment No. 2 gets the pit reward. If the same driver wins all four segments, you end up with one true segment “winner” and three other runner-ups getting the reward.

   Please don’t ask what happens if in the above mentioned scenario the Segment 2 runner-up ends up winning Segment 3 or 4. Is that driver now a "true" segment winner or does he remain locked into his runner-up "win" from Segment No. 2? 

   Who can follow that from the stands? Who can follow that watching on TV? Oh, but Charlotte Motor Speedway will have it all spelled out on its giant HDTV.

   That begs an even bigger question: Should events like the All-Star Race have to come with a follow-along instruction booklet?

   Again, I think the concept here was laudable: Reward winning. The easiest way to do that would be to say if you win any of the first four segments, you move to the front in the final segment (regardless of pit stop and only true ‘winners’ of the segments).

   One additional benefit this year is the elimination of the 10-minute break prior to the start of the final 10-lap showdown.

   That’s great. Hopefully that time will not now be spent figuring out who starts where to win the $1 million.