Opinion: The hits and misses in NASCAR's latest changes

Motorsport.com's Nick DeGroot gives his take on three of the most recent changes made in NASCAR -- The expansion of the Chase, the addition of heat races and the already controversial caution clock.

NASCAR is a sport that rarely sits still, always changing and evolving (or devolving depending on how you look at it).

Chase expansion

When NASCAR announced a variation of known Chase format for both the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series, I couldn't quite bring myself to jump on board. I don't think these two divisions require a postseason, but I'm willing to watch it play out before making a final judgement. If it's going to give the series regulars more exposure, then it's hard to speak negatively about that, no matter how you feel about the Chase format itself.

However, if the powers that be are really serious about giving the regulars more TV time, they shouldn't have stopped at banning Cup drivers from the season finale, but from all seven Chase races. 

And as for the 12-driver and 8-driver grids, they are too large in my opinion. 19 drivers ran every Xfinity race in 2015, while just 13 attempted all CWTS races. Two rounds with eight and six drivers and three in the championship round would have been sufficient.

Heat Races

How can you ever go wrong with heat races? I wish every race -- including Cup, utilized heats in some way prior to the main event. In 2016, the four Dash 4 Cash events in the Xfinity Series will experiment with heat races. Now this is an addition worth pursuing further.

My only criticism: The baffling rule stating that you can't switch to a backup car before the main if you have an issue during the heat race. It doesn't make much sense and will only serve to dilute the on-track product. This seemingly arbitrary rule is going to strip away a lot of the potential excitement from these sprint races with every team more focussed on protecting their equipment, rather than actually racing. 

Caution Clock

No.

My views on this are fairly one-sided. I may be young, but I'm old school when it comes to how I like my races to play out. This is a gratuitous gimmick that isn't even needed in Trucks, and I have my suspicions that it's essentially a beta test to see if NASCAR would like to take some version of the new concept to the top two divisions.

I'm sorry but a mandatory caution every 20 minutes isn't something that gets me fired up with anticipation. It's the definition of artificial excitement and poisons the natural ebb and flow of the race.

Yes, I'll admit that there are lulls in some races where I hope for a debris yellow to spice things back up, but I'd rather have a few forgettable events than see every race turned into a series of repetitive 20-minute sprints to the next yellow.

I know it sounds compelling on the surface, and I don't doubt that it will bring more action to the table, but how does the addition of such an idea in any way help prepare NASCAR's rising stars for the grueling 400 and 500-milers that await them in the Sprint Cup Series?

This is simply not something that belongs anywhere near the pinnacle of stock car racing, and to throw in the most overused term since last fall -- This is not quintessential NASCAR. The only upside is the fact that the television affiliates now have a convenient time to plug in their commercials breaks that doesn't 

I honestly hope that this idea in particular eventually gets scrapped and is never brought up again.

Conclusion

Being able to adapt and evolve is crucial in this ever-changing world of shrinking attention spans and the 'I need it now' mentality.

I understand there are legions of fans left furious whenever an alteration is made, but if stock car racing as we know it didn't keep with the times, then it cease to exist in its current form. With that being said, change is inevitable, but is NASCAR heading in the right direction with these latest changes? 

Personally, I strongly feel that the caution clock is a dangerous move in the wrong direction, in regards to balancing the 'sport' and 'entertainment' aspects of the industry.

If you're too much of the former, you risk irrelevancy. If you're too much of the latter, you risk illegitimacy ... And the middle ground between the two keeps shifting.

I'm not pretending to be some omniscient observer who understands all and has the panacea to rectify every issue facing the world of stock car racing today, because I don't. I'm just a writer with an opinion, and I'm sure you have one too.

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY , NASCAR Truck
Article type Commentary
Tags caution clock, chase, heat races