Opinion: Shorter Would Be Sweeter
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on July 3, 2013 | 2:30 P.M. EST
It's time a few more tracks follow suit and sacrifice miles and laps for the betterment of the product. (Photo: Getty Images)
It’s time for NASCAR to understand that in some cases, less is more.
More tracks need to follow the lead of Pocono and Fontana and trim some mileage from their race distances. The shorter events have not only created better racing, they fit much better into the sports landscape of 2013.
The days of fans either simply buying a ticket and sitting in their seat to watch a race or parking themselves on the family room sofa in front of a television set are numbered. Quite frankly, people just don’t have either that much time or attention spans – or both.
There’s also the advent of technology and communications to consider. Today devices and technology both large and small are available to enhance a fan's experience or in some instances actually take their attention away from the product.
The availability of Twitter, digital video and statistics, satellite radio and television and other online components that provide a much deeper context of a race give fans a wider range of options than ever before. However, the advancing technology can also have an adverse effect and siphon focus away from the matter at hand.
NASCAR CEO Brian France has mentioned before how more compressed events would be beneficial and are necessary to engage and invest fan interest.
“They're all designed as people are watching, and maybe this convergence which has already happened a fair amount, where people -- and I was talking to somebody today -- they don't watch the event without having their computer on to interact digitally in some way,” said France. “All those things are on the table.
“That's why you have to have a plan to deal with those things. You have to have a plan to look down the road, and you have to have great people that can figure outcome indicated issues to make the sport better.”
A few shorter races would definitely make the sport better.
No sporting event should take 4 to 4-1/2 hours like some NASCAR races do and it is near impossible in this day and age to keep anyone's attention for that long.
Fontana and most recently Pocono both shaved mileage from their Sprint Cup races with tremendous success. Those races now clock in just inside three and a half hours from green flag to checkered with hard competition, intensity, immediacy and new strategies all adding up to enjoyable afternoons of racing.
It's time a few more tracks follow suit and sacrifice miles and laps for the betterment of the product.
I'm certainly not advocating all races be clipped. Sprint Cup Series racing should always have some traditional 500-mile affairs like the Daytona 500 and Southern 500.
But there's no need for too many more.
Texas, Charlotte, Atlanta and even Talladega should all re-think the 500-mile distances currently held at those tracks.
Kentucky, Kansas, Chicagoland, Michigan and Las Vegas have proven the 400-mile distance is more than sufficient.
Sitting in the stands or in front of a television set or radio for more than four hours is simply overkill. Shorter events ramp up the excitement level and create an environment for better racing, which should be the bottom line for the sport.
Even drivers admit the middle portion of races like this past April's event in Texas or May's run at Talladega drone on without any real purpose, except staying in one piece to be there at the end when it matters.
"I think NASCAR should shoot for a three-hour or three-hour and 15-minute televised event, and try to fit into that sort of time frame," Dale Earnhardt Jr. has said before when asked about the subject.
Team co-owner Felix Sabates is also an advocate on shortening events, telling SIRIUS/XM NASCAR Radio this week he’s in favor of trimming back several races.
One of the benefits of the current trend of limited cautions has been most races being completed at a snappy pace. It's time for more tracks to get in line and NASCAR to push the issue if necessary for the overall improvement of the sport.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.