Opinion: Christmas Wishes

NASCAR

MRN’s Pete Pistone shares his NASCAR Christmas wish list as he looks ahead to the 2018 season. (Photo: Getty Images)

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The NASCAR ‘non-racing season” is in high gear as we all get ready to enjoy the holidays. I refrain from calling this the “off-season” since the sport has hardly slowed down even though the last checkered flag of the year flew more than a month ago at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Like everyone I’ve made a Christmas list and hope Santa will find a way to fill my stocking with a few NASCAR-related gifts:

At the very top of my list is the hope NASCAR officials do absolutely nothing to change what transpired in 2017. The introduction of stage racing and it’s related point structure could not have gone better. Even the most skeptical has to acknowledge the new format made the racing inherently better. There were no more strategies to ride around and end up with a good points day if winning the race was out of reach. The intensity level at intervals of races that in the past would have been ho hum was ramped up tremendously. Why it took some time to understand the point distribution and importance of earning as much as possible each week, in the end the whole idea was complete success. If there’s one thing I hear loud and clear from race fans on an almost daily basis is how tired they are of the seemingly constant changes in NASCAR. There is no need to touch one iota of what’s currently in place for the 2018 season. No massaging, tweaking or modification of any kind is necessary. Let it breathe and see how another season plays out before addressing any ways to change.

One thing I do hope NASCAR tackles is the inspection process and the issue of how the sport got so bogged down in penalty and infraction talk this past year. Cars not getting through pre-qualifying inspection and starting at the rear reached epidemic proportions in 2017. Certainly much of that blame goes to the teams for not having cars within the boundaries of the rule book to present for inspection. However, it’s incumbent upon everyone in the sport to eradicate the problem. The same holds trues for post-race inspections that lingered on for days after an event and created penalty discussion that took the eye off the on track product and competition. The new Hawkeye system, which was tested last year, will hopefully help the process immensely. Teams will always try to push the rules and NASCAR’s job is to police the sport fairly and enforce the rule book. But it’s time to find a way to expedite the process and move the focus back more on racing not rules.

The enhanced weekend experiment seem to go well last season and there is speculation more will be part of the 2018 schedule. Tightening up the on-track portion of a racing weekend calendar while providing fans with events and activities to entice their attendance is the balancing act the sport faces with the concept. The driver events held on Fridays during last season’s trials were well-received and more opportunities for fans to interact with the competitors is positive. Limiting time on the road is a cost savings for the teams as would be shrinking down some practice time. The idea of qualifying on Sunday morning before a Cup race appears to have been scrapped, but more Saturday sessions with a companion race before the next day’s main event is the perfect solution.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

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