Eight Issues NASCAR Needs to Address in 2010

Because NASCAR likes nothing better than unsolicited suggestions, right?

If I could change just one thing about NASCAR during the off season, it would be banning people from calling into Sirius radio talk shows and suggesting versions of The Chase that rival the BCS and string theory for complexity. If you want to know what NASCAR might ever consider changing, check out the patent NASCAR holds on The Chase (patent number 7,207,568 entitled “Method of Conducting a Racing Series”).

I’m especially tired of whining about The Chase format when there are much more significant things to be addressed. Let’s talk about the state of motorsports journalism, for example. A number of excellent newspaper sports writers have been laid off in the last two years. Newspapers can’t afford to have dedicated motorsports coverage, you say? Apparently neither can NASCAR Scene, which laid off a significant fraction of their writing and editorial staff just today. My sympathies are with the folks who lost their jobs today. Some have been with the magazine literally their entire careers and some very recently moved from good situations to take what they thought was the ‘job of a lifetime’. I guess NASCAR fans are going to have to start getting the majority of their news from the NASCAR Citizen Journalists Media Corps.

All aspects of racing are facing the prospect of change, including the concept of racing itself. At the World Motorsport Symposium in England last November, people from all varieties of racing talked with great concern about the economic situation and how racing fits into the 21st Century. People repeatedly mentioned one phrase: ‘the need for racing to be relevant‘.

Old-time fans can scoff that racing ought to be loud and smelly and it’s just a bunch of Prius-driving tree huggers that are causing all the problems, but the fact of the matter is that the world is changing. Race tracks in Europe are facing closure due to noise issues and emissions issues. Either racing changes or natural selection does the same number on racing it did on the dodo bird.

Between highly customizable entertainment coming at us from all directions, the glaccially slow economic recovery, people’s microsecond-long attention spans, animated gophers, and the fact that we must deal with increasing global tempertures, racing is a very obvious (although not justifiable) target. Racing series need to think about long-term planning. Not just what they’ll do next year, but what they’ll do in the next five years. Racing has an unfortunate history of being reactive. It’s time to get proactive. Now.

I normally struggle with my own New Year’s resolutions, so I thought maybe this year I’d just make resolutions for other people and see if they do any better. My suggestions, of course, focus on science. I do have a suggestion for changing The Chase, but it requires non-linear differential equations, non-dairy coffee creamer and quantum field theory, so I’m keeping it to myself. I’ve tried to order my suggestions, but take each of the heading numbers with about a plus or minus 2. Starting from least to most important (insert drumroll here):

8. Take Pit Road speeding penalties out of the race.

7. Get serious about diversity or stop talking about it.

6. Get serious about being ‘green’.

5. Rethink ‘parity’.

4. Beef up the ‘research and development’ part of the NASCAR Research & Development Center and establish formal mechanisms for involving the teams.

3. Stop being fuelish.

2. Give the New Car the tires it deserves

1. Fix the aero problems with the New Car.

I’ll be blogging about each one of these issues in the coming weeks.

Incidentally, I’m going to be double posting for a few weeks while I consolidate the buildingspeed.org and stockcarscience.com websites. Believe it or not, some of my sports car racing friends took umbrage at being talked aboout on a ‘stock car’ site! Plus, keeping up with the two different sites was stretching me just a little too thin, since I’m now also blogging about everything from Christmas tree lights to climate change at Cocktail Party Physics.

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