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Talladega: Why Did Fans Think The Race Was Boring?

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AMP Energy 500

By: DJ DeSpain

During the race at Talladega on Sunday, and afterwards, there was quite a bit of chatter on social media sites that the race was boring. Were we watching the same race?

There were 6 cautions for 23 laps. Of those 6 cautions, 3 were for accidents, including the 2 “big” ones at lap 185, and the final one during the green, white, checker finish. There was only one debris caution but that was at lap 106, so I doubt it was one of those phantom cautions that the conspiracy fans are raving about lately.

Boring because the race only had 6 cautions? I’ve been to a Talladega race in 2001 that had zero cautions and was I cheering for that to happen just so I could say I saw it and was there!

There were 58 lead changes among 25 drivers. That’s 58 percent of the field that led the race at some point. However, for the Johnson haters out there, they must be happy that he was not among those drivers to lead a lap, even the first lap from his pole position. Brian Vickers is also the only other Chase driver who did not lead a lap. Kyle Busch must be asking “Remind me again why I’m not in the Chase?”

Granted, constant 3-wide racing is going to create a lot of lead changes with several different leaders, but isn’t that better than long stretches of single-file racing? If I want to watch a freight train, I’ll go into town and watch a real train go by.

It was a beautiful, sunny day. No long waiting for the green flag to drop, no red flag cautions due to rain. Man, wasn’t that boring? An estimated 127,500 people were there at Talladega, getting a nice final tan before the winter hibernation.

A non-Chase driver won the race, sometimes you need a little variety to spice up things a bit. Jamie McMurray got his 3rd career victory, and this being his last season with Roush Fenway Racing, having this win will be a big boost for him to gain a spot on a new team. A definite feel-good story ending I think. But for you Chase fans, there were 4 Chase drivers that finished in the Top 10, Johnson managed to finish in the 6th spot instead of winning.

Not meaning to knock McMurray’s win, but everybody knew going into Talladega that the track is infamous for “The Big One,” and when it happens, sometimes the winner is usually someone who normally doesn’t win. When the final wreck happened during the green, white, checkered finish, it wrapped up 3 of the Chase drivers with it. Kevin Harvick, who was having a great day up to the end, was probably wishing his day ended better than having Martin land upside down on his hood. Thankfully, no fence breach happened this time, and no spectators were hurt.

So why do the fans feel that this is boring? Are those not at the race doing the equivalent of the NFL’s Red Zone channel? Just tuning in to watch the final 10 laps of a race?

NASCAR is trying to balance safety with competition. But they do value fan input. Because without them, who’ll watch the races? Last year, NASCAR created the Fan Council, an online forum of 12,000 fans, to gain a better understanding of what the fans want in the sport. Through interaction with the Fan Council, NASCAR has implemented one major change for this year and one to start next year.

The first change that started this year was the creation of double-file, shoot-out style restarts after cautions. This was an immediate success with both fans and drivers. Fans like to see the shoot-out style restarts and drivers feel more like they are doing true racing by lining up side-by-side with the leaders instead of the lapped cars.

The other major change to be implemented next year is the consistent start times of all races. East coast and central region races start at 1 PM EST, west coast at 3 PM EST, and night races at 7:30 PM EST. Bam, done! No longer do you need a map, calendar, and slide rule to program your DVR.

The one thing NASCAR is not going to budge on is safety. The COT is here to stay, no matter what the complaints are regarding its driving ability. Any wreck at Talladega is all NASCAR needs as a reminder that the car was made that way for a reason. Ryan Newman may complain all he wants but the fact that he can still complain is irony enough.

To be fair, fans weren’t the only ones bored with the race. Tony Stewart, a Chase driver, was reported to have said on his radio that he needed some No-Doz tablets and Kevin Harvick joked that he wanted a spot to put his iPod. Guys, NASCAR doesn’t need to hear you say races are boring too. The average speed for the Talladega race was 157.213 mph and you were probably driving over 190 mph on a regular basis with very little space between cars. How can that be boring?

I’ve done a ride along at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, the top speed was maybe 150 mph, and I was definitely not bored. My wife did the same ride along, she was waving hand signals to her driver to go faster!  I would much rather be at any race live than watching it on television but I’m not independently wealthy so I can only afford to go to a choice few. Most people covering the sport can’t be there for every race, and not every driver in a field of 43 drivers makes it to every race. So if Tony and Kevin are that bored, someone will gladly step into their fire suit.

Maybe the fans and the drivers are taking the sport for granted. It all looks too easy, even more so with Johnson on the verge of winning a fourth-in-a-row championship. But just because it looks easy doesn’t mean the same as being easy. 500 miles in 3 hours, 13 minutes, and 54 seconds.  That was the time the first car crossed the finish line and there were 29 cars still running right behind him.

Easy? You can rarely fly commercial these days that distance in that amount of time.

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2 Comments

  1. Vic Morton

    October 21, 2013 at 12:12 am

    Dear Mr. De Spain,

    It often makes me grin when I see articles like this one. Thanks for the ultra-positive NASCAR-did-it-right article. I’ve seen you time and again in and around media, and often respect your opinions, but PLEASE, enough with the schmoozing…it makes you look like a NASCAR talking head…and God knows we have enough of those.

    Additionally, as a LONG TIME racer of several popular classes, and having frequently gone for several hours at speeds above 170mph, I can guarantee you that your “ride along” perceptions of what is and is not boring on track aren’t the same as a seasoned professional. I have no doubt that some drivers were bored during the race. The hardest things they had to do a lot of the day was keep their foot from cramping because they were half throttling it (not REALLY at half throttle, but you understand the phrase).

    The sad truth is that NASCAR finds itself in a catch-22 type situation:

    The fans want the old hard drivin’, low budget-style, bump and run, rubbin’s racin’ back, but sponsors like the hype and coverage of super teams commanding millions just to be competitive. Of course, the France family will never admit it, but they don’t want to lose ANY $ from their future prospects. The problem is that eventually, they WILL lose fans, and thus dollars, no matter how they try to “hang on” unless something changes drastically.

    So…what is the answer? You won’t like this. Probably a new style or class of racing will begin to upstage NASCAR. This will force changes that have been needed for quite sometime. Unfortunately, I don’t think it will come in time to save the NASCAR that I know and love. Sure, we will have some sort of NASCAR-ish future…but from where I sit, the winds of change are blowin’…and if it keeps on gaining impetus, it just might blow down the France family’s dynasty.

    I hope not, for the fans’ sake…but I still hear the wind…

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