Good old Abe Lincoln once said:
“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t …” … please all the people all of the time”
In the case of NASCAR, it seems, that phrase could be shortened to “but you can’t …please the fans all the time”.
That never seemed more evident than Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Not even 30 laps into the first real test of NASCAR’s new higher-downforce, lower-horsepower competition package and social media was lighting up with haters who were a-hatin’.
As it turned out, for all the prognostications of mayhem in the week leading up to Sunday’s full debut of NASCAR’s higher downforce low horsepower package, it didn’t exactly overwhelm.
To be sure there were some breathtaking restarts and the final 10 laps were nail biters, but despite some three and four wide battles there was not one caution for a crash. The only ones that came out were for stage breaks.
And that’s pretty okay.
This new package tries to put the control back in the driver’s hands. It’s designed to keep the racing closer and avoid things like having Kevin Harvick win at Vegas by nearly three seconds like he did last year. That brought a chorus (actually a full symphony complete with a horn section), of moans from fans who want to see…well to be honest, no one really knows what they want to see it seems.
NASCAR worked and worked on trying to come up with something that would end such things as 3 second victory margins and took steps in that direction. They locked up their finest engineers in a room at NASCAR’s R&D Center and once released put out a new package that sticks the cars down to the track more than ever and slows them down. Driver’s tested it and after putting their toes in the water at Atlanta, everyone jumped in the pool at Las Vegas.
And it turned out pretty okay.
Let’s face it there were a few of us in the media who predicted absolute chaos; mangled racecars and PO’d drivers and owners ( for the record I wasn’t one of them). But instead of bent sheetmetal and anguished owners, we had edge-of-your-seat restarts and cars fanning out three and sometimes four wide, while up front the top 3 cars were under a blanket. Joey Logano and his teammate Brad Keselowski swapped the lead in the closing laps several times while last year’s winner Harvick closed in.
Logano was able to hold off Keselowski nearly smacking the wall on the final turn of the final lap to block him and take the win. That winning margin was .236 seconds and according to NASCAR’s loop data seventeen drivers each accounted for more than 100 green-flag passes, according to NASCAR’s loop data the most ever in a Cup race at Vegas
We shouldn’t have expected night and day in the debut of this new package. It is after all a work in progress and far from being finalized.
“You know, you go back even before the race, and I think even some of the media and it probably came from the garage, we’re going to wreck the entire field, this isn’t going to be a race,” Steve O’Donnell NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer said. “Didn’t happen. Some said NASCAR’s goal is pack racing. Not the case. Our goal was to bring cars closer together, have more lead changes.”
As for whether NASCAR was satisfied with what it saw Sunday, O’Donnell said:
“I think it’s not really up to me, right, it’s the fans. You want higher ratings and you want more butts in seats ultimately. You want rivalries out there and drivers getting after it, and I think what happens in that situation is you have more passes for the lead, and you have cars closer together. So I think we’re on the march to do that. I think we saw some of that today, but we can continue to improve upon it.”
And while NASCAR will continue to work on it what we had Sunday was really not a bad race, not at all. Of course that chorus of fans is already singing,
But for some fans it’s kind of like getting a group of teenage Goths together. A group that can only look at doom and gloom. Instead of singing their downtrodden blues perhaps they should be singing “The sun will come out tomorrow.” Because it actually will.
“Who’s complaining?” Logano said after winning Sunday. “Okay, here’s the thing: People love to complain. You want to get me going? Here we go.
“People love to talk about negative stories, and I don’t know why. I don’t understand it. There’s a lot of positive going on in our world, and I’m not just talking about NASCAR racing. But there is plenty of good things that happen, and every time we turn on the news I am sick of seeing negative stories because there’s all these good stories that get overshadowed by someone writing a negative story or someone getting on Twitter and being all big and bad and writing something that makes them feel better because they want something different. Sometimes I don’t think those people know what they want. That’s my opinion.”
“You know, I think when I look at where we are as a sport, there’s a lot of great things coming down the pipeline for us. There’s a lot of great decisions that are being made. There’s a lot of collaboration of race teams and drivers and sponsors and racetracks. Everyone is working together… we’re all working together, and there’s a lot of good things happening because we’re all working together, and I think the fans are going to benefit from that.
“You know, I don’t know what else to tell you, man. When you have cars racing side by side to the start‑finish line after ‑‑ how many laps was that last run? A long run, 100 laps‑ish?
“100 laps, yeah. What else do you want? I don’t know. They’re just trolls on Twitter, man. That’s what they are.”
At the end of the day fans, and the media, will reflect on what was actually a pretty good race, and something to get us all excited for the future.
For the rest of those who will still complain; maybe it’s time you head back under you bridge and feed your goats.