By: Drew Hierwarter
Here we are just twelve days away from the first event of NASCAR’s Speedweeks at Daytona, the Budweiser Shootout, and nobody is quite sure what to expect. Last Thursday NASCAR changed the game plan.
NASCAR announced two rule changes that should make things interesting to say the least. For one, NASCAR has instituted a restrictor plate that restricts less. This will make more horsepower available for the drivers to use. Of course, the cars will also sport larger end plates on the wings which will add drag, so top speed may be a wash, but the drivers should see better throttle response.
The second change involves NASCAR’s attitude about what actually happens out on the track. There will be no more judgment calls about bump drafting. NASCAR is taking a hands-off approach. If the drivers want to bump draft in the turns, so be it. If they get wrecked, don’t come crying to NASCAR.
NASCAR is also going to let the boys be boys and settle their differences in their own way and in their own time. This is a major change for the guys in the big yellow truck. For many years now they have tried to polish the image of stock car racing to the point that many of the drivers became bland “Stepford drivers”.
The corporate suits liked it but the fans didn’t. Fans want to see emotion. They want a rivalry. The sport needs bad guys too. You can’t have good guys without bad guys. Superman needs Lex Luthor, the Batman needs the Joker, and NASCAR needs guys who get their blood up once in a while.
I doubt that this will result in a major brawl after every on-track incident, but it should liven up the interviews and create some interest and excitement for the fans. Yes, there are fans who would come to the races only to see the crashes and the fights. But they are in the minority. However, there are very few fans who wouldn’t like to see a little, uh, displeasure expressed now and then, either verbally or with the use of the bumper.
It remains to be seen what effect these two changes will have on the racing. But it’s sure to be an interesting Speedweeks.