Track Talk: Predicting Silly Season Results for the 2019 Season

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NASCAR’s regular season is complete and the playoffs are underway. So too is the traditional “Silly Season.” Even as some drivers and teams battle for a championship, others are trying to figure out who will be where for the 2019 season.

While some key drivers (Martin Truex, Jr. and Ryan Newman) have their rides set for next year, others (from Daytona 500 winners Trevor Bayne and Kurt Busch) to Daniel Suarez and Matt Dibenedetto are wondering where they will be when the green flag falls at Daytona next year.

There are a few rides out there worth talking about (the #41 at Stewart-Haas, the #1 at Chip Ganassi Racing and the #31 at Richard Childress Racing) as well as a few mid-card teams like the $95 from Leavine Family Racing (which could be upgraded due to an impending alliance with JGR), the #23 Front Row Racing and #32 Go Fas Racing.

During last year’s Silly Season, I did a similar article trying to predict which drivers went to which teams. Despite my decree that if I was wrong, you’d never hear about it again, I can be upfront enough to admit, I was O for the entire article. Let’s see if I can do a better job this time.

First of all, a couple of sure-things:

  • Martin Truex, Jr. to the Joe Gibbs Racing #19.
  • Ryan Newman to the  Roush-Fenway Racing #6.
  • Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray all retire (or at the very least run a part-time schedule.)

Christopher Bell to the Leavine Family Racing #95: The scuttlebutt is that Leavine Family Racing is leaving its RCR Alliance behind (BOO!) and forming an alliance with JGR (BOO!) Initially, it was expected Daniel Suarez would fill the seat as Martin Truex, Jr. takes over his #19 ride. However, Suarez looks like he’s soured on JGR saying he didn’t have anything good to say, so he wasn’t saying anything. Initially, I considered Matt Dibenedetto who has become a social media favourite and could become 2019’s Cup answer to Ross Chastain, as someone who could prove his worth in better equipment, but JGR doesn’t seem the type to take a shot on someone like Dibenedetto. So they’ll use the #95 as a satellite team the same way they used Furniture Row’s #77 in 2017. Bell (who’s shot at an XFINITY title looks less likely with Justin Allgaier’s current surge) will come up to Cup, prove what he can do in essentially a Triple-A version of JGR and see if he can unseat Erik Jones for the #20 in 2020 or 2021.

Kurt Busch to the Richard Childress Racing #31:  I made this prediction the last time and I’ll run it out here again for 2019. There was a time when I hated Kurt Busch because he was, quite frankly, a complete jerk, lashing out at anybody within earshot anytime the race wasn’t going his way. However, he’s mellowed a little bit and I’ve come to respect the guy. At the very least, he’s my favourite Busch brother. Having said all that, he still comes across as a tough-as-nails competitor who is passionate about wanting to win. That’s why I think he’d be a great fit at RCR, the same team that another tough-as-nails competitor (HELLO? Dale Earnhardt!!!!) drove for.

Daniel Suarez to the Stewart-Haas Racing #41: With Busch heading to RCR, someone needs to fill in the seat he’s leaving behind and who better than Daniel Suarez. While Suarez had driven a Toyota for most of his NASCAR career (he did drive a Dodge in the K&N Series and Dodges and Fords in the NASCAR Toyota series), much like most of Stewart-Haas were able to make a pretty successful jump from Chevy’s to Fords. I’m guessing Suarez could master the learning curve in short order. Plus, he’d have the added incentive of wanting to succeed so he could stick it to his former team.

Justin Allgaier to the Chip Ganassi Racing #1: Whether or not Allgaier wins the XFINITY Championship, odds are he should be in line for another run in the Cup series. Allgaier has stated an interest in returning to the Cup level and no less an expert than his boss, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has stated he deserves another shot.With Jamie McMurray stepping away from the #1 CGR Chevrolet, Allgaier would make a great replacement and give him an opportunity what he can do with a solid ride.

An alternate possibility: If Richard Childress Racing were to bring Ty Dillon over to the #31 from the Germain Racing #13, then let’s move Kurt Busch to the CGR #1.  Besides Ty Dillon being under contract to Germain for who knows how long, the other issue I have is there are rumours Jamie McMurray would drive the #1 in the Daytona 500 and then retire. I can’t see where Busch would sit out the biggest race of the year and have any chance of him running for a championship eliminated even before he gets behind the wheel for the first time. Allgaier might be realistic enough to know the odds of him making the playoffs the first year in might be a long shot and be okay with giving McMurray a suitable send off.

Matt Dibenedetto to the Front Row Racing #23/ Landon Cassill to the Go Fas Racing #32: Both of these guys are great to be fans of. They work well with social and traditional media. They seem to really love the sport. Unfortunately, it really doesn’t matter what number is on the side of the car or what the name of the team is, save maybe a restrictor plate Top 10, they’re both battling for a Top 25-30 spot and stay on the lead lap within 20 laps of starting the race.

Trevor Bayne and Daniel Hemric to JR Motorsports in the XFINITY Series: Bayne is out of the #6 car at Roush Fenway and Hemric has made noise he’s unsure of his future at RCR. Why not have JR Motorsports sign them both to fill the vacancies of the retiring Elliott Sadler and the possibly-departing Justin Allgaier (see above)? Bayne has had success in the XFINITY series and could fill the veteran role that Sadler held for so long and so well. While I would hate to see Hemric leave RCR, his hometown of Kannapolis, N.C. would make him a fitting addition to JR Motorsports.

That would, of course, leave the question of who drives the #21 at RCR? How about whichever half of the Jeffrey Earnhardt/D.J. Kennington duo doesn’t drive the Gaunt Brothers Racing #96 at the Cup level drives the #21 in XFINITY for Richard Childress. Quite honestly, whatever driver gets the seat, I’d be excited for.

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Track Talk: Predicting the 2018 Playoffs

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Well, with Brad Keselowski’s win in the Brickyard 400 (or whatever convoluted, sponsor-driven name they’d saddled it with), the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series (talk about convoluted, sponsor-driven names) has finished it’s regular season. Now it is time for the playoffs.

There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to NASCAR from the Silly Season possibilities to the sad news that Furniture Row, the Little Team That Could, will be no more once the checkered flag waves at Homestead.

However, for a quick and dirty entry just to get something up on the ol’ website, let’s talk about those playoffs. In years past I’ve gone through and given my predictions for who I believed would be eliminated in each round. For 2018, however, I’m just going to give my Final Four and the eventual winner in each of the three major series.

As with any predictions on this site, if I am correct I will be trumpeting the results. If I am wrong, you’ll never hear about this again.

Camping World Truck Series

Final Four: Johnny Sauter, Stewart Friesen, Noah Gragson, Justin Haley
Winner: Noah Gragson

Notes: First thing to note, there’s no Matt Crafton in the Final Four. Much as Crafton is my go-to guy in the Trucks, this just hasn’t been his year. He’s like Jimmie Johnson in the Cup series, he just got into the playoffs by the skin of his teeth and I think he falters. Of the four that do make it to the final round, I’ll be cheering for fellow Canadian Friesen but with Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs wanting a championship, expect Gragson to go the distance. Haley is the real dark horse, and he’s really only there because of the momentum from his playoff win at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

XFINITY Series

Final Four: Christopher Bell, Daniel Hemric, Justin Allgaier, Cole Custer
Winner: Christopher Bell

Notes: I think the XFINITY Series needs to change it’s motto from “Names Are Made Here” to “One Name Per Season is Made Here” because every year it seems as if there’s one kid that comes in to a major team with a lot of hype and you can see who’s winning the championship a mile away. (Okay, maybe not with Chris Buescher but just about every other champion over the last half dozen years.) This year it’s Christopher Bell. Allgaier’s got the momentum. Custer is in the mix. Hemric is one of those guys they keep bringing up but mostly because he hasn’t won a race yet.(There were three XFINITY drivers to win this year, so odds are at least one of the Final Four will have gotten to Homestead without a single career win in the series.) Truth be told, I would love for Elliott Sadler to get to Homestead still in the hunt for a championship in his final season but I just don’t see it happening.

Monster Energy Cup Series

Final Four: Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson
Winner: Kyle Busch

Notes: Okay, this is my WORST-CASE Scenario. (Best case: Chase Elliott, Martin Truex, Jr., Clint Bowyer, Austin Dillon with either Elliott or Truex winning.) However, it’s the world we live in. NASCAR seems intent on continuing the narrative of Kyle Busch being NASCAR’s Greatest Driver and putting another championship on his will be a major step. Much like Elliott Sadler’s XFINITY Championship win in his final race, I think Furniture Row Racing closing down after back-to-back championships is too much of a storybook ending to hope for. (Actually, it would be a PR disaster for NASCAR.) In fact, I think the off-track distractions are too much for the team and they fold in the third round. I’ve often said that having four championship-eligible drivers at Homestead meant everyone had at least someone they could cheer for. In this scenario, you’ve got two drivers I can’t stand and two others I’m lukewarm towards. Having Larson as champion would be okay, I guess. Keselowski is passionate about the sport so I can respect him. Maybe my most likely prediction is that I’m disappointed no matter who wins out of those four.

Canadian Military History: Colonel J.R. Stone

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James Riley Stone (born August 2, 1908) emigrated from England at the age of 19. Settling in Alberta, he worked in forestry and ranching. He had intended to travel on to Australia but for some bad luck in a Vancouver poker game.

And so it was that, at the outbreak of World War II, Stone still remained in Canada. When news of the war came, he rode over 30 miles on horseback to enlist in the Loyal Edmonton Regiment as a 31-year-old private.

Soldiering came naturally to Stone. He was promoted to Lance Corporal by the time he unit departed for England in late 1939 and to Warrant Officer Second Class by July 1941.

During the Battle of Ortona in 1943, then-Major Stone earned a Military Cross for single-handedly taking out a German gun emplacement that was holding up his unit’s advance. A year later, he earned the Distinguished Service Order for his part in an action that moved anti-tank guns forward at San Fortunato.

In October 1944, Stone was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and given command of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment. For his leadership of the Regiment in Italy and Holland, he earned a second Distinguished Service Order. After the end of the war in Europe, Stone volunteered to serve in the Pacific, but Japan surrendered before his unit could leave Canada.

Instead, Stone settled in Salmon Arm, British Columbia and set up a vacation lodge business with his friend, Syd Thomason. Stone also joined the militia, taking command of the Rocky Mountain Rangers.

Shortly after taking part in the 1950 Exercise Sweetbriar, Stone accepted command of the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry (2PPCLI) who would be the first Canadian troops to arrive in Korea.

Once placed in command, Stone weeded out hundred of unsuitable volunteers. One veteran estimated only one in 10 volunteers departed for Korea on November 25, 1950.

Even after the Patricia’s arrived in Korea, Stone refused to commit his troops to battle until they were ready and believed that course of action, rather than being rushed into battle, saved the lives of many of his untrained troops. The Canadians would face the enemy for the first time in February 1951.

In April 1951, Stone led his troops during a heroic stand on Hill 667 during the battle of Kapyong. South Korean and Australian troops in the area had retreated, leaving Chinese troops targeting the Canadian positions. With help from New Zealand artillery, the 2PPCLI stopped the Chinese army in its tracks, giving Australian and American troops time to form a counter-attack.

This action earned the 2PPCLI the U.S. Presidential Unit Citation, the first Canadian unit every to be honoured. Stone earned a third Distinguished Service Order.

After returning with the Patricia’s to Victoria, B.C. in 1953, Stone headed to England and commanded Canada’s contingent for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation ceremony in London. Stone was later appointed Chief Instructor at the Royal Canadian School of Infantry.

In August 1954, Stone was promoted to Colonel and appointed Provost Marshall. While working in this role, he started what would become the Military Police Fund for Blind Children. (His daughter, Moira, had passed away from eye cancer.)

He would remain in the role of Provost Marshall until November 1958, when he was seconded to the Department of Justice. After retiring from the Army in October 1960, he served for a time as Deputy Commissioner of Penitentiaries.

For his role in the Military Police Fund, he was appointed to the order of Canada in 1994. Colonel Stone passed away in Vancouver, B.C. on November 24, 2005 at the age of 97.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Battle of Lundy’s Lane

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On July 25, 1814 one of the bloodiest battles fought on Canadian soil played itself out at Lundy’s Lane, near Niagara Falls. When the smoke cleared, both sides claimed victory but neither really could.

Veteran British troops, including those who had fought against the French, found the carnage of the battle was unlike anything they had seen previous.

General Jacob Brown’s American army crossed the Niagara River in early July 1814. After capturing Fort Erie with a victory at the Battle of Chippawa, the Americans forced their foes back to Fort George.

The Americans could advance no further than Queenston. Due to British control of Lake Erie, Brown did not have the artillery and reinforcements needed to assault the British position.

Harrassed from Canadian militia and Native troops, Brown retreated to the Chippawa on July 24. As the Americans fell back, Maj.-Gen. Phineas Riall took up position at Lundy’s Lane six kilometres away, where they would face the Americans the next day.

The British had massed their artillery in a cemetery, the highest point in the field. These guns would maul Winfield Scott’s brigade as they emerged from a forest. Scott would send the 25th U.S. Infantry to flank the British left, catching the redeploying light company of 1/8th (Kings) and the Upper Canada Incorporated Militia Battalion. The British and Canadian troops were driven off Portage Road before they could rally.

As an American company under Captain Ketchum went forward to secure the junction of Lundy’s Lane and Portage Road, they capture a large number of wounded. Most of the prisoners would later escape as their American captors tangled with British troops. One who did not escape was General Raill.

As the British left collapsed, Drummond had the centre fall back but left the artillery exposed. As night fell, Brown arrived with Brig.-Gen. Eleazer Wheelock Ripley’s regulars and Peter B. Porter’s volunteer militia.

Lt.-Col. James Miller’s 21st Infantry was ordered to capture the British guns. Miller deployed his troops with a few yards of the enemy artillery. Their first volley killed most of the gunners and the Americans followed up with a bayonet charge, driving the British centre from the hill. A subsequent British counter attack was driven back by Ripley and Miller.

As the Americans attempted to capitalize on their artillery gains,a wounded Drummond reorganized his troops and launched an attack. The two sides suffered heavy casualties as they fired at each other at short range. The British would fall back, rally and launch another attack. The Americans began to waver by Ripley rallied them and they stood their ground.

Winfield Scott would lead his brigade in an authorized attack against the British centre, coming under fire from both sides. The British line was driven back, but Scott’s troops broke as well.

Just before midnight, Drummond used every man he could find in a third attack. The fighting was close, to the point of using bayonets, but the exhausted British were again driven back.

As the fighting ended, both sides were spent and casualties about the same. Outnumbered and concerned about supplies, Brown ordered a retreat protested by several officers. The Americans withdrew to Fort Erie, destroying Riall’s fortification along the Chippawa. The British, after burying their dead, withdrew to Queenston.

The end result of the battle of Lundy’s Lane has been a source of much controversy and debate. The British were driven from their positions and unable to recapture their guns, but the Americans suffered such high casualties that they were unable to maintain their offensive and had to withdraw from the field.

Canada Day Glob of Thought Update

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Happy Canada Day weekend everyone!

One of my “Canada Day Resolutions” (That is TOO a thing!) is to blog more and make a few more personal updates.

Don’t get me wrong. There will still be Track Talks and wrestling reviews, etc although I’d like to make a few more of them as well. My biggest issue with any of my blogs is I tend to want to write 1000-plus words and end up putting aside my articles mid-way through and then never get back to them. As much as I like to read (and obviously write) long articles, sometimes quick-and-dirty works better.

For my personal update blogs, that’s going to take on extra importance since I plan on making this my main way of keeping those who care updated. I won’t say I’ll always be able to update you on everything, there may or may not be a communication outage in mid-July and, as always, the more positive feedback I receive on these blogs, the more inclined I will be to keep writing them.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let me say that the first two-thirds of my Canada Day weekend have been pretty good. My folks and I went up yesterday to celebrate my nephew’s tenth birthday. (He’s actually a Canada Day kid but we had a special private party the day before.)

As always, I seem to come home from visiting my sister and nephew’s place addicted to something. (Okay, not THAT kind of addicted!) A while back it was Cheerios, last time it was Bob’s Burgers and this time it was Fuller House. I haven’t watched Bob’s Burgers or Fuller House yet but both are now on my “Must Watch” list.

Instead, I got watching the first season of Salvation on Netflix. I had watched the first couple of episodes when they aired but just got out of watching it and by the time I decided to go back to watching it, Rogers OnDemand had stopped showing the episodes I needed to watch to properly catch up.

Just as an aside, anyone else have a problem with that part of onDemand? Some shows the entire season is available while others only have the last couple of episodes. It makes it difficult to catch up if you’ve missed a few episodes and even more difficult to get into a series before the next season. What I mean is, if there is a show that you never watched because of scheduling or whathaveyou but have heard good things about it (or friends or co-workers are fans and you want to know the gist of their conversations), there’s really no way to go back and catch up.

I’ve had Salvation on my Netflix list for a while, then last Saturday decided to start watching it again. Somehow I managed to make it through the entire first season in about a week and then watched the Season Premiere onDemand (the only episode they had listed).

I find Salvation has some similarities to the 1996 film Deep Impact. There’s a scene in Deep Impact where the U.S President announces the U.S. has known about the impending collisions with an asteroid for a year, and used that time to create underground bunkers to protect their best and brightest, before telling the rest of the world about it, Salvation has a plot-line where 160 people are selected to be whisked away to colonize Mars in case the asteroid can’t be diverted from a collision course with the planet. While I am sure those 160 will be a very diverse group, there was never any mention of people from outside the United States being included.

However, that minor snit aside, Salvation is actually quite compelling and could be compared to The Walking Dead in that the show has evolved away from being centered around the asteroid and is more focused on just how people become complete @ss hats to each other in a time of crisis.

I still need to finish up the second (and, as it turned out, final) season of Timeless. I am still not 100% happy with how they handled the NASCAR-related episode.  (There was never a race called the Darlington 500 on the NASCAR schedule. It was always the Southern 500 with the TranSouth 500 as a second race on the NASCAR schedule from Darlington. I’m guessing I know why they felt they needed to change the name but anyways.)

One of the pluses of Timeless is, unlike most time travel movies or TV shows, not everything is reset by the end. History does change because of what actions the characters take.

I was surprised to hear it had been cancelled, especially since the story it was trying to tell seems to be one Hollywood wants to tell these days. (I won’t go into details but if you watch the show, you’ll understand.)

From TV talk to what else I’ve been up to, my folks and I went to the Embro Town-Wide Yard Sale. Considering we got our cat, Pepper, at one of the yard sales last year, the 2018 edition was a let-down. Overall, there wasn’t a heck of a lot to write home (or to a blog) about. I did pick up a couple of NASCAR related cars. (Three for a buck, the highlight being a Bill Elliott #94 McDonalds car.) Ironically, I think today was the best weather Embro has had for their yard sale in the last few years. Of course, maybe it was the heat or that it was a Sunday but I bet there wasn’t half the number of yard sales this time around. Oh well, next week is Ingersoll, which I think is a first, so that could be interesting.

Ok, will close off now after writing yet another near-1000 word entry. Hope everyone has a good weekend and survives the heat.

Track Talk: How the All-Star Race Proved Me Right! (Maybe!)

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Every year, there is something a little different for NASCAR’s All-Star Race, For the 2018 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series All-Star Race, a new rules package was employed that basically turned the race on the mile-and-a-half Charlotte Motor Speedway into a restrictor plate race.

You ever have a major brainwave and then have events fall into place that proves you were right all along? I never blogged about it or posted it on social media, but for the last year or so I’ve been thinking they need to turn all these mile-and-a-half races into restrictor plate races.

My reasoning was that I was getting sick and tired of watching the race leader, with the advantage of clean air, race off to a minimum of a several second lead, making the finish rather anti-climactic. I felt something needed to be done to ensure fans didn’t know, ten to twenty laps from the finish, who was going to Victory Lane and it was all just a matter of logging the last few laps.

Of course, when you watch a Daytona or Talladega, you have that uncertainty until the last moment thanks, in part, to restrictor plate racing. (Well, except for this past April’s race at Talladega where everyone was seemingly too worried about losing track position to stop playing follow the leader to the end of the race.) It makes for much more exciting racing and, for the ratings and attendance stats, ensures people are going to watch right up until the checkered flag waves.

I suppose the question everyone was afraid to ask was: Would restrictor plate racing work on the mile-and-a-halfs? It seems as if just about everyone who watched the Monster Energy Open and the All-Star Race itself would agree the answer is an astounding “Yes!” While I missed Segment 1 of the Open (ironically playing NASCAR ’09 with my nephew), the latter two segments of that race was filled with tight racing where the leader was never completely assured.

winner Kevin Harvick may be off to a dominating start to the season, he didn’t completely dominate the race. Seven different drivers took the lead during the race including Harvick, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex, Jr., Denny Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Larson.

Matt Kenseth driving for what has become an underdog team of Roush Fenway Racing – and coming back after being kicked to the curb by Joe Gibbs Racing for the unforgivable sin of being too old (Wait! I thought that didn’t happen to guys!) – sat on the pole. Kenseth would fail to lead a lap and eventually finished fourteenth.

But amid the Harvicks and Buschs and Larsons, what drivers impressed me the most? How about Daniel Suarez who ran second and looked like he nearly had Harvicks number on the final restart? I mean, Suarez, a former XFINITY Champion has been battling Erik Jones for who is at the bottom of the pecking order at Joe Gibbs Racing over this past season and then, in a restrictor plate race, is battling the seemingly-inevitable 2018 Cup Champion.

And what about A.J. Allmendinger? We never talk about the ‘Dinger except when he appears on Race Hub unless it’s at a road course. But on Saturday night at Charlotte, Allmendinger was turning heads, both in winning the Open and in coming up through the field to, at times, contend for the lead. While Allmendinger’s chances may have took a hit when he scrapped the wall during Stage 2 (I think?) he still managed to rebound for an eighth place finish. Harvick may be the dominant driver of the year, so far, but I think an Allmendinger win would have been a very popular one among fans of the underdog and even in the garage area.

Allmendinger? Suarez? Even Stenhouse? I’m guessing all three combined have warranted less discussion all year than Harvick does on any given race weekend. Great for those teams, great for those sponsors and overall, great for the sport.

And it’s not like these drivers gained or lost spots strictly on pit road or strategy, they were able to race their way to the front. As readers of Track Talk can probably perceive, my Dad and I are big fans of Chase Elliott (who contended for wins in the Open all night but ultimately needed the fan vote to get in). Once voted in to the All-Star Race, Elliott spent the entire night, seemingly, having to come from the back to the front. (His pit crew seemed to undo a lot of his gains, which is becoming a regular thing. Not that Chase complains, mind you, a trait Kyle Busch might want to learn about.) But come to the front he did. Under normal circumstances at a track like Charlotte, the deficits Chase found himself in might have meant the end of his chances for a decent finish but Chase battled back and finished the night with a hard-earned top 5.

Again, just goes to show that a restrictor plate race is full of the unexpected and, therefore, exciting racing!

But….

Before we start demanding NASCAR to actually make every mile-and-a-half a restrictor plate race, we need a couple more examples of this style of racing. It’s one thing to say “Okay, drivers, go out and race a mile and a half under this rules package.” when it’s a non-points race and basically you’ve got $1 million to gain and nothing to lose. Drivers will go out and take chances and make near-miss passes when they know that a wreck might mean an disappointing end of the race but not a disaster when it comes to their hopes for a championship season.

As I mentioned before, the April Talladega race wasn’t exactly a thriller, with Joey Logano leading a single file of cars, all of whom were too afraid to pull out and pass, for fear of losing at least a handful of spots and, therefore, championship points. As much as restrictor plate racing CAN lead to exciting, close, tight racing, it doesn’t mean that it WILL.

If NASCAR can determine this restrictor plate rules package will ensure the same exciting racing where the winner isn’t assured of victory until he/she crosses the finish line on the last lap while in a points race scenario, then we might just have the future of racing. A future where it’s not just a handful of drivers who have a chance to win, but anyone in the field, including the smaller teams and younger drivers who need a win to prove themselves at the Cup level.

Track Talk: In Defence of NASCAR

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The motorsports world has been abuzz  with the news that the France family was exploring the possibility of selling NASCAR, the organization they have owned since since Bill France, Sr. founded it in 1948.

While no one knows if, when or to whom such a sale could take place, it hasn’t stopped what the kids today might call “the haters” from coming out of the woodwork to complain about what they consider to be the sorry state of the sport of NASCAR, complaining about stage racing, playoff formats and wishing wistfully for the “Good Ol’ Days” of NASCAR.

I will be the first to say that there certainly are things I would change for NASCAR (no Cup guys in the XFINITY or Truck Series, and implementing ANYTHING that will prevent the leader from being five-to-six seconds out in front). I also will admit to a fondness to the racing in the late 1980s and early 1990s (when Dale Earnhardt, Davey Allison, Bill Elliott and others were in their prime).

However, for a sport whose “fans” immediately denounce it as “the WWE of motorsports” whenever something happens they don’t like, NASCAR seems to have a lot of fans who exhibit the exact kind of behaviour that reminds me of pro wrestling/sports entertainment.

Visit a wrestling website’s message board or any social media platform and you are immediately barraged with hundreds of supposedly witty (but really just sad and bitter) diatribes about how much they despite Roman Reigns, believe the current product is utter crap and long for the days of the “Attitude Era.”

Sounds familiar, NASCAR fans? Brian France has ruined our sport! Stage racing has ruined our sport! NASCAR died with Dale Earnhardt! One similar refrain with both NASCAR AND WWE fans? “I haven’t watched the product in years but I’ll still tell you how much I hate the product.”

If you’ve read previous issues of Track Talk, I am guilty of complaining about the things don’t like about NASCAR. However, I’m also in the minority because there are a couple of things I like about NASCAR that don’t seem to be too popular.

1. Stage Racing
I like stage racing. I like the fact we’re getting rid of random debris cautions. I like the fact the teams are able to pit at a certain time, rather than half the field pitting at one time and going a lap down for about half the race. I like the fact that a quarter of the way through the race, drivers are racing for position, rather than just logging laps. I like the fact that there are more opportunities to bunch up the field, rather than having one driver keep stretching out his lead.

While everyone likes to glorify the past (and hey, with NASCAR there is a lot to glorify), much like the WWE fans like to fawn over “The Attitude Era” yet forget for every Rock vs. Austin, we had to put up with the Oddities vs. the Truth Commission, NASCAR fans seem to forget just how many times in the 1960s and 1970s, Richard Petty won a race by over a lap. I don’t like seeing as many cars a lap down  – or so far back they have no chance of winning – by the end of the race as we have now (and listening to commentators basically concede the race with 20 laps to go and treat the remainder of the race as the post-game show), so I can imagine what it must have been like to try and build excitement with Petty being the only car on the lead lap.

Stage racing hasn’t completely solved the problem of only having close finishes when there’s a caution with 10-15 laps to go but it has at least provided a bit more mid-race excitement.

2. The Playoffs

Okay, so in a perfect world to NASCAR fans on the Internet, we would trash the entire points and playoff system and go back to the old points system of the 1980s and 1990s. I guess no one minds the risk of watching the championship being decided officially before we arrive in Homestead and really, if we’re being honest, probably by the time we leave the second Talladega race. It happened with Matt Kenseth in 2003, it happened with Jeff Gordon in 2001. Heck, all Dale Earnhardt had to do in 1991 was complete one lap of the season’s final race to clinch the championship. Even when Brad Keselowski won his championship in 2012 and Jimmie Johnson claimed his sixth in 2013, they only had to secure a mid-pack finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

I’m sorry but championships shouldn’t be decided by mid-pack finishes. While I will concede the original “Chase” format was really just the old points system but with only about -what? – ten guys participating, this new playoff format, with drivers eliminated in each round and coming down to a Final Four, has really elevated, at least, in my eyes, the hunt for the Cup (and now Xfinity and Trucks) championship.

Instead of limping to the finish of the season with one, maybe two guys battling for the win, you have sixteen…and four still in contention for the final race of the season.

It has made the regular season finale at Richmond in years past (Indianapolis, this year) one of the most Must-Watch races on the schedule, just to see who might be able to make the playoffs and who might find themselves on the outside looking in.

It has also provided race fans with the closest possibility they will get to ensuring NASCAR’s Cup Champion will have to win the final race of the year in order to win that championship. Although it hasn’t always happened with the XFINITY Series and the Camping World Truck Series, every Cup champion since the inception of this new playoff format has had to win the final race of the season…not complete a lap, not just show up for the race, not finish 25th or better.

WIN.

THE.

RACE.

Instead of just playing it safe, to become champion, a driver must take chances, gamble, be aggressive and get as close to the front as he/she possibly can. In each year to date, that means winning the race. In an era where so much emphasis is put on winning races (although isn’t that every era?) I think it’s a good thing that one must win the race (or come the closest to it) to win a championship.

In closing, I’ll again admit there are things about NASCAR I would change. I don’t think you could find a NASCAR fan out there that doesn’t have some opinion about changes they’d like to make. And I’m sure the same could be said for NBA, NFL, MLB fans and so on. However, I think there’s a major difference between wishing for little tweaking and just watching it for ammunition for a bitch session on the Internet.