Its hard to believe that the 2015 NASCAR season is already two weeks in the books. The amount of drama Speedweeks produced could have lasted an entire season. It was then followed up by another action-packed weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. This has led to a buzzing sport early in season, and with bigger things ahead – its only going to get better.
With so much to discuss and not enough characters on twitter to do so, comes the first edition of “The NASCAR Conversation.” This weekly feature will dive into the sport’s hottest topics, current happenings, news, rumors, tweets, and more.
Many stories have already made headlines two races into the year. This provides plenty to discuss following the events in Atlanta, and as we head into Las Vegas Motor Speedway race weekend. Kick back, relax, and let’s discuss some racing.
Following Kyle Busch’s horrific crash during the NASCAR XFINITY Series opener in Daytona, the topic of SAFER Barrier protection has resurfaced. The 29-year olds hit on an unprotected inside wall left him with a broken right leg and left foot, and will keep him out of the car for many months to come.
During the next week of competition, Jeff Gordon hit another unprotected wall along the backstretch at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Notably in this accident, the SAFER Barrier ended just before the point of impact by the No. 24 3M Chevrolet.
This has raised concern over the state of safety in the sport. Since the turn of the century, racing’s safety has come a long way. However, incidents like these prove that the job has yet to be completed.
Until the day each track on the schedule has its walls lined with the barrier, drivers are at risk of being injured in a crash. In the year 2015, this is unacceptable. NASCAR has done so many things to improve the sport over the years on the competition level that it has overlooked this topic by being reactive rather than proactive.
Keeping drivers safe on each and every lap should top their priority list. When an issue like this is ignored, it could do a lot of damage to the sport. After working so hard to better the on-track product, one terrible wreck could undo it all.
To assure this issue is resolved, NASCAR needs to take affirmative action by requiring all tracks ring their facilities with the protective barrier. Once this is done, the potential injury factor is greatly lowered, meaning it will be easier for competitors to give it their all, knowing the walls are fully protected if they do wreck.
Last Lap Cautions
Its undeniable that last month’s DAYTONA 500 was one of the best the sport has ever seen. By running three wide, eight rows deep for as many laps as the competitors did – it was a true testament to the talent that they possess.
However, one factor took away from possibly an even more exciting race – the finish coming under caution. While I don’t argue against NASCAR’s decision to put the yellow flag out, I would like a modification to the rule.
If the caution does come out on the final lap, I would like to see another restart. The whole idea of a green-white-checker finish is to give fans a finish under the green flag. However, this doesn’t always work out which can defeat the rule’s purpose.
My solution is to take the caution on the last lap rule out of play completely. If the yellow flag does come out before the cars race off the final turn, then they will line back up for another restart. However, if the leaders are feet from taking the checkered flag and the caution lights flick on – then the race can be deemed official.
By implementing this idea, any negative talk regarding the finish will be taken out of play and fans can focus on the positive from the day.
This is a feasible solution for NASCAR and could please fans, especially during events in Daytona and Talladega where the finish can sometimes be the best part of the race.
One neat surprise two weeks into the season are the underdog teams that are hanging around in the standings. Casey Mears, Sam Hornish Jr., David Gilliland, and David Ragan all currently hold Chase for the Sprint Cup spots. Of course, the Chase won’t begin for another 24 events, but its cool to see that these drivers are in the mix.
Under the old Chase system, it was very difficult for smaller teams to make the playoffs unless they posted extremely consistent numbers throughout the regular season. With inferior equipment compared to the sport’s larger organizations, it has always been a daunting task.
However, the new rules provide the possibility of winning a race and earning a spot among the 16 playoff teams. This motivates the smaller teams more than ever and their early season success is fueling their desire to make the Chase.
Could it happen this season? Its quite possible as anything can happen, especially at the two restrictor-plate events before the start of the final ten races. This will be a storyline monitored closely as it will be interesting to follow.
Gambles and risks will be the talk of the sport this weekend in Las Vegas. With a “Sin City” state of mind, taking shots at victory most teams wouldn’t normally do is to be expected. The upcoming events are sure to be exciting, and will likely provide plenty to talk about next week.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Moore