NASCAR: Are Dueling Agendas An Impossible Balancing Act?

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USA Today Sports

NASCAR Management

Task: Ensure a fair playing field for everyone.

NASCAR as a sanctioning body is tasked with developing a set of rules for the sport and then ensuring that teams conduct themselves according to those rules. When infractions arise, they are expected to rule consistently and apply any sanctions fairly. In short, they’re the referees and umpires. In any sport, coaches, players and fans somehow demand that every call is correct, when in reality that’s probably a pretty tall order. Also, just like officials in other sports, they’re transparent and unseen when things go well and thrown under the proverbial bus when controversy comes up.

NASCAR has done a good job with incorporating technology to help enforce rules. Technical inspections are now very automated and computerized.  The new pit road officiating system is catching infractions that perhaps had gone unnoticed by the human eye without regard to who commits them.  The number of human officials on pit road has been reduced, increasing safety. Timing and scoring data is readily available in real-time to just about anyone. Beginning in  2016, dashboard data from cars will be available to the media and fans. Senior-level executives make themselves available on weekly radio shows to take questions directly from fans.

Point systems and qualifying formats appear to be well-received and are working. Yes, it is true that super speedway qualifying took more than one attempt to get right, but its OK now. The elimination-style Chase format is exciting and showcased the participants’ competitiveness. We had some drama!

Rules packages are another story. They’re still very much a work in progress.  They don’t need to be changed every year. They don’t need to attempt to make horsepower equal for everyone. They don’t need to make aerodynamic data the same regardless of manufacturer. The owners, crew chiefs and drivers are some of the best minds in any form of racing. Let them spread their wings and breathe.