by Chris Leone, Special To NASCAR commentary and driver pictures, 2012 NASCAR schedule, video, Bench Racing With Steve and Charlie
I do weekly Fantasy Pick'Em columns here at OPR, as well as the occasional opinion and analysis piece. I also provide the IZOD IndyCar Series coverage. For more on that, head to my site, OpenWheelAmerica.com. My Twitter handle is @christopherlion.July 22, 2008 12:47 am UTC 1 Comment
It’s not as if all of NASCAR shut down completely over this weekend, the last off weekend of the season until Thanksgiving. We still had Nationwide racing in St. Louis, and Craftsman Truck racing in Kentucky. A lot of the series’ top drivers still found themselves behind the wheel of some sort of race car this weekend: Carl Edwards won the Nationwide race, Kyle Busch attempted to become the first driver to win consecutive races in all three of NASCAR’s top series, and Regan Smith won the CarQuest Pro Stock Tour’s IWK 250 at Riverside International Speedway – congrats to the underrated driver.
But without the Sprint Cup centerpiece to pull the entire weekend together, I felt at a loss of words yesterday when I sat down and tried to recap everything.
Those of you who have read my work on other racing sites know of my affinity for the IndyCar Series, which had a race this weekend in Ohio. It just wasn’t the same as a Sprint Cup event, though. The series’ mediocre field, combined with far too many accidents in too short a period of time, made the race less exciting to watch than I had hoped. Had open-wheel racing never fragmented, perhaps the racing would have been of a greater quality, and the series on the same level as NASCAR, but something was missing.
Those of you who have read my work on other racing sites also know of my distaste for Formula One, which raced in Germany this weekend. I found nothing interesting in that race either, save Nelson Piquet’s first decent performance all season for the Renault team. For all practical purposes, Lewis Hamilton dominated. Formula One still feels like a high-speed parade, even with top three drivers Hamilton, Felipe Massa, and Kimi Raikkonen in a three-way tie in points at the beginning of the event. Parity in Formula One appears a pipe dream, never to truly be achieved.
It’s true, there was a lot of racing this weekend in lieu of the Sprint Cup series, and its drivers were certainly involved in a lot of it. However, without that marquee event available to those of us who can’t make it out to our local tracks, the weekend seemed somehow empty.
The problem is twofold: First, the schedule is artificially bloated, with an insane 38 races (2 not for points) in 41 weeks making up the longest schedule in professional sports. However, with many of these races selling out, even at mediocre tracks, it’s unlikely that the schedule will ever decrease to the 31 races (again, 2 not for points) that took place in 1992.
Secondly, there’s a lack of quality professional racing available at a fan’s disposal besides the Sprint Cup series. This is a problem that works both ways: one way, the Sprint Cup series began its major schedule expansion just as CART, once its biggest competitor, was fragmenting; the other, top drivers keep leaving their series to attempt to make a name for themselves in Sprint Cup, lowering the quality of other racing series, but also making it unlikely that a series with many of the world’s top drivers can ever afford to cut a few races off the schedule.
It’s sad that the sport’s become such a big money-making machine that it can’t afford its drivers more than three off weekends over the course of the grueling ten-month season. It’s also sad that none of the other major professional racing series can provide as interesting a racing experience as Sprint Cup, for those of us (like me) who can’t get our fix at the local tracks.
Maybe if it didn’t feel like the weekend was so devoid of quality racing, I wouldn’t have such a hard time getting back in the groove of writing about it.