I just hope there isn’t another rain delay, because it’s getting ridiculous already. I am not a meteorologist, but I DID check the weather – it looks like it’s going to be all about sunny skies in Darlington, SC on both Friday and Saturday, with both days topping 80 degrees.
My point(s)? One. I NEED to go to SC. NOW. Second, and more importantly (especially with the 2014 NASCAR season so far)? It looks like they WILL be getting the races (both Nationwide and Sprint Cup) in on their scheduled times and days this weekend. We can all breathe a sigh of relief.
Looking back, I think that the first race of the season, The Daytona 500, was an appropriate precursor to the season so far. It was the longest rain/weather delay in the 500′s long running history, with the grandstands having to be evacuated by all the fans because of a tornado warning. Yes, a WARNING. Many fans took pictures of funnel-shaped clouds in the distance.
I never saw anything quite like that before.
NASCAR doesn’t like it, either. During race delays, ratings drop – dramatically. They get even worse when the race is postponed not only for hours, but for a DAY, like last weekend, when Sunday’s Duck Commander 500 was rained out until Monday, when a lot of the fans that would be watching on Sunday had to work – like myself.
I saw ONE part of the race, and that was in the beginning, when Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 hit the wall and caught fire.
What was crazy about that? Just HOW fast the car became engulfed in flames.
Listening to the in car communication and viewing the in car cameras, the spotter went from telling Earnhardt Jr. how to avoid wrecking other cars to telling him that he was on fire and needed to GET OUT.
Right after the start of the race before the No. 88 had his problems, something else crazy happened – the jet dryers actually caused damage to a few cars, including that of driver Brad Keselowski.
The race began under a green/yellow flag, which means that the laps count, but the field runs under a yellow flag. This was done as a precautionary measure.
NASCAR wanted to do that so that the cars on the track could make sure that the track was indeed all dry and ready for a true green. It was a good move – safety is the most important thing, and the heat from all those tires could fully try the track.
But, what NASCAR, or anyone else for that matter didn’t expect, was that the dryers actually caused the hinges on the cars of the following cars to become loose: Keselowski, Ryan Newman, Travis Kvapil, Danica Patrick, and Justin Allgaier. The result? Those cars were allowed to come down pit road before the race went totally green to make quick repairs.
There were several changes NASCAR made before the 2014 season even began. They include qualifying changes, rule changes for the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, and an enhanced penalty/infraction system.
Before the season began and these changes were all announced within a couple weeks of each other, I thought that NASCAR was making a big mistake, doing too many things at once; however, I take that back. They have managed each one and even tweaked when necessary.
Let’s start with the qualifying changes. I liked the idea of the group qualifying format from the start. They started it last year on the two road courses that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series runs, and this year expanded that idea to include all of the other races, with the exception of the Daytona 500 (that race has a unique qualifying format in itself).
The changes are great for the fans on and off the track. Instead of seeing one car at a time on the track running two laps that would determine their starting position, the three major Series (Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, too) qualify in groups, going through a sort of process of elimination.
Kudos as well to NASCAR for tweaking the process, allowing cars the ability to “cool down” on pit road instead of remaining on the track. It’s much safer for the cars to have that option rather than going slower on the track to cool the engine down.
Next – the penalty/infraction system. This one is going to be short and sweet… Honestly, I wasn’t too sure about it before its implications in the beginning of the season, although I liked the tier system. I just wasn’t sure that NASCAR was going to be consistent in its imposition of penalties across the board, but I was wrong. They have been fair and consistent in my opinion, and hope they continue to be.
Finally, the new changes to the Chase, better known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs.
We really haven’t seen too much of this newer facet in terms of the 2014 season, but one thing is for sure – when a driver gets a win, they are thrilled, because under the new system, they are pretty much guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, the last 10 races of the season.
Here’s what I think when it comes down to it, and it’s merely one word – Homestead.
The last race of the Cup season will be so many things: crazy, incredible, amazing, insane, intense, thrilling… and that’s just to name a few off the top of my head.
When it comes down to it, the top four drivers in points will battle it out at that final race of the season for the Championship. Who will spin out who? Will anyone throw a punch or three after it? Who will win the chance to be center stage at the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup banquet and get all of the money, prizes, and glamour with it?
Time will tell, my friends, and getting there will be as exciting as ever!