Well since it’s officially the off season for us NASCAR fans. What does that mean? It means that on Sunday afternoons we are now left with a gaping hole in our schedules. Before I get into the looking forward to next year part of this post though- I do want to talk about the awards show. I think I might be the only one who liked that they actually shortened the banquet to 90 minutes. Then again it could be because I didn’t have a favorite driver really this season. I always found the banquet long with all the comedy and music acts and the long speeches. Keep it short, celebrate the championship drivers and the champion and then wind it up with a quick bow. That is my thought. And I know I have said this before and I will say it again- I LOVE the design of the new Monster Cup Series trophy. LOVE IT.
What I can tell you is that when you don’t have a definite favorite driver, one that you pull for (and have pulled for for years and years) it is a lot easier to not sit there riveted to the television. I admittedly skipped a few of the races this year when usually I was watching. And there were even a couple that I just watched the last half of the race. My cheering this year was more about who I didn’t want to win than who I did want to win. It was a weird place for me to be as a fan. Although I admit wholeheartedly that my little speed loving heart perked up when I heard mention that Tony Stewart might be wanting to drive some Xfinity series races on the road courses next year (I think he wants to run the roval at Charlotte mostly). So there is that for me.
I am still not that big of a fan of the stage racing. It seems to me that we have reverted back to racing for points only now the points are on steroids because you get more of them throughout specific spots during the race. I thought the whole idea was to move away from points racing? What I will say about the stage racing is that it DOES make the races more exciting overall because the drivers feel a sense of urgency throughout the race and not just looking at the big picture of the final checkered flag.I am not sure that this necessarily translates to more excitement on TV or in the stands but I guess an argument could be made that it does.
One of the things I am most curious about for next season is the new restrictions on the at-track crew members rosters that NASCAR is enforcing. Here is a good article from YahooSports that explains the restrictions to crews coming in 2018- but basically pit crews are down from 6 to 5 members (and now gas men can not do anything but gas the cars). Additionally organizational members (these are your IT specialists, competition directors, team managers) are now limited to three (for one or two car teams) or four (for three and four car teams) members and the road crew are limited to 12 members (road crew are your engineers, mechanics, tire and shock specialists, etc). I am not sure the reasoning behind it- is it to save money? Is it to help smaller teams be on a more level playing field with your bigger teams like Hendrick and Joe Gibbs? Will it effect the performance of the cars? Mostly I think it makes sense- especially with the institution of the crash clock rule that started this last season. Teams can not really repair major crash damage in an attempt to get their cars back on the track now (which I am mortally opposed to as a fan- if your driver crashes out early and you are sitting in the stands rooting for that driver- it’s going to suck that the driver gets home before you do- plus there is no hope of seeing that car come back out onto the track later) so why do teams need excessively large crews?
Us long time fans have now seemingly lost a lot of our familiar face drivers to retirement (whether that retirement be voluntary or not): Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Brian Scott, and I am sure I missing a few more. Lack of familiar faces for NASCAR means that there is a segment of their fan base that will be struggling with their fandom. Which of the “young gun” drivers will start to pull towards the front of the pack as a driver to watch? I have been very impressed with Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott (although I am disappointed that they are changing him over to the number 9 this coming season- I like a driver who stays with a number as long as possible). I look forward greatly to seeing what Darrell Wallace Jr does with a full-time cup ride as I was impressed with his driving for Aric Armirola this season.
I think for me personally- next season will be a pivotal season…that will see where my fandom goes. Will I decide on a cup series driver to root for? Will my NASCAR fandom just wane away as I move over to another form of motorsports? Only time will tell.
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