Commentary

Five tweaks that could ramp up NASCAR

NASCAR might be OK with the status quo, but Ed Hinton isn't. He has five suggestions that would ramp up the competition considerably.

Updated: February 6, 2009, 6:38 PM ET
By Ed Hinton | ESPN.com

NASCAR's vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton, is firm when he says, "We're holding the line on the Sprint Cup Series."

He means no changes to any nut, bolt, spring or shock, let alone the structure of the races themselves.

But let's not let the discussion end. Here are five suggestions that could be implemented immediately, and would liven up and dignify the competition considerably:

1. What's the point? Stop awarding points after 30th place. This would eliminate damaged cars going back on the track as patched-up, rolling wrecks that get in the way of the leaders, can affect outcomes of races and can endanger spectators with flying debris.

2. Caution, please. Get rid of the "green-white-checkered" overtime, which leads to bedlam -- especially on restrictor-plate tracks. GWC is nothing but knee-jerk pandering to unruly fans who throw tantrums -- and cushions, and beer cans -- if they don't get to see wild action to the bitter end. Finishing under caution is a time-honored and reasonable racing tradition that should be restored in the name of civility.

3. Quality, not quantity. Cut all races to 400 miles or less, except for the deeply traditional Daytona 500 and Coca-Cola 600. Fans' attention spans are shorter in this era, so stop dragging out the races. Better yet, institute a three-hour time limit -- 400 miles or three hours, whichever comes first.

4. Saturday qualifying. In lieu of testing, allow teams to use telemetry and data recovery and do nothing but practice all day Friday at every venue, then qualify Saturday and race Sunday.

5. Leaders only. Eliminate double-file restarts with lapped cars on the inside, and institute double-file restarts with leaders only up front: leader on pole, second place outside front row, third place inside second row and so on, just like the start of the race. This would intensify the racing greatly and alleviate the track-position issue by giving everybody a chance to improve position after each caution. Double-file restarts with lapped cars inside are obsolete, in that the "lucky dog" rule provides for deserving drivers to get back on the lead lap.

Alas, we know the chances for these changes are slim (for Friday test days) to none (for double-file restarts of the leaders).

But isn't it fun to dream of NASCAR racing at the best that it could be?

Ed Hinton is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at edward.t.hinton@espn3.com.

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