Nascar News and Notes
by Virginia Vroom of Predictem.com
This weekend represents a weekend for the fans of NASCAR. Because of this, I think that it is appropriate to discuss the debate surrounding the entry for the All-Star race. The typical rules for entry into this race remain the same although the rules of the race seem to change on a yearly basis. There is much debate surrounding how entries are appropriated and also how many entries should be allowed. It seems as though the field gets bigger every year. This year, we’re looking at 24 drivers in the field. There are 21 drivers that are already guaranteed their spot. The other three drivers will come from the winner and runner-up of the Showdown on Saturday night and also one driver who is voted in by the fans.
The debate lies in whether the 21 drivers that already have their spot are actual ‘all-stars’. These 21 drivers are guaranteed their spots based on winning a race last year, this year, or being a past NASCAR champion. While it’s great that some of these drivers are included, like Dale Jarrett, who actually qualifies them as an ‘all-star’? Simply because you win a race does not mean you are an all-star in my opinion. If you take the example of Juan Montoya who has a spot in this year’s field, do you truly feel like he’s an all-star driver in the NASCAR circuit? Has he proven his ability to be best of the best? I don’t think that he has. While he may have won a race last year, he’s posted one top ten finish this season. Does that make him an all-star? Drivers like Casey Mears and Bobby Labonte have struggled all year long. Their records are certainly not the best.
What I am trying to say is that while NASCAR is comprised of the 50 or so best stock car drivers in the world, 24 in the field is not defining the cream of the crop. That’s more than half of a normal field. I think that there needs to be a more challenging way to earn your position in the all-star races. Drivers like Jeff Gordon and Jr. and Jimmie Johnson are certainly all-stars, as are drivers like Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch. Jaime McMurray and Juan Montoya are not all-stars, at least not yet. Those who are consistently in the field like the drivers that I just mentioned are there CONSISTENTLY for a reason. They win races every single year, and typically more than one race. They are usually the ones that have NASCAR championships on their shelves at home. They are also the drivers who are competing for a top 5 or top 10 finish every weekend.
Some people may argue that if a driver wins a NASCAR race, that he deserves to be in the field. While winning a race is a great accomplishment in the NASCAR series, there is something to be said about maintaining consistency from week to week. If you ever read my previews or reviews for the races here, you’ll understand how much I push consistency. Jimmie Johnson won the championship last year simply because he was able to maintain consistency as a driver and also when it came to working with his crew and crew chief. There was no better team; thus, he prevailed as champion again. This year, we’ve seen such a shakeup in the points from week to week where drivers as good as Jeff Gordon as knocked out of the top twelve because they simply have not been consistent. Their cars are not great or the pit crew makes a mistake, but to be completely honest, those inconsistencies are what cost drivers the championship.
I say that we let those drivers fight their way in through the Showdown. Economically, it’s not a great weekend for the sponsors as less than half the field is usually on the track for the main event. But that’s just it. We can not use economics to control every facet of NASCAR. It’s already been happening too much, especially since Nextel jumped in as the new corporate sponsor. These guys are top of the line. They are the cream of the crop. By allowing virtually all drivers to get into the race, we are not truly seeing the all-stars of the sport. The size of the field is not the problem. The problem lies in how those drivers get to this race. Winning one race should not put you into the circle of all-stars. You need to be able to prove it through your consistency just like the MVPs of any other major league sport.