Last year, the entertainment product that NASCAR produced was some of the best racing I’ve seen, across all three series, in a long time. Many races were decided by mere seconds as contenders traded paint and hand gestures throughout the season. And in the end, we saw one of the closest points finishes, well, technically, the closest points race, for the championship in the history of the sport, seeing as how it ended in a tie! That tie was thanks in part to the new points system NASCAR instituted last year and Tony Stewart‘s team.
When we watch any entertainment venue, it’s usually (for me) the first and last impressions that stick with me. Or, in NASCAR terms, the starts, the restarts and the finishes generate a lot of drama and excitement for me because that’s when the poop can potentially hit the fan.
And NASCAR is cursed with the long-lasting middle section of every race… the time-period that fans call snoozers, nap-time, break-time, do the laundry time, etc.. It’s a little bit different when you’re at the track but on TV, this is the dark period of any race.
But in the end, when two cars are rubbing fenders or Kyle Busch wrecks someone or Kurt Busch (Yes, they’re related: brothers) flips off the world and degrades a veteran ESPN reporter, well, those are the moments that generate the buzz. Those are the moments that send the fans to work on Monday, saying, wow, did you see that?!
And that can be said especially for that last race at Homestead where the only way Tony Stewart could win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship was by winning the race, beating Carl Edwards.
THAT, was one exciting race… to watch Carl Edwards dominate up front all day, but watch Tony Stewart drive his way up to the front, run into on-track issues, pit to fix, then drive his way up to the front again.
It was freaking magic people! A “meant to be” kind of thing.
Yet despite all that, despite Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards being tied in points and the tie-breaker being Stewart’s 5 wins over Edwards’ 1 win from the season, there’s something we might be overlooking, and that was the point spread out behind these guys.
Had Carl or Tony not been in the mix of points in that final race, the next driver back in the standings was Kevin Harvick, 58 points back. Then Matt Kenseth, 73 points back from first, and so forth.
In other words, if it weren’t for Stewart and Edwards gun-slinging, boxing match like press bravado, the Miami-homestead NASCAR season closer would have been a serious snoozer, despite some of the best season of racing I’ve ever seen.
And so there in lies my worry. Will we potentially see another close battle for the points at that last race, or will it already be locked up and the only drama will be, if the driver’s car starts and he doesn’t develop problems doing the pace lap and taking the green flag.
I hope that’s not the case. In fact, here’s one case where I hope I am wrong and that this season can once again produce the kind of fun and excitement that NASCAR delivered to the fans. I liked the fun NASCAR’s last season generated. I truly hope we see something like that again. But with all the hoopla, no one seemed to mention that huge point spread out behind the points leaders.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed and watch for Danica Patrick to bring some excitement to both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup series this year!
2011 Season NASCAR Sprint Cup Points Standings
|7||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||2290||-113|