Good Racing & Perspective on the 2019 Rules Package

Discussion in 'NASCAR chat' started by LewTheShoe, May 16, 2019.

  1. LewTheShoe

    LewTheShoe Team Owner

    @Conover wrote an interesting post about the Kansas cup race. He liked it, and he criticized races from the low downforce period as "Formula 1 lite." I disagree with some of what he said, but it got me thinking about what makes for good racing... and does Nascar have that in 2019.

    Sorry this post is so long. Here's the TL;DR: Nascar has sacrificed one of its great attributes but it maintains strong appeal even for a purist race fan like me in several other key attributes. It is an attractive product versus other racing series I follow.
    I am all about racing being a contest of skill... and the greater the degree of difficulty, the more I like it. When it is a skill-based meritocracy, that is what entertains me. Below I break down "skill-based meritocracy" into its key component parts, and use that to assess which racing series have it and which are lacking IMO.

    To analyze what makes for great racing versus good or mediocre, I have four main criteria. The first two are most important, and the other two carry lesser weight. The four main criteria are: (a) the driving skill required to be quick; (b) the intensity and importance of being effective head-to-head against others; (c) the depth and quality of the field of competitors; and (d) is the outcome often in doubt to the end.

    Single-car degree of difficulty...
    Cup'19 ... IndyCar ... [Cup'18, F1, Indy500, WoO] ... MotoGP

    This is highly important to me, and is my only major beef with the 2019 cup rules package. The cars drone around WFO, don't slow for corners, don't accelerate off corners. Cup racing 2019 is at the low end of the scale for single-car difficulty.

    In 2018 with low downforce, we had ludicrous entry speeds with heavy braking, rotors glowing cherry red; feather the gas through the apex, on the razor's edge of grip, feather it feather it almost forever; and finally get back to full throttle gaining 50 to 60+ mph on the straight before the next corner entry. Cup racing 2018 is near the high end of the scale, tied with F1 (that may be charitable to F1), the Indy 500, and World of Outlaws in the difficulty of being quick. Only MotoGP is higher in the skill required to be quick, IMO. (The IndyCar entry is road and street courses and short ovals, with the Indy 500 being a separate entry.)

    Head-to-head competition intensity and importance...
    F1 ... IndyCar ... ... [Cup'18-'19, Indy500, MotoGP, WoO]

    Intense hand-to-hand combat has always been a hallmark of Nascar, and it remains so in 2019. This is the greatest failing of F1. IndyCar drivers work very hard to make a difference, but it usually comes down to the timing of cautions versus pit stops. (Last Saturday was a welcome exception to the rule.)

    In Nascar, 2018 started off all about "The Big Three" as Gibbs and SHR dominated the first half of the year. But in the second half, HMS found speed, Penske found speed, and we had numerous great races. I saw plenty of passing, plenty of comers and goers. Good racing means that passing is possible, not that it is easy or frequent. If passing is easy or frequent, then each pass is meaningless, I believe.

    Some argue that Nascar has ramped up head-to-head competition even higher in 2019, by slowing the lead car to keep the pursuers closer. I was happy last year (once HMS and Penske came awake). I ranked it a tie, at the high end of the scale.

    Deep field of potential winners...
    F1 ... IndyCar ... [Indy500, MotoGP, WoO] ... [Cup'18-'19]

    Always been a great strength of Nascar, and still is. Every year seems to have 12 to 14 winners. There are at least 8 to 10 guys that expect to contend most every week, and another 8 or more who could win on merit. The other series don't have this depth of quality teams.

    Outcome often in doubt to the end...
    F1 ... IndyCar ... [Cup'18, Indy500, MotoGP, WoO] ... Cup'19

    Any racing series can have a runaway winner. I believe Nascar with low downforce will have that more often than under the 2019 rules. The race is more "in the hands of the driver" and the handful of elite drivers will do what they do whenever they can. It's the nature of a meritocracy based on skill.

    The Bottom Line...
    F1 ... IndyCar ... Cup'19 ... [Indy500, WoO] ... Cup'18 ... MotoGP

    Points awarded 1, 2, 3, or 4 with equal points to ties. Double points to the first two criteria.

    F1 = 3+1=8+1+1 = 10
    IndyCar = 2+2=8+2+2 = 12
    Cup'19 = 1+4=10+4+4 = 18
    Indy 500 = 3+4=14+3+3 = 20
    WoO = 3+4=14+3+3 = 20
    Cup'18 = 3+4=14+4+3 = 21
    MotoGP = 4+4=16+3+3 = 22

    The totals are closer than I expected, but they match my viewing preferences and how I think about the various forms of racing. And it explains why I'm still watching Nascar despite my belief that the reduced driving skill to be quick under 2019 rules is a big step in the wrong direction. Even with that wrong step, there is still a lot there for a purist fan such as myself to like. So far, there is no perfect auto racing series to draw me away.
  2. Johali

    Johali Team Owner Contributor

    Looking in the mirror after trying to read that.

  3. aunty dive

    aunty dive Team Owner

    If you aren’t careful, you’ll turn this place into a forum whose purpose is to encourage automobile racing discussion.
  4. StandOnIt

    StandOnIt Farm Truck

    This is what I like. Whatever means to achieve that is perfectly fine with me. Creating posts that are somebodies soap box, their pet peeve, and calling themselves some kind of name is fine for them. Fans have been clamoring for years about single file aero problems and Nascar has been working their tails off trying to make it better. Is it better this year, yes. It it hugely better? no. Is it a step in the right direction? So far so good. Is it going to be perfect for every track? no. Does it do any good to whine and complain, probably not.

    2 Sweet, Team Penske and Mike Crayne like this.
  5. LewTheShoe

    LewTheShoe Team Owner

    Yeah, that's kinda the objective. It's either that or spend the week searching for the inner meaning of the All Star race..:dual9mm:
    2 Sweet, gnomesayin, jws926 and 2 others like this.
  6. Johali

    Johali Team Owner Contributor

    Or a bigger loony bin than it already is trying to cipher that stuff. :booya:
  7. Greg

    Greg 2014 RF YAHOO CHAMP Your leader

    I really thought 2018 was going the right way with tire wear as the best way to ensure good competition.
    I get no joy with being less enthused about the reduced horsepower in 2019. I have limited my criticism l dont want to be a complainer, that gets old.

    But l have been following racing for over 50 years and l know my preferences, and it will be lots of horsepower and tire wear that shuffles the feild and naturally drives up the closing speeds.
  8. LewTheShoe

    LewTheShoe Team Owner

    That clip is good stuff, but not similar to what we have now. I don't think Tony Stewart was driving with one hand, using the other to manipulate air ducts, while flat-footing the whole lap. As for fans, some were clamoring for years, others not. I for one was happy with low downforce racing, and said so in many threads.
    I plead guilty to trying to cipher stuff on occasion..:idunno:
    Johali likes this.
  9. StandOnIt

    StandOnIt Farm Truck

    pretty much what I thought, another soapbox thread and more making stuff up. BTW the ratings continue to increase and Kansas tops the list of popular races. :idunno:
  10. LewTheShoe

    LewTheShoe Team Owner

    Rather than complaining the thread should not exist, I would hope you'd offer your views of agreement or disagreement with specific points, including what you think is "made up." You are knowledgeable about many forms of racing... Nascar, F1, IndyCar, Outlaws and others. Why try to stifle discussions of racing. Isn't that why most of us are here?
    Well said, Greg, good job. I thought the 2018 rules fostered really good racing. I thought the one more step needed was to slash side force substantially. That would probably require a new car (Gen 7) to accomplish. But they went a different way, unfortunate IMO.
    Last edited: May 16, 2019
  11. sdj

    sdj Just a race fan

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  12. jws926

    jws926 Nissan Is Love, Nissan Is Life

    I enjoyed the racing in 2018 as well, I do agree that I would like to see tire wear come back to certain degree.
  13. ChexOrWrex

    ChexOrWrex Ya gotta wanna

    Narrower tires.
    Team Penske and jws926 like this.
  14. jws926

    jws926 Nissan Is Love, Nissan Is Life

  15. gnomesayin

    gnomesayin Team Owner

    My opinion of the 2019 package is well established and my preferences are generally aligned with the sentiments expressed in the OP. While of course I love thrilling and unpredictable competition and platitudes like "side-by-side racing", I will prioritize difficulty and a desire to see the absolute best rewarded over sheer entertainment value. If forced to give up one, I will part with the latter and not the former. In fact, what is entertaining to me is the intensity of truly elite racing. I would rather a series be figuring out how to most effectively test its competitors to reveal who is the absolute best than how to produce more "Game 7 moments" or whatever.

    That said, my mind doesn't really work in the way this topic is laid out. I find it difficult to rank these different forms of racing against each other in an objective or accurate way. I know what I find compelling and watch more of vs. less of, and I certainly have opinions about the quality of various series. However, I'm also aware of how subjective some of my preferences are.

    I can compare WoO racing to ASCOC racing, and to a lesser extent to USAC or other premier dirt series. I can compare NASCAR Cup racing to Xfinity or ARCA and so on. I don't expend that much thought comparing them to each other, and never have.

    I balk somewhat at a couple of your low rankings, but I wouldn't be confident in rearranging them and saying no, this one is declaratively harder.

    While the depth of competition and prestige is certainly higher at the Indy 500 than the balance of the IndyCar schedule, I am not convinced that it actually requires more driving skill to finish on the podium at IMS than Road America, for instance. It likely takes more team skill and execution because of the greater importance, but pure driving?

    Also, I think due to the severe problems F1 has created with extreme manufacturer disparity and an absurdly high downforce formula that makes close head-to-head racing all but impossible at many circuits, it is lost on many just how difficult the task of completing GPs is. In essence, the end product often sucks, so the dedication and intensity is easy to overlook.

    All that said, coming back to NASCAR, I agree that what the Cup series still has majorly in its favor, despite the deficiencies of the 2019 package, is a large pool of truly elite drivers and teams that execute at a very high level.
  16. Turtle84

    Turtle84 Slow is Fast

    I agree with Lew's take on the 18' vs 19' package, and his conclusion of why he's still watching. He paints an accurate picture imo.

    I am not exact where all the series shake out on difficulty compared to each other. I'd probably bump indycar road courses up a notch, but I agree that 19' nascar is the easiest to drive, while still providing intense competition at certain tracks.
    LewTheShoe likes this.
  17. StandOnIt

    StandOnIt Farm Truck

  18. LewTheShoe

    LewTheShoe Team Owner

    That blog is a good review of history to remind us that aero complaints have been rampant since the 1990's and even before. The good ol' boys down south learned from the early aero experiments by guys like Colin Chapman and Jim Hall and others. And now, the collective stock car industry cannot unlearn what has been learned about making a car go faster.

    Personally, I'm not moved at all by KDB complaining in 2018 about turbulence. That was at Darlington, where he was mediocre all weekend, never led a lap, etc. He has been known to rant when he's getting bested by others, including teammates. But he did win 8 races that year, and passed a ton of cars just about every week. He gets no pity from me.

    My lasting impression of 2018 is how often, on multi-groove tracks, the trailing driver still chose to follow directly in the tire tracks of the leading car - in the dirtiest of dirty air - rather than picking a different line. Then once he closed right up, dart low to pass. Seeing that happen over and over tells me dirty air in 2018 was not nearly the problem it was in 2015, and is again in 2019.

    I also believe "dirty air" is a lazy habit... anything one doesn't like just blame it on dirty air. Journalists, social media posts, even drivers overused that crutch, IMO.

    [Footnote to SOI... I doubt the millennials with short attention spans, who complained about the OP being 12 paragraphs, read that blog as it is much longer... just sayin'.]
    Last edited: May 18, 2019
  19. Charlie Spencer

    Charlie Spencer Short tracks and road courses rule.

    They're not the only ones, you know.
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  20. Conover

    Conover Team Owner

    Lew that was a very insightful post and an interesting way to analyze the various series.

    Using analytics to develop formulas and rankings is part of many systems including sports. Your system is built, as you said, to provide higher ranking on certain values than others. Makes perfect sense.

    I was chatting with one of my new direct reports this week. He is a racing fan that’s moved to Florida from Illinois. Loves all things racing. He longs for the days prior to the changes that started many years ago to create “spec” cars. He follows other series too, and laments how badly each one has been turned over to this mentality.

    It was inevitable for many reasons. NASCAR has always tried to manipulate cars to put on “a good show”. The give and take between advancements in tech, cheating to find advantage around the rules, and increased testing R&D have conspired to create an advanced and expensive sport. Once the desire to create safer cars took priority, so did the specification wave. Now the costs must come out of the sport to survive the decrease in sponsorship so race teams can survive.

    Pure racing? Local short tracks are the best. Multiple series with lower budgets and banging fenders as necessary. You get the go and the show!

    NASCAR’s formula this year for the drivers is not so good. Wide open through the turns doesn’t challenge them like pure racing should. It does create other challenges that is still racing. I know all that. I still enjoy watching the racing more when cars are moving through, passing, and competing all over the track more frequently. That’s the show and I want to be entertained. Not like WWE entertained, but still enjoy competing that isn’t stop watch staring to appreciate racing.
  21. 2 Sweet

    2 Sweet Legend

    Excellent. Very well said. Of all the great points you have made, I think this is the most telling.

    I enjoyed the Kansas race, and I understand what NASCAR is trying to accomplish with this new rules package, but I think they took away too much power. They should not be WOT through the turns.
  22. LewTheShoe

    LewTheShoe Team Owner

    Excellent post, Conover. Thanks for taking the time.
    The convergence of engineering solutions is not just because of safety concerns... it would happen even without that. It has to do with the natural cycle of a technology as it matures. Auto racing is pretty far along the learning curve toward a mature technology. There is still room for innovation, but more and more it tends to be in the details rather than the basic architecture of the car.

    That's why museums and car shows are so fascinating... to enjoy and appreciate the rich history of racing. But of course we can't live in history... can't stop the clock from rolling toward the future. In other words, tell your new colleague to "get over it." :dual9mm:

    Yeah, I know. I was trying to poke good-natured fun at people complaining my OP was too long... but it didn't work. Humor on the internet is hard to do, at least for me.
    Charlie Spencer likes this.
  23. Ventisca

    Ventisca Team Owner

  24. Charlie Spencer

    Charlie Spencer Short tracks and road courses rule.

    Helmets are for slinging. Ask Tony.
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  25. Ventisca

    Ventisca Team Owner

    Hmmm, that was Kenseth, again...
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  26. aunty dive

    aunty dive Team Owner

    Indeed ...

    Charlie Spencer likes this.
  27. Mispeedway15

    Mispeedway15 Team Owner

    Haha one of the best moments ever. Loved the helmet whip
  28. Revman

    Revman God bless America.

    While often a critic of NASCAR Radio, I heard a caller refer to NASCAR as the most engineered driven racing formula on the planet. He might be right. The most "grassroots" of all major auto racing series might just be the most tech dependent. Hmmmmmm........

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