NASCAR: Caution Clock Ticking for the Camping World Truck Series

One a series with great promise, the NASCAR Truck Series runs the risk of being artificial.

One a series with great promise, the NASCAR Truck Series runs the risk of being artificial.

NASCAR’s Racing Development and Innovation team, led by EVP Steve O’Donnell, got busy during the off season, having just rolled out an assortment of structural changes for all three race series. During this week’s 2016 media tour kick-off in Charlotte, revolutionary creations from NASCAR’s Innovation labs were conveyed as fully baked with a strong business case; the reality is these concepts are likely being tested in race conditions as clinical trials.

In Chairman Brian France’s State of the Sport address this week, the discoveries came at us with the pace of a “Fast and Furious” chase scene.

The wildest, newfangled device is a “Caution Clock” for the 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck (NCWTS) season for all tracks (except Eldora) that is anticipated to energize this development series, which is generally struggling with low crowd counts and unprofitable financial costs, in spite of a generally solid racing product.

The 20-minute Caution Clock will begin when the race leader takes the green flag at the beginning of the race and each restart. Once that clock runs out, an automatic caution is thrown. Should a normal race caution occur (e.g., due to debris or an accident), the Caution Clock will be reset to another 20 minute window.

So, what are possible rewards of this new Caution Clock?

  • If the field gets strung out on a long green flag run at an aero-dependent speedway, the Caution Clock will bunch up the field and close the gap that the lead trucks have established over the field. Finishes like last May’s Kansas Speedway race, with only six trucks on the lead lap, will hopefully be less common
  • The less experienced, start-up truck teams with limited resources will have more opportunity to take big swings on pit lane adjustments if they missed set-ups at the start of the race
  • Elimination of the fictional caution, so often attributed to notable French driver “Jacques Debris”
  • Addition of an extra layer of pit strategy, by deciding to gamble on track position by staying out
  • If all else fails, the foreseeable caution helps fans to time their concession or bathroom break, as well as an opportunity for the younger set to catch up on social media

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The restarts could be very interesting, if not very calculated.

One thing is unquestionable. There will be big drama on restarts. Daniel Hemric, driver of the No. 19 Ford F-150 for Brad Keselowski Racing in 2016, predicts a ramp-up in tension and thrills, noting “As a driver, you look forward to restarts. Over the years, restarts have been the common ground where you have an opportunity to make gains. I think it’s going to be exciting for the fans and definitely add another thing to make the crew chiefs lose sleep at night.”

However, the big danger is that fans will now deem race outcomes as artificial or manipulated; the arbitrary nature of this Caution Clock disrupts the competitive soul of racing. Instead of the best racer with the fastest truck heading to victory lane, he or she may be left spinning on the infield like a roulette wheel game of chance, after getting dumped on a restart by an overly aggressive competitor.

I strained to rack my brain for another sport that does something similar, and it is hard to find an analog. This mandatory Caution Clock reset would be like the MLB Yankees having an 8-0 lead in the 8th inning against the hapless Phillies, but having their lead reset to 1-0 entering the ninth inning. Perhaps tennis is similar, as Serena Williams can win the first set of the Australian Open 6-0 in games, and that only collects her a 1-0 lead in sets (with the best of 3 sets necessary to close out the match).

Steve O’Donnell must be taking a lot of flak in Twitterverse right now, but he seems to wear it well. Whatever NASCAR pays him to lead this effort is probably not enough. Last week, he tweeted out, “Busy day-appreciate all the feedback-if you are not on board with change, that’s “ok” but ask that you give it a chance and let it play out.”  https://twitter.com/odsteve/status/689600660749168641

In that, O’Donnell is spot on. Fans will surely voice their opinion over the course of the season, and NASCAR will be eavesdropping. O’Donnell’s peculiar countdown clock may be novelty, or it may be a trial balloon, that NASCAR eventually migrates up the food chain to the XFINITY and Sprint Cup Series. At least if it flops, fans will overlook it like the halftime stoppage that the CWTS races used briefly during the decade of the 90’s.

By Ron Bottano. Let’s connect on Twitter @rbottano

 

 

 

 

 

Kyle Busch Brings His Face To A Fistfight

 

It may not be news that Richard Childress unloaded several punches on kyle Busch after the Friday truck race in Kansas, but it’s still funny. Childress apparently calculated the punishment as he removed his jewelry before he got to Busch…fines to follow. http://www.motorsportsunplugged.com

Raikkonen Faster Than You Thought: Inside Scoop

Kimi Raikkonen’s test at Gresham Motorsports Half Mile track was as fast as the best, but he needed a faster track more like Charlotte. Inside sources say that he was much faster at Rockingham than anyone thought and that the team was astonished. The term “The Real Deal” was used many times.

Underestimation of The Predictability of Stupidity

If you think Formula One drivers can’t drive, you’re stupid, if you think NASCAR drivers can’t drive, you’re stupid. The Kimi Raikkonen debate seems to rage on with Formula One and NASCAR in the middle. Ask Kyle Busch if Kimi can drive. http://www.youtube.com/user/MotorsportsUnplugged

Tampering With Qualifying Dates Nothing New In NASCAR

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – There was a lot of buzz about today’s qualifying for the Goody’s Fast Relief 500.
For the first time at Martinsville Speedway, time trials will take place on a Saturday, starting today at 12:10 p.m ET, just before the start of the Camping World Truck Series race. That’s what’s caused the buzz.

Not that it was entirely unexpected. Earlier we learned that several races held this year at International Speedway Corp. tracks, and others, would have qualifying shifted to a Saturday.
Martinsville is the first, so naturally the revised schedule got a lot of scrutiny, which fostered several opinions.

On Friday, the Sprint Cup teams completed two 90-minute practice sessions. That was their schedule for the day.
Today, they will be at the track to run just two qualifying laps. That’s it. And the truck race will follow.
Now, the idea is that fans can get more bang for the buck with Sprint Cup qualifying and a truck race held on the same day.

And since that day is Saturday, there’s likely to be more fans in attendance.
“I’m all about what’s best for the show,” said Richard Childress Racing driver Kevin Harvick. “If it’s best for the show for us to have qualifying on a Saturday, then that’s what we need to do.”

Other drivers are not so lavish with their praise. Their contention is that the schedule is awkward and a burden.
“We just have to cram everything together,” said Penske Racing driver Kurt Busch on Friday. “That includes race trim and qualifying trim. I would expect lap totals to be close to 250 and that’s half a race.

“Tomorrow it’s just going to be two laps and that’s where a driver has to step up and show what he can do for his team and make sure he gets the best out of his car.”
Busch, however, agrees that if the new schedule is best for the fans, then that’s as it should be.

Ryan Newman, who drives for Stewart-Haas, said: “I just don’t want to come here for a day and just qualify.
“Coming here, I have the opportunity to go back and forth so coming up tomorrow for two laps is not the most planned, I guess you could say, use of everyone’s time.

“I’m not mad about it but I don’t see that it makes entire sense right now.”
Many observed that the new schedule mirrors that of “impound” races, of which, this year, there remain only a few.
How Saturday qualifying holds up at Martinsville and elsewhere remains to be seen.
But, as I’ve said many times before, what happens in NASCAR today has happened in the past – and that includes fooling around with Sprint Cup qualifying dates.

You might find some of this hard to believe, but it’s true.
For many years, Martinsville staged not one, not two, but three days of qualifying.
The first round was held on Thursday and, get this, only 10 cars were permitted into the field. On Friday a second round usually increased the field to 30 cars. Then a third round, on Saturday, would complete the starting lineup of, usually, 36 cars.
Martinsville wasn’t the only track that adopted this quirky system. North Wilkesboro did, too.

It was the same process – qualifying for the top 10 on Thursday, followed by a second round and then, sometimes, a third.
The reasoning behind this didn’t have as much to do with the fans as it did the media.
Martinsville President Clay Earles and Enoch Staley, the boss at North Wilkesboro, both reasoned that if they had three days of qualifying, that could provide them with more newspaper coverage.

Without the Internet and only minimal television coverage, if any, newspapers were the primary tools of race track publicity.
So the more time reporters had to spend at a track to gather the news, the better it was for the tracks – at least that is what Earles and Staley believed. Common sense dictated three days of coverage was better than two.

But when it came to spending an extra day at a track, the media and competitors didn’t see where there was any common sense involved.
If one extra day seemed nonsensical, how about two?
For years Charlotte Motor Speedway held qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600 on Wednesday – and the race wasn’t scheduled until Sunday.

That meant competitors spent five days at the speedway. On some days there wasn’t much to do. There was plenty of grousing.
Best we could figure, Bruton Smith, the CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns Charlotte and other tracks – which won’t hold qualifying on Saturday – wanted to have something as close to a Daytona Speedweeks as he could get.
It evolved that while CMS still held qualifying on Wednesday, there was no NASCAR activity on Friday.

The late Dick Beaty, then the Winston Cup Director, told me, “If we’re gonna have to be here Wednesday, we’re gonna take a day off.”
Today, of course, qualifying at CMS is on Thursday. Martinsville dropped its three-day policy years ago.
But it has something new now for the fans – that will, ultimately, determine if it is right or wrong.

Nelson Piquet, Jr: From F1 to NASCAR Part 2

Nelson Piquet, Jr didn’t find what he was looking for in Formula One. He chose to come to America and try NASCAR. His aggressive style and technical feedback caught the eye of Kevin Harvick who hired him to drive in the Camping World Truck Series. Motorsports Unplugged caught up with him in Daytona

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