NASCAR, NHRA change lanes


NASCAR chairman Brian France proudly proclaimed last week that he listened to fans clamoring for changes in the Sprint Cup series.

On the same day, NHRA president Tom Compton -- listening, we can only guess, to the mysterious voices inside his head -- announced that the first four-wide professional drag race would take place in March at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

It's amazing how important fans' opinions are to NASCAR now that fewer attend races and TV ratings have dropped.

And it's amazing what Compton comes up with.

The first change for NASCAR will be to bring back bump drafting for races at its two biggest tracks, Daytona and Talladega. France said it will be the first move to limit how much NASCAR regulates drivers' on-track aggression.

He vowed NASCAR will "loosen it up."

"There's an age-old saying (in) NASCAR, 'If you ain't rubbing, you ain't racing,' " NASCAR president Mike Helton said after France spoke. "I think that's what the NASCAR fan, the NASCAR stakeholders all bought into and all expect."

We hope the safety enhancements of the modern Cup car live up to their billing.

Time will tell how long NASCAR lets racers be racers. I'm guessing not too long.

Die-hard fans probably would have preferred changes to allow teams more creativity in building cars, eliminate the 10-race championship Chase and place greater emphasis on winning by awarding more points to victors.

France made his comments Jan. 21 on the final day of an annual NASCAR media tour around Concord, N.C., that is organized by Charlotte Motor Speedway -- the track formerly known as Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Earlier that day, Compton's announcement -- much more appropriate for April 1 -- was made at Charlotte's dragstrip.

He and the NHRA's other self-ordained lords of drag racing were there to steal the ears of touring NASCAR media when they provided details of the March 26-28 Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event -- the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals.

The format will force Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock categories to race four at a time for championship points on the country's only four-lane dragstrip.

Compton apparently kowtowed to the demands of Bruton Smith, chairman of the corporation that owns the Charlotte and Las Vegas speedways.

Smith sees himself as drag racing's savior and believes four-lane, professional racing is the sport's future. He had the Las Vegas dragstrip designed for four lanes, but only two have been built.

This four-wide plan for a professional drag racing points event has too many flaws to count -- I'm working on a list.

The first and biggest is it's a no-win for the NHRA.

If it flops, it will be an utter embarrassment.

If it succeeds, it will diminish the entertainment value of the NHRA's 22 other national events.

France's hearing could be better, but Compton's hearing aid needs to be dialed in to more than Smith's voice.

Jeff Wolf's motor sports column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at jwolf@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0247. Visit Wolf's motor sports blog at lvrj.com/blogs/heavypedal/ throughout the week.

 

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