Racing season is here

Published 7:20 am Monday, February 8, 2010

By By Jeff Findley
The 2010 NASCAR season is upon us. There has been tire testing, media tours, and personnel movement in the off season, but the Budweiser Shootout in Daytona Saturday night, the competitive season will begin in earnest.
From Saturday night’s race to Thursday’s qualifying duel races to next Sunday’s Daytona 500, this a great week for race fans. Mixed in all this Sprint Cup series action will be an ARCA race, a Nationwide series race, and a Camping World truck race. Daytona is a busy place the first two weeks of February.
While this off-season has not necessarily been the busiest in terms of driver and sponsor movement, plenty of significant decisions and changes have been made in an effort to make the sport more fan friendly.
From consistent race start times for the television networks to slight changes in the actual car, NASCAR is aware that the trend of lower television ratings and fan attendance cannot continue. In this period of sponsorship money leaving the sport, with less fans, i.e. consumers of sponsor’s products, involved in the sport, companies will look to allocate those funds elsewhere.
For the past several seasons, NASCAR allowed the television networks to dictate start times of races. From a fan’s perspective, starting races on east coast at 3 or 4 pm puts a huge burden on those attending the races. Now, all day-time races on the east coast will begin a 1 pm EST and all day-time races on the west coast will begin at 3 pm EST. Races run at night will have varying start times.
This change, coupled with reduced and specially priced ticket packages at virtually every track on which NASCAR competes will, hopefully, have a positive impact on the ever-important television ratings and in-person attendance.
On the competitive side, NASCAR listened to what the drivers have been saying in wrong with the car-and made the necessary changes.
The often criticized, but necessary, restrictor plate at Daytona and Talladega has been enlarged to 1989 levels. This change should produce better, if not more entertaining, at the superspeedways.
NASCAR officials are also loosening the rules concerning bump drafting. Over the last couple of seasons, bump drafting in the corners and turns were restricted. Starting this season, bump drafting is allowed, if not encouraged, at any point on the track.
Those two slight changes should produce some great racing at the larger tracks and superspeedways, beginning this weekend in Daytona.
The final most visible change will be the rear wing being replaced with an old-fashioned spoiler. This change will happen in March and will dissipate downforce more evenly between the front and rear of the car. Not only is this change an effort to improve the racing and keep cars from the dreaded single line racing, but the safety aspect of keeping the cars on the ground, not airborne, was also considered.
Hopefully, these changes will have the intended consequences of improved racing, higher television ratings, and higher attendance. If not, NASCAR will continue to see major sponsors walking out the door.
Jeff Findley is the publisher of the Post Searchlight, a sister paper of The Atmore Advance, in Bainbridge, Ga.

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