Monday, November 3, 2014

Brawl proves that NASCAR new playoff system is working

At a time of year when NASCAR races are often an afterthought, the sport is certainly getting some attention.

The latest comes after the crews of Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon brawled on pit road Sunday after the two drivers collided just before the end of the race in Fort Worth, Texas, knocking Gordon out of contention to win and out of first place in the points standings, too.

It was the second time in three weeks that Keselowski (on the far right in this picture with the white cap on) was involved in a skirmish. It happened at Charlotte Motor Speedway, too, on Oct.11th -- and it proved two things to me.

1) Keselowski has gone too far. When you've got basically everyone in the garage mad at you -- and you have had the normally even-tempered Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth both try to fight you in less than a month -- you're not doing something right.

There's a difference between driving aggressively and driving recklessly, and Keselowski has veered too much toward the latter. He needs to rein himself in (see video of Sunday's incident here). He has become the new bad boy of NASCAR, but more in a Kyle Busch kind of way rather than the Dale Earnhardt kind of way. That's not good.

Gordon, the four-time NASCAR champion, was hopping mad in a post-race interview Sunday. He called Keselowski a "dip----" and also said: "The way he races, I don't know how he's ever won a championship. That's why everyone's fighting him and running him down."
Keselowski -- who like Gordon was bleeding slightly after the confrontation -- said afterward he was just racing hard and wouldn't change his style.
The push Kevin Harvick gave Keselowski that started a scuffle that otherwise looked like it was about to peter out was totally out of line and should result in one of the many fines that will be handed out due to this altercation. What was Harvick doing in there anyway? But it was also a sign of what people think of Keselowski in the garage right now.

2) NASCAR's new format is working. The old Chase for the Sprint Cup was basically another points race -- just a shorter, 10-race one that bunched the field of Chase drivers but still awarded consistency above all else and never officially eliminated anyone. By the last race, in Homestead, things often were anti-climactic. But the "win or else" mentality that has pervaded this Chase is happening because that is the only way to assure advancement into the next round. I think it works better than any previous incarnation of the Chase, and there have been a lot of them since NASCAR instituted its playoff system in 2004. Drivers are eliminated four a time every three races for the first nine races of the Chase. And so there's much more of a tendency to take chances, which is generally good for the race fan (or the casual sports fan whose attention is mostly being taken over by the NFL and, more specifically, his fantasy football team).

I also don't think there's any way Keselowski is going to win another title this year, although he remains in the final eight going into the next-to-last race at Phoenix Sunday (which will then cut the field to a final four). You still need cooperation among your fellow drivers in this sport. And Keselowski is not going to get very much of that.


Anonymous said...

I disagree with you Scott that the new system was working. There were still a lot of empty seats on Sunday.

Anonymous said...

The video I saw was from the car behind 24 and 2. They were roughly side by side and 24 dropped down the track while 2 held his line. Why is that Keselowski's fault. On a regular highway, it would be Gordon's fault. What is it about NASCAR that makes the rules different. I'm not a big NASCAR fan, so I'm really asking.

Anonymous said...

Brad is driving the way the other drivers should fighting and scraping for every inch on the track. The reason Nascar has fell out of favor is because it is boring. Go to the world of outlaws race at charlotte and watch the way racing should be!! If the little babies can't handle a little rubbing then they need to retire.

James Edgar said...

I missed the fight. I've been waiting all these years for the 3 car to come back, and now it's back but finishes 15th every week. Plus, the races are unbelievably boring until the last 20 laps. So it's hard to watch for 3 hours.

NASCAR needs to realize it's not 1999 anymore. They need to cut the starting grid back to 36 and get all these start-&-park, unfunded teams off the track. They need to cut back the schedule to 1 race at each of the 24 tracks for the "regular season," and have a 6-race Chase - have Chase races at Indy, Charlotte, Bristol and Daytona, and 2 races that rotate among the other 20 tracks. Run the 30-race season from mid-February to late September. You'll get better racing and a more manageable schedule. Then get to work making cars that can actually pass one another without sending another car into the wall (I'm so tired of hearing, "I can't go very fast if I'm not in clean air.")

Then you won't need pit road fights to get people talking and watching.

Anonymous said...

let'm fight puts more people in the stands sorta like the old days......just good old boys

Anonymous said...

With the Cowboys game and the F1 race in Austin, you were going to lose out on some fans.

The grandstands for the Phoenix race are sold out.

Anonymous said...

Two drivers from different generations with different styles. Brad is learning some hard lessons at the moment. On to Phoenix.

Anonymous said...

Mr Ski is a punk who thinks his mess don't stink. Needs to grow up and act his age and not his car number.

Anonymous said...

What is with this empty seats? When has there ever not been empty seats?

NFL,NBA,MLB,NHL arenas or stadiums hold 17-75,000.

There are 150,000 seats at the average NASCAR track and 50,000 more elsewhere. Nobody has gone bankrupt.

Auto racing began in 1887.

Horse/dog racing began 4000 yrs ago.

Chariot racing began 3000 yrs ago.

As long as the Henry Ford fossil fueled internal combustion engine is on the road there will be racing and this includes F1 souped up go carts.

There are 1 billion cars on earth.

There are 275 million cars in America.

The petroleum/auto industry is worth 500 trillion worldwide with 250 trillion in America providing 25 million jobs paying 500 billion to the economy taxes annually of a 14 trillion total GDP.

As long as there are cars there
will be NASCAR & Formula One racing
and empty seats but dont
sweat it.

Ronald Olson said...

Mr. Scott Says, I don't know what race you were watching on Sunday but possibly not the same one I watched on ESPN.
At first I thought that it was just Brad being Brad but after seeing further videos on Monday, with special note to the aerial camera I would have to disagree.
Yes, I also at first wanted to jump on the bandwagon and say that it was Keselowski acting up again but under further review I see that Jeff Gordon totally blew it then blamed Brad for his screw-up.
I'm not a fan of either but like you, I also have my view of what I saw going on.