Monday, February 15, 2016

February 15, 1976: Daytona 500 - Petty v. Pearson

Most old school fans and members of the media consistently say the 1979 Daytona 500 was the race that put NASCAR on the map. The race was nationally televised by CBS from beginning to end, and it had the legendary finish of Richard Petty winning as Cale Yarborough, Donnie Allison, and Bobby Allison scrapped in the mud on the backstretch.

Three years earlier, however, the 500 had another epic finish. Not nearly as many folks saw it on TV as only snippets of the race aired on ABC. Yet the finish arguably trumps the 1979 race because the top two cars battled to the end rather than wrecking with a half-lap to go and allowing someone else to win.

When the dust settled on the 1975 season, King Richard had banked one of his most successful years. He won 13 of 30 races, finished in the top five a remarkable 21 times, and captured his sixth series title.

He rolled into Daytona Beach for Speedweeks 1976 sporting a beard to help commemorate the United States' bicentennial year and kept it until he caved and shaved in the spring prior to Darlington's Rebel 500. Petty was going for his third consecutive Daytona 500 victory, sixth overall, and the fifth in seven years for Petty Enterprises.

David Pearson's 1975 season was a bit of step back from his previous two. In a limited schedule with the Wood Brothers, he won three of 21 races in 1975 after having won 18 races over the 1973-74 seasons. Though he had won four summer Firecracker 250/400 races at Daytona, he had never won the 500 since his debut in the race in 1960.

Super Tex A.J. Foyt from USAC made the most of one of his infrequent NASCAR appearances by laying down the quickest time in qualifying. Darrell Waltrip in the DiGard #88 Gatorade Chevy and Dave Marcis in the iconic #71 Harry Hyde-prepared K&K Insurance Dodge Charger timed second and third. But as Lee Corso often says on ESPN's Game Day...

In post-qualifying inspection, NASCAR pinched Foyt, Waltrip, AND Marcis. Their times were disallowed though they were allowed a second-round qualifying effort and to race in the twin 125-mile qualifying races to determine their starting spot for the 500.

Source: Daytona Beach Morning Journal via Google News Archive
Waltrip took the approach of that's racing when news came down that his time had been tossed.

Source: Daytona Beach Morning Journal via Google News Archive
With the time of Foyt's Chevrolet kicked to the curb, another USAC regular, Ramo Stott, found himself as the surprise top starter for the 500. Regardless of how he performed in his qualifying twin, he was guaranteed to start P1. Stott always had a good time, and he was certainly delighted in getting the nod to start on the front row.

Perhaps more surprising than Stott starting first was the driver elevated to the second starting spot: Terry Ryan. In his debut at Daytona and in Cup overall, Ryan found himself perched on the front row alongside Stott.

Despite their qualifying times being disallowed, the teams of Foyt, Waltrip, and Marcis stayed focused on the big picture. Waltrip and Marcis won their respective twin, and the duo started third and fourth in the 500 - only a spot back from where they'd originally qualified.

Source: Daytona Beach Morning Journal via Google News Archive
The Daytona 500 rolled off with Stott and Ryan on the front row. But that's about as close to the action as the duo got all day. When the green flag fell, Stott was moved aside on lap one as Buddy Baker whipped his Bud Moore Ford from its fifth starting position to the lead where he stayed for four laps.

Credit: John Betts of
The crowd watched the lead swap back and forth, lap after lap between several drivers. Except for Baker, Petty, and Foyt, no other driver kept the lead during the first half of the race for much more than a single-digit number of laps.

The final 100 laps were a duel between Pearson, Foyt, and Petty - though Benny Parsons hung around as well to keep the top three honest. Foyt won the 1972 Daytona 500 in the Wood Brothers Ford, and he planned to win it again four years later in Hoss Ellington's Chevrolet. On lap 143, however, the engine in Foyt's Chevy went south. A.J.'s day was done, and he had to settle for a 22nd place finish despite leading the most laps. Foyt's exit left a three-way battle between The Three P's: Parsons, Petty, and Pearson.

With 25 to go, Petty and Pearson had separated themselves from Parsons by a full lap. The two rivals raced only inches apart the remaining laps, and Petty led the way as the 43 and 21 took the white flag. Entering turn three on the last lap, Pearson made his move. He slipped under Petty's Dodge and slid in front of the Charger's front bumper as the two ran the high line of the track. But as Pearson moved up, he slipped ever so little which gave Petty the opportunity to dive under him.

Credit: John Betts of
Coming off turn four, Petty's Dodge charged back past Pearson. As the two headed through the dog leg of the front stretch, Petty moved up to block yet another crossover move from Pearson. But it was not quite enough.

Petty's right rear clipped the left front of Pearson's Mercury. Both cars began spinning and crashed into the wall right in front of the packed grandstands. Petty's Dodge spun wildly and coasted to a stop on the infield grass between the track and pit road - just yards from the finish line. Pearson spun around and tagged Joe Frasson's Chevrolet at the entrance to pit road. Tagging Frasson actually helped Pearson a bit as the rebound of the hit pointed the 21 back in the right direction.

Petty sat in his stalled Dodge trying desperately to restart the car. Pearson, who kept his Mercury running by pushing the clutch as the car spun, began to literally plow the infield grass with the crumbled Mercury as he slowly moved toward the checkered flag.

Meanwhile, the Petty crew rushed to the scene of Richard's stopped Dodge to push the 43 to the finish. NASCAR had a rule stating a car could not be pushed across the finish line. The 43 was therefore penalized a lap but still credited with second place ahead of Parsons.

Eddie Wood recalls hearing Pearson key his mic to reply to the question from the pits of "What happened?" The Silver Fox's reply was direct and concise: The bitch hit me.

Tim Leeming, who first met Petty at his debut race at Columbia Speedway in 1958, shared his memories from the race:
The big thing about our trip was that one of our good friends had been involved in an auto accident two weeks before the race and spent a week in the hospital with a severely broken leg. He was determined he would not miss that race. So, as we loaded up to go, we literally lifted him into the passenger front bucket seat pushed back as far as it would go. Looking back, I will never know how he survived that long ride in the position in which he had to sit, but he did it.

When we got the track Sunday morning, we signed in for press credentials and then parked in the infield press parking area. We took a chair next to the fence for our friend with the broken leg and sat around and talked until about an hour before race time when I went into the pits for a couple of interviews for the radio show. To say things were really different back then is a full blown understatement. It was easy to approach almost any driver as he came down off the stand from introductions, and they all had time to talk with you.

I spent most of the race watching with my friends against the fence near turn one as that was the best vantage point for my friend who had to sit. With about 30 to go, I walked into the pits and took up position in the same place I had been for the previous year's 500, right at the first turn end of pit road. The last 30 laps were thrilling as we could all tell it was going to be the classic Petty-Pearson duel 'til the end.

As the two flashed by on the white flag lap, I watched them as far as I could see them going through turns 1 and 2. Then I immediately turned my attention to turn four to wait for them to come back around. I was leaning as far over the pit wall as I could. I jumped off the ground when I saw the red and blue Dodge coming first but something was big time wrong. Petty and Pearson were both sliding and spinning and then Richard went nose first into the wall.

For a few seconds, I think I was in shock trying to figure out what happened. Then I saw some of the Petty crew running towards the car so I jumped the wall and started to sprint in that direction to help push. About the time I hit the grass between the pit road and the track, the biggest man I have ever seen (still a true statement even all these years later) grabbed me and let me know in no uncertain terms that I was NOT going out there to push Petty. It was about that time Pearson made it across the line so the point for the win was moot anyway.  
The crumpled 21 Mercury arrives in Victory Lane.

Meanwhile, the Petty crew pushed the 43 to garage area as they wondered what might have been. Joe Frasson who also spun during the melee waits as the 43 crew gets Richard through the pit wall opening first.

Credit: John Betts
Several years ago, Pearson was interviewed by Johnny Hayes. The two talk about the 1976 Daytona finish beginning around the 3:00 mark.


Though the King had to settle for a spectacular second in the 500, the Petty team didn't go home empty handed. Shop employee and part-time driver, Joe Millikan, piloted the Petty Enterprises Hayes Jewelers #04 Dodge Charger to the win in the Permatex 300 late model sportsman race the day before the 500.

Courtesy of Ray Lamm
Also, beer distributor and part-time driver Woody Fisher - driving a Petty Enterprises built and crewed Dodge Charger - finished second to Cup regular Lennie Pond in the ARCA 200 .

Courtesy of Brian Norton
Many may remember the British accent of David Hobbs serving as color commentator to Ken Squier's lead announcing role on the later CBS stock car telecasts. Hobbs made his first of two career NASCAR starts in the 1976 Daytona 500. He drove a Coca-Cola sponsored #73 L.G. DeWitt Chevy. He crashed on lap 68, however, and finished 39th.

Judging by this photo, I'm thinking the team may have been supplied with caffeine-free Coke.

Source: Daytona Beach Morning Journal via Google News Archive
Ed Negre raced the 10,000 RPM Speed Equipment Dodge Charger. Nine months earlier, Negre fielded what was likely the same Dodge for rookie Dale Earnhardt in his first Cup race, the 1975 World 600 at Charlotte.

After getting boat raced on lap one of the 500, Stott faded back through the field. He blew an engine on lap 118. Skip Manning spun after hitting the oil from Stott's engine.

Source: Daytona Beach Morning Journal via Google News Archive
Journeyman driver Johnny Ray then t-boned Manning and was badly injured. Ray's driving career ended with the accident. He continued in racing, however, as a car owner. One of the races in which he fielded a car was the 1976 Dixie 500 at Atlanta - the next to last race of the season. Earnhardt spun, flipped and destroyed Ray's car in only his third career Cup start.

Finally, Petty's Charger lived to race another day. Rather than scrap the wrecked car or donate it to Dale Jr's property as is often done today, the Level Cross crew thrashed. The wrecked 43 was hauled back to the shop, and the crew repaired it over the next two weeks so the King could race it at Rockingham. Result: win #178 in the Carolina 500.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

NASCAR's chartered medallion franchises

Mark it down.
Remember it every year.
Tuesday, February 9, 2016.
The Day.

What am I referring to? National Pizza Day, of course!

What? You think I'd encourage you to commemorate the anniversary of the charter agreement between NASCAR and the Race Team Alliance? Ehh.

Yes, Tuesday's announcement was a landmark deal for NASCAR and the owners of its participating teams. For the fans though? In my opinion, not so much. Did the team of your favorite driver get a charter?
  • Yes? Then you're gold. 
  • No? Well, there's still hope because four spots are available every race for your fave to qualify. 
Yet perhaps as expected, an outcry has arisen from the fan base about the deal will be a disaster for NASCAR. Just add the rants to the pile of other things killing the sport...allegedly: chase systems in the cable company and truck series, races on FS1 and NBCSN, Jeff Gordon's retirement, Kyle Busch's Cup title, timed cautions, yada 3x.

Don't get me wrong. I'm truly surprised the idea even left the starting blocks last summer, and I'm mildly surprised one of them deals was completed before the 2016 season began. Some questions remain for me about near-term and longer-term implications, but overall I'm OK with the new relationship.

Field size

Many are bothered by the news Cup fields will be cut from 43 to 40 starters. The 43rd starter has its roots in the champion's provisional. The impetus for it was when seven-time champion Richard Petty missed the show at Richmond in 1989. Had the King been given a mulligan that weekend to race, however, he would not have started 43rd. He would have started 37th as only 36 cars were scheduled to race. NASCAR had a variable number of starters in that era - generally 36 for short tracks and 42 for the superspeedways.

The champion's provisional came about too late for Petty. He missed the Richmond race plus three others in 1989. The number of starters bounced around between 42 and 43 depending on who needed the champ provo. Darrell Waltrip milked the champion's provisional for all it was worth by relying upon it to make a race thirty-two times in the last three years of his career from 1998-2000.

The 43-car field wasn't standardized for all races until 1998 - just 18 years ago. If a prior champion didn't need the spot, another driver was permitted to use it to race based on owner points, qualifying speed, practice times, whatever.

So for me, reducing the field by three cars isn't a big knock on the series.

Loss of the little guys

I believe many are freaked about the 43 to 40 change simply because of the change. I understand, however, many are also bothered by the elimination of three spots that historically have gone to smaller, underfunded teams. Fans enjoy pulling for an underdog story.

I grew up as a Petty fan - hardly the underdog. In addition to following the 43, I also maintained admiration for the truly independent drivers such as Buddy Arrington, Jimmy Means, Cecil Gordon, Dick May, Elmo Langley, James Hylton, Coo Coo Marlin, Dave Sisco, etc. Those drivers and others like them handled it all. They owned the cars, worked on them, re-purposed parts and tires, raced the cars, towed them to and from the track, sold meager sponsorships, ran their small business, hired a part-time often-volunteer crew, etc.

But folks, those days are long gone. Permanently. Cup hasn't had a truly independent owner/driver since the early 1990s when Means ended his driving career. I do miss that aspect of NASCAR, but the fact is Cup has moved on from that era.

Cup still has a handful or regular and part-time lower funded teams such as Tommy Baldwin Racing. The teams and drivers who have shown up the last 15-20 years looking to make the show, however, are infinitely more well off than the independent guys of the 1960s-1980s. 
  • Today's underdog driver hasn't thrashed all week in his block garage living off coffee and carb cleaner fumes. 
  • He hasn't loaded his car on an open trailer to haul it non-stop from North Carolina to Wilkesboro or Nashville's Fairgrounds or Texas World Speedway. 
  • The team has bought a hand-me-down car from an existing Cup program along with some extra engines and parts, loaded them in a full-size tractor trailer rig, and paid the travel expenses and a stipend to a hired driver looking to stay visible in Cup.
Class envy

The rich will just get richer. - It's a paraphrased refrain said by many. To put it bluntly, I view the statement as nothing more than petty jealousy - and I don't mean of the 43's history. For those who don't understand basic American capitalism - or choose to ignore it, that's generally how it works - or how those in business hope it works. The argument can be dismissed immediately upon utterance as it offers nothing constructive to the discussion of the merits of the new agreement. To clarify for those who still don't get it:
  • Teams granted the charters did not have to pay NASCAR for them.
  • An owner selling a charter may well sell it for multi-millions of dollars, but the sales proceeds will not provide a gain for what has been invested in the years preceding the sale.
But what about...
Yes, I do have questions about the deal. The circle-the-wagons refrain has been the new charter system will encourage new, external investors into NASCAR. I'm still uncertain how this agreement will encourage anyone to buy-in.

The market dynamics of charter transactions will be interesting to watch earlier in the 9-year deal vs. years 8 and 9. I could see charter transactions being analogous to short pitting or staying out an extra lap hoping to catch a caution and trap the field a lap down. Bottom line, however, I want this new system to work for racing.

Most of the near-term questions I had about the agreement were answered in the press conference - leasing arrangements, who receives the charters, etc. I still have a Six Pack of questions that remain unanswered though:

1. I'm curious about the long-term effect of the Cup charter system on the cable company and truck series. Will the security of having a marketable Cup charter move an owner to accept more risk and invest more heavily in teams for either of those series? If so, would that investment push more teams in those divisions to the margins - two series that still has a few independent operations?

2. NASCAR announced a charter holder must be in good standing to continue use of it - but without defining "good standing". Knee-jerk definition: don't start and park. But will it really be that cut and dried?
  • What if a team's regular driver gets injured, the driver is out for an extended time, and the sub(s) simply can't get it done? OK, that one may be fairly easy too - extenuating circumstances. 
  • But perhaps an owner loses a sponsor despite having a charter, has to lay off a lot of employees, can't find an immediate angel investor, and simply runs out the string by starting and parking to save costs until an equity solution can be found. If the definition of "good standing" is as wide as exemption provisions for a driver's Chase eligibility, ♫ awkward ♫ ...
3. Have provisionals finally been eliminated - including the obsolete champion's provisional? With all that went into the negotiations, it's hard to see how both sides would allow wiggle room for a former Cup champ not with a current chartered team. But who knows....

4. How in the dickens did Michael Waltrip Racing end up with two charters for the next nine years when the team no longer exists? Oh. OK. Scratch that one. Rob Kauffman led the negotiations on behalf of the RTA. Move along, nothing to see here.

Licensed under fair use via Wikipedia 
5. What sort of  approval or influence will NASCAR have in the transfer of ownership of a charter? A point made during the press conference was a charter can only be transferred once every five years. Sounds like NASCAR will assign a unique ID to each charter to track race entries, owner points, etc. Fine.

But once a charter is transferred to a new owner, wouldn't the five-year clock begin anew? Apparently not. Consider this scenario:
  • Owner B buys the charter of owner A. 
  • Owner B signs a multi-year sponsorship deal to replace original sponsor who left when owner A got out. 
  • New sponsor bellies up 2 years into a 3-year deal. 
  • If I understand this transfer provision, owner B would be prohibited from selling the charter to owner C if a replacement sponsor couldn't be found. 
  • Owner B could surrender the charter to NASCAR, but he could not sell it. Or am I missing something?
6. While a basis for "franchises" has now been established and some early transactions may set the market price for the value of the charters, what about the entry of additional manufacturers? I realize Dodge nor Honda nor Hyundai nor anyone else is knocking down the door to enter NASCAR. But if the marketing plan changes for one or more of those companies, could they mobilize a number of owners and purchase of existing charters to make their entry viable? I think we're pretty well set with Chevy, Ford and Toyota for now - and perhaps a brandless car 15-20 years down the road.

What other questions need to be asked? I'm all ears. Post a comment below of tweet me at @toomuchcountry.


Monday, February 8, 2016

Absolutely no beer decals on the 43. Well...

With the return of Busch beer as a NASCAR sponsor for Kevin Harvick in 2016, many are as nostalgic as ever about the days of the Busch Clash. Buddy Baker won the first Clash held in February 1979. The 20-lap Daytona dash was open to drivers who won a pole - a Busch Pole Award - in 1978.

Two "truths" often get socialized when it comes to Clash history:
  1. Richard Petty never raced in a Busch Clash because...
  2. he never put the required beer sponsor decal on his car out of deference to his mother. 
I put "truths" in quotes simply because neither of those statements is an absolute fact.

The King has more career poles (officially 127) than any other driver - past or present. Petty won all but nine of them in the 15-year period of 1961 through 1975. Petty did not win a pole in 1978 - the first year of eligibility for the Clash.

After a couple of so-so years in the late 1970s, the Petty Enterprises team regained their mojo for one final championship run in 1979. As the season hit the mid-point at Daytona's Firecracker 400, the 43 team was starting to hit its stride. Cars were fast, wins were notched, and the King banked top 5s and 10s when a win simply wasn't there.

Though the Petty cars were quick, the King couldn't quite nail down another top starting spot - until the Cup series returned to Bristol for the second night running of the Volunteer 500.

Driving the Chevy Caprice debuted at Nashville a few weeks earlier, Petty laid down the fastest lap and captured his first top starting spot since 1977. The pole win also turned out to be the final one of his career.

Petty's pole win made him eligible for the 1980 Busch Clash - but only if his car sported the Busch beer decal. I'm not sure if the decal was added to the car before or after his pole-winning run - but it was definitely there for the race as evidenced in the above photo.

Perhaps because the pole-win program was in only its second year and perhaps because NASCAR and Anheuser-Busch wanted to maintain interest in the Busch Clash and its big-name participants, a pole-winning driver was apparently expected to keep the decal on the car.

Though the truism that Richard Petty didn't have a beer sticker on his car generally holds, the statement isn't absolute. Following Bristol, the 43 had the Busch decal on its side for the remaining races.

Southern 500 at Darlington

Labor Day Monday was brutally hot in Darlington in 1979. Several drivers had issues dealing with the extreme temperatures and humidity including Bobby and Donnie Allison and The King. After falling out of the race and then getting a round of oxygen, Donnie put on his helmet to take over for Petty.

After a few laps, Allison had to be relieved by Neil Bonnett. Several laps later, Petty went back into his own car and still finished ninth. His finish - even with three driver changes - was two spots better than Darrell Waltrip who he was battling for the championship.

And by the way, the bushy haired crewman with his back to the camera during the pit stop for the first driver swap? Kyle Petty - the front tire carrier for the Petty Enterprises team.

Capital City 400 at Richmond - on same Caprice in which he won the pole at Bristol.

Credit: Brian Yezierski
CRC Chemicals 500 at Dover - The decal was on the 43 as Petty won his 189th race over Donnie Allison.

Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville - After winning the Virginia 500 in April 1979, Petty finished second to Buddy Baker in the fall race.

Holly Farms 400 at North Wilkesboro - I haven't landed a photo of the side view of the 43 from this race...yet. But I do know Petty raced the Caprice in the event. My guess is the car was decaled the same as it was at Bristol and Richmond.

National 500 at Charlotte - The King's Monte Carlo finished a solid fourth, one spot better than Waltrip. (The race was also Kyle's Cup debut at Charlotte.)

American 500 at Rockingham - The King went to victory lane a second time with the Busch sticker on the car.

Dixie 500 at Atlanta - Petty salvaged a sixth place finish with the Busch contingency on the car in what could have been a catastrophic day for his title chances. He spun during the race after tangling with Tighe Scott, but he and the crew persevered to get a much-needed top 10.

Los Angeles Times 500 at Ontario - The Busch decal was on the 43 a final time in 1979 as Petty ran a steady race, finished fifth, and claimed his seventh championship title.

Credit Scott Baker of
Having met the eligibility requirements, Richard Petty was now qualified to participate in the 1980 Busch Clash.

Photo courtesy of Scott Baker at
In the end, it didn't matter much. NASCAR scheduled a presser whereby the eligible drivers drew numbered Busch beer cans for their starting spot. Eleven of the twelve drivers were present to draw, and the twelfth starting spot was assigned to the missing driver.

Source: Daytona Beach Morning Journal via Google News Archive
The driver unable to be in Daytona Beach for the drawing ? Yep, the King. And where was he? In New York City - on a promotional trip for NASCAR, the Busch Clash, and the Daytona 500!

Source: Daytona Beach Morning Journal via Google News Archive
The King started 12th and finished 11th. From what I can tell, he ran the same Olds 442 he raced the rest of Speedweeks - in qualifying, his 125-mile twin, and the Daytona 500. Though the Clash finish didn't show it, the 442 was fast. Petty finished second in his twin, started fourth in the 500, and ran with the leaders until burning a clutch during a pit stop to end his day. He did, however, pocket a much needed $10,000 for his efforts in the Clash - a decent size purse for the era and limited effort needed.

Based on what I've found, Petty did not have the Busch decal on his 43 the remainder of his career - including in his one and only Busch Clash in 1980.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

NASCAR: Where the only constant is change

Tuesday's news about Tony Stewart's accident and injury has at least temporarily re-directed folks to speculate about his health and racing future rather than information already known. But...I'll slide this one in before SHR's Thursday update.

Recent announcements by NASCAR at the annual media tour were generally expected yet with a couple of twists. But once the biggies were flopped out there, many folks lost their collective minds over them.

Specifically, the implementation of a Chase-type championship format for the Xfinity and Truck series and timed-cautions for the trucks really put folks at the edge of rendering their garments. I'll be the first to admit I'm not crazy about either idea, but I'll also sleep like a baby all season long despite them (that is, if babies snore like a freight train after a Schaefer pop or two). A few thoughts...

The truck series began in 1995 and turned 21 - TWENTY-ONE! - just last season. That's the first year of legal drinking age and the precipice of college graduation! What kind of changes did you go through around that period of your life?

The series has seen a variety of changes in format, tracks, truck configurations, drivers, teams, and now a championship structure and scheduled cautions. I personally don't think the trucks have any true long-standing traditions that made me dig in my heels to say "that's just wrong!" when the recent changes were announced. NASCAR overall went through a ton of changes in its first two decades. Let me recap a few of the more significant ones:
  • NASCAR began with only a modified series in 1948.
  • A full-size, late-model division was implemented in 1949 and branded as the Strictly Stock division.
  • After only one year, the top series was rebranded as the Grand National division.
  • NASCAR began, operated and then shut-down a Short Track Division. Jim Reed was a five-time champion of the division in the 1950s - yet the division never saw 1960.
  • Big Bill France bought an open-wheel, Indianapolis-type series and rebranded it as the NASCAR Speedway Division. Using older Indy cars piloted by NASCAR drivers, the series ran a seven-race schedule in 1952 and a couple of events in 1953 before being disbanded.
  • NASCAR purchased a convertible racing series, saw most of the talent bolt, recruited new and existing NASCAR drivers, operated it for about four seasons, and then shuttered it following the 1959 season.
  • NASCAR operated a drag racing division a few years before ending it in the 1960s. (And before anyone claims "I know, I know, Richard Petty raced in it" he did not.) 
As for the Cable Company Division, it's really had no identity over the past decade - maybe longer. Yes, drivers such as Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon, and Chris Buescher have moved up to Cup after claiming CCD titles. But who's kidding who. The series wasn't known for their prowess. It's been known in recent years as the division in which Cup guys raided candy from the babies. Kyle Busch and Team Penske drivers - that's who folks think of when the subject of the CCD arises.

Distilling the old LMS series into the Budweiser / Busch Grand National Series in 1982 was 100% the right thing to do. What I don't think was the right thing to do, however, was to have it become Cup Light. Yet that's what it became - and the toothpaste is out of the tube. Mark Martin, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, etc. all have taken turns dominating the minor league races with major league equipment. NASCAR has no plans to return the series back to places like Myrtle Beach, South Boston, IRP, Nashville Fairgrounds, Martinsville, etc. So at this point, they can put in a chase format, run the tracks backwards, race Tuesday breakfast events, or whatever.

I still enjoy casually watching the races of both series if nothing else is really going on or if I'm at a track for the Cup event. So as far as I'm concerned, the Beach Suits can do whatever they see fit to tweak either of them.
  • Will either of the changes - the new championship format or 20-minute caution - improve racing? I doubt it.
  • Will either of them cut costs? Probably not - the caution format might reduce the demand for truly speedy pit crews for truck teams, but the new chase format will increase costs.
  • Will attendance or ratings increase? Not substantially.
  • Will all the folks who claim they are now done with NASCAR truly walk away? Hardly.
I'm not so naive as to not see what is in play with the 20-minute caution rule in the truck series. Short-term, it'll have a negligible effect on the races. NASCAR simply wants to experiment with a try-before-you-buy idea before implementing it in Cup - probably for more optimal timing of TV commercials. If that change happens, would I feel differently? Ehh, maybe. Cup is the series I most closely follow and has the longest history. If the timed caution is forced into Cup in 2018, well I'll cross that bridge when we get there. But even if it is implemented, I'm sure I'll still be watching then just as I'll continue to casually follow the other two series in the near term.

So grab yourself a cold one, find the remote (or the app on your phone), fire up the races, holster your tweeter and for the love of Pete...

Welcome to racing season 2016!

Wait, you mean I have to chime in on the NASCAR / RTA Cup charter system too? Hmm. Perhaps. But let's at least let 'em announce that it's been signed, sealed and delivered first.