NASCAR’s struggle for power is real. Can it be turned off?

Did you notice? … As Will Ferrell once said, Anchorman, “Born. It escalated quickly.”

It took just under six weeks for the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season to run its cover after the most successful regular season in recent memory. By the NASCAR on FOX portion of the schedule, TV ratings Six percent increased Year to year with healthy crowds seen at the racetrack. From competition in the ring to innovation outside of it, people had every reason to be optimistic.

The sport’s next-generation chassis debut exceeded expectations, at its best on intermediate ovals that make up the bulk of the annual schedule. Both parity and unpredictability have returned to a very heavy sport, producing 16 winners in 26 regular season races.

The battle to make the post-season has been the best since the elimination style format was introduced to the sport in 2014. New organizations, from 23XI Racing to Trackhouse Racing Team, have found their way into victory lane and have made an impact within a royal group looking to diversify.

Suddenly, that progress is threatened, as a sportswoman who used to climb the ladder is now teetering on the edge of a cliff.

Just look at all the punches NASCAR has sucked up since the start of the playoffs in September. for review …

  • On Labor Day Weekend at Darlington Raceway, multiple cars Caught on fire for no reason, including Championship contender Kevin Harvick. The 2014 Cup champion led the way in speaking out against the next-generation chassis, blaming the problems on “bad parts in the race car”. Safety concerns led to in-season rule changes in order to keep the rocker box from igniting spontaneously.
  • Safety concerns increased as drivers publicly complained about a number of slams. At Texas Motor Speedway, they peaked, with separate accidents resulting in Alex Bowman and Cody Ware being injured. Bowman missed the last two races, knocking him out of the championship competition, just a few weeks after Kurt Busch crashed at the Pocono racetrack. for him To give up a playoff. None of the trio started racing on Sunday (October 9) at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, the first time in 20 years that three full-time drivers have been turned away.
  • At the same Texas race, William Byron deliberately spun his rival Denny Hamlin under caution. NASCAR responded by docking Byron’s 25 points for the foul, preventing him from advancing in the post-season until The sports appeal process overturned the penalty (however they raised Byron’s fine to $100,000…with no explanation whatsoever). Byron went into the eighth round based on that decision, eliminating teammate Hendrik Motorsports Kyle Larson in the process.
  • Larson’s elimination came under more scrutiny this week after Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Caster inexplicably slowed into a back stretch during the final lap of the Charlotte race. His actions earned SHR teammate Chase Briscoe at least two positions, and allowed him to outpace Larson by two points (if they were tied, Briscoe would still have led). NASCAR has responded to the incident before Docking Custer 50 points this week, Team 41 was fined $100,000 and Chief Crew Mike Shiplet suspended indefinitely. Briscoe still holds his place in the quarter-finals.
  • Ownership of the NASCAR Sports Cup, through the Racing Team Alliance (RTA), became public in Charlotte due to a looming revenue dispute with NASCAR itself over the next television contract. The claim that the business model isbrokenproperty executives have described their failure to produce a better deal with NASCAR’s top brass as a “pivotal moment.”
  • Even NASCAR darling Chase Elliott had a tantrum, Briefly stalking the NBC cam crew Focus on a conversation between him and Byron after the Charlotte race. Not a good look for the sport’s most famous driver who is (understandably) being sold as the favorite banned title.

Any one of these issues could threaten to derail the sport’s momentum. all of them? In this short time? No wonder Postseason ratings are less than double digits. How can any story star in the midst of all this drama?

Speaking of on-track product, it was lacking in at least two of its six qualifying races. Texas was full of inflated tires and survivorSimilar to a series of shipwrecks, while Charlotte Roval on Sunday highlighted a serious flaw in the Next Generation chassis: its inability to perform on both road and short-track courses.

In fact, the pass was nearly impossible on Sunday, resulting in a race that left the entire field stuck in place until a late wreck warning caused a series of desperate moves in two late restarts. Not surprisingly, half of the field ended up destroying itself, leaving the quarter-finals largely defined by a giant flag that dislodged itself and fell onto the racetrack.

This is the hell of a hail storm to fight through. NASCAR has tried to respond to all the chaos, calling for a 75-minute meeting with the drivers at the Talladega Superspeedway last weekend to get rid of driver safety. But even this came with mixed reviews, Sports Assuming they are open to further dialogue After that because that period of time was not enough for each driver to answer their questions.

What a mess.

I look at problems from a 1,000-foot perspective, and what I see is an ongoing theme: criticism from literally every direction as drivers, owners, and administrators engage in a general power struggle. Safety is a prime example: Harvick, Hamlin, and other drivers delivered blows to everyone from President Steve Phelps to the officials at the booth. In contrast to the era of France, where the sport was run with censorship in mind, they were not subject to any fines or direct consequences for those actions (Harvick). she did Get a 100-point penalty for his team by modifying a single sourced part At Talladega SuperspeedwayIncident currently under appeal).

Owners are now taking advantage of this opening, shouting at the poor in public in order to build influence with a sport that needs them. The value of the charter is presumably soared to an all-time high under the franchise system, $25 million with almost no one looking to get in or expand at that price point. Supply chain issues along with economic uncertainty have led to limited expansion, making these 36 cars on the grid extremely valuable. NASCAR is nothing if these owners and those cars suddenly decide not to show up.

It’s the biggest crisis of NASCAR President Steve Phelps’ tenure within the sport, and it’s deeper than the no-nonsense noose at Talladega in 2020. Phelps has been there this week, well… Strong 2024 schedule ‘soon’ At the World Sports Congress. It’s a moment when you feel detached, focused on the future on the same day that a team in the present has been accused of deliberately tampering with your championship.

What people loved during the Phelps era was the unprecedented level of openness within the sport. Gone are the days of the French Iron Fist, an authoritarian approach to governance that built the sport through a “my way or the highway” mentality. At times along the way, you can’t argue with its effectiveness, but it has exhausted its welcome by the time Brian France Pulled a DWI exit I got straight out of the sport in 2018.

But there is a difference between opening up and letting the chickens run the chicken house. The impression over the past two weeks has been a whole lot of drama with no real clear vision of who is going to take back control of this circus and re-establish order in court. Decisions, like Custer’s today, smell of paradox. What’s the difference between Coaster’s last lap maneuver and Joe Gibbs Racing telling Eric Jones not to overtake Hamlin in 2020? As Chief Crew Rodney Childers said today“It is now officially acceptable for a team member to rig a championship race in Phoenix as long as no one says anything on the radio.”

Then, there’s the Byron fiasco, where NASCAR undermined decision-making through its own appeals process. I felt the key was to only discipline a student when a random stranger says, “Don’t care”, let the child fall back into class and leave without any explanation of why.

The process has been flawed for years and needs better transparency about its decisions in order to gain respect from fans, teams and others across the industry. And speaking of respect…let’s not forget that the officials in the tower didn’t even see the turn around in real time. This is hardly a confidence builder in the judgment process.

The way to get back into the race is to eliminate all this drama. He’s not the type to get people coming to the racetrack excited; It’s the kind, along the lines of the national anthem controversy for years, that pressures and diverts people from a sport that’s supposed to be recreational. There won’t be some Anchorman The moment is here where Ferrell decided to grow up.

Instead, someone needs to take charge, make a series of tough decisions and get all aspects of the industry behind them. We’re about to see if Phelps has both the cache and the means to do so.

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