With No Explanation, Fans Lose 40 Laps
NASCAR Fans generally love racing at Richmond International Raceway in Virginia. It’s a short track, has a lot of action, drivers love the track and RIR really knows how to put on a good show!
The sanctioning body decided some changes were needed to improve the spring weekend of racing at this venue. So last year they announced the night races would be moved to the day time. The Xfinity Series race moved from Friday night to Saturday day. The Sprint Cup race moved from Saturday night, to Sunday day. A lot of people really liked that idea.
But then NASCAR decided that wasn’t enough and the 2016 ToyotaCare 250 happened going from a 250 lap race to 140 lap race. And that isn’t a good thing. Any time you decide to shorten a race, you’re taking action away from fans.
NASCAR decided to change the qualifying format for the Xfinity Series race starting at the spring Bristol race on April 16. The series would now qualify for starting positions in 2 heat races. Not many people were a fan of this idea, but ok, let’s give it a shot. Some folks believed the shortened Main race was better at Bristol than years past, and attributed that to the heat races. Others thought it was merely coincidence. After all, it’s Bristol.
The format was implemented again for the Xfinity Series at Richmond, another short track. This time, social media indicated fans weren’t happy with this format. The heats were boring, drivers were extra cautious limiting action in the heats. Probably because any misstep could put a team out of the main race entirely. No going to a back up if you had an issue, unlike the old qualifying format. What you had on the track is what you were going to race with. So of course drivers were cautious and tried to take care of their stuff.
What made it worse, fans realized this week that the Qualifying Heat format also meant they lost 40 laps of racing in the main. What? Well look at it this way, the NASCAR mobile app clearly identifies this race as a 250 lap race. And why shouldn’t it, that’s the way it’s been in the past.
In 2015 the Xfinity Series Race results were reported by the Bleacher Report and clearly explains Denny Hamlin lead most of the 250 laps! ble.ac/1SqzlVF
Now in theory, 250 laps – 35 laps for Heat 1 – 35 laps for Heat 2 should leave 180 laps for the Main. Nope. With no explanation as to why, the Main race is advertised on TV and by race reporters as a 140 lap Main race. What happened to the other 40 laps? Did someone forget their calculator or something?
In response to a Tweet where I asked this question, the answers I received were still confusing.
@SpringWolf @NASCAR_XFINITY @RIRInsider — 250 kilometers
— Ford Performance (@FordPerformance) April 23, 2016
Ok, this is the ToyotaCare 250 because it’s almost 250 kilometers. Several people told me this. But that doesn’t explain the issue. In the past this race has been 250 laps. The name of the race has always been “Sponsor Name”250. And for years people have indicated the name of the race indicates the distance, not the lap count. But the mobile app still indicates the race is 250 laps and if you shorten the laps, you’re also cutting the distance. So that’s not really an explanation. So why is the media still saying the Main is only 140 laps? Where’s my additional 40 laps of Richmond racing?!
Now when I first started questioning this on Twitter, I asked Bob Pockrass what was up: Help me out. Bob is a NASCAR reporter who always seems to know who, what, where and when things are happening in all the series of the sport. Ask him a question and he’ll know the answer. He’s sort of become infamous for that, even among other race reports.
At first, he too mentioned the 250 kilometers. And I questioned that. In the past this has been a 250 lap race, so why are we not racing 180 laps on the main?
After a few minutes of confusion and retweets by other fans who seemed to be as confused as I was, Bob found us the answer.
With 15 minutes between heats and 20 min between 2nd heat & main, cut 40 laps to keep entire show in 3-hr window. https://t.co/iYJ5ghlwZg
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) April 23, 2016
Well, ok, now we know. For me as a race fan, that sucks. I want to see a full race, especially if I’m paying to sit in the stands and watch the race in person. We only go to two race weekends each year, the Spring and the Fall races at RIR. I want to get my money’s worth and see a full race. Cutting 40 laps is a big deal at a place like Richmond. And Bristol for that matter. Regardless of which series you’re talking about.
@bobpockrass Now see. I knew you’d find the answer! Thank You! But as a fan of racing..that sucks. I want my 40laps back. 😉
— SpringWolf ❦ (@SpringWolf) April 23, 2016
I think a lot of other fans feel the same way. At the very least NASCAR, update the app to identify the exact number of laps we’re going to see. Don’t try to fool us into thinking you’re not jipping us by 40 laps in races that historically have been 250 laps! Good way to disenfranchise your fans and push us away from watching and supporting your sport.
Thankfully NASCAR hasn’t implemented this qualifying format in the Sprint Cup Series. And I for one hope they never do! This isn’t dirt racing. It’s not the local dirt track where this type of format is common. This is stock car racing and those of us who have been fans for 40+ years, or longer, like our racing the way it is.
We understand some changes might be necessary to keep the sport moving forward. But some ideas do not translate well once implemented. We learned that with the Car of Tomorrow, which was a huge disaster. We learned that this week when Lug nut safety became an issue. Let’s not test this idea in Cup; because that’s going to ruin the series and jip fans from the races they’ve come to know and love!
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