In a curious about-face from public teasing less than three weeks ago, NASCAR announced Thursday that the rules package used in the All-Star Race at Charlotte would not be tested at any of the remaining races on the 2018 schedule.
Instead, the sanctioning body said, efforts will continue for the car tweaks to be implemented in 2019. The Charlotte All-Star Race featured cars with aero ducts, restrictor plates and higher spoilers. The lack of acceleration and increased airflow around the cars created a hybrid version of pack racing where drivers were flat on the throttle through the corners and had to use the draft to make passes.
The almost laughable reasoning on NASCAR’s own website for holding off on any changes to the rules in 2018 is that teams would have been rushed to make their cars match All-Star Race specifications. In an article published to NASCAR’s site June 2, NASCAR Vice President Steve O’Donnell said the All-Star Race rules could be used in three Cup Series races in 2018.
Something clearly changed. And NASCAR is doing its best to sugarcoat the delay. It’s entirely possible that teams weren’t thrilled with spending money to outfit their cars with the new features for points races. Changing cars isn’t a cheap endeavor and there’s been no public indication that NASCAR was helping teams with the costs for the sanctioning body’s experiments.
Getting the drafting package in place for additional races in 2018 would have been a Herculean undertaking, and one that could have resulted in a rushed output. Instead, NASCAR will utilize the current rules package – one that has produced competitive racing in 2018 – for the remainder of the season.
“We’re really happy with the racing we have on the track,” O’Donnell said. “We believe that the competition is closer than ever right now. Improving upon that is something that we always work to do, but that takes time. It takes a lot of collaboration in the industry.”
And as good as the racing was when the drafting package was in use, there’s the ability for it to get even better – if the implementation is done properly and not rushed.
Rushed reasoning aside, it’s foolish for NASCAR to tout the competitiveness of the racing in 2018 as a reason why the All-Star Race rules won’t be implemented. If the racing was so competitive and good in the first place — Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch have combined to win nine of 15 races and four drivers have won 13 of 15 races — why was NASCAR even publicly considering using the All-Star Race rules at a points race later in the season?
The sanctioning body could have easily downplayed any calls to change rules in midseason (again) and say there are no plans for any points race changes. Instead, NASCAR let imagination run wild and led fans to believe that the rules would be changing at some races after lots of people found the All-Star Race to be highly entertaining.
Holding off on introducing the All-Star Race specifications until 2019 is entirely understandable. The public process in making this decision, however, is far from understandable.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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