Turn 2 Blog: Are you rooting for Playoff chaos?

*Turn 2 Blog is a regular feature on InsideCircleTrack.com. Here, site operators Michael Moats and Richard Allen take turns offering their thoughts on the NASCAR and pavement short track racing topics of the day.

How do you feel about late afternoon starts?

Richard: I don’t think it matters how any of us feel about waiting until 3:30 in the afternoon to start NASCAR races unless we happen to be decision makers for NASCAR and its television partners. But to answer the question, I hate them.

Especially in the heat of summer it’s almost as if they want to be stuck doing rain delay filling material because that’s what seems to happen more often than not. Once again, that was the case on Sunday when USA Network’s broadcast began and it became evident that rain was pouring down on the Michigan International Speedway. It was made worse when one of the commentators pointed out that it had just started raining which means, of course, that had the race started at 1:00pm it would have been past halfway by that point.

I understand their reasoning and also understand that those who make these decisions almost certainly have data to back up that their best window in terms of viewership is to begin at 3:00 or later but it is still frustrating to know that a race could be well underway, but instead, everyone waited around for it to start raining.

This is the same type of feeling I get at dirt tracks when everyone who has a cell phone knows that rain is on the way but track and series promoters won’t move the main feature up in the lineup to be sure it gets in. Or worse, they decide to do some track prep only for it to start raining right before the main event.

Data or no data, it seems like common sense is being pushed aside so the TV networks can pursue a west coast audience they probably aren’t going to win over anyway.

Michael: I miss the 1 o’clock start time for races. A person could either go to church or get up and fix a big breakfast, settle in to watch the race, and have to rest of the day to do whatever.

The TV broadcasters say their data shows those late afternoon races are the best time to have the races take place. They finally got away from the Saturday night races for that very reason. It’s getting to the point where a person has to dedicate the whole day for a race or do other things and miss most or some of it. I’m not sure how that helps ratings.

I have been a proponent of Sunday night races for some races in the summer. There’s not much competition on TV at that time, and it would help attendance at places where it’s blazing hot in the middle of the afternoon. But as we have discussed before, attendance seems to be a lower priority than it used to be.

Kevin Harvick’s win in Michigan created Playoff drama

Are you rooting for Playoff chaos?

Richard: Absolutely!

I want this NASCAR Playoffs picture to be as blurry as possible going into the deciding race at Daytona. And that’s not necessarily because I am anti-playoffs but more because I just enjoy watching the drama unfold. And who among us doesn’t hope that at least one total underdog like Corey LaJoie, Michael McDowell or Ricky Stenhouse Jr. pulls off a surprise win and knocks one of the big team drivers out?

Kevin Harvick’s win on Sunday at Michigan leaves only one spot left in the Playoffs with three races remaining. This is the type of scenario NASCAR was hoping for when they created this system and they are getting a big dose of it this year.

Right now, Ryan Blaney would be in based on points if the Playoffs cut happened today. But there are a number of capable drivers who have yet to win a race that could upset the apple cart. Wouldn’t it be something if the guy who finishes second in the regular season standings doesn’t make it?

Michael: I am rooting for chaos. I like to see how the higher powers react when things happen that don’t go to plan. Having 16 or even 17 race winners heading into the playoffs would fit that bill. Just imagine where we’d be now had Lajoie won the Atlanta race.

I have been watching NASCAR for a long time. The closest thing I can think of regarding this year’s championship run is the 1992 season when five different drivers had a legit shot at winning the championship in the finale at Atlanta. Things played themselves out in that race and I think this will too, once we get into the playoffs. Daytona is going to be wild.

Kurt Busch

Is the Kurt Busch situation cause for alarm?

Richard: When the NextGen car was going through its testing phase there were drivers who raised concerns about the rigidity of the car and how they felt the impacts more in that car than the previous Gen 6 machine. Until now, we haven’t seen a driver miss multiple races due to a crash but Busch has now sat out of three events since his qualifying wreck at Pocono.

It seems as if the straight on impacts are the worst and that’s what Busch did when he backed directly into the outside wall. I was glad to see Austin Cindric get out of his car under his own power and walk away after a very hard hit at Michigan on Sunday. And certainly, there have been other instances this year in which drivers have crashed but been cleared medically before the next race.

At any time when driving a race car an accident can cause an injury when exactly the right circumstances play out. Still, I would think there is some concern as to why Busch was injured enough to miss three races.

Michael: Any time a driver misses seat time because of a concussion it is concerning. I’d like to see some data that shows whether the car had a lot to do with that or other factors. Josef Newgarden had a similar crash in an IndyCar race at Iowa a couple of weeks ago. He missed no time. The question begs is whether it’s the car, the containment seat, or something else. Hopefully, NASCAR will be transparent with this.

Remember, Ryan Newman had concerns with the new cars, which is one of the reasons he opted not to race in the Cup series. Maybe this will validate his concerns.

Please consider also reading:

Turn 2 Blog: Pick-and-choose schedules paying off

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