The quick and easy answer for the question posed in the headline of this piece is yes.
So-called racing purists may argue that the Daytona International Speedway is known for massive crashes, unpredictable drafting that can push whoever happens to be fortunate enough to be in the lane with momentum to the front of the pack, and team/manufacturer groupings that cause those in each group to be obligated to follow the group-think strategy. Much of what happens to a particular driver is out of that driver’s control.
Based on that explanation, a track that has so many variables outside one’s control doesn’t seem to be a good location for the race that will play the deciding role in who does or doesn’t make it to the NASCAR Playoffs. A driver who has had a terrible season and is 25th in points could part through a late race ‘Big One’ and gain entry into the Playoffs based as much on luck as anything. Further, a driver who had been inside the top-16 in the standings but had not won a race could be bumped out even with a second-place finish in the regular season finale should he finish behind a non-winning driver.
Those are the very reasons why Daytona is the perfect place to decide the championship contenders.
For anyone still out there who believes NASCAR is solely about competition, the idea of such randomness as is created by the type of racing done at Daytona and Talladega Super Speedway has to be a bit bothersome. But the plain and simple fact is that entertainment value plays just as much if not more of a role in racing, as well as most other sports, today as does competition.
The sport’s broadcast partners want to provide potential viewers with a reason to tune in. That is obvious in watching the promo ads leading up to each racing weekend as crashes, arguments, and physical confrontations play a central role in those commercial spots. After all, an ad highlighting a clean pass for fifth place isn’t nearly as compelling nor as likely to hook a viewer as a multi-car wreck.
With that taken into account, what better place than Daytona to bring the curtain down on the NASCAR Cup Series regular season? After all, that 2.5-mile pack-racing track is a virtual certainty when it comes to crashes and emotion.
The NASCAR Playoffs system is designed to provide entertainment while potentially leaving some aspects of pure competition behind.
Aside from the networks being able to push the drama of the Playoff cutoff to their audience, there is the fact that Daytona International Speedway is going to be on the NASCAR schedule at some point during the season so the regular season finale is as good of a place as any. Yes, there are many out there who want the traditional July 4th date to be used but that just isn’t going to happen. No matter which date on the slate it occupies, the same chaos and calamity are going to take place so it might as well be in a place that allows the TV partners to make the most of it.
Using this past Saturday night as an example, there was only one Playoff spot still up for grabs and the ‘luck of the draw’ really wasn’t a factor as the driver who held that position in points(Bubba Wallace) kept his place.
NASCAR, and most other sports, are now as much of a show as they are competition. With that being the case, Daytona is the perfect place to play out the regular season finale.
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