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Nov. 16, 2016
Volume X, Edition CCV
Spelling It Out in a Letter
Professor of Speed
by Mark Howell
I'm using the familiar because I feel that I know you personally. I've been around NASCAR as long as you have (if not longer, given my age) so it's like we've met or crossed paths at some point. At the very least, we've run in similar circles and dealt with similar issues.
You've created those problems, and I've written about them. Given that perspective, I'd say we've helped each other greatly.
That said: I felt today was a good time to sit down and write you a quick letter as a way to address my concerns regarding the nature of our sport. I've spent the past few days wrestling with an ever-growing concern that's affected my ability to concentrate on little else. As we head into the final weekend of the 2016 NASCAR season, I feel the need to let you know what's on my mind.
So, here it goes….
Enough with the tension already.
I know you've been craving "Game Seven" moments for the Sprint Cup Series. That's what got us to this point in the sport: your adoption of an elimination format that has drivers, crew chiefs, fans, and pundits all up-in-arms every three weeks during the ten-race "postseason" stretch.
The elimination factor has resulted in fights, harsh language, hurt feelings, and bent sheet metal. Drivers have punched, pushed, and punted each other both during and after races, with a few notables receiving suspensions and the financial penalties that you so love to level on those who break your rules.
Here it is, more than a year after the fact, and both Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth are still talking about what transpired between them in 2015. As it stands this season, one is moving on to contend for the title at Homestead, and the other is looking ahead to what may come in 2017.
Not that Kenseth thought he'd be the one suddenly looking ahead to next season. Kenseth believed he'd be the one heading to Homestead as one of the "Fantastic Four" while Logano limped his Ford back to the garage. I guess those "overtime" laps you decided on several years ago did what they were intended to do.
But maybe the "Game Seven" idea has run its course? Let's face it: NASCAR would be hard-pressed to match what we saw in this year's edition of baseball's World Series. The come-from-behind accomplishments of the Chicago Cubs pretty much set a new standard for postseason excitement and overall anxiety.
Do you believe NASCAR really needs to follow suit?
And I'm not just making this point because I selected Kenseth to be the winner at Phoenix in our Frontstretch "Staff picks" for the week. Sure, I was the only staff member to pick Matt for the win (a victory that would have, by the way, greatly improved my position in our staff's season rankings), but that has very little to do with anything.
What's at stake here, and I believe I speak for many of us "lifers" in the sport, is NASCAR Nation's state of mind as we head into Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami. There are four fast horses in next Sunday's race, and any one of them can take the title.
Two are shooting for their first Sprint Cup championships. One is looking to repeat. One is looking to join rarified company atop the record books. After 35 races and the overtime laps last week at PIR, it all comes down to this….
As for me, and most others in NASCAR Nation, it's another week of biting nails and watching the calendar. Who needs quality sleep if you've got competitive racing?
You got your tension, Brian. I hope you're happy.
Just thought I'd share my thoughts. Have a great weekend in Homestead.
TODAY AT FRONTSTRETCH:
In The Frontstretch Newsletter:
We'll have any news that breaks in the world of NASCAR, plus we'll take a look at last Saturday's Ticket Galaxy 200.
Toni Montgomery returns with her weekly look at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, Nitro Shots as they have a championship battle of their own.
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