(013) What Formula 1 And NASCAR Did To Ruin Themselves And How To Avoid It

In my previous post, How Motorsport Cheating Works And How It Affects Your Career, I briefly touched on the subject of racing the rule book – a strategy where a racing team finds a gap in the rule book and uses it to their advantage.

If you haven’t read the previous post, I was sure to state that racing the rule book is absolutely not cheating.

If you are clever enough to find and implement a legal unfair advantage into your racing program, then everyone else will have to try and catch up! It’s a brilliant strategy.

The problem is that some of the major sanctioning bodies will immediately rewrite the rule book to crush your creativity. And I have a problem with that. Without innovation and progression on the ground level of motorsport. . .how can the sport naturally evolve?

The worst offenders are Formula 1 and NASCAR. But it’s not just their stance against creativity in motorsport – they have both committed several other offenses that have absolutely ruined two of the greatest motorsports of all time.

But don’t worry! There are a few things you can do to avoid this type of tainted motorsport. But first let’s look at exactly how the racing world was been effected.

Motorsport Offense #1: Removing The True Stock Car Racing Philosophy

NASCAR stands for the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing. When the sport began, every competing vehicle started life as an actual car that could be purchased at a local dealership.

In fact Richard Petty’s 1964 Plymouth Belvedere literally came off the showroom floor.

File created with CoreGraphics

This was a time when race teams had real options. And depending on which stock car could perform better on the track, each team would choose the best model for themselves whenever they wanted.

This was a beautiful situation for two reasons:

  1. It encouraged manufactures to continually produce better and more powerful vehicles which could be used as a starting point for racing teams.
  2. It stimulated incredible amounts of competition in the automotive industry. The racing results gave consumers a very accurate picture of which cars were actually better. If a potential customer liked a winning racecar they could go to the dealership and purchase the exact same model.

This was vastly beneficial to the industry. And you can imagine that when NASCAR began mandating custom made frames, the magic began to die away. While the logos of auto manufactures were still stickered to the racing machines, they were no longer true stock cars. Without this allure to potential buyers, interest was sure to fade.

Motorsport Offense #2: Team Orders

It’s common for racing teams to have more than one sub-team in the stable. If you’re going to spend massive amounts of money on a racing season it begins to make sense to spend a bit more and bring another driver on board.

Having a teammate on the track can be a huge advantage. There’s always someone to play nice with, draft with, and strategize with. I will never have any issue with teammates or working together on the racetrack. But problems always arise when the team puts itself before the individual drivers.

Team orders are decisions made by someone other than the driver to determine which team vehicles should finish in the most advantageous positions.

This means that during the implementation of team orders the concept of motor racing is completely void. It’s not uncommon for the leader of a race to be instructed to let his teammate pass when it benefits the team standings.

There is no scenario where this can be construed as racing. I feel like team orders are a detriment to the entire world of motorsports. If the fastest driver is purposefully losing due to a political decision that is out of his hands. . .what is the point?

That being said, I have no issue with individual drivers deciding to help their stable mates on their own accord. But being forced to give up a position that you’ve worked so hard to achieve is absolutely ludicrous.

Unfortunately, Formula 1 is famous for using team orders to manipulate results, points standings, race wins, and championships. Quite frankly, I don’t understand how these teams who participate in team orders can retain sponsorships – whose sole purpose of support is to see their company’s logo in the winners circle as often as possible.

But I do want to take a moment and commend NASCAR for their official stance on team orders. It is currently illegal to:

  1. Offer up or accept a position in exchange for material benefits
  2. Order a driver to give up a position
  3. Intentionally cause a caution
  4. Intentionally wreck a competitor

Up to this point the largest penalty on an offender has been $300,000 and 50 series points!

Motorsport Offense 3#: Not Racing In The Rain

To be completely fair NASCAR does have rain tires on hand at Sonoma and Watkins Glen, the only two road courses on the circuit. But beyond those tracks NASCAR has been adamant about only waving the green flag in dry conditions.

rain2

This is perhaps my biggest qualm with NASCAR. Don’t get me wrong, I love circle track racing. But nearly every other world class motorsport races rain or shine.

In fact adding that extra hustle and strategy during a weather change generates a huge amount of excitement and risk in motorsports.

I’ve seen it multiple times; when the weather may go from rainy to clear and one team plays it safe and stays on soft compounds and another takes the risk and goes to the slicks, hoping that the line will dry out and give them the advantage.

The next ten laps are always a thrill! The team who makes the right tire choice can make up half a minute on the leader and turn the whole race upside down.

rain3

But you won’t get that in NASCAR (except for the two road courses). There are no tire choices. They don’t race in the rain. And many drivers are fine with that because they have zero experience on a wet surface. But where is the progression of skill in that kind of environment?

Formula 1, the fastest lappers on earth are frequently on rain tires. So are the Australian V8 Supercar drivers, and most endurance racers. Even Moto GP races in the rain!

rain

I don’t see any reason that NASCAR can’t do the same thing.

Motorsport Offense #4: Trying To Be Green

Formula 1 has always been the pinnacle of motorsport engineering, raw speed, and the exploration of barely controllable racecars. The technology that goes into these open wheel racers is completely mind-blowing.

For decades the F1 trademark has been thundering exhaust pipes, high-test fuel, and highest revving engines in history. Formula 1 has always been known as the most progressive motorsport. The cost of assembling a competitive team is well over 100 million dollars – nothing but the best that money can buy.

But I’m sad to say that in recent years this beautiful sport has been diluted by the social pressures of environmentalism.

With calls for reduced emissions, more efficient race cars, and less overall pollution, Formula 1 has begun to stray from its mission of pushing the limits of technology for the sake of only motorsport.

Rather than allowing the legendary V12 Honda powerplants, Formula 1 has mandated a 1.6 liter V6 turbocharged hybrid motor. Not only does this regulation stifle displacement but also fuel flow, electricity flow, and when available electricity can be used.

While these restrictions are quite politically correct, I don’t think they coincide with the purpose of Formula 1: to be the most progressive, wildest, and elite motorsport on earth.

If you want to be the greatest and most exciting racing series you simply can’t mix motor racing with the green initiative. Give me fuel, give me huge displacements, and let the exhaust come pouring out.

Motorsport Offense #5: When The Money Becomes More Important Than Racing

I wholeheartedly love the entrepreneurial world and the creativity it takes to make a dollar. I’m certainly not anti-capitalism or against the strategic generation of massive income. Without these goals, would business ventures be exciting? Probably not.

That being said, the quickest way to ruin a motorsports sanctioning body is to focus on the money – particularly from big sponsorships.

As a racecar driver I certainly don’t preach against individual sponsorships. Companies that want a little extra exposure can really lighten your financial burden. It’s a beautiful part of the racing world and I hope that part never changes.

But problems arise when large companies begin sponsoring the sanctioning bodies. For example, Goodyear has a monopoly on the NASCAR tire market. Because Goodyear has a major deal with the NASCAR sanctioning body, teams are required to use only their tires.

This causes reduced options for racing teams. As a local racecar driver, my sanction body allows any tire that falls within a certain set of regulations. There are dozens of tire options for the racer, and this promotes great competition between tire manufactures and racers alike.

Tainted Decision Making

Another issue with large sponsors is their ability to lean on the sanctioning body. With so much money on the line in major deals, sponsors have a way of weaseling their way into the decision making process.

One of the reasons for the environmental push that we discussed earlier was large corporate sponsors wanting to be linked to a worldwide green initiative. They knew that if Formula 1 became more environmentally friendly, their company names would automatically be tied to the earth-friendly philosophy.

Drivers > Fans

I think it’s also important to note that when racing becomes more about the fans, the motorsport itself it damaged.

I genuinely believe that fans should have little consideration in motorsport. That’s why some of my favorite types of racing have such small viewership! When racing is for the sake of racing, motorsport is pure. But when fans (and the goal of making fans pay money) come before the drivers, weird things happen that make racing less enjoyable.

Consider the Sprint Cup Chase. Rather than using the decades old tried-and-true season points standings to decide who is the best driver and team throughout the entirety of a season, NASCAR decided that racing wasn’t enjoyable enough for the fans. Thus, a ridiculous shake up has helped deteriorate a once great motorsport.

This same philosophy also led to the green/white checkered rule, the lucky dog rule, and the most annoying trend in the past few years: putting more emphasis on fights than the actual racing. On one occasion NASCAR decided to air a post-race skirmish and make the winning driver wait in his car in victory lane until the fight was over. That’s not racing – it’s cheap reality television.

As noted earlier, there is just no place in motorsports for this kind of politics.

What You Can Do To Avoid These Offenses

It’s pretty obvious that there is little anyone can do to make the aforementioned problems disappear. And in fact I intend to continue my viewership of both Formula 1 and NASCAR.

I feel like immersing myself in the motor racing culture has only positive effects. When things are great, you learn great things. When things are lousy, you learn what to stay away from.

While you can’t change the rule books of world class racing series, there are a number of things that you can learn from these motorsport offenses.

  1. If you’re on a racing team, or may end on up one in the future, know your stable rules about team orders. This is something that few people ever consider. If you’re new to a racing team, you’re on the bottom of the ladder. And if your team likes to utilize team orders to get their star to the top of the points list. . .you’re probably the one who’ll get the short end of the stick. Not only does this mean you won’t actually be racing (because team politics will decide who should finish where) but it’s difficult to make gains in your career when someone is telling you to purposefully go slower.
  2. Race in the rain whenever you can. Personally I relish opportunities to race in inclement weather. Decreased amounts of grip do incredible things to a racecar. You can go from understeer to oversteer and back to understeer in a matter of moments, all within a single corner.
    But the ability to control a vehicle in these unpredictable conditions is one of the things that separates good drivers from great drivers.There are a few things to consider when the rain comes out:A) Will your car be faster if you leave the traction control on or off?
    B) Are you better with anti-lock brakes or without?

    C) Does the brake bias need to be tweaked to keep one end from locking up in the rain?These are the types of things that you can only figure out with practice on a wet driving surface.Remember, there’s a high probability that at least one other driver has experience in the rain. If you don’t take every opportunity to learn how you and your car get along in the wet, the other guy is going to win every single time.
  3. Do your best to support the motorsports you love that have low viewership. I know, I know. When more people watch the purses get bigger.

    But here’s the thing: motorsports without many spectators don’t have fans to please. Instead, it’s all about racing for the sake of racing.

    These are the kinds of motorsports that are very pro-driver. You’ll rarely find any kind of politics, team orders, or any other kind of nonsense. And that’s excellent because your enthusiasm for the racing world won’t be diluted.

    If you aren’t already a member of the Sports Car Club of America, I highly suggest supporting them. They are the backbone of American grassroots racing with dozens of clubs all over the country. If you want to become a racecar driver the SCCA is the place to get going.

    If you aren’t sure about what it takes to get going, visit the Getting Started page by clicking here. It will give you a thorough introduction to the philosophies and mindsets of racecar driving – all before you pull the trigger.

    More knowledge = Better results

Someone you know will love this! Who is it?
Bookmark the permalink.