Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Most important days of 2011 season might be in January

Now that we can finally stop talking about 2011 and start living it, the time for NASCAR to make some of its most important decisions of the season is less than two weeks away.

The second round of testing will begin Jan. 20 at Daytona, and this time all of the teams will participate in three days of drafting in the large packs that will be a staple of the 2011 Daytona 500.

While the teams focus in on how to get their cars set up for the biggest race of the year on the new pavement at Daytona, the heads of NASCAR will announce the final few important decisions left before the season can start, including what method the sport will use to crown its champion in both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series, what time the races will start and what size the restrictor plates will be when everybody returns for Speedweeks in February.

The announcement about the possible changes to the Chase is scheduled for Jan. 21, but one can expect a variety of tidbits to come out of that session. For the first time in three years, there actually is testing at Daytona in January, but rarely, if ever, has that test session been as anticipated as it is this year. Not only will cars be back on the track, which eases every fans heart that life isn’t so bad and there is something to hope for in the coming weeks, but the news will be flying from the speedway as fast as a full 43-car drafting pack.

Last year this moment came during the NASCAR media days in Charlotte when NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton told the boys to “have at it.” This year that type of moment will likely happen in Daytona when the big announcements are made for the 2011 season.

How much impact will these announcements have? They might make Jan. 21 the most important day of the 2011 NASCAR season. Whatever NASCAR says that day could shape the sport and its fan base for the next 11 months. In every decision, some people will love it and others will hate it, but it’s not too often that one could polarize a sport to such an extreme.

The interesting thing about these announcements is they will affect everybody involved in the sport from the owners to the drivers to the fans to pit crews, etc. Most of the time announcements made during the season that come from one team or another affect one or two drivers, teams and their fans, but when NASCAR holds court, everybody’s season is at stake.

If changes are made to both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series, they could effectively determine who has the best chance to win the championship, or at least in the Nationwide series who won’t win the championship.

Finally, although it’s extremely unlikely, no major changes could be made to the sport for this upcoming season. Last season came down to the closest battle in the short history of the Chase and anyone who cared about the sport was excited for the final two months of the season and couldn’t wait for the next race to start.

However, Brian France hasn’t been known to hold back from making drastic changes in the past, so a statement Jan. 21 that everything will remain status quo is unlikely.

In any case, the intrigue for the new season will start before the calendar has a chance to turn the first page.


  1. jmayer,

    I think it's a foregone conclusion that the Nationwide Series will limit who can and can't win the series championship in a move to keep young non-Cup drivers in the spotlight.

    As far as Cup racing goes, I'd really like to see more emphasis put on winning and I hope this gets done. The way it stands now the race winner doesn't really gain much verses the top also-rans. More points for the race winners would really get the drivers' attention. The points leaders could be more easily overtaken during the season giving everyone added impetus...

    One other change I've heard promoted was awarding the driver who is leading in the points standings prior to the beginning of the Chase 50 bonus points. This would negate what happened in 2010 when Kevin Harvick essentially led the points tally for the whole pre-Chase season and then was relegated to third place once the Chase began. Something is definitely wrong with that and it needs correcting...

    I think those two changes in the Cup Series would do nothing but good.

    Thanks jmayer!

  2. Changes to the chase? Maybe they will finally do away with this stupid idea.

  3. I would love to be there when they hit the highbanks next week. ARCA is testing there right now.

    Indy made several changes today, such as double file restarts!

  4. Dwindy1 - Correct. It was confirmed yesterday that each driver will have to choose which series they will be eligible to run for the championship.

    For Cup, I think a bonus to the regular-season points leader is a good idea, but still not sure about more points for winning. I don't think that argument will stop until they base the championship completely off of who has the most wins. I think the points distribution per race is pretty fair right now.

    Tsfanpc - Maybe. Doubt it, though. Not until someone other than Brian France is in charge. My hunch is they will move to a system that is even more of a gimmick than the current system.

    Gene - At least we're getting close! Less than six weeks until the big race.

  5. Happy New Year Mayer!

    Info is starting to trickle in now and you are right - Jan is always a big month for NASCAR - unfortunately usually it is bad news!

    Look forward to hashing out another season with ya!

  6. klvalus - And a very happy new year to you! A week from today we will know a lot, and then it's time to get ready for Daytona! Looking forward to a good year, for sure. Right now the ingredients are there.