As I’m really new to NASCAR. I don’t understand a lot of the complexities of the sport and so can’t really give a very valid opinion on the finer details of the season. From being a sceptic in the past, just like many people outside North America, it is hard at first to understand why driving around an oval track and only turning left for many hours in a row is entertaining.
It’s taken me a long time but I’ve really gotten interested in stock car racing this year, and in general a fan of almost every kind of motorsport. The excitement in stock car racing is in drafting, overtaking and close racing at very high speed. The races maybe go on a bit too long but it’s a double edged sword as it also adds to the prestige of winning by making it physically and mentally much tougher for the drivers. There are a couple of events that don’t take place on oval tracks. Only one from what I believe that is an actual traditional racing track, called Infineon Raceway. When I first saw highlights of a race there it looked surreal to see these cars driving in that way. Of course, they’re just cars so they can drive anywhere other racing cars can, but the way they are designed means they can’t go around non-banked corners very fast when compared to F1 cars for example.
My other real disappointment with Nascar is the fact that the cars just seem so old in terms of technology. It’s true that the engines are incredibly well designed to be as reliable as they are considering the massive load on them, but aside from that they’re just so traditional and sometimes that’s a bad thing. I wish they would do more to embrace technology in a similar way to F1. Whether it be cool looking coloured rev-lights, paddle gear shift, more controls on the steering wheel or anything else, I just miss that aspect in this sport, even if it does add to its uniqueness.
As far as the season itself, all I can really talk about is Jimmie Johnson winning a 5th straight title. It’s incredible to be that consistently good in a sport where the cars are so similar and driver skill is more emphasised. In F1, Michael Schumacher was incredibly successful, winning an amazing 7 titles with two different teams. However when he was racing for Ferrari, they had a far better car than every other team for most of the years he won it. Driver talent played a part but he definitely had a car advantage and team orders allowed him to never be troubled by his team-mate.
I’m in no way saying that Johnson is a better driver than Schumacher, but in Nascar it really is an incredible feat to win so many times consistently when everyone else is in almost identical machinery. I’ve also been getting more into rallying recently and you can make the same sort of comparisons with Sebastien Loeb, who is undoubtedly a genius behind the wheel, but more on that in a follow-up post.
I do feel bad for Denny Hamlin though. I’m not sure if he cracked under pressure in the last race of the year to allow the more composed and experienced Johnson take the title, but he still had a great season. The Joe Gibbs racing team is my favourite of them all. I really like the drivers and the cars. Kyle Busch is an exciting driver and his car’s M&Ms livery is one of the most stand-out so that probably attracted my attention at first.
Overall, I think it was a good season but by next year I’ll hopefully be able to give a better assessment of how it went. I hope the rule preventing drivers from collecting points in more than one of the 3 series comes into play next year, as the situation has got out of hand. I also hope that the cars get a bit more technical in the future. Surely they have to at some point. But either way, I’m excited to see some races and get more into it next season.