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Editorial

Fans in the Stands: Fuel Mileage Races or Late Restarts?

Potential change is in the NASCAR air.

Over the past few weeks, NASCAR officials have floated out fresh ideas and concepts that could hit the track in the near future. From aero packages to the Camping World Truck Series adding an additional dirt race, it’s a good time for the sport as it heads into the fall.

As such, there is no better time to have the POPULAR SPEED fan ambassadors weigh in with what the fans in the stands would like to see.

At Pocono and Watkins Glen the Sprint Cup Series saw drama at the end of the event with long green flag runs and some drivers playing the fuel mileage game. Would you rather watch races unfolded the way Pocono and Watkins Glen did or do you prefer late cautions and frantic restarts?

Asphalt Angels: Love strategy, but hate seeing cars torn up, so this is a no-brainer. The ultimate is to have a late caution with some teams throwing the fuel mileage out the window and others staying out, and the last two races had exciting finishes without a lot of torn up cars. But, no matter what race it is, long green flag runs can make for a snoozer at any track, but they happen. Fuel mile strategy also utilizes the talents of the engineers and crew chiefs, not to mention skills of the drivers with their individual techniques for saving fuel. Frantic restarts create chaos and carnage to the cars a team has spent so much time working on. This year alone we have seen so much desperation and aggressiveness on late restarts that have left fans injured and drivers with minor injuries. There is no denying that late restarts do carry an element of excitement, but, in the long run, are they worth those 2.3 seconds of excitement?

Samantha Hissett: Although I am not a fan of drivers and teams playing the fuel strategy game each and every race – sacrificing some great racing action – I do appreciate a good fuel mileage race like Pocono now and then. I also love watching the two road courses, Sonoma and Watkins Glen, due to their uniqueness and the fact the win always seems to come down to who has a fast car and winning strategy. In that same breath, however, I vehemently hate when NASCAR seems to throw a “phantom yellow” for what seems like no good reason towards the end of the race. Just to stack the cars up for an exciting and frantic final restart. I find myself as a viewer most content with the ends of races as long as they are genuine and authentic. If the race hasn’t had many cautions, and it comes down to who has played the best strategy and fuel mileage, great, I love it. If someone wrecks or spins in the final five laps because the field is too aggressive, or they make a mistake, I can’t wait to see what happens on the restart. If everyone is safe on fuel, and there are no cautions to be seen for the final 20 laps, that’s racing, better luck next time.

Arne Suiter: There is no question late race cautions led to frantic restarts and some exciting racing. However, I do not believe they are needed to help create great racing. The last two races without late race cautions have been nail biters to the very end without the manufactured drama of cautions. I was on the edge of my couch during both races waiting to see who was going to make it, and who wasn’t. If a late race caution is an organic part of a race, rather than “debris” perceived to be created by NASCAR to bunch up the field, then it does provide an exciting ending. I prefer to let the races play out naturally and I am not a fan of the suggestions by some that there should be a caution thrown with 10 or 20 laps to go at every race.

Towle Owen: NASCAR races frequently end in one of two manners: either a frantic finish after a late-race caution, or a long green flag run that brings fuel mileage into question. One gives a slight advantage to the aggressive, “wheel man” driver; the other, to the steady, conservative driver. Although it is exciting to not be sure which teams can and can not make it to the end on strategy, fans want to see which driver is the best, not which car is the most efficient. A late-race caution provides the most opportunity for conflict, which is the entertainment that fans desire.

Ross Brockman: I think races ending with frantic restarts are always good, but the fuel mileage races can be pretty exciting too. We don’t see many fuel mileage races anymore, and I don’t understand why. With the Chase format being so much dependent on winning, I don’t know why we don’t see more teams trying to win on fuel. The strategy used while trying to save fuel, or force others to use up their fuel is fascinating to me, and can be so much fun to watch. It’s a different type of an ending to a race that’s still pretty exciting.

A recent report says NASCAR is considering adding another dirt race to the Camping World Truck Series schedule for 2016. Would you be in favor of a second dirt race in addition to Eldora?

Asphalt Angels: The trucks at Eldora, what could be more fun? It’s one of the best races of the entire season. This year sadly we were a bit disappointed with all the cautions at the beginning of the race. It became frustrating and tiresome to watch, almost annoying, which put a damper on Wednesday night dirt tracking that we had been anticipating for weeks. Us fans keep asking for more unique venues for our races, so we cannot see how adding another dirt race would be a bad idea. Of course, the track/facility would have to be in excellent condition, well maintained with a fair amount of seating to accommodate fans. Maybe in due time NASCAR will graduate to include an XFINITY Series race on a dirt track and who knows, the Cup Series could follow. After all, they did get rain tires this year. Dirt races bring us back to our true roots and will be enjoyed immensely.

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Samantha Hissett: Yes. Although some fans want Eldora to remain as the only dirt race on the NASCAR schedule, I wouldn’t mind NASCAR adding another dirt track to the 2016 Camping World Truck Series schedule. If the success at Eldora is any indication, fans and drivers love races on dirt, and I don’t believe adding a second dirt race would cause Eldora to lose the prestige of its event. Two dirt races on the Truck Series schedule would not oversaturate the demand from fans, and both races would continue to be well supported. The Mud Summer Classic produces some of the most exciting all year throughout all three NASCAR series in my book, and I think the series would greatly benefit from the addition.

Arne Suiter: I am not in favor of an additional dirt race being added to the Camping World Truck Series schedule. I have been to all three of the CWTS races at Eldora, and it is my favorite race to attend each year. The racing has been fantastic, and Tony Stewart and Roger Slack put on a great show for the fans. That being said I believe if an additional dirt race is added to the schedule it will water down the excitement of the uniqueness that is the Mud Summer Classic. I do understand the financial aspect from a team’s perspective of adding an addition race. The CWTS has a lot of small underfunded teams. Building a specialized truck for one race per year is an expensive proposition. However, I don’t feel the financial benefit to the teams outweighs the threat of eliminating the special event that has been created at Eldora.

Towle Owen: Over the course of three years, the Camping World Truck Series Mud Summer Classic at Eldora has become one of the most popular races on the schedule. Every July since the first event, the conversation on social media turns to whether or not the series should run more dirt track races. Although adding another may take away from the novelty aspect of the event, it would be advantageous for the teams to run another. Especially if it were run in the spring, where there is a significant gap between races. Doing so would give drivers more track time on dirt, as well as give teams more dirt track data, both of which would only help the racing. However, if NASCAR were to go to another track in addition to Eldora, it should go to an entirely different track on terms of size, banking, and surface, and perhaps even go to a new dirt track every year to keep the idea fresh.

Ross Brockman: I’m with the group believing that adding another dirt race would be great for the dirt race chosen, but would hurt Eldora. It’s a fun and exciting race but once you have other choices, I feel the fun goes away. The one thing I felt the Truck Series was lacking was a marquee event. One it would be an honor to win. Eldora has become that event. Winning that event is going to be special as long as its a one of a kind event. If there were to add another dirt race, I would have an opinion on how to go about it. I think making it move to different dirt tracks around America would be great to showcase the local tracks. Also keeping it in the Truck Series is key. Trucks were meant for dirt, and it’s a fitting race for that series that would not be as cool for XFINITY or Cup.

NASCAR announced Friday they will stick with the current rules package for the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup. Which package (current, low downforce or high downforce) would you have liked to see teams use?

Asphalt Angels: Good hard competitive racing, with lead changes and lots of passing throughout the field, makes for a great race. The low downforce package at Kentucky gave us that. Not only did the fans love it, but the drivers were also ecstatic. Truthfully if they are going to switch packages in fairness to everyone there should be an extra day of practice to test these packages at the tracks, especially during the Chase. There are so many obstacles out of the driver’s control that can ruin a championship run, like drivers being caught up in someone else’s mistake or a mechanical failure. Now add a new aero package that has never been run prior to the Chase at a particular track. Proper testing should be done to ensure all drivers know the feel of the car and what to expect with a new package. Remember there are still many drivers not in the Chase, at least 27 that are looking for a win during the 10 race Chase.

Samantha Hissett: Having attended both the races at Kentucky and Indianapolis the past few weeks, I would love to see NASCAR implement the low downforce package they tested at Kentucky for the 2015 Chase. The racing at Kentucky was the most exciting I can remember seeing at an intermediate track in years, and the number of quality passes and side by side racing happening mid-pack was astounding. If the softer tire compound that they are using at Darlington emulates or somehow improves the quality of racing action that we saw at Kentucky, I think NASCAR would be crazy not to implement the low downforce package as a part of the 2015 Chase.

Arne Suiter: I would like to see the results of Michigan and Darlington prior to NASCAR making the decision of which package to run for the Chase this year. I think we saw at Kentucky a glimpse of how good the racing can be with the low downforce package. I am not sure we got a good picture of the effect of the high downforce package at Indy since that is such a unique track. I believe after this weekend we will all rule out the high downforce package leaving us with the option of the current package or the new low downforce package. If Darlington turns out the be the exciting race I think it will be, I will be in favor of running the low downforce package for the remainder of the year.

Towle Owen: The various rules packages this year have each had different forms of racing. The current package seems to work best on short tracks and road courses. Drivers and fans praised the performance of the low-downforce package that was raced at Kentucky while few liked the high-drag cars run at Indianapolis. For the Chase, the best package for all tracks would be the low-downforce, as it places more importance into how well the driver handles the car and produces more passing opportunities.

Ross Brockman: I’m still unsure of the high drag package. Indy is such an outlier; it’s hard to imagine anything working there. It seemed a lot of people enjoyed the low downforce package run at Kentucky, and I think running that more would be well received by drivers and fans. Teams shouldn’t have a lot of time to hear what package they will be running, and I like NASCAR was holding out. Giving a team an advantage for being able to adapt quickly to the package only weeks before the race is a good way to find the best teams and drivers. I’m a big fan of having different packages for each race, and I was hoping they would do it during the Chase and then plan for that for 2016.

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By Popular Speed

POPULAR SPEED is a Social Media driven website featuring exclusive content, photographs, news and pointed editorials. It’s makeup consists of veteran motorsports journalists as well as the unique voice of developing young talent. POPULAR SPEED was launched in 2013 under the direction of former Sprint Cup Series spotter, Mike Calinoff.

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