TALLADEGA, AL - APRIL 25: Kurt Busch, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge, races Joey Logano, driver of the #20 Home Depot Toyota, and Michael Waltrip, driver of the #55 Aaron's 55th Anniversary Toyota, side by side ahead of Jeff Burton, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, and Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the #77 Penske Truck Rental/AAA Dodge, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 25, 2010 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Aftermath, Talladega: An Open Letter To NASCAR

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Aftermath, Talladega: An Open Letter To NASCAR


Well, you did it. If there was any place to start the sport's comeback, it was Talladega Superspeedway.

On Sunday, you produced the most enjoyable, entertaining, breathtaking race in a long time. It was a brilliant show, the kind of spectacle that made people remember why they ever came to like your sport in the first place.

Your rules package with the spoiler created so much drag that there were more leaders than there were Fox commercials (well, almost), and it made cars go back and forth through the field like yo-yos.

Most drivers didn't like that, since it wasn't "real racing" and all that, but you don't need to listen to them all the time anyway. What's good for the drivers isn't necessarily good for the fans, as you seem to have realized with some of the smart rule changes you've made in the past year.

You may find this hard to believe, but when fans and media criticize your sport, it's not out of malice. It's because the people who view your product the most are frustrated and feel strongly about a need for change.

But for too long, you've been stubborn about such things and bristled at outsiders' suggestions that things could be done differently.

Remember last fall at Talladega? You decided to strictly enforce the ban on bump-drafting through the corners, and it resulted in one of the most boring, disappointing Talladega races ever.

The drivers were single-file most of the race, then they wrecked a couple of times, and then it was over. You over-regulated things, and with bad results.

(As an aside, you probably owe ESPN an apology for ripping their commentators after they told fans the race was boring last year. The ESPN guys weren't saying anything the fans couldn't already see for themselves, and as it turns out, they were right. Don't be so eager to shoot your messengers.)

Fortunately, someone in your offices realized there was a need for change at Talladega and Daytona. Many drivers had begged you to back off and let them race. And you did.

Boys, have at it, and have a good time.

Maybe that statement and philosophy was partly to show the drivers that they couldn't handle self-policing, and deep down you expected them to come crawling back and plead for you to step in again.

Or maybe the motives were purely to provide a better show for the fans.

Whatever it was, the result at Talladega was simply awesome. And you get major props for that.

Your drivers destroyed a 26-year-old record for most lead changes in a single race, gave fans what they wanted with three- and four-wide racing, sacrificed their cars in multiple green-white-checkered overtimes and capped it with a memorable finish.

What more could anyone ask for? You took the leash off the world's greatest oval-track drivers, and they responded with an adrenaline-pumping display that even left fans at home exhausted.

This is how you start the climb back: With racing and drama that injects some excitement into your event weekends, gets people buzzing and makes your fans feel like the time and money they invested in you was well worth it.

Can you keep the momentum rolling?

Optimism about any sort of return to the glory years of the mid-2000s has, up to this point, seemed manufactured or forced. After all, ratings have still been disappointing, seats remain too empty for anyone's liking and teams are struggling to find sponsors.

But on a brilliant day in Alabama, the biggest storms had already passed through. And the smiles and cheers from the grandstands gave real hope that your sport can get back to where it wants to be.


Jeff Gluck

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