DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - NASCAR found a real winner in the Battle at the Beach short track race, but a few minor changes could really put on a show that showcases the talent in these divisions as well as stay indicative to what this style of racing is truly about.
For most NASCAR fans, the Battle at the Beach is the only exposure to grassroots racing that they will be exposed to all year. And what did they see: Three finishes where integrity was sacrificed in the name of the show. And while that might sound like any Saturday night across America, there has to be a balance that represents just how good many of the drivers in the NASCAR development system really are.
That's a balance that I believe can easily be achieved with a few minor tweaks to the Short Track at Daytona. While comparisons have been made to Martinsville, the track is closer to the flat banked football field Bowman Gray Stadium. Unlike Martinsville which has a paperclip shape, the apex of the corners at the Short Track at Daytona resembles a diamond, with tire barriers forming a triangle instead of a true rotation.
Several drivers mentioned that they think this was done intentionally, to encourage dive-bombing under a driver to force overtaking. The end result was what we saw three times in three races, with the second-place driver diving under the leader, using the first-place car as a makeshift brake to punt the leader out of the front.
While it's common at many short track races across the country, the punt and run is not the requisite for passing. Banking on a lot of these tracks has a lot to do with it but so does the shape of the corners, which must be rounded-out to encourage level side-by-side racing, and a sense of courtesy amongst the drivers. That leads me to my second suggested improvement - the drivers themselves.
The mentality of the prospects coming up through the NASCAR ladder system right now has to be adjusted for the sake of the entire business. Unlike the days of yesteryear, today's prospects no longer have to prepare their own cars or repair their own equipment. This is what happens when kids grow up playing iRacing or NASCAR Racing-style simulators instead of turning gears or sitting out for a few weeks after tearing up their cars.
The high-dollar sponsorship packages for some of these kids will keep paying for the damages until the PR becomes stale or it just becomes too expensive of a prospect. It's the equivalent of hitting reset on a simulator each and every week as long as the check clears and the racing at the Battle at the Beach reflected it.
Down the road at New Smyrna Speedway, the Super Late Model and NASCAR Tour Modified races at the World Series of Asphalt have gone off without any major controversy. A lot of that is the machinations of a wonderfully designed purposed-built race-track for this kind of racing. But more to the point, most of those races feature drivers that are race from week-to-week and rely on preserving their equipment just to make it to the next weekend.
Today's high-dollar prospects could benefit from those sort of restriction but it won't happen because too much is on the line.
The concept of the Battle at the Beach is one of the best to swing around the NASCAR offices in quite some time. With a few minor changes to the track, that we want to call the Battleground, NASCAR could have a real showcase event for the up and coming stars of stock car racing.
But what did you think? Did you enjoy the Battle at the Beach or was it too messy for your tastes? Tell us in the comments section below.