Here’s How NASCAR Can Speed Up The Show

Written by Norris McDonald

Auto racing columnist Norris McDonald makes some suggestions about how NASCAR can shorten the time it takes to run races.

Kasey Kahne finally won The Race That Wouldn’t End, a.k.a. the Brickyard 400, shortly before 9 o’clock last night.

There was yet another wreck on the final restart but, to make the race legal and to finally get it over with, NASCAR held off calling for a yellow flag until Kahne and second-place finisher Brad Keselowski shot past the Overtime Line halfway down the backstretch at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Ryan Newman was third, Joey Logano was fourth and Matt Kenseth finished fifth. The race officially took more than six hours to complete (including a one hour and 47-minute rain delay).

It felt a whole lot longer.

There is a very good reason why people have stopped attending NASCAR races in person (the huge IMS was about a quarter full, if that) and that is because it takes forever now to go from green flag to checkers. On Sunday, for instance, in the last 20 laps there were five crashes and two red flags.


In the old days, CART used to say that they put on a two-hour show, which included pre-race and post-race coverage. Today, F1 adheres to a two-hour window for race and podium. Even on a bad day, the Indianapolis 500 is over in three and a half hours.

But NASCAR? Okay, they couldn’t do much about the rainstorm that hit the Speedway after 12 laps Sunday. But once they got going after that, it was a marathon for the racers to drive and for people to watch, either at the track or in front of the TV.

Memo to NASCAR: we like car racing but we have lives, too. We do not have the time any more to devote an entire day and much of the evening to a car race.

I’ll give you an example. Darren B. Lamb is host of a morning show on CHFI in Toronto. Monday morning, he said he started to watch the NASCAR race Sunday. Later, he told his co-hosts that at 8 p.m., he decided to clip the toenails of his pet chickadee. He didn’t say it on the air, but what he was really saying, was that he got bored with NASCAR and decided to do something else.

The last wreck Sunday, on the second attempt to get a green-white-checkers finish, was caused, I’m sure, by the fact that it was too dark for the drivers to see. They do not have lights at IMS and the sun was behind clouds and below the grandstands. The last restart took place about 20 minutes from official sundown.

NASCAR has got to stop thinking it is the centre of the universe and institute some reforms.

1. Knock it off with the overtime. The Brickyard 400 is a 400-lap race. Period. That is why it is called the 400 and not the 398 or the 406. If the yellow is out when the 400 laps are completed, big deal. Race over.

2. Stop all the “competition cautions.” you have enough caution periods as it is.

3. Employ a full-time safety team that can clean up a wreck in less time than it takes to read this column. Now, it seems like it takes an hour to clean anything up. Do what your race teams do with their pit crews: hire a bunch of college football players who were passed over by the pros but who are in shape and lightning quick and get them out there cleaning up the track and moving out the wrecked cars. It is not rocket science.

4. If a driver blocks another driver and that results in a multi-car wreck (cars other than the one being blocked crash), the driver doing the blocking will get five minutes in the penalty box.

5. Make it a rule that after five caution flags for wrecks, race control can become arbitrary. This would allow NASCAR to put a time limit on races rather than see them run to their never-ending conclusion, as was the case Sunday night.

Example: a race has passed the two-hour mark and still has half the laps to run. After the fifth caution, race control says: “When the green comes out the next time, the race will be over one hour later.” Nothing wrong with that – there will still have been a three-hour race and everybody will know when the checkers will come out. Timed races work in sports-car racing and there’s no reason to think they wouldn’t work for NASCAR.

All sorts of sports have made changes to speed up the game. Once upon a time, a Major League Baseball relief pitcher would walk in from the bullpen. Saunter, actually. Then take 10 minutes to warm up. Now, they either run in or they get a ride on a motorized cart. Four or five fastballs and the ump cries, “Play Ball!” Hockey goalies don’t get to warm up any more if one has to come in off the bench, whatever the reason. And so on.

If NASCAR wants to grow, and right now it’s not, it will take a hard look at itself and consider some of these, or other, proposals for change.

For a complete story on the Brickyard 400, plus the order of finish, please click here.

Meantime, the management and staff at Ohsweken Speedway over near Brantford must have breathed a sign of relief to see Kyle Larson climb out of his wrecked NASCAR Cup car Sunday night after Ty Dillon blocked him right into the inside wall on the main straight at IMS.


Because one of their two advertised big-name stars for this week’s sprint car races had already backed out and if Larson had been injured and unable to make it up, they would really have been in the soup.

For some time, I’ve been plugging the appearance this week of Larson and sometimes NASCAR pilot but most-times short-track terror Rico Abreu for two of the summer’s biggest races.

The news today is that Larson is still coming for the Burger Barn Northern Summer Nationals tonight (Monday night) and the Arrow Express Six Nations Showdown for the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series tomorrow night (Tuesday, July 25).

But that’s not the only news. Rico Abreau cancelled out at literally the last minute but a last-second scramble will see Danny (the Dude) Lasoski fly in from his home in Missouri for not one but both headline-event races.

“Due to recent personnel changes within Rico Abreu Racing, we’re unable to participate in the upcoming races on July 24-25 at Ohsweken Speedway,” Abreu said in a statement. “This has impacted our preparation for these events. We realize not being able to appear at Ohsweken Speedway will be disappointing to the fans who already purchased tickets to see us race, but we hope to be in Canada to race at Ohsweken next year.”

According to a media release, Ohsweken Speedway officials were stunned last Thursday night to learn of Abreu’s decision.

“To say we are disappointed in an understatement,” said Ohsweken Speedway General Manager Clinton Geoffrey. “We were shocked to hear about this turn of events. Our management staff at Ohsweken immediately contacted Kyle Larson’s team, who have confirmed that he will be ready to compete on Monday and Tuesday.”

It’s a good thing he’s still healthy after that body check he took at Indy.

This sort of bushwhacking can be very upsetting. Advertising and PR campaigns are built around special guest appearances like this and people who have purchased tickets in advance because one superstar or another is coming to race can be justifiably angry if they cancel.

Having said that, the fact that four-time Knoxville Nationals winner, and former WoO regular Lasoski will fly up to take Abreu’s place to race at the 3/8-mile clay oval is good news, indeed. Before dropping back to part-time status, Lasoski had won 90 A-Mains (features) on the WoO tour, putting him seventh on the all-time win list.

Now, these races are not benefits for Larson or Lasoski. There are plenty of southern Ontario and northern U.S. state sprint-car drivers – Dylan Westbook (who won his sixth consecutive 360-sprint car race at Ohsweken last Friday night, a record) and Empire State Super Sprint points leader Jason Barney, to name just two – who are itching to take on those two big-names.

Plus, and while Larson and Lasoski are magic, let us never forget: Donny Schatz will be at Ohsweken Tuesday. As will Shane Stewart and the rest of the Outlaws. And if you have never seen a World of Outlaws sprint car race, then you have missed one of life’s great experiences.

The speedway is not far from the entrance to the Six Nations Reserve (which is out near Brantford). I drive over there by taking the QEW to Hamilton and then I follow the signs that say Hwy 403 to Brantford. Then I go Hwy 6 south to Caledonia and turn right at the light just before the bridge over the Grand River. Follow the signs that signal you’ve reached the reserve and then, before you’ve gone very far at all, you will see this little jewel of a speed plant off to your right.

See you out there.

On May 30, 1961, with three laps remaining and the Indianapolis 500-mile-race in the bag, Eddie Sachs ducked into the pits for a new, right-rear tire.

In those days, the skinny slicks they used on the old Indy roadsters had one tire tread on it and the drivers could watch as the rubber went away. When they saw white canvas instead of black rubber, they risked a tire blowout and a crash. That was the case with the tire on the Dean Van Lines Special and while Sachs was in the pits, A.J. Foyt assumed the lead and went on to win his first Indy 500; Sachs got back out in time to finish second.

Although many criticized him for stopping, including his car owner, Al Dean, and chief mechanic, Clint Brawner, Sachs was very aware of what happened to many drivers of that era when they crashed. Said Eddie: “I’d rather be second than dead.”

(We pause now for station identification: Sachs had always said that if he won the 500, he would retire on the spot. Many people didn’t believe him. They said he had a 23-second lead over Foyt and could have slowed down to conserve the bad tire those last three laps. But because he would have had to retire if he won, they said he stopped for the new tire so he’d lose and be able to continue racing. Ironically, Sachs was killed at Indianapolis three years later. We now return to our regularly scheduled broadcast.)

I bring this up because of what happened in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at the Brickyard Saturday afternoon – a really thrilling race that you should be sorry you missed if you didn’t see it. Not many people were at IMS to watch it in person, which was another shame.

(Another pause: there were so few people there, they could have saved time by introducing them to the drivers instead of the other way around. We now return you, etc.)

In any event, 19-year-old William Byron held off Monster Cup Series veteran Paul Menard to win the Lilly Diabetes 250 by about a millimetre. Menard was second and Joey Logano finished third.

Now, with about 10 laps to go, Byron – who raced at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in the Chevrolet Silverado 250 Camping World Series truck race last Labour Day weekend – radioed to his pits that he thought he had a tire problem. With about five laps to go, he told National Speed Sport News afterward, “I reset my mind and thought, “If the tire blows, it blows. We’re leading at Indianapolis and we can’t give that up.”

That’s when I thought of 1961 and Eddie Sachs. Of course, Byron was racing in an enclosed, almost bullet-proof-safe, NASCAR stock car; Sachs was in a dinosaur open-wheel car 56 years ago when survival was anything but guaranteed..

But . . . it’s Indianapolis.

Whatever, the other thing I was curious about was blocking. In IndyCar and F1 racing, a leading driver is allowed to “defend” his position but there are rules. You are allowed to make one move, but one move only, to hold off an opponent attempting to pass.. Saturday at Indy, Byron would often make two or three moves to keep his car in line with Menard’s. Menard would go left, then right, then a half-left, then a half-right and Byron would be in lockstep with him every step of the way.

(This was a big problem in the race Sunday and many of these blocks resulted in multi-car accidents and long delays. But we’ve already talked about that.)

Paul Menard is a fair racer and said afterward on Saturday that it had been a good race. Kyle Busch, if he’d caught Byron, would have tapped him out of the way, no doubt.

But Kyle Busch wasn’t around because his team became worried about his tires and called him in for a new set. They didn’t want to see him crash.

Here’s something a little closer to home. Xavier Coupal, the 2016 Nissan Micra Cup champion and Kevin King, the championship leader this season, both won races this weekend as the fifth and sixth races of the season were held at Le Circuit-Mont Tremblant in Quebec.

The drivers put on a great show. Among the spectators were nearly 80 Canadian Nissan Micra owners who enjoyed the races and took part in a parade lap of the legendary circuit, site of the 1968 and 1970 Canadian Grands Prix.

The Saturday race saw Coupal win with King second and Olivier Bédard third. Metod Topolnik and Normand Boyer were first and second in the senior class. On Sunday, the order was King, Bedard and Coupal. Topolnik again was top senior.

Next stop for the Micra Cup will be the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres in mid-August, along with the Canadian Touring Car Championship series and the NASCAR Pinty’s Series. Nissan Canada will be4 the event’s principal automotive partner.

My thanks to Didier Marsaud, Director, Corporate Communications, Nissan Canada for this information.

Reminder: on Tuesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the 2018 IndyCar aero kit will be unveiled and two drivers – Oriol Servia and Juan Pablo Montoya – will put it to the test. I wonder if the canopy/safety shield will be part of the cockpit. I hope so. It would show Formula One how big a mistake they’ve made with the halo.

And the NASCAR Pinty’s Series is Out West this week for three races in four days. They will actually run two complete races on the same night – next Wednesday – at Wyant Group Raceway in Saskatoon. The two 100-lap features are being called the Velocity Prairie Thunder Twin 100s presented by Bayer. They stockers will then haul over to Edmonton for a 300-lap race next Saturday night.

As the late Jimmy Durante used to say, “Everybody wants to get inta da act.” Now the CARS Tour Series has gone to “stage” racing but they have four stages instead of the NASCAR three. I bring this up because young Quebec racer Raphael Lessard doesn’t seem to be a fan. He finished ninth in a race in North Carolina at the weekend and called the format “strange.” He suggested two stages would have been better than four.

Glenn Watson didn’t take any prisoners at Kawartha Speedway Friday night in winning the OSCAAR Outlaw Super Late Model 50-lap feature. John Cadman Jr. finished second with Kelly Balson, Charlie Gallant and Derrick Tiemersma rounding out the top five. Meantime, Cole Powell won his first OSCAAR Modified victory. Chris Milwain finished second and John Harper was third. Dan Archibald won the OSCAAR Hot Rod feature and Matt Haufe was first in the Legends race.

Kyle Busch said he nearly ran in the Indianapolis 500. Busch the younger said this weekend at the Brickyard 400 that a deal was in place (another Andretti car?) but that his “boss” wouldn’t give him permission. Asked if his “boss” was employer Joe Gibbs or his wife Samantha, Kyle Busch said people would just have to guess. However, he said a year ago when he first started talking about this that the one who would be hardest to convince would be Gibbs. He explained at the time: “Samantha is not necessarily a fan of it and I’ve talked to her about it a little bit. She’s just like, ‘I’ll be there when the time comes, but don’t tell me.’ ”

In Moscow, Robert Wickens of Guelph had a so-so weekend in the DTM races there (German Touring Cars). By so-so, I mean he didn’t win but he actually finished both races and didn’t crash or be taken out by one of his rivals. On Saturday, he was fourth in his Mercedes; Sunday, he finished 10th but that was good for a point in the championship. There’s always a little cloud following Robbie around, though. He should have finished fifth Sunday but a safety car period and then a slow pit stop cost him five places. Another Canadian, Bruno Spengler, was third in a BMW Sunday. He didn’t crack the top ten Saturday. Wickens sits tenth in the points standings halfway through the DTM season. Of the six Mercedes drivers in the points, he’s third.

At Oswego Speedway (that’s in New York State, folks, and – like the sprint cars at Ohsweken Speedway – if you have never seen the supermodifieds run at Oswego, then you simply haven’t lived), Dave Gruel won the $10,000-to-win “Mr. Supermodified” feature on Saturday night, with third-generation speedsters Brandon Bellinger second and Mike Muldoon third. The “Mr. Small-Block Supermodified” (SBS) race was won by Jesse Bearup, with Dalton Doyle second and Russ Brown third. First place paid $1,500.

Whenever I write about the Mr. Supermodified nights at Oswego, my mind always travels back to July 23, 2002, when history was made at that track. Now, there have never been a lot of women drivers in auto racing, period. Yes, there have been some, but on the grand scale, not many.

At Oswego, Sheila Hayes (I think she was from the New England area) was the first woman to take a crack at driving a super and she held her own but never won. Others who drove at the place – not necessarily in supers but they were out there and, frankly, anyone who’s ever driven anything around Oswego at speed has got balls – have included Mares Snellfox, Jessica Zemken and Erin Crocker.

The two most significant women at Oswego, however, were Jennifer Chesbro and Star Matteson. Chesbro was the first woman to win any kind of race there – it was a heat race – and then Matteson set the speedway on its ear that July night in 2002 when she won what was known at the time as the “Mr. Limited Supermodified” race.

She led from flag-to-flag and got to Victory Lane to take possession of a big cheque for $1,500. A quick thinking member of the track safety crew got a pair of scissors and some duct tape and changed the “R” on “Mr.” to an “S” so that the cheque read: “Ms Limited Supermodified.”

It really was one of the more incredible nights in racing, generally, and at the Oswego Speedway, in particular. So glad I was there.

Pete McLeod of Canada finished second in the Red Bull Air Race in Kazan, Russia, Sunday. The races are scored on time, skill and finesses and aerobatic ability. You’ve seen these things on TV, where pilots of the propeller-driven planes have to fly a course marked off by pylons. They have to know what they’re doing. Kirby Chambliss of the U.S. was the winner. McLeod won his third consecutive pole in Russia. The series makes its next stop in Portugal the first weekend of September.

At Ohsweken Speedway Friday night, a total of 129 cars packed the pit area for Christmas in July and Autograph Night presented by Jibs Action Sports. When the final checkered flags waved, it was Dylan Westbrook (360 sprints), Mack DeMan (Strickland’s GMC Crate Sprint Cars), Derek Lemyre (Middleport Mechanical Thunder Stocks), Brandon Janssens (HRW Automotive Mini Stocks) and Eric Maas (Gale’s Auto Aftermarket Bomber) who stood in Lucas Oil Victory Lane.

Westbrook won his sixth consecutive Kool Kidz-Corr/Pak 360 Sprint Car feature at the track, a record. The previous mark of five straight was set by track owner Glenn Styres, who was on hand to congratulate Westbrook. My thanks to Clayton Johns for this information.

At Bennett Chevrolet Flamboro Speedway Saturday night, light rain fell on and off for most of the day but it cleared in time to get racing going on Graybar Night. There would be a rainout, however. Before that happened:

Russ Aicken was the winner in Mini Stocks, Brandon McFerran won the Super Stock feature, Ken Lillycrop won the ten lap first heat for the Ontario Pro Challenge and Shawn Chenoweth won an exciting 30-lap feature for the Grisdale Late Models. Then the track got too wet.

The first Pro Four feature and the second set of features for all classes witll be run on Aug. 12. Fans who hold on to their July 22 tickets will get $5 off the price of admission for Aug. 12 only. For full details, go to

Thanks to Randy Spencer for this information.

They had a big weekend at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. IMSA was there but it’s a small circuit and so the big Prototypes were absent. But the Prototype Challenge, the GT Le Mans and the GT Daytona classes put in a great show.

The two-car Porsche GT team finished one-two in the headline race. Patrick Pilet (Dirk Werner) finished first in the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR while Laurens Vanthoor (Gianmaria Bruni) was second. Martin Tomczyk (John Edwards) was third in the No. 24 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM (say that fast five times). In the GT Daytona class, Joerg Bergmeister and Patrick Lindsey, driving the No. 73 Porsche 911 GT3.R, were the winners. Daniel. Morad of Toronto joined with Patrick Long in the No. 28 Porsche 911 GT3.R to finish third.

This, from the NHRA website: Robert Hight got into the Funny Car winner’s circle for the first time this season, while Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Drew Skillman (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) all finished first in their respective classes at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals in Denver, Colo., at the weekend.

Finally, Round 7 of the 2017 Rockstar Energy Drink Motocross Nationals took place Sunday at Truro, N.S. California rider Dillan Epstein won both motos in MX1 class while Prince George, B.C., rider Jess Pettis won the MX2 class. The series will race in Moncton, N.B. next weekend.