Monday, February 27, 2017

And now ... "Survivor: Daytona"

Or, "Can't these guys drive anymore?"

(The answer: "No. They can't. Shorten the rear wing, make 'em actually have to drive these cars, and they commence running into one another.")

So what else is there to say about "Survivor: Daytona," which ended yesterday with one of the few remaining old hands outfoxing a bunch of kids?

Well, here are a couple of points about the 59th running of the Daytona 500, or the Daytona 150/150/200, or The Great American Duct Tape Orgy:

1. They sure did go through a lot of duct tape.

That was the relevant stat we didn't see: Exactly how much duct tape did everyone use to hold all those battered hulks together? It would have dovetailed perfectly with the relevant stat we did see, which went up on America's TV screens late in the race. It said that, out of 40 starters, 35 had been involved at least peripherally in one of the day's many crashes.

Only 15 cars, in the end, finished the race. And everyone with any experience was pretty much gone except for Kurt Busch. Who of course sat back and watched Chase Elliott drop out of the front of the freight train in the waning laps as his gas tank went dry, thus taking himself out of it. Kyle Larson then moved to the front, where, when his fuel began to run out, he was a sitting duck for the crafty old pro Busch to gobble him up on the last lap.

Show of hands: When Busch popped up in third with 20 or so laps to run, is there anyone who didn't think he was going to wind up your winner?

2. Welcome to stage fright, America. Enjoy.

Or, you know, not. The Blob votes the latter.

As mightily as Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Gordon up there in the booth tried to get everyone revved up about stage racing, NASCAR's latest harebrained idea, it was pure unadulterated manure for the discerning race fan. The long-view narrative of a 500-mile race was utterly lost; its sole substantive effect, in the end, was to give fans three last-lap sprints to a checkered flag instead of one.

The downside, of course, was that two of those sprints were entirely contrived. Did it change fuel strategy? Sure, but was that an upside? And how long will it be before teams figure out that the way you win the Big Checkered Flag is to plot strategy for 500 miles instead of  trying to outthink yourself by 150-mile increments?

Look. I get it. NASCAR's trying to gin up its product, and it thinks its audience doesn't have the attention span it used to. So it's breaking up its races into three short, easily digested bites. So why not just shorten the races, then? Or, to go the opposite direction, simply calculate the points at the end of each stage without disturbing the flow of the race?

I mean, NASCAR has been providing the media forever with race updates every 10 to 20 laps. So it's not like they need to bring everything to a screeching, manufactured halt twice in a race to figure out who comprises the top ten at (yesterday, at least) the 60-lap and 120-lap marks. Why not just let 'em keep racing and send out the 60-lap and 120-lap updates, with attendant "stage" points, to the media and the broadcast booth?

Of course, that might make too much sense.

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