ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

No passing fad

Updated on October 2, 2013
Dale Earnhardt Jr. couldn't bring a trophy home for Mr. Hendrick this past weekend thanks to the near-impossibility to pass up front
Dale Earnhardt Jr. couldn't bring a trophy home for Mr. Hendrick this past weekend thanks to the near-impossibility to pass up front | Source
Once Johnson got out front, the race was essentially over
Once Johnson got out front, the race was essentially over | Source

This past Sunday's race at Dover applied a layer of neon highlighter to NASCAR's biggest problem; the inability to make passes over the course of a race. Teams and cars are so close technically that a loss of track position early in the race can doom a team's finish well over a hundred laps later. Surely NASCAR is aware of the problem, press releases to the contrary. But unlike any other problem facing the sport, this is one that has the potential to cause long-term damage to auto racing in America. The time is fast approaching where NASCAR and the teams need to consider not only opening the tool box but grabbing a few new tools off the rack. If they don't the series faces the potential of becoming a closed-wheel version of Formula 1, where the excitement on qualifying day far outstrips that on race day.

Mark Twain is credited with the famous quote on stats, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” NASCAR's defenders will quote those stats chapter and verse on how there's never been more passing than there is in the sport today. Yet all it takes is one race like the one that took place at Dover to put a slug between the eyes of that argument. Dale Earnhardt Jr had a car that was the class of the field for nearly 100 laps; yet after a pit road miscue dropped him to eighth place, the #88 never seemed quite as good. Two tires or four, adjustment or no, he just didn't have enough muscle to get past Jimmie Johnson. The fact that he even managed to get up to him was a marvel in and of itself as passing was hard to come by.

A look at the driver tracks for the race show a similar pattern for many of the cars at Dover. Kyle Busch, a driver who normally is able to pass at will, passed more cars on pit road (or during pit cycles) than he did on the concrete. Of the top ten finishing cars, only one started outside the top 20 (Clint Bowyer finished tenth after a 23rd place start). Sure, having a fast car in qualifying can mean you've also got a hot rod for the race. But the inability to pass played its part too.

Dover race recap from NASCAR Garage

The outside car leaped to the front on nearly every restart
The outside car leaped to the front on nearly every restart | Source

Restarts played out the same way every time. The leader started on the outside and rocketed ahead of the pack. The fourth place car on restart would follow in the leader's footsteps and take second place, two to three seconds behind. The remaining cars would file into line like highway traffic going into a single lane construction zone and everyone would turn laps until the next spring rubber appeared. Whereupon the crew chiefs and pit crews would make their money by earning spots on pit road that couldn't be taken on the track.

This isn't the first race NASCAR has had like this. Nor will it be the last. And yes, track loop data will show plenty of passes made at Dover. But not all passes are created equal. Casey Mears getting around David Ragan for 26th place is important to those two drivers. But it's somewhat less important to the race audience as a whole. Their focus is to see passing for the lead. Aside from an early race move by Earnhardt past Kenseth, the race's remaining leader passes all involved pit road. That's hard to sell from the broadcast booth and hard to watch from Joe Sixpack's couch.

So what is NASCAR to do? They don't want to get into the business of stimulating passing through artificial means. The sanctioning body already takes plenty of heat for cautions like the one thrown late in the Dover race for an errant spring rubber. They cannot afford the credibility questions that would come with changes that artificially bring the field closer together. The changes to promote passing need to come from a long-term effort that makes racing more competitive without alienating the current fan base. By that standard, it may be nearly impossible.

Does one of these guys have the idea to unlock NASCAR's no passing fad? Why not find out?
Does one of these guys have the idea to unlock NASCAR's no passing fad? Why not find out? | Source

Yet the ideas are certainly out there. Whether it's a crew guy working for a mid pack team or an engineer working for one of the superteams, it's almost a certainty that the change NASCAR needs is somewhere within the sport right now. The teams spend tens of millions of dollars every year looking for ways to shave milliseconds off their lap times. Some of those efforts are within NASCAR's rules and result in wins; others skirt or violate the rulebook entirely and result in penalties from the sanctioning body.

What NASCAR should do this off-season is bring the teams together for a series of three day conferences. Virtually all of those employees are in the Charlotte area already so the logistics wouldn't be particularly difficult. Bring in a good mix of people from all levels of the sport and from all positions in the field. It might be worthwhile to throw in a few media types as well; they hear from fans every day on Facebook and Twitter and can provide perspective on how proposed changes might be received by NASCAR Nation at large.

With the press of a button, an IndyCar can make passes they'd otherwise only dream of. Can NASCAR make the technology work for them?
With the press of a button, an IndyCar can make passes they'd otherwise only dream of. Can NASCAR make the technology work for them? | Source

The point of these conferences would not be simply a search for speed. The teams do that enough on a daily basis. Instead, the idea would be to bring out those ideas that might work but have never before had a true hearing. They'd be the ideas crew guys kick around when they retire to a local bar at the end of the night. They'd be the kinds of ideas an individual team engineer might hesitate to bring up at the shop simply because it's “out of your area of responsibility”. If NASCAR can foster the right environment, the people there can truly explore areas that before never received serious consideration.

There are a world of different ideas to examine. What would be the impact of using restrictor plates at every track? What about no restrictor plates anywhere and a switch to a six cylinder engine? How about a push-to-pass feature as found in IndyCar or F1? Or perhaps an overhaul in NASCAR's tire strategies with different rubber compounds for teams to choose from? The point is to consider the possibilities. NASCAR has always been almost proud of being technologically behind passenger cars (much less other racing series)- is there something out there that can bring stock car racing into the 21st century?

A few years ago NASCAR met with the drivers and teams to brainstorm ways to improve the on track product. Those meetings led directly to double-file restarts and the Green-White-Checkered finish being added to the race. Not everyone is a fan of those changes but both have provided an increase in drama and fan excitement, particularly at the end of a race. It's time to bring everyone together again and see what other ideas are out there- and maybe just bring an end to the no passing fad.

Need more NASCAR news and opinion?

Another Left Turn columns here on hubpages at
Contact me via email at
Follow me on Twitter at


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Your's is a thoughtful and reflective article about a concern I have had about NASCAR racing for quite a while. There are so many contributing factors to the lack of passing, that it is almost hard to know where to begin: template cars, smooth racetracks, a limited number of chassis (and engine) builders, big teams with satellites that share at least some information, proliferation of engineers, points racing, strategies to qualify for the Chase, suspension springs that are so soft that the cars mostly push down and stay on the bump stops, aerodynamic requirements that take away down force from trailing cars and I am sure more could be added.

      In addition, NASCAR shows no sign of putting any effort into finding solutions. A few years ago, they at least tried a bar on the top of the cars at Talledega to cure some problems there, but it was quickly abandoned, even though I thought it might have had promise if they would have given it more time.

      This year at California, there was actually a decent race, probably because the track had gotten rough and there was less ability for the engineers to tune the suspension for it by running on the bump stops like a giant go-cart. Tracks are too quick to repave, and that kills the passing. Maybe they should consider a type of paving job that is rough when new.

      Experiment with some aerodynamic changes to the splitter and roof to reduce or eliminate the aero push. Implement some rule that stops cars from running on the bump stops.

      Make a rule that 2 years from now, no multi-car team will be able to use a chassis from another team. They must build their own. In four years, the teams will be limited to 3 cars each. In 6 years, 2 cars each. They will know what is coming and must prepare for it.

      Emphasize (1) winning and (2) leading laps more in the points system.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)