The possibility of NASCAR reinventing the format of the Chase for the Sprint Cup has drawn commentary from many quarters – some positive, but more leaning toward the negative. It’s no secret that NASCAR chairman Brian France wants the focus to be on winning races rather than the accumulation of points, and has made some adjustments over the years to the original format introduced in 2004 to achieve this goal. The latest proposal, however, is the most drastic of all and will change the series completely if it is introduced.
The proposal reportedly includes increasing competitors in the Chase for the Sprint Cup from 12 to 16, with a win in any of the season’s first 26 races putting a driver in line for entry into the championship. Should there be more than 16 winners in those 26 races, then the 16 drivers with the most wins as well as the highest in points would qualify for the Chase. Once the field for the Chase was established, a round of elimination races would whittle competitors down to 4 for the final winner-takes-all race. The elimination races would take place after the third, sixth and ninth races of the Chase with 4 drivers being eliminated each time and the remaining 4 drivers going into the final race at the Homestead-Miami Speedway with points reset and tied in the Sprint Cup standings.
When asked to comment on the proposed changes, vice president and chief communications officer of NASCAR, Brett Jewkes, was quoted as saying that NASCAR had started the “process of briefing key industry stakeholders on potential concepts to evolve its NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship format.” He went on to state that the briefing was the final phase of extensive research, feedback and “data-driven insights”.
The point has been made that implementing these changes would make historical comparisons impossible as the formats are too different. Also, the championship title would lose its value if the final race is the decider, rather than awarding it to the driver who has shown skill and endurance through the season under varying conditions and on different tracks, thereby gaining points. Some observers have noted that it’s entirely possible NASCAR is putting the idea out there to gauge response before making an official announcement. With the 2014 Sprint Cup Season starting in February, fans won’t have long to wait to find out if a new format is on the cards for 2014.
The action of drifting, when the rear slip angle of a car is greater that the front slip angle and a loss of traction occurs between tires and track, can occur in different types of auto racing. This may be unintentional, with drivers either spinning off the track or being able to rectify the over-steering that caused the drift, or intentionally, with drivers using the technique to gain an advantage. In recent years, drifting has developed into a recognized motorsport in its own right, with drivers intentionally over-steering to get their cars to slide sideways while still being in control. Drifting competitions are held in many countries around the world, where competitors are judged by a set of criteria which may include speed and angle, as well as adherence to the line through corners which is set for each competition and amount of smoke created. In some competitions audience response and driver showmanship are taken into account when selecting a winner.
Drifting as a sport is believed to have originated in Japan, with motorcycle and car racing champion Kunimitsu Takahashi being considered to be the “father of drifting” as, in the 1970s, he created many of the original drifting techniques still used today. Takahashi’s drift techniques were picked up by Keiichi Tsuchiya who took to practicing his moves on mountainous passes. He was given the nickname of “Drift King” for the part he played in establishing drifting as a motorsport, and for his use of drifting in standard racing events. The video (Pluspy) focusing on Tsuchiya’s drifting skills continues to inspire today’s drivers.
Sponsored by the Japanese drifting magazine Option, one of the first drifting events in the United States took place at the Willow Springs Raceway in California. The sport has gone from strength to strength since then with the premier series in the United States being Formula D. This exciting championship series consists of seven events that take place at race tracks across the country. Judges take into account execution and style and so the winner will not necessarily be the competitor who finishes the course in the quickest time.
Tracks in the US that currently host drifting events include the Long Beach GP street circuit; Road Atlanta in Braselton, GA; Palm Beach International Raceway; Wall Speedway, NJ; Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, WA; Las Vegas Motor Speedway; and the Toyota Speedway at Irwindale, CA. Described as the merging of extreme sports with traditional racing, drift racing offers plenty of action and excitement – for both drivers and spectators.
The Hollywood Walk of Fame is a popular attraction in the United States, and it is an honor for celebrities to have their names placed on this piece of pavement. In Birmingham, the United Kingdom, there is also a pavement that displays a host of names, paying tribute to the achievements of those who have made valuable contributions in sport, literature, music, business, film, radio, television and theater, namely the Broad Street Walk of Stars. Its latest inductee is the very deserving Nigel Mansell, who made his mark on the Formula 1 racing industry and is still respected for his achievements.
Born on 8 August 1953, Nigel Mansell grew up with a love for auto racing. He reflects back on his childhood with fondness, remembering how he had to be escorted home after police caught him racing his carts in the streets. He enjoyed fifteen successful seasons in the Formula 1 circuit, and in the year 1992 he won the Formula 1 World Championship. His last two years in racing he spent driving in the CART Series where he won the CART Indy Car World Series in 1993. He also made history by winning the CART Indy Car World Series, as it was the first time this title was won by someone making their debut in this division.
He completed his racing career with thirty-one victories behind his name, and finds his name on the winners list with Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost ahead of him. Mansell was listed as one of the ten best Formula 1 drivers in the world, and is listed at number nine on the Times Online listing of top drivers of all time. On this list he again finds himself in the company of Formula 1 icons such as Jim Clark, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. Nigel Mansell is still considered to be the best Formula 1 diver to have come out of Britain.
Murray Walker, a Formula One commentator, is also on the Birmingham Walk of Stars, and Nigel Mansell’s name will now be alongside other celebrity names, such as Ozzy Osbourne, Frank Skinner, Jasper Carrott and Noddy Holder. Mansell commented that it was a great honor to be recognized and added to the Birmingham Walk of Stars, and that it was a privilege that he is very proud of.
Located around seven miles west of Willows in California, Thunderhill Raceway Park is a popular racing venue for both cars and motorcycles and is used by the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) for its events. The three mile track has a total of fifteen turns, but is designed to allow event organizers to reconfigure the course to suit their needs. Thunderhill hosts the longest race in the United States – the annual 25 Hours of Thunderhill – a National Auto Sport Association event supported by the US Air Force.
Fans play an important role in the sport of auto racing. Not only do they bump up the excitement level with their enthusiasm, entrance fees help towards the many expenses incurred in keeping a racing track in peak condition. Following a three week break from racing action, Thunderhill Raceway Park reopened on 23 April, and racing fans no doubt noticed the changes that have been introduced, specifically with them in mind. Improvements made to the facilities at Thunderhill include the expansion of the Midway area under the grandstands, with more kiosk options including a souvenir shop. Families will no doubt appreciate the new play area, complete with inflatable bouncers to keep the children occupied. “Meet the Drivers” sessions will become a regular feature of racing at Thunderhill, where fans will have the opportunity to chat with the drivers and obtain autographs, as well as to find out more about their favorite drivers through live interviews by the announcing team.
Thunderhill owner, Mary Ann Naumann, noted that keeping the fans entertained was a priority, and she wanted people to have a good time from the moment they arrived until it was time to leave. To this end Naumann has appointed Ryan Conine as the track’s production director. With years of experience in the entertainment business, including working on The Longhorn Sports Network; Texas Music Series (KVET 98.1 FM); and Texas Radio 2.0 (live365.com), Conine knows what it takes to keep a crowd happy, and visitors to Thunderhill can look forward to a memorable occasion at every racing event. Thunderhill Raceway Park is gearing up for months of summer entertainment and action, so be sure to keep an eye on their events calendar and enjoy the vibe at the track where fans rule.
Comparing NASCAR and F1 racing is a popular topic on the Internet. NASCAR is simple. All left turning in bulky, simple cars. F1 is complex. Left and right turning in sleek, technologically sophisticated cars. NASCAR is rough and tumble. Bumping and jostling add to the excitement. F1 is refined and elegant. Contact between cars spoils the precise aerodynamics and handling. As for the drivers, it is said that the best race in F1 and the rest race elsewhere. The comparisons by bloggers and racing analysts, no matter how erroneous, go on and on.
As shown in the table below, there are clear physical differences between the two motorsports. Less clear is whether there exists performance differences – that is, differences tied to the drivers’ and their teams’ performance – between the two sports. To address this question, we look back at the results from the 2009 NASCAR and F1 seasons.
Physical Differences: NASCAR and F1 Racing in 2009
|Number of Drivers||43||20|
|Number of Races||36||17|
|Design of Cars||front-engine, “stock” car, heavy (3,300 lbs)||mid-engine, open-wheel, light (1,322 lbs)|
|Technological Sophistication of Cars||relatively simple mechanical engineering||advanced electrical and mechanical engineering|
|Racing Tracks and Circuits||oval-shaped speedways||circuits and road courses|
|Width of Tracks and Circuits||relatively wide, side-by-side racing is common||relatively narrow, side-by-side racing is rare|
|Length of Tracks and Circuits||relatively short (0.53 mi to 2.60 mi)||relatively long (2.08 mi to 4.35 mi)|
|Location of Races||23 locations in USA||17 countries in Asia, Australia, Europe, South America|
|Turning||all left turns 34 of 36 races||left and right turning|
|Overtaking and Lead Changes||relatively common||relatively rare|
|Final Practice||occurs after qualifying||occurs before qualifying|
|Ability to race in wet weather||cannot race in rain under any circumstances||can race in rain with tires designed for this purpose|
What is the relationship between a driver’s performance during the final practice before a race and his finish position?
Former NBA star Allen Iverson’s rant aside (“We’re not talking about the game, we’re talking about practice!”), coaches and sports psychologists say that athletes should practice like they play. The same is true for the 43 drivers who normally start a NASCAR race. An analysis of these drivers’ ranking in final practice and their finish positions throughout the 2009 season revealed statistically meaningful correlations or relationships between their practice performance and their finish positions in 81% of the races. The better someone performed in practice, the better his finish position. This was not the case for the 20 drivers who make up the starting field of an F1 grand prix. These drivers’ performances during final practice and their finish positions were related in only 41% of the grands prix. Interestingly, there was an even less reliable relationship between a driver’s practice performance and finish position if the results from only the top 20 points-leading NASCAR drivers before a race are considered. For these drivers, practice performance and finish position were related in only 22% of the races.
What is the relationship between a driver’s performance during qualifying (and thus his position at the start of a race) and his finish position?
“Qualifying is key” is a phrase that is heard often by drivers, crew chiefs, and racing analysts. The better a driver performs in qualifying, the closer to the front of the field he will start a race. For the 43-driver starting field of a NASCAR race, a statistically meaningful relationship between their performances in qualifying and their finish positions occurred in 75% of the races. For F1 drivers, the correlation between qualifying position and finish position was even stronger and occurred more often. But, for the top 20 points-leading drivers in NASCAR, a meaningful correlation between qualifying performance and finish position was uncommon.
What is the relationship between a driver’s points-standing (a measure of his performance in previous races) and his finish position?
Historians remind us often that the past is the best predictor of the future. This appears to be true for the 43 drivers who start NASCAR races. The higher a driver’s position in the points standings, the better his finish position. In contrast, a statistically meaningful correlation between F1 drivers’ performance in previous grands prix and their finish positions occurred much less often, and even less often for the top 20 points-leaders in NASCAR.
What is a more reliable predictor of a driver’s finish position: His performance during a practice, his performance during qualifying, his overall success prior to a race or a combination of these variables?
Overall, the best predictor of a NASCAR driver’s finish position was his points-standing. For F1 drivers, the best predictor of their finish position was their performance during qualifying and thus their position at the start of a grand prix. For the top 20 points-leaders in NASCAR, there were no reliable predictors across the races held in 2009.
Based on the analyses of the 2009 NASCAR and F1 racing seasons, we can now build a new table that summarizes performance differences in these two motorsports. Surprising, perhaps, is that the most noticeable differences were not between NASCAR and F1 drivers, but between the best NASCAR drivers and everyone else.
Performance Differences: NASCAR and F1 in 2009
|Characteristic||NASCAR||F1||NASCAR (Top 20)|
|Finish position generally correlated with practice performance||Yes, 81% of races||No, 41% of grands prix||No, 22% of races|
|Finish position generally correlated with qualifying performance/starting position||Yes, 75% of races||Yes, 82% of grands prix||No, 28% of races|
|Finish position generally correlated with overall success in season||Yes, 86% of races||Somewhat, 59% of grands prix||No, 19% of races|
|Best overall predictor(s) of finish position||Points-standing before a race||Qualifying performance (starting position)||None of the performance variables studied|
Article written by Kathleen Silva and Francisco Silva