Can cars running in circles really be this complicated?
A new racing season is at hand, and with it comes the annual Tweaking of the Chase – stock car racing's version of the playoffs – as NASCAR tries to generate more drama and excitement in its championship battle.
Every year it gets more gimmicky. To understand the recently-announced 2014 plan, you'll need a Certified Public Accountant, a molecular engineer and two gypsy fortune tellers.
I think it has something to do with shifting moon phases, but I may have the Chase confused with a werewolf.
If NASCAR really wants to spice up the racing, here's how they can do it with one stroke of a pen:
Limit each team to one driver. I mean one, really.
None of this wink-and-grin nonsense about letting a team owner field only one car – plus three more under the name of his girlfriend, his granny and his goldfish.
A single-team concept would accomplish a number of things, all desperately needed by the sport:
It would distribute the talent. A handful of wealthy owners couldn't hog most of the good drivers and personnel.
It would spread the material wealth. A few mega-teams couldn't sop up most of the sponsorship gravy.
Best of all, it would put an end to "teammates working together" – a euphemism for points fixing and race-tampering, which boiled over with last season's Richmond fiasco.
If there's no teammates, they can't work together. No more free passes for points, no more intentional spin-outs to let a teammate to improve his running order. It would give the sport's ailing integrity a booster shot.
Make it every man for himself: 43 drivers representing 43 teams, each pursuing 43 agendas – winning. By dispersing the talent, sponsorships and R&D, NASCAR could disperse with the gimmicks.
I can hear the wealthy team owners howling from the mansion-tops: they spend so much that have to field multiple cars to recoup their investment. The more millions they spend, the more millions they have to earn.
So end the cycle of greed. Instead of fielding four cars requiring four sponsors, field one car with one sponsor. Operating expenses will be slashed.
If owning a single Cup car isn't enough to scratch an owner's competitive itch, he can field a Nationwide or a truck-series team. Or race go-karts.
One team per owner is the rule in other pro sports. Imagine Jerry Jones owning two or three NFL teams in addition to the Dallas Cowboys, and the shady shenanigans that could result from such multiple ownerships – just as we've seen in NASCAR.
NASCAR could do it if it wanted to. If we've learned ANYTHING about NASCAR over the past 65 years, it's that it can do whatever it wants, whenever it wants.
It could make drivers wear pink tutus and race backwards if it wanted to. It certainly could implement (and enforce) a one-team-per-owner rule.
Doing away with teammates would not only make the racing more interesting and competitive, it would make it smell better. It would put an end to point-fixing and race-tampering – problems NASCAR's latest Chase contortions fail to address.
It could be the last tweak NASCAR has to make.