[...] why the changes and why now? Because a host of factors worked against NASCAR over the last several years to create an impression that the racing has become boring and predictable. First and foremost, the sport needs a new champion to pique interest again.

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									042_RA0310   1/27/10   9:51 AM


      42 MARCH 2010
043_RA0310   1/27/10   9:52 AM

                                 What made NASCAR great – the quality of the
                                 racing and the inter-driver and inter-marque
                                 rivalries – dwindled in 2009. Changes were
                                 needed now, and NASCAR has responded.
                                 By Tom Jensen
                                 Main Image Nigel Kinrade/LAT

                                        or most of its history, NASCAR’s stance on problems and public

                                 F      controversies has been to emulate Dr. Pangloss, Voltaire’s philosophy
                                        professor from Candide: Or Optimism. When times got tough, NASCAR,
                                 like Pangloss, tended to fall back on the belief that everything happens for the
                                 best in this best of all possible worlds. Or at least that was their public position.
                                     And that makes the afternoon of Jan. 21 all the more remarkable. Coming off a
                                 year when television ratings declined for the third straight season, attendance
                                 sagged and public criticism intensified that the Sprint Cup Series had become
                                 boring and predictable, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian Z. France stood up at
                                 the sanctioning body’s Concord, N.C., research and development facility and
                                 announced not only drastic rules changes, but an even more drastic philosophical
                                 shift: Let boys be boys and race the way they used to back in the day.
                                     NASCAR being NASCAR, France stopped well short of admitting the
                                 sanctioning body had a problem, but it was clear that the changes were in direct
                                 response to fan complaints that the racing had gotten sterile.
                                     “We have got the best racing in the world, and what are the things that we
                                 can do to make it better?” France said. “What are the things that we can do to
                                 open it up a little bit? What are the rules packages that are available to us, with
                                 all of the things that we have to balance, but what are those things?”
                                     In the short term, NASCAR is replacing the rear wings on Sprint Cup cars with
                                 more traditional four-inch blade spoilers, giving the drivers bigger restrictor
                                 plates to create better throttle response and greatly loosening the grip on drivers.
                                 Bump drafting is OK now, and so is showing some emotion, even anger.
                                     Also under consideration are further changes to the car, including possible
                                 modifications to the front splitter. But the fact that NASCAR would entertain
                                 modifying the new-generation car it introduced in 2007 was an indication just
                                 how serious the sanctioning body has gotten about re-engaging fans.
                                     “To change that [wing to a spoiler] is a huge step for NASCAR because

                                                                                           Bumper to bumper, but what
                                                                                     about fender to fender? The lack of
                                                                                      true racing was painfully obvious
                                                                                       at the usually thrilling Talladega.
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