Opinion: Would you accept less racing, if the end result was better racing?

Saturday’s debut of heat races and a shorter main event in the NASCAR Xfinity Series again raises an important debate in NASCAR: Do fans care about quantity or quality?

Opinion: Would you accept less racing, if the end result was better racing?
Start action
Start: Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford leads
Re-start, Carl Edwards, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Race action
Race action
Race action
Race action
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in trouble
Michael Annett, HScott Motorsports Chevrolet after the crash
Aric Almirola, Richard Petty Motorsports Ford on fire

Whether or not anyone found the duel 50-lap heat races to set the starting field very entertaining on Saturday, there was little doubt most fans, drivers and media found the 200-lap main event one of – or the best – Xfinity series race of the season.

After Saturday’s race – won by series regular Erik Jones on a late-race pass of Sprint Cup Series regular Kyle Larson – it was hard to find anyone who disagreed the shorter distance added to the excitement and intensity of the main race.

“I honestly think that was a great length for a race here really. Any longer and it kind of would have been drug out. At 200 laps you have to run pretty hard for the majority of the whole race and it was interesting,” Jones said after the race.

“We all thought it would be a one (pit) stop race, but tires actually wore out so much that we did have to pit again. I thought it was great, I thought 200 laps was a good distance for us and like I said, we had to run pretty hard the whole time.”

Longer events drop the intensity of the racing

Race fans don’t like to hear it, but the fact remains drivers do not run an entire 300 or 500-mile race in the same fashion or with the same intensity. For one, they shouldn’t. How many times have we heard, “You can’t win the race on the first lap?” when drivers are involved in early wrecks racing for position.

Listen to Jones’ crew chief, Chris Gabehart: “I think in 200 laps you know you’re not going to get many chances to try to make the car better and shuffle the field so you have to make the most of every lap and every position matters.”

Many times when the end of a Cup race begins to get more exciting, I’ve heard from fans who say “I wish they would race like this the whole race.” That’s a wonderful thought, but has no bearing in reality.

It does no good to race your guts out and take multiple chances on the track early in the race if you risk not being around at the end when the win is decided. You get a nice pat on the back for a smart move but only to watch someone else celebrate in Victory Lane.

“To finish first, first you must finish.” Anybody remember that adage?

NASCAR and tracks have already started reducing the race lengths of some races – most recently Pocono’s 500-mile Cup races were reduced to 400 miles. I’ve yet to hear from anyone who says that move did anything but improve the quality of the races there.

I’ve heard from more than one track official that race fans that they talk with don’t favor seeing “less racing.” And when asked only that question, I wouldn’t be surprised at that response.

It’s time the discussion move to a more relevant question: Would you accept less racing, if the end result was better racing?

Given the recent evidence I’ve seen – including Saturday’s Xfinity race – my vote would be a resounding “Yes.”

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Series NASCAR Cup
Author Jim Utter
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