Wreckin’ Fans Got Their Fill Early At Dover

Charlotte, NC (June 4th, 2012) – Fans of NASCAW – National Association for Stock Car Auto Wrecking – didn’t have to wait long to get their fill of carnage Sunday as a massive pile up on Lap 9 proved to be the opening act of Sunday’s FedEx 400 at Dover International Speedway.

This was good stuff. Cars careening around, spinning like tops and crashing into each other. This is what the folks in the grandstand paid for, wasn’t it?

Based on the number of stories in the media in recent weeks leading up to the Dover race, you’d think so.

It seems some of the wags that cover the sport of NASCAR got a group deal on pocket calculators. Their stories have been loaded full of statistics recently about how caution laps are down by more than a full third over last season. Meanwhile, the number of caution periods per race have also dropped considerably according to their calculations.

The funny part about all of this is that the issue here really isn’t about caution periods or laps under the yellow flag. It’s about the number of wrecks. The perception, for some reason, is that if a race has ‘too many’ green-flag laps, it’s boring – that nothing is happening.

We need more wreckin’ to make this NASCAR stuff exciting.


We’re not sure exactly how this perception got rolling. You would have thought the racing is wreckin’ crowd would have had their fill after more than 100 race vehicles were destroyed over a two-week period to open the 2012 season at Daytona.

Normally, that would satisfy anyone’s crash quotient for at least a full season.

Guess not.

The drums about not enough action (wrecking) started beating at Phoenix a week later when there were ‘only’ seven caution periods totaling 37 laps. One week later, eight yellow flag periods for 33 circuits spiced the Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas. Each number represented more than 10 percent of the race.

Then, the you-know-what hit the fan at Bristol. The Food City 500 produced just five accidents and five caution periods. Meanwhile, the average green flag run was just a tick over 75 laps.




Suddenly, the NASCAW crowd had a new champion as O. Bruton Smith, the pope of all things Bristol, pandered to the crowd claiming the large number of empty seats at his track were due to the 2007 track resurfacing. Vowing to plow up the speedway to give the fans better racing (more wrecking), Smith fanned the green- versus yellow-flag debate to three-alarm proportions and it’s been raging out of control ever since.

Smith’s bombastic blasts have allowed the conspiracy theorists among the media and fans to have a field day with the NASCAR lack of action angle. All of a sudden, stories and theories abound about how this has happened.

One popular angle is the drivers are stroking racing only for points. This, of course, is completely silly.

On Sunday, what was left of the field after the Lap 9 incident raced their guts out. A track like Dover demands it. There are no laps off here. No cruising, no riding it out on Dover’s famed ‘Monster Mile.’ This coming weekend’s event at Texas won’t be any different – except they will doing it at about 30 miles an hour average faster than they did at Dover.

Because of that speed, drivers will be trying even harder not to wreck at Texas. There are no easy hits anywhere, but those at places like Texas are even harder at nearly 200 miles per hour. So if you are hoping for a crash fest this weekend to help skew the numbers back toward the wreckin’ side of the ledger, be careful. Never forget that while racecars are made of steel, people aren’t.

Bottom line – just because something is different, or not the way it used to be, doesn’t mean that it’s not as good, that something is wrong, or that a change is in order.

Thanks to some media members and other self-promoting blowhards like Bruton Smith, there is a negative perception about NASCAR this season. Forget that the drivers are more skilled and controlled than ever before, or that the crews who design, build, test and race these vehicles have made them safer, faster and more reliable than ever.

Maybe, just maybe, that’s why there are fewer wrecks and caution periods in NASCAR this season.

So Long Dr. Dick

Dr. Dick Berggren turned in his microphone and headset at the conclusion of Sunday’s race at Dover. The life-long racer has decided to pull the plug on his television career after more than 30 years of making racing more enjoyable and informative.

Few reporters have ever been as prepared as Berggren stalked the garage each week collecting the smallest of details for each team. Always a racer at heart, Berggren not only delivered the sport to the fans on television, but his publications – Stock Car Racing Magazine and Speedway Illustrated Magazines – initially and still set the standard for NASCAR print journalism.

I can remember getting the first issue of Stock Car Racing Magazine in May 1966. Little did I know that one day, I would be lucky enough to write for that publication or know that I would in later years have the privilege of calling ‘Doc’ my friend.

That said, best of luck to you Dick. You can move on knowing that you helped make stock car racing in America the sport it is today. Surely, you will one day be honored as a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. You will be missed, but never forgotten.


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