Writing angry is not something I ever set out to do.
To me, it’s like going to the grocery store while hungry, or tweeting after drinking: not advised. When it comes to writing, I’d rather be calm, cool, and have collected my thoughts into a rational argument – even if emotion often leads to good writing. I hate being angry, and I have been angry for much of this NASCAR season because of two words: rule package.
I’m angry that the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has different rule packages for different races. I’m angry that it’s been a dominant topic of conversation. I’m angry because it doesn’t seem like the package has been overwhelmingly positive – at least if you listen to the drivers. If I had a dollar for every time I heard “it’s hard to pass” or “dirty air,” well, I’d be a lot better off financially.
Hours removed from the 11th Cup Series race of the season at Dover, my anger hadn’t dissipated as I tried to write, and I realized I was angry not just because we were again talking about the rules package, but for another reason, too.
At first glance, I didn’t think Dover was too terrible a race. It wasn’t the greatest show NASCAR has ever produced, but it was OK. Then the post-race comments from drivers began to bubble up about how terrible the package is (Kyle Busch) and how hard it was to pass (Erik Jones, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, and William Byron, to name a few). Plus, there were the opinions one can never escape seeing on social media, and suddenly I was angry because I was questioning whether I know what a good race is.
I wasn’t able to make the trip to Dover so I was watching it from home, and at one point, my boyfriend turned to me and said of the race, “nothing happened”, questioning how I had anything to write. He later asked me how I could possibly be happy continually writing about rules and lousy racing.
Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a one size fits all answer for NASCAR Cup Series racing. I think many of us would agree we want a competitive race and that would mean an abundance of passing, fast cars being able to show they are fast cars by not being stuck mid-pack, throw in some good side-by-side battles, and drivers coming and going through the field. And as horrible as this sounds, where are the accidents? With the cars being so stable, it’s just too damn hard to crash or have some other problem.
While NASCAR is trying to give us what we want, tons of downforce and cars sealed to the ground might not be the answer. I thought Dover was OK. Talladega was great. Richmond was boring. Bristol was fantastic. Again, there is not a one-size fit all package, and I’ve been cautious about judging each race individually instead of the season as a whole.
I wish I was as smart as the engineers walking around the garage, because maybe then I could offer a suggestion instead of just angrily waving my fist toward the sky while ranting about wanting to see good racing. Unfortunately, science, math, physics, etc. were never my strong suits in school, so here we are.
Even worse, the series is about to embark on a stretch of racing where the aero package is going to continue to be a big focus when it comes to both the conversation and the type of racing we see. Coming up is the mile-and-a-half track of Kansas, followed by two weeks in Charlotte, then the unique Pocono Raceway, and the big two-mile oval of Michigan.
If the rules package continues to dominate the conversation around the sport, it will be my job to cover it and offer an opinion. But I don’t have to be happy about it. And I have a feeling I’m going to continue not to be happy over the next couple of weeks.