OPINION: NASCAR has to own its COTA failings

Nigel Kinrade/Motorsport Images

OPINION: NASCAR has to own its COTA failings

Insights & Analysis

OPINION: NASCAR has to own its COTA failings


The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Perhaps it’s too harsh to call NASCAR officials insane after what happened at Circuit of The Americas, but they are due for some criticism.

After the Camping World Truck and Xfinity Series races went off without significant issue, the inaugural Cup Series race had a premature ending, and one that should have come much sooner. Standing water, repeated complaints about poor visibility, and two massive crashes marred the day.

NASCAR vice president of competition Scott Miller owned up to the fact that the series should have acted faster. But that wasn’t the worst part. No, the worst part was Miller then going into the classic offerings of officials having a tough job and that they’ll learn going forward. Stop right there.

Drivers were constantly coming over the in-car radios saying they couldn’t see. You’ve heard the feedback – they used words like ‘sketchy’, ‘dangerous’, and ‘treacherous’. They were driving blind. Officials do not monitor every radio, but they certainly have access to enough of them to have known what their competitors were saying about track conditions.

Or we should take a minute to admit that the individuals behind the wheel know what they are talking about, and their feedback should be weighted heavily. In this case, NASCAR knew what the drivers were saying, and it should have listened from the beginning. Racing in the rain is challenging enough. Racing in standing water with spray coming off the back of big heavy stock cars is just ridiculous.

Listen to your drivers. If they aren’t happy and can’t compete to the best of their ability, the racing will suffer.

Another reason that Miller’s statement was laughable is that NASCAR officials should have known better. They should have already learned their lesson.

Chase Elliott (No. 9 Chevrolet) leads Tyler Reddick (No. 8 Chevrolet) in a deluge, which created low-visibility conditions at Circuit of The Americas. (Matthew Thacker/Motorsport Images)

Consider the Charlotte Roval last fall. The Xfinity Series race ran in a monsoon; an absolute downpour that made it miserable for drivers, photographers, fans, and even those not standing outside. Just watching it wasn’t fun. There was nothing good about what happened in October. Drivers couldn’t see, couldn’t control their cars, and it was chaos at every corner.

It seems many forgot what happened that day and let history repeat itself at COTA. It’s unacceptable, and opens the door to whether NASCAR should be in the racing in the rain business. Damp conditions seem to be OK. It even seems like we can get away with a light sprinkle. But it becomes a trust issue around officials knowing when to call things off from there.

If that’s the case, don’t race in the rain. Has the focus on making racing entertaining become so important that we must continue to push stock cars to do things they aren’t suited to do? Another one of Miller’s responses Sunday night was that other forms of motorsports race in the rain. Good for them. NASCAR needs to stop trying to be like everyone else. Brian France had a bad habit of trying to make auto racing like other series and sports, resulting in going to a playoff format and eventual eliminations, to name a few changes. It’s a separate conversation on whether those are good things, but in this case, the analogy of stop governing your sport by being a copycat still stands.

Don’t race in the rain, NASCAR. Not when there is currently no solution for the spray of water coming off the cars. And that also means, please stop trying to develop a wet-weather tire for short tracks. If drivers cannot adequately compete in wet conditions on a road course where they are spread out, what are we expecting on tracks shorter than one mile when they will be closer together?

Insanity. It’s insane when drivers aren’t being listened to, and that NASCAR can’t remember that the last time it tried something like this, it was a mess. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, you lose the benefit of the doubt.