With the past two NASCAR Cup Series races both shortened due to weather, the recurring debate over the series' race lengths has once again become a topic of discussion.
And, once again, the answer remains that things are fine just the way they are.
Endurance has been a fundamental staple of the identity of NASCAR racing throughout most of its history, with many of the events at the series' top level being 400, 500, and even 600 miles long. This was never a problem until recently, despite modern conditions being better suited for the long haul than ever before.
In the past, engines would fail to last the full distance during NASCAR's grueling marathons. Drivers would fall out of races due to fatigue, especially during the hot summer months. By the end of the day, the number of competitors with a shot at the win could often be counted on one hand.
Yet no one complained.
So why do people suddenly think the races are too long now, with all those factors gone? The primary argument comes from the assumption that there would be a greater sense of urgency from drivers if they were shorter, as seen the past two weeks.
Of course, the main reason for that in both cases was the threat of rain, not the race distance. When drivers know that a race could potentially end on any lap, obviously they will race harder — which isn't always even a good thing, as it causes more accidents from aggressive driving.
The "give-and-take" element of NASCAR has become a lost art. There shouldn't need to be exhilarating action on every lap to keep fans entertained, just like a great movie shouldn't need to have dramatic sequences in every scene. The slow buildup throughout is crucial to the climax at the end.
In recent years, NASCAR has introduced features such as the playoffs, double-file restarts, and stages in order to promote drama and excitement throughout the races, satisfying the shorter attention spans of fans today. All of those changes have been tolerable ones, and in certain cases even positive ones.
However, shortening the race lengths, or instituting a time limit for drivers to race to as opposed to a set number of laps, would be taking away a core piece of what separates NASCAR from the rest of the motorsports world.
It simply cannot happen, and to see these pleas continuing to come from people within the industry is very disappointing.