Continued: 2012 NASCAR season in review
Anderson: The race that the drivers and crews complain about most is Pocono. They say it's too long (even when it's only 400 miles) and too boring. So I say let's not update Pocono (which underwent a significant safety renovation in 2010); let's remove its two dates from the already far too long Sprint Cup schedule.
Estes: Pocono. I am all for keeping the historic older tracks on the schedule, and I like the quirkiness of Pocono's triangle layout compared to so many of the new boring 1.5-mile ovals. But unfortunately, Pocono simply does not produce much exciting racing. Cars quickly become spread out all over place, which is a problem at several tracks but is made worse at Pocono because of its 2.5-mile length.
Long: They all do, after a fan was killed and nine others injured in a lightning strike at Pocono Raceway in August. The tragedy serves as a reminder to tracks of their role in warning fans to oncoming storms and giving them a place to avoid danger.
Tuttle: Talladega. The 33-degree banking on the track needs to be reduced to something in the 18 to 20 range to get rid of the restrictor plate and give the drivers back the horsepower that make the Cup cars so difficult to drive on 13-inch tires. When Talladega opened in 1969, Cup cars were heavier, less aerodynamic and had less horsepower. At 2.66-miles, it would still be uniquely the longest oval in the world and the winner of the race would be based more on skill and teamwork than luck of escaping the big one.
Anderson: The majority of the talk this offseason at the NASCAR headquarters in Daytona should be about how to lure fans back to the sport. TV ratings and attendance were down again in 2012. Why? I'd argue that the biggest reason fans continue to walk away from NASCAR is the lackluster racing. NASCAR is hoping that the new car design in 2013 will produce more passing and more side-by-side racing. We'll see.
Estes: Shortening the races. There is no reason for 500 to be some sort of magical number in NASCAR, yet that continues to be the length of many of the races, either in miles or laps. The result all too often is several hours of tedium followed -- finally -- by 30 minutes or so of decent racing. And at some tracks, such as Darlington, the insistence on reaching the number 500 results in races that stretch on for four hours. NASCAR should take a cue from the NFL and keep races closer to the three-hour window.
Long: The 2013 Car. It's all about the car. If NASCAR can create a package that makes it easier for the drivers to run side-by-side, particularly at 1.5-mile tracks, the better. Forget the marketing and such; it's all about what happens on the track. Have a bad race and people pay less attention.
Tuttle: NASCAR and its tracks need to figure out how to sell more tickets. Empty seats in large patches were everywhere this season. Yes, the economy has made it more difficult and is part of the problem, but the decline had begun before the recession hit. The racing was outstanding this season and the championship intriguing, and maybe that will help bring the fans back next year. Ticketing strategies and other types of entertainment are being utilized and they should help in the long run, getting fans to get back into the habit of attending.
Anderson: Five. The Chase developed into an intriguing battle between an up-and-coming driver and a five-time champion, but other than that this season was positively average. Too many races featured too many long green flag runs (and little passing) and too often the events devolved into games of fuel mileage (yawn).
Estes: Probably no better than a 4. Having somebody other than Johnson and Tony Stewart win the championship at least added some spice to the season, and Earnhardt's return to relevance also helped. But there were still too many boring races to consider the season a success. Hopefully the debut next year of a new line of cars with different aerodynamic characteristics will give the sport a much-needed boost.
Long: Actually, I poll fans weekly with a fan council I created two years ago called the Backseat Drivers Fan Council. Fewer members of my fan council were excited about this season with 74.7 percent giving it a "great'' or "good'' rating. Last year, 84.8 percent in my fan council gave the season a "great'' or "good'' rating.
Tuttle: It's a 9.5. The Stewart/Johnson finish in 2011 was a 10 and Keselowski/Johnson almost reached that level. It became slightly anticlimatic with Johnson's tire failure at Phoenix putting him 20 points down going to the final race at Homestead-Miami and completely anticlimatic when Johnson dropped out with a rear gear failure. But the initial eight races of the Chase, with Johnson leading by seven points with two to go, was perhaps even more exciting than 2011.
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