CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The last 901.5 miles at NASCAR’s top level have been quick and clean, the kind of races where a team can tinker on the car the entire day and not worry about artificial on-track action ruining a strong run.
It’s a racer’s dream, but it’s apparently a fan’s nightmare.
Three of the past four Sprint Cup races have been accident-free, which has reignited the age-old debate: Do fans prefer racing or wrecking?
Based on feedback five-time champion Jimmie Johnson has heard of late, he knows the answer.
“It seems like crashing to most is more important than racing,” Johnson tweeted Monday morning, adding his disapproval for the sentiment.
NASCAR finds itself in a conundrum with this unusually clean stretch of racing. The on-track product is pure, what racing is supposed to be, and it gives teams the opportunity to let the race come to them.
But it’s action and drama that draws attention. If you don’t believe that, rewind to Juan Pablo Montoya crashing into a jet dryer in the season-opening Daytona 500.
Some of the most memorable moments of last season stemmed from crashes or conflict: An ongoing feud between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick led to a pit-road confrontation at Darlington; Brian Vickers was involved in five of seven accidents at Martinsville; and the road-course race at Sonoma resembled a demolition derby, with intentional wrecking between Vickers and Tony Stewart.
There were plenty of shouting matches, with Boris Said calling Greg Biffle “a scaredy-cat” while promising to deliver “a whooping” at Watkins Glen, and Johnson and Kurt Busch having to be separated during a jawing match on pit road at Pocono.
But eight races into the season, nobody is fighting.
NASCAR is also short on accidents of late. There have been only five crashes in the past four races, and all of them came in the April 1 race at Martinsville.
Fans were livid after the ho-hum March 18 race at Bristol, where the crowd was a fraction of what it used to be and the customers were vocal that the racin’ just ain’t what it used to be in Thunder Valley. Track owner Bruton Smith has promised to tear up the track if fans believe it will improve the racing, and he’ll announce his plans Wednesday.
Drivers seem divided on what’s causing this clean racing. Kevin Harvick thinks the stakes are so high right now that no one can take any chances.
But Brad Keselowski, who won at Bristol, believes the current racing is a product of aerodynamics.
“We can’t get close enough to each other to wreck each other,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re angry or not angry, you can’t get (there) to do anything.”