Long: Why aren’t more tracks doing this?

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Nearly a year later, NASCAR and track operators continue to miss a better way to connect with fans.

Yes, NASCAR does all sorts of things with Twitter, Facebook and anything else that you can stare at on a phone or tablet, but the sport is missing out on a simple idea.

Move victory lane closer to the fans.

Jeff Gordon’s win at Martinsville Speedway a year ago was made more memorable because the victory lane stage was on the frontstretch. Thousand of fans roared when he emerged from his car, and many stayed through the darkness, serenading him with chants.

Gordon responded by waving his arms to the crowd. When the final interviews were completed and photographs taken, Gordon ran up the steps to the walkway along the stands. He high-fived those who had stayed nearly an hour relishing what is, at this moment, Gordon’s final Sprint Cup victory.

“I don’t know what it feels like to be a rock star,’’ Gordon said that night, “but that’s as close as it can get, I think.’’

Fans got a moment that they would have never experienced had victory lane been tucked away somewhere in the infield behind pit road and accessible only by TV cameras and video boards.

One of the thrills of sports is that it provides moments that last a lifetime. Sometimes those are athletic achievements we witness. Other times they are moments we share with athletes.

For those who walked out of Martinsville Speedway that night, they got one last memory that likely resonates because of how close they were to Gordon.

Yet at most tracks, victory lane is hidden from fans.

Imagine the energy created by thousands of fans if they were closer to victory lane. Athletes feed off the crowd. For those wanting more spontaneity from drivers, this could invite that.

As the sport looks to reinvigorate its fans, there are many things that can be done. This is merely one small gesture, but each step matters.

For tracks that have a permanent victory lane away from the stands? Turn that into a VIP club and allow those who join the opportunity to go out on the track after the race to share in victory lane with the winner.

If driver intros can be on the frontstretch before the race, why not put victory lane there afterward?

NASCAR America: Kyle Busch questions Xfinity rules package at Indy

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Kyle Busch isn’t afraid to speak his mind, and he certainly did so after Saturday’s  Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

NASCAR implemented a number of changes to make the racing closer, tighter and more exciting — including restrictor plates, a larger rear spoiler, aero ducts, and a smaller splitter — and achieved all that on many fronts.

But not for the younger Busch brother, who wasn’t pleased with the rules package. Was it actually designed to specifically slow him down rather than to even out things for the entire field?

Or was he just simply upset because he didn’t win a third Xfinity race in a row at IMS?

Check out how our NASCAR America analysts gauged the Xfinity changes in the above video.

 

TriStar Motorsports team owner Mark Smith passes away

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Mark Smith, owner of TriStar Motorsports, died Saturday at his home, after a long battle with cancer, the team announced Monday. He was 63.

He began his racing career building engines for his brother Jack’s drag car in the 1970s. He moved his family from the West Coast in the early 1990s to pursue a career in NASCAR. He was the owner of TriStar Motorsports and Pro Motor Engines.

TriStar Motorsports fields the No. 14 in the Xfinty Series with JJ Yeley and the No. 72 in the Cup Series with Cole Whitt. The team stated the team will continue operations under the management of Bryan Smith, son of Mark Smith.

“It was dad’s dream to own and operate a NASCAR team,” Bryan Smith said. “He devoted his life to that dream and his family plans to honor his wishes by continuing our efforts in his memory.”

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Victory Junction Gang victoryjunction.org or NOVA (National Organization for Vehicle Access, part of the BraunAbility) novafunding.org.

The family will receive friends from 5-8 p.m. ET, Aug. 1 at Cavin-Cook Funeral Home, Mooresville, North Carolina. They have created a Facebook page where you are encouraged to leave a story for the family to enjoy. (facebook.com/Remembering-Mark-Smith-301261653675224)

NASCAR America: Analysts break down Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. wreck (video)

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Given how wild the Brickyard 400 played out, the big wreck between race leaders Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. wasn’t exactly surprising.

Rather, with the way the race transpired from the opening lap, was the Busch/Truex wreck almost inevitable?

Truex got loose and washed up into the left rear of Busch’s car, sending both drivers and their respective cars into the outside retaining walls, hitting hard and ending their respective days.

Check out what our NASCAR America analysts had to say about the wreck from Monday’s show in the above video.

NASCAR America: Dale Earnhardt Jr. recaps wild Brickyard 400 (video)

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On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, Dale Earnhardt Jr. — who will become part of our NBC Sports Group in 2018 — looked back on a wild and intense Brickyard 400.

Earnhardt was one of several drivers whose day came to an early ending — in Junior’s case when he ran into the back of Trevor Bayne‘s car, destroying his radiator in the process.

All the mayhem and mishaps could be linked to over-aggressive driving, Earnhardt said, saying that every driver was in “attack mode,” especially on restarts.

Check out Junior in the video above.