Kligerman: The fight (or flight) predicament for NASCAR . . . and how to solve it

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You may have heard: Immediately following the race on Sunday, there was a fight.

A full-on, barefisted knock-down-drag-out to the hard and rubber-encrusted concrete.

If you travel frequently or at all, you have experienced your own version of such a confrontation. The indecency of modern air travel features lines, fees, faux elitism, bad wine, hierarchy and fellow travelers.

It’s among the only times in the First World that we are offered a view of our fellow beings at their most selfish.

The modern-day traveler is tired, stressed, sweaty and fighting for space – and never more so than in the case of boarding a plane.

A terribly inefficient system lies amidst the zones, classes and gaggle of people trying to line up in an orderly way.

See, the airlines are spending millions to figure out two things:

  • How to take care of the loyal and high-paying customers, while …
  • Boarding the rest of the common customers, in an orderly and efficient manner.

The efficiency is critical because every minute cuts into the airlines’ ability to be on time and eats at their available growth. And you most likely have noticed that they are failing with predictable precision.

After boarding first class and the highest spenders, the flight attendant constantly is slowing the rest of the boarding process to provide orange juice and bubbly refreshment to the elite. It slows the process to a frustrating crawl.

Every time, they plead with you to do things orderly and quickly. But they actually are asking you to make their system look appropriate and as if it works.

The problem is, it doesn’t. Time and again, the best system is proven to be Southwest Airlines’ hands-off, pick-your-own-seat free-for-all.

No hierarchy. No loyalty.

The most antiquated of human systems. Every man for himself. The adult version of middle-school dodge ball. Cast in the open sea in an eat-or-be-eaten hunt for real estate.

Much can be learned from this for sports and fighting. And most of all for NASCAR, which always is walking a fine tightrope.

It must offend no sponsors by respecting its uptight corporate heads of state (i.e., the first-class cabin). But it also must satisfy the laid-back, casual fan (i.e., those in coach).

Intervening could cause an uproar from a fan base angry about overregulating and catering to a group that isn’t in line with customers paying for the show being provided.

But do nothing, and it might embarrass the VIPs who fund NASCAR with sponsorship that allows the show to reach high levels of monetary support.

It’s just like the airlines that can’t help but shoot themselves in the foot while catering to big-money types and enraging common customers who just want to get their carry-on bag in the fleetingly available overhead space.

NASCAR might learn that you make everyone happiest the quickest by saying “The hell with hierarchy, we are not intervening.” It’s the quickest and simplest way to board a plane for an on-time departure. It might be the simplest form of appeasing everyone.

I sat in a bar waiting for my red-eye flight Sunday from Las Vegas as ESPN played highlights. It showed Martin Truex Jr. taking the lead with two laps to go, but it focused on the Kyle BuschJoey Logano drama.

That was to be expected. What wasn’t anticipated was the reaction around me.

Suddenly, everyone in the bar was glued to the screen. As Kyle Busch’s car went spinning, there was an audible “Ooooooh!” and when Busch fell to the concrete, one guy said, “Whoa, what happened! What is going on?”

And the coup de grace: Kyle Busch, being interviewed with his face dripping with blood. An entire bar full of non-race fans with a couple occasional fans erupted in an audible roar! Another guy said, “That is last year’s champion! Wow!” (I politely reminded him it was two years ago.)

As the volume in the bar rose, a round of applause emerged from the back. They approved. They loved it. Some were in NASCAR gear. It was then I realized that it was in NASCAR’s best interest to avoid intervention.

The fans want a free-for-all. NASCAR wants the governing to stay between the drivers.

It makes for great TV, and it ensures we are providing the best platform for our sport to stay lined up for a popularity takeoff.

Make it every man or woman for themselves.

It might be the only system that works.

 

Cup Series Thursday night racing factoids

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When it comes to 1.5-mile tracks like Charlotte Motor Speedway, no one driver is getting comfortable in Victory Lane.

Entering tonight’s 310-mile race at Charlotte (7 p.m. ET on FS1), the second Cup race in five days on the oval, the series has seen eight different winners in the last eight visits to a 1.5-mile track.

That streak dates back to June 2019 when Alex Bowman earned his first career Cup Series win in a race at Chicagoland Speedway.

Between that race and Brad Keselowski’s win in the Coca-Cola 600, winners on 1.5-mile tracks included: Kurt Busch (Kentucky), Martin Truex Jr. (Las Vegas), Denny Hamlin (Kansas), Kevin Harvick (Texas), Kyle Busch (Miami) and Joey Logano (Las Vegas).

The Cup Series hasn’t seen a stretch of parity like that on 1.5-mile tracks since 2011, when the last eight 1.5-mile races were won by a different driver.

Here are some other interesting tidbits heading into tonight’s race.

Jimmie Johnson is entering his 37th and likely final Cup Series points start on the Charlotte oval. His eight points race wins and four All-Star Race wins there lead all drivers.

– Johnson has led 1,936 laps on the Charlotte oval, second most all-time to Bobby Allison (2,338).

– Hendrick Motorsports has 19 points wins at Charlotte by seven different drivers. That number of drivers is tied for the most all-time. Hendrick has seven different winners at Pocono and Talladega. Wood Brothers Racing has seven different winners at Daytona.

– Joe Gibbs Racing has 21 Cup wins since the start of 2019, which is 49% of races. Denny Hamlin has eight of those wins, which leads all drivers. Team Penske is second with nine wins.

– Tonight’s Cup race at Charlotte is scheduled for 208 laps. Only two races at Charlotte were scheduled for less laps and both were qualifying races in 1961 at 67 laps each for the 1961 World 600.

 

Jeff Burton joins Mike Tirico on Lunch Talk Live on NBCSN

Lunch Talk Live
NBC Sports
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NASCAR on NBC analyst Jeff Burton will be on today’s Lunch Talk Live with host Mike Tirico. Today’s show airs at noon ET on NBCSN.

Also on Thursday’s show will be Supercross points leader Eli Tomac.

“Lunch Talk Live” focuses on the current state of the sports world and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, providing guests with a platform to discuss the state of sports, voice their personal stories and detail how they are adapting their daily lives during this challenging time.

You can also watch the show online here.

Today’s scheduled guests are:

  • Noon – Robbie Earle, Premier League on NBC
  • 12:05 p.m. – Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians manager
  • 12:15 p.m. – Chris Simms, FNIA/PFT/Unbuttoned/Notre Dame
  • 12:30 p.m. – Jeff Burton, NASCAR on NBC
  • 12:40 p.m. – Chris Mullin, Basketball Hall of Famer
  • 12:50 p.m. – Eli Tomac, Supercross current points leader

NASCAR adjusts Xfinity Dash 4 Cash schedule

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NASCAR announced changes to the Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash races on Thursday.

Here is the schedule:

June 1 – Bristol Motor Speedway (will determine four eligible drivers for first Dash 4 Cash event)

June 6 – Atlanta Motor Speedway (Dash 4 Cash event No. 1)

June 14 – Homestead-Miami Speedway (Dash 4 Cash event No. 2)

June 20 – Talladega Superspeedway (Dash 4 Cash event No. 3)

TBA – Next scheduled Xfinity series race after Talladega (Dash 4 Cash event No. 4)

Each Dash 4 Cash event will have four eligible drivers racing for the $100,000 bonus.

The driver who wins the bonus advances to the next Dash 4 Cash event. The next three-highest finishing Xfinity Series drivers eligible for the series title, qualify for the next Dash 4 Cash race.

Previously, Miami was to have served as the qualifying race and was to be followed by Dash 4 Cash races at Texas, Bristol, Talladega and Dover. All those events were postponed because of the COIVD-19 pandemic.

Cup, Xfinity entry lists for Bristol Motor Speedway

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Almost two months it was originally scheduled, NASCAR will finally hold its first Bristol Motor Speedway race weekend of the year.

The Cup and Xfinity Series continue their marathon of races this weekend. The Cup Series will race on Sunday and the Xfinity Series will compete Monday night.

Here are the entry lists for this weekend’s races.

Cup – Food City presents the Supermarket Heroes 500 (3:30 p.m. ET Sunday on Fox)

Forty cars are entered into the race.

JJ Yeley is entered in Tommy Baldwin Racing’s No. 7 Chevrolet.

Gray Gaulding is entered in Rick Ware Racing’s 27 Ford.

Kyle Busch won this race last year over his brother Kurt Busch.

Denny Hamlin won last year’s night race over Matt DiBenedetto.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Cheddar’s 300 (7 p.m. ET Monday on FS1)

There are 37 cars entered.

Modified driver Patrick Emerling will make his Xfinity Series debut in Our Motorsports’ No. 02 Chevrolet. Brett Moffitt drove the car in the first six races of the season.

Carson Ware makes his Xfinity Series debut driving SS Green Light Racing’s No. 07 Chevrolet.

A.J. Allmendinger is entered in Kaulig Racing’s No. 16 Chevrolet.

Myatt Snider is entered in Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Chevrolet.

Christopher Bell won this race last year over Tyler Reddick and Cole Custer. Chase Briscoe, who finished fourth, is the highest finishing returning driver from that race.

Reddick won last year’s night race over Briscoe and John Hunter Nemechek.

Click here for the entry list.