Why I Think NASCAR Is Really Not a Team Sport

NASCAROkay, before everyone gets their undergarments in a wad, let me explain. First, a Team could be defined as a group of people working towards a common goal. In this respect, NASCAR would be considered a team effort. It takes everyone at the shop, on the pit-crew, on top of the pit-box, and the driver all working together for the team to be successful. The driver cannot win on his or her own. I think everyone agrees with this.

However, in the context of team sports, NASCAR is not “team” centric. In team sports, any one person can be side-lined due to injury or other reason; however, it is still possible for the team as a whole to earn wins, work towards the playoffs, and ultimately win the championship; although, it might be more difficult depending who is out, such as the starting quarterback on a NFL team. (Technically, the coach and every single player on a NFL team could be replaced mid-season and the team’s wins would still count.) With NASCAR, any one person can be side-lined and the team can still earn points and win the championship, unless that one person happens to be the driver. If the driver is out due to injury or other issue, such as Denny Hamlin earlier and now Tony Stewart, the team as a whole is pretty much screwed as far the championship goes, no matter how hard they work, especially if it’s for more than one race. With replacement drivers, no points or wins will count towards the team making the chase or winning the championship. Is this fair to all those guys busting their butts working on the cars and so on? This would be like the wins made by a replacement quarterback not counting during the NFL season.

The argument that the team can still get owner points is kind of moot. First, an owner may have up to four teams. So, the team really isn’t earning points strictly for themselves in this case, unless it’s a single car team where the owner and team are effectively the same entity. Besides, the sport isn’t centered around who’s winning the owner points. The media might mention it once during a race; however, they mostly go on about driver standings almost to the point of over doing it. Heck, sometimes, even I forget the owner a driver is driving for LOL. 🙂

The reason that replacement drivers don’ t count is because NASCAR doesn’t want teams using one driver for plate tracks, one for short tracks, one for road courses, and so on. They want the champion (driver) to be the one that, overall, performed the best at all styles of racing and I understand that. However, this puts tremendous pressure on that one driver. They’ll drive with injuries or not even report possible injuries for fear letting the team and sponsors down and ruining their and the team’s chances to get into the Chase or win the championship, no matter how good a replacement might be.  They may also get back into the car before their body (or mind) is really ready. This is the part I really don’t like about the current situation.

Can, or should, anything be done? I don’t know. About all that really could be done is each team having a designated backup driver who could only step in due to doctors not clearing the primary driver as fit to race due to an injury or something and that the points and wins would count towards the primary driver’s standings.  But, as long as the Chase and Championship is effectively driver and not “team” centric, they won’t do this. NASCAR is really just a single person sport that requires a support group (team) of others to really get the job done. It’s not the 88 team/car that’s 6th in points right now, it’s Dale Jr. It’s kind of like the lone marathon runner or cyclist that requires a great support group to be successful and if they get injured and fall out of the race, well, that’s that.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. 🙂