Another issue: NASCAR inspections and violations became a huge distraction to the on-track product. Way too much was spent talking about lug nuts and LIS inspections and who lost 15 minutes of practice time and who had to go to the back of the pack at the start of the race.
NASCAR inspectors work their butts off to keep the playing field level and those wily crew chiefs in check. Hopefully, next year the powers that be will figure out a way that inspections quit being one of the top stories of the week, every week.
Speaking of wily crew chiefs, the racing was incredible at the start of the year, when NASCAR cut downforce sharply. But as the season wore and crew chiefs got most of it back, the racing got worse.
NASCAR will whack the downforce again to start 2017, but how they keep the crew chiefs from getting it all back again is beyond me. That will be a challenge, for sure.
Another bummer was that the long decline of Roush Fenway Racing culminated at the end of the season with the team announcing that Greg Biffle wasn’t coming back and that they will field just two cars in 2017. Remember it was as recent as 2005 when Roush Fenway won 15 races and had five drivers in what then was a 10-race Chase.
Kind of like with Earnhardt, the racing tends to be more interesting when Jack Roush and his minions are in the mix to win races. And they haven’t been in the last couple of years.
On the good side of the ledger, there was much to be thankful for.
The Daytona Rising project was a huge success, and next year the long-awaited renovation of Phoenix International Raceway will begin.
Throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 was even better in 2016 than it was in the first year, something I didn’t think was possible.
The young bucks in all three of NASCAR’s top series entertained us all year long and put on some great racing. Chase Elliott and Chris Buescher were the first rookies to make the Chase since Denny Hamlin in 2006, Daniel Suarez won the XFINITY championship and William Byron won more Truck Series races than anyone.