The Top Five: Breaking down the NASCAR championship race at Homestead

Five thoughts after Sunday’s NASCAR finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway…

1. Judging worthiness

After a season dominated by three drivers whose appearance in the final race seemed inevitable, it was someone else who ultimately won the NASCAR title.

For many fans, accepting Joey Logano as champion may be difficult — not only because he’s irked them over the years, but because he wasn’t the best car of the season.

Logano was tied for fourth in wins, fourth in top-fives, fourth in laps led and tied for third in average finish. Meanwhile, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch won eight races apiece and Busch ended up with the best average finish of any driver since 2007 — but finished fourth in points.

I’m not here to make the case for Logano as the Driver of the Year. He wasn’t. And that’s despite scoring the most points in the 10-race playoff, which might have won the title under the previous Chase format.

But the bottom line is this: Logano IS a worthy champion in 2018. And by that I mean he did everything required of him in this format, as did Xfinity champion Tyler Reddick (two wins as opposed to Christopher Bell’s seven).

They were great when it counted. And that’s what matters these days.

You may not like it or get nostalgic about the days of a season-long title race ensuring the best driver and team win, but Logano checked every box required of a champ these days.

He won the three times when it mattered — once to lock himself into the playoffs, once to advance to Homestead and once to win the championship. He went up against the best competition, beating the toughest field in the five-year history of the winner-take-all race. And he produced in the clutch, passing Busch and Martin Truex Jr. after the final restart.

That’s what it takes these days. Busch sharply said the most successful season of his life — with eye-popping stats! — was “all for naught.” And you know what? He’s right. It doesn’t matter in this era, which rewards great timing over great seasons.

No, Logano didn’t have the resume of a traditional champion. He even said if you asked 20 weeks ago, he would have said making the final eight was the goal.

But there’s not much traditional about NASCAR in 2018, if you haven’t noticed. It’s probably best to accept that for the sake of enjoying the sport. And if you’re holding on to the hope for a return to tradition, I’ve got news for you: Things are only going to change more in the years to come.

2. Logano as champ

In some ways, Logano is the perfect champion for NASCAR to sell to the masses.

He’s an aggressive racer on the track but one of the nicest, most giving guys off it. He’s wholesome and family-friendly. He’s personable and a Millennial.

The only problem is…the majority of NASCAR fans don’t like him! He received more boos than Kyle Busch several times this season, which is saying a lot. And that impression isn’t about to change now that he’s champion, so it’s sort of a lost cause to try and sell him to current fans. But perhaps NASCAR could use him to appeal to the casual fan rather than the hardcore fan who he’s already offended by clashing with their favorite drivers.

Either way, there’s a lot more to come for Logano. Jimmie Johnson didn’t win his first championship until he was 30. Logano is 28 and has 10 years of experience plus a title and 21 wins under his belt.

I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to say Logano will win at least three championships and 30 more races before he’s done. Fans might need to quietly jump on the bandwagon while there’s still room, lest they risk having to watch a driver they can’t stomach continue to rack up trophies at the expense of their preferred racer.

3. Keselowski’s caution

When asked directly if he thought Brad Keselowski intentionally caused a caution to benefit Logano late in the race, Truex crew chief Cole Pearn didn’t outright dismiss the notion.

“It’s possible, for sure,” he said. “Who knows? Whatever. It is what it is.”

Keselowski made contact with Daniel Suarez while they were part of a near-four-wide situation, sending Suarez spinning. At the time, Logano was last among the playoff contenders and it looked like Truex was en route to winning the title.

Pearn wasn’t the only one in the garage who considered the possibility of some funny business with that caution. But I’ll be honest: I can’t see it.

When the caution happened, it was Busch — not Logano — who seemed to benefit the most. Busch needed that caution on his desperate pit strategy and that moment appeared to put him in position for a championship.

So do you really think Keselowski would have caused a caution that could have made a champ out of his rival? I don’t.

4. Going Home

Despite the lack of cautions for the first two and a half races of the weekend, Homestead-Miami Speedway is easily the best intermediate track in NASCAR. If only they could all be that way, right?

If they were, NASCAR probably wouldn’t be going to the extreme step it’s taking with the 2019 rules package. Whatever we’ll see next year, it’s a good bet it won’t look much like what we saw Sunday.

Like a lot of you, I’m worried about what the future holds with the racing. Was this the last “real” championship race? I’ll wait and see before judging.

But if I’m going to look back on this pre-pack-racing era in a few years or read this in 2023, I’d like my future self to remember this: The racing was great and thrilling at times, but not often enough. The cars and the tires and the track surfaces could occasionally combine to put on a good show, but not always.

That said, it felt like the drivers who won in this era were rising to the top based on their talent more than luck or chance. It felt like we were witnessing greatness. I’m worried we won’t have that same confidence about drivers of the future because of the rules package.

5. NASCAR is entertainment

This has seemed like a dark year in the world and in our country. It’s tough to turn on the news without feeling depressed about the latest bad story and it seems like we’re increasingly divided as Americans.

Oddly, that’s an opportunity for NASCAR. That’s because this is entertainment, the chance to escape all the crap that drains our energy in real life. NASCAR can be something that brings us together and makes us feel good, which would benefit everyone.

But NASCAR has yet to successfully take advantage of that fact, because there’s an endless cycle of negativity around NASCAR itself. And so often it seems self-inflicted, which is maddening.

From headline-stealing penalties to the dumb controversy of the week to any variety of off-track news, NASCAR seems like it can’t get out of its own way sometimes. If you can’t tell, I feel exhausted by it.

My wish for the future is NASCAR figures out a way to make this sport fun again. The drivers too often seem miserable, the teams upset, the media (myself included) overly critical, the fans angry. There doesn’t seem to be much joy about what goes on in this series.

And that’s a shame. Because as much as the ratings have fallen or attendance has slid, there’s STILL a lot of good things happening here. NASCAR should be uplifting, not a downer for the people who love it and invest time in it.

It doesn’t have to be this way. If anyone has ideas on how to break that vicious cycle, let me know. I’m listening.

Column: NASCAR’s 2019 rules package tough to swallow, but may be necessary to save sport

When word first leaked of NASCAR’s plan to use an All-Star-type package for next season, I immediately started thinking of other racing series I could cover instead.

The mere thought made me sick. Taking the best stock car drivers in the world and dumbing down the racing? Sorry, but I had no interest in watching some buy-a-ride rich kid have a chance to go out there, hold it wide open around a 1.5-mile track and suddenly be able to compete with the likes of Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson.

That’s not why I watch sports. I want to see the best do their thing and be able to see true talent shine through.

But a recent quote from IndyCar president of competition Jay Frye entered my mind. In talking about why IndyCar was going toward lower downforce and higher horsepower, he said: “Every motorsports series has its thing, and we’re going back to being fast and loud. These cars are hard to drive and cool to look at.”

So if that’s IndyCar’s “thing,” what is NASCAR’s thing?

Well, as you know from following NASCAR through the years, it’s entertainment. NASCAR is about putting on a good show and trying to please its fans — which often comes at the expense of concepts people consider “pure” racing.

NASCAR has playoffs — and not just playoffs, but eliminations and points resets! NASCAR has artificial cautions during the races (stages). NASCAR has overtime — unlimited attempts! — so fans can see a finish under green. NASCAR has double-file restarts and free passes and wavearounds. And NASCAR officiates in a way that allows contact and blocking, where other series frown upon it.

All those things add up to a search for entertainment. That’s what sets NASCAR apart when it comes to its decision-making. 

So the announcement NASCAR will implement a rules package that will force closer racing next season? That is completely, 100 percent on-brand for what NASCAR is.

But there’s something else at play with all this, and it’s much more of a factor for me at least taking a wait-and-see approach.

NASCAR isn’t doing this solely as some desperate, Hail Mary move to try and fix the racing. If that were the case, I’d be 100 percent against it.

There’s actually a long-term vision in the works that makes this digestible: Saving the sport from a financial standpoint.

Right now, the Cup Series engines use a tapered spacer (which restricts horsepower) that results in roughly 750 hp. NASCAR, in its search for new manufacturers to enter the sport, has traveled around the world only to be told such a high-powered engined with 1950s technology would be a non-starter for a potential new OEM. The cost of developing that type of engine would be astronomical and serves as a deterrent to a new entry.

So if NASCAR is going to have any real chance of attracting a new manufacturer, it needs to get the number down to 550 hp.

Why is that important? Because manufacturers have money. LOTS of money! And they’re willing to spend it in big ways. Just look at Formula E, which is going to have more than 10 manufacturers by its sixth season of existence — including the likes of Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes, Nissan and Porsche. They’re collectively pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into a racing series that isn’t even that popular or established yet.

Chevy, Ford and Toyota are great for NASCAR and its teams, but NASCAR needs another couple manufacturers to come in and infuse the race teams with money. As seen with the recent sponsorship struggles, that factory support is more important than ever in modern-day NASCAR.

So that’s one factor. The other is this: The Gen 7 car IS coming, but it’s likely still a couple years away. NASCAR needs to find somewhat of a temporary stopgap until that car arrives and incorporates many of the concepts officials are now trying to reach with this package.

Now, do fans have to like this decision? Absolutely not, and I know some are going to be vehemently against this concept. Some drivers have also been outspoken in their dislike for it, with some privately saying this might make them consider a different direction in their careers.

But here’s the thing: Motorsports is a huge, diverse neighborhood. And so if a rules package makes you angry enough to bid farewell to NASCAR, then IndyCar is right down the street.

Of course, with IndyCar, you’re going to see races end under yellow and some events go completely caution-free. So maybe you won’t like that.

OK, well then how about Formula One? They have badass cars and cool technology, intriguing personalities and racing on a world stage. F1 might not be a bad option if you’re looking for the “pure” racing thing.

On the other hand, the car leading in the first turn often wins an F1 race — at least when the driver isn’t told to move aside for team orders. Ugh.

Hmm. Well then what about sprint cars? Man, sprint cars are AMAZING! The racing is like watching a combination of extreme sports and bullfighting, and the drivers are super accessible.

That said, none of the races are on TV, it’s hold-your-breath dangerous (which you might not be able to stomach) and you’re probably going to get hit in the face with clumps of mud when you go to the track. Not exactly the big-league NASCAR experience you may be used to.

Look, I’m not trying to stump for you to remain a NASCAR fan. That is up to you. As I said earlier, I’ve personally struggled with the concept of this new package and am still torn. Hell, so are the drivers!

But I keep coming back to the entertainment factor. Are the boring 1.5-mile tracks going to look better next season? Probably, yeah. It’s the way they’re getting there that is bothersome.

So what if someone zapped my minds with the memory device from Men in Black and I didn’t know the details of what made NASCAR racing seem more competitive?

That’s wishful thinking for those of us who follow every detail of the sport, but it will be reality for many NASCAR fans next season. That’s because a lot of casual fans (who aren’t on Twitter, probably) will flip on some of the races next year and go, “Dang, the racing looks closer!” without having any idea how it got that way.

If that’s the case, maybe it will be a good thing. And if this direction results in additional manufacturers joining NASCAR, it will definitely be a good thing.

On the other hand, this move threatens to run off some of NASCAR’s remaining passionate fans, not help the racing like NASCAR thinks it will and result in no new OEMs signing up.

That’s the gamble. And it’s a massive one, because now it involves the credibility of the racing itself.

But for those of us who have called on NASCAR officials to “DO SOMETHING,” now they are. Next year will reveal whether it was the right something — or one of the biggest mistakes yet.

How I Got Here with David Groseclose

Courtesy David Groseclose

Each week, I ask a member of the racing community to shed some light on their career path. Up next: David Groseclose, director of tire systems and unified testing for NASCAR.

Can you tell us what you do now and what your job entails?

My title is director of tire systems and unified testing, so I have a lot to do with the tires, with Goodyear — I’m kind of a liaison between Goodyear and NASCAR. I go to all the tire tests. I’m the NASCAR representative there, along with Jerry Kaproth who handles all the logistics for the testing. We also do the friction testing with our new friction testing machine we just purchased last year. We also do track surface scanning — that’s part of my job that’s not really in my title, but we’re gradually going toward that sort of thing. We’re getting more scientific with the data we collect; we’ve got more qualitative stuff. It’s really good for Goodyear, because they’re getting all this data and it can help them make the tires better every weekend.

So pretty much anything related to the tires or track surface, especially in regard to each other, falls under your purview.

That’s right. Tires, wheels, any of the testing we do — rookie testing for Xfinity and Trucks, organizational tests for the Cup Series, the tire tests, new organizational testing for new organizations that are just starting to try and build up their speed. That helps them a lot.

How did this all start for you? We’re sitting at Bristol Motor Speedway right now and it sounds like you have quite a history in this area.

My first race here was when I was 5 years old. My dad likes to say I went to sleep during my first race, and that’s the truth — they’ve got a picture of me sleeping in my Harry Gant outfit. I was a big Harry Gant fan. So I went to sleep during my first race, but from there on out, I paid attention to them a lot and really enjoyed the racing.

We would come out here on the Tuesday before the race and my dad would park the camper. Even though we lived 10 miles away, we would still camp out here. He would park the camper on Tuesday. The rest of us would come on Thursday. We’d go to school from the camper on Friday, then we’d come back and we’d spend all weekend. We had a bunch of friends we camped with at the track and had a good time with.

David Groseclose, pictured here as a young race fan, stands next to a Goodyear tire buster around 1985. He went on to work with tires in NASCAR. (Courtesy David Groseclose)

My dad had a block of 32 tickets we had for a long time. I still have the tickets — not all of them, we’re down to six tickets now — but we’re still coming to the race.

So I always loved racing and wanted to get into racing. I kind of took a different path than a lot of people you’ve interviewed — a lot of people start out at the bottom and work their way up in motorsports. But I really started out as just a fan. I came into it later in my life — I’ve been in it five years now.

I went to high school here at Sullivan Central (in Blountville, Tenn.). I met my wife in high school. Then after high school, I went to Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, Tenn. Got a degree in mechanical engineering.

At the time, what are you thinking you wanted to do with that? It sounds like racing wasn’t on your radar yet as a career.

I knew eventually I could get into racing with something like that, but it wasn’t a focal point for me. I wanted to get into the automotive industry, and with a mechanical engineering degree, it’s pretty diverse, so you can get get into that industry.

While I was in college, I did a co-op for Bridgestone. That was dealing with big truck tires. I’d go on tire surveys, I’d make a lot of PowerPoint presentations looking at tire sections. That kind of got me started in the tire part of it.

After college, I went into the Navy for seven years. I was in the nuclear power program as a nuclear engineer; I was on a surface destroyer for two and a half years and a carrier for two and a half years with school in between.

David Groseclose and his wife, Susan, aboard the USS Harry Truman in 2006. (Courtesy David Groseclose)

I kind of got away from (tires) there. But after I got out of the Navy in 2007, I was looking at jobs in the automotive area because nuclear power wasn’t something I wanted to pursue any further.

So I was looking at jobs, applying for jobs. I actually applied for a generic job listing and I didn’t know it at the time, but it was with Bridgestone. I applied for it, got the interview and when I got the interview, I found out it was with Bridgestone — which was pretty much perfect for me, because I’d already worked for them before and knew a little about tires.

So I got that job. I worked in Wilson, North Carolina for seven years at the tire plant there for passenger tires.

And then in March of 2013, I was on Jayski or or something and saw a listing for a position with NASCAR. I clicked on it, and it was for a tire engineer. I was like, “Well, that’s pretty neat.”

I showed my wife, and she was like, “If you don’t apply for that job, I’m going to divorce you.” (Laughs) Because I’d been a fan all this time. With this (Bristol) race, starting from the time I was five years old, I can probably count on one hand the number of races I’ve missed — and most of those were when I was in the Navy.

So I applied for it and didn’t hear anything for awhile and kind of forgot about it. It was September before I heard back from anybody. Someone called me from NASCAR and said, “Hey, this is so-and-so from NASCAR.” I said, “Who?!” They said, “We want to get a phone interview with you.” And it was with Brett Bodine.

David Groseclose (boy with glasses on the right) stands with Brett Bodine in 1986. Bodine would later become Groseclose’s boss at NASCAR. (Courtesy David Groseclose)

You must have been pinching yourself.

Yeah. So I did an interview with Brett Bodine and they liked me enough that they brought me in for another interview with Brett and Gene Stefanyshyn. So I ended up getting the job, worked under Brett for a couple years (as a tire engineer). Got promoted a couple times and now I’m in charge of tires and testing for NASCAR.

So you’re definitely living the dream, it sounds like.

Definitely living the dream. A lot of times, I don’t feel like I have a job. Going to tests, talking to drivers, talking to crew chiefs, it’s a lot of fun. It really is. And the testing part of it is pretty good, too, because it’s a lot more laid back than the race weekends. You can talk to everybody and they’re not on a time crunch or anything really and it’s really good to get to know everybody.

Once you get into the grind of it and in the industry, it’s a lot different. How have you been able to hang onto the enjoyment of it? Because it’s different as a fan versus working in it.

As a fan, you obviously don’t see every aspect of it. I don’t see every aspect of it either, because I’m not in every meeting all the time.

But really, it’s just looking back and trying to see why I got into it. Because I love it. I love the competition part of it, I love the camaraderie of it. It’s kind of a small group, a small community, and I love being part of it.

It can be a grind, but I don’t go to all the races. It’s not like I’m there every single weekend. So that’s a part my wife likes, too, because I’m home on a lot of the weekends and just traveling during the week to the tests.

David Groseclose, right, with Davey Allison. (Courtesy David Groseclose)

You mentioned being in the Navy for seven years and I’m sure during some of those deployments, you’re out at sea for a long time. How did that experience translate to the rest of your career in NASCAR?

I’d say just dealing with people. On the carrier, I was in charge of a division of 25 guys. We worked on the diesel generators that are backup for the nuclear reactor if it goes down. So working with people, knowing how to talk to people, having that experience leading people. I don’t lead a whole lot of people here — I’ve just got Jerry under me right now — but that’s a big part of it.

You’re on Twitter, so sometimes you see the negative at times. I’m sure it’s frustrating for you with your background as a fan, you want the same things these people on Twitter want. Is there anything you wish people understood about your job a bit better or that you all want the same things they do?

Yeah, I think that’s true. I think NASCAR wants the same thing the fans do: We want good racing, we want close competition. As a fan, you don’t see every little part that goes on. You may think, “This would be great if we did this,” but you don’t see all the other stuff behind the scenes that can cause that not to be a good idea.

You also have to look at cost for the teams, driver feedback, team feedback, owner feedback, everything. That’s why we’ve got all these councils we have now, because everybody needs to be involved when you’re making a decision like that. When you’re talking about packages or tires — having Goodyear involved in that, and getting driver feedback and team feedback on that, and then also looking at the data and saying, “Well, is this the best tire?” You can’t always go solely on driver feedback and you can’t always go solely on data. You’ve got to go somewhere in between.

David Groseclose with his family, including three of his four sons (the youngest is not old enough to come to a race yet). (Courtesy David Groseclose)

News Analysis: NASCAR ditches All-Star aero package for 2018

What happened: In a story released on its website, NASCAR revealed it will not use the All-Star aero package for the remainder of the 2018 Cup Series schedule, halting momentum that seemed to be building among series officials and racetracks who hoped to see more pack racing.’s story cited a lack of time to prepare for the package in more races this season, saying it “would have been a Herculean undertaking and one that could have resulted in a rushed output.”

What it means: A major development in the ongoing battle for NASCAR’s soul, which had sparked a debate over what was more important — pure competition or the quality of the show (you can find a timeline of this story here). While the All-Star package undoubtedly was entertaining, it raised questions about NASCAR becoming a drafting series if those rules were used in points races going forward. Drivers like Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch had begun to speak out against the idea of using the package in more races, but NASCAR and the tracks — particularly the Speedway Motorsports Inc. venues headed by Marcus Smith — seemed intent on giving it a shot. Earlier this month, NASCAR’s Steve O’Donnell said the package could be used in three more Cup races this season before the playoffs began, and races like Kentucky, Pocono and Michigan seemed like potential candidates. But something must have happened behind the scenes with the various councils NASCAR consults with, because the All-Star package was suddenly snuffed just when its prospects started to burn brighter.

News value (scale of 1-10): Seven, due to the surprise value. No one outside of NASCAR cares about rule packages or even knows what that means, but this had become a pretty important story inside the garage. The fact NASCAR won’t even try the package again in Cup until at least 2019 is a significant and puzzling development (albeit a good one for those who rejected the idea of seeing a restrictor-plate type race every week).

Three questions: What changed? Whose voice or voices in this conversation were able to overrule the other side? Will fans applaud this move to hold off on a major change and keep the racing relatively pure or complain that NASCAR isn’t doing enough to entertain them?

The Great Debate: A timeline of NASCAR’s high-drag rules package coverage

There’s currently an intense debate in NASCAR over the future direction of Cup Series racing. On one hand, a potential breakthrough with a high-drag/downforce rules package — first tried in the 2017 Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis and repeated in the All-Star Race in May — could keep the cars closer together and prevent the leader from getting away. On the other hand, a restricted race would not reward skill as much and go away from what the core of NASCAR Cup racing has been over the years (except for Daytona and Talladega).

Here’s a timeline of coverage related to this topic so far:

May 19, 2018: After the All-Star Race, I shared concerns and worries over the direction NASCAR would likely take following the success of the race via Periscope.

May 21, 2018: In the “Was it a good race?” poll, 84 percent of fans said they liked the All-Star race.

May 30, 2018: After watching the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600, I wrote a column wondering whether adding more downforce was the way to go in racing after all.

June 1, 2018: In the wake of Steve O’Donnell telling FS1 the package could be used in up to three points races this season, some of NASCAR’s top young drivers said they were unsettled by the thought of NASCAR making this package a mainstay in Cup Series racing. Here’s a recap of their comments.

June 8, 2018: Brad Keselowski elaborated on why the All-Star package should be used for that race only — and what the consequences might be if it becomes the standard. Here’s a clip I posted to YouTube:


Formula One Diary: Weekend wrap-up

I followed the American-owned Haas F1 Team through its weekend at the only Formula One race in America: The United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin. This post is the seventh in a series.

Here are some “cleaning out the notebook” type items after a fun weekend in Austin:

NASCAR-style intros

Prior to Sunday’s U.S. Grand Prix, Michael Buffer announced the pre-race introductions and the drivers came out of a tunnel. If you’re a NASCAR fan reading this, you’re thinking, “So what?” After all, that’s pretty standard for NASCAR (even the Buffer part, since he shows up at the Bristol night race every year).

But it actually created a bit of a stir in F1, as evidenced by writers asking about the intros after the race.

To wit: Red Bull boss Christian Horner was questioned what he thought of all the pre-race “razzmatazz.”

“It’s America, isn’t it?” Horner said. “We’re under new ownership now. We have to be prepared to try new things. If that engages the American public, then why not? It didn’t detract from the race. It seemed to get the crowd excited prior to the grand prix.”

Still, Horner said that wouldn’t be a good idea before every race.

“I don’t think it would be everybody’s cup of tea,” he said. “I can’t see that working at Silverstone, for example.”

Lewis Hamilton liked the intros and said it felt like an NFL game. But then again, he loves all things America, so that might not count.

But Sebastian Vettel said those type of pre-race intros wouldn’t work elsewhere, like in his home country of Germany.

“I think Germans are very difficult to get excited,” he said. “I think Americans appreciate that sort of atmosphere and entertainment a lot more. I think Germans are maybe a little slower on that front.”

Give Haas a chance

You may have seen recently where Haas F1 Team owner Gene Haas said he wouldn’t stay in Formula One for long if he couldn’t win.

So I asked him on Sunday morning whether he really meant that or if he was just trying to send a signal to F1 that it needs to level the playing field a bit.

His answer? Pretty much the same thing he said before.

Realistically, if I don’t have a chance to win, what am I here for?” he said. “And I’m not saying I want to win every race, but I just want to have a chance maybe in one race out of 20 to have the opportunity to be competitive. And we don’t have that.

“If we don’t have a chance of winning here — under some strategy or randomness or whatever — then yeah, I don’t think I’m going to run in the back forever.

“I’m not here to have a five-year plan of staying in the back. If I don’t have a chance of winning once in awhile or at least being competitive, I don’t think it’s really what I’d call a fair race. You have to have that chance.”

Haas, like some of the other mid-pack team owners, is hoping to see Liberty Media (F1’s new owners) get some new rules in place to help make the sport more competitive overall.

Spending cap?

A possible spending limit has been discussed in the F1 world, just like it has in NASCAR (Richard Petty Motorsports owner Andrew Murstein recently proposed such an idea).

But I’ve always felt that wouldn’t work, because how would it be policed? You really think teams who try to find ways around every rule would be honest about what they’re spending?

However, Haas team principal Guenther Steiner told me Sunday morning there’s definitely a way it could be successful.

“There needs to be an outside accounting firm — one of the big ones — sitting in each team to control it,” he said. “I see it like this: The tax authorities know pretty well what we’re doing, so why would an outside firm not be able to do that? If there’s a will, there’s a way.”

He makes a good point.

NASCAR has the right idea

McLaren boss Zak Brown says NASCAR does a couple things (in addition to driver intros) that F1 could learn from.

First, he believes NASCAR does a good job getting the word out that a race is in town — something F1 doesn’t always do as an industry.

You go to the China Grand Prix, leave the circuit, you’re in Shanghai — you don’t know there’s a Formula One grand prix going on,” he said. “NASCAR does a good job of lining up all their trucks outside the city and then they come in and it’s the ‘circus in town’ type of (thing). So NASCAR, there’s a lot to learn from the theatrical elements of how they put on a show.”

In addition, Brown says F1 drivers only have contractual obligations to their teams for appearances; there’s nothing required by F1 outside the track, like with NASCAR’s winner circle program (where drivers have to make appearances to promote certain races).

That’s something he’d like to see changed.

“Moving forward, so it doesn’t take out of our (appearances) allocation — because we need as much driver time as we can get — it would be a good idea that when a driver is issued a superlicense (to race in F1), with that comes a certain amount of obligation to the sport,” Brown said. “And then when the sport wants to go do a promotion in London or Austin, they can say, ‘You owe us six days as part of our superlicense contract.'”

So although F1 does some things better in terms of publicity (particularly in requiring every driver to speak to the media after a race), NASCAR is ahead of F1 on some other promotional aspects.


Sunday night diary on inconsistent officiating in both F1 and NASCAR

— Sunday morning diary on how to follow F1 as a new fan

— Saturday diary on the fan reception for Haas in Austin

—  Friday afternoon diary on Haas F1 Team’s growing pains

— Friday morning diary on the track walk and team dinner

— Thursday diary on media day

Formula One Diary: Sunday night

I’m following the American-owned Haas F1 Team through its weekend at the only Formula One race in America: The United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin. This post is the sixth in a series.

I’ve spent the past four days documenting some of the differences between Formula One and NASCAR while experiencing my first F1 event. At times, it seemed very foreign — not just the accents, but the racing itself.

But fear not: Sunday’s United States Grand Prix actually showed how similar F1 and NASCAR can be.

Don’t believe me? Check out these quotes below and see if you can tell which were from the NASCAR race in Kansas and which were from the F1 race in Austin:

1. “The rules have got to be consistent. You can’t apply them differently to different instances. That’s our frustration out of today.”

2. “The problem is, we all spend an awful lot of money going racing. You want it to be consistently refereed — professionally refereed. And when you get decisions like today, it’s difficult to understand where the consistency is.”

3. “Where do you draw the line? For fans and casual viewers, it needs to be clear.”

4. “Don’t say everyone else can run off the track anywhere you like and never give any penalties — then I do it, and you give me a penalty.”

5. “I don’t know what any of the rules are. Seems like we’ve got a lot of stuff that kind of gets changed so often I honestly can’t keep up with it.”

Think you know the answers? Let’s see how you did.

— The first four quotes were all from the F1 race. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner made the first three comments, and No. 4 was a comment Max Verstappen made to NBCSN.

— Quote No. 5 is what Matt Kenseth said after a penalty for too many men over the wall ended his championship hopes at Kansas.

So there you have it. It took until the last lap of the F1 race, but it finally felt like someone was speaking my language.

Rules are a funny thing in racing. The complaints often turn out to be about the application of the rules rather than the worthiness of them.

For example: Martin Truex Jr. was penalized on a restart early in the Kansas race for going below the white line. That lit up NASCAR Twitter for two reasons — first of all, that penalty is not called very often (if ever); second, Kevin Harvick — the car behind Truex — did the same thing, but was not penalized.

According to reporters at the track, the rule was discussed in the drivers meeting and it only applied to the front row, so NASCAR probably called it correctly. But that sort of thing drives fans absolutely crazy, because getting it right this time means they’ve missed it in the past.

If there’s going to be a rule, all fans really want is for each driver to be treated the same — every time.

A similar scenario happened on the last lap in Austin. Verstappen, an electrifying 20-year-old racer, chased down Kimi Raikkonen and made a sick pass in the second-to-last corner of the race to earn a podium finish.

The fans were thrilled, and Verstappen was understandably giddy with glee on the radio. It was a fantastic moment!

But it didn’t last long, because F1 officials — or “stewards,” as they call them here — decided Verstappen had not stayed within the “track limits.” He used the inside of the turn and “left the track” to make his pass, which resulted in a five-second penalty.

Raikkonen got third place instead.

Now, was the penalty called correctly? By the letter of the law, yes. But it was a head-scratcher, since fans immediately started posting images on social media of several other drivers using the inside of Turn 19 (as well as Turn 9) without any penalty.

Horner, the Red Bull exec, worried that since F1 is trying to gain fans in the U.S., the inconsistency of the penalty would be a turnoff.

“Formula One is still immature in this country; and it’s a big race,” he said. “With the lack of consistency in the decisions, I should think all the viewers and fans watching today should not understand why (Raikkonen) was on the podium and not Max today.”

Don’t worry, Christian. American race fans are already used to inconsistency.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, lower right, tells reporters about his view of an inconsistent call that cost Max Verstappen a podium finish.

Just look at two weeks ago in Charlotte, when Jimmie Johnson’s crew was allowed to fasten a lug nut while the car wasn’t inside the pit box — something NASCAR later acknowledged was a rule it hadn’t even informed all the teams about.

It’s no wonder, then, that situations like Truex’s black flag or Kenseth’s penalty — where he had too many crew members working on his car in a crash damage situation — appeared questionable.

Both were actually the right call. In Kenseth’s case, that’s the rule and has been all year, and it was just enforced during last week’s race at Talladega.

But fans are so used to inconsistent enforcement of the rules, they assumed the calls were incorrect.

NASCAR — and F1 as well, it turns out — doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt that it’s making the right call. That’s something both forms of motorsport should strive to fix.


Sunday morning diary on how to follow F1 as a new fan

— Saturday diary on the fan reception for Haas in Austin

—  Friday afternoon diary on Haas F1 Team’s growing pains

— Friday morning diary on the track walk and team dinner

— Thursday diary on media day