Every time NASCAR takes its show to a road course, like the one the guys will be racing on this weekend at Watkins Glen, N.Y., I get lectured.
People start telling me how great road-course racing is, how fans love it and how it's actually far, far superior to the kind of racing you see on oval tracks.
Every year, I have the same reaction.
What are you talking about?
Look, I don't like to see stock cars racing on road courses because I don't think they're very good at it. But if you like to see Cup cars on road courses then more power to you. We'll just disagree on that one.
But how can anyone argue that road course racing is preferred by fans in this country, much less by fans of NASCAR? Where's the first shred of evidence of that?
Did NASCAR become popular because it runs two road course races each year? No. In fact, NASCAR's explosion in popularity came almost specficially because it was an oval track series.
If you don't think there's a difference between the two disciplines, think about the split in the open-wheel racing world that just this year has come to and end. The Indy Racing League was built around the idea that American race fans prefer ovals, and even though the IRL has had some success with the occasional street-course events, it was the racing marketplace that soundly rejected ChampCar, a series that ran primarly on road and street courses.
There are two sports-car series that run on road courses now, the Grand American and American LeMans series. Even if they put the two series together and there was one road-course series with all of the best cars and best drivers in it, would you invest your own money in backing that series in a head-to-head battle with NASCAR?
Not if you had a brain you wouldn't.
If road-course racing is so great, where's the big-time television contract for that? Why aren't the networks lining up to show drivers turning right, as though that simple act alone indiciates superior skill?
Oval-track racing is one skill. Road-course racing is another skill. Sometimes specialists in one discipline will cross over to compete in the other, and that's fine. But if one skill was so vastly superior to the other, why wouldn't somebody who excels at the harder one wipe the floor with people when they crossed over to the easier one?
That simply doesn't happen.