- The popularity of all motorsports is on the rise, especially in the US.
- While NASCAR and F1 are vastly different sports, there are some ideas they could steal from each other.
- From the number of cars to the tires and even throwback races, these are the changes both sports need.
Formula One and NASCAR are two very different forms of motorsport, but they could still stand to learn a thing or two from each other.
Things NASCAR should steal from F1
1. Fewer cars
Most NASCAR races have 36 or 37 cars, but that number can reach 40 on the Superspeedways, like the Daytona 500. Even at the smaller numbers, there are just too many teams and too many cars that are not competitive. There are also too many drivers that even fans would have difficulty picking out in a lineup.
NASCAR doesn’t need to go all the way to 20-car races like F1, but the races would be more entertaining with a less crowded track. The ideal number in stock-car racing is probably closer to 30, maybe even fewer on the short tracks.
2. Simplify the points system
You need a math degree to follow NASCAR’s point system, one which Oprah Winfrey would be proud of (“YOU GET POINTS! AND YOU GET POINTS! AND YOU GET POINTS!”).
NASCAR gives points to every car that starts a race, ranging from one point for last place to 40 points for the race winner. On top of that, the races are divided into stages, with the Top 10 drivers in each stage receiving points.
F1’s points system is much easier for the average fan to digest, awarding points to the top 10 places in each race with a bonus point for the fastest lap. NASCAR would be better off awarding points to just the top 10 or 15 cars, with bonus points given to the lead driver at each stage.
3. Bring back the season-long points championship
The NASCAR playoffs are fun, but they also significantly reduce the probability that the best driver of the year will win the championship. The format also opens the door to the possibility of crowning a season champion with zero regular-season wins, while also allowing some of the best drivers to take the middle of the season “off” once they have secured a spot in the playoffs.
Not every season will come down to the final laps of the last race, as the 2021 F1 season did, but championships should indicate who the best drivers are each season.
Want to keep the playoffs? Fine. Award a second trophy and a huge check to the winner. But let the top drivers decide the championship all season long.
4. Improve the race broadcasts
F1’s graphics are cleaner and scream “high-class.” Their announcers also explain the race to the audience better, especially race strategies, without dumbing it down too much.
While F1’s days of being commercial-free in the US are numbered, the race will still be prioritized, possibly with split-screen ads. Those moments are too few in NASCAR as a lot of action is lost during commercial breaks.
And while we are here, NASCAR needs to add captions to the radio communications between the drivers and their teams.
5. Shorter races
F1 races are often 90-100 minutes and cannot exceed two hours. If the race is still going when the clock hits zero, they drop the white flag and race one final lap.
A couple of marathon races each season is fine. However, if NASCAR wants to reach a bigger (ie, modern) audience, they need more races that are easily digestible.
Like the Olympics, F1 doesn’t just celebrate the winner. They also honor those who finish second and third. While the best drivers are measured by championships and wins, other drivers are measured by the number of podiums they achieve.
While we already mentioned that NASCAR gives participation points to too many drivers, they should open the winner’s circle to more and let the top three drivers pour Bud Lights over each other.
7. Make the drivers and teams more recognizable
NASCAR has a sponsorship problem impacting its fan base. Season-long sponsorship deals are no longer the norm, and it is rare now to see drivers in the same paint and color scheme all season long.
The result is that drivers are often no longer instantly recognizable on the track in the same way that Dale Earnhardt was always in the black No. 3 late in his career or Jeff Gordon was always in the Rainbow Warrior No. 3 24.
In F1, no matter who sponsors the cars, the liveries are instantly recognizable for each team, and their fans are easy to identify off the track. More consistent color schemes in NASCAR, regardless of sponsor, might cost the teams a little money up front, but it would go a long way toward rebuilding driver and team identities for the fans.
8. Different tire compounds
In each F1 race — assuming there is no rain — teams have three different tires to choose from, ranging from soft to hard. Softer tires offer more grip and higher speeds, but they don’t last as long.
Choosing the best tire strategy can be challenging for the teams, but it adds a layer of complexity to the race that is simple enough for the fans to understand and follow.
9. Better scheduling
One thing that has made F1 easier for American fans to embrace is the most races take place on Sunday mornings. While that is not ideal for maximizing an audience, the races are not getting lost in the shadows of more popular North American sports.
This is something that NASCAR struggles with, especially late in the season. Their most important races are often going head-to-head with the NFL. When audience numbers should be going up, they are losing TV eyes to the almighty football.
Morning races are probably not the answer, but more Saturday and weeknight races might be.
10. “Drive to Survive”
It won’t be long before most sports will have their own version of the wildly popular
series, “Drive to Survive.”
While the show introduced a new audience to the excitement on the track and the politics off it, its bigger impact was making superstars of all 20 drivers and even some of the team principals and CEOs. The most famous names in NASCAR are no longer racing and the casual sports fan would have a difficult time naming five active drivers.
Turning the drivers into household names should be NASCAR’s top priority and a Netflix series would make that possible.
Things F1 should steal from NASCAR
1. Bigger grid
F1 doesn’t need to go to 36 cars, or even 30, but 20 still feels too small and exclusive. A sweeter number is probably 24 cars with 12 teams.
Like many things, this comes down to money. While people like Michael Andretti are begging for a spot at the table, it is still not clear if other teams will ever be talking into splitting the revenue pie into more pieces without guaranteeing that the pie will get bigger.
However, from a purely sporting perspective, a few more cars would mean more opportunities for deserving young drivers and would create a better product on the track.
One change NASCAR has nailed in the last 20 years is that drivers always race to the finish with the green-white-checkered overtime. If a caution comes out at the end of the race, the field is reset, the race is extended, and they race two laps to the end. If another caution comes out before the final lap, they do it all over again.
F1 could run into a fuel issue if a race were extended. However, that seems easily fixable by just allowing all cars to add more fuel before the start of overtime.
3. Throwback races
Every year, NASCAR has one race at Darlington where all the cars honor old drivers, cars, and teams with throwback paint schemes.
This feels like an easy win for F1.
4. An oval track
Oval racing is often looked down upon by F1 fans who ridicule drivers for only having to know how to make left-hand turns.
However, when F1 drivers Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher took a NASCAR car for a spin, they are called the experience scary and commented on the difficulty of managing the banking in the corners. Likewise, long-time F1 driver Romain Grosjean called his first Indianapolis 500 qualifying session “scary.” Even Daniel Ricciardo, a long-time NASCAR fan, recently told Insider that he doesn’t think he will ever try NASCAR because he doesn’t have any experience with the challenges of oval racing.
There are technical and safety issues that would need to be resolved first. Of course, the biggest question is “Where?” — the US already has three races, which would seemingly eliminate Indianapolis. However, if those questions can be addressed, it would be fun for the fans to see F1 cars put the pedal down for 100 laps on an oval.
5. Side-by-side rolling restarts
Nothing beats the first few corners and the semi-organized chaos on lap one of an F1 race. NASCAR gives this to fans a dozen times every race with two-wide rolling restarts.
While F1 will occasionally use two-wide standing restarts from the grid after a red flag, a rolling restart is a nice compromise that adds excitement and allows the top two cars a better chance to keep their advantage over the rest of the field.
6. No work on cars during red flags
McLaren’s Lando Norris called F1’s rule allowing tire changes under red flags “possibly the worst rule ever invented by someone.” That came after the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix, where several drivers lost their places on the grid when race directors changed a safety car to a red flag. Those who pitted under the safety car lost track position, while those who did not were rewarded with fresh tires and no loss in driving order under the red.
In NASCAR, red flags stop everything, to the point that cars are often left where they are on the track until the situation is resolved.
7. Crank it up!
The cars in both series are technological wonders that go really fast and are really loud.
It is impossible to truly sense the speeds and sounds without being at the race, but NASCAR broadcasts get the fans closer during their “Crank it up!” segments where the announcers shut up, and those watching at home can let their senses be flooded by nothing but the cars.
F1 could use a little more of this.