Tuesday, September 28, 2021

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Watering Down The Bud Shootout

By Brody Jones

No one likes watered-down beer. And with the recent announcement of this year’s qualifications for the 2011 Bud Shootout, the taste of the fact that 30 drivers are now eligible with such “deserving” names as Kevin Conway, Derrike Cope, and other names that haven’t been a factor in NASCAR in at least 10 years, the taste for the Bud Shootout for fans now has to be like watered-down alcohol. Monty Roberts, the creator of the Bud Shootout (then known as the Busch Clash) back in 1979, has got to be spinning his head around and around like Linda Blair in “The Exorcist” at how horribly devalued his creation has become in just the span of 3 years. For 30 years, the event was basically for pole-winners, making the event mean something special in terms of bragging rights and money. But in the last three years, the NASCAR brain-trust has managed to completely screw up what was once a meaningful kick-off to Speed Weeks.
The beginning of the demise of the Bud Shootout started in 2009 when the first unnecessary changes were made due to Budweiser no longer sponsoring the NASCAR pole award, thus the event had to move away from being tied to the sponsor’s competitor. The top 6 drivers in points for each manufacturer were deemed eligible along with past series champions. Never mind that the pole-winner formula had been working very well for 30 years and wasn’t broke, so what was the point of fixing it? These changes made 28 drivers eligible for the race. Things only got more convoluted and ridiculous last year when all past Daytona winners & Bud Shootout winners were deemed eligible along with the top 12 in the Chase the previous season, the previous season’s Rookie Of The Year, and former season champions. 27 were deemed eligible but only 24 raced.
We now go to 2011′s criteria, which is just completely and utterly asinine and has officially devalued the race to where it basically means nothing now and may as well just be another points race. 30, yes 30, drivers are now eligible. The criteria includes the previous decade’s Rookie Of The Year winners, the top 12 in last year’s Chase, previous Daytona & Shoot-Out winners, and previous series champions. The France family may as well just tell every team and driver that “Hey, you’re eligible for the Bud Shootout just by having entered a NASCAR race!”. What’s the next criteria to “increase fan interest”? Picking lucky fans out of the stands so long as they don’t have any hit & run or D.U.I. convictions? Where and when is it going to end?
Whether you’re pro-NASCAR’s brain-trust or against them, the fact remains 30 drivers being qualified for what is intended to be an elitist race is an absolute travesty and injustice to what the race was always intended to be. So how does NASCAR fix this? The K.I.S.S. formula would work here. No, not dress up in black and white make-up while lip-synching “Love Gun”, I’m talking about the “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” formula. You revert back to the original criteria of the race being for pole winners and former Bud Shootout winners only to once again make the race mean something and to differentiate it from other races on the schedule (most notably the All-Star Race). You try to keep the amount of entries around 15-20 (maybe up to 24 if you really want to push it.) This would eliminate people with no legitimate credentials for the race making the event. I mean, I wouldn’t try to get in a NASCAR stock car and enter a 500-mile race just because I’m friends with a driver, now would I? I think not! This is part of the problem the Bud Shootout has run into in recent years.
In closing, the Bud Shootout may currently be a hollow shell of its former self, but it is definitely not too late for a reclamation project of some sort for the race. All it would take would be some simplification for what has become a far too muddled and problematic criteria for the race. The real question is does Brian France and Mike Helton want to listen to “actual” NASCAR fans instead of casual “focus-group” fans or do they want to continue screwing up this once-great race? The ball (or keg of beer, in this case), is currently in their court. Now what route they choose to partake will be the great $64,000 dollar question.

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