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August 23, 2014

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The new green-white-checkered rule made the wait worth it

NASCAR had had enough. After suffering through a year of declining TV viewership and lackluster ticket sales, the sanctioning body realized it had to pay attention to the reasons behind reduced interest in the sport. The fans weren’t happy, so NASCAR recently started making changes to try to appease the fans and reverse the downward spiral of declining interest before it was too late.

Away went the no bump-drafting rule. The restrictor plate became larger. Colorful behavior and aggressive driving by the drivers wouldn’t be so tightly restricted. And the wing was headed for the trash to be replaced, later this season, buy a spoiler. Someone on Sunday’s broadcast referred to these changes, in a complimentary way, as a retro move by NASCAR that would return the sport to its less antiseptic roots.

But of all the changes we have seen so far, I think the decision to allow multiple green-white-checkered finishes is the most important. Regardless of how exciting or boring a race may be, the final lap, obviously, is the most important lap of the race. And that lap shouldn’t be a dull or disappointing one. Think of how angry those fans at the Daytona 500 would have been if, after patiently sitting through two red flags to patch up holes in the race track, the race had ended with the leaders leisurely crossing the finish line under a yellow flag.

Despite the potholes that threatened to turn the event into the Patchtona 500, the race was a good one. It wasn’t the demolition derby of bend sheet metal and bruised egos that the media had hyped it to be. And although the final laps were full of sideways cars, hard bump-drafting and wrecks, the drivers were aggressive but careful for the majority of the race, bump-drafting with finesse. But as we saw earlier in the week, Jeff Gordon, who last year complained to NASCAR about bump-drafting, was the driver whose bumper was involved in one of the final wrecks.

Daytona 500 finish

One Las Vegas sports book had odds of 40 to 1 on Jamie McMurray. I knew I should have put a few bucks on him.

Now it’s on to Fontana, Calif., where changes to the restrictor plate don’t apply and bump-drafting isn’t as crucial. But racing at that track usually includes a lot of late-race cautions, which means the new green-white-checkered rule could ensure an exciting finish.

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