Forget about 2012. It's over. Last night all memories of Brad Keselowski winning the championship and celebrating it the way only Brad Keselowski could were put behind us to go with the 64 other championship races in NASCAR history. Now all eyes are set on 2013.
We start the 2013 season in nine days when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series enters the Daytona International Raceway for Preseason Thunder testing. It is perhaps the most anticipated and most important season in NASCAR history.
It's clear, the Car of Tomorrow, COT experiment didn't work. Anyone who thinks that the COT was a success is just simply misinformed. The car made the sport safer, but that's it. The promise NASCAR gave us about the COT producing better racing and helping with finances for smaller teams went unbroken.
The racing was bad, really bad. Attendance dropped immediately and it continued to slide throughout the five year experiment. TV Ratings went down as well. Fans grew increasingly frustrated with the lack of entertainment NASCAR races provided. Double file restarts were the only thing helping the passing that seemed to be lacking from races.
There were many minor changes made to the COT throughout its five year run. When the COT started it had a wing on the back end of the car and front braces with a splitter that caused a ton of issues. When the car made its final run in 2012 the splitter and infamous wing were gone. While the car looked a whole lot better the racing was still lacking excitement.
The manufactures of the sport were getting annoyed too. The lack of brand identity the COT had, made the manufactures wonder if it was even worth throwing millions of dollars at teams per season. There was no difference between a Ford, Chevy, Dodge and Toyota. All the cars looked the same. Aside from decals and a sticker on the front end of the car and maybe a mention in victory lane if the brand was lucky enough to get there.
Drivers complained about the COT too. Kyle Busch won the inaugural race for the COT at Bristol in 2008 and said the car "sucked" in victory lane. NASCAR then told the drivers to shut up and drive, meaning to stop complaining about the COT and work with what they have. Who knows what else we would have heard had NASCAR not done that. While no one in the sport admitted to a problem there was no doubt a change needed to be made to help save NASCAR.
NASCAR was once known as America's Fastest Growing Sport and the COT really hurt that image. NASCAR decided to change the race car entirely and make rule changes to help boost the excitement of the sport.
The 2013 season may be the most important season in the sport's history. If the new car doesn't provide the excitement that is expected it could mean bad things for NASCAR. There are rumors that the new television deal that is set to debut in 2016 will have many races off of national television. This is 15 years after NBC and FOX were outbidding each other for television rights for NASCAR on national television.
There are plenty of racetracks with empty seats and while the economy is to blame and NASCAR is still drawing upwards of 80 thousand people in the stands, those seats wouldn't be there if they were not previously used. NASCAR needs those seats to be sat in again.
2013 is maybe the most important season in history, after five years with the COT NASCAR needs something good to happen to the sport. Maybe the new car is the ticket. If it is then the sport will go back to where it was years ago, something NASCAR fans want to see badly.
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