Did the NASCAR Sprint Unlimited Pass the Gimmick Test?

By Kent Whitaker
Kevin Harvick
Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

A lot has happened since the running of the re-vamped race now called the NASCAR Sprint Unlimited. The ARCA teams have packed up and are getting ready for their season, Danica Patrick has captured the pole for the Daytona 500, and The Generation Six car has survived it’s first big test.

The question is this… did the Sprint Unlimited Survive the gimmick test?

When the days leading up to the race were filled with more talk about the way fans could vote on certain aspects of how the race would be run, rather than the new car or driver changes, I was a bit worried. Don’t get me wrong… I’m a fan. I’m a big fan, and I do appreciate the fact that NASCAR opened up their ears and listened to the fans. The NASCAR brand has suffered a good amount over the last few seasons due to cookie cutter cars and lackluster races. Fans spoke with their pocket books.

The idea that so many gimmicks were left to call-in votes and clicks on a computer bothered me for some reason. The good news is that fans seemed to avoid this trap and did what fans had been asking for over the last few seasons – they voted for racing. The fans voted for the pole winners from last year to get out there and race with as few gimmicks as possible. I loved it.

Another thing I loved is the fact that Kevin Harvick, a driver that I consider to be “old school”, won the race. The fans pulled the gimmick out of a gimmick race and their choices allowed the drivers to go out there and do what we’ve been looking forward to during the off season – they raced.

Sure, the new car has some quirks that drivers will have to get used to. And I’m sure that NASCAR will not resist the urge to make adjustments as they go. One thing has not changed: fans love good old-fashioned racing, and thankfully, that’s what the drivers delivered on Saturday night.

My answer is “yes” the Unlimited survived the gimmick test. Oh, and there’s another plus. Danica Patrick has just qualified for next years Sprint Unlimited… unless they change the name again.

Kent Whitaker is a member of NASCAR media, sports writer covering NASCAR and the NFL, author and culinary writer. You can follow him @thekentwhitaker on twitter or online.

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