Sandbagging (verb): To hold back; what happened Saturday night at the Sprint All-Star race.
The collective oxygen this morning is being taken up with discussion about what happened Saturday night. A new format and $1 million on the line led the winner of the race to sandbag his way to the end.
NASCAR in its almost yearly revision of the All-Star race rules decided this year to give the winners of each segment of the race an upfront spot for the last 10 lap segment. This led to a great first segment, a slightly less exciting second, third and fourth segment followed by a finish that disappointed immensely.
The real story out of this was race winner Jimmie Johnson who, after winning the first segment, took to trying not to get lapped for the 70 laps that followed until the final segment.
NASCAR set up rules that not only encouraged this behavior but guaranteed it was going to occur. Why would I take a chance I’m going to wreck my equipment when I’m guaranteed a spot at the front for the last ten laps? Johnson said after the race:
“That’s going to be tough for me to knock the system after how our night went because it just worked out exactly how we’d hoped.”
And therein lies the conundrum. NASCAR changes the rules in an attempt to make things more interesting and teams immediately find ways to game the system thereby doing the exact opposite.
I think Johnson was without a doubt the best car on the track Saturday night and would have won regardless of whether he ran upfront all night or sandbagged the entire way. Still, I think the rule changes cheapened Johnson’s win and fell short of creating a more exciting event.