Okay, so now we have Parity which has been the be-all and end-all of NASCAR's plans for the future. Teams that deviate from the template by so much as a 32nd of an inch will be harshly punished. No creativity on the part of crew chiefs allowed! Drivers have to fit the corporate template too. If they dare to criticize any aspect of the sport on Twitter, they will be fined. If they play hardball on the track, they will be set down by NASCAR or even terminated by sponsors who demand upright and even-tempered representatives to promote their brand.
Tracks are repaved or reconfigured for uniformity with 1.5 mile tracks predominating. They are given the contemptuous label "cookie cutters". They aren't really as similar as fans believe but the racing appears much the same from the grandstand or the t.v. screen. Even Bristol is "fixed" for a kinder, gentler driving experience. Even as track promoters focus on the wrecks and fights as sales tools, the racing itself becomes less daring and more monotonous.
Tires are built so that drivers don't have to worry much about tire fall-off anymore. Brakes are so tough, they rarely fail. Used to be, it was part of the skill-set of the best drivers to protect and save their equipment to ensure being there at the end. Now, not so much.
So, where does all this leave us? Well, it leaves us at Texas with over 200 laps of green flag racing. It leaves us with cars so equal that "aero" is more important than ever. Whoever gets out front into clean air has a huge advantage over the rest of the field. It leaves us with drivers striving to fit their square pegs into the round holes of corporate sponsorship. That's natural for some, like Jimmie Johnson. Vanilla is his natural flavor. Some fans (me included) love his generally amiable temperament but other fans prefer the rough and tumble hard edges of drivers who color outside the lines.
I'm a relatively new NASCAR fan so I wasn't around when inventive crew chiefs pulled every trick in the book to get a competitive edge. I wasn't around when the fan favorite driver was called the Intimidator - for good reason. I wasn't around for the eccentric old tracks of which there are only a very few, like Darlington and Martinsville, left. I wasn't around before much of the color seemed to be deliberately drained from the sport in favor of a blandly uniform shade of beige called Parity.