- Associated Press - Monday, April 23, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - The last 901.5 miles at NASCAR’s top level have been quick and clean, the kind of races where a team can tinker on the car the entire day and not worry about artificial on-track action ruining a strong run.

It’s a racer’s dream, but it’s apparently a fan’s nightmare.

Three of the last four Sprint Cup races have been accident-free, which has reignited the age-old debate: Do fans prefer racing or wrecking?

Based on feedback five-time champion Jimmie Johnson has heard of late, he knows the answer and seems to disagree with the popular opinion.

“It seems like crashing to most is more important than racing,” Johnson tweeted Monday morning, adding his disapproval for the sentiment.

NASCAR finds itself in a conundrum following this unusually clean stretch of racing.

The on-track product is pure, and there’s been no room for gimmicks or manufactured action during the races. It’s what racing is supposed to be, and it gives teams the opportunity to let the race come to them. More times than not, in those kind of races, it’s the best car celebrating in Victory Lane.

But it’s action and drama that draws attention, and if you don’t believe that, rewind to Juan Pablo Montoya crashing into a jet dryer in the season-opening Daytona 500. The accident, ensuing explosion and raging fuel fire drew worldwide headlines and gave NASCAR the literal spark it needed to start the season.

Some of the most memorable moments of last season stemmed from crashes or conflict: An ongoing feud between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick led to a pit-road confrontation at Darlington, Brian Vickers was involved in five of seven accidents at Martinsville, the road-course race at Sonoma resembled a demolition derby and featured intentional wrecking between Vickers and Tony Stewart.

There were plenty of shouting matches from Boris Said calling Greg Biffle “a scaredy-cat” while promising to deliver “a whooping” at Watkins Glen, and Johnson and Kurt Busch had to be separated during a jawing match on pit road at Pocono.

But here we are, eight races into a new season, and nobody is fighting on or off the track. It’s so quiet, the only driver to even elicit an emotional response from fans was poor David Reutimann, who drew the ire of NASCAR Nation when he failed to get his disabled car off the track at Martinsville to cause a caution that altered the outcome of the race.

Aside from a lack of compelling drama, NASCAR is also short on accidents of late.

There have been only five crashes in the last four races, and all of them came in the April 1 race at Martinsville.

Before that, the race at California ran caution-free for 124 laps. Rain brought out the yellow on lap 125, and the race was called four laps later. Texas two weeks ago had just two cautions _ both for debris _ totaling 10 laps and a 234-lap green-flag run to the finish.

Even Bristol, a track infamous for its bumping and banging, was sterile. Although all five cautions were for accidents, only one involved multiple cars and the race featured an unheard of 219-lap green-flag run.

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