Gut check time for NASCAR

NASCAR at Martinsville

Another boring NASCAR season came to an end last Sunday. Jimmie Johnson (yawn) won the championship for a record-setting fourth straight time.

NASCAR finished its latest season with declining TV ratings, declining attendance and declining interest in a sport that once claimed it would challenge the NFL for prime-time dominance.

Some blame the bland Johnson for the sport's problems. Others blame the economy. While both may be contributing factors, NASCAR's real problem lies within itself: the sport forgot its roots in an unrelenting quest for money.

The sport born in the moonshining hills of of the South got uppity and thought it was better than its past. It saw its future in corporate sponsors, private jets, polished, TV-ready cookie cutter drivers with no personalities and a cleaned-up image.

That's not the NASCAR we grew up with and not the NASCAR that built the most loyal fan base in sports -- a fan base that is deserting stock car racing in droves because NASCAR decided it didn't need them any more.

When NASCAR made the decision to yank the traditional Labor Day race from Darlington and move it California, it was a slap in the face to the fans who built the sport. Attendance at the California track has declined to a point where some high school football games outdraw the races there.

NASCAR pinned its hopes on the bankability of Dale Earnhardt's namesake son, but Dale Jr. appears to be buckling under the pressure. After complaining he couldn't win at his father's old racing organization, he moved to the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports where he hasn't won in 57 races. Junior didn't make the chase. Hendrick's other three cars finished the season first, second and third in the standings.

If NASCAR wants to survive it needs to abandon its pretentiousness and return to its roots but it may be too late. Southerners have a long memory.

NASCAR at Martinsville

Another boring NASCAR season came to an end last Sunday. Jimmie Johnson (yawn) won the championship for a record-setting fourth straight time.

NASCAR finished its latest season with declining TV ratings, declining attendance and declining interest in a sport that once claimed it would challenge the NFL for prime-time dominance.

Some blame the bland Johnson for the sport’s problems. Others blame the economy. While both may be contributing factors, NASCAR’s real problem lies within itself: the sport forgot its roots in an unrelenting quest for money.

The sport born in the moonshining hills of of the South got uppity and thought it was better than its past. It saw its future in corporate sponsors, private jets, polished, TV-ready cookie cutter drivers with no personalities and a cleaned-up image.

That’s not the NASCAR we grew up with and not the NASCAR that built the most loyal fan base in sports — a fan base that is deserting stock car racing in droves because NASCAR decided it didn’t need them any more.

When NASCAR made the decision to yank the traditional Labor Day race from Darlington and move it California, it was a slap in the face to the fans who built the sport. Attendance at the California track has declined to a point where some high school football games outdraw the races there.

NASCAR pinned its hopes on the bankability of Dale Earnhardt’s namesake son, but Dale Jr. appears to be buckling under the pressure. After complaining he couldn’t win at his father’s old racing organization, he moved to the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports where he hasn’t won in 57 races. Junior didn’t make the chase. Hendrick’s other three cars finished the season first, second and third in the standings.

If NASCAR wants to survive it needs to abandon its pretentiousness and return to its roots but it may be too late. Southerners have a long memory.

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2 Responses

  1. Gut check, I thought you were taking a survey to see how many beer bellies were still watching the sport?

     

    Does anyone else see this as a dumb waste of fuel, tires, unnecessary pollution and travel by spectators to see cars driving in a circle, going very fast to get nowhere. Sort of mild insanity like a dog chasing it’s tail. Oh well, guess it is a reflection of the society in general. Maybe it will fade into history as another activity we can’t afford or don’t enjoy anymore.

     

    If the competitors were given a certain amount of fuel, a choice of which fuel or if there is something there that will truly benefit the society as a whole it may be more attractive by being more realistic by serving some greater good beyond the racing as it is. It is interesting that the primary advertisers have gone from addictive tobacco, to addictive alcohol to adictive communication services.

    Does anyone else remember when a turbine running on kerosene won Indy, and then it was outlawed? What’s the point if development from the sport weren’t able to improve mobility for everyone? I suspect there are some positive contributions from the sport, but it is becoming boring to a growing number of people.

    I understand how it may be extremely stimulating to be a part of it, actually driving or working in the pits, but as a spectator sport it leaves much to be desired from my perspective.

     

    There is an old saying about people doing things intensely, like they are “going out of style”…

     

    I am glad to not hear the cars at Callaway as much as in years past.

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