Last week I wrote an article about TNT’s six race package. Quite frankly, I was surprised at the response. Sometimes articles are like your kids, they go in directions you don’t expect. That one kind of morphed into a what’s wrong with NASCAR piece.
Thinking about this, a couple of things jumped out at me. First, I know that NASCAR is finally realizing that they have a deeper problem than just the soft economy. We’ve seen changes to try to combat this. We’re finally seeing some long overdue and much needed changes to the current car. They’ve taken the handcuffs off the drivers (the gag is still in place). Like we won’t notice things if the drivers don’t tell us. I consider this an insult to the fans, but that’s a rant for another time.
While I’ve digressed, one final thought, I’m surprised that Michael Waltrip wasn’t fined as well. The way my TNT article took it’s own direction makes me wonder if NASCAR has totally come to grips with the depth and breadth of the fan unrest.
The second thing- and I knew this- is that most long time fans think things were better in the past. The question I asked myself, is why do we think this? A lot of us who have been following this circus for a long time aren’t pups any more. As people get older, we tend to resent change. We look back on the way things were with fondness. Were they really better, or do we just remember them that way?
I’m going to loosely categorize today’s fans into three groups: Casual fans- people who will flip through the channels, and will watch a race if nothing else catches their attention. Long time, hard core fans- people who have followed the sport for many years.These are the folks who are most dissatisfied with the current state of NASCAR affairs. New fans- these have become fans much more recently, and while many of them may feel that things could be done better, they’re not nearly as dissatisfied,or they wouldn’t still be fans. This is the fan group that I think is most important to NASCAR.
Say What? Not the long time hard core fans? Nope, not the way I see it. Most of us are older, if NASCAR can’t replace us, the sport could die, with us. That having been said, I have some things I’d love to see changed, and I think we have a right to expect NASCAR to throw us a bone, because until they can attract the new fans that the sport needs, we’re the "keepers of the flame".
One of the easiest, and least painful changes that I’d like to see is to give Darlington back it’s Labor Day weekend date. First and foremost, I want to see cars that I can recognize. I remember
something I read about Indy. Remember, in the early days, Indy ran stock cars. They were stripped and modified for racing, but stock cars never the less. A man said that he and his father attended the very first Indy 500 in 1911. The winning car was a Marmon Wasp, and his father was driving a Marmon. "On the way home, no one passed us".
NASCAR had the same thing going for it. Now, as a reader said, "it’s hard to root for a decal.” The old stock bodied cars were mostly "bricks" also, but aero didn’t seem to be as such of a big factor. They still could make passes on motor. Now NASCAR is into parity. The ultimate parity is the plate races. These races are famous, or infamous for the wrecks. Fans sit hypnotized waiting for the "Big One". While wrecks have always been a part of racing,
there needs to be more to it.
The stars from the time I started watching seemed larger than life. The point has been made, that in the "old days," sometimes only one or two cars finished on the lead lap. Some truth in that. If you’re attending, then you can pick what you want to watch, and there’s always some good racing. Unfortunately, for most of us watching on TV, we only get to see what they choose to show. That’s the weakness in most broadcasts.
NASCAR’s "Modern Era" is dated from ‘72 when Winston came on board. With the added money a lot of things changed.One big change was that the championship, suddenly became much more important, because it paid better. Before, many of the most successful owners and drivers picked and chose- only running the big money races, and not running for the championship. Today, the entire focus is the Chase, and ultimately, the championship, even though, realistically only 2 or 3 Chasers have a real shot. I didn’t care for the Chase when they put it in, I don’t like it now, and I’ll never like it.
One thing I did like was that if a car went a lap down, it was really hard to recover. I think people raced much harder to stay on the lead lap. Now it’s just too easy to get one back. Not as much incentive for the leader to run hard to put a lap on people, or for anyone to work as hard to keep it from happening.
Another innovation I don’t care for is the wave around. If cars want to stay out, no problem. Let them start ahead of the leader, then try to stay there. To me, that’s an interesting aspect that the new restart procedure has taken away.
I do understand one undeniable truth. For the sport to survive, it’s going to have to attract and hold new and younger fans. To do that, they may have to make changes that some long time fans don’t like. IF, the Chase had done anything like it was supposed to then I still wouldn’t personally like it, but you wouldn’t be reading any complaints from me about it. I can live with changes as long they work.
It seems to me that they are too married to some things that just aren’t working. In a corporation, when a change of direction is needed, usually the board of directors makes a change at the top. In a privately held company, these changes are much harder, because people have to admit their ideas aren’t working. That’s not always easy.
As the title says, I want you to tell me your thinking. I know from past responses, that we have very sharp and well spoken readers. Tell us what you like, what you don’t like, and what you want to see. If you liked it better in the old days, tell us why. To make this information more relevant, please include your age group- under 20, 21-35, 36-55 or old fart, like me- as well as approximately how long you’ve been following the sport.
I can promise you one thing. You can speak your mind and not