Enough! If I hear one more person blame Jimmie Johnson for the decline in NASCAR’s popularity, I think I am going to scream! Whether or not having one driver dominate for a period of time is good or bad for a sport is debatable, and besides, NASCAR has other issues greater than a driver winning six championships over an eight year span.
Personally, I am glad the man hasn’t changed his persona just to suit the masses. Being a fake is worse than being bland (he really isn’t anyway). Besides, if you want to fix the blame on any perceived problems NASCAR has, you need to look at many factors.
First and foremost, the sport’s standing has, in this opinion, undergone a course correction. For a time, the expansion of NASCAR into new markets picked up curious onlookers. The death of Dale Earnhardt, and NASCAR nation’s reaction to it drew another group of curious onlookers. A fair number of these fans have come and gone. More have remained than you might think.
Automotive technology and America’s fascination with the automobile has changed. The race car is nowhere near stock (and never completely was). A 500 mile race isn’t quite the stress test it once was. Younger generations just look at automobiles differently. Getting your license is still a rite of passage, but more and more, you find people getting their licenses later, more and more Americans in urban markets are encouraged to use public transportation, and there’s a greater inclination towards environmentalism, and seeing the car as a utility tool, rather than a status symbol.
Some people will just never understand the notion of racing on an oval track, or some variation of it. To that end, off road racing, Grand Prix, and Formula One scratch that itch. The drifting phenomenon is also fascinating. Frankly, I find it small wonder my favorite tracks are the short tracks and road courses.
A big part of the issue is old fans dying off, and fewer younger fans are replacing them. It’s not just NASCAR, look at the fading away of some fraternal and service organizations. Simply put, times change.
There will always be racing. This observer believes NASCAR will never go away, though NASCAR as we know may undergo several permutations before we all fade from the scene.
One more thing, one guy dominating the sport really isn’t a bad thing. The Celtics dominated the 60s, the Steelers did much of the 70s, and the Yankees never seem to go away for very long. A sport needs its legends. Jimmie Johnson is becoming a legend- a legend in the same vein as Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart.