Blaming The Wrong Guy

by Jim on November 22, 2013 · 10 comments

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.

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1 Twostepn November 23, 2013 at 6:34 am

Jim I agree with about 95% of what you say, but I could write a book on the parts I disagree on.
Just to scratch the surface on one point, JJ my be a good driver. But just as important is Chad’s setup and track notes and the engineers back in the shop. When tenths of a second separate 1st to 15th cars in qualifying, the driver’s skill don’t make a lot of difference. They’re all good.
That’s my story and I’m stickin’ with it!! :-)

2 amazed November 23, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Oh I don’t blame him per-say, I blame the whole HMS organization. Starting at the top.

3 Maverick November 23, 2013 at 4:40 pm

If anyone is to blame for NASCAR’s problems, it’s not Jimmie Johnson, it’s those jealous, redneck fans of his teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr. They just can’t stand the fact that a Califonian has won so much while the “Most Popular Driver”, one of the very few Southern drivers in a competitive ride, has only won once in half a decade. Add to it that a lot of tracks are not in the southeast and the wrecking and fighting of the “good ‘ole days” is almost nonexistent to them, and you’ve got proof that you can’t teach old dogs new tricks.

If NASCAR is to suceed again, they not only need to connect with the youth of America, they need those old, whiny relics in the grandstands to hurry up and bury themselves in their rightful place six feet underground.

4 Bob S November 23, 2013 at 5:11 pm

You make some real good points. Like some other sports(see: indycar). The trendy people were attracted to NASCAR, the big money came in, costs went up. The trendy people moved on, costs were still sky high (15 Million or more for a sponsorship). The average Joe couldn’t afford to take his family to a race. Danica was going to save us bringing in new fans and so was Travis Pastrana. But those fans watched them stink up the track and weren’t the kind of fans with the patience to watch 500 mile parades anyway. Costs are too high, the product stinks and none of that is JJ’s fault. Believe me I’d love to see someone else win once in a while.

5 mikeyfan5599 November 24, 2013 at 4:14 am

You want to see the decline, How ’bout this that no one is talking about. This year we had a year of NASCAR first. And these first aren’t very good.

1. We saw a team play by the rules that was punished because it knocked one of the Hendrick Cars out of the chase. And make no doubt about it the 39 is a Hendrick car.
2. We saw NASCAR change a rule to put the fourth Hendrick Car into the chase when that driver did nothing to earn his way into the chase for 26 races.
3. We saw NASCAR crown a champion in a car that has never hit the highway in the United States and Never will, find me a 2013 Chevy SS anywhere in the US.
4. Last we saw NASCAR crown a manufacture champion who didn’t even have a car on the street. For the 1st time since the beginning of NASCAR we saw Bill France and Mike Helton allow a car to run in the series that you couldn’t buy the name plate on Sunday after the race. It this manipulation of the rules and the favoritism to Government Motors and Hendrick MotorSports is what is driving the fans away from the sport.

6 Bud November 24, 2013 at 4:54 am

The biggest issue is funding for the teams. Hendrick has 4 well funded teams. Penske – Rousch – RCR – JGR has 2 or 3 teams and are looking for funding to keep them alive. More funding more engineers more winning.

7 Vicki November 24, 2013 at 5:03 am

Jim, I agree with everything you say. In the future, NASCAR will most likely settle for a solid core of fans who love the sport. That core will be smaller than in its heyday. Attention spans have shortened especially with the young. They are more in tune to events that are more down and dirty, like the X Games and Ultimate Fighter. There are many more offerings out there than there used to be.

Having said that, I think having a superstar like Jimmie is ultimately good for the sport. Is NASCAR better off when the average person on the street doesn’t know the name of any current driver? I don’t think so. Some fans act as if they think NASCAR should have died when Dale Earnhardt died. That way the sport would have always been enshrined with him and his records and personality and we could say it couldn’t survive without him…although maybe it would have been okay if Junior had taken his mantle.

We have a new crop of talented young drivers coming up and I’m anxious to see how they do. Are we hoping that one of them will be the “next” Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon? Despite being a Jimmie fan all the way, I’m hoping that Kyle Larson comes out of the box and challenges him in the years ahead.

If fans can’t move beyond the past, that’s when the sport falters.

8 Tom Nasella November 24, 2013 at 6:05 am

“A big part of the issue is old fans dying off, and fewer younger fans are replacing them.”

IMO, that pretty much sums it up. I see the same thing in bowling. The younger people coming out of high school and junior leagues are not migrating to adult leagues. They have other interests. I’m not saying it’s good or bad, it’s just the way it is today.

9 Terry November 24, 2013 at 8:30 am

Boo on Maverick. Don’t worry, the sanctioning body has almost already thrown ‘old dirt me’ aside. I’ve been a fan since late 1980s. Change to an extent is good. But. I don’t like the chase (and a race within a race), double file restarts (better to start 9th inside than 4th outside on certain tracks), and all the scripted stuff. And if RCR brings back the 3 without Sr. That will do it for me.

10 BrianFitz November 24, 2013 at 8:59 am

Ya know “Tom Nasella” I have to partially agree with ya on that point that Jim made about older fans dying off…but I’m not really so sure that “we’re” dying off (I’m 59 and have been going to NASCAR Races since 1971) granted us older folks aren’t going to as many races as we used to, but that also has to do with the fact that NASCAR has Races at Tracks all over the country side now, while only 10 or 15 years ago 90% of the racing was done right here in the Southeast. I personally use to go to 10 or 15 races a year since I’ve lived in Cocoa Beach, Florida for over 30 years and now have lived here in Charlotte, NC for the last 20… tracks like Rockingham, Darlington, North Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Bristol, Atlanta, Daytona, Talladega, Martinsville, Richmond and Homestead (for the inaugural Race of Cup cars there in 2002).
In today’s World of “expensive everything” normal folks just can’t afford to travel all over the country side to see Races. Hell I remember going to a Race at Rockingham and we bought our tickets at the Gate for $25, parking was free, hotdogs were a $1.50, Hamburgers were $2.00 and beer was a buck for a 32oz cardboard cup full, the kind you would normally put popcorn in( whereas at the October Race here in Charlotte, I paid $135 for a Turn 1 seat and a 24oz beer was $7.00 ). Attending Races in person have just gotten too expensive, with Ticket prices so high, gas for the vehicles, Parking, Hotel cost, food, and I can’t afford to taking off of work on Monday all the dam time, because now there’s not as many races close enough that we can come afterwards that same day.
And I agree about the lack of new younger Fans jumping on board…there’s so many things out there for them to do nowadays, well if you can keep them off of the video games, but I don’t see near as many younger fans in the stands or in the infield as we used to.
And the TV coverage doesn’t help bring in new fans either, and even though a lot of races have gotten shorter ( 500 laps to only 400 ) and the broadcast is about the same time length, the amount of commercials you have to sit thru will bore the hell out of even the staunchest of Fan (like yeah we get it…Flo and the Gecko sell insurance, Chevy sells Rocks, Dodge is Grabbin’ life by the Horns, Ford’s got a Better Idea and John sells Pizza)…….but don’t take my word on the Commercial overload, just check Jayski’s website, they’ve got a breakdown of the time of Racing compared to the time of commercials…it’s insane…about a 1/3rd.
Jimmie Johnson and/or Hendrick Motorsports is not what’s wrong with NASCAR, its the France Family…how about if your ex-wife was taking half of everything you owned, and you were worth a Billion Dollars, you’d probably charge more for tickets to your show too ….The whole France Family and all of the big honcho’s in Charge are the ones that are killing the sport.

But I’ll keep watching and going to the races close by…
Charlotte, NC
side note: personally I thought Matt was going to win it all…and I’m a Kahne Fan…

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