I watched the Daytona 500 for the first time in at least five years yesterday. Actually I didn’t view all trillion hours of coverage that FOX broadcasted just some of the pre-race, the beginning, and ending (I napped during the middle). It didn’t take long for me to realize why it is that Tracey and I don’t watch nor go to NASCAR races anymore. There doesn’t appear to be anything real about it.
There’s a little history here that qualifies my comments. I married a NASCAR nut. As a matter of fact she was such a fan that I had to agree to become one when we married. Diecast cars, cardboard stand-ups, posters, you name it we had it and still have a good bit in a box in the basement. If we weren’t watching a race on TV then we were at the race. We have some great memories of our adventures going to races.
But it all ended when Dale Earnhardt died. Somehow the sport lost its reason, its link to the old style of stock car racing. When the #3 was on the track regardless of where he was on the track, you watched him even if you hated him. There was always action around him and you never knew what would happen.
It’s simply not like that anymore. Yesterday’s race was about as exciting as a piece of white toast. Hiding behind “safety,” NASCAR has created a homogenized soap opera in a yellow wrapper. What’s exciting about commuting to work in a pack of 50 cars driving bumper to bumper at high speeds? It’s nerve racking.
Real driving is getting free through that traffic. Everyone wants to do it and that’s what we want to see. Let the engine builder, crew chief, crew, and driver be creative to get everything out of their car to compete. Restrictor plate racing by design gives the seasonal TV fan what they tune in to see, the big wreck. It’s ironic but that essentially is what NASCAR does in its “super bowl of racing.” Create the big wreck to get the buzz.
The publicity all started last week as NASCAR cracked down on cheaters. Wow. I was impressed. Finding loop holes in the rules is cheating? Who’s monitoring our legal or political systems? Mr. France I respect your integrity and I nominate you for Supreme Being. In a world where finding a loop hole in the rules is reality, NASCAR seems to have found some ethical backbone.
Don’t buy it for a minute. The only reason NASCAR cracked down was to make the papers. Television ratings for NASCAR races started taking a nose dive last year. Ticket sales are also down. NASCAR needed some buzz to start the season. Why else do they make this the biggest race of the year, “the Great American Race?” If the Daytona 500 is lame then the whole season is a wash. There’s hundreds of millions of dollars riding on this one race.
When Earnhardt died the sport suddenly thought it was bigger than it was. They started shifting expansion towards large media markets, signing bigger television contracts, charging for coverage on their web site. All of this by design was to get more fans. However by moving from their roots, they’ve alienated the people who built the sport. I was stunned when they moved the Southern 500 away from Darlington. Who cares how hot it is?! It’s the Southern 500!
Next NASCAR will be eyeballing a regular race overseas. They’ve already been to Japan. My guess is they will bring that one back as they continue to pretend they can compete with the NFL. At some point the Japanese will be the only ones who can afford to go to a race, buy a Michael Waltrip NAPA Auto Parts Toyota Camry jacket, or pay for the subscription with their cable or satellite provider.
By the way, did you happen to see Kelly Clarkson doing the pre-race show? Any idiot can tell there is something amiss when 40 something men in Tony Stewart jackets drinking Nattie Light are hyped about Kelly Clarkson. On a related note, and words of wisdom for Ms. Clarkson… Honey you can sing, but girl it’s called a treadmill. You may want to get one soon.
Enough of the racing rants. I need to get on with my day here.