Racin’ Towards Spring
18 February 2016 Views From The Booth
Greetings once again from the Booth! As I’m writing this week’s “Views From the Booth,” it is 15 degrees outside, football is over for another season, and most of us are hoping that the groundhog is correct, and an early Spring is coming.
Ernest Hemingway once said “write about what you know.” I am going against his advice in this week’s blog post. I know very little about NASCAR, although I did go to a Cup race at Darlington back in the 90’s and got pelted with tire debris for 5 hours. I don’t know a lot about the intricacies of pit stops and fuel consumption, but I do know this: When I settle in to the easy chair this Sunday to watch the Daytona 500 and see palm trees and the fans partying atop the RVs, I know Spring can’t be far away. Daytona is the one race I actually pay attention to every year for that reason. For me, the “Super Bowl of Stock Car Racing” is as much a signpost as a sporting event.
I would be considered by NASCAR as “the casual fan,” the type of fan that jumped on the bandwagon in the sport’s heyday in the 1990’s. I believe that the core group, the passionate fans have remained, but if you watch a NASCAR Sprint Cup race now on TV, you will see lots of fans disguised as empty seats. No sport (except maybe the NFL) can maintain the popularity NASCAR reached in the 90’s, but I have a few thoughts on why there’s been a drop-off since then:
The Playoff System: To me, the casual fan, NASCAR seemingly changes the way championships are won like most people change their socks. Now there’s a convoluted “playoff” type system that is hard to follow. I believe NASCAR was trying to make a way for end-of-season races (up against the NFL on TV) to be meaningful. To me, it’s just confusing.
Roots: By building Super Speedways around the country, NASCAR has gotten away from it’s roots. Gone are the smaller venues like Rockingham and North Wilkesboro. These tracks had charm and were part of NASCAR’s storied history. I get that it’s all about the money, but imagine tearing down Wrigley, Fenway, or Lambeau.
Rivalries: With Dale Earnhardt deceased, and names like Gordon and Stewart fading from the sport, NASCAR needs to have compelling rivalries. Nothing sparks fan interest like a good rivalry. Golf is struggling a bit with the same problem as Tiger and Phil become less relevant. Also, the advent of big race teams with multiple drivers (Stewart-Haas, Joe Gibbs Racing, etc.) have diluted the rivalries somewhat.
Other reasons have been given like ticket prices, but one thing’s for sure. When the green flag waves to start the Daytona 500, the race to Spring is on!
That’s another “View From the Booth.” Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines…and GO HORNETS!