Confessions of an Ex-NASCAR Fan

Posted: February 22, 2012 in NASCAR
Tags: , , ,

NASCAR racing ain’t what it used to be. This isn’t about whether that’s good or bad. It’s simply the way it is, the evolution of the sport.

After peaking in popularity nearly 10 years ago, NASCAR struggled to maintain its vast fan following. TV ratings are down. There are empty seats at races, including the Daytona 500 – which used to be one of the toughest tickets in all of sports.

There are obvious reasons for the decline. It is difficult to continue the kind of boom NASCAR enjoyed during the 1990s. There’s no doubt that the death of racing icon Dale Earnhardt chased away some fans.

What is clear is that as the sport grew richer and more expensive (i.e. more corporate) and the drivers became more sophisticated, some of the original grassroots followers felt betrayed and stayed away from the tracks and, eventually, quit watching TV.

Count me among those who went from avid NASCAR fan to casual observer. I won’t be at this Sunday’s Daytona 500, an event I’ve attended at least 20 times. In fact, I won’t even being watching it on TV. I’ll be cruising in the Caribbean.

What first turned me off NASCAR was the team concept. I’m not naïve. I know back in the “good old days” Richard Petty had plenty of “friends” on the track. Petty Enterprises was well known for helping the independent teams with equipment and, in turn, they repaid Petty on the track, often getting in the way of Petty’s chief rivals.

But when the top owners started fielding two or more cars and those cars worked in concert, it bothered me. A lot. I’ll always remember the year when Bill Elliott, long passed his prime, appeared destined to win the Daytona 500. Elliott was battling with three cars all owned by Rick Hendricks. Near the end, Elliott’s draft partner backed off and Jeff Gordon’s was pushed to victory lane by a teammate.

I was furious.

Teammates became blockers on the track. It simply isn’t my idea of what racing should be. Again, I’m not talking right or wrong. Just different – and I don’t like it.

It also bothers me that, with few exceptions, today’s drivers don’t know how to turn a wrench. They’re drivers, period. The greats of my era – Petty, David Pearson, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarbourgh and Dale Sr. to name a few – would pull onto pit road and tell their crew chiefs specifically what was wrong. They could have gone under the hood and fixed the problem themselves. Sometimes they did. They spent their weeks working on the car, not appearing at sponsor functions.

I liked that; I respected that.

And then there is the corporate thing that has impacted all of our major spectator sports. The rabid fan has been pushed to the “upper deck” to make move in the prime seats for corporate fan, who spends more time socializing and entertaining clients than watching the race.

It’s just the way it is. NASCAR has every right to do it its way. It turned a regional sport into a major attraction. I get that, but I also have every right not to care nearly as much as I once did.

 

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Comments
  1. NASCAR MIKE says:

    Uncle DAve I’m BACK racing has started and I’v come out of my shell. START YOUR ENGINES

    NASCAR MIKE

  2. Wyman says:

    “I’ll be cruising in the Caribbean.” (And I remember when NASCAR fans couldn’t afford a Caribbean Cruise, like them rich folks. Maybe you got old and rich, so you ain’t the socialable guy you used to be. Hope you can still row a boat, if you need to. Meanwhile, back at the track…)

    Sorry, couldn’t resist! All sports have been taken away from the poor and not so well-off. Players, even coaches, who used to live in regular neigbhorhoods or apartments, must be found at special events, if those events are affordable, not next door or down the block. They ain’t us anymore and don’t want to be “us.” This is one reason why I wouldn’t miss the Jaguars much, if they left Jacksonville. It’s business, entertainment, other things too, then finally, down near the bottom, a sport that links fan and player. Even that is “iffy.” But, I’m too old to dream of meeting my heros. Too many have passed away. Would be fun though for a pro to walk out on a local field to play a role in a kids pick-up game though, wouldn’t it? Fun, whatever happened to playing for fun?

    Thanks Lamm!

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