The Slipstream: Truth? and the Corporate Way: NASCAR in the Maelstrom

Geoffrey HuntonCorrespondent IApril 4, 2009

Greetings, NASCAR community of Bleacher Report. Some of you may know the Slipstream as a F1 and open-wheel-only editorial, but to celebrate the first year of the Slipstream, I have decided to give the world of NASCAR a try.

I was actually inspired by the not so April Fools Day joke that was passed around about GM and Chrysler being ordered to abandon NASCAR by the end of this year. But this is not a political rant because you can get that from any talking head on TV.

What I try to bring to motor sports is a different, somewhat cynical or realist view of the current situation, be it on the track or off. 

The Slipstream comments on all forms of motor sport and if you read any of my previous articles, I do not hold back in regards to my views either. I enjoy the series, and have attended several races. I will say this though, I do not hate NASCAR, I just hate what it is becoming.

So thank you in advance for trying me out and please feel free to give me feedback. I appreciate and enjoy all views, both good and bad.

With the 2009 season well under way it seems fitting that I take this lone view while NASCAR competes in the Lone Star State of Texas.

Over the past decade or so, this series has taken many shapes and assumed many forms. Even before the death of Dale Sr, the sport was seen as being in a state of constant flux. 

The rapid expansion of the 90s with the birth of the West coast agenda to the Built-It-Yourself cookie cutter tracks that sprung up across the country gave NASCAR renewed vigor.

This rapid expansion brought a rise in prices and an attempt to raise the image of NASCAR's fan base from one of a perceived simple minded bunch of yokels, to the latte sipping crowd of Main Street 2.0.

This approach became set in stone after the 2001 Daytona 500 where a legend and some say a form of the sport died on the high banks in Florida. 

The 2002 season brought a fresh slate and an end to the mourning over the standard bearer of the sport. Names like Johnson, Khane, and Edwards replaced those of Elliot, Labonte, and Jarrett. 

Along with this passing of the torch came the corporate perversion that now holds the integrity of a sport that holds it's roots in rum running and fender to fender racing, hostage.

The influx of corporate money started to drive not just advertising, but it seemed that those in the announce booth could not help themselves from playing races up like they were the film serials of the 1940s.

Would Driver A (a member of the Young Guns) who is hated by the fans win another race..or will Driver B (who is also a member of the Old Guard) be able to beat him?  Stay tuned next week race fans...

This kind of broadcasting soaked it's way into what used to be Speedvision, now known as the SPEED channel. If you could choke a network with one form of programing they managed to prove it can be done, because for every Targa Newfoundland or MotoGP race I see, there must be five shows devoted to NASCAR. 

Driver personalities gave birth to broadcast personalities. Broadcast personalities gave birth to gimmicks such as the Hollywood Hotel, Crank it Up!, and of course, Digger.

This kind of commentary was encouraged by the NASCAR brass (Mike Helton) and what was long suspected for years was confirmed by Mike Joy in an off the cuff statement during a SPEED TV broadcast when he said, "Well I know Mike watches us in the back but now that he is telling us what to say we better keep this going". 

So in recognizing that there is in fact a problem, I offer these two solutions as a good base in which NASCAR can reconcile with it's fans and begin to re-brand itself.


1) Stop the lies: Yes, we all know the economy is about as good as a Toyota Prius would be on the high banks of Talladega, so stop telling me that these races are sold out and actually acknowledge that NASCAR has been hit just like everybody else has by the crisis. 

These lies trickle down into the excuses made for certain teams and drivers because they are seen as good for the sport. Again, we all know GM is doing pretty bad right now, but for pete's sake, lets not try and remind everybody each time a Chevy comes into camera view that the company has been de facto nationalized. 

These excuses are also shoved down a fans throat when NASCAR has to make any kind of change or rendering on a rules issue.  Every decision made in the last three years can be boiled down to "It was for safety", or "It was to benefit the fans." 

So tell me Mr.Helton, how is allowing Joey Logano to race and pushing out other drivers such as Boris Said, good for the fans? Or was it for safety? Oh, I'll just let Mike Joy or Steve Byrnes shill out the corporate line to me and I'll take it as gospel since you say so.


2) Get over yourself:  NASCAR is a series that has roots in rum running and boot legging.  So instead of shunning the history of the past or reminding me via catchy 30 second commercials, embrace some of the finer points of the series. 

Instead the series continues to re-heat the same few clips and try to pass them off as new material.  (Did you know it took THREE days to determine the winner of the first Daytona 500?)

NASCAR isn't Formula One, heck, it isn't even DTM. So stop trying to pass these drivers off as the greatest drivers in the world.  It sounds arrogant and it just pleases the ego of the front office to know that there are some people who actually buy into that trash.

I know it makes people sound big and it takes a lot of ego to claim that the likes of Jimmie Johnson are better than Fernando Alonso, Sebestian Loeb or even Scott Dixon, but for pete's sake, the series might have some of the best oval racers in the world, but the rest of the world likes to turn right an left. 

The gimmicks and the silliness need to go.  Larry Mac, Jeff Hammond, Steve Byrnes, Jimmie "Mr. Sell Out" Spencer, and a list of others need to flat out be barred from a speaking in front of a mic ever again. 

Let DW stay though, he has earned the right to scream and holler as much as he wants.

At least ABC and ESPN have it right by cutting away the trash that FOX likes to put on screen and try to pass it off as race coverage, but that's what we have the SPEED channel for isin't it? 


So there it is folks, the Slipstream has crossed into uncharted territory and it was an interesting experience to say the least. If you enjoyed the cyclone of cynicism offered up, feel free to check out some other editions of the Slipstream. Thank you for reading and have a nice weekend.

See you in Texas!!