Whats wrong with NASCAR?
A series that exploded into the mainstream during the mid-90's, is now seeing itself sloooooowww down. NASCAR's better days are now behind them.
NASCAR, for years now, has been searching to find the next "Intimidator", or "The King". It's not happening.
Now there is no questioning NASCAR's ability to sell itself, but attendance seems to be steadily going down. Talks of adding and taking away races have added to the average fans frustration with the sport. Yeah, we need another 500 mile race like we need 4 more years of President Bush.
NASCAR really reaped the benefits of the IRL and now defunct, CART, split in the mid-90's. That, paired with running at the Brickyard, sent NASCAR into the stratosphere.
Suddenly Chicago, Las Vegas, California, and Kansas came a calling. Left out in the cold were traditional, historic tracks and races like North Wilkesboro, Rockingham and The Southern 500 at Darlington, among others.
NASCAR was born and raised at these tracks. Not Vegas. NASCAR, with its southern roots, along with its "American" drivers, appealed to fans.
Also gone, is NASCARs ability to allow the Owner/Driver (see Ricky Rudd and Robby Gordon) to succeed. Everyone thought they could run with them good 'ol boys, until the "Superteams" like Hendrick, Roush, Childress and Gibbs came along.
The drivers weren't that different from you and me. They came up through the ranks, they weren't just handed the keys.
Now the cars, and drivers alike, all seem to be the same. Value the ones who grew up on racing, who know what its like to fight and claw your way throughout the ranks. The Jeff Gordons, Tony Stewarts, Dale Jr's, even the Robby Gordons of the world.
The cars are all built to NASCAR templates in order to make racing, of all things, "Fair". What?
They might as well go to the dealership in town for the brand that they all drive and represent, and buy the make and model car that they showcase on Sunday (at least that would boost the local economy) i.e. Impalas, Camrys, Fusions or Chargers. Take it to the track, and race it.
Hence the name "Stock Car", as in National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing.
You could tell what the make of a single car was by looking at it in the 70's and 80's. Just go watch "Stroker Ace". Now the make and model is nothing but a decal on the shaped nose piece, and the "outline" of the rear-side windows.
Over the 60 years NASCAR has existed, it has seen its share of changes as with any sport. Cars, drivers, and docations, but none more than the TV time that they now get.
It used to be that you could only find a NASCAR race on a cable channel like ESPN, CMT, or TNN, save for the Daytona 500. Sometimes you didn't know the results until the 11:00 pm Sportscenter.
Now, NASCAR has multi-billion dollar TV contracts, and it seems that we view more commercial time than we do racing. FedEx anyone? I understand they have to pay the bills, but cut out some of the commercials, you're already showcasing a product for 200 laps!
Let us watch the race.
Let us enjoy the event.
It used to be that Indianapolis 500 was the race to go to and compete.
Everyone wanted to race Indy.
Even the late Dale Earnhardt, Sr., thought about pulling the double (Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte on Memorial Day Sunday). Everyone wanted to be Al Unser, Sr. or A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Mario Andretti.
Indy was the measuring stick of racing.
But money took over, eliminating the little guy that could come in there and compete. Now it's big corporations.
Gone was the party and good time that was, replaced by luncheons and business suits.
Gone is racing in its purest form, replaced by templates and stickers.
NASCAR is heading in that same direction. The southern roots that helped propel NASCAR to where it is today have been replaced by Corporate America.
So if you have watched racing over the past 10 or 15 years, you have seen it at its best.
You're one of the lucky ones, because with today's formula in NASCAR, them days are gone.
Just like the little guys trying to race on Sundays.