Satire — Is the party over for big-league stock car racing in America? NASCAR doesn’t need to go on life support yet, but it’s getting there. And those who think that the Great American Racing Machine couldn’t possibly tank are forgetting about General Motors, Citicorp and other big business icons that needed to be bailed out by the government.
You can rest assured, there will be no government money to save NASCAR if it falters. So it’s time for us motorsports fans to take matters into our own hands and create a survival plan. Here’s what we’re up against:
1. Corporate Incompetence
NASCAR is where Dilbert meets motorsports. That means accountants instead of action heroes are in charge. The results are high ticket prices, boring races and leadership that is both incompetent and arrogant at the same time.
Smartass solution: Put the heroes in charge, with a rule that allows only present and former drivers to serve as NASCAR executives and officials. While you’re at it, take the spotlight off the corporate egos that populate pit lane. That means no more camera time for the Jerk In the Hat, The Captain Without a Ship, The Football Coach without a Team, and the Pardoned Felon.
2. Plummeting Attendance
Anyone who’s watched a NASCAR event in 2010 has had to be amazed at the amount of naked aluminum reflecting from the stands at most tracks. The growing number of empty seats are the most visible sign of NASCAR’s decline.
Smartass solution: Michigan International Speedway plans on removing 12,000 seats before the start of its 2011 events. The move was described as an effort to make the track more fan friendly. But maybe it’s also to make the event will more well attended. At any rate, maybe MIS officials have something here. Why not take out all the seats at all the tracks? That way every race will be a standing room only sellout, and there will be no empty seats visible ever again on NASCAR broadcasts.
3. Sinking Television Ratings
NASCAR television ratings continue to head south. For instance the TV numbers for the first four Chase races in 2010 were down 27 percent compared to last year. But not to worry, both NASCAR and network executives are on the case.
NASCAR Chairman Brian France had this to say to the Virginian Pilot about his organization’s bleak TV picture: "We're working on it. Racing is great and over time that takes care of things. We'd like to have better ratings but we will over time.''
On implementing innovations like running commercials without breaking away from the race, France said: "We'll look at everything we can do. Ultimately the racing, which is phenomenal, will carry the day. That's our product.''
Dilbert couldn’t have said it any better.
The networks also have some incredibly innovative insights. "The simple fact is that people just are not tuning in," said Julie Sobieski, ESPN's vice president of programming and acquisitions, told Sporting News, "We're looking at everything to find out why."
Smartass solution: Run classic action films alongside each race. Call it: Movies and Motors. No one will be able to take their eyes off the screen.
4. Cookie-Cutter Tracks.
Sure, every track has its own nuances in terms of banking, turn radius, surface and blah blah blah. But the fact is, having so many mile and a half ovals results in a boring sense of sameness, week after week.
Convert some of those 1.5 mile ovals into road courses. And while you’re at it, run the road course at Indy instead of the oval.
5. Highly Engineered, Low Technology, Cookie-Cutter Cars
You’ve heard the saying: “a camel is a horse designed by committee.” Well, NASCAR’s car of tomorrow is a vehicle designed by a committee of camels. Carburetors, ancient suspension design, no air-conditioning and where do I connect my iPod? What kind of stock car is that?
Smartass Solution: Scrap the car of tomorrow and use real modern stock cars, purchased from local dealers at every race. Crews could spend their time fitting them with roll cages and other safety equipment. Goodyear could create a special tire. And the car companies would love the exposure. “Win on Sunday. Sell on Monday” would be back in vogue.
And the nostalgia would be so thick, you could cut it with Kyle Busch’s switchblade.
6. Psycho Drivers
If you use conventional cars, you can’t have a sociopath driver intentionally crashing into other competitors at high rates of speed.
Smartass Solution: It was nice to know you, Carl.
7. Junior’s Decline
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continues to be the most popular NASCAR driver, despite his inability to win. They’ve tried everything to make him more competitive, except this...
Force the Hendrick team to pair Junior up with Chad Knaus. Chad has the cheats that turn chumps into champs. If Rick Hendrick complains, tell him Bill Clinton is going to revoke his pardon.
8. Climate Change
NASCAR has already announced that it will switch to E15 fuel beginning next year in Cup, Nationwide and Trucks. It also has a major recycling program in the works. But that might not be enough to keep extreme environmentalists happy.
Run a race or two with electric cars. Of course before that can happen, someone first has to invent an electric vehicle that can go 500 miles between charges. That will give NASCAR plenty of time to stall on this one.
9. Jimmie Johnson
Sure Johnson is a great driver. But is he good enough to dominate a group of the world’s best five years in a row? Google the phrase “Jimmy Johnson cheating” and you’ll find over 427,000 reasons to think not.
It’s funny how Johnson and his crew chief Chad Knaus always seem to find that little something extra to push them into contention in the closing stages of so many events. Could it be that they have discovered a cheat so powerful that they need to sandbag it during portions of each race?
We’ll never know because NASCAR officials don’t have the ability to catch them. Meanwhile, Jimmy Johnson has been champ five years in a row, leaving fans of other drivers disappointed and frustrated. And frustrated fans soon become ex-fans of NASCAR.
Just the way Knaus invents cheats, NASCAR tech inspectors should invent imaginary infractions against the No. 48 team, causing a massive deficit in owner and driver points.
10. Sponsorship Slippage
Sponsors want to be seen and heard, and NASCAR has been delivering less of each. As a result, only a handful of cars have the luxury of carrying the same sponsorship for all Sprint Cup events. Most teams have to scramble to get a variety of sponsors in order to cover their operating costs. That leads to ugly cars and uglier finances.
Follow the first nine solutions presented here, and NASCAR will become a sponsorship magnet (And if you believe any of them are remotely possible, say hello to Santa for me tonight).