NASCAR's Inaugural Hall of Fame Class Announced But Who Really Cared?

Mary Jo BuchananSenior Writer IOctober 17, 2009

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 14: Nascar President and CEO Brian France watch as Dale Earnhardt is selected to the Nascar Hall of Fame on October 14, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina.(Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

For NASCAR, this week was set to be one of the best ever for the sport.  Not only was the fifth race in the Chase scheduled for the home track of Charlotte, N. C., but the NASCAR leadership was set to announce the five candidates for the inaugural class of the sport's new Hall of Fame.
The beat reporters and bloggers held their collective breaths while NASCAR 's CEO and Chairman Brian France received the five envelopes.  Slowly and carefully, France opened each envelope, revealing the names of the five chosen ones, Dale Earnhardt, Bill France, Bill France, Jr., Junior Johnson, and Richard Petty.
Since the announcement was made on Wednesday of this week, Sirius Satellite Radio has been alive with debate about who got in and who did not.  Every NASCAR website, including Bleacher Report , has had article after article debating the inaugural choices.
After the announcement was made, I must admit that I spent most of Wednesday evening reading all of the articles online, commenting vociferously and sharing my opinions.  I couldn't wait to get up the next day and check out the coverage in my hometown paper, New Jersey's Star Ledger .
Yes, I admit, my favorite read with my Dunkin' Donuts coffee has not been stellar in their NASCAR coverage.  But surely they would do a great write-up on this historic moment in NASCAR history, right?
I eagerly opened the sports section and began searching for that coverage.  And I continued searching and searching, only to realize that there was not a single word mentioned about NASCAR, let alone the Hall of Fame picks.
I then went online and searched the New York Times to see what their coverage of the induction results looked like.  The following is what I found there, two whole sentences as follows:
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: October 15, 2009

Bill France Sr., Nascar ’s founder, and his son Bill Jr., who ran it for nearly 30 years, were among the first five inductees of the Nascar Hall of Fame. Also selected were three drivers: Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Junior Johnson.

Now, I am bright enough to recognize that I live in one of the most sports saturated marketing areas of the country.  And I also understand that the Yankees are in the playoffs.

But really, that's it?  Is that the extent of the interest from the "outside" world in one of NASCAR's most stellar moments?

With that unhappy thought in mind, I began to wonder if it was only the true, die-hard NASCAR fans who cared about this announcement.  Perhaps even the casual stock car racing fan did not care so much either about this moment in history.

But then I began to worry that the malaise was even more endemic.  Perhaps there was no coverage in the mainstream media because interest in NASCAR overall was waning.

There may just be hard evidence that many in the fan base are losing interest in the sport.  From empty seats at the tracks to sinking television ratings, NASCAR fans seem to be voting with their feet, showing their lack of interest in what they are seeing on the track.

Even the sport's CEO and Chairman Brian France seems puzzled by the sagging ratings.  NASCAR's Chase for the Championship opening race received only a 3.2 television rating, down 16 percent from the previous season, and ratings have been sagging since.

There was, however, a glimmer of hope in the ratings with the most recent race at Auto Club Speedway.  The broadcast garnered a 3.6 rating, the highest so far for the races in the Chase.

Whether or not interest is slowing, I at least had expected the Hall of Fame announcement to spark interest, inside and outside the sport. I had looked forward to reading some interesting coverage with my coffee and pumpkin spice donut.

Unfortunately, it seems that many outside of the walls of NASCAR fandom simply yawned when the envelopes were opened and the Hall of Fame results revealed.


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