Is griping all that NASCAR fans do?
The fans of NASCAR are perhaps the most vocal fans of all the professional sports in America. This can be attributed to the intimate relationship the fans enjoy with the sport and its drivers.
Yet over the past several years these fans have become increasingly critical of the sport.
Initially they were very valid statements of the problems the sport was enduring.
For example, the Chase altered the manner in which the champion was crowned, the cars became increasingly aero-dependent and distorted, traditional races were cut from the schedule, and the drivers began lacking personality.
All of these complaints were warranted, considering the massive amount of change the sport experienced in such a short amount of time.
I have been a fan of the sport for almost 20 years and I too get fired up over some of these issues. The problem lies, however, in how many relay those feelings to others and how it appears to those outside of the sport.
Today fans continue to complain about everything from debris cautions to the shade of green on Junior’s car. NASCAR fans have become a nation of gripers, nitpicking at every detail, yet are unable to appreciate how far we’ve come in the last several years.
Everyone can agree that the COT is as ugly as a race car can get. In addition, everyone can also agree that it looks little like its road counterparts. What no one mentions, however, is how close the COT car actually is to the cars of old.
Take Jimmie Johnson’s wreck last week at Texas. In the pre-COT car, there is no way that car would ever see the track again. It would have been completely destroyed, and Johnson would have finished the race 43rd.
The COT, however, is such a tank of a vehicle that not only were they able to get the car back on the track, but they then ran over 200 laps in race conditions. That simply would not have happened with the old car.
In 2006, if a car brushed the wall, chances are its race would have been over.
In 2009, if a car brushes the wall, it’s nothing out of the ordinary.
Whether we like to admit it or not, NASCAR created a heck of a race car in the COT.
Next we complain about a driver’s lack of personality, what some of us referred to as the "wussy-fying" of the sport.
But what happens when Brad Keselowski makes a daring move for a position late in the race, or Juan Montoya starts using the prototypical Martinsville chrome horn to gain a position?
They are then chastised left and right by fans and media alike for being too aggressive.
The same individuals who complain about the drivers not racing hard enough or expressing themselves behind the wheel berate the drivers who try to prove them otherwise.
NASCAR forums across the nation have regressed to middle school bickering matches over either minuscule details or outrageous claims. What was once thoughtful discussion has degraded to short-sighted bitterness.
It appears that every NASCAR fan believes that he has a right to voice his displeasure about any particular item whenever he wishes. One of the great things about this country is that he can do that without fear of retribution.
Where does this leave us as a sport, though?
The racing, generally, really isn’t as bad as everyone makes it out to be. Drivers are able to beat and bang for positions in ways that have not been possible in almost 10 years.
With the advent of Twitter, Facebook, and numerous media outlets, the drivers' personalities are coming out without fear of punishment from NASCAR.
Aside from ridding the sport of the Chase, bringing back Rockingham, and imploding Auto Club Speedway, the fans should have everything they could ever want from the sport.
Yet again we find faults to whine about.
Fans of the stick and ball sports, and yes I am using them as a comparison, rarely incite such a furor at every change their sport makes. You do not see a multitude of baseball fans calling out Bud Selig because the players aren’t as colorful as they used to be.
Yes, there is a different dynamic in NASCAR than in MLB, but the analogy remains valid.
Many of the changes have occurred across all platforms due to the nature of the 21st century world.
Driver personality is one aspect which has had an effect not only on the sport, but on sponsors, TV networks, various groups, etc. I agree that drivers need not be robotic in their emotions, but with our society today they cannot be overly zealous and outrageous.
Perhaps it is time we let some of our displeasures subside and focus on the remaining, important ones.
As a fanbase, we cannot be taken seriously if we are constantly bickering over every specific aspect of the sport.
Or am I the only one who thinks this?