After All These Years, Why Is NASCAR “Chasing” Me Away?

Mike TaylorContributor IDecember 3, 2009

BRISTOL, TN - AUGUST 26:  A NASCAR official waves the yellow flag during a caution period, during the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Sharpie 500 on August 26, 2006 at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

It takes a lot of work to ensure a relationship flourishes. Both parties need to show commitment to one another and key traits like honesty, compromise, and effective communication must also be present.

Over the years, I think I’ve given my fair share to NASCAR.  I’ve invested in our bond together and remained loyal, passionate, and shown genuine affection towards the organization’s top series.

However, as we approach our 25th anniversary together, I think NASCAR and I are in need of some serious couples therapy as our relationship seems to have soured as of late.  As a matter of fact, I’m probably sugarcoating things.  It would be more accurate to say our relationship is on the rocks and perilously close to coming to an end.

Now don’t get me wrong, breaking this connection isn’t something that would make me happy.  Also, while I’m no angel and certainly have my faults, I honestly don’t feel I’m to blame for the break down in our relationship. 

You see, NASCAR has changed.  And while change is inevitable, most of its changes haven’t been for the better.  In fact, let me present a little evidence to back up my claim.

The Chase

I like to call this one Exhibit A.  In my opinion, NASCAR rushed the introduction of its new points format into play and didn’t give enough thought to the possible side effects that could arise out of the new system.

And while I agree the old points system needed to be tweaked, I don’t think such a radical shift like “The Chase” was called for. 

The new system was supposed to make things more competitive and enjoyable to watch.  Has this been the result?  Some (i.e. Jimmie fans) may think so, but I would easily wager that most would argue otherwise.

I have more than a few beefs with The Chase ranging from the inclusion of the exact same tracks in the playoffs and the absurd realignment of the points with only 10 races remaining to the total disregard shown to the regular season leader when the points are reset.  In effect, the new playoff format has made the regular season more or less meaningless.

So, here’s the rub…why should anyone, including myself, trouble themselves to watch the first 2/3 of the season? 

The Tracks

NASCAR has some highly entertaining tracks on its schedule. Bristol, Richmond, Lowe’s, and Daytona are some of the more notable ones in my opinion. 

Conversely, it also has a large (and growing) assortment of tracks that produce uninspiring, nose-to-tail competition. Offenders such as Kansas, Chicago, and Texas jump to the tip of my tongue.

I fully understand the need to have larger capacity facilities in major markets, at the end of the day it is a business, but I feel the product has suffered as a result and NASCAR has lost some of its character with the removal of races from tracks like Darlington and North Wilkesboro over the years.

The mile and half syndrome as I like to call it, is making the series’ schedule, which nets out at a whopping 36 races (37 if you include the All-Star event), seem as long as it actually is.  A positive?  I think not.

The Car

The CoT, The Car of Tomorrow, The Car of Today, honestly I don’t really care what you prefer to call it, but I do have a few names for it and most can’t be repeated in this space.  And I’m not alone.  Top drivers like Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch aren’t big fans of the CoT either and have voiced their criticism of the car on more than one occasion.

Let me ask you one question.  Does driving a box sound like fun?   Didn’t think so.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for keeping the drivers safe and for (queue sarcastic voice here) the owners saving a buck here and there, but did it have to come at expense of the on-track product? 

NASCAR must have known that the introduction of a larger and boxier car would produce lackluster racing and yet they still went ahead with the car’s introduction a few years ago.

The Talent

Let me start off by saying that I’m not a fan of Kyle Busch, far from it, but can you imagine tuning into this series on a weekly basis if he wasn’t around? I have two words for you: mind-numbing. He’s one of only a handful of drivers (Montoya and Stewart are a few others) who bring some real excitement to the series both on and off the track.

Vanilla may taste great, but it’s not something most people want to see in their sports. In order to have hero's, you need to have villains. Controversial figures and events make sport interesting and enjoyable to watch.

My issue here is that NASCAR teams are bringing in guys who have no character.  Not to mention the fact that sponsors and the governing body’s PR arm have made these guys into something resembling politicians with their made-for-TV sound bites.  And when they do step outside the box and actually speak their mind or show some emotion, they get their knuckles wrapped for doing so.

Now I’m not saying they should be out ramming into guys on the victory lap like Cole Trickle (aka Tom Cruise) did in Days of Thunder , but I have no problem with a guy going down pit lane to give another driver his two cents (with a little shove thrown in as well).

What’s Next

So NASCAR, that’s it. I’ve aired our dirty laundry and placed all of the cards on the table.  I don’t want to call it an ultimatum (we both know ultimatum’s are relationship killers), but something has to give here.

Show me a sign that you’re willing to change and I’ll stick around for a few more years and we can continue to work on things.  I’ll warn you though, don’t wait too long as you may wake up one morning and find that I've packed my suitcase and hit the road.

My hope though is that you’re a good listener and another 25 years are in the cards for us.  50 years together, now wouldn’t that be golden!


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