NASCAR Repositioning Itself As Entertainment Rather Than Sport

Jory FleischauerCorrespondent IMarch 21, 2010

CONCORD, NC - JANUARY 21:  NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France speaks with the media during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, held at the NASCAR Research and Development Center on January 21, 2010 in Concord, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)
Jason Smith/Getty Images

Heading over to NASCAR.com at this moment, one will see a banner advertising its RaceView product for this weekend. This is not an atypical event except when one notices how this ad has been tailored.

The banner consists of photos of Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski and the caption: The Rivalry Continues, Watch Live at Bristol .

No longer can we debate whatever faults may have existed in NASCAR's logic to not delve into harsher penalties against Edwards. The past is the past and we must leave it at that.

Most can agree, however, that it is an incident that should not be repeated any time soon.

Yet, here we are, two weeks removed from the incident, and already on NASCAR's home page we see an ad promoting the incident.

Granted NASCAR does not run the site, as that falls to Turner Entertainment, but surely the sport should not embrace situations like this.

This past week Washington Capitals Left Winger Alexander Ovechkin was suspended two games for a viscous hit on Chicago Blackhawks Defensiveman Brian Campbell.

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If you go to NHL.com right now, no where will you see a ad glorifying Ovechkin's hit. You cannot watch the opening of a NHL game and see that hit included in a montage.

They recognized that such actions, while entertaining, cannot be condoned. It was decided that incidents like the one involving Ovechkin, should not be used to push the entertainment value of the sport at the cost of player safety because of the viciousness of the incident.

Even more intriguing is that Ovechkin is one of the more well known players in the league. The NHL showed that, favorites or not, all players will be held accountable.

So why can't NASCAR follow this type of mantra? It would not be that difficult for NASCAR brass to state: "While we consider the Edwards/Keselowski matter closed, we ask that you do not promote the incident through media outlets as we do not condone actions similar to what occurred during the last Cup race."

They would not even have to publicly air this concern as it would be better said behind closed doors.

Whether or not Edwards is in the right is no longer the question, but it's whether the sport should profit off of it. The NHL realizes that Ovechikin's hit on Campbell is not something that should be glorified as a representative action of their sport.

And NASCAR should recognize this ideal and follow suit. Perhaps they want the boys to "have at it" but that doesn't mean you should allow the promotion of your sport as something akin to the WWE.

Or is that what they're gunning for? Brian France seems to want to position NASCAR as an entrainment franchise, not necessarily as a sport. The majority of the changes he initially instituted could be explained by this method of thought.

In fact, if the sport is letting the boys "have at it", why are there constant ads proclaiming this to be so? Why must DW inform us a dozen times a race that the reigns have been lifted and they drivers can race 'like I (DW) did."

That's not relaxing rules for the sake of the sport... its relaxing rules to create an artificial environment conducive to better ratings.

Two weeks ago, Brian France was gifted the perfect example of their 'new' NASCAR by Carl Edwards. The rough and tumble vision of the sport France now wishes to project was now visible on nearly all media outlets.

But at what cost? Future NHL hopefuls learned in the past week that the actions of Alexander Ovechkin are not good for the sport and that they should not be replicated.

NASCAR instead endorses actions, most likely because it has the makings of good TV. And by endorsing these actions, it allows media and vendors ample opportunity to profit off of it.

Again, the sport is trying to advance itself by embracing dangerous and ill-conceived actions by its drivers for the sake of entrainment.

Would Big Bill France approve of that type of action? Would Bill Jr? This goes beyond an after race confrontation on pit road. This is not what the sport is about.

So as NASCAR takes one step closer to the realm of the WWE, I question if it is the right decision to make for the sport. Already France attempted to take NASCAR mainstream, instead of embracing its roots, and it failed.

I venture not, but I also venture that no one else will notice until its too late. For both the drivers and the fans.

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