NASCAR Race fans Continue to Leave Sport
The hayday of Nascar
Can NASCAR be saved?
I have been a fan of NASCAR as long as I can remember. As a small boy in the early 1960’s, I remember sitting on the porch swing with my dad and grandfather listening to the races on the radio, long before it ever came to television. Every Sunday afternoon after lunch the men folk would gather around the radio and listen to the race pulling for people like Junior Johnson, Fireball Roberts and others.
Then, in the late 1970’s a young man from Dawsonville, Georgia begin his career in NASCAR, Bill Elliott. Growing up in the Atlanta area we were excited to see someone from our area out there with the big boys. Also, being an avid Ford fan that just enhanced our excitement to see him out on the track in a vehicle that we could related too. In the 1980’s his fame and his wins grew and our excitement intensified to the point where we were glued to the television every Sunday. His rivalry with the late Dale Earnhardt, driving a Chevy, was a force that made us look forward to every Sunday’s race with excitement and anticipation. It was Bill against Dale, Ford vs Chevy and cars passed each other all day.
Back then, there were no restrictor plates and drivers could actually pass each other and even make up laps by being faster than the other drivers. If you could build a motor with more horsepower than the other guy, make your car handle better you could pretty much, as the saying goes “run what you brung”. You didn’t need 40 people working at 20 million dollar shop to compete.
If a driver could drive a car at over 200 miles per hours and wasn’t scared to back out of the gas, he could. If you had more nerve than the other drivers and a better car, if it didn’t blow up you would win. If a driver had a problem with the speeds that the others were driving and the car couldn’t compete, he didn’t drive.
Also, in the day you could actually buy a car from the local dealership that actually looked like the car on the track. The rules back then actually dictated that in order to run a car in the series, the manufactures of the car had to produce a minimum number of the cars for the street. A Ford Thunderbird looked like a Ford Thunderbird; a Chevrolet Monte Carlo looked like a Monte Carlo. The Cars had V-8’s, rear wheel drive and you could even buy special editions that had the ground effects and spoilers to make them as close as possible to your favorite driver’s car.
That was then, this now. Now days if you don’t have million dollar sponsors you really don’t have a chance. The rules have forced a lot of talented drivers from the sport and left them to compete at the local short tracks where budgets still allow them to fulfill their need to compete.
The cars are no longer available at the dealerships. You say wait, yes they are. They sell Fords, Chevrolets, Dodges and Toyotas with the same name as the one they race. They do, but that’s about all they have in common. The cars on the track are all basically the same, you can virtually pull the decals off one and stick it on another one and go from a Toyota to a Chevy or Ford in a matter of minutes. You can’t buy a single car at a dealership that runs in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series that has rear wheel drive or a normally aspirated V-8. Let's see if NASCAR can put a front wheel drive car on the track with a sideways V-6.
NASCAR has gone from let the builders build a car that they want to race; to you can only race what we will let you. If your car doesn’t fit our template and the engine is a certain size, go back to the shop and start over until you get right. They have virtually taken the sport away from the owners and drivers.
With the way things are now days, NASCAR might as well just provide the cars; let the drivers come to the track and draw numbers for the car that they will drive that Sunday. The cars are so closely inspected and mandated to the rule book so closely that the only difference between the makes is the engine blocks.
NASCAR has seen a sharp decline in its fan base over the past couple of years because of the strict rules that they have, they did start making changes. Last year they started letting the men settle their own differences on the track, instead of being called to the NASCAR trailer every time someone had a problem with another driver. They got rid of the rear wing on the car and went back to the spoiler of the past, but they still dictate the angle for the spoiler. This year, they got rid of the front splitter for a more familiar front air dam, hopefully that will stop a lot of the cut tires that the splitter caused.
But, the fan base is still shrinking and they don’t seem to know how to fix it. It seems that they can’t see past their own interfering nose. This year, at Daytona during practice the speeds were over 205 mph again, guess what? They stuck their nose in again to slow the cars back down to the 190’s. Let me ask you, if you hit the wall at 205 will it hurt that much more than hitting it at 195?
The new asphalt for the Daytona 500 has created another problem; no one can run by themselves. This is about the stupidest thing I have ever seen on a racetrack. No longer is man and car against man and car, it team against team. If you can’t find someone to run nose to tail with you, you might as park your car and watch it on television. I really don’t think this is what they had in mind when they repaved Daytona Raceway, but it what they got. Now it comes to this two cars running together, trying to chase down two other cars running together, no longer is there a chance of a driver with a better car chasing their way to checkered flag.
What will NASCAR do next to destroy the sport we grew up watching and looked forward to every weekend? When will NASCAR realize that maybe that they are the problem not the solution? Gone are the days when you can watch your favorite driver bring a better car and put a whoopin on the other guys. Now if someone brings a faster, better car they change the rules so the other drivers have a chance to win, instead of letting them build a car to compete with the faster car.
I guess maybe I’m too old school. I liked cars that looked like cars you could buy. I liked drivers that could bring a better car and drive it as fast as they could. I liked watching cars pass each other all day, not riding around in circles nose to tail for 499 miles and on the last lap trying to win. I liked it when you could actually tells the cars apart from each other, a Ford was a Ford and a Chevy was a Chevy, not just a body made to fit a preset template.
I, like so many of my other friends, have pretty much lost interest in NASCAR. Until NASCAR decides to shrink the rule book, have cars that look like cars and let the drivers drive to their abilities the fan base will continue to shrink.
It’s the Daytona 500 today, I guess I will go outside and find something else to do or maybe watch a movie. I might just watch it long enough to get put to sleep and take a nap, I can wake up with 5 laps to go and not miss a thing. Maybe in the future Fox sportswill just show the first 5 laps and the last 5 laps when people are actually watching. The stands will be full for Daytona, but by spring, when the new wears off again, the stands will be three quarters full and people at home will be bored again. Some races might be worth watching a little more than others, like Bristol where they look like they are actually racing, but other will be just circles for 495 miles and racing for five laps. I will ad follow up's as the season progress check back later for more.
Follow up: PocaNO race June 2012
There is no sense of speed the way they film races anymore. The PocaNO race is a prime example of another boring race with poor fan turn out. Without rivalries, without conflict, without cars that we can relate to, it's only fun for the drivers. I hear it all the time from the drivers, "that was a great race", for who? The races are boing for the fans, and with no one to pull for when they get close to another driver, it's just guys going in circles. NASCAR stopped Kyle and Kurt, Kevin Harvick and Tony. They continue to run around in circle on fast advertising body covered go karts that have nothing to do with stock car racing. Oh well, another excuse for a Sunday nap, from the first 20 to 20 to go, the anouncers fill the rest with blather.
Follow up: Daytona - February 21,2011
I am adding another paragraph on the Daytona 500 race. I wrote the above before the race, I watched the race and have to say the last three laps were the best I've seen in a long time. I was proud to see the 20 year old Trevor Bayne driving for the Wood Brothers beat out Carl Edwards and the other mega teams for the win.
The Wood Brothers have been in the sport forever and a day and continued to stay with their roots. They don't have dealerships or hardware stores, they are a family run racing business and that what it was supposed to be about all along. I grew up watching that number 21 with drivers like Pearson and the others, my neighbors in the late 60 or early 70's, actually had a Mercury Talladega painted up like the race care except for the numbers on the side. The way Trevor's car was painted, the car actually reminded people of the old school racing, right down to the exhaust pipes coming out the back, witch by the way, NASCAR outlawed because it would cause other cars to over heat that tried to draft off of the car.
That race was actually fun for a few minutes, the sport really needed something like that. However, with that said, they go to Phoenix and reality will set back in, Trevor will drive in the Nationwide series, there will be no hero's in the Cup race. No one will care to much unless Trevor, by some kind of call from grace can pull off two in a row, I don't see that happening.
In the pits, the drivers are all glad handing each other, there are no rivalries yet this year, no one to watch out for. Kyle Bush will probably start winning all the Nationwideraces and Truck races he enters again, just so he can show the kids coming in how to do it. The Cup race will be circles and more circles, watch the first five laps,,last five laps, again,,take a nap in between and that's another NASCAR weekend.
HOW TO GET THE FANS BACK
Ok, people keep asking," what would I do if I had the power to fix NASCAR and get the fans back into the stands?" So, here it goes.
The first thing I would do would eliminate the start and park cars. If you make the race, you race until you crash or blow up. If you can't maintain your speed you get two pit stops to fix it, if you can't maintain a top thirty speed out 40 cars or are just generally get in the way, you get out of the race. Once out, you get paid only for the laps completed, this will be an incentive for drivers to run as hard as they can, to make more money for the team. If you don't have the funds to run the race, don't show up. If you park the car and there is nothing wrong with it, you don't get paid.
Number two. Eliminate the restrictor plates and Cubic inch restrictions in the cars. If a car owner shows up with a 427 he can run it. If the driver is to scared to drive the car, he can watch the race like the rest of the crowd. With all the safer barriers and cockpit safety now in place, there wouldn't be much difference between hitting the wall at 210 and 190, besides these drivers get paid to take chances, if it were anything but, we all could do it.
Number three. Let car owners decide what kind of car they want to bring to the track. Get rid of all the templates and cars that all look alike. If Ford drivers want to put a Mustang on the track, go for it, if the Chevy drivers and Dodge drivers want a different car it up to them. The only requirement should be, the car available to the public should be rear wheel drive like the race car. No more taking a front wheel drive car that public has to buy and converting it to a rear wheel drive race car. If the car isn't available to the public, it can't be on the track. Just like it used to be. Just look at the Nationwide Series, people actually like seeing the different style cars on the track they can relate to.
Number four. No more pit road violations for being 5mph over the required speed limit and no more free passes for lapped cars. The pit speed should be half of the track speed, if the average speed is 150, the pit speed is 75 and so on. The pit speed increase would eliminate the need for penalties. Drivers would be to afraid of hurting someone on pit road to run any faster than that, there would be zero tolerance for the violation, if they do, they are disqualified and removed from the race.
On the free pass, if your car is too slow to keep up with the rest of the cars, once five laps down, you park it. If a caution comes out and you are only one lap down, you get to come around to the back of the lead cars, with the lapped car more than one lap down in between you and the leaders. If there are no cars more than a lap down, you stay a lap down and have to pass your way back onto the lead lap. The cars one lap down would also, get to pit with the leaders as to give them a chance to try and make way their way forward and fight through the other lapped cars.
Number five. No more mega teams. Teams would only be allowed two cars and drivers and engines must come their own shops. No more five car teams and engine rental from these teams to people who wouldn't make the race without them. Drivers must test their own cars and if they fail do so, they don't race. This would give independent teams more of a fighting chance at making the races and corporate sponsors could be spread out among more teams.
Number six. Qualifying and practice for races would be held on Saturday before a Sunday race. Drivers would get two hours of practice to set up their car, then one hour after practice qualifying would begin. After the end of qualifying, the only changes the crew could make to the car would be change tires. The car will start the race as it qualified. An impound rule for all races.
Number seven. Get rid of any races that the fans don't appreciate. If the race in California only fills the stands half full, add another Atlanta race where it is full every time. To placate to fans that don't seem to be there. It is doing a disservice to the fan base where the sport started and still has loyal supporters. Just because you want the west coast people to accept NASCAR doesn't mean they will. Add more races to the southeast and it would cut cost to the teams and more teams could participate. That's a pretty simply concept that NASCAR has seemed to have forgotten. Traveling is expensive for all teams, the further you go, the more it cost.
Number eight. No more part time drivers. Drivers who run the Nationwide series would also have to test these cars as well and if you can't run every race without a conflict from another series don't race. Just like Danica, if you can't split your time, either you race all the races or none. Though I know it great for the young drivers in the Nationwide series to race against top cup drivers, it's not fair for other Nationwide teams not to make the race because a well funded team like Harvick, decided to run this weekend to get more practice. Besides, if you through rule changes, 1 to 7, there would be a lot of cars that couldn't compete in cup and better drivers would drop back down to the Nationwide series.
It comes down to let the best drivers compete with the best they can bring and may only the bravest and best survive. Bring back an unknown element an interest will come back. No one is going to continue to watch if same teams win week after week and no one else seems to have a chance unless they wreck. The mega teams should be a thing of the past or NASCAR soon will be with even more fans.
I am pretty sure that no one in NASCAR will read this or even care. But as the fan base shrinks and the brains at the top can't figure out why, maybe some who does read this, will share it with them.
California was a bust. Stands half empty and race was boring except the last 5 laps. Everybody knows that the weekend off lost any momentum NASCAR might a had going into the race. Just as the announcers, D.W. and Larry even said as much, quote, "Nascar should never have a week off this early in the season again," D.W.
Bristol was bust, no last minute passes, just cars riding around in circles for three hours and no tempers flying just the promise from Carl Edwards, maybe next time! For the first time in my recent memory the stands had empty seats and you get a ticket even on race day. I don't know what to think anymore, is this NASCAR or the WWE?
Well there is Martinsville this weekend. Another short track that will be just circles for until the last five laps. We wait and see and I will update again on Monday.
Well, Martinsville came and went, and by now so did Texas. A quick summary of both races to add to the rest of the NASCAR season. "5 laps to go and they are racing". If you are a car sponsor this is the time turn on the TV and see if your car is in the top 10. If not, these dollars that you spent will probably go unnoticed by most fans at home. That is unless it was involved in an accident they replay over and over as you count the dollars it will cost to repair the car.
The fans at home are tuning in between commercials of the Basketball game or Golf game waiting on the last lap pass or a green, white and checker. Without any rivalries in the sport its hard to care about what's going on during the race and even watching the post race interviews don't mean much anymore. More of the same "maybe next week?" instead of "That son of a bitch has it coming next weekend for taking me out!"
Update again in a few weeks,,,what do you think?
Ok, since my last update we have slept for a few more laps and watched a few. Talladega was another team race. If you had fast car but no partner you didn't have a chance. The money teams won another race and team mates ran nose to tail for most of the race. This was another Daytona two car tango, the announcers can't decide if they like it or not, by the way they describe the action it's like, well it is what it is, so go with it. It's the same old thing, be nice for camera until the last five laps, then go for it, problem is, unless you have someone to work with, you are stuck where you are at. This is one race where it is not the best car and driver combination wins, it's who has the best pusher to the front has a chance to win. You call this racing?
I did watch the Nationwide race from Nashville on Saturday 4-23-11 and Carl and Kyle continued the domination tour. The money stands out even more in this series than in the Sprint Cup series. There is the Carl/Roush Mustang, which by the way I like to see cars that look like cars you can buy, and the Kyle/Gibbs Camry, they may claim different, but you can see the difference between these cars and other at every race. I like the fact that the new faces get to try to run with Carl and Kyle, but, even Brad Keselowski factory backed Dodge can't compete.
There is no cup race today, I don't know if that many people even care anymore, I didn't miss it like I used too. If you read the responses I get to this article I feel more and more that a lot people are leaving, not because they don't like racing, they are just bored with it. The personalities have been replaced by "don't forget to mention all your sponsors" in the interviews. The money has got so big, that the people involved seem smaller somehow, maybe it's just me, but racing should have rivalries not team mates. It should about more than just watching cars go around the track, it should be pulling for your favorite driver or getting pissed when a driver you don't like does something to the driver your pulling for. It should be about more than an owner with six teams seeing how many will finish in the top ten this weekend or about how a one car team actually lead a lap under caution to get the points.
Next update in a couple weeks, please post comments, they are welcome and appreciated, maybe if enough people read this, some one at NASCAR may actually read this and let some of it sink in.
Did you watch the Monster Mile? Did you see the stands? The track placed sponsor banners over half of the seats, the other half of the seats were nearly half empty. NASCAR still doesn't seem to get it. The fan base is shrinking, the thrill is gone and still they refuse to do anything to fix it. They keep running the fans off by bowing down to sponsor whims and money influx into the sport.
Rick Hendrix got his 200th win as a team owner, so fricken what, who the hell cares if he has enough money to run 4 cars every race, he has the opportunity to win more races. This is no big accomplishment, Richard Petty won 200, he actually drove the car, he worked on the car, he even towed the car to the track on a trailer in the early days.
They don't want to fix the sport, they want people to watch guys going in circles with advertisers on their cars. We don't recognize the sport anymore, could be the camara work, there is no sense of speed like there was in the 70's and 80's when the camara stayed back and didn't focus in on one car to show the sponsor.
I will update this article again if I watch part of another race, they do provide a chance to take a nap for a couple of hours, between lap 20 and 20 to go. The drivers say the race was a great race, I guess so if you are driving the car, but from where I was sitting, no so much.
I'm pretty much done watching the sport now.I don't think anyone else is watching either, the stands are empty, there is more people at a college football game that at the race. If the track had to pay the drivers from the gate draw how much would each team get? If the sponsors pull out until the fans return, what would happen then?
I guess Hendricks could still advertise his car dealerships and Roush could advertise his Mustangs, but don't think they could sell enough to pay millions to all of their drivers.
This will be my last post on the coloum, I may write another one if I watch another race next year, depends if on they change anything.