What is Wrong With NASCAR From the Eyes of an Old Fart/Fan
To Randy and all others who read this. First up, Randy, you have taught me a ton. Were it not for you I would never have visited the NASCAR HOF and now I've been there, I believe, 10 times. While I don't agree with everyone chosen to be included, I realize money and politics had an awful lot to play in selection of some of those. Having said that, it is important to note that all those so far inducted ARE HOF worthy, but some have been included far too early while overlooking the pioneers and legends that laid the foundation and build on it. But, alas, you commentary is not about the HOF but I just want you to know how much I appreciate losing my bet to you.
As for what is wrong with NASCAR, in the eyes of NASCAR, nothing. In the eyes of the younger fans, nothing. In the eyes of we old "farts" to which you refer, it is not so much, at least not in my case, that we expect to go back to those golden days of the 50s, 60s and 70s. I totally agree that we have a huge issue with the "cars" they race these days. They are all alike except for the decals used for headlights, taillights, etc. Gone are the days when the Plymouth raced a Pontiac and Mercury. Heck, NONE of those three makes exist anymore. The issue of "aero push" and "down force" seem to be the problem child. We all see that the lead car has the aero advantage and a pass for the lead under green is a dying thing. Why can't they raise the cars off the ground, junk that splitter and have the driving in the hands of the driver? Is that too unreasonable to expect?
As for laying ALL the blame at the feet of Brian Z. France, you may be onto something there. It is my understanding that he owns only 9% of NASCAR having divested himself of most of it because, I understand, his divorce got very messy and he didn't need a vindictive x-wife taking NASCAR away from the France family. How much of that is true, I don't know, but those are the stories making the rounds. If I'm spreading "fake news" I apologize for that is not my intention.
George Diaz, motorsports writer for The Orlando Sentinel, wrote an article appearing in my Sunday paper in which he is making the program for the funeral of NASCAR. He is convinced it's done and he offers several reasons for that supposition. His main issues seem to be the departure of sponsor after sponsor from the sport. He also quotes Dale, Jr. who says that teams are dumping the veteran drivers (Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne and others) because they can get the new drivers (William Byron, Chase Elliott, etc.) for 1/10th the salary (Junior's words). Another sports site indicates teams have laid off many members. Heck, leave it to Joe Gibbs and the entire pit crew of the 78 and 77 may be out of jobs. Jobs are getting harder and harder to find in the sport.
The problem with NASCAR and the NFL, at least part of it, was NASCAR acquiescence to football. When the NFL announced they were considering adding playoffs and having the Super Bowl on Presidents Weekend, NASCAR ran like a scalded dog and moved the Daytona 500. Remember Mr. Chamberland and
"Peace in our time"? Appeasement (fear) didn't work then and neither has it worked for NASCAR. The Daytona 500 should never have been moved from the President's Day weekend. That was all the NFL needed to know. They rule the sports world and NASCAR bowed to that. In my world, race fans are, or where, race fans and the hell with the NFL. I won't go into my close association with the NFL for several years when I worked for the attorney who represented many NFL players and coaches, including Bill Belicheck. NASCAR was once said to be competition for NFL and surely that was true at that time. If NASCAR leadership had stayed to course, the competition could still have been worth the time.
What we have had over the past 10-12 years in a confusion of rules, changes to formats, and even changes to what Brian France himself said would NEVER be called a "playoff" when he introduced the Chase. What are the calling it now? PLAYOFF. That should never, ever apply to motorsports in any form. Stage racing? Wouldn't be nearly that bad if it weren't for five or more laps of yellow for most of them. A two lap, at most and I wish it was one, would end the stage. NASCAR takes longer these days to resolve caution issues, even the fake debris cautions, than ever. Back in the day, the track crew could clean up a three car wreck in three or four laps and they were back to racing. Now it's like six, seven or eight laps under yellow while the vacuum cleaners go out and vacuum the track.
Let's talk drivers now. Remember the day, and I know you do, when the fans had total access to their favorites. I can't count the hours I've sat by Richard Petty as he signed autographs but I know it has been enough to earn the title of his "most aggravating fan". To watch Dale, Jr. have fans push a cap or whatever through those little slots at Daytona for autographs is ridiculous. I wonder if the fan feels like he or she is visiting a prisoner behind the glass or is it Dale thinking the fan is the prisoner?
Hiring the first "engineer" has proven to be a disaster when it comes to the purity of the sport. Your Dad and your uncle knew how to work on their cars, did it, and raced them. Same for all the guys until the engineers came in. I remember The King under one of those Dodge Chargers of his working on suspension. Can Kyle Busch do that? I don't know, maybe he can, but I doubt it.
The world keeps changing as the news reminds us every day. The sports world is doing the same thing as you point out about golf and even the hallowed NFL. As I said hereinabove, I know we can't go back but I would expect that NASCAR can see the writing on the wall. Yes, MONEY drives the sport but that money is disappearing at a rapid rate. How many sponsors will withdraw before the end of this season? Can't blame them. Remember when we, the fans, would chose products that sponsored racing over any other product? Remember when we HAS to have Goodyear tires and used Union 76 gas. My coffee was Folgers while they sponsored Tim Richmond and later Maxell House when they sponsored Sterling Marlin. I once used STP on everything that moved. Any of that sound familiar? Do you even know what companies sponsor what cars? I don't and I don't really care. I buy what's on sale.
Randy, you and I are on the same page, singing the same song, but the right people aren't reading us nor listening to our musical talents. I don't intend to turn my back on NASCAR as it has been my life since I was 5 years old, as I know it has been yours. I still watch it, read about it, and care about it. Thank you for all you have done for me, now let's get together and see if there is anyway, ANYWAY, we can get those with the influence to consider what's happening.
I'm looking forward to your Part Three. You are really on to something here.