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Are wrecks essential for racing excitement?

By admin | April 24, 2011

By Richard Allen

 

I’m sure that at some time every race fan has heard a non-race fan say something to the effect of, “The only reason people watch racing is to see the wrecks.”

I would like to think that true race fans never want to see anyone get hurt. But, is a little bent sheet metal necessary for excitement? Do fans want to see sparks fly and smoke boil, whether from the cars or the competitors themselves?

The reason I pose these questions is because of two races held so far in the 2011 NASCAR season. For the most part the racing has been good this year and there have been some interesting storylines to emerge as the young season has played out. But two tracks, Bristol and Talladega, have still managed to draw criticism from a significant number of fans.

After receiving comments from several people who complained that, “They ruined the track” after March’s Bristol race and those who said, “I hate the two by two racing” after Talladega, I wondered if the lack of wrecks on two tracks that had become noted for such has played a part in fans’ new found disdain for speedways that were once favorites.

After the track was resurfaced and the banking altered at the Bristol Motor Speedway in 2007, the number of yellow flags has decreased dramatically(roughly 33%) while the number of fan complaints has seemingly risen in like manner.

If “Rubbin’s Racin’” then maybe many of the 160,000 who used to pile into the high banked, half-mile facility considered “Wreckin’ Racin’” as well. No wrecks may very well equal no excitement to some, which may be why there were vast numbers of empty seats earlier this year in the northeastern corner of Tennessee.

While there is something to be said for not having to watch the pace car lead the field around for 100 laps or more, fans did not always seem to mind the caution laps they got in exchange for the grinding action they saw to lead to those yellow flags.

Whatever the case may be, there is at least the possibility that fewer wrecks may be a factor to have driven fans away from Bristol.

Another track that was criticized this season, at least by some, was Talladega. Again the question, is it because there weren’t the same number or type of wrecks involved in this year’s race? To say that people don’t expect wrecks at the massive speedway would be preposterous. The television network promote ‘The Big One’ in all their advertising leading into the races there. The track itself markets concession items and souvenirs apparel with that same phrase attached.

There certainly were accidents in the most recent Talladega race but the two by two style of racing did not lend itself to the twenty car pile ups the track has seen in the past.

Was part of the post-race disappointment from fan commentators due to the fact that ‘The Big One’ never came?

I do not believe true race fans go to races just to see crashes. And I absolutely do not believe any true fan wants to see someone hurt. I do, however, believe fans are not always disappointed to see an incident or two that might add a little excitement to the event.

I’m not sure that this year’s races at Bristol and Talladega prove anything about the relationship of excitement at the race track and wrecks. However, it does seem to be a strange coincidence that those two tracks drew the greatest amount of ire after their conclusions.

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2 Responses to “Are wrecks essential for racing excitement?”

  1. Aaron Rosser Says:
    April 25th, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    To me, those two races were thrilling and entertaining. Both had a revolving door at the front of the field, obviously Talladega’s was much, much more pronounced, and even though the three-way battle amongst Busch, Edwards, and Johnson didn’t quite materialize at the end of the Bristol race, it had me on the edge of my seat as they ran so close so late in the going.

    The thing with NASCAR’s fanbase is that it’s a cross-section of America and people in general. As such, you’re gonna have folks with wildly differing tastes. As much as I dislike wrecks - they look like they hurt and plus that’s tons of money and, more importantly, man hours going to waste - I can see why some fans love ‘em. That’s the great thing about our sport, there’s plenty of room for all kinds.

  2. Bill B Says:
    April 25th, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    Well, I won’t go so far as to say WRECKS are necessary but I definitely like to see some contact. You can make what you want out of that statement.