By admin | January 27, 2012
By Richard Allen
On the final day of the past weekâ€™s Sprint Media Tour, Brian France delivered his yearly â€˜State of the Sportâ€™ address to the assembled media. In that speech the NASCAR chairman declared, â€œThe sport is in a very good place and weâ€™re going to work even harder to achieve the very best things for the sport of NASCAR well into the future.â€
France went on to highlight the revamping of the points system which occurred during the off season between 2010 and 2011 and â€œa championship battle that will be talked about for decades to come.â€
The chairman also pointed to the recent introduction of Electronic Fuel Injection as something to create future excitement. â€œEFI excites the manufacturers and technology companies,â€ said France, responding to questioning about NASCARâ€™s embrace of technology. â€œTo attract new companies (to the sport), weâ€™ve had to take a little different view of that.â€
Even the admittedly unpopular tandem racing that has in recent years become the norm on the restrictor plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega is something to look to as proof of NASCARâ€™s â€œvery good place.â€ According to France, even this flaw had a positive side. â€œWe have had a breathtaking number of close finishes at those tracks, but the fans want a mixture of styles including a return to a more traditional â€˜pack racingâ€™ and that close side-by-side competition thatâ€™s unique to Talladega and Daytona,â€ he said. â€œNASCAR and the teams are working hard on this and based on the test earlier this month, weâ€™re encouraged that weâ€™re making progress.â€
Obviously, the head of the sport is going to say that the sport is standing on solid ground and that things are going well. One of his jobs is to present NASCAR in the best light possible.
However, it is the job of the media to question whether or not things are going as well as described. And, it is the job of the fans to sit as the jury and ultimately decide whether or not the sport is what they want it to be.
So, is NASCAR â€œin a very good placeâ€ or are there concerns that go beyond the issues Mr. France addressed?
After this recent season and off season the issue most glaringly in need of address would seem to be that of overall team health. Coming into 2012 there will be a significant net loss in terms of competitive cars on the track for each race. Granted, Michael Waltrip Racing did add a team after last year to provide a spot for Clint Bowyer. However, Bowyerâ€™s previous organization, Richard Childress Racing, will likely fold one of its four operations. Roush Fenway Racing too will have to cease competition with one of its rides during this season.
And more, Team Red Bull went away all together after the final checkered flag of 2011 waved for an additional loss of two more competitive cars. To add to the list of concerns, some teams will be operating with less than full sponsorship this season, which could bring next season into question for these organizations. Roush Fenway and Richard Petty Motorsports are at least two companies without their cars fully backed for 2012 as of this writing.
Another of concern, which could be closely related to lack of sponsorship for some teams, is the continued lack of attendance and television viewing of the sport. In 2011, as in other recent seasons, there were a number of tracks that featured noticeably large numbers of empty seats at the waving of the green flag. Several tracks have resorted to the use of coverings on which to place event sponsor logos and hide the empty areas. And over the off season, there have been tracks to announce they are widening seats, which again, will help hide the empty spaces.
France pointed to improved television ratings in 2011 as a reason for encouragement. However, it must be taken into consideration that those numbers were being compared against 2010 ratings which were horribly low and might very well be considered a â€˜rock bottomâ€™ moment. Television ratings are still lower than they were in the not-so-distant past, despite last yearâ€™s increases.
Story continues below the Bold message….
I currently have 1860 followers on Twitter. If I reach 2000 by theÂ day of the Daytona 500 I will host a â€˜Pick the Winnerâ€™ contest for that race which will pay $50 to the winner. So, if you are already on Twitter follow @RacingWithRich for a chance to win. If youâ€™re not on Twitter come on board and join the discussion.
Click the Twitter link on the left side of the page to follow.
But in this writerâ€™s opinion, the biggest concern of all, and the overriding reason for all other negative issues the sport might face, is the competition on the track. France mentioned the closeness of last yearâ€™s points battles as one of the high points of the season, and without question, it was exciting. However, what were the thirty-five races leading up to that final one like? Was there intensely exciting competition in most races? Some races? A few races?
It seems as though short term memory is being allowed to override long term memory when discussions of 2011 take place.
Remove the worry over fuel mileage seen in an unusually high number of events last year and much of the drama disappears along with it. Granted, it would difficult to put on 500 mile races without at least some stretches of monotony. But it seems as though there has become far too much reliance on gimmicks to make the races â€œcompetitiveâ€.
Debris cautions, double-file restarts and lucky dogs have become as much a part of racing discussions in recent years as engines and tires. Until the time comes that racing can be improved on the track without reliance on manufactured enhancements, the negative issues stated above will never be truly resolved.
Also, too much of NASCARâ€™s focus has been on personalities of late. Promotion of the sport is more about Junior, Danica, Edwards, etcâ€¦ than the racing itself.
Rather than putting so much emphasis on individual personalities and gimmicky remedies, NASCAR needs to focus more of its creative energies on the product itself. Personalities may give the sport short term pops but itâ€™s the on-track competition that matters most as it will always be at the core of the sport, even when the personalities fade away.
I would have to disagree with Brian Franceâ€™s assessment that the sport is â€œin a very good placeâ€. Rather, I would contend that there are certainly a number of positives about NASCAR. The thrill, the speed, the energy and the enthusiasm of the fans and competitors are just a few of the things that originally drew me to the sport, and those things are still there. However, it is also my opinion that the sport is not all it could be, and that will continue to be the case until the issues I touched on here are resolved.
So, I would say that NASCAR is in an OK place for right now.
Topics: Articles |