By admin | August 30, 2008
By Richard Allen
Drifting and NASCAR both involve cars and skilled drivers. Both attract fans with sensations of sights, sounds and smells that cannot be matched. However, although they may sound like they do, the two have nothing in common with each other.
In drifting, drivers attempt to slide cars around turns with the object being to keep the car going sideways as much as possible. It is about style as much as anything.
Although it can be seen just about everywhere and may have originated somewhere else, drifting is a Southern California thing. It is what I often refer to as an “X Games Sport”. I do not know if it actually is an event in the X Games because I have not watched enough of the ESPN made for television extreme sports competition to know, and I never will.
I am not writing this article to condemn drifting or the fans of drifting. I do not know enough about it to do that. The purpose of this article is to point out that Southern California is a place that goes for non traditional activities. It is not place where NASCAR ought to thrive…and it does not. The masses of empty seats which will be evident on Sunday at the Auto Club Speedway will prove that.
Drifting appeals to a younger, hipper crowd, a crowd that likes to do rather than watch. As a high school teacher I can attest to the fact that many of today’s kids, whether from California or not, are of this same type mindset. Because of this era of video games and instant gratification they have very short attention spans. They see no point in watching cars go around an oval track for three hours.
NASCAR appeals to a more traditional crowd, a crowd that likes to sit back and take in their favorite sport with a cold beverage. This crowd is a different generation all together. They enjoy the fact that it takes a while to determine the winner of a NASCAR race because endurance is something this crowd appreciates.
The two audiences will never mix, never in a meaningful way that is. By trying to reach out to this region of the country for the purpose of building a new spectator base NASCAR has reached in the wrong direction. Any fans that might be gained by going to the Los Angeles area twice a year will never be anything more than casual fans at best. And what’s worse, NASCAR has alienated its core fan base to reach out to this new audience.
A.J. Allmendinger, as part of a promotion, tried his hand at drifting this week. I did not watch it and have no intention of watching it, just like the crowd who would enjoy such a thing has no intention of watching the Pepsi 500 on Sunday night.
Drifting is an appropriate term for many Southern California sports fans. They try something for a short time then they drift away to the next big thing. That would, in part at least, explain why such a big city has no NFL team.
Unfortunately, by racing in Los Angeles this Labor Day weekend NASCAR has decided to cast its lot with an audience that will never embrace them while leaving an audience that would have gone to Darlington, or at least watched on television, feeling abandoned.
It could be that if NASCAR ever decides to come back home it will find that its most durable fans are “drifting” to the lake, the beach or the dirt track.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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