By admin | July 12, 2009
By Richard Allen
Saturday’s race at the Chicagoland Speedway was, in a word, boring. Sure, there were moments of excitement at the very end as drivers actually raced each other in the final 50 laps or so. But, there probably weren’t nearly as many watching at the end of the Lifelock.com 400 as there were at the beginning due to the single-file, strung out parade that made up 90% of the race.
For many, this race summed up modern day NASCAR. Fans who have followed this sport for decades are turning away in droves on a weekly basis.
Just think of how many times over the last few years when a conversation has turned to NASCAR you have heard statements such as these: “I used to keep up with NASCAR every week but I just don’t care much about it anymore” or “I only watch the last few laps if I watch any at all”.
Chicagoland exemplifies what has turned so many people off.
For one, the races have become boring. Cars get strung out all around the track and no passing seems to ever take place. This is often the case on so called ‘cookie cutter’ tracks, just like Chicagoland.
The 1.5- 2 mile tracks with the D-shaped front straights make up a significant part of the NASCAR schedule. These high speed facilities put aerodynamics at a premium. Because of that, cars cannot race near each other due to the ‘dirty air’ stirred up by the car in front which hurts the aerodynamics of the cars behind. That causes drivers to fall back in search of much needed ‘clean air’.
Races on ‘cookie cutter’ tracks often turn into long, high speed sponsor parades. This is much different racing than what would take place at tracks such as Darlington, Rockingham, North Wilkesboro and the Nashville Fairgrounds where so many traditional NASCAR fans grew up watching races. Those tracks were not similar to any other tracks. They each had their own unique character which often made for unique racing.
Invariably, cars would come and go throughout a run on those tracks causing passing to take place as cars went from front to back and then to front again. That type of thing simply doesn’t happen on these tracks with similar shapes and smooth surfaces.
Another factor that Chicago exemplifies that so many older fans despise is the fact that it is a place with no real history in the sport. Traditional locales like the ones mentioned above have been abandoned in favor of places like Chicago, California and Miami. Fans who have supported the sport for many years feel as though NASCAR turned its back on them to chase after casual fans in glitzier markets.
Those casual fans watched and attended for a while, but once the newness wore off they went back to the ballpark or the arena to follow sports they were more accustomed to. By running on tracks with no individuality that operate in places far away from the sport’s roots, NASCAR has alienated many and has only gained a few in doing so.
The lower television ratings and empty grandstand seats of the past few years seem to be showing that NASCAR chased that which could not be caught, and in doing so lost that which they had. That’s too bad for all involved.
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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