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« Talladega race may have been an all time low point for NASCAR | Main | 2009 not a great year for sports fans who root for the underdogs »

NASCAR Insiders are completely out of touch with reality

By admin | November 3, 2009


By Richard Allen

Just before the Martinsville race this fall there was a panel type show in which Larry McReynolds, Chad Knaus and others from the SpeedTV network sat down with NASCAR Competition Director Robin Pemberton to discuss the state of the sport as they see it. That roundtable session, along with this past weekend’s race in Talladega, convinced me that those most entrenched inside NASCAR’s upper levels are completely out of touch with the reality that is today’s racing scene. And by ‘most entrenched’ I mean NASCAR officials, team members and high level media members.

That conversation as well as other writings, television appearances and radio programs seem to always produce the same lines in regard to the sport’s present condition.

According to the insiders, NASCAR is in the best shape it has ever been in. Teams are learning the new car, fans will be back when the economy turns around, the Chase is great for raising interest and the competition level is high.

To address the first point that those on the inside want to push on a public which is becoming more and more resistant to this sort of talk, the Car of Tomorrow is a major part of NASCAR’s problem.

However, those in Daytona Beach and elsewhere have completely misread the signs coming from the fans. Those who pay the bills are not, nor ever will be, interested in whether teams get a grasp on the new car. The problem with the car is that is lacks character. Fans do not want to watch identical looking prototypes race around identical looking tracks. NASCAR fans are Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge and even Toyota enthusiasts, not fans of molds with nothing more than stickers to distinguish them.

People want to be able to gloat that the car in their garage at least has some similarity to the one that won last Sunday’s race.

Add to the complaints that NASCAR’s mandating of so many of the parts and pieces on the car has taken away one of the most interesting aspects of the sport, ingenuity. With the rules as they are in today’s NASCAR there will never be another story like the rise of the Elliotts in the 1980s or Alan Kulwicki in the early 1990s.

And no, if things remain as they are the fans will not be back when the economy turns around, at least not in the same numbers as before. So many who respond to my columns or send me e-mails offer up the same story. “I used to go to X number of races a year but I haven’t been in two years and it has nothing to do with the economy,” is a common statement.

As for the Chase for the Championship, it is only rivaled by the CoT in terms of dislike among long time fans. While at first the notion of tightening up the field with ten races remaining seemed like an idea worth taking a look at. However, what the Chase has managed to do is turn every race into a points grab rather than a race for the win. Drivers have become far too content with top-10 or even top-15 finishes. Even races on once exciting tracks like Bristol and Richmond have suffered as a result.

But of all the arguments made by those who insist that NASCAR is better now than ever before is that of the number of cars on the lead lap at the end of a race. McReynolds, Pemberton and Knaus pointed to this in their discussion.

Well, it is easy to keep large numbers of cars on the lead lap when teams have so many of the vital pieces of the car’s set-up dictated to them. And more, the use of well timed ‘debris’ cautions can serve to keep the field bunched.

Those who would profess that people such as myself are overly critical always contend that people such as myself spend all of our time arguing that racing was better back in the ‘good ole days’. Those who can’t see any further than that completely miss the argument. It’s not that racing was better back in the day but it is that the sport had personality and soul before and those elements have been taken away.

There is nothing in today’s NASCAR to inspire passion. The drivers are the same. The cars are the same. The tracks are the same. There are far too many rules and mandates. The personality and ingenuity have been taken from racing and replaced with corporate language and looks.

The reason I have written with so much negativity of late is that I hope those on the inside will finally see what is happening and save the sport I have loved since my childhood. Those such as myself are not seeking to destroy NASCAR but to save it from itself.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.

Topics: Articles |

11 Responses to “NASCAR Insiders are completely out of touch with reality”

  1. dave Says:
    November 4th, 2009 at 5:08 am

    used to go to daytona ,talledega ,dover.rockingham.pocono .darlington.tickets ,parking .motels got way to high.stopped going in 02.racing looks like the roller derby .you lead this ,nascar race control keys the mic ,let the next one lead a lap .at the start or restart they start to line up going into turn 1. by the time lap 1 is completed they are pretty well dove tailed into single file .fix trunk floor and deck lid to raise when car is reversed .no more lift .

  2. zhills fan Says:
    November 4th, 2009 at 6:49 am

    I fully agree with you. IROC had the best and most well known drivers and it didn’t last. Same thing now with the cup series, the cars are the same except they way they are wrapped and the advanced technology of some of the teams. Throw in the fact that it takes way to much money to run a team now.

  3. Gina Says:
    November 4th, 2009 at 8:25 am

    You hit it on all cylinders. NASCAR and those who are “insiders” don’t understand. They seem to be deliberately obtuse and misunderstanding the reasons that the fans have lost interest.

    I still have tickets to some races, but I can’t say that I enjoy going with anywhere near the same level of enthusiasm that I once had. and I don’t even watch a full race on TV any more. I like to have professionals in the booth calling the race, not people who have their own agenda and want to inflict it on me or such poor camera or PXP work that I can’t follow what’s going on unless I use my computer AND listen to the radio broadcast to figure out what’s going on.

    And no, it’s NOT the economy, no matter how hard NASCAR wants to believe it. If it were just that, TV ratings would be up. It’s the racing, stupid — so Brian, Mike Helton, Pemberton, Darby, and whoever else is in charge, catch a clue. The fans have laid it out — open your eyes.

    My driver will most likely be retiring in the next couple of years. I’ll be done then.

  4. Steven Tignor Says:
    November 4th, 2009 at 9:04 am

    There is a fix for the all out racing the fans want to see. extra points for EACH LAP LEAD not 5points for a lap lead or 10 for the most.Make all the drivers want to lead every lap that will make that second and back want to pass instead of riding around single file and that famous i will LET you lead a lap if you GIVE it back.you want Excitement make that hard charger who leads 150 laps of a 200 lap race and finishes 25th the same points as the winner who leads the last 10 and YOU WILL HAVE ALL DRIVERS WANTING TO LEAD LAPS FROM START TO FINISH!

  5. Jay Says:
    November 4th, 2009 at 9:41 am

    NASCAR over-hyped themselves and then started believing their own hype. Did the powers in Daytona really think that stock car racing would rival something as popular as college football or the NFL? They weren’t satisfied to keep their niche, no they were going to become “the sport.” So yeah, because of marketing and over-exposure on TV a lot of “new” fans decided to see what all the fuss was about. Meanwhile the message to us, the hardcore fans, was we don’t need you anymore - thanks but no thanks. So what is NASCAR left with. The “new” fans have gone back to their old sports and the hardcore fans said “You don’t need us, so we don’t need you.” Case in point. The back straight seating at Talladega this past week was all but empty and whole pockets of tower seating on the main stretch were empty. I’d been going to Daytona since 1978. I had good seats in the Roberts Tower. At one time I kept 16 seats. I had trimmed that number down and the straw that broke this camel’s back was when the Speedway forced me to buy a two day package to keep my seating. I did this for a couple of years, but the sour taste wouldn’t leave. I supported the 500 and the track when none of the major papers gave it more than three inches in the sports section. So I sent a letter to the Speedway president requesting Sunday tickets only. I always went to the Saturday race but wanted the option to sit in different seating. A representative called me last spring and after 20 minutes of banter it was obvious the track was not going to budge. So I chose not to renew. This will be the first year since 1972 I have not traveled to at least one NASCAR race. Some years I would go to six or seven. It’ll be rare now if I even bother to put the races on TV.

  6. Old Racefan Says:
    November 4th, 2009 at 9:50 am

    Along with the “next generation” of executives in NASCAR being from the “money” side of the organization and not the “racing” and or “promoting” side of the business, tragedies in 2 years have ruined racing.

    1989 Darlington I believe, there was a scoring snafu that led to a car being a lap ahead of the field on a pit stop. The all seeing and all knowing D Waltrip single handedly caused the pits to be closed and cars lined up behind the pace car. This killed the reason to watch the race “every second”, when a yellow came out 1) the first car came into the pits would have the advantage and the order of the field could be turned upside down and 2) the cars “could” but not always make natually staggered pit stops and not be in the pits at the same time. No. 2) jamming all the cars together led to.

    1993 first New Hampshire, Buddy Parrot and Rusty Wallace sprung the “super pit crew” on the sport and Buddy even “Crowed” (yes a Parrot did Crow!) on national TV about how they were going to “hurt them” on the next stop. And I don’t want to hear the crap about Sabates installing the first “weight roon” in nascar.

    I have proof before 1968 Richard Petty said “They may need a speed limit on pit road one of these days”, it amazes me that since nascar has solved these two problems, we can’t go back and return racing on the track!!!! Electronic transponders and the pit road speed limit, I believe have solved the problems.

    The term “team sport” has been way too much of a big deal. Just getting to the track is a monumental task. Everyone’s pit crew is comparable and the difference is the “screw ups” and it is just a shame that this kills the “show” on the track. If it is all “pit crew racing” why don’t they move the pits to the front straight in fromt on the stands so the fans can see the stops better!!!! And the race track would be where the pits are now!!! Hey, Shazaaam!! that would make Talladega so much safter!!! The could have “dugouts” for the crews to scramble out of!!!

    This is just some nut rambling on about the “good ole days” when racing was on the track, oh well….if the Executives would stop balancing their check books, and hire someone with some promoting imagination.

  7. Ken Says:
    November 4th, 2009 at 9:55 am

    Current NA$CAR is worse than IROC. The cars asre identical in both but the drivers were different in IROC withthem from different series but the NA$CAR drivers (almost all) are identically programed by NA$CAR and the sponsors. NA$CAR hs gone from drivers, tracks and cars with different personalities to generic clones that bore the fans to tears.

  8. midasmicah Says:
    November 4th, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Hey Rich. Great article. I’ve got a question. Toyota is leaving F-1. Does this affect nas$car? I’ve been railing that nas$car was turning into IROC for a while. Nice to know I’ve got company now.

  9. Brian Says:
    November 4th, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    I came up with my own points set-up for the chase. It works out like this and many are still withing winning the championship with 3 to go.
    Pre-seed. All drivers in the chase received 1 point per win as a chase start bonus.
    Each race points get doled out with 1 point for winning the pole (rain outs to not get points for pole,) 1 point for leading a lap, 1 point for leading the most laps, 1 extra point for winning. Points are given for finishing position. Highest driver finishing position gets 10 points, 2nd highest finisher gets 9, 3rd gets 8. Now the twist is that 11th and 12 receive 0 points. Although I don’t have the points with me on my positions vs. NASCAR, however, Jimmie Johnson hasn’t won the championship now (unless something major happens.) This process in points will bring the championship to the last race of the season.

  10. Bruce Says:
    November 4th, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Although I have never been to a cup race in person, I have followed the sport from the days when the 43 was a powder blue Plymouth with STP on the hood and the 21 was David Pearson, so I think I speak from experience when I say Nascar has taken the creativity out of the sport.

    I think that they are so afraid of anyone getting even the slightest edge on the field, that they would rather see a “boring” race than a competitive one. They dictate at times the shocks, gears, shape of the car. These cars used to be built in backyards. Now they have teams of Phd’s. Maybe the backyard builders knew something the powers that be have forgotten, there are no secrets in the garage for very long. If someone figures out a way to go faster or handle better or get better fuel mileage, it won’t be long before the others know too.

    Let the builders build and the racers race, it will all even out at the finish line.

  11. Charles Says:
    November 4th, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    Great Article Richard, and right on the money!

    After watching Nascar for apox 46 years, I dont want any
    “Nascar Spin Doctor”, you know who they are, tell me how great a race was, I will vote with my money!

    After each race , Kenny Wallace, Jimmy Spencer, then on Mondays I will call the show ‘THE Nascar View” Chad Knaus, Micheal Waltrip, and on Sunday Night The Dave Despain show, do you every notice how all the shows are alike! They all have one thing in common, they are “Nascar yes men”!

    You are right they are so out of touch they are not even close! These show also have another thing in common if a fan asks a pointed question that hits hard on Nascar, you are a “conspericy theriost”! not a fan ! I am sick and tired of all the Nascar yes men!!!!!!!

    To me the main thing that hurts Nascar is the thought of ‘Staged Racing”, if you really think about it, Sunday at Talledaga, by Nascar having radios to ‘warn drivers” about bump drafting is carrying it to far! Telling drivers how close to get to a car, I mean this is suppose to be about racing!

    Making all the cars alike with this new Iroc car has taken the heart and soul out of Nascar in my opnion, no matter how many times they exchange the lead, remember Nascar it still about the car!!!!!!!!

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