Commentary: I Love NASCAR. Please Put It Back

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Welcome NASCAR race fans to my NASCAR blog.  I LOVE NASCAR racing. From the first race I watched. I thought it was the most beautiful thing in the world. To me racing, by definition, is exciting. I’ve never liked stick and ball sports. I have been Passionate (with a capital letter) about NASCAR since I saw that first race.

Winston Cup racing was the best racing. Bill France had a vision about racing and started the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR). His son Bill, Jr. got together with R. J. Reynolds and their Winston brand and made racing wonderful. It became Winston Cup and the fans piled into the stands.

In 2003 Winston announced they would no longer be sponsoring the Series. Brian France, son to Bill, Jr. took over the reigns and found Nextel as a sponsor. Telecommunication companies who were not already in the Sport were banned from becoming a sponsor. And if one company bought out another, the new one would not be allowed. With that move, NASCAR got rid of potential sponsors.

Also in 2003, Matt Kenseth won the championship, despite only having one win. I have to say, it was exciting to watch him race every week. He may have  only won one race, but he was right there at the finish of every race. To me, this was what racing was all about.

When Brian France took over, he started the Chase. NASCAR has to compete with football for ratings at the end of the NASCAR season. And since he wanted to capture football fans for those last ten races, he came up with a playoff system. A playoff is supposed to be exciting and everyone would want to watch.

However, NASCAR is not like stick and ball sports. And Brian’s Father and Grandfather understood that. They didn’t want to be stick and ball. NASCAR is unique and they understood that. NASCAR does not need reporters telling everyone what a great sport racing is because the fans already do that.

The Chase has been here since the 2004 Season. Kurt Busch, who was a tenth place team, went on to win that first Nextel Cup. And I had to ask why having a tenth place team winning it all would be exciting. Tony Stewart won the next year, and I had to ask why crowning a Champion based on ten races was exciting. And then came Jimmie Johnson. He has figured out how to win in those last ten races and has been the champion four years in a row.

While that is quite an accomplishment, it isn’t really what fans are looking for. Under the old system, Jimmie would not have won four in a row. And I have to say that having the same driver win year after year isn’t particularly exciting. Unless you are a Jimmie Johnson fan. I happen to be a fan. But the chase has made other fans not want to watch NASCAR any more.

Sprint bought out Nextel in 2007 and NASCAR is now known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. And everyone acts like Winston never was. Since Brian took over and gave us the chase, the attendance at most tracks has been down. And maybe the economy has something to do with it. But with that in mind, television ratings should be up. If you can’t go to the track because it’s too expensive, at least the fans should be watching  the race on TV. But that is not the case.

NASCAR’s idea of having a playoff to bring in football fans seams to have backfired. Football fans continue to watch football, given the choice. And long time fans aren’t watching, either. Instead of bringing in fans to watch the last ten races, this chase seams to be chasing away the fans NASCAR once had. I have to ask why crowning a champion based on ten races is exciting.

The media LOVES the Chase. And I have to wonder why. It doesn’t make racing more exciting because the media tells us it is so. Brian wanted more emphasis to be on winning races. So, the chase is now seeded according  to wins. You get 10 points toward the chase when you win a race in the first 26 races.

Now Brian is talking about tweaking the chase again. He wants the chase to go to the last race of the year to determine a winner. And eliminating drivers from winning. But these drivers eliminated won’t be eliminated from racing and winning. Just eliminated from winning the chase. (?)

Again, I have to ask why that would be exciting. NASCAR has no divisions. Just 36 races where 43 drivers compete. In my opinion, NASCAR was exciting before the chase. The best driver all year wins the Championship. And so far, the driver leading the points on the 26th race, has not gone on to win the championship. And I personally do not find this exciting.

NASCAR racing is exciting. Double file restarts are exciting. The race starts all over. But the chase is not exciting. And the more you tweak it the less exciting it becomes. If Brian and NASCAR wants to get the fans back, I say dump the chase. Give more points for winning. Give points for winning the Coors Light Pole Award. Give more points for leading the most laps. And not just for staying out to lead a lap. Every race will be exciting. NASCAR wants the drivers to go for the win, let them get more points for winning the races. Not ten points toward the chase. And there would be no need for a chase. The driver with the most wins should be the champion. Not the best driver in the last ten races.

So, what do you think? I’m sure NASCAR isn’t listening to me. I’m just a NASCAR fan. But NASCAR is my Passion. And he’s ruining it for me. Talking about only 12 drivers only chases away fans and sponsors. That may make the media’s job easier, but who cares if the media has it easier? I want to know about ALL the drivers and sponsors. Not just their favorites.

Brought to you by Sheila Hawley. I love NASCAR. Leave a comment.

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2 Responses to “Commentary: I Love NASCAR. Please Put It Back”

  1. Marc Says:

    Sheila you said “Since Brian took over and gave us the chase, the attendance at most tracks has been down. And maybe the economy has something to do with it. But with that in mind, television ratings should be up.”

    Slight correction, attendence didn’t start falling consistently until the economy took a dive, not starting in 2004. And frankly yes the economy has something to do with the drop.

    You say TV ratings should be up as a result of fans staying home, maybe many be not, why do I say that?

    Well look at the recent baseball All Star game, that should have been widely watched. In fact it scored its lowest ratings ever. (down 16 percent from the 8.9/15 for last season’s game)

    Despite occasional blips in general both MLB and the NFL have seen TV ratings decline over the last 2 decades.

    While I agree some disatifaction with the sport is a-foot, and rightly so some think, there’s more in action than just fans abandoning the sport because if it.

  2. sheilalovesnascar Says:

    This is not the same NASCAR I fell in love with. It seams to be trying to be more like WWE. And drivers were penalized for saying so. WWe is fake entertainment for entertainment’s sake. NASCAR has always been better than that. They want to put on a good “show” for the fans. Racing has always been exciting for me to watch. All that racing and catching and passing and racing side by side for position. It’s a beautiful thing. But having a playoff system to compete with football is just not right. And not very exciting. Sponsors have gone away. And I’m not sure if it’s so much because of the economy as it is because it’s no longer about 43 cars.

    Prime example. Penzoil sponsors #29 Kevin Harvick. Last year he struggled and no one mentioned him and Penzoil. They moved to Penski and Kurt Busch because he is a past Champion of the chase. Harvick is now leading the points. But he won’t win because no one leading the points before the 26th race has ever gone on to win the championship. Jimmie Johnson will win again and most fans don’t want the same driver winning them all.

    But they won’t get rid of the chase because somehow it is exciting. And god forbid anyone should say it isn’t working. 30 other cars are out there with sponsors and no one knows about them because they aren’t in the chase. Attendance may not have dropped off consistently with the chase, but it had a major role in it. Brian is convinced the chase is exciting. And he’s talking about changes to make it more exciting. But there are still 43 cars racing each race. Each race is unique in and of itself. You can’t manufacture excitement. And that’s what NASCAR is hoping for with the chase. The broadcasts don’t show us all the racing going on all around the track. They concentrate on the possible and current “chasers”.

    I, for one, want my beloved NASCAR back. Every race is 43 drivers. A playoff system is not appropriate for racing. The best driver for ten races wins, instead of the best driver for 36 races. You get lucky in those last ten races and you win. Why is that exciting? Having a chase does not make the racing more exciting. Why bother to race the first 26 races? Just to find out who the chosen 12 are? They are talking about 12 – 15 drivers all year. Fans of the other 25 – 30 cars don’t matter. That’s not exciting.

    If they want winning to matter, instead of fooling around with the chase, just give more points for winning. The best driver all year with the most wins gets the Title. The rest is gimmick and hype. Not racing.

    I took a poll among friends who love NASCAR. I asked if they should make changes to the chase, leave it alone, or get rid of it all together. Their answer was to get rid of it altogether. The system wasn’t broken. It is now. And having to tweak it only proves it isn’t working. I say, let’s get back to talking about all 43 drivers out there. And let the points leader for 36 races win the championship.

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