NASCAR: Don’t blame gas for empty seats
By Scott Adamson
Scripps Howard News
A photo that ran on the sports front of my paper this week was telling. It showed a whole lot of empty seats at Daytona ó and Daytona doesn’t normally have a whole lot of empty seats at a NASCAR event.
Do we blame it on gas prices? That’s obviously a big factor. It costs a lot of money to drive hundreds of miles to see a race. Shoot, it costs a lot of money to drive anywhere these days.
But I refuse to blame sagging attendance solely on the terror at the tank.
From what I’ve heard from you ó and from my own experience ó Cup competition just isn’t that much fun anymore.
It’s certainly not stock car racing. It hasn’t been for years, of course, but with the Car of Tomorrow it’s even less so. There was a time when fans rooted for manufacturers as much as drivers. Except for the company logo, the cars are all the same now.
Take away the colorful logos and numbers and you can’t tell one from another. The winner of an event might be driving a Chevy, but you know as well as I do it has no relation to the kind of Chevy you see tooling down the highway.
NASCAR officials called a meeting with drivers last month and told them to stop “whining” about the COT, but fans don’t care too much about the vehicle, either.
While we aren’t concerned about how it handles in corners (after all, we’re not driving it), we see it as yet another move by an organization hell-bent on turning the sport into some sort of Madison Avenue event.
First we get cookie cutter tracks. Then we get cookie cutter cars. And more and more drivers are being forced to become cookie cutter drones that simply reel off a list of sponsors, sport a Stepford smile and say nothing more dramatic than, “The guys in the shop gave me a great car.”
Say what you will about Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch, but at least they say what they think and show some passion. It’s usually not politically correct and I might not even agree with all of it, but at least it makes me realize there are still some individuals in a sport that should celebrate individuality.
Before the green flag fell on the 2008 season, NASCAR CEO Brian France said it was time to get back to the basics and return stock car racing to its roots.
Was I absent the day that happened?
I mean, I didn’t expect the competitors to start running moonshine again but I don’t see any signs of the Cup series catering to its core audience, do you?
This year’s version of NASCAR seems just like last year’s version of NASCAR ó a slick Hollywood production that tries to hit on all the demographics except the ones that really matter.
With gas prices continuing to rise, chances are more and more people will have to pick and choose which tracks they visit and which ones they take a pass on. But NASCAR has bigger problems.
At some point the corporate giant is going to have to loosen its tie, roll up its sleeves and start paying attention to the little people.
Because little people like us are the ones who made it big to begin with.