NASCAR Is dead and I don’t feel so good myself

starlite_group

Let me give you a little context, I grew up in Charlotte, NC. Just so there is no confusion, Florida may be the corporate headquarters but Charlotte is the home of NASCAR. As a kid I went to dirt track races at a little .4 mile track between Charlotte and Monroe called the Starlite Speedway with my uncle. This was a rough and rowdy crowd (the drivers and the fans) where a Saturday night race in the dust would and could turn into a fist fight on the track and in the stands at the drop of a corn dog.

I have been to NASCAR races in Charlotte, Daytona, Bristol, Rockingham, Talladega, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Martinsville, Richmond, and Darlington. I have sat in sky boxes and I have sat three rows from the track covered with bits of Goodyear tires in my hair and my teeth. I have camped out in luxury RV’s, pup tents, in the backseat of my car or in the grass with a blanket tossed over my drunk ass. I have sat out in the rain and 120 degree Labor Day weekends in Darlington. My business even sponsored a car for five years fielded by a plumber who raced at our local track. Yes, once upon a time I was a NASCAR fan, once upon a time.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced today that he was retiring after this, the 2017, season. “Junior” as he is referred to, is a third generation Stock Car driver. His grandfather Ralph was a legend at tracks like the Starlite Speedway and his father Dale Earnhardt Sr. was, well, Dale Earnhardt Sr.

I began to give up on NASCAR several years ago. I got tired of them monkeying with the schedule and the rules. I got tired of all the “corporate” identity with the tracks, races and the drivers. With all of NASCAR’s efforts to lure big corporate dollars it lost, at least in my opinion, something very important, personality. I followed and attended NASCAR races for the characters both on the track and in the stands. Over the years I have met some unforgettable people, personalities that really shined after drinking too much Budweiser with sunburned necks they wore like a badge of honor.

Yes there are still some die-hard fans but going to a race today is expensive and what was once just a southeastern attraction includes such far-flung destinations as Kansas, Texas, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Chicago. Joe the carpenter, from Gainesville, Ga. can’t afford to take Mamma and Joe, Jr. to Chicago even if he wanted to go to the Windy City (hint, he doesn’t). But what Joe and every other southern Stock Car fan is asking themselves is what the hell is NASCAR doing in Chicago anyway? Simple answer, money.

I know that racing “stock” cars isn’t just a southern thing, but NASCAR was just a southern thing. In the old days, most drivers were from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, did I mention North Carolina? Today they are from California, Ohio, Kansas, Iowa, and even Washington state. When I was a kid drivers had last names like Johnson, Baker, Roberts, Thomas and Wallace today we have drivers named Allmendinger, Almirola, DiBenedetto, Keselowski and Suárez. There is nothing wrong with these “new” guys it is just different and hard to pronounce.

Maybe my problem is that all of the drivers I followed have retired and I haven’t picked a new one to follow. But I have the same problem with these new crop of drivers that I have with the new crop of professional golfers, they are all the same. The same vanilla personalities, no characters, no Rusty Wallace’s or Lee Trevino’s, no Buddy Baker’s or Fuzzy Zoeller’s. They are not going to get in a fight in the pits or throw a golf club. They are robots, keeping their emotions in check and their sponsors happy.

So to the drunk guy, roasting in the Talladega sun who stands-up 188 times yelling “EARNHARDT” every time “Junior” passes him, I am sorry. The end was inevitable. My end was inevitable as well. I have come a long way. From the eight year old kid covered in dust eating a corn dog at the Starlite Speedway to sitting in a luxury sky box at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway drinking a craft beer and eating squares of cheese on a toothpick. It has been a nice ride NASCAR, but I am retiring with “Junior”….. inside, inside, inside, clear, clear. 

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About ends and beginnings blog

I am a frustrated writer and poet waiting to be discovered. A stand-up philosopher performing on a street corner near you. A Christian with questions but I don’t want to hear your answers. A Buddhist with a bumper sticker on my truck to prove it. A collector of quotes. A grower of lettuce. The Patron Saint of earthworms who name their children after me. A cyclist whose big ass strains the seams of his Lycra bibs. I am American by birth, Southern by the grace of God. My goal in life is to leave an imprint on the lives of the people I love not a footprint on the earth. I am a son, a husband, a father composed of 65%-Oxygen, 18%-Carbon, 10%-Hydrogen, 3%-Nitrogen, 3%-Diet Coke and 1%-Oreo.
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30 Responses to NASCAR Is dead and I don’t feel so good myself

  1. Nan says:

    I read this to my other-half and he totally agrees wither you! He also says he hopes you send this to NASCAR. He started watching NASCAR when they were racing on the beach at Daytona. He also agrees that now-a-days they are a bunch of vanilla personalities.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. So sorry….maybe you could take up knitting? Kinda like college football; it just ain’t the same anymore.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Anthony says:

    I am not a NASCAR fan, but I understand everything you are saying. I’ve caught a few races and thought the cars–I believe they called it the car of tomorrow- didn’t really excite me.
    The personalities on the track were so bland that the announcers felt they had to be them, thereby diluting what we were seeing.
    No doubt the skill and technical prowess are still there. I am sure the drivers (as vanilla as they might be) still desperately want to win. I am sure the fans want to be loyal, but the price tag, the remoteness from its origins and the belittling of everyone has made it hard.
    Funny, when you think about it, this is happening in all sports.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Jennie says:

    I’m with ya. Sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Spyro says:

    My roots in NASCAR and racing are not from the South, nor are they as deep as yours.

    When I was in high school my friends and I would drive to a local short track in Danbury, CT. I did not know anything about NASCAR, or identify what we were watching with a greater entity. We had a blast, and the people we met were such fun, friendly, and real. The racing was exciting as anything. I was not, nor am I now, a car person. But what a blast.

    Years later, I started watching NASCAR. I started watching when Gordon was coming up, Senior was king, but others like Wallace, Jarrett, were fun to watch – and yes you are right – they had personality. They had a love for the sport – simple racing – that is not seen today.

    Then I saw Senior win at Talledega coming from 13th or so in the last 3 laps. I could not believe what I saw, and became a very avid fan. Of course, we lost Senior, and like lots of other fans – especially ones without your roots – we clung to Junior. Never his father, he is so likeable, and he loves the sport that has given him so much, and taken away so much. I know there are lots of Junior haters, but Junior was never a prima-donna. (Can’t say the same for most other of today’s drivers.)

    Trouble started, as you point out, with stupid car re-design, new, bland, huge tracks, and finally the Chase. When I became a fan, the single race was important. No longer. Anyway, I won’t go through all the complaints older fans have of NASCAR. France & company are surely not listening. But it is bland as can be relative to what it was. I used to time my Sunday around the race, but not for a few years. Like you, I am retiring with Junior. I cried when Senior died, and I am very sad today also.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think all fans remember where they were when Sr. died. There is a short asphalt track in my community that I will occasionally go to. The drivers work on their cars, scramble for dollars to buy tires and race their hearts out (and occasionally throw a fist or two). Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment.

      Like

    • tkpedersen says:

      This will probably sound contradictory, but I agree with both the article and your comment. What I suppose I resent most is the “rules” package on both engine and car design. Anybody with half a brain knew that the teams used to come up with “stuff” that gave them an edge…for awhile. And it was that approach (that ingenuity) that made the racing so great…at least to those of us who were and remain fans. Frankly, I don’t like braggarts and those who use words. Dale never said much (for print, anyway)…his driving was the threat. I happen to be a Jimmie Johnson fan, because he was and remains someone I could point to for both my son and grandchildren to look at as a role model for life…although I still watch every re-run of both the person to person fights and the car to car fights as well…particularly when Dale was on the hunt. But I think the excitement would return if each team could freely modify their cars with equipment available on the open market. Homogenization is NOT good for competition…it limits it. At least, that is my take on it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s a good take. I haven’t watched more than 15 minutes of NASCAR this year. I couldn’t tell you who is in the points lead or if there is even such a thing as being in the points lead.

        I was cleaning out my garage last weekend and found my “NASCAR bag” that I used to take to the tracks, scanner, headphones, pit passes I have collected over the years, my NASCAR cap filled with driver autographs and most importantly my autographed Tony Stewart beer koozie.

        I enjoyed my time as a NASCAR fan but what is funny is, I don’t miss anything about it now and that is kind of sad.

        NASCAR is now just television filler programming. Check the stands. No one is at the races. My take, NASCAR isn’t long for this world once us old folks go to the great grandstand in sky. Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts.

        Liked by 1 person

        • tkpedersen says:

          I wish you were wrong…but sadly think you are closer to reality than I want to be. I enjoyed your take and it saddens me that NASCAR doesn’t seem to value the thoughts of those of us who have been around for awhile…and actually were the reason some of the younger fans are, indeed, “fans.” But one part of me suggests that with the rest of the world going downhill at an accelerated pace, why should I expect NASCAR to be different just because I “wish” it so…

          Liked by 1 person

          • I don’t think the world is going downhill but think about what going to a 400 mile race entails, an expensive ticket, expensive food and sitting on your ass, in the hot sun watching cars turn left for four or five hours.
            Most kids today don’t have the attention span for that except as an excuse to drink beer, get drunk and party.

            Watching cars go around Daytona single file lap after lap, mile upon mile isn’t racing. That is why and how “parity” and the “Car of Future” killed NASCAR.

            NASCAR doesn’t need wrecks to be exciting, it needs lead changes, cars that dominate, bumping and rubbing and maybe a fist fight or two in the pits. There is no passion and certainly no personality.

            Jimmy Johnson is a GREAT race car driver but he wins not by dominating a race but by being the best car at the end of the race and for me, that is boring. Why watch a 200 lap race when all the “excitement” is in the last 5?

            Liked by 1 person

  6. Those were the days, weren’t they? With Buddy, Bobby Allison, and “King” Richard.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Belinda O says:

    I had no idea how big NASCAR was until I moved to Nashville…then it became clear. When Dale Earnhardt died, I remember initially it made national news as almost a footnote…and there was a huge backlash against the NY-based network and cable news stations and their snobby viewpoints about what is news. That’s when the rest of the country started to clue into what was going on with NASCAR. Just my memories of the sport. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I agree and disagree. I grew up the same as you. I grew up working on dirt cars from the time I was 5. Loved the old school guys. As for Nascar, yes it has changed. The people have changed. The venues have changed. It has become more corporate. Not one thing you say is wrong.

    Problem is Nascar had to go west. They had to go corporate to survive. The days of having Winn Dixie as a primary sponsor for 36 races is over. As companies that sponsor cars have gone national and global so was the need for Nascar. Sponsors will not drop 20 million a year on a car in a sport that focuses mainly on one area of the country. They just won’t. I’m not saying its right but its what had to be done to survive.

    As for no personalities these days. Maybe you didn’t see the punch Busch threw at Logana. They likened it to the Cale vs the Allison’s battle. That’s old school stuff. You still have Keselowski and Harvick.Those guys will put you in the wall. Did you see the Bristol race Sunday? One of the best races in years.

    Races are not more expensive that they were when I went to my first race in 2001. What has become more expensive is the travel surrounding it. Not Nascar’s fault. I flew down from Wisconsin to the 600 in 2001 (I now live in North Carolina). I still sit in the same section now as I did back then. The seat is $14 more now. You can go on craigslist and find decent seats to Sunday’s race at Richmond for $35. I am taking my kids to Charlotte this spring for our annual trip. My kids are free to the Xfinity race and $10 to sit at the start/finish line for the 600. That’s cheap. Tracks have held prices for adults and lowered them for kids for years. Even going through the track website is relatively cheap and around the same as it was 16 years ago.

    What I have learned is Nascar fans hate change but do not want things to stay the same. We look back and make things better than they were. Honestly, the races as a whole back in the “good old days’ were not that good. We pick out the great endings like Earnhardt taking out Labonte. We use that as an argument for it being better. Go look at the finishing order of a race in 1995. You had about 7 guys who could win on a Sunday. We had guys like Ted Musgrave finishing 8th. Now you have 20 people who can win any week. Go look at the Sharpie 500 finish from 1995 and tell me how many great drivers were I that race and at the top of their game. Not many.

    I’m not saying what you wrote is wrong. I just think we tend to make the past better than it was. In some ways it was. In a lot of ways it’s not. I think the future is bright if Nascar doesn’t screw up the opportunity they have.

    FYI – if you want to follow me I started a weekly Nascar blog at https://life7640.wordpress.com/

    Liked by 3 people

  9. M.T. Bass says:

    Tony Stewart’s retirement finally did it for me.

    That and a points system which takes a tax accountant to understand…

    http://wp.me/p86xWT-6o

    Liked by 1 person

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