NASCAR is full-on into another season, battling for attention with Baseball, NHL, NBA playoffs, and mowing the lawn. Sometimes the lawn wins. We may wonder why that is, and I have some thoughts.
I am a proud member of ‘The Old Guard’ of NASCAR fans — those who have watched since the late ’80s. We are a proud bunch, fiercely loyal, and fast being left behind in the wake of the ‘new’ NASCAR. Many of ‘The Old Guard’ have simply stopped watching and stopped passing along their love of the sport to the next generation. Here are a few reasons why we’ve quit tuning in.
Older Fans Are Leaving NASCAR. Why?
1 – Change is Good, Unless it’s Not
The Chase, in its initial concept and execution, was pretty good. It created excitement and freshness in the sport just when it needed it. And then they tweaked it. And did a little more tweaking. And more. Pretty soon it was a contest between Miley Cyrus and NASCAR (Oh that’s twerking. Sorry).
Now it’s a shell of what it should have been, and it doesn’t work. Let’s say your driver is eliminated the first weekend, then wins three races and earns more points than everyone else in the rest of the playoffs. It’s tough luck. Usually, the one with the most points wins. In a sport where you can be having a great day and then someone wrecks and you are collected when it’s out of your control and you’re suddenly done for the day, punishing the driver excessively for one bad race is ridiculous.
2 – Stages? What is this, the Tour De France?
Seriously, this is a head-scratcher. I get why they started doing this — it brings the field back together and creates more action (and more wrecks where a scrub takes out a star). The teams can work on making the car handle better.
That said, it’s just unnecessary; a gimmick to artificially create ‘competition’ and closer races. All it really does is widen the gap between the teams that have money and can cheat without getting caught from the ones who are trying to scratch their way into the sport honestly, with only talent and hard work, and a budget. Imagine selling a NASCAR race to a prospective fan who wants to know more about the sport:
‘So they race for so many laps and then stop and play with the car for a few minutes’.
‘Oh, they stop? Why do they do that?’
‘Because…. They can?’
‘but then they go again?’
‘yea, and then… stop again’.
You just lost them. If the product is good, it will perform for itself — you won’t need to sell it and keep changing things. NASCAR has new stuff, but it isn’t improved stuff.
3 – A Sport Full of Forgettable Faces Gets Forgotten
Back in NASCAR’s heyday, there were not just stars, but superstars.
Earnhardt. Petty. Gordon. Johnson. Wallace. Elliott. Jarrett.
They were giants. You loved them or hated them. There was passion in the fandom. That has disappeared. The older drivers in today’s NASCAR don’t hold the same power or polarization.
Harvick. Hamlin. Busch.
Great drivers to a man, but not giants to the sport. There are some drivers who are likable and some who are vilifiable, but the deep level of commitment to your guy and to despising the other guy is just not there. We care, but we don’t CARE. That’s a problem.
The drivers today all sound the same, look the same, and disappear in a crowded room. No one stands out. There are no great nicknames like ‘The Intimidator’ or ‘The Mayor’ or ‘Awesome Bill from Dawsonville’.
4 – Today’s Drivers are Just Not Watchable
NASCAR used to be full of doggedly determined competitors: scrappy, unapologetic, in your face, and desperate to win. Today’s driver seems to be a copy of a copy — they all spout the same rhetoric and whine the same.
When the drivers of old would fight, it was sheer emotion and competition; today a fight is like a middle school hallway: awkward and embarrassing. It’s a couple of juvenile punks who can’t control themselves and get all bent out of shape when their cars get bent out of shape.
It is not endearing to the sport at all. They don’t respect each other or the sport that is allowing them to do what they like. I say like because I’m not sure they love it. Rivalries in the old days were about competition and champions. Today, it’s about entitlement and ‘he can’t do that’ tantrums. NASCAR has gotten immature and gimmicky, and neither is something that will advance the sport above lawn mowing.
If a race is on and other options are not, I will tune in still, albeit most of the time it is for the benefit of my eight-year-old son who loves Chase Elliott. However, if Elliot is not having a good day, my son goes off to play basketball or watch YouTube videos, and I search the channels again for something more interesting, like Ultimate Frisbee.
That’s the NASCAR fan of today. With the current format and participants, you can’t expect more out of a fan than that. At least our lawns look nice.
Main Image: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports