A Voice for the Fans ~ NASCAR Why Do You Refuse to Listen?
Thoughts and prayers go out to
the family and loved ones of MotoGP Racer Nicky
Hayden, lost to us on
May 22 from injuries sustained last Wednesday when his bicycle was struck by a motor vehicle.
Your earthly race has ended. Godspeed and Rest in Peace!
I bid you welcome gentle readers, and though I haven’t mentioned you in some time, I know you’re still there, assigned reader of all things NASCAR related, and we’d all appreciate it if you’d pass this one way up the ladder, as we have things to say that need saying, and also need to be heard.
It’s Sunday morning as I pull up to the keyboard; not my usual time for writing, but as stated, there are things that need to be said. Like a few of my gentle readers, I watched what purported to be an All-Star race last night. Let me begin by saying that I’ve never much cared for this useless waste of a perfectly good off-week that would be better used on the week before those final ten races begin… pick whatever name Brian Z. is calling them this week. They’re just another lesson in gimmickry piled upon itself until it’s stacked so high it tumbles to the ground… kind of like NASCAR of recent days.
With that background, it will surprise most that I really had no problem with the races at Charlotte. Both went exactly as I expected, except I had picked Kevin Harvick to win, not Kyle Busch. However, one cannot win a 10-lap game of follow the leader when one goes to pit road 3rd and comes out 8th. Better luck next time. Indeed, I had no problem because I never bought into all the hype and buildup offered by TV’s talking heads leading up to the big letdown. That letdown was what I’ve come to expect over most of the years that race has existed.
Yes, there have been exceptions that strayed from the path of boredom… the “Pass in the Grass” in 1987, which never was a pass, but served to prove NASCAR didn’t mean it when they advertised Saturday night rules and no holds barred. Everybody got fined… fines that were quietly returned later on. The slide for life on which Rusty Wallace sent Darrell Waltrip in 1989 and inspired a little ditty presented the following week during the 600 by John Boy and Billy. The actual title is “The Ballad of Darrell and Rusty”, but what does one expect of an Orange Cone that can type without fingers? I have better video of this, but it’s on a VHS tape and that technology eludes my almost 79-year old brain. The song is still funnier than all get out!
Then in 1992, there was the ending that only came as a surprise to Davey Allison as he streaked across the finish line, only to be unceremoniously slammed into the concrete wall by friend and fellow driver, Kyle Petty. Davey found out he won later on, in the hospital. There were a couple of others that were interesting. The one where they threw the green as it was pouring rain in turn one and half the field got the point too late. Even NASCAR had to issue a Mea Culpa that time and let those that had them bring out back-up cars.
Last night’s race was billed as the 25th anniversary of One Hot Night, the 1992 race. As it turned out, nothing about this race resembled that one, but there was an incident in the “Open”, the Hooligan race to see who advances to the big stage, that pointed up a huge difference from Dale Earnhardt’s agricultural adventures 30 years ago, in 1987. They even replayed Dale’s escapade and likened it to that of young Erik Jones. Ironically, Dale was pushed into the grass by a driver named Elliott, but Dale went on to win the race. Erik was similarly assisted onto the landscaping by another driver named Elliott. On the Gen-6 cars, grass is the enemy, and Erik shattered that stupid splitter thing and was forced to go to the garage while Elliott went on to enter the big race courtesy of the Fan Vote.
Come on NASCAR! Which scenario do you think the fans would rather see? The fans keep telling you, and though you say the lights are on, it’s obvious that no one is home or even taking messages! That 30-year old All-Star race is one of the most remembered of all time, just for that one move. The fragility of today’s prissy little cars has done away with the possibility of that ever happening again.
Then there was a huge deal made over what they called “Option tires”… the ones with the Monster-Green lettering. The idea was, they would be much faster than the regular hard old Goodyears, and maybe in the heat of the day they might have been. We never found out because the All-star race didn’t commence until around 8:30 in the evening. Three or four tried them from out back positions in the first “Stage.” (They’ve been segments for over 30 years, but now all the races are the same, so nothing special to be seen here) Teams figured out quickly that saving them for the 10-lap shootout would not present the desired effect, as those starting the last “Stage” with “Option” tires had to start behind those on regular Goodyears. A couple of strange things occurred with the tires, such as Clint Bowyer’s #14 being outfitted with two Green tires and two Yellow tires. He was steam-rolled instantly. Brad Keselowski got Greens, then came back under the same caution and put on Yellows. He was thanked for that by having to run those yellows for thirty, not twenty laps. Guess you can’t put the Greens back on again. He restarted up front, but the result resembled a cattle stampede in a thunderstorm.
Call me crazy, because no one else has mentioned this, but teams were only issued four sets of tires; three sets of yellow and one set of greens. That’s for four Stages. Using the green set was mandatory. How then does one come up with the name “Option tires” for a set that it’s mandatory to run? Someone needs a lesson in the English language!
Oh, and I understand the fans on hand at the track were more than a little rude to the winner, Kyle Busch. There have always been rude fans, but there used to be a lot of the other kind as well, and back in my day, no one threw things onto the track because we knew that could cause injury or worse to a driver, and likely not the driver that was the target to begin with.
It’s important to point out that the fans doing that today are of the target demographic that is so sought after by the NASCAR Hierarchy… 18-35… young folks that weren’t brought by their parents because those parents were told they were no longer welcome. Those young folks don’t realize the harm that could come to a human being by being hit by or by hitting one of their unguided missiles at speed on the track. They’re just there because some friends thought it would be cool to go to Charlotte for the concerts, the Monster Trucks and the MMA exhibitions in the afternoon. The race just happened to come along after all that, so they grabbed more beer and hung around.
Mr. France, Mr. Helton, Mr. Phelps, Mr. O’Donnell, the fans are out here screaming at the tops of their vocal powers and telling you what needs to be done… you remember them… the fans that made you the #2 sport in the nation. What are they saying? It’s not the racing; it’s the cars! It’s been the cars ever since the birth of that COT thing… the pregnant roller-skate as an old friend always called it. (R.I.P Bob)
Erik Jones’ splitter is a perfect example and the boys from FOX unwittingly provided the perfect comparison. There was Dale Earnhardt flying through the grass and never losing the lead over Bill Elliott as he pulled back on track, still leading and eventually winning. You can’t manufacture that sort of “moment.” It has to happen naturally. That’s what makes it exciting… even “edgy”… when it needs no enhancement! In Erik’s case, he only clipped the edge of the grass… in an area mentioned in one of the warm-up shows as being deceiving to the drivers as it was painted blue and looked more like pavement than grass. In return, his splitter exploded and he was done for the evening.
The fans are saying, “Bring back cars that are cars.” This is not an open-wheel series. These cars started out once upon a time as “stock cars”, and half the fun was that they could knock each other around some and no one was the worse for the wear. “Rubbin’, Son, is racin’.” No more. These little snowflakes get near each other’s tires and someone is on pit road with a flat. Six blades of grass are enough to cripple a splitter and the car and driver are done for the day. Who wants to pay to see that? Obviously, not many, as we see from the stands, and folks won’t even tune in to watch it on TV. As Dale Earnhardt once commented on restrictor plate racing, “That sh*t ain’t racin’!” Again, it’s the CARS! Fix the cars!
Parity is a lovely word… in Church or synchronized swimming perhaps, but it doesn’t make for good racing. If the cars are all alike, how in Hades do you expect them to pass each other? Get them up off the ground, like the cars we see on the roads all round us… like the ones we park in our garages. None of them have splitters, and our tires don’t go flat when someone sneezes nearby. Raise the cars up all the way around… front, back, and sides. Let the air flow UNDER the cars and aero-push will magically disappear. It’s caused by air flowing OVER that lead car and is the reason no one can pass him. Give the tires some protection… flare the fenders and/or cover the tires with more fender. Slight contact should NOT put someone out of the race.
Stop trying to create excitement with gimmicks and gamesmanship. Folks in a New York City boardroom don’t know Jack Schidt about racing, so stop listening to them. Instead, try listening to the fans of racing that are begging to be heard but no one hears! I see them everywhere, on every posting board and answering a multitude of articles written daily. I know that you read the same things I do. I’m not vain enough to think I’m one of the chosen few. NASCAR is probably the most paranoid outfit in the sporting world, so you are reading both the good and the bad. We’ve spoken by staying home from the races. We’ve spoken by turning off our TVs is great numbers and we’ve even spoken loud enough that many large and once productive sponsors have gone to other means of advertising because they got it! The fans weren’t coming and the fans weren’t watching, so the advertising appeal that NASCAR once offered was no longer worth their investment.
It’s tough to sit out here and make sense of all that gentlemen. The only logical thing I’ve been able to come up with is that the France family is in need of some huge tax write-offs and are purposely taking big losses on NASCAR racing to provide them. It’s the only thing that explains why no one that should care shows the slightest sign of caring that those that used to care will no longer even exert the effort to select FOX on their remote controls. In case anyone reading this at any level of authority didn’t get the message clearly stated here, I’ll repeat it one more time… FIX THE CARS!
Time now for our Classic Country Closeout, and another of those really special Grand Ole Opry shows from the decade of the 1950s, the “Golden Age” of Country. This one offers a host of varied talent of the time. Please enjoy!
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!