Clint Bowyer Was Right... About The Product
Last season there was a bit of a social media dust up when Kevin Harvick made comments to the effect that Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s lack of on-track success was largely responsible for “stunting the growth” of NASCAR.
Clint Bowyer was one driver who came to Earnhardt Jr.’s defense, saying it's the product -- on and off the racetrack -- that would drive NASCAR’s future success. “There’s no one person. I believe in products. If you have a good product, they’ll come. If you put a good product on that racetrack, and not only the racetrack, a good product in the infield, a good environment in the grandstands, take care of the kids, the families and all the demographics -- take care of all of that -- you’re always going to have fans flock to the track.”
I agreed with Clint when he said it and I think Chicagoland is the most recent example that helps prove the driver of the Number 14 may be onto something.
Somehow, someway they actually had a race on one of those mile and a half “cookie cutters.” Somehow they were able to run the final 55 laps under green and still have and exciting finish. It seemed real, with no contrived cautions to bunch the field. The second place car somehow ran down the first place car. It not only ran it down but was actually able to make a last lap pass. If only he could have survived the retaliatory “Bump and Dump.” There was contact. There was payback. There was exceptional driving to keep from causing a last lap “Big One.”
It was real. There was action. There was drama. There was racing. That week there was a good product. And the results showed.
New NBC announcer and the subject of Harvick’s ire, Dale Earnhardt Jr. got his chance to call the last pass by Kyle Larson with his now infamous “Slide job! Slide job!” Jayski’s site called his broadcasting debut “An instant classic.”
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s Executive Vice President & Chief Racing Development Officer called Chicagoland “The Best Race of the Year.”
ESPN’s Ricky Craven, who knows a thing or two about close finishes called the Chicagoland finish a “Cure-all for NASCAR”
Good racing or a good race finish cures a lot of sins and this race and the coverage had more than its fair share. I thought NBC’s Chicagoland broadcast opened atrociously. Too many in-car shots and not enough showing any action that might be happening. Too much helmet cam and bumper cam which showed nothing. It was worse than watching the in-car view of a NASCAR video game. I’m not a good player so at least when I play there are plenty of cars around me to see. This was lots of asphalt through the windshield, which did nothing for me.
It got really boring seeing open track ahead or worse, the back end of another car in the distance. PattyKay Lilley summed it up best on Race Fans Forever’s Roar of the Crowd when she commented “If I wanted to look at the back end of Kurt Busch I'd move in with him.”
One minute they were showing a leaderboard, next a crawler. Then back and forth. Come on, make up your mind already. The only thing worse than a single screen with nothing on it is dual screens with nothing on them... and we got served some of that. I got so frustrated with it all I shut it off. For me it was unwatchable.
But somehow, some way, a good race eventually happened there on a mile and a half track without aid of a caution, debris or otherwise and for that day everything was right in the racing world known as NASCAR. It fixed a sorry broadcast, it topped 15 previous races and it’s been proclaimed the series cure-all.
So maybe it’s time to drop the gimmicks and promotions that may or may not pan out and get back to the basics and focus on the product-the cars and the race. Improving the cars will improve the race. Improving the race will improve the product. Improve the product and a lot of issues nagging and dragging the sport down slowly go away.
I don’t know a lot about Clint Bowyer, but three things I know about him for sure. He knows how to drive cars really, really fast. He knows how to celebrate when he wins. Finally, he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to “the product.”
Just look at Chicagoland.
A good race covered a multitude of sins. We can sure use some of that right now, wouldn’t you agree?
There is a lot of money, a lot of technology and a lot of smart people in this series who together I believe can figure this one out. I sure hope so.
I’d like to see some good racing.