NASCAR's Generation Gap
Author's Note: My articles are based solely on my observations and thoughts. No statistics are offered. Enjoy...
I have been thinking about how the current 20 through 30 years of age generation, sees and feels about NASCAR racing. I do like some of their outlooks and how excited some of them get about the things that are happening in NASCAR. Some of them do a lot of research to learn more about the sport, but sometimes they come to the wrong conclusion about the rules and the original intent of auto racing. That is because it is incorrectly reported at times and some of the information they find on the internet is incorrect. They didn't live through some of the NASCAR years as some of us older and longtime fans have, and therefore what they are reading or hearing is not always accurate. They didn't see the beginnings and the toughness of the racers back then and no amount of research can begin to thoroughly explain how it was and how it began. I don't think most of the younger fans today could ever understand what they really went through in order to race. It appears most of the younger fans consider all drivers as racers, when in reality they are not. To a lot of us, there are racers and then there are drivers. I think the difference between racers and drivers started coming into prominence when one competitor began to be polite to others and that turned him into just a driver. Then several other drivers followed suit and now there are quite a few that seem to drive politely. At times it seems it has become politically correct to the point that it has taken some of the competition away. All participants are passionate about their sport and all are very competitive at times, some overly so, but they are not all racers. I think that is something the current and next generations will never understand or even agree with. These fans think they know almost everything about racing and some possibly do know, according to the way NASCAR does things now, but they do not know what racing was then and what it was meant to be. Through the years, partly due to political correctness and demands by sponsors, it has become more of a show than a true racing competition.
It is a totally different sport now than it was in the late 1940's, the 50's, 60's and the first part of the 70's. It became even more different in the 80's and 90's. When Daytona International Speedway held the first Daytona 500 in 1959 Bill France, Sr. had risked everything to build the first superspeedway and was in charge of what was known as NASCAR. He ran it his way and ruled the new sport with what some called an iron hand. One thing he worked hard on accomplishing was to separate the new NASCAR from the original racing that came into being because of moonshine running. He did not want that life style present in NASCAR although he wanted them to race in the new series. There was quite a bit of conflict over some of the restrictions he wanted to put in place. In 1972, his son Bill France, Jr took over as president of NASCAR and began running it the way he felt was best. He also tried to get away from the original moonshine connections to racing. Like his Dad, he used a heavy hand, as has been reported many times through the years. Due to health problems, Bill Jr turned the presidency of NASCAR over to Mike Helton in 2000. Then in 2003, Bill Jr made his son, Brian the CEO and Chairman of NASCAR. That seems to be the time most of the changes have come into existence. Sadly, many of the younger generation of fans are not aware of how the sport came about.
We longtime fans who became interested at the inception of the NASCAR Series of stock car racing as it was known then, along with the good memories we have, will always feel those were the best years of NASCAR because we lived them and understood them. But now we are caught in the era of a lot of new stuff which is just totally different. We are trying to relay how and why it was in the beginning and it is very hard at times to connect to the current younger generation of fans. There is a lot of interest from them and there are different reasons why they are interested. Some love the history of the sport while some others are only interested because it has been the current "in" thing to do. There are still others who are interested because they want to see the horror of crashes and then the rivalries that come from some of the most horrid incidents. Stock car racing seems to be getting distorted and further and further away from what it was. The longtime fans are trying very hard to adjust and accept what is now happening in the sport just as the newer fans do.
Some of us in the older generation of fans feel a sadness because we think the younger generation just won't have an accurate history of the sport. I just watched part one of a show on CMT called "NASCAR: The Rise of American Speed". It was the first of a three part series and was very interesting and did seem to be based on fact. I would recommend that all fans watch this series of programming and learn from it.
Your comments are welcome and please keep them clean.