Why NASCAR sucks and how it can be better

Sneak-peek at my NASCAR Column that runs in the 2.23.11 edition of The Stylus

The Great American Race, NASCAR’s Super Bowl, the Big one. The Daytona 500 has plenty of nicknames, but an appropriate one that nobody is saying is “another boring race.”

NASCAR is boring as hell. It bored me as a kid, it bored me as a teenager and it continues to bore me as a college student. I don’t understand why people like, but millions of diehards follow their drivers and race teams religiously throughout the driving season. I’ve never understood the allure of auto sports, but as an open minded young man, I thought I’d attempt to look into the eyes of a NASCAR fan, and explain to myself, how I could possibly enjoy it.

The likeable thing about sports, in general, is the visual stimulation it gives us. When we tune into a football game, there might be a lot of boring plays, but there’s always 4-5 plays where you can’t help but sit back and say “wow, that was amazing.” Or when you’re watching an NBA game and Kevin Durant leaps from the free throw line, avoids two defenders in mid-air and casually flips the ball into the hoop. It’s the raw athletic ability that sports fans marvel at, it’s why we keep watching.

And it’s why we keep skipping NASCAR races. Unless there’s a crash, there’s really no change in events on a lap-to-lap basis. In soccer, or baseball, every possession or inning will warrant a different scenario. In a race, all the cars are just doing the same thing over, and over, and over, and — WAIT A PIT STOP!! Oh, cars fixed? Back to doing the same things over, and over, and over…

It’s too repetitive. Unless you grew up in a family that adamantly supports NASCAR, you’re unlikely to go out of your way to start following it passionately. Even the history of NASCAR — a history surrounded by wealthy white males from the south, a real sympathetic bunch — kind of secludes itself from a universal fan base.

NASCAR doesn’t offer enough to the casual sports fan. I bet there’s a decent amount of people reading this right now who honestly believe that “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” was the best thing NASCAR has ever been a part of.

Racing fans argue that you can’t capture the excitement of a NASCAR race on TV, and that you have to be there to really understand how great a race is. What these racing fans generally mean is, unless you’re at the track all day getting wasted, you won’t enjoy it. And even if my interpretation is wrong, why else would anybody who’s unfamiliar to NASCAR ever be motivated to attend a race?

There are millions of Americans who love — truly and passionately love — racing. They buy their favorite driver’s gear, they watch all the races, they tune into Rusty Wallace’s analysis on ESPN; they do it all. But unless NASCAR changes their ways, and becomes more likeable, and approachable to the casual sports fan, the entire racing fan base will remain too specific, and eventually, racing as a major sport will fizzle out.
So my immediate plan for action to make NASCAR more exciting is…

1. Emulate the WWE — A lot of the drivers already have a gimmick! Granted, most of the gimmicks are the same — that of a cowboy — but if people went all out with their egos in front of cameras it would definitely boost some interest. I’d love to see Jimmy Johnson doing the “suck it” to Carl Edwards after he beats him, wouldn’t you?

2. Less Laps — I know the Daytona 500 has it’s legendary name, but would anybody really mind if it was the Daytona 300? Perhaps 100? Hell, call it the Daytona 15 and let ‘em go!

3. Diversity — Nobody likes cultural integration when it’s forced because it doesn’t seem authentic. But the fact remains that NASCAR is a sport consisting of, and dominated by wealthy white males from the south. Juan Pablo Montoya and Danica Patrick are steps in the right direction to a more diverse group of NASCAR athletes, but it’s still the most segregated sport there is.

4. The Chase — NASCAR’s new playoff system is pretty cool, where only the top-10 drivers in the standings qualify for the “Chase for the Cup,” but I wish they’d really go for it and not let anybody but the top-10 in the last few races. I don’t see the point in letting 45 drivers on a track when only ten of them matter.

5. More fan interactivity — Sports are driven by fans. If they don’t watch or support, there’s no money to be made. NASCAR should realize this and have more fan interaction at the games. As of now, the primary objective when watching a race is to either drink beer, scream at the top of your lungs, or a sexy combination of the two. On TV, they should have some sweepstakes where you can call in to your favorite driver while he’s cruising around or something. Or maybe a “Ask a Crew chief” feature where fans can text their questions and comments to team’s crew chiefs during a race.
Just anything to make the races more fun. And don’t act like the teams are too busy during these races to interact with fans. Because at the end of the day, a NASCAR race is just a glorified road trip with a lack of destination.

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Sports Stuff!!

Just some sports thoughts that I think are relevant…

–Danica Patrick signed with Nascar yesterday.  I think a lot of people saw her making the jump to the bigger pond of Nascar.  Despite not being the most succesful F1 driver of the past few years, she’s definitely the most famous.  It’s not sexist to say, “If she wasn’t a woman she wouldn’t have signed a deal with Nascar.”  If she wasn’t a woman she’d be another no-name F1 driver that nobody cares about.  But she is a woman, a girl going against the boys, and that’s what makes it exciting.  Nascarland is Redneckville and the addition of a sexy, influential woman in their ranks might throw some of the old cowboys off.  I just hope she’s better than she the last few years.

–I like the Granderson trade a lot.  I think he’s a huge upgrade offensively and defensively from Johnny Damon.  We traded our stud prospect Jackson, but Granderson is only 28 and should be around long enough until we develop another blue chipper in the minor leagues.  With the protection of Jeter, Texiera, and A-Rod around him, and the short porch in right field, I think he can easily hit 35 dingers next season.

–Concussions are a big deal in the NFL and I haven’t really tackled it yet, but there needs to be some kind of rule that keeps these guys out of games.  You look at Big Ben and you see a guy who’s had four concussions since his rookie year including a near fatal motorcycle accident.  Soon they’re going to have the “How many concussions Big Ben can have until he dies” count on the scoreboard like in Not Another Teen Movie.  And I know I joke around, but this is serious stuff and coaches and teammates should be punished for pressuring guys to play when they have concussions.

I wrote all of this while on the Jon so I’m going to mark today as a success