Where Have the NASCAR Critics Gone?

Where Have the NASCAR Critics Gone?

Tuesday, 07 February 2017
Mike Harper - SOZ

Statement about the future of the Thunder Crew Radio Show is at the bottom of this column…

If you’ve followed NASCAR over the past five years you know without a doubt the times have changed. As I mentioned in ‘Did NASCAR Push Carl Edwards Away?’ the industry will continue to get smaller.  It’s not all bad and it’s not all NASCAR’s fault.  For example, the Internet and economic challenges from several years ago killed print media.  This caused the job loss of several very good NASCAR writers, which has changed the way the media covers the sport.

For NASCAR to get the attention of the general sports media, something big must break. Weekly NASCAR news isn’t covered at a high level in the world of sports, putting the responsibility of NASCAR news on a much smaller media group.  Our challenge today, which I’m sure isn’t a challenge to the NASCAR brass or many now covering the sport, is if you look around it’s hard to find critics within the NASCAR media.

In other professional sports you find successful critics. The NFL media takes their responsibility very seriously to be a true watchdog over the sport. Sure, like in every sport you’ll find some in the media who will never report critically of the team or sport they cover but the critics balance out the coverage keeping the sport healthy and interesting for the fans.

This isn’t happening in NASCAR anymore.  Critical reporting or critical fan reactions are met with hostility or rejection from not only NASCAR but from others in a very soft NASCAR media.

How soft is the current NASCAR media? Go back and listen to the questions from the press conference a few weeks ago, announcing the format change. Watch the interaction between the sport’s personalities and the media. Get back to me if you heard one single challenging question.

Here’s another test – how many of today’s NASCAR media members rely solely on NASCAR for their livelihood?  I would submit a very large percentage.  I would also submit that it’s fine to be in this position but to be honest it’s difficult to be a critic when the success of the sport is in the best interest of that media member. It takes a very special person to challenge or question the decisions of those representing your main income source, especially when they give you access to the events and personalities.

If you pay attention you know who the critics are – it’s a very small percentage of a small NASCAR media group. But if you read or hear of a NASCAR media member or even someone invested in the sport, being more critical of YOU, the fan, instead of the sport itself, just look beyond the name, position and publication or web site. Once you do you’ll soon discover the true loyalty of that person.

Statement regarding the Thunder Crew Radio Show

Truth, integrity and professionalism – these are the key components to the foundation of our Thunder Crew radio show. Originally geared at covering the ARCA Series, our team quickly found out that racing executives, no matter the level, weren’t too thrilled with three talking heads giving opinions, good or bad, about their sport at a national level. We were even summoned into a hauler or two for simply providing dissenting opinions. But in the end, the industry had room for us. Mixed in with the number of racing journalists and publications, we found a home, where like in NASCAR itself, welcomed owners with limited funds and resources on the track to compete.

Sadly, NASCAR no longer has room for the little guy. This includes underfunded teams and companies like ours within NASCAR media circles.  I have to assume NASCAR has developed a model to go small. The viewership is down from several years ago, the number of teams that can compete on the track is down and even the way teams and drivers can sell merchandise has been completely altered causing limited employment within the industry.

Seats are being replaced with billboards or massive television monitors, the number of media members covering the sport is down and the number of independent radio shows or podcasts, like those found on our network at RaceTalkRadio.com have packed their bags and moved on.  Online NASCAR stores have been priced out of business after NASCAR and their corporate partners consolidated.

The truth is the footprint on the business side of the sport is smaller.  NASCAR and their insiders have made the sport very exclusive to only those who provide financial value or provide positive coverage. It’s business – and if you’ve spent any time within the sport of racing you know it can be very cut throat.

A few weeks ago we were preparing for our 10th season on the air. But during a conference call a simple question or remark was made about “fun” and “our value” – causing us to pause and think about the season ahead. We quickly steered the conversation to our listeners, those who have been with us for years. Those dedicated – who take time every week to listen. But again, we came right back to, “Are we having fun covering NASCAR anymore?” especially as we look at the product on the track…and are we being fair to our listeners by going on the air discussing something that no longer brings us joy and excitement? The answer was and is still at this moment a simple, no.

At the end of the discussion we made the decision to park the Thunder Crew radio show and contribute in a different fashion.  You’ll still see Lori, Dennis and I on RaceTalkRadio.com and on our social media sites. @TheThunderCrew Twitter page will continue to live and dish out NASCAR opinions.

We owe our listeners a huge THANK YOU and we appreciate every sponsor who partnered with us over the years. I invite you to check back often because you never know what may happen – Carl Edwards may return…and so could we!

Follow SOZ and WIN NASCAR STUFF at @TheThunderCrew


  1. Don Betke says:

    Sadly, you guys are not the first media Ive seen on social pages that gave up because it wasnt fun anymore. I agree that posting anything negative on most Nascar sites draws the ire of others, usually with a “if you dont like it, leave” type of comment. Well, its obvious that most have left. I am down to one race weekend a year now, for Nascar, while I have challenged myself to revisit smaller tracks.If it wasnt for the friends Ive made at that race, I would of gave up that ticket as well. Those that run the sport may think they have won because they ran off the naysayers, but in the end even the sheep will leave.

  2. Andy DeLay says:

    I feel your pain. After 9 seasons I closed the doors on my syndicated radio show, Burning Rubber Radio, for the exact same reasons. NASCAR needed us smaller grass roots media folks during the great ressesion starting in 2009. Things have changed bigtime in the last couple of years though. You are spot on… it’s not fun anymore. NASCAR caters to drivers and teams funded by “Daddy’s Money” and has turned its back on the “Privateer”. My critical remarks were countered with questions of clarification from both NASCAR and ARCA. Its sad to hear that Thunder ended up like my show. NASCAR embraced grass roots shows like we had when times were bleak. Now they simply want talking heads that tow the NASCAR line.

  3. Floyd Updegrove says:

    I’m an admin on the Land of the NAPCAR Outcasts page on Facebook. There are a bunch of us on there that are not happy with the direction that NAPCAR is going and we’re not afraid to say so. I’m very tired of the lamestream media preaching the party line just so the can keep their ticket to the buffet table. Keep up the good work my friend you nailed it in my opinion. Stop by the Outcast page anytime you want , you are always welcome.

  4. Don Betke says:

    I should rephrase the term giving up. I meant like the others Ive seen, like you are doing, and shifting your focus.I wasnt implying that you were quitting.

  5. Joe Jacalone says:

    I completely get your reasoning behind shutting the show down. When you listen to the NASCAR channel on Sirius, if a caller calls in and has anything remotely negative to say about NASCAR, or disagrees with something they are doing, he is attacked like a lamb by angry wolves. Really sad to see NASCAR has been reduced to this. Good luck guys in your future endeavors.

    • dmic says:

      Thanks Joe…we have some exciting content for race fans coming up this season from NASCAR to the grassroots of racing!! Times change and you have to either evolve or go away and we plan to evolve our NASCAR coverage! (And one more exciting announcement coming soon too)

      • Jimmy Poss says:

        Joe, it happened to me tonight. I still say, when NASCAR, the drivers council, the owners group and the radio hosts basically all agree….I’m being screwed.

  6. racefangurl says:

    People like me are what’s hurting NASCAR in print media. I’m a NASCAR reporter, one of the citizen journalists that write online. Find me at nascarfemale.com. I cover the Cup 6.

  7. Dan Rogers says:

    First let me say your article is spot on, And thank you for that. I have been involved in Racing since the late 50’s either as a Fan, Driver, Car Owner, and even a Flagman. I have watched with my own eyes the growth of the sport as well the decline of the sport. I am in complete agreement with your assessment of it as it is nowadays. For quite a while I have listened to Sirus XM NASCAR channel in my travels. Not anymore. I was listening to Dave Moody’s show and I was thoroughly disgusted at his disdain and mean mouthed tactics for anyone who would speak against the current NASCAR. It did not take long to see where his loyalty lies. Keep reporting like you see it. We may not shout out but we support you. The sport of NASCAR racing is not healthy anymore, And I like scores of the old guard have washed our hands of it. The only reason I even watch it or anything about it anymore is to follow my beloved Wood Brothers 21. God Bless You.

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