No sport or industry focused on entertainment wants to be called boring. For NASCAR and track promoters, the biggest challenge is keeping fans entertained before and during the race. And sadly, when the race itself is struggling to entertain fans people begin to do desperate things.
The announcement or rumor, depending on how it’s being reported… is Monster Energy will bring MMA fighting to NASCAR races. As Monster tries to become NASCAR’s ratings savior, this will, without a doubt spark controversy within NASCAR’s fan base. No matter where you stand on this subject it does provide a good example of the desperate measures Monster is taking to bring more entertainment to a sport in need of a quick entertainment fix.
For as long as I can remember track promoters have done all they can to provide excitement too – including blowing things up, huge concerts and celebrity visitors just to name a few, all in the effort to entertain fans…and of course to retain or increase ticket sales. I’d like to applaud the track promoters – they’ve been NASCAR’s best warriors during this slide in popularity. They have no control over rule packages or day to day operations at NASCAR. They must deal with the cards given to them each and every race season. They are NASCAR’s heroes.
Let’s finally ask the hard question – is NASCAR boring?
The racing from Martinsville Speedway this past weekend was in my opinion, the best of the season. While the television ratings remain on the decline and the Martinsville stands weren’t full, it’s obvious to me that racing at short tracks could be one ingredient to winning fans back. The problem is NASCAR doesn’t race at Martinsville but only two times in a season – making it difficult to benefit from the Martinsville wave of excitement.
For someone who likes aggressive racing, I was pleased to see it back in full force. But the challenge, even after the race was over, is fans didn’t see a rebirth of rivalries. Sure we had drivers mad at each other – but once again, no bad guys, all good guys.
In my research of what made NASCAR so popular back in the day, two red flags stand out to me. First, I believe the racing – the actual product on the track, was much better back then. Call it aero or whatever, it just seems like the cars raced differently. But for me, more importantly than aero or anything associated with the makeup of the race car is the fact we no longer have heated rivalries.
The sport has turned into a bunch of friends or co-workers racing cars. Drivers are happy to finish 5th – drivers eat and party together – drivers’ wives and kids are all friends – they each crossover and help with each other’s charities – it’s an industry of friends racing friends. And honestly, it’s boring as heck.
Here’s a lesson for NASCAR from someone who helped make the sport popular, “The fans need a bad guy to yell at. You don’t want every guy to be a good guy, do you? That would be pretty boring, if you ask me,” said Dale Earnhardt.
Today’s NASCAR is truly a bunch of good guys – “pretty boring” as Earnhardt said.
IndyCar’s Paul Tracy agrees. In an interview at the beginning of the 2017 season Tracy said, “There are no Dale Earnhardt Srs, no Paul Tracys, no Michael Schumachers – guys who will do anything to win and they’re the villain. This sport right now is lacking a little bit of that. Tony Stewart, he’s a bit of a villain, now he’s retired, in IndyCar and NASCAR everybody’s kind of this nice guy. There seems to be a lack of rivalries and something that people want to tune into because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”
This is my opinion – NASCAR and track promoters should kill the drivers motorhome lot – separate these drivers by teams and scatter them throughout the track. NASCAR should do everything possible to promote aggressive driving – end giving points away at the end of stages…give it only to the winner. Chase or playoff drivers should only be race winners. The rest shouldn’t be allowed to win a championship.
NASCAR should back-off punishing drivers who retaliate. Every driver weighs the same in a race car – let them beat and bang under caution like the old days. And reduce the money. Life is good when you are making millions. When you finish 5th and you are happy something is wrong.
Also – for the drivers, stop waving at drivers who let you pass them. This is simply horrible. Fans do not want to see you waving at a competitor…its soft – so stop it!
If NASCAR truly wants to make their sport popular again they will do something to promote rivalries. If not, the only action we’ll continue to see are side shows at the tracks and hard selling that “everything is great” as Kyle Busch would say. All happening while making money off hard working fans – a fan base, who has figured out exactly what Earnhardt told us 30 years ago – a sport of good guys is “boring.”
Follow SOZ (nascarSOZ), get NO FOO FOO Opinions and WIN NASCAR STUFF at the new @TheThunderCrew
Want more SOZ? Check out his last column–> C’MON NASCAR: IS THE CAR REALLY A WEAPON?
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author (SOZ) and does not necessarily reflect RaceTalkRadio.com or our advertisers.