TAYLOR: When The Show Overshadows The Racing
Over the weekend the Charlotte Observer’s Jim Utter broke the first hint of news of NASCAR’s newest proposed Chase format – an elimination style 10-race chase tournament of sorts with the field being widdled down from 16 to 4 for a winner take all championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Social media blew up immediately as the NASCAR Nation opined, debated and do what they do best – disagree and bicker. Every year NASCAR seemingly is trying things to get back to its rabid fan base of the mid 1990’s. The problem is that what they are doing is exactly the opposite of what fans in the 1990s watched in the first place.
The 1990’s explosion in NASCAR was no doubt huge, but not as large as NASCAR made it out to be. As with every sport or entertainment venue in the United States outside of the NFL, there will be natural ascensions and declines in popularity. As NASCAR rode the high horse the inevitable deterioration in ratings and revenue over the last 10 years has incited panic and a rash of new ideas and tactics in order to make “the show” better.
In our opinion, a large part of the fan base and the NASCAR media is getting sick of it. NASCAR fails to realize what the actual problem is. Instead of focusing on the racing aspect of the sport they are trying to turn racing into a football or basketball tournament.
Sorry, but auto racing is not football or basketball. Racing does not need contrived and controlled scenarios in order to have drama or upsets happen – just ask anyone who was around to see Alan Kulwicki in 1992 or Derrike Cope in the 1990 Daytona 500.
The game seven moments NASCAR officials so desperately want in the season finale are fruitless. Many a singular race on a Saturday night or Sunday afternoon has its game seven moment or its heated drama. Dale Earnhardt and Terry Labonte at Bristol, Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch at Darlington, Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson at Atlanta, Kevin Harvick and Mark Martin at Daytona, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano at Fontana, and so on. The list of great finishes without the contrived malarkey can go on for days.
Do these great finishes happen every week? Well no, but that is OK. At least they aren’t regulated and controlled in a way that forces a scenario.
Our hope is that NASCAR listens to the fans, the media member’s opinion pieces and social media. Turning the chase into even more of a gimmicky game seven scenario mess is not the fix. If the season comes down to a great battle like last year’s Nationwide Series or the 1992 or 2011 Sprint Cups then great, but to manufacture one reeks of fakery.
Just let racers race. No gimmicks, no system, no contrived season finishes to determine a champion. In racing the best man wins and the races and rivalries sell themselves. What a headache.