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Hood: Uncle Lanny Offers Some Insight From The Old School

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 9 2010

Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s fade has caused some old school fans to step back from their sport. (File photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Family reunions are all about hugs, photo opportunities, eating, listening to comments about everyone’s weight gains or loss and finding out which kids graduated from college and which have parole officers.

It’s also an opportunity to get a read on the pulse of NASCAR.

And to hear my uncle Lanny tell it, his favorite sport is in trouble.

Lanny, who is well into his 60s, hails from Augusta, Ga., the golf capital of the world. But he’d be hard-pressed to pick Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and John Daly out of a police lineup.

But he’ll proudly show you the decals carrying the No. 3 and the likeness of the late Dale Earnhardt that are still prominent on the rear of his pickup truck.

So after seeing Lanny last weekend for the first time in a decade, I couldn’t resist quizzing him about the sport struggling with sagging TV ratings and attendance.

“I’ve gradually lost interest in NASCAR over the past three years,” Lanny said, to my astonishment. “My man, (Dale Earnhardt) Junior, just can’t come close to winning a race.”

Realizing there’s always hope that Earnhardt, the third generation driver for Hendrick Motorsports, could breakthrough with a victory on any given Sunday, I knew had to probe deeper.

What was really turning my uncle off to the sport he had followed with such a passion for 40 years?

“It’s Jimmie Johnson,” Lanny said. “It’s not that I hate him. I’m just tired of him winning all the time.

“And I never could get used to that new car (introduced in 2007). I still don’t like it.”

I quickly reminded my uncle that NASCAR removed the hideous wing from the rear of the cars earlier this season.

“Yeah, yeah, I know that,” he said. “But there’s still something about that car that I just don’t care for.”

Lanny has apparently joined the legion of old school NASCAR fans that are bailing on the sport in record numbers, as evidenced by the TV ratings of the first three races of this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup which have seen a ratings plummet of more than 25 percent.

But Roush Fenway Racing driver Greg Biffle wasn’t ready to point fingers at Johnson or the COT when asked about the subject on this week’s NASCAR teleconference.

He blamed it on today’s technology.

“I haven’t been able to get all those stats, but one thing I do know and feel is that there are so many other ways today – and I think we’re gonna continue to fight with this TV rating until we have a way to measure another way of finding out how people keep up with the race,” Biffle said

“You can get it on your computer, you can get it on your phone, and everybody is tweeting lap-by-lap, so today you don’t have to sit in front of the TV, you don’t have to watch it to still be an avid NASCAR fan and be involved with the sport and who is doing what and who is running where.

“There are a lot of different avenues and I think that has a lot to do with it because I still see as many people as ever that are excited about or sport, that are paying attention and watching it, and there are still a lot of people in the grandstands, but I don’t know why the TV ratings are where they need to be.”

But uncle Lanny doesn’t even own a computer. He has no idea how to tweet. And he doesn’t receive NASCAR stats on his cell phone.

For decades, he tuned into NASCAR on a regular basis on the radio on Sunday afternoons when he wasn’t planted in front of a television.

But today’s NASCAR no longer appeals to him.

If Johnson goes onto capture an unprecedented fifth consecutive championship, the feat will be regarded by many as the greatest accomplishment in the history of NASCAR.

But will uncle Lanny, and the other fans that no longer have NASCAR on their radar, even notice?

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 9 2010
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  • Marybeth says:

    I believe that, Brian France, could pull off a huge public relations coup for himself, & make more money for himself…by dipping into some of his petty cash fund & buying out or doing whatever it takes to get Jr. out of HMS, & to an owner who wants him winning. It would fill seats at Brian’s tracks to have Jr. running up front and winning again, which I do not believe that Rick is ever going to allow. I believe that if Rick wanted Jr. winning, he would be. I don’t believe that it is going to happen as long as Jr. is yoked to Rick. Come one, Brian! :)