Woody: Non-Racing Has Become NASCAR Norm
By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
I don’t know what tickets cost for Sunday’s race at California cost, but whatever it was, fans deserved about 90 percent of their money back.
They paid for 200 laps of racing and got maybe 10.
Part of the problem was the track – big and wide and relatively flat, which allowed each driver plenty of wide open space for his leisurely Sunday cruise.
And part of it is the malaise of non-racing that has become increasingly common in NASCAR’s top division.
NASCAR frets over start-and-park drivers; it should be more concerned about start-and-snooze racing.
The race finished with a dramatic flourish as Kevin Harvick ran down dominant leader Kyle Busch, while anticipated challenger Tony Stewart went backwards. The boys in the booth were correct when they prattled on about what an exciting finish it was.
But they were remiss in not addressing how boring the remainder of the race had been, just as they were journalistically negligent the week before when they ignored the glaring sea of empty seats at Bristol.
If they’re going to editorialize about the few good laps, seems they should likewise address all the boring laps that kept their audience dozing through most of the race.
That see-no-evil approach is intentional. Some drivers and administrators complain that any non-positive media comments create a negative perception and add to the sport’s problems. TV is careful not to nip the hand that feeds it.
Ignore the empty seats at Bristol they’ll go away. Ignore 190 laps of rotten racing and gush about the
10 exciting ones and fans won’t notice. That seems to be the theory.
Here’s a news flash: the media can’t fool race fans. It can put lipstick on a pig and fans will still recognize the painted porker.
Ignoring the problem contributes to the problem. Pretending that the racing is not boring makes it harder to fix.
Last Sunday’s non-race at California was typical of the ride-around non-racing that has become typical at most tracks. What we saw at California (10 percent of a race) explains what we saw the week before at Bristol (empty seats). You’d think NASCAR and the drivers would get the connection between declining racing and declining attendance.
In fairness to NASCAR, I think it HAS caught on. It continues to try to inspire its racers to race – implementing a playoff, tweaking the points system – but nothing seems to work. NASCAR has become like an NBA game – tune in the final few minutes and you’ve seen it all.
Action will pick up at Martinsville this weekend because on a short track there’s no place to hide and lollygag around for 90 percent of the race. They can’t go into a prevent defense at the start and spend most of the race logging laps. Martinsville will take fans’ minds off last Sunday’s California Snoozin’ – for awhile.
But sometime, somehow, at some point NASCAR has to come up with a way to consistently make its racers race. Fans have served notice that they won’t continue to pay full price at the ticket booth, then get short-changed on the track.
– Larry Woody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments