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Woody: Another So-Called Race, Another Snoozer

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, April 12 2011

Kurt Busch built up big leads at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday. Too big to be enjoyed by fans? (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

It’s become a weekly refrain: Last week’s race at (fill in the blank) was an uncompetitive bore.

Matt Kenseth’s Texas one-step DID differ a bit from most of the so-called racing that has become the NASCAR norm: in a typical race the drivers log laps for 95 percent of the race, then turn it on during the final few laps and at least give the fans an exciting finish.

At Texas they didn’t even do that. Kenseth breezed to victory without a semblance of a challenge from speck-in-the-mirror Clint Bowyer.

I watched the race – or tried to. I drained the batteries on my remote control channel-surfing to try to find something to fill in the boring stretches. The TV guys would be jabbering about how “Matt has built a 5-second lead …” I’d flip over to the Animal Planet and watch a lion eat a wart hog, then flip back to the race where the TV guys were droning, “… and Matt is maintaining his 5-second lead …”

The telecast producers were so desperate for a little action that at one point they re-played a wreck from the previous race at Martinsville.

But at least I stuck with it, unlike more and more former fans that are abandoning the NASCAR ship. The weekly Empty Seat Survey doesn’t lie.

My buddy Don Christopher is a typical fan. He grew up immersed in racing, and when I was assigned the NASCAR beat by my newspaper he was my technical advisor. Don traveled with me to Daytona, Talladega and other venues for over 30 years. He always knew more about the sport than I did.

Last Sunday night I called to ask what he thought about the Texas race and he asked who won. He

Matt Kenseth takes the checkered flag at Texas. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

didn’t watch it.

Don – who once could name not only every driver’s number but also most of their crew chiefs and sponsors – has lost interest.

He says the racing is boring and, as a former fan of Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, he can’t identify with today’s drivers.

Don doesn’t make a big fuss about it. He doesn’t rant about the rotten racing. He doesn’t write angry letters to NASCAR or burn his collection of racing caps in protest.  He just gradually quit following it. He has found other things to do on Sunday afternoons – something better than watching young millionaires cruise around in circles while whining about how hard they have to work.

I wonder how many other Dons are out there – once-rabid race fans who have become disenchanted and drifted away?

The solution is to have more exciting, interesting racing, but how to do it? It seems that the more fans gripe, the more boring the racing becomes – witness last Sunday’s Texas yawner that lacked even an exciting last-lap sprint.

Don hasn’t entirely given up on the sport to which he was once devoted. He still watches the Bristol night race and both Talladega races. That means he’ll be tuned in this weekend. There’s always tension at Talladega, and most of the field manages to stay in the same zip code as the leader. Nowadays that’s a racing rarity.

Talladega can usually be counted on to wake up the fans. The question is, for how long?

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, April 12 2011
15 Comments

15 Comments »

  • Ed Allen says:

    Note to Dick: … enough said

  • Patton says:

    Woody once agains pushes Mattyk’s accomplishment aside. The most underrated driver in the history of the sport is neglected by our enlightened media. At least be a little more subtle.

  • Dick says:

    Oh, I’m a “Don” for sure!

    I DVR every NASCAR race nowadays and don’t begin watching the race until I have about 2 1/2 hours “in the bank” so I can FF e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g but green flag laps…..opening ceremonies, DW’s “Boggity-crap”, commercials, naturally, almost all of the cautions/red flags and I hit the delete button before the winner finishes his obligatory doughnuts!

    ** Note to ED: If I haffta hit the scroll button (repeatedly) to read your “comments”, I don’t read them. Brevity, my man, brevity!

  • Ed Allen says:

    Lugnut you are correct. Woody has become just like a lot of out-of-work former print guys, old, cynical and bitter. As an “old” guy there is nothing wrong with it, but add the other two then you have a curmudgeon stuck in the past. From every corner of NASCAR history, written and remembered, there is evidence of many many snoozer races. But with this istant gratification society today if we don’t have non-stop jizz then everything in life is “boring.”

    I can’t help The Tennessean doesn’t employ Woody anymore. I am sorry but that’s not my problem. And so the NASCAR hierarchy doesn’t invite him to the Big Red Truck (yellow) anymore to give him the scoop, I can’t help that. But that is no reason to write what’s not the truth now. From every corner, people who most of us would respect, there is evidence that these race car guys are working their butts off to give us a show. I just don’t buy what the media tries to sell that a lot of guys ride around and then punch it when it’s time, either during a race or during a season. It just doesn’t work that way. There was one Silver Fox in his day and he was great. There ain’t 10 Silver Foxes in every race today.

    Eddie Wood says just this week:

    “When you win a race like that, nothing else seems to matter for a long time,” said Eddie Wood, co-owner of Bayne’s Wood Brothers Racing team.

    “I hate it for him because he wants to do so well but these cars are really hard to drive and the level of competition is so high. It may be the toughest it’s ever been.”

    That was from a man who has spent his lifetime in the bidness.

    I was part of the news media who covers this sport for a while–never a media insider and I wouldn’t win NMPA awards even if I were still in it today. Didn’t do it for a living so I didn’t need the hype and recognition. But I can tell ya the mainstream media and bloggers are just about failing this sport, looking for the Glen Beck-type headlines instead of writing the truth. And the truth is: the racing is much better, way better than it has been for a few years, and maybe as good as anytime in NASCAR’s history. But that doesn’t sell papers. “YOU LIE!” sells papers. There are a lot of closet NASCAR haters out there. And NASCAR’s deserves some of it because of their bullying and bull sh.t they have shoveled over the years. But waxing poetic on the laptop about snoozer races isn’t the path. I bet he wrote the piece before the checkered flag flew.

  • Lugnut says:

    Kenseth is my driver. I waited over two years to see him win again. I like to see a car that can cover the field like his did on Saturday night. No matter what tragedy Stewart, Bowyer, and KuBush tried, Matt figured out a way to beat ‘em all. At the end, he did a masterful slide through the infield and was, as always, self depreciating during the interviews. Kenseth is a class act and I think that is what the media/hype types don’t like because only controversy sells. And, I bet you wouldn’t have written about a snooze fest if Junior had covered the field like that. It would have been all about “Junior might win the Cup.”

  • SB says:

    I gave up my season tickets to Bristol 2 years after the ‘chase’ happened…it ruined the racing there long before the repave. My Sundays used to be planned around the races…no more. The racing these days may indeed be the closest ever, but I can’t tell from the TV broadcast. The use of in car/bumper/driver cams doesn’t give me a sense of the ebb and flow of the race. I need to keep squinting at the crawler (SO aptly named) to see what is happening with any driver not in the top 10 or 12, because TV doesn’t bother to cover the entire field. Sponsors now have so much say in how the drivers are that they have become universally colorless. Engineers have taken over the sport with their computer simulations so drivers no longer need to know anything about the cars, just smile and remember to name every sponsor. This isn’t what made me love Nascar years ago, and I don’t expect every race to be a barnburner. Maybe, if I was allowed to see more of the actual racing through the field, I might remember why I loved it for so many years.

  • Ed Allen says:

    I see not too many dissenters end up on your site. Go figure…Boys and dey blogs. Bout like Jimmie Spencer with a steering wheel…or now a mic. I bet you are a Glen Beck Regular.

  • jerseygirl says:

    I haven’t been a fan as long as Don, but I’ve followed NASCAR for quite a few years. No more side by side battles on the track, only a few “edge of my seat” finishes. I blame the ugly car, the cookie cutter tracks and the idiotic chase. Plus the way the races are broadcast with Fox and ESPN in particular obsessed with showing in car, bumper cams, gopher cams and what have you instead of pulling back and showing the action (assuming there is some). Plus these days, all you really need to watch are the last 20 laps. Up til then, they are just making laps.

    How do you get people to want to go to a race? First you have to show them that it would be exciting to be there. One car shots are not the way to do it.

    Brian France wanted to capture the casual fan — most of the “next big thing fans” are already gone. All of his changes have turned the dedicated fans into casual ones.

  • Mike says:

    “I wonder how many other Dons are out there – once-rabid race fans who have become disenchanted and drifted away?”

    Add one here. Even Bristol has turned into “little Michigan” or “little Fontana”. It’s boring and I will not make any effort to watch it again. Oh how I miss North Wilkesboro and Rockingham. I’m pretty much down to watching Martinsville, Richmond, & Darlington. Otherwise I may look at jayski.com every now & then.

    It’s really too bad VS doesn’t carry the ProCup Series anymore. That’s the great racing that Winston…err, Sprint Cup used to be.

  • Steveo says:

    One solution: Get rid of the cookie cutter tracks. All of them. I wonder if Nascar notices a trend yet with the fact that short tracks consistently have the best racing and they don’t need late debris cautions or manufactured finishes to get it.

    You hit the nail on the head about the drivers. They have 10 lanes to race in and they still complain when they actually have to work to pass someone. Back in the day there were only 2 lanes every weekend and they had to get on the wheel every weekend. Drivers have it easy nowadays and they still complain. Probably another good reason for the fans disconnect with them.

  • Ken says:

    I must have watched a different race. I thoroughly enjoyed both races this weekend. The only points I can find fault with about the broadcast was Ol’ D.W.’s and Larry Mac’s constant cheering on of certain Hendrick drivers, and D.W.’s cheering on of Kyle Busch. We get it! The only “worthy” contenders for the Championship are Jimmie, Junior, and Kyle. At least that is the impression I am left with from the broadcasts lately. As for the competition, ok, I’ll be the first to admit that Carl Edwards stunk up the Saturday race and Matt Kenseth stunk up Sunday’s race. But hey, they both drive Fords (my favorite car), and they both drive for Jack Roush (my favorite team owner), and they are both my favorite drivers, along with Greg Biffle and David Ragan. Then again, maybe that makes my comments prejudiced. Still, I found it to be a much better race than what most people ore reporting. Guess I need to take off my Roush-coloured glasses, ha, ha!

  • Bob says:

    I’m a Don!

    I use to go to about 10 races a year. Haven’t been to single race in 3 years.

    I use to never miss a race on TV but now I only watch if I have nothing else to do.

    Why?

    Change is not always good. NASCAR’s constant tweaking of the rules has made the sport a mess. I relish the days of watching races on ESPN when they would beat down the rear spoiler with a hammer during a pitstop, when they could run what shock or gear they wanted. I miss the days when the teams not NASCAR controlled the team’s level of performance. Now it’s boring because they have such a tiny box to work in.

    Don’t get me started on the Ken Doll look a like brats driving these days.

    As far as I’m concerned it all went don hill when Mike Helton took over.

    It’s gone and it will never be back. I’m glad I was able to experience it when it was great.

    A past NASCAR fanatic
    Bob

  • Ed Allen says:

    Just out today by jeremy Dunn on his account of the 1970s & 80s NASCAR:

    “…Unfortunately, a series of lackluster races prompted ABC to cancel future telecasts of NASCAR Grand National races for the 1970 season. Wide World of Sports still aired taped and edited races. ABC Sports resumed their NASCAR format in 1971.”…

    What about Richard Petty? In the 1960s he did 27 wins out of 48. That’s like a Jimmie Johnson doing 20 wins out of 36. Even he isn’t that good. And during that 27 race win season RP won 10 in a row! How many of those races were snoozers? Or how about that whole season? It was a super human accomplishment and one for the record books that will never be duplicated. But the whole year was a snoozer based on your terms.

  • Jim says:

    Nail on the head Larry! I have been an avid fan for 40 years and have friends who are, or should I say were, the same. The racing sucks, the rivalries are non-existent, the TV broadcasts are lame; therefore nobody cares. Nascar needs another Earnhardt or even Jeff Gordon when he started, somebody you either love or love to hate. I thought that was going to be Kyle Busch but apparently he got neutered, uh, I mean married and that ended that.

  • Ed Allen says:

    Woody you are just kinda weird. That’s all I can say. “Snoozer?” For chrissakes man every race can’t be a barn burner door to door bumper to bumper pumper frammin and bammin wheel to wheel hell raising friggin yall busting door hanging wild fest crash fest who fest. It just can’t. I have been around this sport for nearly 40 years in various ways (kid vendor at Greenville-Pickens; weekend warrior for James Hylton; weekend warrior for DiGard; full time guy for Race Hill Farm, crew member, and finally race writer. I have seen this sport from all angles except maybe from the track ownership. I have seen it from a fan in a big way, as a competitor, and as a lover of this sport. I have had my issues with NASCAR, you bet. The last 10 years they AIN’T in a big way been good stewards of this sport.

    But the racing has gotten way better the last 12 months in stages, better and good just before the wing came off, better and better when the wing came off and finally dam good when the new nose came on. It just has. THE RACIN IS BETTER FOLKS THAN IT HAS BEEN. I am not a NA$CAR lackey. I don’t need Poston pushing loop data on me. The racing is better. PERIOD. End of story.

    Do you know what the shortest time span in human history is? It’s the time that it takes a “writer” to write the race was boring or a “snoozer.” You have no concept of these races. They are, as Texas was, a 500 MILE race. That’s a long time and many many times a race or race car or race team will get into a cycle and maybe they aren’t door-to-door. How old are you? Are you old enough to remember where most of the races had only one or two guys in the lead lap. Ever remember where Cale had a seven lap lead and lost a race once due to mechanical issues but it took seven laps for the second place guy to become the leader. Richard Petty had a race like that too. I think the places were Bristol and Richmond.

    I love the good ole days. More than anybody I do. Those were the glory days of NASCAR and men were men and brave to go out in these rattle traps for nealy no money and unsafe race tracks and entertain us. It just was. It was the greatest time in NASCAR for a number of reasons. But boy those that seek to rewrite history are fooling themselves or are too young to read past 1990. Because those days had their share of “snoozers” believe me. This racing stuff in those days had plenty of non-drama moments during a race. And 600 milers? Whew. During the heat of the day. They had plenty of attrition and less competition than they would have liked.

    I think you should stop before you label a race Woody. If you call Texas a “snoozer” then you lack the skills to understand the sport. You are fundamentally missing the point. You should do 2 things immediately and hope not for the third. You should strap yo butt in one of these cars and do the race yourself and see if it is boring. I have had three laps at speed with a Cup champion with only 2 other cars on the track and no where near us at the time. It was the most unbelievable thrill a person could have. “Start your laptops” is all you know. That’s your Sunday workout. That and a Twinkie or free food from the media center. Hittin a keyboard is about as hard as you will hit a wall. So get yo butt in one of those cars and go 600 miles at speed and call it a “snoozer.” And you should also go back and look at the races all of them that you can find. Study them up Big Boy. See how many snoozers you will find back to back in the day. Many many I promise you.

    And finally: it’s guys like you that don’t help this sport at all. You type the perception and try to make the perception reality. I tell ya what reality is: reality is guys like you beat this down enough and we won’t have a sport. We will either have to watch the incessant Danica Watch run 18th out of 22 Indy cars because they are growing; or watch F-1 at 4am Sunday mornings to get our race fix. Now you want to see snoozers? Watch F-1. But watch on qualifying day mind you because that’s all the drama you are going to get. It’s like watching paint dry on the fastest and sleekest races cars ever built. But no racing. just paint drying. Go find out how thrilling that is.