Stars Doing Their Best To Sell NASCAR Changes
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
For the most part, it’s pretty uncomfortable watching sports stars as they attempt to cross over into the field of acting. They tend to be, um, unconvincing in their roles. And, interestingly, it seems the bigger the sports star, the poorer the actor. Think Wilt Chamberlain in “Conan the Destroyer”.
On Tuesday, four of the biggest stars in NASCAR attempted to convince fans and media and perhaps themselves that they were thrilled to death with changes to their sport: Changes already announced and changes which were announced on Thursday.
The view from the couch was: Olivier they were not.
The drivers were those of Hendrick Motorsports. They were seated on a dais during the annual NASCAR/Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour.
Sitting shoulder to shoulder, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne addressed the changes; changes that include “knock out” qualifying, which was announced earlier this year, and the massive revamp of the Chase playoffs which features three round of eliminations.
With lights on and with cameras and recorders rolling, all four drivers voiced support for the changes. Kind of.
The common element in the endorsement of the changes by the HMS drivers seemed to be: We need to do something to drum up fan support for NASCAR and maybe this will help.
When Tom Jensen, a reporter for Foxsports.com asked how the drivers felt about the changes – announced and reported – there was moment of mass awkwardness among those on the dais.
Johnson went first: “If that’s the bullet that we need, then I’m for it.”
Kahne went second: “I think you have to keep as much excitement and things down to the wire as possible because that’s what people want to see.”
Earnhardt went unintentionally sarcastic: “I wasn’t really excited about change all that much up until a lot of changes started happening. Then you had to kind of get used to it but now, uh, let’s change it all (laughter).
Finally, old pro Gordon: “It’s all about entertainment and this is definitely a big step toward keeping the entertainment level very, very high.”
With all four drivers, the voice volume seemed to waver and the body language conveyed watery conviction. Sir Laurence doing “Richard III” it was not.
Actor/director/writer Orson Welles is quoted as once saying, “Acting is like sculpture, it’s what you take away from yourself to reveal the truth of what you’re doing that makes a performance.”
But through repeated listenings of the audio and multiple viewings of the video from the Hendrick tour stop, I kept seeing Dan Marino selling Isotoner gloves.
Despite some gains in interest level in 2013, NASCAR – and all of auto racing in North America – is still going through a recession. The changes that are coming thick and fast and increasing radical on everything from spoiler heights to qualifying procedures are attempts to end the recession.
Many of the changes being proposed and made are not sitting well with some segments of fans; the apparently sizable segment which values tradition over flash.
In an attempt to turn that around, NASCAR and all its partners are engaging in a united PR front-strategy and that’s understandable.
Time will tell if the changes will re-inject major life into NASCAR. The thought here is that they might.
But for a couple of minutes during Day 2 of the four-day Media Tour, four of the biggest stars in NASCAR looked more like they were playing the role of good soldiers rather than living the lives of rabid reformers.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at email@example.com Comments