By: Drew Hierwarter
This past weekend is one of the worst ones all year for a race fan. For the last few weeks, leading up to this one, we have been teased with news from Daytona. There was testing, there was news about team changes, and then, we had the Rolex 24 from Daytona. The Rolex was followed by the NASCAR media tour which filled the airwaves and the blogs with all sorts of enthusiasm and anticipation of the upcoming race season. Then, nothing.
This weekend was completely devoid of racing news of any kind. There was a big sporting event of some sort that pushed everything else to the back of the room. I don’t know much about it. I did look at it for a few minutes and I saw that everybody was wearing helmets but there were no race cars anywhere to be seen, so I’m really not sure what was going on.
But what the weekend did have was time. Plenty of time for me to reflect on this thing we call motorsports. Time to put into perspective all that has been said in the media and various blogs about the problems with racing today, and specifically all that’s “wrong” with NASCAR. And for sure, there are a lot of things wrong with NASCAR.
The opinions on exactly what’s wrong with NASCAR and how it should be “fixed” are many and varied. There’s the Chase, the top 35 car owner points, the poor television coverage that’s leading to lowered ratings. Reduced attendance, high ticket prices, changes in the points, changes in qualifying rules, races that are too long, too short, too boring, the cars don’t look like real cars, and you get the idea.
One of the easiest things in the world to do right now is to be critical of NASCAR. And just about everybody who has access to a keyboard is participating, especially those who seem to know little about the sport. “NASCAR just isn’t what it used to be”, they say. “I’ve lost all interest in NASCAR since; fill in the blank.” It doesn’t take any thought to bash something that’s being bashed on every front. The pack mentality takes over and suddenly “everybody” is on the bandwagon. Well, I’m not and I doubt that I ever will and here’s why.
If you ignore all the hype. If you disregard all the bad things being said and written about NASCAR. If you pay no attention to the lousy job the TV networks are doing in covering the sport. If you don’t think about the politics, the Chase, the points, the attendance, or the low ratings and you ignore all of it.
If you can do that, if you can bypass all the clutter and see what’s beyond the trees, you’ll see what’s really there. It’s still internal combustion engines powering cars designed and built by some of the most brilliant engineers and fabricators in the world. And these cars are driven by people who can make those cars do amazing things. Things that only a very select few people have the talent and ability to do. If you just think of that, and if you just look for that, it’s still racing the way it has always been.
And it’s still, at least for this writer, the single most exciting, wonderful, and amazing sport in the world. I have been following racing in its many forms for more than 50 years now, and in spite of that other “stuff’, in spite of all the naysayers who think the sport is no longer any good, or isn’t what it used to be, I will continue to watch and enjoy it for the rest of my life!