Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Has Nascar Sold Its Soul?


As I have mentioned before...been a big Nascar fan since I was a young 'un. This year, the sport faces a host of issues. Attendance has been decreasing for a few years now since it's height at the turn of the millenium. The cause? There are a number in my estimation. One, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has not lived up to his potential or his name in the eyes of many and, for the most part, has been irrelevant on the track in recent years. Not having the most popular guy in the sport do well is, well...unpopular. Second, the same guy has won the Sprint Cup four years in a row...Jimmy Johnson, Mr Personality (being a little facetious, here). A lot of people have not been excited about Jimmy, because they say he is a boring champion (unlike Earnhardt Sr., Jeff Gordon or Tony Stewart). And all of this, even though he and crew chief Chad Knauss have obviously had the best team, or they're at least running the best racket -- (you know...Nascar's unwritten code...if you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin' -- wink wink ;-). Nevertheless, folks are tired of him winning the whole thing all the time.

The biggest gripe from the fans is that the racing has become stale, boring -- "let 'em race like they used to in the old days," has been the cry...you know, rubbing is racing. So, this year, Nascar VP, Robin Pemberton said at the beginning of the year -- "Boys, have at it." Did the drivers have to take it so literal? The racing and the action have been more exciting to be certain...especially the always potential three tries for a green/white/checker finish. This past Sunday at Atlanta, Carl Edwards and the #99, purposely put the big hurt on Brad Keselowski in the #12 with seven laps to go, spinning him out. Kesleowski's car, then, went airborne and hit the wall upside down on the top of the car. Keselowski was unhurt, but Edwards was unremorseful for what he said was "retaliation...absolutely." Edwards and Keselowski have had a history of altercations, as Keselowski "accidentally" clipped Edwards last year, sending him flying into the wall and fence and stole a race from him on the last lap. Keselowski also hit Edwards early on in Sundays race and sent him to the garage for the better part of it, costing him any opportunity to win. Most of his fellow-drivers are probably patting Edwards on the back when no one is looking, as Keselowski has had on-track dust ups with a number of drivers.

So, the dilemma is this -- the Nascar purists love this...the "let 'em smack each other around" mentality and resulting action. The Pemberton dictum has made certain that this has been the case. Others are saying that this is setting a very bad and dangerous precedent, as we now have Nascar drivers with short memories and fuses delivering the equivalent of a 95 mph fastball to the chin...only in cars going 190 mph. They say that this is going to lead to the death of a driver or fans in the stands as the result of a car or its parts flying into them. It is, indeed, a sticky wicket. Well...the cautious fans have been saying that Edwards should be suspended for at least four races and lose points. The purists have been saying...no suspension or fine -- leave 'em all alone. It seems that the Nascar higher-ups have chosen to side with the purists (and did they really have a choice...having set themselves up for such with their preseason proclamation?), as Edwards has received a three race probation, but no fine or suspension...hardly even a slap on the wrist, really. Well...Nascar and its fans are getting what they have bargained for...and wanted. It has made the racing and the rubbing more exciting (which I like...within reason), but at what ultimate price? I guess...and I'm afraid...that we will see. Blessings,


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