Tuesday, December 16, 2008
You knew it was coming. The wonder is that nobody has done it before now.
But there’s a column/blog/whatever on the web today that calls, out right, for NASCAR to just go away.
The writer is Robert Weintraub, who says he’s based in Atlanta and who worked as a producer on the “NBS 24/7” show.
To summarize his points, he says NASCAR should be “put out of its misery” for several reasons.
First, he says, the sport “has been leaking oil for some time.” He cites declining attendance and television ratings, poor reception of the Chase for the Sprint Cup format, the “disconnect” of the sport from its hardcore fan base and the changing face of the sport’s stars.
“The most visible part of NASCAR, the driver corps, has morphed from a crew of heroic-yet-relatable, older, mostly mustachioed hell-raisers to an interchangeable posse of corporate-ready drones fresh out of driver's ed,” Weintraub writes, citing three-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson as someone who is “excellent but dull.”
But Weintraub adds that “a couple of sexy drivers or a breathless season finale” won’t fix the sport’s biggest problem.
“The sport can't escape the fact that the internal combustion engine and fossil fuels are technologies on a steep downslope. With hybrids and electrics on the way in, it's hard to see where gas-guzzling, emission-belching stock cars fit in. Unlike the Indy Racing League and Formula 1…NASCAR has yet to implement alternative-fuel programs — hell, it only switched to unleaded gasoline last season! Open-wheel racing isn't immune from the economic turmoil…but it stands a better chance at survival. Formula 1 and the Indy crowd run machines that are less cars than science experiments, highly engineered equipment that can and will adapt easily to new technologies. Stock cars are just tricked-out Dodges and Chevys — you know, the ones that nobody's buying anymore.”
He also points out that if the American automakers do get money from the government to stay alive, it’s hard to see how they can justify spending any of that on “a diversion like NASCAR.”
“There is an unshakeable anachronistic whiff to NASCAR these days. Like the saber-toothed tiger and the cassette tape, stock cars had their time — but that time is now past. …Detroit's nightmare is an opportunity for NASCAR to do the right thing and suspend operations. Once it goes, we'll probably wonder why it ever existed in the first place.”
I think he’s full of horse feathers. Whenever there are issues with gas prices or supply or other economic hard times, somebody always says we can’t “afford” diversions that take us away from finding real solutions. That’s nonsense. Movies, music and sports help us recharge to face those problems, in my mind.
I agree that NASCAR needs to start working toward using different technologies and fuels to make what its cars do on the track more relative to what’s going on with cars on America’s roads now and in the future. But you can’t convince me that what goes into making an Indy car go 225 mph has anything to do with making street cars better, either.
I also don’t agree that NASCAR can’t survive without the manufacturers. The fact is that history shows the opposite is true. Manufacturers have pulled out of racing before, several times, and every time they’ve come back. If you’re going to sell cars, you’re going to have to advertise to potential buyers. People who come to NASCAR events, by and large, are the kind of people who like cars. The best advertising is the kind that’s aimed at likely customers, and I think it would be short-sighted for auto makers, no matter what form the industry takes going forward, not to try to appeal to race fans.
Posted by Observer Sports at 11:44 AM