Saturday, May 26, 2007

It would take that perfect storm to take NASCAR down a notch

Ed Hinton might not always be right, but he’s never in doubt.

In his column from Indianapolis posted elsewhere on Saturday, you can see Ed in top form, speaking in the kind of absolutes that he lives by.

“If Danica Patrick becomes the first female winner of the (Indianapolis) 500, Indy might gain only a tie for international headlines. Six hours earlier because of the trans-Atlantic time difference, England’s Lewis Hamilton could become first black driver to win Monaco – or any major motor race, anywhere.

“Should either or both happen, nothing NASCAR could do could make the 600 more than it was until a decade ago: a Memorial Day afterthought.”

I don’t have any argument against that. (As an aside, you’ll also notice how Ed loves to translate obvious foreign words – like “grand prix” into great prize – for his readers. I can do that, too. For example, LaJoie is French for “the joie.”)

Well, maybe I do have one.

No matter who wins the Formula One race at Monaco Sunday, America won’t care.

Hamilton is, by all accounts, a remarkable talent who takes the lead in the F1 standings into Sunday’s event. But he’s not an American, and American sports fans simply don’t get worked up about any sport where Americans aren’t a factor.

Yes, there is an American driver in F1. His name is Scott Speed and I am sure his parents are proud of him. But he is not a competitive factor in that series, and until he is Americans aren’t going to connect with F1 just because Speed is marked “present” when the series takes roll.

A victory by Hamilton Sunday would be important in the grand scheme of motorsports, of course, and it would up the already keen pressure on NASCAR to find people of color to compete at its highest levels.

Internationally it would be a big story, too. World Cup soccer is a big deal internationally, but in the United States it never will be until our team has a shot to win it. I’m not saying that’s right, but I am saying that’s the way it is.

A Danica Patrick victory at Indianapolis, of course, is a whole other deal.

Patrick is already the only story anybody cares about in American open-wheel racing, which is a sad but nonetheless true state of affairs for that discipline. If she’s the one drinking milk in victory lane after 500 miles Sunday, she’ll be on the front page of virtually every newspaper in America on Monday.

But while Hinton is right in saying that if Patrick wins at Indy and Hamilton wins in Monaco, the Coca-Cola 600 will get only third billing around the world, what he doesn’t say is that unless all of that falls into place things will be right like they’ve been for the past 10 years or so.

If you’re a Formula One fan in this country, chances are it’s because you’re one of those people who gets pleasure out of knowing things about something obscure, like those people who listen only to bands who’ve not yet become commercially successful.

You get up at the crack of dawn on Sunday to watch races from all over the world on Speed, and knowing that not very many people are doing that makes you feel special.

As for Indianapolis, the fact that the Indy Racing League had that race on its schedule is the reason Ed Hinton is back there this May. If the Championship Auto Racing Teams faction in the open-wheel split had Indy, then the IRL might be as irrelevant as the ChampCar World Series, the direct CART descendant, is today.

Unless there’s the perfect scenario Hinton talks about, with Patrick and/or Hamilton winning Sunday, far more people who read the papers Ed works for will care who wins at Lowe’s Motor Speedway than about who wins at Indy and Monaco combined.

And I have no doubt about that.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more...F1 is at best a casual watch for me...and I haven't watched Indy in years....if Danica wins it will be the story for 48 hours but that will be it...without the perfect storm the Coke 600 is it...

Anonymous said...

Formula One makes races at Michigan or California look excited. I call it the Grand Parade and am offended the winner has the guts to call himself the World Driving Champion.

In most events, only two cars have a realistic shot at winning. Because they are often teamates, only one guy has a shot to win as the number 2 man will recieve "team orders" to let the other guy win.

Anonymous said...

i'm not a big f1 fan.
to say people only watch f1 because they like to know about obscure events is in itself an obscure fact.
nascar is on it's way down.
that is an obscure fact simply because the decline has barely started.
when, i guess it was humpy, says the qualifying crowd has gone down and nascar needs to find a way to fake drama, you have to admit the real excitement is going away.
nascar has to worry about the C.O.T... crowd of tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

I don't disagree with your conclusion, David, but I am an unabashed F-1 fan and really enjoy the races for a lot of reasons. The skill of the top F-1 drivers in those high-tech rockets on the wide variety of challenging courses is undeniable. I also appreciate a circuit that includes so many different countries and includes drivers and team members of so many nationalities and personalities.

I won't argue that the races often come down to just a couple of cars, but nothing in NASCAR matches the excitement of an F-1 start and, worldwide, F-1's marketing blows NASCAR away. NASCAR and F-1 are totally different, but both are fun in their own way. I appreciate that.

TalkGeorge said...

For those willing to spread their wings, both F1 and IndyCar have alot of vrooming to offer.

Anonymous said...

one thing is for sure no one has ever accused F1 of bieng fixed !

Anonymous said...

I think it's wishful thinking on Ed Hinton's part... America could care less if Lewis Hamilton wins a race or not, and the people who don't really follow racing would pay attention for a week or two if Danica won. Just my opinion...

Anonymous said...

Truthfully, more people in the U.S. are interested in watching the NCAA Lacrosse finals on Memorial Day than are interested in watching any F1 race anywhere, anytime. If you want an 'obscure sport' comparison, there's one for you, and it's pretty darned accurate, too.

The claim that F1 is better marketed worldwide than NASCAR proves Dave's point. See, let me say it again - 'People in the U.S. do NOT care about sports that are popular worldwide unless there is a dominant American participating in that sport. Preferably SEVERAL dominant Americans...' You can gauge the success of F1 in France against the success of NASCAR there all you want, and all you've done is waste keystrokes.

F1 contains little of the drama of NASCAR, with all of the monotony, plus some. As far as the Indy 500, well I don't know ANYONE who even watches it. Of course, I live in the South, and not in Indiana, so that might skew the results somewhat. But really, I take two minutes to watch the highlights on Sportscenter on Sunday evening, and I don't think about it again for 365 days. Heck, I am more interested in horse racing than Indy or F1 racing.

Anonymous said...


Where have you and the blind fans been? NASCAR is down at least a notch, if not several. TV ratings keep diving down! Way, way too much pre-race hype over the same BS, week after week. It was a breath of fresh air to see a new winner, especially winning a race by fuel mileage, instead of NASCAR scripted yellow flags.

Anonymous said...

Well women in racing must be catching on -

the pole position

Anonymous said...

In an effort to give the fenderless variety of motorsports a fair chance to get my motor running, I tuned in to the Indy was the first time since my Father and I watched AJ Foyt race in the 60's that I made the effort to settle in and give it a chance...all I an say is thank God for rain! I was somewhat amused by the announcers touting the number of lead changes, albeit between 2 drivers for the first...what was it 10 hours? No, it just seemed like it was that long until the first caution allowed us to mix up the field a little. Anyway, I was glad for the rain because then I could turn over to Speed TV without feeling guilty, and watch Spencer, Kenny, et al, gab about nothing much in NASCAR... what a relief! The 600 was not the most exciting race, but was at least I wasn't praying for a rain delay to break up the monotony!

Drew3002 said...

Nascar is getting boring thats why I syarted watching the American Le Mans Series,IRL and Grand Am Rolex Series they have better entertainment value than Nascar.Nascar SUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I have serious doubts, are you holding resentment because they took your credentials away for unappropriate reporting on fatalities at Indy. Get over it, fat fuck.

Anonymous said...

Yeah Indy and Nascar are two totally different beast in my opinion. I'm just a simple man who likes to watch cars go fast.
I hear the rumors are thats Danica is going to get a chance to test drive for a spot on the Honda F1 team. She does bring a lot of attention and publicity to Indy. But not sure if she is ready for F1 yet.
She is pretty funny though. Here is a Video of her hosting a talk Show: motodanica

Anonymous said...