Following every weekend, there’s a Monday. After sleeping off the celebration, it’s time to face reality; time to get back to work. Now that the 2012 champion has been crowned, and the season has been put to bed, NASCAR has some serious work ahead of it. From here, there are less than 90 days to go before magical motorsports tour descends on Daytona, so there’s no time for fooling around.
While folks in Washington DC talk of a fiscal cliff, NASCAR is looking over a precipice of its own where one good push could send the future of the sport into a free fall. While the economy has armed the spin doctors with a convenient scapegoat, no one with a shred of intellectual honesty is letting that dog hunt anymore. Ratings are down, along with track attendance. It doesn’t take a Einstein to put two and two together on this one.
It’s true that NASCAR will never become the NFL in terms of popularity. It will never quite run with college football or even March Madness, for that matter. Could it regain the status that say, baseball enjoys? What we’re talking about here is a sport that doesn’t appeal to everybody, but enjoys a strong and significant niche for those that appreciate its qualities. What we’ve learned should provide direction to getting NASCAR back to where it was not so long ago.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from 2012, pain is a great catalyst for change. Say what you want about Bruton Smith, but the empty seats at Bristol Motor Speedway spoke loud and clear, and brought about a makeover before their late summer date. Smith also knew the mess at Kentucky experienced in 2011 was intolerable there, and an extreme makeover produced a better experience for the fan than the year before.
Face it, NASCAR, you can’t be what you’re not. This sport is blue collar, and sometimes a bit brutish. If you’ve learned nothing else from the reception that Brad Keselowski has received as the newly minted champion, is NASCAR fans want something honest, a little unpolished and unpretentious. You do your fans and your sponsors a disservice by trying to Madison Avenue polish on a sport built on grit and grease. Quit kidding yourself with luxury suites and tickets only a CEO can afford, keeping in mind your sporting events are like a regional Super Bowl every, requiring on the part of the spectator a commitment of time off work, travel, lodging and food. You can either try to make a lot of money off of a few people, or a little money off of a lot of people.
Most of all, the racing has to improve. Some incremental improvements have been seen of late, but let’s face it, there are tracks where the racing is NEVER, and I mean NEVER good. Fix it, and fix it now. Better yet, take the racing somewhere else, to newer location like Iowa, or even (Heaven forbid) return the racing to the places it left.
It’s not too late…..yet. The fact that disgruntled fans still visit sites like this to air their displeasure tells you their still around, and aren’t letting go of their NASCAR easily.
You know what it’s too late for? Kicking the can down the road. Time to get to work NASCAR; the fans have spoken. Do we have your attention yet?
Jim McCoy is a radio and television sports reporter and producer in Southern Oregon, where he makes his home with his wife and three children. Jim is also a radio play-by-play announcer for high school football, baseball and basketball. He was recently named Oregon Association of Broadcasters 2012 Sports Announcer of The Year- Non-commercial Division.
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