NASCAR Charters: This Isn’t Your Daddy’s NASCAR


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This isn’t your Daddy’s NASCAR. Most of you already knew that, based on the longings for days of NASCAR yore that I’ve read numerous times over the years. Knowing most of you- you take pride in the notion that racing is “different;” it’s not like the stick and ball sports- with their playoffs, their complicated rules and their structure. At least that’s the way it used to be.

Deep down inside- racing fans- we once held to a romantic notion of stock car racing. We fantasized of being a Lee Petty or Ralph Earnhardt, towing our homemade race car on a trailer with the family pick-up truck. Indeed, most of NASCAR’s pioneers were farmers (Herb Thomas), delivery truck drivers (Petty), former factory workers (Earnhardt), and moonshine runners (Junior Johnson). Stock car racing got its start as the weekend hobby of moonshiners looking for bragging rights.

Things evolved. In part, NASCAR formed as answer for the need for structure, to give the sport legitimacy. Its formation gave racing uniformity and sent the message to the world that auto racing wasn’t just a passing fancy. As the sport advanced, things like manufacturer support, corporate sponsorships and other trappings associated with growth entered the picture. Since the advent of NASCAR’s “Modern Era” in the 70s, dirt tracks have gone away, race cars have evolved far past what you and I can buy down at the local dealerships, and let’s face it, big time auto racing has become a rich man’s game.

Like it or not, NASCAR Charters are not only a reminder that the days of a simpler sport have long set sail, it can be argued that they are a necessity for big time auto racing’s viability. Even if you were wealthy, would you really want to risk entry into the world of NASCAR, knowing there’s a very real possibility if you failed, the only thing of value to sell would be cars, tools, and the shop- assuming you owned it? You’d have to be really passionate about racing and almost manically self-assured to put your toe in the water. Today’s power players: Joe Gibbs, Roger Penske, and Jack Roush are getting rather long in the tooth, and the likes of Rick Hendrick, Chip Ganassi, and Barney Visser aren’t kids either. Now, when these owners decide to get out, they have something of value to sell. They also have an assurance they can pass on to potential sponsors, that their teams will be there week after week to offer that exposure that marketers are looking for.

NASCAR Charters are huge for the owners, and understandably regarded with- at best- a knowing resistance by fans. It’s one more reminder that NASCAR, and big-time racing in general is far removed from the competition we see at the local short track. In a way, it’s another smack to the face, reminding us there’s a growing chasm between the way things are, and they way we want things to be.