Did you see Sunday’s race at Martinsville? In the opinion of this fan, it was easily the best of the year. There were races for position throughout the field, races for the lead, and a dramatic game of cat and mouse between Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch.
There’s no getting around what can’t be changed in terms of reviving NASCAR. Regardless of what the powers that be do, attitudes toward the automobile and racing it have changed. The cars- both the street machine and the racing car- are better made. You still get some mechanical failures and teams wrestling with a piece to make it better on race day- but it’s not like the old days. Racers were once viewed as daredevils. Racing is still a bit dangerous, but nothing like it was back in the 60s, when safety innovations hadn’t caught up with technological advances. Young fans once fancied themselves one day trading paint and burning rubber. By and large, the thrill is gone.
That’s not to say there can’t be a compelling race event to watch. The race at Martinsville is Exhibit “A” for a race that will get someone’s attention. The car had to be good to hold up racing around those tight corners. If the brakes are poor, or the driver doesn’t use them right, they won’t hold up for 500 laps. On those short tracks, you’ve barely got back up to speed, and you’re careening around a corner again. That’s hard on a car.
There wasn’t so much of the fussing and feuding you sometimes see at Martinsville. By short track standards, the drivers were pretty tame. That isn’t to say, though that wasn’t some beating and banging. There was plenty of contact. Some of didn’t affect the cars a whole lot, some of it ended some race days early.
What we saw at Martinsville is more of what NASCAR needs. Yeah, yeah, I know that reconfiguring tracks costs money. On the other hand, can the sport handle losing yet more fans. Seems to me that if NASCAR put more short tracks on the schedule- mixed in with the others- the investment would pay for itself. They obviously aren’t listening to me, but it’s what I’d do.
It’s not going to bring back the so-called glory days. It’s a different world we live in today. On the other hand, there’s still a market for motorsports. We all know there are would-be fans staying away because it’s too much danged money for what you get when you get there. Give fans what they saw on the track at Martinsville Sunday, and trust me, there will be fewer fans disguised as empty seats.
What does NASCAR have to lose? As it stands at the moment, NASCAR is losing a lot. A change in thinking and a change where it’s needed can change that.