NPR and NASCAR just don't mix. National Public Radio has waded into the Jeremy Mayfield scandal with an All Things Considered story entitled, "Will drug scandal crush NASCAR fans?" The implication in the headline is that you, as a NASCAR fan, could be crushed by news that a driver who has not been relevant for years has been called a drug user by a sanctioning body that tends to make up the rules as it goes along. NASCAR fans have lived through worse.
The opening line of the report is "NASCAR has spent years trying to break free of its hillbilly caricature." Way to get hillbilly stuff right up front, NPR. Why waste time? The host of the program interviews ESPN's Ryan McGee, one of the reporters who have been at the forefront of reporting on the Mayfield scandal.
McGee, who used to work for NASCAR, said the sanctioning body has made a concerted effort to attract housewives, businessmen and people from the West Coast and Northeast. "Part of that was trying to put some distance between itself and the old-school, southeastern, fair or unfair, redneck image of the sport," McGee said. "That's why this hurts so much, because you certainly couldn't come up with a more redneck situation, quite honestly, than a driver from Kentucky testing positive for methamphetamines and doing it twice and now dragging the whole step-mom and some of the things he said into public. Whether he's guilty or innocent at this point, the league is scrambling a little bit to make sure the perception isn't that it's like this with everybody in the garage. Quite honestly, it's not."
McGee's point is that the Mayfield-NASCAR mess could hinder attempts at luring new fans to the sport. That is a far different, smaller, crisis than having the sport's fan base crushed.
Will drug scandal crush NASCAR fans? (NPR)