The Frontstretch: Ten Things I Hate About You, NASCAR by Amy Henderson -- Thursday August 23, 2007

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Ten Things I Hate About You, NASCAR

Holding A Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Thursday August 23, 2007

 

There has been a lot of talk this season about NASCAR's declining ratings, and if fewer TV viewers are a valid indicator, the sport's declining popularity. Fans say they just don't care as much as they used to, that the races aren't as exciting, and that the television coverage is sub par. NASCAR blames anyone they can-except themselves. The sad part is, NASCAR either had the opportunity to fix many of the things that fans have cited as reasons for leaving and refused, or whistled innocently and pointed the finger anywhere but at themselves. Thinking about what the real problems in the sport today are, and how easily they can/could have been fixed, makes me really wonder what is going on in the heads of the powers that be. Not that NASCAR has done anything to make us think they actually care about the fans, but sometimes it seems as though they only keep some things in place to save face and not look stupid.

What exactly is wrong with NASCAR today? Well, that could take all night, but here are my top picks, in no particular order.

1. Inconsistency in enforcing the rules. Contrary to reports of sightings at Roswell and the Enchanted Forest, the rulebook does, in fact, exist. There's a copy on the coffee table, if you want to know the truth. The problem is, even when there are specific consequences written, the sanctioning body skirts them; and where they aren't written, they vary from team to team, apparently on a whim. They crack down on some teams harder than others for the same offence and choose not to punish some offenders at all while nailing others to the proverbial cross. I don't care who sells the most merchandise or diversifies the field-anyone who commits the same crime should do the same time.

2. Ridiculous race times. Remember when races started at noon or one o'clock and ended before dinnertime? Me too. I used to watch them in their entirety then. I understand the need to accommodate West Coast fans, but come on. Accommodate them when the race is on the west coast. Oh, wait, they don't actually GO to the race if it's out there, yet they're mysteriously going to watch it? Please. Go back to one o'clock and maybe fans won't ditch the broadcast in favor of a family dinner.

3. The Chase. Excitement cannot be manufactured. Note to NASCAR: We know it's fake. If you're 600+ points behind the point leader with ten to go, there's probably a reason-like you haven't performed as well as he has-and you do NOT deserve the championship. Period. Yet they have points handed to them for their substandard performance and pretend they were contenders all along. Don't try to sell me on that. Tenth or twelfth place is an impressive season-but not a championship run. Let the REAL championship caliber teams fight it out. We got a champion who flat didn't deserve it one year, and one cheated out of the closest title margin in history (although at least the real winner got to take home the trophy) another. The Chase has worked out once in three years. Only in baseball should you be considered a success if you fail two out of three times.

4. The Top 35 rule. Where in the real word are people rewarded for something they did last week-or even last year-if they don't do their job this week? Imagine some guy winning Employee of the Week even though he lost three clients and bombed a presentation-because he did well six months ago. You'd be pissed. But here we are, being told by NASCAR that we love this rule because we're guaranteed to see all the top drivers every week. That's a deep load to be buried under. Qualifying should reward the fastest drivers right now-not yesterday. Nobody who beats ten cars in time trials should go home because he wasn't good enough last week-he's good enough now. Sure there should be a system in place for someone who crashes on his run, especially if it's due to rain or someone else's oil slick- but five or six cars should not be going home each week when five or six other cars ran slower. Don't insult our intelligence-we know the definition of the word race, and "slow guy wins" isn't it.

5. TV coverage. It doesn't matter what network it's on, ultimately NASCAR could have had more control over the contracts and still come out with a gajillion dollars in profit. They could have had in the contracts that the networks must show all restarts live, must come back from break if there is a caution and must limit the number of times they explain "tight" and "loose." But it might have meant a few grand less in their pockets, so we're stuck with more "entertainment" and less racing.

6. Ignoring their storied history. Want a quick and easy fix that would be a great PR move and would cost nothing? Return Darlington to the schedule at Labor Day instead of Mother's Day. NASCAR's not going to give the storied track a second date, but they could give them the right date-and create a lot of goodwill in the process. After all, if, as NASCAR preaches, the best dates are doled out to the tracks who sell the tickets, Darlington deserves that date even more-after all they sell out their one race each spring. California can't even fill the stands once, let alone twice, so it doesn't matter what two dates they run. But restore the Southern 500, and it just might appease some old-time fans. At least a little.

7. Marketing to the wrong audience. The fans NASCAR has attracted in the recent growth spurt are all well and good; some will no doubt become diehard fans. But many I fear are simply latching onto a trend, and will move on once the next big thing rolls around. By catering to this new breed of fan and ignoring the fans who have always been there, NASCAR is creating a precarious situation. Someday they might turn around and find there's nobody left.

8. Trying to be something they're not. Racing is not a stick and ball sport. Its beginnings are in the Southern Appalachians where the toughness and bravery of many of the moonshiners would put the most hardened NFL linebacker to shame. Don't try to be something you're not, especially when what you have is something unique and special.

9. Ignoring the fans. NASCAR would do well to select a panel of fans at each track and sit in a room with them, and just listen. They would find that often what fans want is simple. If the sanctioning body actually listened, and weren't afraid to admit they were wrong when something, like the Chase or the qualifying rules, doesn't work for the fans, and made changes accordingly, it just might restore the ratings.

10. Sacrificing good racing for demographics. The argument for taking first one date, then two, from Rockingham was that the track wasn't selling out. So California got two dates instead-and they don't sell out either. I'd be willing to bet that a race at Rockingham would be consistent in the television ratings with most of the others, maybe a bit better, like Bristol tends to be, because the racing is exciting. If the product isn't good, consumers won't buy it for long-and nobody likes cookie-cutter product, unless, of course, it's a cookie.

So, there, in a nutshell, is my take on what's wrong in NASCAR today. It's painful to look at. But it's fixable. It would all be fixable if only NASCAR knew it was broken.

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Larry
08/24/2007 06:19 AM
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Ever watched an old race on ESPNClassic? Those bias-ply tires created a situation where the cars would have to do a 4-wheen drift into each corner. Exciting and fun to watch. Surely Goodyear can come up with a tire the duplicated the dynamics of the old ones!

Douglas
08/24/2007 06:45 AM
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A very nice summation of the current state of NASCAR!

But, NASCAR, with offices in NYC to appease the money gods,! what more would you expect from them?

REAL RACING”??

HAH-HAH!

Ed
08/24/2007 06:54 AM
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You go girl! You said it all!

Gene Harsma
08/24/2007 07:31 AM
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Agree 100%. I live in So.Cal. We don’t deserve 2 dates. 1 date and they have a chance to sell out, 2 dates, now way. I also like the earlier start times in the east, which means we get morning races out west and have the Sunday afternoon to do other things.

Scott
08/24/2007 07:34 AM
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I totally agree with everything that you have just said. Too bad that Brian France won’t read this. I especially agree with # 7. NASCAR is too busy marketing the sport to the people who will move on to another sport just as soon as it becomes really popular. They are not even trying to appease the long-time fans anymore. No wonder so many of them are giving up on NASCAR now.

I have to admit that I have not given up on NASCAR yet, but I have serious problems with it. Used to, I made it a point to be in front of the television to see each Busch and Cup race. Nowadays, if I am in front of a television, I will turn it on, but am not really concerned if I am not able to see the race.

Truthfully, the main one that I try to watch nowadays is the Truck races. This appears to me to be what Cup racing was about ten years ago before Brian France screwed it up.

K. Morgan
08/24/2007 07:37 AM
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I just wish for once, through some public, high profile forum (a race broadcast, NASCAR.com, etc), that an article or statements like these would be put directly to Brian France for comment. I would be really curious to see how he would respond, especially if there were a few thousand signatures behind it in support.

nancy
08/24/2007 07:39 AM
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points well taken—unfortunately the Nascar demi-gods do not listen—instead they continue with their own agenda—whatever it may be

Bob
08/24/2007 07:42 AM
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You hit it.
The rules inconsistency- terrible.
Walking away from what got them there- the same thing.

JT
08/24/2007 07:59 AM
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I agree 100% with all your points. The main thing I hate about NA$CAR today is their attitude: arrogance!

Micah
08/24/2007 08:13 AM
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Amazing! I’ve been writing about the same thing for about 5 years. Na$car is either too ignorant or too full of themselves to listen to their fans. Even living on the west coast I find the later and later starts annoying. As a longtime diehard fan, I find Na$car’s cloying attitude to their “new” bandwagon fans disgusting. If thet’re trying to lose their fan base, they’re going about it the right way. Micah

hoboraceguy
08/24/2007 08:17 AM
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You can sum it up to JR. It all started with JR cautions, letting JR go below the yellow line at daytona with no penelty. Then they change to the chase to give him somewhat of a shot to win a cup. Heck I remember when JR crashed and then pitted 17 times under yellow to comeback and win. Take Watkins glen. Jrs out Kurt Busch is gonna kill him in the points. Kurt comes in for fuel to make sure he finishes. Nascar then throws a “phantom debris caution” And then when their supposed to restart they run 3 extra caution laps to” Clean up the extra debris from the imaginary caution. Taking us 7 caution laps for a spin. If Kurt hadn’t had pitted we never would had that caution. The fact is nascar trys their best to control the outcome of the race. But they can’t fix it. They can only guide it.

hoboraceguy
08/24/2007 08:21 AM
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The drop in ratings is because its NASCAR trying to help certain drivers is not a conspiracy theory anymore. Everyone has pretty much just accepted it as fact. Like watch when Kurt Busch gets more then an 8 second lead we always have a debris caution the camera’s can’t find… People see it clear as day now. Thats why your ratings are dropping.

Kyle
08/24/2007 08:33 AM
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kudos to you! it’s time for the heads of NASCAR to listen to what their “customers” want. if money is their goal, they should open their ears. it just seems that they try too hard to market the 30/40-something yuppies that have grown tired of street thugs fighting on basketball courts. get the history and heritage back and most everything will/should fall into place.

Michael
08/24/2007 08:43 AM
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I can’t disagree with any of the observations in your article. Brian France just might be the most clueless sports mogul ever.He has been responsible for one huge blunder after another since taking over from his father.The ultimate one might turn out to be the NASCAR vs AT&T lawsuit.The sport suing one of it’s own major sponsors! That should assure even the casual fan that something is seriously wrong with the way the sport is being run.How many current and potential sponsors will be looking for a another sport to get into instead of stock car racing?
The field should be filled by the fastest 42 cars plus one position available for the promotors option, or past champion, or what ever you want to call it. If Earnhardt, or Gordon, or Stewart, don’t go fast enough to be in the fastest 42, then they go home.Any other form of qualifing is a manipulation, not real racing.
The television broadcasts are almost unwatchable. The analysts all seem to be only interested in promoting themselves or shilling for one or two teams. The directors and producers are just as much to blame.I sure miss Benny and Neil.
Darlington being moved is a travesty.But NASCAR is not interested in tradition anymore. I doubt you could find anyone, outside of the NASCAR offices and California Speedway, who agree with moving the Labor Day race to the west coast. But the fact that NASCAR did move it, over the loud objections of all of the fans, shows you how interested they are in our opinions.So it would’nt help to give your opinions directly to Brian France. He and his cronies at NASCAR aren’t interested in what you we think.

OWEN
08/24/2007 09:04 AM
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Thanks for telling it like it is from a long time Petty Enterprises fan.

Chicagoan
08/24/2007 09:43 AM
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NASCAR’s rating are dropping because while they want to appeal to a broader demographic, they just can’t shake their ‘Good Ole Boy’ personna. NASCAR began to realize the potential of reaching a greater audience, and for awhile it worked, but that new demographic realized that NASCAR would never be able to fully shake its rednecked roots.

Who want’s to sit and watch fans trashing the track if a better driver beats Jr. week after week?

I have a lot of admiration for Darryl Waltrip, but the “Boogity Boogities” and the pervasiveness of the thick southern drawls in every broadcast gets old, quick.

Perhaps it’s time that NASCAR looks past its legacy of family leadership, and evolve into a more mature governing body and leave the favoritism behind.

Henry
08/24/2007 09:50 AM
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WOW! Excellent points. I used to plan my weekend around races, now i could care less. NA$CAR is screwing it all up. The Rock and Darlington started it and the AT&T thing sealed it for me. buh-bye NA$CAR

Mark H.
08/24/2007 09:55 AM
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I am one of the newer fans (5-6 years) and I don’t want to insult anybody. But I think there are too many 500 mile races. I can’t spend an entire day watching a race when the drivers are just out there logging laps until they get to the 400 mile mark. A 300 mile race can be completed in 2-3 hours and hold the viewers attention.

JT
08/24/2007 10:16 AM
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Here’s an 11th item that could be added to your list:

Everytime NASCAR tries to “help the smaller teams” (i.e.: the single-engine rule, limiting testing, leasing tires and COT), it has had the opposite effect.

NASCAR needs to ease up on the tinkering!

George
08/24/2007 10:20 AM
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All your points are valid. I hate the qualifying rules. They are stupid! The slowest cars should go home! So is the “Chase”. If you’re 12th in points that’s what you deserve. I used to watch all races live but now I only watch the Daytona 500 & the Brickyard. I record the rest and if I get time I will watch them at my leisure!

Kevin in SoCal
08/24/2007 11:04 AM
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I wish I had a nickel for every time someone complained about Darlington losing a race to California and selling out races. I have news for you. CA holds 100,000 seats, and sells 80-90 thousand of them. Darlington has 65,000 seats and sells them all. Do the math. 80-90 thousand is more than 65 thousand. Living in SoCal I have two races a year I can realistically see, both at CA. Infineon is 8 hours north, Las Vegas is 5 hours northeast, and Phoenix is 6 hours east. You people in the southeast have at least 5 tracks within a couple hours. Quit being selfish and share your NASCAR with the rest of the country so we can enjoy it, too.
About the Chase and the champ not deserving it? I dont understand at all. Kurt Busch might have gotten lucky at Homestead when his tire rolled back onto the track, but had 8 top tens in the first 9 races to become the leader. How is that not deserving? Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson did the same thing in their championship runs. Just because your favorite driver didnt win doesnt mean the guy who did win doesnt deserve it.
Now I’m willing to be flexible. Assuming Kentucky wins their lawsuit, give Kentucky the second race, move CA to Mother’s Day Saturday as a night race, and give Darlington back to Labor Day so you fans quit whining. Call it the Dodge Dealers Southern 500 or whatever.
And I enjoy 500 mile races as it becomes a question of endurance rather than strength. Anything can happen in 500 miles. I dont like the 300 milers at New Hampshire or Phoenix, they should be 400. And the road course races are too short. Why is Watkins Glen only 90 laps instead of an even 100?
Lastly, I thought the races were starting later for one so they end at night when both the racing is better and the weather is cooler, and two, to give people a chance to go to church in the morning.

Bob
08/24/2007 11:19 AM
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It appears that NASCAR “feels” that they can treat their loyal fans any way they want because we are already on the “hook”. So they push us around looking for more money and effectively turning their back on the people that were loyal to them.

It will come back to bite them.

An old quote is appropriate here…“Pigs get fat, but hogs get slaughtered” Instead of trying to suck up every dollar out there, maybe keep the “true fan” base happy(along with their money) and keep your eye towards “inviting” new fans in to show them why we like this sport.

Amy
08/24/2007 02:16 PM
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Wow! BEST article I’ve read in a long time. You should have it bronzed. I agree with every single point you make and would be willing to sign my name before you send it off to Brian. There was a time not so long ago when I wouldn’t miss a single minute of the Cup race. I’ve grown weary of “the show” and I am only staying with NASCAR as long as my driver does. When he goes, I go.

Bill Lawrence
08/24/2007 02:30 PM
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I am a former fan of the sport, which really is an understatement. I used to attend 6-10 races a year, visit the shops, spend stupid amounts of money at the souvenir rigs and all the things NASCAR wants you to do. I absolutely loved it. The last 2 years, I am lucky if I catch 3 races on TV. Two years ago, I went to my last race, because I had free tickets and lived in the Charlotte area and only go on Jayski once every couple of months. Most of the poeple who watched the races with me are the same way. You need to add a number 11 – they sue the sponsors of the their race teams. I’m glad NASCAR has cured me of the money eating addiction of this sport.

Robert E
08/24/2007 02:53 PM
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hey dont forget that if you look into the dealings of all the top brass in nascar there are some real stinky deals that go on
look into who’s on the board of dictators
look at the deal at Kansas speedway look at Kentucky and how the france family has shafted them and how little they pay the drivers and teams for a win a nascar driver team makes less then a PGA gulfer for winning someone gets the bucks and it shure aint the drivers or teams

HankZ
08/24/2007 03:41 PM
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Another nice one Amy. I’d like to see a “Part2” if you ever get a chance.

And what Michael above said about the directors and producers is DEAD ON. The way the cameras shift angles every 2.5 seconds or pan the crowd WAY too much, I get the feeling these schleps didn’t make it covering golf or tennis.

Doug
08/24/2007 03:49 PM
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Well said…. 100% truth to all 10 points.

Joe
08/24/2007 05:27 PM
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You are correct about everything but the TOP 35 Rule, you must be a Waltrip fan!!! The TOP 35 is to help protect the OWNERS investment in the sport, not to protect any certain driver. I think the number should be reduced to 25, since they only pay the TOP 25 in points at the end of the year anyhow and get rid of the Champions provisional. Thanks!

aginn
08/24/2007 05:56 PM
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i live on the west coast and you are so right. Cal. is boring. sure wish we had a rockingham out here but washington just won’t go for it. the constant channel changing and time changing of the races makes it impossible for me to watch what they offer as well. i live in the sticks and can’t even get speed or espn 2. so. i get used to the idea of not watching races. keep it up nascar. home and garden channel is looking better every day. UGH.

Marc
08/24/2007 07:10 PM
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Kevin in SoCal knows nothing about the Southeast. I have one track in 4 hours, another in 6 1/2, and everything else is a days drive, at least. Us old rednecks built this sport, then all the Northerners and Californians caught on, but it wasn’t pretty enough for you. Loved the racing, hated the racers, didn’t you? NASCAR kowtowed, now look at the whole mess. Who wants to watch anymore, not even the ones who messed it up. Give me and old dirt track any time.

Jeff
08/25/2007 01:32 AM
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I agree with a decent amount of the points that the author states, but dayum; it’s not like California had a referendum vote to take the Southern 500 from Darlington. I’ve been to Darlington, Richmond and want to go to other East Coast tracks, but enough of the California bashing. Seems that everyone just wants to have it be 49 states in the US of A and that California can just fall off into the ocean. We sold out every race from 97 to 03 when there was 1 race here and 1 would be sufficient to me, but since we do have 2 races, I go to both races. If Cali had 1, then I am sure I’d go to another race at another track. Not many people complain that Phoenix has 2 races and that isn’t the most exciting of tracks. I was born and raised in the Golden State. Wasn’t my choice, but was where it happened to be and I grew up on racing and love NASCAR. I didn’t have to grow up in the Southeast(a region of the country I love) to be a NASCAR fan. Most of the complainers seem to think that NASCAR is for Southeasterners only and that the rest of us can go fly a kite. Get a grip. NASCAR does have it’s faults, but it’s still far and away the best racing series in America. Get off the Cali bashing and the bashing of Cali race fans. There might not be as high of a percentage in Cali as there is in the Southeast, but that doesn’t mean we’re not allowed to be NASCAR fans. I also wish the races from the east would start no later than 1pm eastern. I prefer races to come on TV at 10am over 1130am here on the West Coast. And I prefer our day race at Cali to start no later than noon out here. Just my take, but quit thinking Californians are the ones that have led to the “demise” of NASCAR. It gets old and stale. The more tracks that Cup races each year, the merrier I say.

Jeff Cooke
08/25/2007 11:57 AM
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all these things are deffently true and correct,but the real reason the fans are leaving is because there was this drive that started in the back and finished in the front most of the times and did not take no crap from anyone and his name was Dale earnhardt in the black #3

Ian Barrett
08/25/2007 12:54 PM
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I agree with most of what you said. I do like the later race times. In the past, I would miss the start of the race every time while I was at church. Now I don’t have to race home like I’m on the track to catch the green flag.

One Problem Montoya
08/27/2007 12:56 AM
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Hey Jeff, I was a fan for over 20 years before I went to a live race 12 hours from my midwest home and I never once cried that Nascar would not build a track close to me so I could see a race in person. I was a fan because of the racing I could see on TV, and when ESPN picked up the races in the early 80’s it was like pure nervana. If I had a choice between being at California live or watching Rockingham or the “Southern 500” on TV I would much rather watch it on the tube. The butts in the seats do not make near as much money as the millions watching at home, and I would bet the Rockingham or Darlington would have much higher television ratings than the snoozefest at California, so your comparison between “The Rock” and California is off base.

Sounds to me like one of the “Newbies” crying that it should be all about Me, and I demand a track close to Me so I can see a race live, no matter the traditions or better tracks that have to be shut down just so I can have my way.

I used to plan my Sundays around Nascar and was always in front of the tube between 11:00am and 1:00pm for the start and never missed a lap. Now I work on other things with the radio on in the background and read about the races on the net on Mondays. I have pretty much lost interest, but am still bitter about the way the sport has changed in the last few years.

I hope Jeff and all his friends enjoy themselves at “Their” track next weekend, and try not to look down your noses at any old time rednecks that may be in “your” stands.

Kevin in SoCal
08/27/2007 12:41 PM
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Marc, when I said “5 tracks in 2 hours” I was referring to the people who live close to Darlington or Rockingham.
Montoya, you’ve missed the point completely due to your “I hate CA” blinders. None of us that I know of cried or demanded a second date for CA. I was perfectly happy with one date, but I’m even happier with two dates. You can blame the overcrowding of tracks in the NC/SC area for moving races away from that area and towards the west. Why does CA get all the bashing anyway? I dont hear this bashing against AZ or TX for getting two races. I think its more of a general dislike for CA than anything else.

wcfan
08/27/2007 05:20 PM
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Kevin, I seem to remember two tracks in SoCal that were closed due to lack of support. While the tracks in the southeast continued to receive support, granted not always sale outs, this was when no one but the southeast really cared

Marc
08/27/2007 05:28 PM
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WIsh we had a race at the Rock, sure would love to see that again.
Why would I want to go to a closed track, maybe Kevin in SoCal could go to the Ontario track, that one is close by for him.

 

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