The Frontstretch: Whatever NASCAR Does, They Can't Stop the Dance by Amy Henderson -- Thursday October 18, 2007

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Whatever NASCAR Does, They Can't Stop the Dance

Holding A Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Thursday October 18, 2007


It seems so simple.

Why, people ask, if I'm so often disenchanted with NASCAR these days, do I still bother to watch? And on the surface, it seems as though it should be a simple enough decision-free up my Sundays for mowing the lawn and watching Lake Norman recede. But like ending any long-term relationship, it's just not that easy. Because despite the problems, despite the inconsistency and blatant favoritism, somewhere past the manufactured competition and the ignorance of the past is something inescapable: it's still beautiful.

The racing-the drivers and the cars, the crews and colors under the lights-those are essentially the same as they have always been. Some are young men with something to prove, driven by desire and ambition, with a little anxiety and a little naiveté thrown in for a good measure. Some are older, hanging on to the twilight of a fading career, looking for that one more day in the sun before they walk into the dusk. The older ones were young once, the young ones can only dream of the long and prosperous careers the older ones have enjoyed. There's a certain longing there, each for a part of the other.

The racing itself is all color and light, disguised in a snarling, angry beast of a machine. It thrills us a little, enthralls us a little, scares us a little. It's angry and lighthearted all at once. It has teeth, and those teeth bite. But it's magnetic-it draws back fans and competitors alike, even after the deepest of tragedies. It is comedy as well-there are enough lighthearted souls in the garage and the stands to ensure that. It's a dance, really, spinning over the asphalt floor.

Racing, in itself, has either changed so much since the early days that it's hardly recognizable, or it's hardly changed at all. Maybe both. The technology has changed-if Big Bill France was still alive, I wonder if he'd even recognize the sport for what it once was. Seven-post shakers and twelve-second pit stops have replaced the simple garages and tire-iron-armed crews, but the ultimate goal is the same-to make the car the fastest, to drive it better, to roll it into victory lane.

And what happens when they get there is often beautiful. Celebrations, sometimes tears, sometimes a heartfelt tribute to a lost comrade, sometimes stunned silence at a first win or one snatched from adversity's claws-we've seen them all. And they, at least are still right, still worth it.

There is still a lot wrong with NASCAR, but there has always been a lot right with racing. Take the sanctioning body out of it, take away the multi-million dollar sponsors. Take away the fancy paint jobs, the silver Tiffany trophy, and the gaudy television coverage. Take all of that away and they would still race. At heart, I find it hard to believe that the drivers and crews trotted out in spectacle each week wouldn't be doing it anyway, some way, somehow, on some track. Take everything away and they still dance.

The Frontstretch Newsletter, back in 2014 gives you more of the daily news, commentary, and racing features from your favorite writers you know and love. Don’t waste another minute – click here to sign up now. We’re here to make sure you stay informed … so make sure you jump on for the ride!

Today on the Frontstretch:
Beyond the Cockpit: Alexis DeJoria On The 300 mph Women of the NHRA
A Swan’s Broken Wings Equal NASCAR’s Next Concern?
Thinkin’ Out Loud – The Off Week Season Review
Pace Laps: Swan Racing’s Future, Fast Females and Dropping Out
Sprint Cup Series Facilities Can Build Upon Fan Experience by Looking to Their Roots


©2000 - 2008 Amy Henderson and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

Gerry Blachley
10/19/2007 01:46 AM

Oh yes when they started to calling it a show, and not a race the Guccigulchers had it.

M. B. Voelker
10/19/2007 05:24 AM

Nascar has its flaws, but its still the best thing going in professional sports today.

I hate it when people focus on the flaws and refuse to acknowledge the good parts.

10/19/2007 06:14 AM

Those of us who complain about NASCAR today, do so hoping that baby brian and co. will listen. M.B. would rather us stick our heads in the sand with his rather than attempt to correct some of the wrongs that have come into this sport? I have been going to races since I was a kid at the 1956 Daytona race on the beach. So I have earned the right to gripe about this farce they are running today!

10/19/2007 06:28 AM

It is definitely hard to shake the habit of NASCAR. After over 40 years of following it, I still want to read about it and even try to catch a race. However, when I turn it on, there is always something that makes me turn it off. I feel sad that something that I put so much enthusiasm into for so long, has descended into the mess that is now called NASCAR. On the positive side, I don’t worry anymore about whether I set the VCR to catch the race on days that I have to be away, and my family likes the fact that I don’t sit glued to the TV all Sunday afternoon listening to that incessant roaring.

Mike C
10/19/2007 06:35 AM

The very reason that fans complain about nascar is that it no longer ranks as the best thing in pro sports today . In fact , it no longer ranks as the best form of auto racing . The fans complain because they have watched a great sport become a watered down embarassment. The sound and the color are still there , but the substance has been replaced by a drive on the part of Brian and Lesa France to obliterate all ties to the past and create a monument to themselves . Oh , and grab all the money they can before it folds . The truth is , neither one of them cares anything about racing , they view nascar as a business they inherited , something to make money with . There is no real interest or passion for racing like their father and grandfather had .

10/19/2007 06:37 AM

Thank you “Johnboy60”!!

Well stated! I could say exactly the same thing!

Today’s $ASCAR is NOT racing! It is only “entertainment” developed to fleece the unknown fan of their money!

Racin it ain’t!

MMMM, wonder why all the empty seats at the “races” these days???

Gerry Blachley
10/19/2007 10:33 AM

I sat in the driver meeting in Ca. and Japan and the word SHOW was said over and over again NOT Racing. Ron Hornaday dad and I raced to gather when a little kid got the tools I am sorry I can not spell and this is NOT Racing this is a show ESPN told you so, do I still bother to watch? yes with fast forward in hand

10/19/2007 11:48 AM

I finally gave it up and have never been happier. Yes its a shock to not watch “The Show” But once you learn theres alot of real racing on at the same time, its alot easier. For the first time nascar is coming out and not even giving the impression that its a fair race. Enjoy your WWF, I mean Nasar.

10/19/2007 11:56 PM

“Why, people ask, if I’m so often disenchanted with NASCAR these days, do I still bother to watch?”

That’s just it Amy….I honestly do not CARE if I see the race or not anymore. Used to be that my weekend was structured around it. I can watch anyone of the many post race shows, see everything of interest that happened and not have to suffer through the commercials.
I thought I would miss it more, but you know what? I DON’T!!!

10/22/2007 10:07 PM

I went Grand Am racing and am so much happier for it. Having been a fan and competitor in NASCAR for some 30 years I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter how much I long for the good old days, they will never return. When NASCAR puts a slug product like the “Crap Of Tomorrow” on the track for safety of the drivers but allows a driver to sit broadside to oncoming traffic because the Chase must go on. When a network like ESPN, who helped build NASCAR television coverage long before the other networks, follows the same lemming attitude as the other networks there is no hope. But like a beautiful wife that turns out to be a whore, gonna miss ya, but not that much.


Contact Amy Henderson

Recent articles from Amy Henderson:

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Announces Partnership with Cessna, Textron
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Want to know more about Amy or see an archive of all of her articles? Check out her bio page for more information.