Does anyone remember NASCAR’s attempt at a children’s cartoon? I don’t know what other NASCAR fans were expecting, but when ‘NASCAR Racers’ was announced several years back, I imagined a cartoon with Bobby Labonte, Dale Jr., Jeff Gordon, etc. which chronicled the adventures they might have around the famous racetracks we are all familiar with. Or perhaps, a cartoon with the drivers sniffing out evil plots and foiling them, ala ‘Scooby Doo’.
Instead, we were taken into the future, where drivers with names like Charger, Stunts, and Rexcor raced on tracks that looked suspiciously like the triple loop-de-loop metal rollercoasters of today. It was disappointing, and so were the ratings; thus ‘NASCAR Racers’ only whizzed over the futuristic tracks for a short while before they were canceled.
I have often thought, though, that the appeal of NASCAR to small children (and adults with small children’s hearts) is strong enough that a children’s show of some kind, be it a cartoon or puppet show, would do very well. Think of the wonderful ‘Sesame Street’ puppets created by the late Jim Henson. Children everywhere took such characters as Elmo, Big Bird, and Bert and Ernie into their hearts. I know it would be an easy jump for NASCAR fans everywhere to tune in to see a cute and fuzzy Elliott Sadler or Jamie McMurray learning how to spell ‘pit box’.
I can visualize a patient and mustached Mike Helton ‘Mr. Mike’ puppet being the authority figure, and the one the children gasp but giggle at when he must admonish one of the driver puppets for not respecting personal space, or calling each other names like ‘weasel’ or ‘big meanie’. The Tony Stewart puppet would have many tiny pieces of black felt stitched to his face for the scruffy look he’s famous for. ‘Left-Turn Tony’ would be a viewer favorite, since no one knows what he’ll be up to next.
‘Candid Kevin’ would be another ‘Play Time’ pleaser, with everyone looking forward to his adventures, and what he has to say about them. He would likely be one of the puppets that get to see ‘Mr. Mike’ a little more often than the others. These antics would send the kids into ‘uh-oh-he’s-in-trouble’ laughter, but all while they learned lessons about keeping tempers cool.
‘Magical Mark’ would be a spry and springy puppet, who would make the children jump and laugh with his peek-a-boo games (‘I’m here!’ ‘Now I’m gone’ ‘No! I’m back’). ‘Ruddy Rusty’ however, would only be around for one season, and then teach children about saying goodbye to a dear friend.
Retail stores would love the merchandise a show like this would create. The ‘Jiffy Jeff Gordon’ stuffed animal could say, ‘I’m having an awesome day’ or ‘Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me’ when his string is pulled. Included in ‘Dashing Dale Jr.’s package would be the latest ‘My Food Guide Pyramid’ from the U.S.D.A., and would say, “I drink milk sometimes, too” when you squeeze his head really hard.
The possibilities are endless, and I hope some day a children’s show producer somewhere seriously considers them. Until then, hum along with me, “It’s good to race, it’s fun to run, Let’s be nice to everyone…”
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