The Frontstretch: Early Silly Season Leaves Fans With Apathy by Jeff Meyer -- Thursday April 3, 2008

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Early Silly Season Leaves Fans With Apathy

Voices From the Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Thursday April 3, 2008


Here we are, only heading into the 7th race of the season, and no one is talking about the racing! Well, to be honest, the media is talking about the racing… but it is racing for 35th place. Is this what NASCAR has become?

Now, I don't claim to know the exact origin of the phrase “Silly Season,” but it would make sense to me that it was meant to explain the short interval between the last race of the season and the first race of the next. Things like: What new sponsors are coming in? Who's the hottest new driver coming up? Which driver was switching teams? Etc…

Over the years, the “Silly Season” has grown longer and longer and now — thanks mostly to greed and inept leadership at the highest level of NASCAR — it’s grown to 366 days long. (I know there are only 365 days in the year… but that's my point! It never stops!) How has it gotten to be this way?

The main factor, as I see it, is simple, unadulterated greed. The price to be even remotely associated with NASCAR has simply skyrocketed over the years. It used to be that a sponsor could become part of a top notch team to the tune of about five million a year — ten million if you were with a “super” team/driver. Now, that same ten million might get you a spot on one of the many teams that are simply struggling to survive. Today's top spots command checks in the 20 million a year range; but why?

Well, first of all, NASCAR is so far removed from the “stock” in its stock car namesake that it is ridiculous. Everything must be tailored to NASCAR's specs. You need a specialist for everything nowadays, and more specialized people to take care of all the specialized parts costs more dollars. If you don't have them, you are already at a disadvantage; and if you are already at a disadvantage against the other teams, it’s harder to get sponsors. The monetary cycle is neverending.

The Top 35 rule makes it harder for teams struggling to find sponsorship, like Petty Enterprises, to ink multi-million dollar deals.

Now, with this stupid Top 35 rule, you have sponsors that are ready to jump ship at a moment’s notice just because they might not be assured a spot in each and every race. Or, if they are not jumping ship, they apply pressure, whether real or perceived, to the owner to run through a gamut of drivers in a single season. Seasoned drivers that may be having a down year are suddenly “washed up” and replaced by the next new kid that everyone thinks is hot. The new kid, not having a lot of experience, however, doesn't win right away; so he, too, is replaced and is never allowed to mature. That has gotten to be a neverending cycle all its own, and it is NOT good for racing.

Back to the present day… and like I said, nothing is being written (not much anyway) about the racing. Everyone is worried about RCR and their fourth team for NEXT year. Where will Bobby Labonte be NEXT year? Will Petty Enterprises be able to find a sponsor for the No. 43 NEXT year? Will UPS still be with MWR, or will they jump ship now that DJ is gone for NEXT year? Will they sign with Roush and Greg Biffle? Or, maybe Carl Edwards will be driving the Truck in 2009. Look at most of the NASCAR headlines; I could go on and on.

All of this wishy washy commitment also has to have a ripple effect on other aspects of racing as well. Consider the souvenir business. Do you think I would buy another fancy UPS Racing jacket should they sign say, Kyle Busch? I think not! (Carl, yes but that's about it!) There is just no loyalty nowadays.

Yes, there are a few steadies out there; Jeff Gordon / DuPont, Tony Stewart / Home Depot, Jimmie Johnson / Lowe’s are the short list; but they are few and far between.

I don't claim to speak for the rest of the nation, but geez! Can't we at least get to the end of the season, the 26th race, before we focus on 2009? God forbid if Jimmie Johnson doesn't make the Chase!

Stay off the wall,

Jeff Meyer

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04/03/2008 12:25 AM

AMEN, Jeff, AMEN!!

04/03/2008 06:20 AM

The whole thing is about loyalty. The days of fans being loyal to one make of car or one driver are gone. NASCAR, who has always been loyal to the almighty dollar, really went in a new direction once Bill France Jr. stepped down. Ticket prices skyrocketed under Brian France. He decided to replace the long time fans with fans who can barely remember their names, much less know what loyalty is, and turned racing from being about racing into something that’s little more than 200 mph billboards going around the track for 3 hours. Hype has replaced performance. Loyalty in NASCAR today is all about who’s hot right now and not about who’s paid their dues. If the founding fathers of the sport saw what has happened to it, they’d be taking Brian France and his cronies out behind the garage area for a little bit of a talking to.

04/03/2008 07:25 AM

Well said!

C’mon IRL! We need some real racing in this country! At least the IRL can give us a new focal point for a year or two!

04/03/2008 09:18 AM

Very well-said. This is the reason old-time fans are leaving in droves.

Ken O
04/03/2008 11:37 AM

With the lack of loyalty and changes made by drivers, owners and manufacturers, nobody seems to care about who wins most races. When I ask most people who they want to win, they say “anybody but (insert their mosted hated popular driver)”

04/03/2008 11:55 AM

It also has to be hard for older fans to see their favorite drivers retire from or get pushed out of the sport. It’s probably harder for many of them to relate to the pretty boy 20 year olds that come in to replace them.

As with the “hot right now” mentality, that’s exactly right. Lots of newer NASCAR fans seem to change driver loyalty each season, depending on who is doing well at the time.

Also, 98% of the media coverage is dedicated to a handful of drivers. I’ve been to races and talked with “fans” (usually wearing Dale Junior, Kasey Kahne, or Denny Hamlin gear) who had no idea who guys like Dave Blaney, Scott Riggs, JJ Yeley are. Yeah, those are drivers who haven’t lit the series on fire, but they have been in Cup for years and are usually in the field each week as full time drivers.

NASCAR is trying to market to the lowest common denominator of fan i.e. the kind who can’t think for themselves.

Jackie Jones
04/03/2008 09:03 PM

I kinda like silly season but i dont like long time sponsors not sticking with teams so i wont be buying any General Mills products not that i really buy any now lol.Lowes gets no credit from me they switched from RCR and my favorite driver Mike Skinner. Nascar, the owners,and the sponsors should figure a way to cap the amount of sponsor money teams can recieve because its clear as in most sports the owners cant control themselves.


Contact Jeff Meyer

Recent articles from Jeff Meyer:

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Want to know more about Jeff Meyer or view his complete article archives? Then hop on over to his archive and bio page.