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Huddled together against the cold, their eyes scan the horizon for the lights of the Miami cityscape. It’s been a long and sometimes perilous journey they’ve endured, and it seems like it’s lasted forever across uncharted waters the likes of which they’ve never seen before. Dispirited and increasingly concerned, they keep looking for those bright neon lights. Some are on the verge of giving up; others already have. Still others refuse to give up hope. They’ve come so far, and they’ve waited so long. They’ve suffered cruelly under a mercurial dictator who refuses to listen to his people. Things have got to be better ahead, or their hopes and dreams will be shown to be a hoax. One way or another, they know the long journey is almost over — but even the toughest of them have begun to wonder why they’ve come all this way. After all, there’s no guarantee that despite having come this far, they’ll ever be able to enter the Promised Land.
A vessel full of boat people trying to sail from Cuba to Miami? Perhaps they’re in similar straits. But in this case, I’m referring to the NASCAR fan army heading towards Homestead in their recreational vehicles and rental cars to see the end of the 2009 NASCAR season this weekend.
It sometimes seems an eternity since this season kicked off back in February with the Daytona 500. My home here in the Northeast was shrouded in snow that day. Since then, we’ve been through the spring, a wet and cool summer, and the annual fall celebration of the riot of colors, as the foliage across the rural horizons enchanted us. (Best viewed from the seat of a motorcycle, for the record, and there is of course only one brand of motorcycle a proud man would be seen aboard.) Now, all the leaves are brown, and once again, the skies are gray.
It’s been a big year for me. This summer I turned 50, but having reached that milestone, I’ve decided growing old beats the alternative, with all due apologies to Pete Townsend. I also underwent a major cancer scare that led to my unexplained absence here on these pages in late August and early September I never told you about. I ended up sitting here at this keyboard banging out a will rather than a racing column one weekend, genuinely convinced that the next day after my tests I was going to be told I have terminal colon cancer. To my fans and friends, all’s cool, nothing to worry about. False alarm. To my foes and detractors, sorry to disappoint you, but it appears at least for now if I’m going to check out early it’s going to be via the bike, not the cigarettes. I’m sure at least some of you reading this have had a similar health scare during your life. News that you’re going to live awhile longer is a thrill, but it also changes your perspective on life… and makes you wonder why you’re wasting beautiful Sunday afternoons watching boring races when life offers such an intoxicating variety of other choices.
In the off-track automotive world, this has been an unprecedented year. Two of the Big Three had to turn to the Feds for billions of dollars in aid just to stay afloat. Ford told Obama, “We can get by without the checks right now, but if you don’t mind, set some of those corporate welfare dollars aside for us just in case we need it down the road.” Chrysler wasn’t so much sold as it was given to Fiat. Countless auto producing plants (some of which turned out the material that won World War II for the good guys) were shuttered… or will be soon. Scores of assembly line workers were added to the rolls of the unemployed. Even the once all-conquering Toyota lost money in record amounts, and if they’re not yet on the ropes, they’re at least wobbling as it turns out the frames on their trucks rust, some of their vehicles seem to accelerate uncontrollably for no reason, and the floormats in Camrys are killing people. Cash for Clunkers helped staunch the bleeding, but the economic wisdom and long-term environmental benefit of that program is something our children and grandchildren are likely to still be debating. That only seems fair, seeing as they’ll likely still be paying for the program…
On the track, the news in stock car racing was almost as grim. For years, NASCAR has tried to tout a product that was increasingly more entertainment than sport. The problem this year was that product grew increasingly less entertaining. Three years into this unholy new car experiment, you’d have thought the teams would have figured out these unseemly little son of a bitch CoT aberrations, but only one of them has. One team within that organization has got this “postseason” strategy: sort of dance for the first 26 races to get into the Chase, then let them have it right in the kisser for the last ten. It’s gotten to be like watching three of the four members of the Justice League head into a room full of straight jacketed retards (sorry, intellectually-challenged individuals) and kick their asses. No, not every season is going to be 1992. If that were the case, us oldheads wouldn’t remember 1992 so clearly. But please, Dear God in Heaven, don’t let another one be as miserable as 2009. And, God, I know I’m always asking for that next mega-sized Powerball winning lottery ticket, but it’s genuinely cool with me if you give it to Brian France, so he can buy a NFL franchise in Los Angeles and ruin the NFL rather than systematically destroy the sport I’ve loved all these decades any further. I am convinced that nothing is going to get better in this sport until Brian Zachary France, who has demonstrated the intellectual capacity of a purple butt baboon too intellectually lazy to pluck even the fruit from the lowest hanging branches, is no longer involved with NASCAR.
OK, let’s be fair. The new side-by-side system for restarts was a major step forward. It’s just too bad NASCAR constantly decides to throw bogus debris cautions to line those cars back up side-by-side and wreck some contending cars on an almost weekly basis. And the decision to standardize earlier starting times for next year is heartening. At least fans will only have to waste a majority of an afternoon, not an entire afternoon watching this foolishness. There will still be time for a family barbecue, a quick scoot ride, or a session of washing down a fistful of Valium with JD once the race ends to deaden the pain.
I live in the Philadelphia TV market. Stick and ball sports here have spent decades chanting, “Well, maybe next year.” So, hope springs eternal. I’m also a Springsteen fan. If folks who don’t like Bruce write his stuff off as “car songs” (and car songs are good!) the Boss’s true message can be summed up as “hope.” Someday, we’re going to rise above these Badlands, and they’ll start treating us good. We’ll ride to the sea and wash these sins off our hands. Don’t worry, Baby, don’t you fret, we’re living in the future and none of this has happened yet. So you’re scared and you’re lonely and thinking maybe we ain’t that young anymore, show a little faith…Hope. You give up hope and you start dying, little by little, piece by piece. So yeah, I’m hoping maybe next year. Maybe next year, the racing won’t be lame. Maybe we’ll have a barnburner of a title race again. Maybe there will be a return to side-by-side racing and slingshot passing. Maybe the cars will stay right side up at Talladega. Maybe we’ll spend Sunday evenings all pumped up about the racing we watched rather than disheartened, angry, and cynical. Maybe Brian France will find an occupation he’s good at. They’re opening new Wawas all the time and need management trainees. And maybe the Eagles will win the Super Bowl. Yeah, right. I’m a Springsteen fan from Philly, but like I said, I’m also 50 now. I don’t set out milk and cookies for Santa anymore. (Well OK, so last year I did, but I really, really wanted a new Challenger and I hedged my bets by leaving a six pack and a fifty dollar bribe beside the milk. I figured maybe Santa would get drunk and hotwire me one.)
But optimism is for the future … not the present. Right now, it’s gotten so bad, I’m half-expecting to see a bunch of NASCAR fans leave Miami aboard a makeshift boat, heading off towards Havana thinking, “It can’t be any worse.”
So one way or another, the 2009 NASCAR season ends this weekend, which means it’s time to say good riddance to bad rubbish. For the last several seasons, by this late in the year I’ve been thinking, “OK, this is it. I’ve taken all I can take, and I can’t takes anymore. I quit.” Call it the burnout factor after a nine month long plus season. But I always change my mind, and I’ve decided more than likely I’ll be back next year; after all, hope springs eternal.
But if the racing is as bad in 2010 as it was this year, it will be my final one writing about this mind-numbing stupidity — and I ain’t even promising I’ll last the season. I hear the weather in Havana is nice this time of year…
Roll, roll me away,
I’m gonna roll me away tonight
Gotta keep rollin’, gotta keep ridin’,
Keep searching till I find what’s right
And as the sunset faded
I spoke to the faintest first starlight
And I said next time
maybe next time
We’ll get it right
©2000 - 2008 Matt McLaughlin and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
“Three years into this unholy new car experiment, you’d have thought the teams would have figured out these unseemly little son of a bitch CoT aberrations, but only one of them has.”
That is hard to imagine since testing isn’t allowed. Until they allow teams to test at real NASCAR tracks we will be stuck in this cycle of arrested developement.
So yeah, I’m hoping maybe next year. Maybe next year, the racing won’t be lame. Maybe we’ll have a barnburner of a title race again. Maybe there will be a return to side-by-side racing and slingshot passing. Maybe the cars will stay right side up at Talladega.
you and all of the posters here who want to be like you blame the “bad” racing on the COT. so if that is the case then why would you think you are going to see anything different next season? this might be the problem. all you guys sit around all off season missing nascar and get your hopes up that you are going to see something different when nothing has changed. then the season comes and you are all upset because everrything you hoped and dreamed about for 3 months doesn’t happen. if you really believe the COT is the reason for the “bad” racing then i don’t see why you would hope for something different.
as far as a barnburner of a title race. who knows? if you think back to the mid 90s jeff gordon was only 30 something points from ripping off 4 titles in a row. his dominance came to end but only because ray evernham decided to pursue something else. even still though… history shows this sport is cylical. nobody stays on top forever regardless of what the points system is. but if the racing is as bad as you make it out ot be will a good title fight, especially under a contrived system liekt he chase, really make you feel any better? i bet if there were 50 points seperating 5 guys heading into the finale next year you and the matt wannabes would still find something to cry about.
and lastly the cars staying upright at talladega is a 50/50 chance. if you have been paying attention it’s been that way for 20 years now. i would say more times than not you can expect a car to go upside down at one of the four plate races.
up up and away!!!!!
Your “I’m referring to the NASCAR fan army heading towards Homestead”
More like a PLATOON, rather than an ARMY, that will be going to Homestead!
my sister is mentally challenged, or as was referred to in the 60’s, retarded. sometimes i just have enough of people throwing that word around!!!!
AND! To quote: “Three years into this unholy new car experiment, you’d have thought the teams would have figured out these unseemly little son of a bitch CoT aberrations, but only one of them has”
How can ANYONE figure out the piece of CRAP called the CoT, or more appropriate, the POS!
THERE IS NOTHING TO WORK WITH!
Oh sure, Hendrick has fiugured out some small little nuances of the POS!
BUT AT GREAT COST!
Gee, mentioning that, wasn’t one of the ideas surrounding the POS is that it was going to “reduce” costs?
Well, it may for some teams, you know, 20th or worse, but the BIG $$$$ are being spent by the rich, i.e. Hendrick, and what you see on the track is the result!
What? 5 Hendrick cars in the chase?
What more proof does one need?
The POS sucks!
There is no adjustability!
And your “So one way or another, the 2009 NASCAR season ends this weekend, which means it’s time to say good riddance to bad rubbish.”
didn’t carl edwards win a season high 9 races in the COT last year? i don’t pay as close attention to the sport as you guys do but was he driving for hendrick last year? how about kyle busch? he was at gibbs last year right? he did win 5 races this year didn’t he?
Thank you Matt for the years of entertaining articles. I have read your stuff since it first appeared on another site owned by ISC that I won’t name. I was elated when I finally figured out your new address on this website. I consider it a pleasure to have read your articles over the years.
I am going to miss you and your articles as, let’s face it, nothing will change next year.
The COT: Nope. Unless something changes, the teams (i.e. the guys that could probably build a better car) aren’t allowed to fully change the templates.
b) The Chase: I can only see this “process” becoming more contrived as the ratings sink (the only hope is a NFL lockdown in 2011 – which will quickly be forgiven by fans who want their fantasy fix.)
c) The rich will get richer: Look at 10 years ago and the number of unique owners. NASCAR might as well franchise the remaining teams before one of the big guys gets bored, pulls out their funding and research, and moves on.
d) Brian France: The problem with Brian is that Brian loves Brian and thinks Brian is great. Yes NASCAR will occasionally throw the fans a biscuit here or there. But even if there are new changes or rules, based on the recent batting average, I don’t think things will get better.
I could go on and on – but I think you get my point.
I recently went back to the town where I went to college. Yes it was the same town; with some of the same bars / restaurants still there – but it wasn’t the same. And I knew then that it would never be the same town that I loved with a passion just a decade earlier.
In the same way, the NASCAR you loved is gone (and based on your stories, I am sad that I missed out). NASCAR is still here and while it looks like the sport you loved, it won’t ever be the same as the one that you remembered (perhaps through rose tinted glasses).
So I sincerely wish you the best of luck in the future and I hope you can find something in your life that you love enough to write about.
Why does hope spring eternal? Why do folks fall in love and marry when over 50 percwent of such unions end in divorce.
Yeah, the COT will be back next year. I don’t like it but given Brian’s obstiancy, he’s not going to cave in to the overwhelming evidence his baby was stillborn.
But maybe next year some other teams will figure out what Rick is up to. In watching the 24, 5 and 48 car it seems to be something in the front end geometry that allows faster exit speed off of corners. If I figured that out, and I’m not the brightest bulb on the Tannenbaum, these guys have to be in on the why if not the how. With the amount of personnel changes annually secrets are tough to keep in the garage area. Richard Childress admits his team’s struggles are due to the front end of the cars they built during the last off season. THey’ve had to cut the snouts off of all of them and redo them. My guess is a lot of other teams are going to be wearing out cutting torches this winter.
Maybe, just maybe, Johnson will piss in somebody’s corn flakes and we’ll have a genuine rivalry in the sport other than the latest episode of “Everyone Hates Brad.”
A ton of teams have to renew thier sponsorships at the end of 2010. So maybe juast maybe, drivers will actually go for wins (which occur during the season when contracts are negotiated, not at the end.) Drivers fighting for wins to protect the comfortable lifestyle they enjoy. Sign me up.
Hope springs eternal despite having been, kicked by the wind, driven by the sleet, and having it’s head stoved in it’s still on its feet.
Here’s a nasty little secret about me. I’m actually an optomist. You know the whole deal about showing a little faith cause there’s magic in the night? Well that’s all right with me. Or maybe it’s just all the weed, whites ansd wine I’ve consumed over the years.
Sorry Janice. Isn’t mentally challenged just a pretty word for retard? It’s like a car being mechanicly challenged. Get as life as well as a sense of humor. Thanks Matt for having one of the few columns where fans can read something that doesn’t hold to the nas$crap company line. The commentators and announcers gust so much about the state of the series so much it makes me want to puke. Or should I use vomit and pretty it up? Well I voiced my opinion on things so I guess I’ll have some breakfast Or should I wsay break fast?
I’ve avoided responding to any of your comments so far because it’s like rewarding a whiney six year old with candy to shut him up… it’s exactly what he wants and only lasts until the candy is gone. But what the heck, I’m feeling a little cocky this morning…
First of all, if you want to call me a “Matt-wannabe”, fine, but understand that’s not an insult. I’m not here to defend Matt’s rep or his opinions; he doesn’t need me for that. I’m just saying that if you want to compare me to someone, comparing me to a guy who calls it like he sees it, is honest in his opinions, and loves the sport as much as I do, well, that’s okay by me. No offense taken.
It apparently bothers you that some of us “old-timers” still hold out hope for better racing. Know what? That’s your problem. While I can’t say for sure, I’d bet my Johnny Winter collection against your Justin Timberlake that not one reader of this column has been “enlightened” by your condescending blather. We hope for better racing because we love this sport. If that bothers you, then that’s too bad.
As for your comment “I bet if there were 50 points seperating 5 guys heading into the finale next year you and the matt wannabes would still find something to cry about.”, let me just say that if that were the case, I’m sure you’d be there to say I told you so. You seem to need that.
just so i am clear on where you stand because i do respect your opinion. you are saying that the COT itself may not be the sole cause of the “lame” racing but the fact that hendrick has come so far with it so much faster than anyone else? that makes so much more sense than just blaming the car itself.
hasn’t nascar been this way for some time though? i haven’t been following for as long as you have but i can remember through the years everyone whining and complaining at one time or another when a manufacturer got a change. keep in mind i have been a die hard martin fan since 95 and used to pay close attention to jack roush rant anytime he felt chevrolet was recieving an unfair advantage. i was also there in 97 when they rolled out the taurus for the 98 season. my all time favorite car is the 98-99 taurus. they had a great amount of success with that car as i recall. i can even remember in 2000 when rusty was whippin everyone on fridays nascar did a tear down on his engine at the request of ray evernham and put it on display for all to see. my point here is that for so many years now it always seems like one team gets ahead of another. that forces everyone else to work harder and they eventually catch up and even pass whoever is dominating at a particular time.
i will let you on a little secret i have. i don’t like the COT either but i also don’t like wasting time on complaining about it. i think the old car was fine in regards to safety and competition. i could even live with the COT if they would just lose the hideous wing. i don’t like the splitter much either but i could live with it. having said that i dont like the COT i have to defend it a little. i recall many drivers and fans complaing about the old car being too easy to drive and the whole aero thing and not being able to pass. everyone cried out they needed a “boxier” car like the trucks for better racing. well here we are. they did exactly what everyone was saying they should do and still nobody is happy. i personally put it on the teams and the drivers more than i do nascar. as you have pointed out… hendrick has found a new way to make this car pass and go fast as mark martin and jimmie johnson have demonstrated. i think the problem may be the talent level of a lot of the sprint cup drivers today. i bet if you were to put some of the old school drivers in these cars, your heroes from yesteryear, they would be putting on exciting shows in these COTs.
I say the same thing every year, too. “This is it. I’m done.” And I still come back in February. I don’t know what it is….too many exhaust fumes consumed from atop a motorhome in the infield at TMS perhaps? Regardless, I feel a little more whipped and worn out each season. Not to mention patronized (Labor Day in Atlanta? Come on, you can’t pacify real fans with a substitute – that’s like giving me Jack Daniel’s with no alcohol in it and calling it good.)
Anyway, have fun in the off-season. Glad your health scare was only a scare. I will probably do some camping, enjoying my Camels and Lone Star Beer without the mind-numbing racing product on TV.
just so we’re clear. i have absolutely no problem with matt. i have been reading his stuff for years and enjoy his take on things. not to mention i always get a good laugh or two monday mornings reading his column. he has credibility in my eyes and i appreciate his knowledge and passion for the sport. i enjoy playing devil’s advocate sometimes because i genuinely want to hear his opinion on a thought of mine. but you’re right…. i do sort of have a problem with you guys that idolize him and want to be like him. not because they idolize him but because of their ignorance. i actually see people post here and say that a race was a piece of shit because matt said so. that to me is ignorant. watch for yourself. form your own opinions. to come on here and argue with me abotu a race you didn’t even watch is just ignorant.
my other problem with guys like you carl is your claim that racing was so much better in the 70s or the 80s. when i ask how so all you do is resort to insults or not answer at all. i started following the sport in 94. i became a die hard in 95 and i honestly dont see a huge difference during that 15 year span. now im not saying there has been no difference but in my eyes it hasnt been completely different. i have watched plate race after plate race and for the most part they have been consistent for all 15 years. i have watched fuel mileage races every single year and i have watched races won by leads of 5 seconds or more. none of that is new in 2009. yet race after race you people get on here and complain about how bad the racing is compared to what it used to be. if you’re comparing it to racing in the 70s or 80s maybe it’s time to move on or where were you 15 years ago to complain then? i mean 1980 was almost 30 years ago. i don’t think they are going to rewind that far back carl. do you?
hopefully you will enlighten me and tell me what you liked so much more about the racing in the 80s as opposed to the racing we have in 2009. i posed this question to matt a few weeks ago and he gave me a great answer. let’s see if you can give your own honest answer like he did.
Sorry, NC, but I’m not biting. I don’t have the time or the inclination to explain the changes that have occurred in Nascar racing since I’ve been following it. I will tell you this, though. Your assumption that people only think the racing is bad because Matt tells us its bad is rather insulting. Like Matt, I’m 50 years old and I’ve been watching racing since I was old enough for my Dad to take to the races at the old Columbia Speedway in SC. I’ve seen my share of racing, good and bad. Most of the older readers of this column have too. For you to insinuate that we can’t form our own opinions based on our own observations is just flat out asinine. You can play devil’s advocate without resorting to insults.
Another good one Matt, and it pretty much sums up the feelings of our generation. I’m pushing 50 myself, and I’ve come to the conclusion that fans of our age have seen the best back when it was real and raw. I like how Adam put it, the racing today is like Jack Daniels with no alcohol in it. It looks kinda like the real thing but where’s the buzz?
I think NC has confused like minded fans with Matt worshipers. Matt is the voice for the older generation who grew up on Nascar from the ’60s on and we just happen to share the same life experiences and outlooks as older fans who have been around.
What NC does here is no different than if we older fans were in a bar sitting around a large table discussing the state of Nascar and how good it used to be. Not liking what he was hearing NC then gets up and comes to our table to berate us for daring to question the current state of Nascar, and telling us we all worship the guy at the head of the table. Only thing is I don’t think he would have the balls to do this in person.
Keep on writing and I’ll be here Matt.
For one thing guys could actually do things to make the cars better. Sure some of it was on the edge or over the edge but it sure was better than the stagnant “what you’ve got is what you’ve got” mentality that is prevalent now. No testing, minimal adjustments to the cars mean that when a team figures something out it is very hard for someone to make their stuff better. Arrested developement.
These COT’s also don’t have enough adjustability in them so that someone that shows up at the track way off on Friday can make adjustments to get better. Too many weeks how you unload is how you run.
As for the restrictor plate races you are right they sucked 15 years ago and they still suck. They were supposed to be a temporary fix but NASCAR continues to sit on their asses instead of address the problem. I hate them because they are crap shoots and because they allow someone to ride at the back and still have a chance at the end.
Then you get the bogus debris cautions (which create real cautions), wave arounds and lucky dogs and suddenly everyone is on the lead lap again. This makes the first 3/4 of the race less meaningful and is why people are only tuning in for the last 30 laps.
The problem with the chase is that it’s contrived and fans realize that someone is pissing on their head and telling them it’s raining. The old system was fairer and had the same probability of resulting in a close battle in the final races. Plus it’socialistic in nature. It takes someone who had done well and penalizes them to make them equal with those that didn’t do as well. (Please don’t use an analogy that compares the chase to the NFL playoffs. When the other 31 drivers watch the chase from home we can debate that).
BTW, I am not an old timer either. I started watching in the mid-90’s too. I think it was arrogant and short-sighted for Brian France to institute so many changes so quickly to a sport that was thriving. By introducing all those major changes so quickly it was very difficult for long time fans to adjust, assimilate and accept the changes. France reminds me of one of those singers that does the national anthem and has to do something radically different to “make it their own”. Well he has made it his own and one of these days it might be only him in the stands (oh, that’s right he doesn’t actually watch the product he’s forced on us).
Matt – I’m hardly the only one that has been following your writings from site to site to site over the years. I remember reading your Davey Allison and Alan Kulwicki tributes when they were new columns, and I still feel the same way each time I read them through the years.
I was a rabid fan for many years – but looking back, I see that I started waning somewhere around the mid to late 90’s. I’m not saying this was anyone else’s turning point; but, for me it had to do with NASCAR starting to tweak the car bodies to be more aerodynamically comparable. The first time I saw it was when Ken Schrader was allowed to put plates over the Monte SS headlights at Daytona (for Speedweeks) in response to Ford’s new T-Bird. I recall ESPN reporting it was good for 3 mph on the backstretch.
That crap morphed into 5&5, narrow greenhouses, squared up bumpers, lengthened decklids, and the most ridiculous looking Pontiac Grand Prix ever.
In my opinion, if your car needs to get competitive, make the change to the car I buy at the dealership. Today, the cars are ridiculous. There is NO Charger on the street with a front end like the NASCAR spec car. They all look like they’re twisted up when viewed head on – the headlight decals look like a flounder’s eyes.
I’ve been watching the races vicariously through you the last 3 seasons. I gave up my season tix to NH last year (hey – at least the venue is close), and didn’t attend a race this past season for the first time in about 10 years. I haven’t really felt like I’m missing a whole lot…
If next year is truly your last – and I’m concerned it will be (for reasons Kevin so aptly covered), then I’ll probably stray farther from the sport.
I’m nostalgic for seasons like 1992 as well; but, even more so for drivers that you love to follow, teams that are a little rough around the edges, and a sport that isn’t ashamed to show its character flaws publicly. Sadly, that era has passed.
Good Luck Matt
I like reading Matt’s stuff, and I like reading NASCAR Crusader’s rebuttals, as well. I love a debate, because it gets the brain going and makes you think about things you might not have realized on your own. I havent been watching as long as most of you, so I dont have any burnout yet. But I am getting tired of seeing the Jimmie Johnson show for the last four years. I dont like domination by one team in any sport.
i’m not confused at all. i have already told you i don’t believe you have been follwoing nascar since the 60s. don’t take it personal i just don’t buy it.
you wonder what i would if i was at a bar and heard you and your buddies discussing nascar. well after i got done laughing at you i would definitely come over to your table and offer to buy you another shirley temple. i bet you like your shirley temples just like your nascar…. raw and real! LMAO! i would tell you i think you are full of crap and then i would grab your girl up and take off while you sat there whining and complaining about nascar.
1 question? if matt told you to jump off a bridge would you? i think know the answer but i could use another laugh. be honest too. don’t be ashamed.
excellent post. i have been looking for something like this from someone other than matt for quite a while now. but now i have to disagree with you with all due respect.
i don’t feel it’s like that… you got what you got. just this past weekend in phoenix kurt busch ran only half way decent in practice before qualifying. then he goes out and sits on the outside pole. when they interviewed they asked what they found and he talked about how they changed front springs late in the session and that made all the difference in the world. i had him in my fantasy league last week so i was paying close attention. but even in listening to mark martin on the scanner. these guys are making 1/4 of a pound air pressure adjustments to a tire. i still find it hard to believe that a quarter pound of friggin air pressure makes that much of a difference but it does. they are still making adjustments during the races like they always have. you see wedge wrenches and spring rubbers on pit road just like you did years ago. i’ll use jeff burton as an example this past weekend. practiced decent, qualified terrible, in the early part of the race ran decent, started making it better in the middle and by the end of the day he worked his way from 36th or wherever to 2nd. it was a very impressive run. i really believe the COT is much harder to drive which is why guys like martin and johnson have separated themsleves from most others. those two seem to be the best at relaying information and knowing the feel they are looking for. i have always said if you put earnhardt senior and some of the throwback drivers of yesteryear like cale yarborough or junior johnson or bobby allison or even ole dw or richard petty in this COT i bet these guys would manhandle these things and be beating and banging on each other. i think the biggest problem with “lame” racing may just be the drivers themselves. i don’t think anyone would argue that no matter what kind of stock car or COT or whatever you put those guys in you will be in for a show.
i agree about the cautions. being a huge martin fan he has always been known as a long run kind of guy. these short run sprints to the finish have killed him. not as much this year in that 5 car but in the 6 car for the last few years he was a sitting duck when they had these 10 lap dashes at the end. but i understand where they’re coming from. the fans want excitement. the drivers aren’t providing. nascar feels they have to do something and bunching them up seems to be the only way they know how. COT or old car it doesn’t matter. fans were complaing it wasn’t exciting enough. that’s the bottom line.
as far as brian france making changes whether you like it or not from a business standpoint the sport is still in a real good spot. it has quadruple the audience of the irl and suddenly is attracting the f1 crowd. despite dozens of fans here saying they refuse to watch they (nascar) are still consistently in the top 5 every week in the nielsen ratings.
With the drop in race attendance and in TV ratings, the owners and drivers have been quiet. Too quiet.
I know NA$CAR is a dictatorship, but that only means when it breaks, it breaks completely. How long before we get some serious talk about a new series? NA$CAR can’t continue down this path and stay the only game in town.
Matt, I’ve been reading your thoughts for many years now and hope that you’ll find it in you to come back. But I’ll understand if you choose otherwise. I turned 50 back in 2001 a few months after Earnhardt stopped turning any more numbers. I’ve been following NA$CAR since I was 10 or 11 years old, so I’ve seen real racing in real cars by real drivers all the way up (down?) to what we have now. It’s a real shame that folks who found the sport in the 90s didn’t get to see some of the stuff that we saw in the 60s, 70s and 80s. I was almost 13 years old when Fireball Roberts spun at Charlotte to avoid killing another driver and ended up dieing from his burns. I’ll admit it, I cried when the fire started and I cried when he died. My next racing hero was/is Bill Elliott and I still pull for him when he’s racing.
I spent a little over 7 years wearing olive drab green for Uncle Sam in the 70s and 80s when it wasn’t a real popular way to earn a living. Hopefully, in some small way, it helped make sure we can come here, read your thoughts on the races and comment if we choose to do so. It’s been a pleasure to read your articles. I’ve agreed, I’ve disagreed and no matter what, it’s been OK with both you and me for that to happen.
Ride well, Matt. I’ll be here when you get back.
I won’t argue with most of your post because I suspect neither of us will be able to sway the other’s opinion no matter what we say.
I will make a comment to your last statement regarding “how good of a spot the sport is in”.
I disagree. For the moment the sport is in decline. Lower track attendance can be explained away by spiralling prices and a bad economy but the ratings decline can not. If anything, in bad economic times the ratings should be increasing.
I will reference an article on USA Today’s regrding the NFL’s ratings…
“The NFL is surviving the recession better than most pro sports. The league’s overall attendance is off 2% through Nov. 16 compared to the same point last season. The average TV ratings and viewership for game telecasts were up 12% and 14% respectively through Nov. 9 compared to same period last year.”
If NASCAR is in the top 5 every week in the ratings then they were probably in the top 3 four years ago. If NASCAR’s audience is quadruple that of the IRL now I’d bet it was 6 times that of the IRL four years ago. I can’t prove that but that’s the impression that I get.
i don’t disagree that the sport may be in a decline but it is still in a better place (in decline) than where it was 10 years ago. what i disagree with is the drama queens that come on here and say that nascar is about to fold up. if the irl or nhra can survive and thrive as viable motorsports in the usa than nascar doesn’t have to worry about closing up shop anytime soon.
in any area of entertainment you are going to experience peaks and valleys in the ratings. there is no entity, not even the nfl, that is on a constant upswing all the time. should nascar be concerned? yes. definitely. and they are. by moving start times around back to 1:15 and implemeting the double file restarts they have shown they recognize they need to change. are they getting ready to hang for sale signs in the windows down in daytona beach? no.
I wonder about the NFL ratings. With the exception of that strike year and perhaps a couple of years after (the strike) I’d almost bet the NFL ratings have been going up non-stop since 1950.
I agree with you about people who say NASCAR will fold anytime soon. Large multi-million (billion?) dollar companies rarely disappear over night. They usually linger for decades before they die. Although there are recent examples of very large “stable” companies that have imploded quickly from mis-management; Enron and Lehman Brothers come to mind.
Im told its a sign of abject stupidity when an individual finds it necessary to insult other people during a discussion about a matter on which the two might disagree. Such evidence of arrested development during the thumb sucking stage is best handled by ignoring the existence of the individual and possibly inciting another temper tantrum. Jingle bells everyone!!!
It’s really amazing how NASCAR has survived so long with all the giant brains being in the media. I’ve been a fan for well over 40 years – since back when the majority of the media had some initiative and integrity – and I’ve seen its ups and downs. I suspect NASCAR will survive the bashers and this dip too – especially since NASCAR is not being run by former newspaper folk.
And for all you guy’s/gal’s in the 50 range, your youngsters, come back and see me when you get some REAL experience!
And for what it is worth, the TV ratings for Phoeniz were DOWN 17%!
A “chilling” tale!
Hey kiddies, can we keep it real simple, Homestead is Mikey’s last race as a moving traffic bump. Makes 2009 worth my part time viewing.
What is a Nick Rampling?
Well said Don Mei. My “scroll by” works good for immature postings. Even if the poster’s name changes, the style always reveals.
BTW, great article Matt. You GOD You!
Some thoughts for NC and everybody else,
Thanks as always to those with kind words who tag along with me from site to site. Thanks also to those who call me to task, hate what I do and challenge what I write. It makes me a better writer because next time I try to support my opinions more forcefully.
BMW? Hell no. Those are Honda Accords shorn of two wheels! Dead nuts reliable with surprising performance, but uglier than a pit bull pup with third degree burns on its face. If you don’t like Harleys you don’t like Christmas. Every day is December 25th when you ride a Harley. December 25th with Heather Locklear trying to beat down your door to give you another hummer.
The quote isn’t mine but I remember somebody saying years ago that if NASCAR made the teams race lawn tractors within a few months they’d have them running 200 miles per hour. I hate the COT the way I hate warm beer. When I bought my fridge I went for the one that’s coldnesss option went beyond the normal 1-10 to Ludicrous Cold. I open the door and it snows in my kitchen in August. Those beers make my silver fillings ache on the first exhale. But if the American dentists were to all agree (including that tenth out of ten guy who hates Trident) that the government should pass a law that beer could only be served room temperature to preserve silver fillings in frumpy old guys yaps, I’d hope more than one brewery developed a brew that tasted good warm. If this is the car we’re stuck with (and I think ya’ll are going to be shocked at the team attrition at the end of 2010 as sponsors pack up thier calliopes with a very unpleasant sneezing and wheezing before the whole shithouse collapses to the ground) than I want more than one team to have fast cars.
If it was merely a matter of clanking brass between the thighs drivers like Tony Stewart or Kyle Busch could pass in these cars even if they left nothing but smoking wreckage in thier wake (call it the Earnhardt Factor) I’d by it. But aero loose is ruining racing the way HIV ruined casual sex. Both used to be lot of fun.
NC, you got into the game just too late to miss a prime example of the difference between Bill France Jr. (who was a cold hearted tyrant that tried to get me fired) and Brian “Huffing Spray Paint All These Years Reall Hasn’t Affected My Judgment and I really thin most woman aren’t going to object to dressing in black leather Bambi suits and beating with a whip screaming “Cry, Thumper, you scumbag” France.
In the 1990 season finale at Atlanta Billl Elliott was leading the race. In those days there was no speed limit on pit road. Bill’s 9 car was being serviced when Ricky Rudd hit pit road wide open hit some oil and lost control. Bill’s rear tire changer was crushed to death when Rudds car slammed into Elliott’s Ford. It was a grotesque and tragic thing to witness.
NASCAR decided that they needed to change something to keep this from happening again. Bill France tried a “no changing tires under caution” rule that ruined the 91 Daytona 500. So he went back to the drawinng board and tried an odd and even system that made teams pit based on thier qualifying position. Another total disaster. They tried this, they tried that and it kept beng a mess. So finally Billy Jr. decided to try a pit road speed limit. That worked even if it took them about four years to find a way to enforce it fairly. No more dead pit crew guys.
The moral of the story here is not how many times NASCAR screwed things up and made debacles out of racing. The moral is how they were willing to make changes weekly to get it right. They didn’t like or want lousy screwed up races. If Billy Jr. were still running the show after about the fifth non-competitive race with the COT he’d have jumped in and said “Well, we’re going to have to try something else. This ain’t working.”
Listening to Brain Dead Brian, all is well. Leave them alone and they’ll come home, wagging thier tails behind them. Oh, Thumper, you’re being very, very, bad. You need to be punished.
Good comeback Matt, but one last rejoinder; some of us bike people love em all…Harleys, Vincents, Ducks, Bimmers, whatever. My Harley is great for a a sunday morning ride but if Im off to Nova Scotia, its the Bimmer. You gotta expand your two wheel horizons..have a nice holiday.
If I had my way, I would nominate you right now – and hire you – as President and CEO of NASCAR. Mike Helton and Brian France would go on the unemployment line immediately. No need to be writing here since you’d be running the show.
Rule changes can only be suggested and approved by drivers, track owners, car owners and fans. ISC would be forced to be separated from NASCAR, and politics would play no role in the placement of new races.