Full Throttle · Mike Neff · Wednesday November 21, 2007
The 2007 NASCAR season has come and gone. At this time of year when people reflect back on the blessings that have been bestowed on them over the year, that makes it a good time to take a long look back, realizing there is much that is good about NASCAR and that we should count our blessings.
With that in mind, here’s a few things I find myself thankful for before taking off for a bit of offseason hibernation …
Thanks that the NASCAR Cup season is the longest professional sports season on the planet. It’s even longer than golf! So be thankful that for 38 weekends a year – not to mention those off weekends when the Trucks and/or Busch cars run – we get to watch the sport that we love.
Thanks that Cup races are broadcast to as many people as possible, as much as possible. For the majority of the season, the races at the Cup level are broadcast on network television – whatever your opinion of the coverage is – so that even in the seven households in America that don't have cable or satellite, they can still see the races. And all of the resources and technology that is available to sports coverage today is rolled into every race broadcast, with hundreds of people working hard each Sunday with the goal of bringing a high quality broadcast into our homes.
Thanks that drivers are still accessible more than any other professional athlete in America (with the exception of bass fishermen). Fans are still allowed to get up close and personal on a weekly basis with their heroes, and interact with them more than in any other sport.
Thanks that you can still carry food and drink into most of the tracks on the Cup circuit, albeit in soft-sided coolers at most venues now. With ticket prices higher and higher, at least fans can save a little money by bringing in their own refreshments.
Thanks that Dale Earnhardt still has a souvenir trailer at the race track, and his sales are still in the Top 10 among drivers – even though the man has been dead for almost seven years. The legacy of the Intimidator will live on in the hearts of everyone who is a NASCAR fan – love him or hate him – because of what he meant to the sport.
Thanks that Richard Petty is still at the race track every weekend, and will still take the time to see the fans and talk to the fans like they are his neighbors. The greatest stock car driver to ever live (go ahead and send the hate mail) is still one of the most humble and accessible heroes in American sport.
Thanks that Humpy Wheeler is still in the promotion business, and we are all better off for it. Give that man something to promote, and he'll blow something up. Many people think P.T. Barnum was the greatest promoter that ever lived, but that's just because there were more people who went to circuses back in the day than go to races at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Humpy knows its about getting fans in the seats, and he does it with the best of them, including selling a ticket for a NASCAR Cup race for $10.
Thanks that Bruton Smith has the money that he does to stand up to a local community that he has supported for years to tell them to go fly a kite – especially when they decide to jerk him around after they have already lost the other two biggest employers in their town. Bruton may do some things that upset race fans (see: North Wilkesboro) but the man is an outstanding corporate citizen, and should be lauded for all he does for the communities that he is involved in.
Thanks for 100 or so drivers that go out on the track every weekend and risk their lives to put on a show for fans that truly appreciate what they do. And for the hundreds of crew members who toil away thanklessly behind the scenes to make these cars competitive week in and week out – you’re appreciated more than you know.
Thanks to the souvenir companies and the people in the trailers who bring the memorabilia to the stores and tracks for the fans to purchase, so fans can sport the colors of their favorite drivers and put their diecast and other knickknacks all over our houses.
Thanks to the owners, who have made the investment into our sport that puts the cars on the track and hauls them all over the country to allow fans from almost every corner of the country to watch the racing action every single weekend.
Thanks to the NASCAR officials, who have the thankless job of trying to make judgment calls on pit road and have to listen to the crew chiefs and owners whine and complain about decisions that are made from high above the track on the other side of the frontstretch.
Thanks to the track owners and promoters all over the country, who put on the weekly racing series events and the touring series shows that allow drivers to chase their dreams. In the process, they put on a show for the fans who still appreciate what real, grassroots racing is still all about.
Thanks to NASCAR, the suits in Daytona who run the most popular series of racing in the country. Sure, they tick us off and do things we don't want them to, but they are still the ones who keep this thing alive and fill up stands with more people than attend the Super Bowl every single weekend. Let's remember that they are the force behind this sport and they keep it moving forward, whether we like the direction it is heading or not.
Thanks to Bill France, Jr. for all that he did to bring this sport into the modern era, and for the vision that he had to keep it moving and growing over the years he was in charge.
Finally, thanks for the fans. They are the lifeblood of the sport. They are the reason that the sport exists, and the reason that we get to spend our time writing stories on this site that people are nice enough to read on a weekly basis. Thank you so much for letting the Frontstretch be a part of your daily lives, and for being fans of the greatest sport on earth.
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