Today we’re going to play a small game of “What If?”
What if NASCAR suddenly declared they were no more? The announcement might come from Daytona in a nameless press release that the many sponsors and media moguls just didn’t have the money to make the machine run. There wasn’t a huge sanctioning body that would roll into town and bring a massive track facility to life once or twice a year. What would we — the racing fans — do?
I ask because sometimes I watch a race without all the colors, names I know as well as my family’s, and cars that in no way resemble stock anything and I find that I have a really good time.
That isn’t to say the part of me that revels in spectacle no longer has any interest in the sport that defines much of my past time, simply perhaps a few of the people in the big offices have forgotten what it is we love about racing. It might be good to stop, strip a 500-mile battle of all its regalia and take a good look at the bones of auto racing for a moment.
How do we do this? Oh, we turn on SPEED at really odd times of the day and night, or better yet, wander off to the closest short track or fairground for a taste of racing in its raw forms.
Racing is simple. More than one person arrives at a designated point and tries to beat somebody else to the finish line. Auto racing doesn’t have to be a whole lot more complicated. Bring the beast you’ve been wrenching on in your dad’s shop and put it on the line. Maybe your number is taped to the door and the paint job is out of a left over bucket. But, hey! This is supposed to be fun, not put you in the poor house.
Who watches this raggedy race? Anybody who passes by and enjoys the sound of barely muffled exhaust.
Look, I know there are a few fans out there who dress in team polos and try to keep to the dress code, but I ain’t one of ‘em. T-shirts and jeans are the uniform of the grandstands.
When we were shelling out $$ in record numbers a few years ago, what was it that we were paying NASCAR to show us? Was it a pre-race concert by a headlining band out of Nashville? For the teams that arrive in pristine haulers? Or stables of cars driven by carefully pressed spokesmen for their sponsors? Nope.
It was for a green flag, some smoke, dented fenders, a pair of hands keeping the wheel under control and a whole lot of heart. There should be a celebration in victory lane that supersedes the demands of the media. Instead of waiting for the camera to give the driver the OK to climb from his cockpit, I’d rather see the journalist trying to fight their way through the mob of ecstatic team members. I want to hear a driver totally forget to thank his sponsors.
Each time I head off to a Cup event, I am fully aware I’ve purchased a product. It’s wrapped, inspected and delivered in a predictable neon package. But it’s with increasing skepticism that I am of the mindset I’m going to a race. There’s just too much of the prettiness.
And as I’ve discovered, it doesn’t have to be pretty to be fun. Dirt trackin’, modifieds, late models, figure-8s, busses, and little sprint cars… they bring all the excitement of our Sunday 43. The lights aren’t as bright, the tracks aren’t as long and the benches aren’t as comfortable, but when all is said and done, my adrenaline gets just as big a boost.
So back to the original question, what if NASCAR packed up and left town? Would that be the end of racing as we know it?
Not even close. We might miss the flyovers, but there would still be racing on our planet, in a great many shapes and forms. The racing fans will still find everything they desire out of life.
When NASCAR gets together to discuss how they’re going to “improve” this sport one more time, they’d do well to think about that.
About the author
The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.
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