NASCAR’s entering an era where they’re looking for fresh, big stars. Jeff Gordon is done. Tony Stewart is done. Carl Edwards is done. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is next.
So where does that leave the sport?
Well, NASCAR is in a delicate state, featuring ratings and attendance declines. But there remains plenty of optimism for the future as the intensity of racing improves and racetracks find ways to get fans involved.
So as the sport enters its next stage, it is an interesting time to see X Games star Travis Pastrana attempt to make a comeback. While Pastrana has been out of stock cars for quite some time now, he brings a profound enthusiasm about life outside of racing that is missing in NASCAR. It’s a big name that could fill a big vacancy at the helm of the sport’s popularity.
Besides Pastrana’s return, NASCAR is hoping for lots of success with its new video game, NASCAR Heat. While the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions have been on the shelves for several months, there is a free version of the software on smartphones. It’s the first game of its kind as NASCAR’s popularity among millennials continues to increase.
Both of these topics are addressed with your NASCAR Mailbag questions today.
Q: What does Travis Pastrana coming back mean for NASCAR? – Becky K., San Diego
A: It means NASCAR is still relevant, even for a guy who couldn’t succeed with one of the sport’s top organizations.
For a man with more than two million Facebook likes more than NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver, Earnhardt, Pastrana’s presence is clearly going to bring attention to the sport for non-traditional fans. While Pastrana will likely not be outstanding in the Camping World Truck Series, since he is running with a brand new team in Niece Motorsports, it is important for NASCAR to recognize what he is doing.
Pastrana is taking the time to help out a small team needing a big name to generate future sponsorship dollars. Let’s face it: You seldom see one of NASCAR’s premier series drivers take the helm of a second-class truck in order to help an underdog. While it does happen, like the Dillon brothers competing with NTS Motorsports prior to that team shutting down, it is extremely rare and can, at times, be counterproductive.
Sure, the guy didn’t run well in the XFINITY Series. He tallied up four top 10s in 42 races, but that is better than plenty of other folks who strap into one of those racecars. By comparison, Danica Patrick only earned three top 10s in her only full XFINITY Series season.
That’s what will make this one-off a fun outing for Pastrana. He’s going to hit Las Vegas Motor Speedway with no pressure on his shoulders. As long as he keeps the No. 45 truck clean, he will be the hyperactive, fun guy we saw when he first entered the NASCAR garage.
There are few, if any, downsides to Pastrana making his NASCAR return. And who knows? Maybe this race becomes a test balloon for a full-time NASCAR comeback in 2018.
Q: How would you evaluate the new NASCAR Heat app? – James R., Indianapolis
A: This game is just what NASCAR needs right now.
Not only is the NASCAR Heat app free, but is right up there with the MLB and NBA games as some of the most realistic ones available on the App Store. If the app can gain some publicity, it might be the one that introduces new fans to the sport.
That is never a bad thing.
The app is intriguing for several reasons. It’s got realism, creating a NASCAR team shop, garage, R&D Center, and a Fan Zone. But its best feature may be what you need most: the actual racing itself.
The concept of having these come together so well is certainly new for a NASCAR game. I personally have never seen a game where you can interact with the race shop in a way other than the cars and the crew. It’s neat to see that this app has features no other game possessed prior to its inception.
Taking after other community-based games, NASCAR Heat might be just as good as watching the actual NASCAR race itself. The graphics are better and the competition is realistic. Do you need much more than that to be successful?
The idea of the game is to earn stars at each race, gaining enough to unlock the next track in the schedule. Eventually, you can unlock all tracks if you upgrade your racecars. Improvements can be bought with in-game purchases or earned with strong results (i.e. – earning three stars at a racetrack).
Since the app is free of charge, there aren’t many things to complain about. The racing provides a realistic, though challenging experience. And the graphics/sound are on point as well.
Download it so you won’t have a life after you start playing.
Have a question for next week’s NASCAR Mailbox? Tweet me at @JosephNASCAR.