Thursday, February 11, 2010

Rubbin's Racin'

Well, football season has come and gone. Somehow the city of New Orleans has survived and is now waking up with one massive hangover. It's the doldrums for sports fans, March Madness has not kicked in. Baseball is just starting to wake up for the pitchers and catchers. Who can not wait for that fantastic curling competition from Vancouver? One thing has caught my eye. Maybe its the hillbilly in me. Maybe it was those Friday nights of my childhood, watching Bo and Luke drive that beautiful orange 1968 Charger around Southern California...uh I mean Hazzard County that did it. NASCAR, for the first time in a few years, has caught my eye.

I had followed it as a kid due in large part to the aforementioned Duke boys. There's something about fast, loud, carborated machines racing and jumping over junk cars that stuck with me. NASCAR was a part of my sports watching childhood that I have been kind of feeling nostalgic for. I loved "Awesome Bill from Dawsonville". I remember the Allisons, the Pettys and Dale Sr. I remember the old days, when a guy from a small one car team could still compete. Those days went away as the sport grew, as did myself.

I got into other things, grunge music, skateboards, the Grateful Dead and girls. NASCAR lost its roots too much for me. I missed, a half in the bag, Tim Richmond going out and lapping the field. I missed Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison knocking the dog snot out of each other on the backstretch at Daytona. It got replaced by a sponsor driven, monotonous, glorified IROC race. In short, NASCAR took the fun out of racing.

With the advent of cable television, the sport grew, but at a rate that it could not handle. Too many people wanted a piece of it and NASCAR wanted to appease everyone. In the end, they may have alienated everybody. We got drivers who were more concerned about their sponsors than the racing itself. We got sponsors who pushed drivers down our throats who could not produce. We had a sanctioning body give us boring racing with too many rules. They were too afraid that people may be offended by colorful drivers or fights on the backstretch. Here's what they forgot. That is what made the sport so great. Fans don't want to hear how the Lowes # 48 has the best crew. They want to hear why you think the guy in the # 20 is an asshole for knocking you into the wall.

Fast forward to this year, NASCAR realized and may be a bit too late, that they were losing fans. The Car of Tomorrow was and is, looking like the NASCAR's version of Windows Vista. It was something that supposed to make the racing better, but showed again that NASCAR had forgotten its roots. NASCAR should be, simply at its core, "stock" car racing. We are already seeing the testing of next generation cars with, get this, "fuel injection". Wow, way to step into the 1980's. The COT alienated an already worn out fan base by watering down the sport even more. I am glad that the Car of Tommorow, appears to be the the car of yesterday by next season.

They still need to address the small teams ability to compete. Today, if you're not in a multi-car team with big sponsors, head to your nearest dirt track. You don't have a real chance to compete. I'm not saying there needs to be a spending cap, but Nascar needs to make it easier so the small guys can compete. The Car of Tomorrow, instead of making it easier to compete, created a large disadvantage to the small teams, due to lack of money for development. In a sense, NASCAR gave us their version of the Pontiac Aztec.

NASCAR announced that they are "relaxing" the rules for bumping and restrictor plates. They said that they want the guys to go at it. Ok prove it. My gut tells me, it will be more of the same. My other fear is that they will manufacture the rivalries between drivers, ala Vince McMahon and tamp down any real heat between the drivers. Let it happen naturally. With that much speed and that much testosterone, it will happen by itself.

When these announcements were made, it gave me hope. It gave me hope that they may be finally listening. If I watch the race on Sunday, I hope to see something that hasn't been there in a long time. If its more of the same, I'll just simply turn the channel...