NASCAR is Terrible because of Us
By: Chris Fobbe
You know all of those annoying links your aunts, uncles and parents share on Facebook? The links that hook you with an interesting headline that leaves you wondering what the answer is, but the only way to find out is to click it. Well, it turns out, some people out there have gotten extremely rich off of these websites. The person that I am going to mention here for the sake of an excellent quote that underlines my overall point and then never mention again is Emerson Spatz. This 27 year old millionaire was recently quoted in The New Yorker saying: “The way we view the world is, the ultimate barometer is quality is: if it gets shared, it’s quality.”
When I first stumbled upon this quote, I was immediately and shockingly reminded of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Going in to 2014 NASCAR made sweeping changes to their points system, rewarding drivers who won races with guaranteed Chase for the Sprint Cup berths. In all of the press releases hyping this change, NASCAR stated repeatedly this was all for the sake of putting more emphasis on winning races, so the days of a Matt Kenseth-esque points racer could never creep back up and spoil a season with the kind of consistency that wins Championships in literally every other level of motorsports.
Yet when the Final Four drivers, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano left a lot to be desired. Joey Logano was so far the most successful of the numerous “next Jeff Gordon’s,” who’s overhyped promise was not even glimpsed at until he was seven years into his Cup career. Denny Hamlin is a serial whiner, who didn’t even start every race this season. Kevin Harvick has spent the majority of his career in the shadow of the driver he replaced. Then there is Ryan Newman, who finished second overall for the season, despite never actually even winning a race. And in case you’re wondering, the guy that won the most races, didn’t even make the final four.
Enough griping about how stupid this new points system is, and back to my original point. There was a stretch in the final few races of the season where a couple physical altercations occurred, involving Brad Keselowski being physically confronted by other drivers. These incidents exploded all over social media, getting record amounts of attention from those of us who have a passion for motorsports. I myself am even guilty of falling into this trap.
While we all can weigh the pro’s and con’s of NASCAR degrading into a WWE-style brawl post-race until we are blue in the face. But the issue is, we all remember these fights and shoves, but it takes away from the fact that we all had to sit through hours of mediocre racing to get to that point. 500-mile races cannot be constant thrills, no one is asking for that. But 2014 was a huge leap forward for the on-track product NASCAR is putting out… and it still kind of sucked.
More than once this season, NASCAR went head-to-head with IndyCar or F1 replays, and I would, without question, watch IndyCar and F1 first, because the actual racing was far and away superior. But instead of trying to find ways to make the actual racing more exciting, as IndyCar and F1 have spent the last several years trying to do, NASCAR is going to see everyone losing their minds over Jeff Gordon throwing a punch, and they are going to see that as a win and then keep on doing what they are doing.
All racing has drama, some of it is off of the track, and that is fine. But can anyone remember who won the race in Texas when Gordon punched Keselowski? Better yet, how many of you didn’t even remember the race was at Texas until you read the last sentence?
I am not here to say that NASCAR needs to keep a tighter leash on the drivers, and that everyone should respect each other as competitors. I have seen enough racing to know that is wholly unrealistic. But, as race fans, we deserve to be able to find as much joy in the on-track product as we take in post-race excitement. NASCAR is the premier form of motorsports in the United States, but when the only incidents getting any kind of notice in the media is who punched who, that turns us, as race fans, into jokes.
NASCAR owes us a consistently compelling on-track product that they can take pride in, so then a bunch of rich prima donnas punching each other actually means something.
On a side note, my weekly home for 2015, the Springport Motor Speedway, recently announced their provisional schedule for the season. We open Sunday May 3 with the JEGS / CRA All-Stars Tour and Top Speed ICAR Modifieds Tour, and after that we are on Saturday’s for the rest of the season. Make sure to head over to springportmotorspeedway.com for more information.
If you have any questions or would like to comment on anything I spoke of in this column, make sure to follow me on Twitter @ChrisFobbe. Thanks for reading!