Here is the fifth and final part to my series on how to make NASCAR a more exciting thing to watch for the fans. Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 first.
Driver Interaction with Fans
I’m not sure if my experience holds true for the rest of the tracks, but I’ve noticed over the past decade that it’s harder and harder to get near your favorite drivers. When I started following NASCAR twenty years ago, it was real easy to get autographs at Sears Point/Infineon if you had the time to walk up and down the chain-link fence in front of the haulers. In between on-track activity, the drivers would walk between the haulers to the fence and sign hats, cards, shirts and anything else. I got to see some really neat things, like practical joker Sterling Marlin peeking over part of the fence blocked by a tarp, waiting to see how long it would take for the fans to notice him, or the fans talking to the catering company barbecuing Dale Earnhardt’s chicken. Over the years more haulers showed up and they were placed closer together until the drivers couldn’t easily walk between them. Eventually the garage area was built and now the fans are nowhere near the drivers.
I think this kind of accessibility was one of the things that grew NASCAR like it did in the 90s, and I think the sport needs to return to it’s grass roots. I really like what Las Vegas has done with their Neon Garage, where the fans can look down on the crews from a second floor promenade. Other tracks have similar things: Daytona, Kansas, Kentucky, Nashville, Iowa, and Pocono. It would be great of other tracks could do the same thing.
The other part of this is actually being able to talk to the drivers. The only way you can really get a good autograph or take pictures with the drivers is at sponsor events or special signings at the track. These usually involve getting there early, getting a ticket and waiting in line. That’s not so bad, but you lose some of the spontaneousness that there used to be. (more…)
Welcome to part four of my series on how to make NASCAR more exciting to the fans. Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 first.
Yellow Line Rule
I understand why the yellow line rule was created, which states that you cannot go below the yellow line at Talladega and Daytona to make a pass. If you do, you must give the spot back or be penalized, and if you are forced down there by another driver, he will get penalized. It is a safety rule because drivers were ducking down there to make unsafe passes and causing wrecks. However, I think the rule is not a fair one. It has cost one driver a win in one situation which led to a dangerous wreck in another. The only thing they have accomplished here is make themselves look stupid when they go against their own precedents, since Johnny Benson was allowed to keep his position after he went under the line to finish 2nd in a truck race on the final lap the previous year.
My take is that the rule is going to continue to cause wrecks that it was designed to stop, just as we saw from Keselowski/Edwards earlier this year. If they want this rule, that’s fine. Keep it in there, but change it so that anything goes on the final lap so we can get an exciting safe finish instead of a horrifying one.
This is the third part in my series on how to make NASCAR more exciting. Read Part 1 and Part 2 first.
Car of Tomorrow….Today.
The COT has done exactly it’s primary purpose, and that’s increase the safety of the drivers. Since it was introduced a couple years ago though, it hasn’t made racing any more exciting. The new car and car rules take away some of the things that the teams used to do mechanically and body wise. I’m hoping that will change as the teams learn more about the cars and try new things. If NASCAR were to allow the teams more leeway, it certainly would allow a greater range of possibilities and the teams could set up their cars in more ways, meaning more variety on the track.
One of the problems with the new car is the common template. Fan’s can’t relate to it. It looks nothing like anything on the streets today, and certainly very little like the nameplates on the front from the four different manufacturers. Only the front headlights area looks like the model. They need to make changes over the next years so that fans can continue to get behind a particular manufacturer, or over time they will care less about it. From the other side, you have the car manufacturers in financial trouble. If they feel that NASCAR isn’t bringing them any new sales, they’ll be more likely to drop support for the series. This may not hurt the bigger teams, but the smaller teams need the research that the manufacturers provide.
Yesterday I started a little series on my thoughts on how to fix NASCAR to make it more exciting. I discussed Double-File Restarts, Qualifying and Track Safety. This is the continuation, dealing with television coverage.
NASCAR did a great thing in 1999 when they got all the Sprint Cup races on three networks, Fox, NBC and TNT. Other than the swapping back and forth of the Daytona 500, you would have one network for a stretch of races with consistent coverage and you didn’t have to flip around to different channels to find the race. The networks themselves did a great job by contracting former drivers and crewchiefs to do the play-by-play and color commentary. This wasn’t new, as I remember Ned Jarrett and Benny Parsons calling races when I first started watching racing back in ’89 and ’90. Hiring people from inside the sport gives the viewers a perspective similar to that of the drivers in the cars and they likely would make their interviewees more comfortable. The coverage was swapped around a little bit in 2007, dropping NBC for ESPN/ABC, but it didn’t suffer any.
Over the past few years, NASCAR has entered into an era they’ve never really ever had to deal with before: stagnation. Since it’s inception sixty years ago, it has grown, sometimes with leaps and bounds, and sometimes will small baby steps… but it had never faltered. However, they are dealing with lower ratings and ticket sales, mostly due to unexciting racing and drivers who lack the personality of their predecessors.
Today, all the NASCAR drivers and owners will be in a mandatory meeting with the NASCAR officials to discuss what they can do to make the sport better. They want to know about what would make the races more exciting for the fans so that they’ll buy more tickets and keep the channel tuned to the race, but more importantly, make a new generation of fans. I thought I would run down a list of the issues in the sport today and give my perspective from twenty years of being a fan of the sport.