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…)