The days of NASCAR being relevant in pop culture and sports is all but done. It’s similar to the once beloved genre of rock music. But thankfully, rock music still has legendary bands — even if they do look ridiculous now — that continue to tour and sell out arenas and stadiums, while NASCAR struggles just to find its identity anymore, and therefore fill up its tracks with screaming fans. So while rock music may be living it’s last dying breaths off retrospective, NASCAR, on the other hand, is dying a slow, painful death from lack of perspective.
I won’t pretend to keep up with the entire history of NASCAR over its lifetime or even in the last 10 years, but it’s pretty telling to me where it’s headed.
Just at brief glances, the rule changes are never ending and confusing. Every sport from year to year will make adjustments to certain rules, either for safety purposes or making the game better, but what NASCAR has done over the years has, and in particular this year, make it seem so redundant that it should and probably has created even more lack of interest. Seriously, go look at the rules yourself if you choose. It’s like figuring out an algebraic equation.
The NFL will change the yard line placement for a field goal; MLB will add instant replay. NASCAR — they’ll change the entire rule book for winning a championship. Imagine if any of the other major sports changed their entire system of rules on how to win games or compete for a championship, and imagine this changing every couple years at that. Would you want to watch that? I wouldn’t.
But it isn’t just the rules, it’s the entire “sport.” For up to the speedy 200 mph that one of their cars can go, it’s a slow, dull watch. I get it — everyone has their likes, and if NASCAR is your thing, have at it. But watching cars make constant left turns on a circular track seems mind numbing. There’s no way you can tell me, if you’re a fan, that you watch every second of that without getting bored at some point. We live in such a fast paced world now that everything must hold our attention or we will find something else that will — and it more than likely will be on a social media page. That’s why I say all sports, for the most part, need to be seriously reduced in schedule, or in NASCAR’s case, length of a race … well, ok, schedule, too.
There’s a reason why the Kentucky Derby is “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports.” It’s because it’s only two minutes long! Imagine watching it for two to three hours. No way it’s the same. I’m not saying NASCAR should have two minute races, but watching a one hour or one hour and half race — which is what Mike Mulvihill, Fox Sports’ senior vice president of programming, research and content strategy, said was the average watch time of viewers — even could add some much needed appeal. Less is more in a lot of cases, but no one seems to understand that until it’s too late because the craving is always more and more when something is good … until you just don’t crave it anymore.
MLB needs to reduce their schedule. The NBA needs to reduce theirs as well. College football desperately needs to fix their clock management to where they don’t have 4-5 hour games. NASCAR needs to shorten the length of their races and their own schedule — with December and January as their only off months, how can you possibly miss it?
So this brings me to last Sunday’s brawl between Kyle Busch and Joey Logano. It’s been the most talked about thing in NASCAR in forever. And it always is when there’s a fight between drivers. It’s NASCAR’s one bit of controversial action they can always go back to to get a reaction even from those that aren’t a fan. Because let’s face it, no one cares if a NASCAR driver gets suspended for PED’s … because how would it really enhance a driver? No one cares if a driver fails a drug test. In any other sport those are a major deal, but it matters none to racing.
When racecar drivers remove themselves from their vehicles and approach the driver that caused them to crash with intent to fight, that’s every road-raged persons dream! Think about being cut off on the interstate or someone almost causing you to wreck driving down the highway — you want to jump out of your own car and punch them square in the face! That’s the one thing NASCAR has going for it in that someone watching can identify with that, appreciate it, and even vicariously live through the moment. No one cares about going on a three hour road trip that goes in a giant circle. That’s about as fun as running on a treadmill.
Plus, who doesn’t love a good fight? When you see something that goes off the script, it usually provides loads of entertainment.
Not sure what the rest of the fans, the purists, or the higher ups in NASCAR think of the incident between Logano and Busch, but they should at least silently be celebrating a little and be thankful for a much needed reminder to the public that they still exist. NASCAR has lost 45% of its viewers since 2005, from 9 million viewers to 4.5 million, and I’d be willing to bet it’s only going to continue.
Follow Shane Shoemaker on Twitter @SShoemaker24