First let me preface this by saying that I am a NASCAR fan since I was about 4 years old. I grew up a huge Jeff Gordon fan because of the color of his car. As I got older I started to appreciate drivers like Dale Earnhardt, Dale Jarrett, and Darrell Waltrip. The past few years I haven’t had a favorite driver I just want the races to be good.
This morning Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver, announced that this season would be his final season. First I hope that Dale has a great life and stays healthy. He made the decision before it was made for him. I respect that.
Now on to the more important issue…the future of NASCAR. In the past 3 season NASCAR has now lost 4 of the most popular drivers (Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, and now Earnhardt) and 4 of the links to the previous generation of racing (Stewart, Gordon, Jr, and Michael Waltrip). When drivers such as Dale Jarrett, Rusty Wallace, and Richard Petty retired there were drivers to fill their spots. Those drivers had personalities that help make NASCAR one of the fastest growing sports from the early 1990’s to mid 2000’s.
Now looking into the future I don’t see any drivers with the personality or fan following to fill the loss of Gordon, Stewart, Edwards, and Earnhardt. Plus lets not forget the soon retirements of Matt Kenseth and possibly Jimmie Johnson. NASCAR is already having problems with not only people coming to the races but also people watching at home. NASCAR has made changes to the cars, the points, and the races themselves to make them more interesting but in my opinion that isn’t the problem.
The problem with NASCAR is that everyone is the same. They all drive the same cars, give the same interviews, and race the same way. If anyone races any different or aggressive they are considered “dirty” and NASCAR has a talk with them. What NASCAR seems to have forgotten is that its roots are bumping and banging. The roots were drivers getting upset at each other and letting them know about it after the race. The roots were interviews from “good ole boys” that you couldn’t understand. NASCAR has forgotten its roots.
Drivers now are cookie cutters who don’t do anything to rock the boat but also don’t have a personality. If you were to take a current NASCAR driver and put him back in the 80’s or 90’s he would not only get destroyed on the track but also off it as well. Drivers now are younger and younger but they aren’t seasoned. Most of the drivers on the NASCAR circuit didn’t have to crawl thru the local short tracks like drivers of the past did.
So what does this all mean? I think it means that NASCAR is in serious trouble, as there desire to be accepted by the mainstream media may mean that NASCAR as we knew it no longer exists. Maybe NASCAR should be renamed NPWU, which stands for National Please Watch Us, but NASCAR has forgotten that the drivers and their personalities is what got people into the sport, not stage racing or championship chases.