OPINION: Drivers, remember when you would have done anything to be racing in NASCAR?

Photo by Jerry Jordan/Kickin' the Tires

By Jerry Jordan, Editor

For the first time in nearly two decades, I am genuinely concerned about the future of NASCAR.

It seems as though the sanctioning body, no matter how hard they try, can’t do anything right – at least in the eyes of the fans, multiple drivers, and some media.

This past weekend, I experienced something different. I attended the IndyCar Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. The fans were happy. The drivers were happy. And guess what? The media and sponsors seemed happy too.

Were the stands packed with overflowing capacity? Nope. Were there constant battles for the lead and death-defying antics on the track? Not really – at least, not on every lap.

Don’t get me wrong — the on-track product was good. But it was the environment that truly tied it all together.

Hundreds of fans lined pit road. Drivers stopped and posed for photographs. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver Graham Rahal was answering questions from fans standing around his car just minutes before he strapped in for a 240 mph rodeo.

He wasn’t “in the zone.” He was in the moment – and he genuinely seemed to enjoy it.

So did Takuma Sato. And Colton Herta. And Tony Kanaan. And Sebastien Bourdais. And Josef Newgarden. And … well, you get it.

Virtually all of the drivers were smiling and having a good time. They didn’t look like they had been sucking on lemons, limes and lovi-lovis for the past 24 hours and no one was talking about how bad the race would be with the current “Universal Aero Kit” – IndyCar’s equivalent of a NASCAR aero package – or that the sanctioning body didn’t have a clue.

And before a ticked off NASCAR driver (or anyone else) reads this column and rips me a new fecal exit point, please read the next sentence: This condemnation does not extend to everyone – but if I’m striking a nerve, perhaps it’s time for some self-examination rather than lashing out at others.

You know who you are.

To paraphrase a comment from Jimmy “Mr. Excitement” Spencer, if NASCAR says the sky is blue and drivers say the sky is green, fans would still side with the drivers.

That is exactly what is happening with the current racing package. Fans are deciding whether or not the race was exciting based on the post-race complaints of the drivers.

Sure, some races are more exciting than others, but last weekend’s race at Michigan International Speedway should rank somewhere among the “good”. So, what if Joey Logano led 163 of the 203 laps? There was still plenty of good racing throughout the field.

In fact, what I have observed with this current package is that many drivers are talking about how mentally challenging it is to drive the race car. If that’s the case, does this mean that the drivers complaining about the package not allowing them to showcase their talents aren’t smart enough to drive it?

Regardless, drivers are the most important aspect of NASCAR and their words can do great harm to the fanbase. Remember, “loose lips sink ships.” I just wish, for once, that the drivers who are doing the most complaining would go back and recall the days they were wishing they could be where they are now.

You know, thinking back to when they were running go-karts or mini-sprints or quarter-midgets and then consider what they would be doing if they never made it “big time.”

Seriously, there are young drivers out there who aspire to be where these guys are at today and they probably wouldn’t be complaining about getting a shot at the top. When drivers badmouth the sport, the sanctioning body, or even make a snide remark to the media, what are they really saying to these young drivers and their parents?

If everyone in the sport continues to be unhappy, what does that leave for the future? Does anyone really think the moms and dads of those young drivers want to risk their mortgages and fund a potential young superstar if they believe NASCAR is dying?

No one is saying NASCAR has the current package 100 percent right. But rather than put the world on blast because you are upset about “how it races”, think about how it looks when fans are constantly bombarded with NASCAR-bashing.

Bottom line: You can’t grow a sport by constantly complaining about how bad it is – or where it is headed.

5 Comments

  1. Sophie

    June 15, 2019 at 3:30 pm

    Excuse me, but I don’t wait for driver comments before I decide whether a race was entertaining, much less exciting. I am perfectly capable of coming to my own conclusion. And partway through the race at MIS, I switched to a rerun of Property Brothers. That’s how entertained I was by the BS that NASCRAP called a race. So, just keep whistling in the dark and blaming the drivers, but the product NASCAR is putting out there is not worth my time or money. There is more passing on the freeway – and there no one is shuffled back 20 car lengths when he makes that pass!

  2. Tom

    June 15, 2019 at 4:39 pm

    paint it any way you like, the racing is of poor quality. Our local street stocks put on a better show. You’re a fan shamer. Fans pay the bills. Someone isn’t listening very well. It has gone on for way to long.

  3. JT Suel

    June 15, 2019 at 7:31 pm

    Well just remember before the split in open wheel, IndyCar racing was on top . It’s the purest form of racing. It’s been a long road back and still some to go , but it will return to the top. Before 94 Nascar had grown but was still mostly a regional sport. Open wheel was king but shot there self in the foot. And that opened the door for Nascar to the top. Nascar has got so far from its roots, with gimecks rules it shot itself in the foot. It’s a shame really. My first love is open wheel , but I like all racing.

  4. Rick Gee

    June 16, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    The racing of the 60’s and early 70’s was not a lot of passing, only about 5 competitive teams, no power steering, heavy cast iron big block engines, 3800 lbs or more on “not much better than street” tires. It took real “men” to handle these cars. Today it’s small blocks, purpose built chassis, great tires, power steering and the cars are not the monsters of yesteryear (not even as competitive as the 80’s and 90’s.). The drivers want to blame the cars or the package for the shortcomings of themselves or their team when they can’t adapt to the situation. Now, if drivers can’t bring $ AND sponsorship you can’t Eve get a ride! The real drivers are still on the 1/2 mile or less DIRT tracks. That’s where the legends of NASCAR came from. Quit your whining, drivers, and drive or move onto something else.

  5. Eddie

    June 16, 2019 at 4:45 pm

    Yall are crazy the racing is great now more passing more cars on the lead lap ect. Indy car people think it’s a great race if the second place car is on the lead lap. People that complain about nascar today are not real fans. I remember just total blow outs in the 70s and 80s. The same people that use to complain about the races getting strung out are the same ones now complaining about the race stages. That tighten up the field twice during the race no matter what else happens.

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