It is a big week for NASCAR. First we had Eldora and over the weekend Indianapolis. I guess I’m pondering the great love affair with a truck race on dirt and the revival of the road race. Once upon a time, the fan base hated road courses and didn’t acknowledge dirt tracks because they were “minor league.” That’s part of the change that grips our sport.
I have to admit I didn’t watch much of the race at Eldora. I started following NASCAR back in 1964 when I was but a babe. It was always exciting to go to Riverside to start the season a month ahead of Daytona because it got us racing early. Most didn’t pay much attention to the race. You could get the race on the radio if you happened to live in the South on the Universal Radio Network (or some other network I don’t remember). I used to drive over to Covington, Virginia so I could get the race on a Roanoke station because that was the only option. It wasn’t anyone’s favorite. Many said that the big stock cars weren’t suited for road courses and it was a non-NASCAR thing. Times have changed.
The dirt trackers were always considered beneath the mighty NASCAR paved tracks because the stock cars presented speed and cars you could recognize on the street. It had a cult following, but nothing more. It was a minor league that most in the southeast just didn’t care about. They left that to USAC and ignored it. Once again, times have changed.
Today, it seems all of the world of NASCAR is screaming for more road races, even one in The Almighty Chase. Now, everyone wants the Sprint Cup cars and Xfinity cars to run on dirt. Yeah, they used to but that was decades ago. A better question is why? I think there are answers.
For what seems like forever, racing has seemed almost mundane and boring. In the era after Dale Earnhardt was killed and the development of the super teams, things got stale. Those of us who grew up with the sport still followed it. Trouble was, it was always Gibbs, Childress, Penske, Roush, and the Hendrick machine. Yes, sometimes an Aric Almirola or David Ragan or Jamie McMurray or Martin Truex Jr. would win, but everyone knew that was about it. NASCAR limited organizations to four teams, but the result stayed the same. Winners will always come from these teams.
The Chase was created and not much changed. The new rules package with winning being paramount still didn’t change much. Aero push made sure the guy in front was going to have an advantage and Rick Hendrick slyly increased his stable to eight teams with the addition of Stewart-Hass Racing. In the meantime, Roush fell from grace and then there were only a few teams with any chance of winning. Boredom set in, attendance suffered, and seats were ripped up.
Enter Eldora and captivating races at Watkins Glen and Sonoma. Allmendinger and Ambrose won. It was different and exciting. With us older fans dying off or getting too old to attend, youngsters like the fact that different winners and four-wide racing was exciting. Thus, the cry for more dirt and road races.
The last thing I want to see is more road races. Sirius XM and many fans are clamoring to let the major series have more races. The problem seems to be that the top series is just not that interesting. XFINITY is doing its part. New stars like Chris Beuscher, Erik Jones, and Ryan Reed makes it fresh and exciting even if Penske, Gibbs, Roush, and Childress have the best-funded teams. The truck series continues to have the best racing. It’s no surprise that it’s the less funded series.
Watching dirt races and road courses are not my cup of tea, but that’s just me. Maybe the sanctioning body should continue to look at the premier series a little closer. All the changes haven’t made for better competition though they are trying hard. Could it be that the new package at Indy will change that? I’m excited to see if that is the case.