The season is now almost a third over and so much has happened. Attendance is up at some tracks and way down at others. The new stages concept has given us better racing, but many are just staying away. Some of the gimmicks NASCAR has tried in order to generate interest have worked and some have not. It’s almost like a change a week. Tracks should hand out a new rule sheet for the fans. The casual fan, whose money is as good as the fanatical fan’s money, is the one who suffers, but I digress.
The sanctioning body announced recently that the Coca-Cola 600 would have an extra stage. It makes sense because there are an extra 100 miles on tap, but now there is talk of this happening at other tracks. You need that rule sheet. Add to that the yearly changes in the All-Star race and long-time fans as well as newcomers and casual fans shake their collective heads and look the other way. It’s almost as if NASCAR is trying to do something to bring back the glory days by using gimmicks. It’s either a sign of desperation or those at the top throwing mud at the wall in hopes that something sticks.
One example of this is the schedule changes for 2018. The first race of what is now known as the playoffs has always been at Chicagoland Speedway. Las Vegas Motor Speedway will now be the first playoff race. The track is another 1.5-mile oval many think we have too many of anyway. The Brickyard now is the final qualification race. Barnburner? Hardly. They made a good move by putting another short track in the final 10-race playoffs, but Richmond International Raceway rarely shows the competitive racing we see at the other two short tracks, Martinsville Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway.
The final big change to hop up fan interest was to run Charlotte Motor Speedway’s fall race on the road course in the infield of the track. The combination of a road course using a bit of the oval track, something they like to call a ROVAL, is like the course at Daytona International Speedway which opens Speed weeks early in the year. It’s a novel idea, and fans now love road racing for some reason, but will it work? It could be a rousing success or a colossal failure. That’s where we are these days. Grasping at straws or throwing mud at the wall. We will know more in about 16 months.
The fans who followed the sport in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, are rapidly looking the other way in large numbers these days. Movement away from traditional tracks like Darlington, Atlanta, Rockingham, and North Wilkesboro turned a lot of those fans off. The Chase, now known as the playoffs, sent more away, and aero push finished them off. No number of radical ideas will bring them back. It’s a grand old sport still loved by many, but I hear a death rattle in the distance. Going back to the way it used to be probably won’t help that much, but the sins of the past, so to speak, have put the sport where it is.