Is Good Racing Being Sacrificed for the Almighty Dollar?

So they’re going to rid Atlanta of a race? Anyone watching the race on Sunday night would have to ask why. Atlanta Motor Speedway is one of the most competitive racetracks on the circuit. So many close finishes can be remembered over the years, and even though Sunday’s finish wasn’t that close the racing was better than good.

So what gives? It’s almost as if money means more than racing. Sure, money is a big part of the business. Track owners have to make money to pay purses and provide the amenities that race fans love, but is it coming at the expense of good racing?

Over the years, we’ve seen places where the racing was good, go away. Darlington lost its signature race—the Labor Day weekend Southern 500. No other place defines NASCAR like Darlington on Labor Day. We’ve seen the high-banked one-miler at Rockingham get closed for “lack of attendance.” Of course, having the races at Halloween and in the midst of winter may have had something to do with it.


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North Wilkesboro went away so New Hampshire could have a date. Now, Atlanta, in business for 50 years, has lost a date because of a business deal—and poor attendance at Atlanta’s spring race. Atlanta’s March race has always drawn anywhere from 80,000-110,000. Not bad for a place that advertises that it has seating for 91,000 people and has always been plagued by bad weather.

Kentucky has seating for 65,000 folks and owner Bruton Smith says he is going to add seats. I’m happy for the folks in the Cincinnati-Lexington area, but keep that attendance up or else be prepared to see that date go elsewhere.

I guess the point of my article is that NASCAR is slowly taking away all of the history of the sport. Once upon a time, the southeast had Rockingham, Darlington, Charlotte, Atlanta, North Wilkesboro, Talladega, Daytona, Martinsville and Richmond hosting two races each. Where there were once 16 races in the region where the sport began has now become 12. The Carolinas alone hosted eight races and now they host four.

In the meantime we see other tracks draw poorly and have boring racing. I realize the need to make a buck, but what about the racing? Is that important anymore? Or are we to believe the radio programs that tell us it’s the best it’s ever been?

NOTES:

Elliott Sadler must be the unluckiest driver on the planet. It he doesn’t get taken out by a blown engine, it’s being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sunday night was no exception. Sadler was running well and got caught up in something not of his doing. Apparently, he lost his ride with Richard Petty Motorsports, and has few takers for 2011. He’s a talented guy and we hope things turn around for him soon.

The same could be said for Kasey Kahne. Kahne ran well and took the lead in the closing laps only to be tapped by Ryan Newman. It wasn’t intentional, but Kahne’s retaliation was. Amazingly no one is calling for his head like they have Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch.

The same thing happened to Greg Biffle. Wrong place at the wrong time. Luckily, it didn’t cost the Biff a place in the Chase.

Kudos to Ernie Haase and Signature Sound for a dynamite rendition of the National Anthem before the race.

Jeff Gordon might be second in points, but he’s far from competitive these days. In fact the only Hendrick Motorsports entry that is somewhat competitive is the No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson. Wonder why?

Finally, Bill Elliott is doing amazing things with the Wood Brothers’ car. The underfunded team needs better sponsorship. Maybe in 2011?

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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Ron Fleshman has followed NASCAR racing since attending his first race at Martinsville Speedway in 1964. He joined the Motor Sports Forum on the CompuServe network in the 1980s and became a reporter for Racing Information Systems in 1994. In 2002, he was named NASCAR Editor for RIS when it appeared on the World Wide Web as www.motorsportsforum.com. He can now be found at www.ris-news.com. Ron is a member of the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association. You can find Ron following and reporting on the top three NASCAR divisions each week. As a lifer in his support of racing, he attends and reports on nearly 30 events a year and as a member of the motor sports media, his passion has been racing for 47 years. He lives with his family in rural West Virginia and works in the insurance industry when not on the road to another track.

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