It’s been said that the fan base of NASCAR has been leaving the sport since Dale Earnhardt died. I believe that is true but not for the same reasons Rusty “Nuts” Wallace, Brian France and the other geniuses of NASCAR seem to believe.
They believe it’s because the sport lost it’s biggest hero. I believe it’s because the sport lost it’s compass. In the past few years NASCAR has been trying to market itself as everything to everybody. They want to be Mexico’s sport. They want to be Canada’s sport. They want to do what the NBA did and go global.
The NBA was successful but they left a lot of fans, including me, without a sport to watch. They marketed to the young and the inner city. I don’t disagree with that but I wish they would of left something for me. I was a fan because I liked basketball. The sport they play now is a lot like the game I knew but without the team concept. It is nothing but a series of one on one match ups because that’s exciting if your IQ is not capable of comprehending the finer points of the game.
Now Brian France is doing the same thing in a different way. Some where in an office in Daytona Beach, FL the decision was made that the new fans want a watered down personality less sport. One where freedom of speech is trampled and uniqueness is squashed. Considering the sport was born from rebel yellers running moonshine through the hills of Dixie that is ironic.
I believe the day Dale Earnhardt died so did the personality of NASCAR. Dale Earnhardt was not the most popular man in the sport, Bill Elliot was but Dale was the most exciting.
Dale was fanatically loved by his followers and hated by everyone else. He had no where near the universal following Dale Jr enjoys. The Gordon, Wallace and a dozen other fan bases liked him as much as they liked taxes. More people cheered for him to lose than for him to win, that’s why it was fun.
The Gordon people hated us and we hated them. The Darrel Waltrip fans hated us and we hated them. If Gordon was in Dale’s way, he moved him and that was racing. If Darrel’s candy ass was feeling froggy, he jumped and we understood it was sport. Sure there were fights. Sure there were feuds. Surely as there were fans. Although more ofter than not there was Dale grinning that big grin and laughing about it. He understood racing because he learned it from The King and Darrel and some others, just like Gordon understands because he learned it from Earnhardt.
What I think Jeff Gordon doesn’t understand is, him, Dale Jr, Tony and Jimmie Johnson have more power than Brian France. They control about 80% of the fans.
So Jeff needs to take off his sundress and bonnet and pretend for a moment he is the senior star of NASCAR. He needs to get the Hendrick’s drivers and the Gibb’s driver and do what I think Dale would do in this situation.
I am not presuming to know what Dale would do but I am guessing he would pull on his boots. He would sit his big cowboy hat on his head. He would march into France’s office like he owned it and explain to him the facts of life.
Explain to him that if NASCAR wants to run the sport like a merry go round then take it to Mexico. If NASCAR wants drivers to ask permission before they pass a car then take your sport to Canada.
The current active drivers own several tracks, dirt and pavement both and we will give Americans what they want.
A sport where personalities are bigger than life. A sport, families can enjoy every Sunday after church. A sport where “foreign” language means you have a northern accent. A sport that doesn’t put you to sleep faster than a roasted turkey dinner.
A sport, Dale Earnhardt and I would recognize. A sport different from the dull boring follow the leader show we watched last year and the same one I am sure we will watch this year.
A sport that has a direction. A sport, comfortable enough to say – “We are NASCAR, take it or leave it.”
I believe if Dale Earnhardt was alive we would have direction.
Of course as we all know it was easy to find your way with Dale because right or wrong he always lead.