Wednesday, June 12, 2013

NASCAR battles expectations of what's possible with what's expected

   Less than 24 hours after the third-largest blowout in NBA Finals history and there is nary a peep from any fan demanding changes to the way professional basketball is played.

   There shouldn’t be, of course.

   But I promise you this, if Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race had ended with Jimmie Johnson winning by the third largest margin in series history, a large contingent of the motorsports media, as well as the fans, would be clamoring for rules changes.

   Why is that? Everyone is at least a little bit to blame.

   The biggest problem appears to be that what is possible each week in a NASCAR event – a down-to-the-wire finish complete with lots of side-by-side racing in the process – has become expected rather than appreciated when it just happens to occur.

   Fewer people will not tune in to watch the next game in the NBA Finals because they fear another blowout. In fact, some may tune in just in hopes of seeing one (San Antonio fans for instance).

   A down-to-the-wire, last-second game-winning shot outcome is possible in each NBA Finals game but fans don’t come to expect it.

   NASCAR fans – at least the vocal ones – have come to expect such nonstop action and believe something needs to be “fixed” when it doesn’t happen on a regular basis. There is a contingent of media who follow the same path.

   It is, of course, an unreasonable expectation and most fans probably understand that not every race can be a barn-burner.

   Whether fans today want to hear it or not, NASCAR racing is far more competitive than 10 years ago and enormously more competitive than back “in the good old days” (whenever they were).

   NASCAR, the tracks and even the TV networks – and probably the media, too – share in the blame of some fans’ unreasonable expectations.

   If all of your advertising – whether it’s from NASCAR, networks or tracks – focus on big wrecks, photo finishes and pit road fights, you can’t be surprised when fans leave disappointed when they see none of the above.

   The fight in the 1979 Daytona 500 may be a defining moment in the sport’s history but it cannot define the sport and how it’s portrayed in perpetuity.

   If it does, everyone will leave disappointed.
   A little more appreciation of good racing, rather than just "good drama" by all involved would help balance expectations.


  1. I think you have made an excellent point about the ads from NASCAR and the networks. They set unrealistic expectations and denigrate the pleasure of watching professional. highly skilled drivers race for long distances while avoiding taking out half the field. Part of the fun is watching different strategies play out. The rubbing and bumping is fun but crashes - No!

  2. But remember, its not Danica's fault. Thats all that matters here. Not the crappy cars or the most boring humans to ever don a driving suit, or announcers like Michael "make me want to puke" Waltrip or race tracks that were designed to cure insomnia.......the point of this story is that the stupid fans actually expect something in return for their know...the money they are no longer spending due to all of the above. Oh yeah, good luck improving revenue by lowering expectations. Let me know how that works out for ya.

    1. JG, LOL, good point. So many of the writers blame the fans for being disappointed. Not sure how that works. In most places, the CUSTOMER is supposed to be right. Only in NASCAR are the fans treated like trash.

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  4. Yet NBA fans don't complain about seeing a blowout game. You're just making the point of the article.

  5. You hit the nail on the head! Baseball games rarely end on a 2 out grand slam in bottom on 9th, football games dont end on a hail mary pass for the win yet if a race doesnt end with a 3 way battle for the win, fans hit the roof demanding changes! I do think Nascar makes knee jerk changes to apease fans which sometimes makes it worst. Another problem is Tv cant capture the essence of a race as much as they try, you just have to go to a race to enjoy the sights,smells and sounds of a race, just cant get that on tv

  6. With in that game were some spectacular plays that excited fans. In NASCAR the only for sure excitement is the restarts. I don’t care to ever see an other wreck but it’s the restarts I want to see. It’s time for NASCAR to think outside the box:
    Slow the cars down on tracks 1 mile and longer. Take the spoiler down, raise the front ends, whatever is needed to bring back side by side racing.
    Put the restarts in the hands of the flagman. No more the leader must pass the Start/Finish line first and the rest of the pack can pass on either side...after all the green flag is out!
    Indy used to be a special race. Now it’s just another race in July. Schedule it back to a Saturday race in August like it originally was. July’s marquee event is Daytona. Indy has lost some of it’s unique status with the current schedule.
    Stick and ball sports have built in breaks. It’s time for NASCAR to do the same. Like I mentioned above it’s the restarts that bring excitement. It’s also time to shorten the races. Get it all in in 3 1/2 hours.
    I am not new to racing. I used to wait for the TV Guide to come out on Tuesday so I could check for NASCAR on the following Saturday on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Get the point? Limited viewing built an audience that looked forward to the racing. Now not so much.

  7. Phooey, you can't compare the two sports, they are totally different. Plus, when NASCAR had cars that could race side by side and pass for the lead, then people complained less. When the only excitement is on pit stops and restarts or will someone run out of fuel, then things DO need to be fixed. I don't go to a race to watch a parade for hours.

  8. We spend huge amounts of money on over priced tickets,hotel rooms and travel. I guess according to this writer, we have no right to be entertained. Watching a parade of cars is not entertainment. People are voting with their wallets. We don't like your product anymore, hence we don't buy tickets. It is basically that simple!!!

  9. I think people are missing the point.

    Expectations for races are naturally higher than they may be for other sports simply because racing has shown it can not only meet expectations but surpass them. The Indianapolis 500 obliterated ALL expectations in 2013 as the lead changed 68 times, a competitive number NASCAR hasn't seen outside of Daytona and Talladega since the 1981 Yankee 400 at Michigan - other races (Pocono in 1982, Charlotte in 1982, 1988, and surprisingly 2000, Atlanta in 1982) have broken 40 lead changes while races such as the 1991 Michigan 400 flirted with 40, but only four times since 1982 has a non-plate race broken that number.

    Where there is legitimate anger over the competitive quality of racing stems from the fact that racing has demonstrated it can raise the competitive bar yet for the last three decades has done almost nothing but lower it. That not every race can break 60 lead changes is manifestly true; that the sport SHOULD be seeing SOME races every year or two that do break 60 lead changes is something that is also true. There would certainly be a lot less anger if that becomes the case again.