Thursday, November 18, 2010

Will the next driver to "save" NASCAR come on down ...

   Here we go again.

   Another “popular” driver successful in some other form of motorsports decides to make a foray into NASCAR competition and suddenly that person is the answer to NASCAR’s attendance and TV ratings woes.

   This time, it’s Travis Pastrana, who has won numerous titles in supercross, motocross, freestyle motocross and rally racing. He plans to drive seven races in 2011 in the Nationwide Series with a team co-owned by himself and Michael Waltrip.

   Why is it when someone outside NASCAR decides to give it a try it necessarily most follow that we get a litany of reasons how that move will transform the sport?

   Haven’t we learned our lesson yet?

   IndyCar star Danica Patrick made her much-publicized debut in NASCAR this season with the same expectations (or more) and her performance on the track has been at best underwhelming.

   She likely got more people to tune in when she first arrived, and she likely sold a lot of T-shirts. That’s all well and good for Patrick, but what has it done for NASCAR?

   If people are tuning in to see Patrick and then tune out when her adventure is over, what has NASCAR gained?

   The same goes for Pastrana.

   He may be the “next big thing” to come to NASCAR, but unless he actually makes a mark in the sport competition-wise, I don’t know how that improves the NASCAR product.

   I have no doubt that if Patrick or Pastrana were to come into NASCAR and found the success – or even some of it – they have experienced in their other respective racing disciplines, NASCAR would benefit.

   But other sports’ stars coming over to “give NASCAR a try,” who aren’t in contention to win races or plan to run a schedule to contend for a championship, smacks as nothing more than a marketing ploy.

   That’s all well and good, too. Just please call it for what it is.

   I’m not going to make a judgment on what Pastrana can do for NASCAR until I actually see him compete in a Nationwide race.
   The honest truth is I don’t know what he will do. And neither does anyone else until he gets here.