Has anyone noticed that the Nextel Cup banquet will be televised, more or less live, on ESPN Classic? It is supposed to re-air on ESPN2 at midnight, but does this show ESPN's commitment to Nascar or what? I don't get Classic, and might try to catch the replay on ESPN2, but to me this really stinks. ESPN has already pushed Nascar to a very distant back burner. I know usually the banquets aren't really exciting, but it is a last chance for many fans to see their favorite drivers one last time, and wearing nice clothes for a change! All I can say is that ESPN has been a disaster this year for Nascar fans, and they really need to fix a lot of problems before I like it.
I listen each day to a radio station based in Clemson, SC on my drive to and from work, WCCP FM. In the afternoon, the run a syndicated show called Primetime with the Packman, hosted by Mark Packer who is the son of basketball commentator Billy Packer. It's a very entertaining show, and though they don't deal with a lot of Nascar talk on the show, Mark has shown he has a very healthy respect for the sport. Check out his experience at the night race at Bristol here. I don't think you'll be disappointed, it's a very interesting read.
I killed some time online at work today (don't tell my boss!) just reading a lot of Nascar related stuff. I found a couple of sites that want to ban Nascar. That's right, ban Nascar and all racing. The claims made were that it's bad for the environment, that it wastes fuel, that it's too dangerous, and that it is, after all, not even a sport. People with these views just amuse me. If it's soccer, they love it and think it's all good. I'm not particularly a soccer fan, but I don't mind it. I just think it's relatively boring. To some people cars turning left all day is boring, I guess. To each his own.
I've been watching racing since the early 1970's. Usually we only got to see a condensed version of a race on Wild World of Sports, a week after the fact, but beginning in 1979, we began to at least occasionally see a race start to finish live on TV. I was lucky enough to get to go to some dirt track races and even a couple of trips to Greenville-Pickens Speedway back when it was actually on the old Grand National circuit. In other words, I've been a fan of the sport for a long time. I think my favorites years were between about 1980 and 2000, watching drivers like Pearson, Petty, Yarborough, Waltrip, Earnhardt, Kulwicki, Wallace, and a ton of others tear up the track every week. Nascar periodically made rules changes, such as allowing Fords to change the height of the real spoiler, or allowing Chevy to lower the car a quarter inch. Nascar did these things to make the racing more competitive. Nascar still strives to do the same thing, and I've tried to embrace the Chase and the Car of Tomorrow, but after watching the results of these latest changes, I'm feeling just a little turned off by the whole deal.
I think the Chase could be good, if they tweak things a little, but even though I'm not a Jeff Gordon fan, I still feel like he got cheated. In the old points system, he would have easily won his 5th cup championship. I feel bad for you folks that are Jeff Gordon fans. In my opinion, you and your driver got cheated.
I also feel that the Car of Tomorrow was a great idea, at least on paper. I was excited about it before they actually started racing them. Let's make the cars bigger, like they used to be, let's make them more of a challenge to driver, but let's still make them fast. Unfortunately, the COT has turned out to be a dog. Very few of the drivers like to drive them, they don't handle well, and Nascar has put so many limits on how teams can adjust them, it makes for a bunch of drivers all playing follow the leader in ill handling cars.
All in all, I miss the 80's and 90's in Nascar. I love to watch some of the old races where so many things that are controversial nowadays were just facts of life back then. I like watching the days when drivers would get out of cars and put their hands on each other to vent their frustrations without worrying about fines, points penalties, etc. I miss the days when it was not only acceptable to put the bumper on someone to move them out of your way, it was expected. Not it's a sin, and I think the quality of racing has suffered for it.
I'm pretty jazzed about the 2008 season though. I can't wait to see how all the changes will affect the teams next year. Dale Jr. driving for Hendrick. Mark Martin driving the 8. It just boggles the mind! If you had asked me 365 days ago if either one of those drivers would be where they are going next year, I would have said you're crazy for even thinking that!
Truth is often stranger than fiction though.