Friday, November 23, 2007

What should Nascar do this off season?

I hope everyone had a very Happy Thanksgiving. As always, I ate too much, and am feeling a little like taking a nap this morning, but it's a work day as usual here.

I keep hearing about TV ratings and empty seats at the race tracks, especially the latter part of this season, and I keep wondering what should Nascar be doing to keep the fans interested in our sport? Why has interest been falling off as of late? Is it because of 2 drivers on the same team basically dominating the year, and especially the Chase? Is it because of the Car Of Tomorrow leads to boring racing? In the case of TV ratings, are ESPN, ABC, TNT, and FOX running off viewers by putting a poor product on the air?

Let me give you my opinions on these issues one by one. Just because I say it, doesn't mean it's right, of course. I'm just a fan, as most of you are, and my opinion is just that: One fan's opinion.

I think that unless you were a Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson fan, the last part of the season, indeed a lot of the season became somewhat boring. I love racing, and watched every lap that I could this season, but I have to admit that I got bored when it seemed to become a Johnson/Gordon streak. I watched, but I was not nearly as excited about the races when it became clear that 2 drivers on the same team clearly outclassed everyone else on the track when it came to equipment and just pure ability to get it done. I hope the playing field evens out next year, and we see more racing from more teams than just one or two.

At first I believed that the Car Of Tomorrow would help make the racing better in the Cup series, but now I'm not so sure. I watched about the most boring Talladega race in the history of the sport, and I feel like maybe the COT is a step in the right direction, but it's missing something. When virtually all the drivers complain about how the car handles, I'm beginning to think that Nascar needs to allow the teams some freedom to tinker with the chassis and suspensions and try to find something that makes the car go faster or corner better. Unfortunately, this type of thinking seems to be 180 degrees out of phase with Nascar's purpose here. I'd like to see better racing, and more creativity on the part of the teams, and Nascar apparently would like to see less. Oh well. It's not the first time I've disagreed with Nascar! I would really, really like to see better racing on the track though. It would make me want to watch more racing, and I suspect that other fans probably feel much the same way.

Now on to the TV networks. Oh, there are so many things I could say about ESPN and ABC's coverage of Nascar this year. From the network who used to do it the best in the late 1990's to the absolute worst in 2007. Almost everything about the broadcasts grates on my nerves, from Rusty Wallace's practice of being unable to pronounce names like "Gilliland", to Brent Musberger and Suzy Kolber's apparent complete lack of Nascar knowledge. But the absolute worst part of watching the broadcasts is the apparent unimportance of actually showing us the racing on the track. ESPN routinely spent 2 minutes or so coming back from breaks by going to Brent and Brad and Suzy, and we got to watch them blather on and on about meaningless drivel. It wouldn't be so bad listening to them, but do we have to watch them too? We already know what they look like. At least show us what's happening on the track!

I think all the networks that air Nascar broadcasts could improve, but ESPN and ABC have been a total and complete disappointment for me this year. TNT was not so good, but Kyle Petty in the booth made it tolerable. Fox is in my opinion the best. They get on my nerves sometimes, but they still show more racing, and have more fun with the broadcasts.

In my opinion, ESPN should pull out some old video tapes of some of the races from 1999 or 2000, and watch them. Put knowledgeable people on the broadcasts, keep the cameras pointed at the track and not at the commentators, and just show the racing. That's all I ask.

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