Saturday, February 23, 2008

Is the sun setting on California Speedway?


Interesting opinion piece that appeared on ESPN.com as the series prepares to race the Auto Club 500 at California Speedway. The column by Ryan McGee likens the struggles at the speedway to the demise of Ontario Speedway a quarter-century ago.

This is a substantial problem for NASCAR with declining attendance figures and dwindling interest in the region. The track built in the suburbs of Los Angeles was supposed to connect the rich and famous of Hollywood to the southern roots of racing. The decision to add a second race at California in 2005 only highlighted the need for the track to succeed.

It simply hasn't happened. Not with boring racing and especially not with thousands of empty seats slapping NASCAR in the face lap after lap. Now it's time to give back at least one of California's races to tracks such as Rockingham and Darlington. That might be easier said than done, however, because the track is owned by International Speedway Corp. - a subsidiary of NASCAR.

Regardless of the solution, McGee's column highlights what many long-time fans have been thinking: NASCAR has wandered too far from its past. It's not too late to bring races back to the southeast where the sport's fanbase is strongest and grandstands always full.

2 comments:

Brant said...

You and Mr. McGee have hit the nail on the head. I used to be a serious NASCAR fan back in the old days, before the Winston Cup (Oh, my, I mentioned a cigarette name!) became so homogenized and corporatized and the racing became so damn boring. Tony Stewart is about the only guy who still has the outsized personality and daredevil, balls-to-the-wall approach to racing that Dale Sr., Richard Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough and the Allisons had years ago. And every time Tony tries to display that personality and paint-swapping driving approach, he gets his fingers rapped with the big NASCAR ruler. People want to see drivers trading punches in the pits after an on-track incident. They want to see a driver who got wrecked by another driver throw his helmet at the offender's car. But NASCAR wants to be one of the "major sports" and thinks the old-school, down-and-dirty approach tarnishes their beloved "image." Well, their image now is of a dying sport. They started to lose me when they abandoned tracks such as Rockingham and North Wilkesboro and, worse yet, took one of Darlington's races and basically killed the Southern 500. All so they could move races to such stock-car hotbeds as Las Vegas and Kansas Frickin' City. NASCAR has gotten so far away from its roots that I doubt it can ever find them again. Thank God Fireball Roberts didn't live to see this mess.

Mike Jones said...

Couldn't agree with you more, Brant. I was thinking about your comment while waiting until 4:48 p.m. for the green flag to drop at Vegas. Doesn't NASCAR understand people on the East Coast eat dinner around that time?

As for the dreaded cigarette reference; many years ago they passed out free Winston cigarette packs to people tailgating before the race. I miss those days.