Thursday, October 30, 2008

NASCAR's golden era

There was a time in the 1990s when the No. 4 Kodak Film Chevy was a major player in NASCAR. No more. If there is any example about how much NASCAR has changed in the past decade, merely look at that orangish-yellow Morgan-McClure car. Ernie Irvan won several races, including the 1991 Daytona 500 and Sterling Marlin succeeded him by winning back-to-back 500s a few years later. It’s fitting I found the above photo of Irvan in the black car chasing Marlin to the 1994 Daytona 500 checkers.

But two stories caught my eye as they scrolled across the wire. First, Kodak is leaving Penske Racing, thus halting it’s 22-year relationship with NASCAR. Additionally, Larry McClure, one of the founders of the No. 4, has been indicted on federal tax violations. Those two stories, side-by-side on the NEWS bar, slapped me square in the face. Not because these are earth-shattering developments – neither have been important pieces in recent years - but because it represents the end of an era.

Gone are most of the sponsors that helped NASCAR roar through the 1990s. Gone are single-car teams that defied the odds to win races against superteams such as Hendrick or Roush. Gone are the individual characteristics between each car manufacturer with the new cookie-cutter COT.

NASCAR shouldn’t live in the past (as I have a tendency to do) but this is a real gut check for hardcore racing fans. And maybe it’s an indication that it’s to suck it up and move past the 1990s. The 2009 season is just around the corner.

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