The following is a February 16th article in the Wheel Section of The Toronto Star newspaper written by Norris McDonald. I agree completely with his sentiments!
Racing is the victim in NASCAR `show'
If crowds are turning away despite hours of pre-race events, maybe owners missing big hint
The Daytona 500 will be run tomorrow and once upon a time it was a car race but now it's an "entertainment event."
It used to start at the crack of noon. Then they moved it to 1 o'clock. Either way, it would be over by 4 or 4:30 in the afternoon. That was when it was a car race.
Now that it's an "event," the pre-race show comes on TV at 1:30 and the show itself (not the race, the show) starts at 2. That's when Kool & the Gang are scheduled to start playing.
That's right. Kool & the Gang. It gets better.
Chubby Checker, Michael McDonald and Brooks & Dunn are all scheduled to perform before the first engine is fired up for what CBS announcer Ken Squier once dubbed the Great American Race, which will likely not get the green flag much before 4 p.m. and will finish – for sure – after dark.
What used to be a four- or five-hour car race (that's counting the buildup) is now a minimum six-hour marathon and it's too much.
Whatever happened to just good, plain, racing?
I was thinking about this the other day after reading yet another article about declining attendance at races (not just NASCAR, by the way) and lower TV ratings for just about all types of automotive competition.
Perhaps one of the problems – there are many, but maybe this is one of them – is that most race fans really don't give a damn about all this other stuff that's being foisted on them these days.
I don't know about you, but I go to car races to watch the racing – just as people who go to baseball games go to watch baseball, and people who go to the Air Canada Centre are presumably there to watch hockey or basketball.
I might be wrong, but I don't think people who go to watch the Leafs play would be all that happy if they had to sit through a rock concert before the warmups every time they went.
But this is what has happened to car racing.
When the Molson Indy came to town back in 1986, about the only off-track activity was the beer garden. Nowadays at what's called the Toronto Grand Prix, they have Ultimate Fighting exhibitions and lingerie fashion shows.
Funny, but the more they have going on away from the track, the fewer people are showing up to watch what's on the track.
Is there a correlation?
I mean, even Indianapolis is starting to get into this nonsense.
For nearly 90 years, several dozen marching bands (the one from Purdue University, in particular) would parade around the speedway for a couple of hours before Gentlemen, Start Your Engines and they'd play John Philip Sousa selections ("Stars and Stripes Forever," for example, or my personal favourite, "Mother Hubbard March") and everybody would clap and cheer and wave and get feeling all patriotic.
But that's not good enough in the 2000s. Now we have to listen to people like Aerosmith, for God's sake. Or Green Day (how can anybody feel patriotic listening to that stuff?) Or Name-A-Band-They're-All-The-Same-Anyway?
I have a suggestion for NASCAR and the Indy Champ Racing Car World Series League (or whatever they wind up calling it after there's Peace In Our Time): fire all those young, ****-kid marketing people who come up with all these zany ideas ("it's more than a race") and return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear when the highlight of the "pre-race show" was a parade of the drivers around the track being followed by an amulance with its lights flashing and the siren going.
It's the racing, stupid. Don't ever forget that.