NASCAR will race to the occasion once again

Jonathan Little,

NASCAR, has been one of America’s most watched sports ever since the company was founded in 1948. With names such like Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt Sr., Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, and many more racers have highlighted the history of the sport and was at the same level of popularity as the NFL and MLB.

     At its hype racers like Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Jeff Gordon were pop-culture phenomenons. They were known for their rowdy attitudes, will to win and the rivalry stimulated from clashing personalities. In the ’90s the rivalry between the two was at the top of ESPN Sports Center stories weekly. However, those days seem very far away now, as the racers that connected with mainstream media and pop culture have now retired, and the new crop of racers are dealing with a crowd that either doesn’t know their name or fans longing for the glory days of wrestling.

     Just like the NFL, MLB, and the NBA, NASCAR has had to make changes to rules, regulations and how the racers handle themselves on the track. The racers can no longer race aggressively due to safety reasons, and bump drafting has had to be toned down due to wrecks and crashes. The rule changes to make the sport safer is the correct action to take, but as we’ve seen in the NFL controlling head to head contact and shoulder hits, the fans tend to disagree with rule changes and higher control over the athletes involved. In NASCAR there have been fans that have disagreed with the controlling of aggressive driving, and many have stopped watching because of those changes.

     In a survey done by USA Today, they asked fans why the attendance to races have dropped as well as viewership on television, and fans believed the constant rule changes have taken away the credibility of the sport. The NFL is also going through constant rule changes, but the difference is NASCAR has taken a significant hit. Time will only tell if the company can start grabbing the attention of new fans and even fans that have stopped watching.

   The hope is that new racers such as Austin Dillion, who is racing the iconic No. 3 car as tribute to the late great Dale Earnhardt Jr, and Chase Elliot, who took over for Jeff Gordon in 2017, will bring the fans back. They are young racers that have recently hit the scene and are looking to take the sport of racing by storm.

     Austin Dillon is the most recent racer to hit mainstream media and pop culture for winning the biggest race of the year the Daytona 500. The rising race star took the iconic No. 3 car into victory lane for the first time in almost a decade and caught the eye of fans of racing as well as casual racing fans around the sports world.

     The sport of racing, whether it’s NASCAR or independent car racing, has been subject to the on-going joke of “it’s just people making constant left turns.” The one thing people overlook is how toned these racers have to be, the stamina their bodies have to go through driving for over three hours straight and the risks they take stepping into a car that goes over 200 miles per hour.

    Yes, racing can be repetitive and sometimes stagnant, but the athletes involved are amazing to watch. No matter the changes, these racers should be given the opportunity to showcase their talents every Sunday in front of thousands of people at the track and millions at home watching. NASCAR just like other sports and in the coming years only time will tell if NASCAR will continue to drop in attendance, ratings and in fans, or will grow again to regain the hype it once had.