RacingNation.com

NASCAR Needs Serious Jolt Of Positive Public Perception

CHARLOTTE, NC (October 7, 2013) – There’s nothing like a Pub Crawl to find out what people think of NASCAR.

Last weekend, I took the opportunity to reconnect with classmates from Libertyville (IL) High School. It was the first time since 1969 that I had returned to the Chicago suburb to mix with the people I grew up and went to school with.

Needless to say, there was a lot of catching up to do after 40-plus years and the event I attended – a Pub Crawl through the center of the city – was the perfect way to do it.

Along the way, I got to share many wonderful moments with friends recapping what had happened to each over the past four decades. Of course, we discussed careers and to say it was interesting to hear the responses to my career in NASCAR is an understatement.

It was also an eye opener.

Of course, everyone found my 25-plus years in NASCAR interesting. After all, a career that takes you all over the country to participate in professional sports events certainly sounds exciting – even romantic.

Frankly, it was.

Everybody got that.

What they didn’t get was NASCAR.

As usual, some professed they knew little or nothing about NASCAR. In 1960s lingo, it just ‘wasn’t their bag.’ Others claimed they had a passing interest in NASCAR. Some were actually avid fans and followed the sport on a regular basis.

What was sobering to hear was – regardless of their degree of interest in NASCAR – there was an almost universal perception that something was wrong with the sport.

Here are just a few of the comments I heard.

“Man, that sport is messed up now, isn’t it?”

“NASCAR sure has credibility issues, don’t they?”

“It seems like they have some sort of a controversy every week.”

“I don’t watch it anymore. “I used too, but it’s just not as exciting as it used to be.”

“I liked the old cars better. The new cars are cool, but nobody can pass anymore.”

“If I want to watch something fixed, I’ll watch wrestling.”

“It seems like the same guys – the drivers on the big teams with all the money – win all the time.”

Ouch.

There we’re more comments, but I think you get the point.

Leave it to my friends to pour water on NASCAR career campfire.

Still, I understood. NASCAR isn’t for everybody, just as the biggest game in the land – the National Football League – isn’t for everybody.

I get that.

Yet, it was hard to hear how many thought the sport was boring and contrived. Just a couple of weeks after the big Sprint Cup race manipulation fiasco at Richmond International Raceway, NASCAR’s shortcomings were fresh in the minds of many – even those who don’t regularly follow the sport.

Scandal will do that.

Call it bad timing if you will. Maybe if I had made this trip down memory lane in Libertyville prior to the Richmond race, the opinions would have been somewhat different.

Probably not.

Forget the empty seats and the falling television ratings. While those are certain indicators that NASCAR is down a couple cylinders from its halcyon days of the last decade, they don’t give you the reasons for the sport’s crash in popularity.

If you want a barometer of why things are happening, there’s no better way to find out what people think about something than by hitting the streets. There, you’ll get an unvarnished vision of what people really have on their minds.

In this case, those opinions were offered over a couple of brews on a friendly Pub Crawl. From the comments given – by both non-fans and the sport’s most avid supporters – NASCAR seems to have lost a good bit of horsepower in the world of public opinion.

There’s an old saying that ‘talk is cheap.’

Maybe so.

After all, who gives a damn about what a bunch of 60-somethings thinks about NASCAR?

Well, I do. And NASCAR should too because if you watch the chat boards and other types of public comment, the sport seems to be taking a beating in casual conversation regardless of age demographics.

That said, get ready to crack open another beer and settle in for another NASCAR Sprint Cup race this Saturday at Charlotte. Hopefully, it will offer up something good/interesting for people to talk about because based on what I heard last weekend on ‘the Crawl,’ NASCAR is in need of a serious jolt of positive public perception.

Share Button

John Close covered his first NASCAR race in 1986 at Bristol. Since then, Close – a former Associated Press newspaper sports editor – has written countless articles for numerous motorsports magazines, trade publications and Internet sites.

His Close Calls column appears each week on www.CloseFinishes.com, www.MotorsportsAmerica.com and www.RacingNation.com.

Close has also authored two books – Tony Stewart – From Indy Phenom To NASCAR Superstar and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series – From Desert Dust To Superspeedways.

Close is a weekly guest every Thursday at 1 p.m. Eastern on Tradin’ Paint on NASCAR SIRIUS Channel 90.

You can follow John Close on Twitter @CloseFinishes and on Facebook at John Close.

Be sure to visit John’s website – www.closefinishes.com