The ratings are in. They continue to sink, with anything not being raced at Daytona all down. Daytona was great, the rest were okay. There used to be a time when okay was good enough. That was when, to answer Sheryl Crow’s question, we had it bad. Today, not so much. The passion is gone, at least from a ton of fans. Even the sponsors no longer have the passion, the desire to make those NASCAR-themed spots that were, well, spot on.
What to do, what to do? The stars have been, and remain, pretty accessible to the fans. Hell, even 79-year old Richard Petty remains a fan favorite and an easy target for an autograph. On the other end of the spectrum, we have Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones, Trevor Bayne, and Daniel Suarez leading the way for the 20-somethings. That might bode well for the future, but what about today? If you are a gear-head, the strategy, the setups is something of a draw, but for most folks, when their car is not running well it is simply broken.
Wasn’t the racing once a lot closer? I know in the old days it was not, not when the winner was a lap or more ahead of the next guy. So, what made NASCAR the “in thing” 20 years ago? They went from southern to national, where a guy like California’s Jeff Gordon would rival the likes of Dale Earnhardt from North Carolina. That created some sparks. They had open-wheel types like Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Juan Pablo Montoya take a turn at the wheel. That caused interest. Danica Patrick arrived and that was interesting, at least for a while. Pack racing might drive the drivers nuts, but it keeps us watching. Again, Daytona was watched, the rest…not so much.
I love the documentary-styled vignettes on the broadcasts. They always cause me to stop and watch. Is there anything else exciting, such as the broadcasters, the camera angles, the whole television experience to draw us in? Not really. Even the commercials are the same as when you watch NCIS. Seen it already with Gibbs and Ducky, so I’m good. What remains exciting is the talent. It just needs to be showcased a hell of a lot better.
Now, don’t get me started on XFINITY. Thankfully, Ryan Reed and Justin Allgaier at least won two of the five races. Seventeen of the 25 Top Five positions to date have gone to Cup drivers. Nineteen-year-old William Byron has four Top Tens, but I suspect few know that, or him. That is a problem. I do not know what their ratings are. To be honest, I do not really care.
Whatever you do, you cannot blame the guys among our Hot 20. Will Larson continue to dominate? Will Elliott get his first win and move to the front of the pack? What can Keselowski do with a car not beat to crap? Can Truex continue to perform well? Will Johnson and Earnhardt continue their climb back into contention? Those are some pretty good questions. I think most are still interested in the answers.
The trouble is getting them to commit to spending a Sunday afternoon watching it all unfold, rather than to spend just a few minutes in the evening to check the post-race reports. That is like reading the last page of the book to see how the story ends, rather than submerging one’s self into the experience. The Martinsville saga this weekend will be a good one, but the book needs to be spruced up a bit to keep us engaged.
1. KYLE LARSON – 1 WIN – 243 PTS
A win, most points, but Martinsville is a challenge he would love to overcome.
2. BRAD KESELOWSKI – 1 WIN – 214 PTS
Have the living daylights beat out of your car by the fourth lap, and still finish second? Wow.
3. MARTIN TRUEX JR. – 1 WIN – 205 PTS
Tires. He don’t need no fresh stinking tires. On second thought…
4. RYAN NEWMAN – 1 WIN – 123 PTS
After ending a 127 race winless streak, the new one is now up to…well…one.
5. KURT BUSCH – 1 WIN – 118 PTS
That Daytona win allows him to forget about the results of the past three events.
6. CHASE ELLIOTT – 214 PTS
The only thing separating him and the other top guys is the empty win column, and that’s it.
7. JOEY LOGANO – 174 PTS
Beat out Larson, Kyle Busch, and Erik Jones to win XFINITY. Again, what is that series for?
8. JAMIE MCMURRAY – 162 PTS
Three Top Tens in his last four races. Hey, he doesn’t want teammate Larson to feel alone.
9. RYAN BLANEY – 157 PTS
He can say whatever he wants about Junior. Mind you, guess who owns the land he lives on?
10. KEVIN HARVICK – 147 PTS
Harvick better win soon. Heck, Keelan is already wearing Larson gear.
11. CLINT BOWYER – 143 PTS
October 13, 2012. While he is happy for the moment, it has been awhile since that last win.
12. KYLE BUSCH – 136 PTS
Once upon a time, when you mentioned Kyle it meant a guy named Busch.
13. DENNY HAMLIN – 123 PTS
Virginia is for Virginians. That is the slogan going into this weekend for Hamlin.
14. KASEY KAHNE – 122 PTS
Remembering David Steele.
15. ERIK JONES – 116 PTS
Just a win away from a milkshake celebration. Hey, he still is only 20.
16. TREVOR BAYNE – 114 PTS
Anywhere in the Top 15 on Sunday would be moral victory.
17. JIMMIE JOHNSON – 109 PTS
No, Jimmie is not a god. Superman, yes. A god, no.
18. ARIC ALMIROLA – 108 PTS
Andrew Murstein has a drive to win. Richard Petty has 200 as a driver. No pressure, Aric.
19. DANIEL SUAREZ – 102 PTS
We now know why Carl Edwards retired. He just wanted to be a coach.
20. AUSTIN DILLON – 92 PTS
Where is Junior? He is the guy looming large in Dillon’s mirror.
“CHASE ELLIOTT: The only thing separating him and the other top guys is the empty win column, and that’s it.”
Yeah, but that’s starting to be a pretty big separation. I was really high on this kid when he came up, partly due to being a Bill Elliott fan but a lot to do with his Xfinity performance, but I’m beginning to wonder about his ability to make it in Cup. He has been in a position to win too many times and not been able to make the right move. He looks great, is utterly dominating, until somebody makes the move on him in the waning laps, and he fades into oblivion.