I’ve been thinking back when I had time to write. When I had time to talk and listen to drivers from all across the country doing different things, mostly in their own way.
I am watching the NASCAR “championship” weekend, here and there while I do things around my house. I quote the championship as it still is a stinger to the old guard. The fact that NASCAR has “playoffs,” and “rounds” to the championship; it’s like March Madness but the major difference being all competitors face off with each other at once, every week. Which is actually really exciting. And I dig the playoff structure. It’s good for the sport.
The only real problem with NASCAR isn’t the product; although length of the races could pose an issue, and why folks like Ed Pimm, veteran IndyCar driver who dabbled in NASCAR in the ‘80’s references it as “NAPCAR” in my podcast episode with him. But come on, they’ve solved that with the “stages” model.
Aside from that discussion, the racing can be fun to watch, and the structure may be really what racing in general is missing when we come towards the end of the year in most of these series.
Imagine if Donny Schatz had to give it all up in the last month of racing, and equal the playing field across the top 10 World of Outlaws drivers into a playoff structure? I bet fans would tune back in after Knoxville.
So forget the “racing is boring” discussion. It’s the drivers and cost that are the problem. It’s an incest-filled sport, with royalty and oligarchs with loads of money. It’s far too expensive for smaller guys to get in.
NASCAR is more a representation of the disparaging wealth and class inequality in this country than a sport for the working class to watch.
Here’s my examples… the World of Outlaws takes money, serious money in the ballpark of a million or two to take the series on for real. But for larger small business owners to run the Outlaws is attainable at that cost. Look at Motter Motorsports, heavy equipment guys, or hell, even Donny Schatz’s family with the empire they built in North Dakota with truck stops, car washes, and convenience stores (and more I’m sure). Dennis Roth, a cattle and slaughterhouse magnate who has cashed out God knows how much with selling to Cargill. But. These are small guys with major business successes. And forget even wealthy family small-businesses, there’s guys still putting deals together that get them out there on mostly product sponsorships and small sponsorship deals (see OpenRed podcast with Bobby Allen here).
So let’s look at NASCAR. It doesn’t have wealthy business owners on the level you see at World of Outlaws, it has Blake Koch for God’s sake. Literally the top richest families in the country in the billions who impact our political system with major lobbying dollars. Paul Menard from the Menard’s empire. It has billionaire magnates, John Henry with Roush-Fenway racing and the steadfast Roger Penske, who has put hundreds of millions (maybe a billion?) into motorsports over his era.
But then, there’s Barney Vissar, an Outlaw type to me. A small business guy from the outside in Denver, Colorado who built an empire large enough to take on the guys from the “South,” embedded in Charlotte. Perhaps, he is the only renegade car owner left with a driver that only brought smaller sponsorship money – not a dad’s checkbook – and of course, he can’t do it anymore. Sadly, it ends this year.
The problem with NASCAR is the money it takes to do it, and the drivers who pay and bribe their way into it. It happens in every level of motorsports, but let’s hope it doesn’t happen to the World of Outlaws, and let’s take the good from NASCAR and recognize what’s really killed it.
That’s my thoughts on championship weekend.