NASCAR’s Abandoned Past - The Fallacy? -- by J. R. Andres 
Wednesday, April 1, 2009, 04:03 PM
Posted by Administrator
David Caraviello’s recent article, “Fallacy of an Abandoned Past” on www.NASCAR.com made some interesting points regarding his contention that there’s a sizable contingent of race fans who have been wrongly “hammering NASCAR for abandoning its past”. Caraviello then goes on to express his belief that this is not necessarily the case because there are still many time honored tracks in operation today, like Martinsville (NASCAR), Darlington (NASCAR), Rockingham (ARCA/formally NASCAR), Indianapolis (IRL/NASCAR), Bristol (NASCAR) and so on that represent preserved time capsules of the past. According to his figures, 14 out of the present 22 Sprint Cup Series tracks were built before 1970. No one can dispute the fact that NASCAR, unlike MLB, NHL, MBA and NFL hasn’t held onto a preservationist stance, steering clear of the fickleness other major professional sports organizations have displayed by jumping towns and tearing down revered stadiums and arenas for reasons that appear, on the surface to generations of fans living there, thoughtless and arbitrary at best.

Caraviello’s points are well taken but he’s missing the other half of the equation, one that has nothing to do with the venues in which these races take place, one that has nothing to do with better food concessions, mega parking lots or luxury suites. It has everything to do with the people that pay the money to see these races.

NASCAR’s roots are deeply imbedded in the lore and the mores of the South, predicated upon non-elitist ideals. It was a sport for the common man and his family, one that embraced an acceptable connection with the hard edged reality and craziness that characterized the “shine” industry, practiced on country roads throughout the southeast. On weekends, it took the place of the radio, later the TV. It was a place to go to see friends and to be seen in rural areas that often offered little more. Local heroes played to the crowds on Saturday night and went back to their mundane, repetitive minimum wage jobs on Monday.

Over time, a sport that was mostly an afterthought on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” became the stuff of dreams for sponsors and investment companies who were no longer color blind to the green that grew wild in them thar hills and before long, fans found themselves squeezed out by fences, staggering ticket prices and hard aluminum benches. Sure, most of the old racetracks still looked the same. You could even close your eyes for a moment and imagine Fireball or Petty or Pearson or Mantz or Yarborough blasting by but when you opened them, the reality was that you weren’t going to get an autograph, the food you ate was going to stay with you for a day and any attempt to say a word to your hero was going to be met with a rebuke from a security guard that probably didn’t share your passion for the sport.

The present financial downturn has been catastrophic in so many ways to so many people but even these clouds have a proverbial “silver lining”. It has forced all of us to re-evaluate and take a look at what’s really important in our own lives and to find ways of doing more with less. Not being the exception, NASCAR has had to do the same and it has become clear that continued growth in the racing industry hinges upon not just keeping the old tracks in operation but upon redirecting energies toward re-engaging and celebrating the fans and their families in a way that will make every race for them the stuff that will be passed on for generations to come. From 1948 onward, this approach came natural during NASCAR’s infancy and adolescence. Looking back to what made it so appealing then can provide the means to make it even more appealing in the future.
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