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"NASCAR has sold its soul to the devil,"
May 8, 2002 10:25 PM   Subscribe

"NASCAR has sold its soul to the devil," says 45-year-old veteran driver Ricky Rudd, who's thinking about retirement. Maybe he's just pissed about losing to younger competitors. Or maybe he has a point when he says, "They are massaging this thing to target a certain crowd and before you know it, they'll have us up there flexing and in bathing suits like we're professional wrestlers." NASCAR's definitely been trying to broaden its appeal in other ways. And when is the increasingly popular racing world going to start requiring soft wall technology at all of its tracks, anyway? Last Sunday's wreck during Indy 500 practice seems to have convinced one driver, at least, that soft walls work.
posted by mediareport (19 comments total)

 
The next safety advance.
posted by dhartung at 10:44 PM on May 8, 2002


Pix of the car disintegrating during the crash and afterwards, along with the damage to the wall.
posted by mediareport at 12:01 AM on May 9, 2002


Actually New Hampshire International Speedway is going to get soft walls soon, it looks like.

I think Rudd's half right, and half bitter. NASCAR has been putting alot of focus on the young drivers recently, but that's because they're doing well. 7 of the 11 races so far this year have been won by drivers who have at most 3 full seasons of competition behind them. IIIRC, there has been at least one rookie in the top ten of every race this season.

And the focus on the young folks hasn't been exclusive at all. Even the TV announcers are constantly babbling about the importance of experience, and how we always manage to see some experienced driver working his way quietly to the front without anyone noticing it until he's there.

He has a point, but its not nearly the full court press he makes it out to be.

This thread got only two comments, and neither of them is a snotty elitist drubbing of the intelligence of people interested in stock car racing. Is this the end of MeFi as we know it?
posted by jammer at 7:35 AM on May 9, 2002


NASCAR and WWF are two passions I only allowed myself to get into the last few years. Before that I was way too 'into myself' to watch red neck TV, but now I know what I was missing.

Young, old, racing is about winning. What those guys do every Sunday is heart stopping once your gain an appreciation of the speeds involved. The level of skill those drives possess impresses me as much or more then any non-motor sport. And if they screw up, it's not a missed free-throw, it's 190MPH into the wall with 20 cars inches behind you.
posted by Leonard at 8:18 AM on May 9, 2002


NASCAR's definitely been trying to broaden its appeal in other ways.

There's only so much you can do with cars going around and around, each curve just like the last, each lap like the last, each snooze like the last.
posted by holycola at 8:22 AM on May 9, 2002


holycola: I have the same comment about baseball.

Don't be a hater.
posted by Leonard at 8:35 AM on May 9, 2002


And when is the increasingly popular racing world going to start requiring soft wall technology at all of its tracks, anyway?

IIRC, this month at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the first time soft-wall technology has ever been tested under actual racing conditions anywhere. So give 'em a break already. I suspect if they work well throughout the month, the answer to your question will be "very soon."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:26 AM on May 9, 2002


I think that a big portion of Rudd's frustration with NASCAR has to do with how long the season lasts. Driving in 39 races including the Winston invitational must wear pretty thin when you consider the impact on family life, and the wear and tear of travelling around the country. I believe that NASCAR's brand is too spread thin. If they shortened the season, they wouldn't have to worry so much about hyping the hell out of "youth versus experience."
posted by machaus at 10:19 AM on May 9, 2002


IIRC, this month at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the first time soft-wall technology has ever been tested under actual racing conditions anywhere.

That's not true. "Flemington Speedway in New Jersey has hosted many forms of racing for years and added foam blocks in 1991...Shortly after installing the foam Joe Gosek tested them in a horrific accident. 'Joe thought he was going to die. He not only walked away from the crash but came back to finish in the top five in the feature that same night.'"

So give 'em a break already. I suspect if they work well throughout the month, the answer to your question will be "very soon."

I hope you're right, but doubt it. NASCAR in particular has a long history of dragging its feet on safety questions and avoiding requirements in favor of toothless "recommendations." The obvious reason for that is $$$. The fact that someone was still calling in July of 2000 for "track owners and NASCAR to fund research and development of soft wall technology" is pretty damning, no? While it is nice to see them finally doing something about it, they were up to their necks in blood and angry fans before they made a move.

And don't even get me started about the disgusting way NASCAR tried to cover up the truth and blame Bill Simpson for Dale Earnhardt's death. Grrr.
posted by mediareport at 11:22 AM on May 9, 2002


Real racing requires you to turn both left *and* right more than 2 times a year. Furthermore, part of the excitement of auto racing is watching the new technologies used in the cars. NASCAR with their '60's era technology (carburetors, duct tape, and banging on sheet-metal with mallets) and their quest to always equalize the field just isn't very exciting for me.
posted by gyc at 1:59 PM on May 9, 2002


That's not true. "Flemington Speedway in New Jersey has hosted many forms of racing for years and added foam blocks in 1991...

Fair enough--that's what I get for going from memory. But I will note that what has been installed at IMS is considerably different than the foam blocks of 11 years ago.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:54 PM on May 9, 2002


Wow, informative link, DevilsAdvocate, thanks. I wonder how many lives could have been saved if the suits would have moved sooner.
posted by mediareport at 4:00 PM on May 9, 2002


I really like Ricky and Dale Jarret, but the young guns have been whooping some butt in the past couple of seasons. And whereas I think some of the marketing may have gotten out of hand, I still think it's great that Nascar is reaching a broader market than ever before.

Restricter plate racing and the quest to make all the cars the same though...I don't much care for that. Causes too many wrecks, cars are bunching up and taking turns 3 and 4 wide, which is when drivers are getting hurt.

Soft walls, better protection inside the car, water barrels near the concrete walls at pit row...those all seem like pretty good ideas to me.
posted by dejah420 at 4:31 PM on May 9, 2002


More pseudo sports to make America FATTER. How absurd.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:12 PM on May 9, 2002


Race car drivers are some of the fittest athletes in the world. How does auto racing exactly make people fatter?
posted by gyc at 7:31 PM on May 9, 2002


More pseudo sports to make America FATTER. How absurd.

Nice to see the rednecks in the cheap seats finally making themselves heard.

Hey, gyc, you might like this column about NASCAR's blue-collar appeal: "NASCAR even goes through great pains to maintain a very low-tech, in some respect old fashioned, 'stock car.' They understand their heritage, their image, and they painstakingly protect it. At the opposite end of the spectrum CART and F1 are all about thoroughbred, high-tech, state-of-the-art, futuristic race cars that frankly, may confuse a lot of fans..."

Ouch. I did like the comparison between early European and U.S. racing, though.
posted by mediareport at 8:02 PM on May 9, 2002


I definitely agree that NASCAR positions itself intentionally as a blue-collar type of sport. NASCAR with its length of races and the points systems which rewards consistent effort and showing up every week over winning races helps blue-collar workers relate to NASCAR drivers.
posted by gyc at 10:55 PM on May 9, 2002


I think this article marked the first and last appearance of the word combination "NASCAR" and "soul".

I would understand NASCAR having any appeal at all if the races took place over a circuit worth mentioning, but I don't believe I'll ever be sufficiently brain-dead to enjoy seeing (largely) rednecks driving "modified production cars" (production cars, my *ss) driving around on an oval again and again and again. Not without some really heavy-duty narcotics being involved...
posted by clevershark at 7:23 PM on May 10, 2002


A trained chimpanzee could win a NASCAR [TM] race with the right car. Engine builders win NASCAR [TM] races, not the actual drivers.

NASCAR [TM] was dead as far as I was concerned when three things happened:

1. It became a total oval track borefest.

2. They put restrictor plates on engines. If no risk is involved, why should anyone watch it? Half the fun of watching a race at Talledega (i.e. "The Widowmaker") was waiting to see if anyone went over the wall and into the parking lot. If NASCAR [TM] wants safety at all costs, then they should pay all of those spoiled twit drivers a lot less money. Sorry if this isn't a politically correct sentiment!

3. Plastering advertising over absolutely EVERYTHING.

The bean counters killed U.S. auto racing a long time ago.
posted by mark13 at 8:26 PM on May 11, 2002


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