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Another NASCAR column

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by budcrew08, Jun 21, 2008.

  1. budcrew08

    budcrew08 Active Member

    Looking for feedback: Just another quick column, similar to the last one I did, talking about how fans scream that the sport is fixed whenever Dale Jr. wins a race.

    So, NASCAR's ratings are tanking, people aren't coming out to the races as much anymore, and the sport has a $250 million racial and sexual discrimation lawsuit on their hands. In a down week for NASCAR, its most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., took the checkers at Michigan last Sunday after running 55 laps on one tank of fuel and getting to the finish line on fumes.
    But according to all the technology and talking heads on TNT and ESPN and all that, a driver could only get about 47 or 48 laps to a tank.

    How was he able to win the race? Good gas mileage? Steady on the throttle? Or something more sinister? Here's where the conspiracy theories come in.

    As if on cue, message boards and comment threads on newspaper Web sites across the country lit up with many so-called "fans" logging on right after Dale Jr. won, exclaiming loudly that NASCAR continues to give Earnhardt unfair treatment, especially at times where the sport is struggling or when the story would be that much more intriguing.

    I think this conspiracy argument has gone on far too long, and quite frankly, think it's ridiculous.

    A couple more recent instances with Earnhardt Jr.:

    * In July 2001, NASCAR returned to Daytona International Speedway for the first time since Dale Earnhardt Sr. death in February of that year. During an emotional week leading up to the race, Junior talked about what it would be like to return to the track that claimed his father's life. A very touching story, and the Conspiracy guys ate it up after Dale Jr. led 116 of the 160 laps, dominating the field. Many called the race "scripted" and "fixed," taking a little away from a great moment.
    * The first race back after the Sept. 11 tragedy was at Dover, and Junior won that race too, the lasting image Dale taking a backwards victory lap with a huge American flag. Conspiracy guy ears perk up ... most know how patriotic NASCAR is, right? It has to be scripted.

    This even goes back through NASCAR's history. In 1984, Richard Petty had 199 wins and was trying for win 200 coming into the Firecracker 400 that year. Here's the scene: Daytona, where Petty won seven Daytona 500s, July 4 weekend, 200,000 in the stands, and the president, Ronald Reagan, gives the command to start the engines and watches the race from a luxury box.

    Petty wins the race by a foot racing back to the start-finish line under caution (you could race back to the caution then). Many felt it was scripted; circumstances were just too much, Conspiracy guy says.

    Fast forward a few years.

    For more than a decade in the 1990s, all the NASCAR conspiracy theorists had a single target: Jeff Gordon. After winning his first championship in 1995 at the age of 23, Gordon won it again two years later, winning 10 races in a single season, then repeated in 1998 with 13 wins, tying the modern-era record (starting in 1972) with Richard Petty for wins in a season. In 2001, he won his fourth title, only winning six times, but with 24 top-10 finishes.

    Many NASCAR fans, and even some within the sport, felt that NASCAR was looking the other way, allowing Gordon an advantage in the car or on the track, because they knew having someone as polarizing as Gordon winning a lot would be great for ratings. Especially at a time when Dale Earnhardt Sr. was also just as competitive racing for wins and championships. (Senior never finished less than 8th in the point standings between 1993 and 2000.)

    Yes, Dale Jr. winning (or running well) does makes things more interesting and exciting, as every week when he takes the lead, the crowd goes completely crazy.

    But there are other drivers that can elicit a response from the fans, such as Gordon, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and especially Kyle Busch. Whether or not it's a cheer or a boo doesn't and shouldn't make a difference. Some of the sport's most popular moments and highest highs came with on-track battles and verbal jabs between Gordon and Earnhardt Sr. for all those years.

    I think the conspiracy theorists should take up a new job... NBA official, perhaps?
  2. rpmmutant

    rpmmutant Member

    First off, you're absolutely right, fixing a NASCAR race is near impossible. There are so many things that can go wrong during a race, flat tires, bad pit stops, crashes, weather delays, that giving one driver an advantage enough to win is ridiculous.
    However, have I seen a driver take a dive to bring out a caution so a teammate can conserve fuel or maintain track position? Probably. Have I watched qualifying sessions with a raised eyebrow. Certainly. I had one driver, who used to race on the regional touring series back in the day, tell me NASCAR and track officials would ask him to tank qualifying to get a local driver or someone else of interest on the pole or front row. It's probably why NASCAR does not award points for qualifying.
    So you're argument is pretty solid. But it would be interesting if you have a local NASCAR track in your area, to ask around and see how many times drivers were asked to take it easy in qualifying or give another driver a chance to win a race, especially if one driver was dominating a track.
    Good for business and attendance figures, you know.
  3. budcrew08

    budcrew08 Active Member

    Unfortunately, the closest tracks for NASCAR's top series is Watkins Glen and New Hampshire. Both more than 2.5 hours away. But definitely a good idea.
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