Friday, March 2, 2007

Of Empty Seats, a Cup Weekend Off, and Mexico on Tap

After all the hype and hulaballoo of Daytona, we were subjected to a so-so oft-boring race out on the West Coast in California. Where, incidentally, there were plenty of empty seats in the stands (and no, not because the fans were standing up. The fans were absent from the race). The folks that schedule racing for NASCAR need to realize that two races at the same track in California are one race too many...Add to that that the ratings for the event plummeted 9.5% below last year's television ratings for the same event...It's an off weekend for the Cup Series, where in past racing years an event would have been run this weekend at Rockingham. No wonder us Southern race fans who have been following NASCAR for 30 or 35 years are annoyed at the new scheduling... Well, major league baseball's Spring-training has started this week, at least.

NASCAR is trying to build up its fan base and relationship with Mexico by running another Busch race there this weekend. The third one, so far.... For the many of us who are not diehard fans of road racing, this is not exactly a riveting event. But, by not having a Cup event anywhere this weekend, NASCAR forces fans to pay attention to the race in Mexico. And, just for the record, I adore Mexico. What a gorgeous country!.... Personally, I just don't care all that much for road racing, anywhere. Oh, I'll watch the race, but we won't be glued to the television...Just seems that if NASCAR was really goin' courting, they'd have put a CUP race on the docket there and had both Series run on the weekend. That's the way to add punch and panache to the event.

Of course, we all realize this is actually PR hype for NASCAR to try and recruit 'new' fans among the Hispanic and Latin populations. Maybe NASCAR has truly put off so many of their original fans with all the constant rule changes, politics, favoritism, and eternal quest of the sports fans' dollars that they're really desperate to recruit more fans by targeting a demographic. And, by the way, there will be a race in Canada, eh? Why does NASCAR's 'brain trust' (and I use that term loosely) feel they have to dangle their wares in order to sell the sport? How many billions of dollars do the folks that run this sport need?

NASCAR has had the enormous great fortune to have a 'rookie' driver fall into their laps in the person of championship racer Juan Pablo Montoya; arguably one of the top racing talents in the world. He brings in a cosmopolitan, world-wide fan base to the sport. This native of Colombia, South America has a devoted following that will surprise even the NASCAR executive staff. And, if some of the lesser-talented folks on the track would stop angling to wreck Montoya, he quite likely would have already had a win in stock cars (Busch or Cup) -- or at least some top-10 finishes. A racer like Montoya brings far more to the sport than NASCAR realizes. Now, that's the cosmopolitan flair that will benefit Cup racing in the long run.