Thoughts from a fellow race fan
I love the passion that NASCAR fans have. As a fan myself, I love that we seem to have more opinions than most other sports fans and we most certainly have no problem expressing them. So, given all the interesting comments on Jimmie Johnson's fifth consecutive championship, I thought I'd throw my two cents in – knowing that many of you will fire back at me.
I am shocked at the number of fans who are not just expressing their concerns, frustrations, etc., but are claiming to be leaving NASCAR. As a race fan (and I am a huge one), I have to tell you that my wife and I watched more races this year than the past several years. I thought that the racing was great all year – better than the past few. We went to two races and sat in the stands as fans (not counting the races at MIS which I enjoyed with the fans in the stands as well) and watched several more on TV.
Sure, there were a couple of races that were not overly exciting, but I thought the competition was great all year. There were 13 different winners, lots of lead changes, compelling stories, some new faces up front, some great finishes, and lots of drama.
NO, I am not a Johnson fan; and YES, I would have LOVED to have seen another driver win the Sprint Cup. However, JJ has not ruined the sport in my eyes. Of all of his championships, I feel better about this one than his others. He was behind coming in and had to earn it – and he did. Say what you want, but that is a GREAT team.
As for the Chase, love or it or hate it (I actually like it), all drivers play by the same rules. If someone wants to knock off the #48 team they know what they have to do. Denny and Kevin came close, but they couldn't do it, so give props where props are due.
There is not a sport that is perfect out there and every sport continually looks at ways to make changes for what they think is for the better. Have all of NASCAR's changes been for the better? No way. Some have been ridiculous. Some have been great. There are some I'd like to see made that they haven't yet (anyone for shorter races and more emphasis on leading laps?), but none have been so gross as to make me want to walk away from a sport that I grew up with since I was kid. I scream and yell about some of the changes like all of you and I do believe that NASCAR is really starting to listen more to fans.
Guess I am shocked as to the number of fans who are willing to give up on their sport and throw in the towel. Unlike those other sports fans that I referred to earlier, so many of you seem so willing to find a reason not to want to come back and most of you blame the sport itself. Why?
Especially now, when NASCAR is trying to listen more to the fans, when the drivers are starting to interact more with fans, when ticket prices are coming down dramatically, when many tracks (like MIS) are trying to make the experience much better, when the sport is shedding the vanilla drivers and finding new heroes and villains to root for or against (way to go Kyle!), and when so many new drivers are showing signs of being ready to knock off the #48 car. If only Dale Jr. could win a couple for us all!
Seriously, throw in the towel now? Not just complain, but literally walk away? Imagine other fans saying, “Oh no, the NFL changed overtime rules. I'm done supporting my favorite team. The NHL has shootouts? Good bye hockey. The Yankees made the playoffs again. Baseball sucks. College football won't start a playoff. My Saturdays are free now!”
I guess that is your call. Who am I to tell someone what they HAVE to like? As for me, I am a re-energized fan this year, even with JJ's fifth and NASCAR’s flaws, warts, and all. Instead of quitting, I am going to keep enjoying the great races, and yes – still bending NASCAR’s ear about the changes I feel they should make based on direct feedback from all of you, but I will remain proud to say that I am NASCAR fan first and foremost, and a track president second.
Roger Curtis is the president of Michigan International Speedway. He can be reached via e-mail at askthepresident@MISpeedway.com