NASCAR is Losing its Early-Season Thrill

Three weeks ago, millions of race fans were waiting with baited breath in giddy anticipation for the start of the 2010 NASCAR season.

It was going to be the best year ever. The reins had been loosened. The drivers were set and ready to go racing. It was a new season; a new decade. It was going to be awesome.

From the time D.W. said the words “Boogity! Boogity! Boogity!”, until Jamie McMurray was standing in Daytona’s Victory Lane, fans couldn’t sit down. It was the best racing we had seen, perhaps in years. The excitement of the decade’s first race couldn’t be extinguished. The early-season thrill was maybe, just maybe, going to last all season this time.

Three weeks later, it’s just about gone.

Sunday marks just the fourth race of the 2010 NASCAR season. So why is the early-season thrill almost gone? Because nothing has changed this year. Jimmie Johnson has won 67% of the races run so far; Chevrolet has won them all. Hendrick Motorsports continues to be the powerhouse team, while another Chevy team, Richard Childress Racing, is its closest competitor.

The rebirth of RCR has really been the only good story of this season so far, outside of the maturation of Joey Logano. While that’s nice to see, unless you’re a Chevy fan, you haven’t had much to cheer about. And if you’re not a Hendrick(and more specifically, Jimmie Johnson) fan, the start of this season is almost depressing.

The fact that NASCAR is already losing its early-season thrill became apparent to me today when I went on a major sports website and discovered that every single top story had to do with the NFL. Football season has been over since the beginning of February.

Granted, the stories had to do with major free-agency pick-ups, such as Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers going to the Chicago Bears, or cornerback Dunta Robinson going to the Atlanta Falcons. But the NFL had every top story. What did NASCAR have? Zip. Zilch. Nada.

There’s nothing to talk about in NASCAR besides the same-old-same-old. And NASCAR fans don’t get excited over that, just like Lost fans don’t get excited over a repeat episode of their favorite show. If you know what’s going to happen, it’s just not that thrilling to watch.

We’re not four races into the new decade. And NASCAR is already losing its early-season thrill.

Topics: Hendrick Motorsports, Jamie McMurray, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Richard Childress Racing

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  • ronp

    You couldn’t help but notice the half full grandstands. They will be giving away tickets to the Sunday races by mid-season. The only hope is Dale Jr. will be able to drive the COT with the new spoiler and the stands will fill up with Jr fans. It sure is obvious that no other driver has the personality (especially Jimmie Johnson) to do it.

  • DownHill

    When you say “the thrill is gone” you are assuming it was there at the start. Nascar has been losing fans and interest over the last 4 years, and with half-empty stands it is now vary apparent that they will fall into mediocrity within 5-7 years. Nobody wants to come and see a glorified demolition derby, and that is exactly what Nascar has every Sunday. Casual race fans are moving toward open wheel racing because you have more competitive racing, you can’t touch each other, and the cars are not only way cooler in design but they also travel 50-60 MPH faster than the “stock” car. Open wheel racing is true racing, and people are starting to realize this. Once again, the top people at Nascar ran the product into the ground. They had to keep tinkering with the rules, they had to extend the season (it is way, way, way too long), yet all they did to the cars was change a body style that makes the car look like a tiny matchbox car. It is really sad, especially if you’re someone like me that really enjoys Nascar. Say goodbye to it….in 5-7 years the season will be cut in half and most of the sponsors will be gone.

  • Steve Phillips

    I thought this would be an exciting season too. The Daytona 500 was just flat boring when you consider it took six hours to complete the race. When the racing wasn’t taking place, we had to watch repair crews fix the track. No excuse for this. The track should have been race ready before the race started. Come on NASCAR, get with the program!!

  • Tim Bazis

    I think there were two events that began NASCARs downfall and the majority of fans would have to agree even grudgingly. The death of Dale Sr. and his son leaving the house Dad built have served as the beginning of the slide. It’s hard to imagine how Dale Sr. would still be able to hold the sport together but I’m sure he could of made it happen. If you look back through sports history there were figures that had such a tremendous impact such that when there time came to end,more so tragically, the sport changed forever, good or bad and I think that is what we are seeing now with NASCAR.

  • Alicia Anderson

    The real downturn in the popularity of NASCAR was changing the point system and introducing The Chase.
    It takes the accomplishments away from the drivers who have worked hard all season. Seriously…would you work at a job for 36 weeks and be paid for only 10? Plus who really wants to see Jimmie Johnson cruise(not race) to another championship because NASCAR has it set up to where his best tracks are Chase tracks.

  • http://FoxSports Monte Radloff

    Darrell Waltrip has to be the worst announcer in the world he dont have a clue bout nothing what these sprint cars are like. Just like what happened at Atlanta David Regan hit the wall and Darrell Waltrip said He should be alright these sprint cars are tough. Then look what happen in 2 laps later BAM Regan’s car slams into the wall. Darrell need to give it up just get out of broadcasting and go fishing or something else as long as its not in any kind of racing. this isnt the first time he’s done this each and every week and i’m bout ready not to watch racing anymore.

  • justinb23

    The thrill has been for years now. I quit watching races once they started the Chase format. I’ll still catch the highlights on sportscenter, but I cant remember the last time I sat and watched an entire race. The chase was the final straw for me. What is the point of running 35 races if only 10 of them mean anything. To me it doesnt show who really is the best. You only have to be mediocre for 2/3 of the season, then pretty good for 10 races. If you have one bad race it ruins your entire season.

  • BubbaHotep

    It’s funny this post came out the day before the ATL race. I’m not sure if the ATL race brought back any “thrill,” but it’s sure got people talkin’ about NASCAR again (and even those who really know nothing about the sport!). Edwards probably did NASCAR a favor by wreckin’ BK on Sunday. And as far as the thrill being gone from NASCAR, if you’re bored turn the channel. That’s what I did with MLB after the strike in ’94.

  • Super Duper

    yeah thats what I did with Racing 2 years ago you can’t call it nascar anymore the days of real racing and thrilling victories are gone thank the Heltons for that! Its just a joke now.

  • beetle bailey

    I have been a fan of nascar since 1976.I have seen it go through its growing pains. And its great losses! Dale sr.,Adam petty ,alan kulwicki,davey allison,and the hendrick tragedy just to name a few.There have been alot of great drivers come into the sport also.J.Gordon, Dale jr., tony stewart,Matt kenseth to name a few.I think the cot was a good idea!But with a spoiler&no front splitter!The point system should be returned to the old style.Also they should get rid of the lucky dog!All laped cars get the wave around and get one lap back. If you are a lapped car and you pit then you start on tail end of the lead lap.( ONLY cars that were 1 lap down).If nascar would make only these minor changes it would start getting more fans back!

  • ronp

    Newsflash there are still tickets available for the Bristol race. For the first time in recent memory the race is not sold out a week ahead of time.

  • B.D. Hertz

    When we tinker with a sport as to control the final
    outcome by rule changes & such it compromises the integrity of that sport. NASCAR sold out back in the late 1990′s. They have been fixing the season and races to satisfy sponsors. Waltrip and Crew don’t announce the race anymore they try and sell it to us. Like a Circus Barker trying to get you to spend your money to see the bearded lady! All hype just to get YOUR MONEY! It is too late for NASCAR they have started a decline that is picking up steam. I used to be it’s biggest fan…Now I could care less. I didn’t realize there was no race Sunday…Didn’t care. If you watch all the hype before and after each race it just like rastlin. Who cares? We all know it is just a farce and if you don’t you will come around. May God Bless NASCAR Nation!

  • greg howard

    thrills been gone since the chase started

  • Eula Mea

    Come on! You think racing is rigged?! If it were, Dale Jr. would have won a race last year! You think NASCAR is in it “just for the money”?? Why do you go to work?…for the friendships? Not every race is going to be just the way you like it — nothing ever is. Now is the time for REAL NASCAR fans to stand up and support our sport — not pile on with the negative ninnies out there!

  • http://yahoo.com Terry syacey

    Ive watched racing for the 50 years, Just get back to like it use to be. Do away the chase.

  • tom

    sorry but nobody wants to see season 5 of the nascar sponsered jimmy johnson show

  • Johnny

    Just my 2 cents: anything that is plagued with anti-trust lawsuits, diversity training, enough rules against “rough driving” that stifle competition, and a points system that rewards drivers for doing well 1/3 of the time isn’t going to do good. NASCAR needs to put things back the way they were- say about 20 years ago. No more fake cautions for “debris” and no more manufactured conflicts between drivers.