Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What if ... An analogy comparing American Idol and NASCAR

This season, Elliott Sadler has two wins but faces the presence
of "Bruce Springsteen" each week. Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR
What if Bruce Springsteen were a competitor on American Idol? This analogy was presented during Nationwide series practice over the weekend and I thought about it a bit. A well-accomplished singer competing against the up-and-comers would not be fair, correct?

Welcome to the NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series dilemma we face.
This is an age-old topic and is talked about endlessly, but change needs to come in my opinion. Take a look at the 2012 Nationwide Series thus far: with five races complete, the first four races were won by a non-Cup series driver. That is how it should be - that should not be such a headline!

Elliott Sadler has won two of the first five races and is joined in the winner’s circle by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and James Buescher. Buescher is a NASCAR CWTS driver running a partial schedule for Turner Motorsports and is being lumped into the Nationwide regulars category for some reason, but I think it is just an “Anyone but Cup drivers” category instead.

Take for example Elliott Sadler’s win at Bristol Motor Speedway. He did not dominate that race nor lead that many laps. In fact, Sadler only led the final 36 laps of the race. Who dominated the race? Cup star Joey Logano, double-dipping into the Nationwide race.

Back to the singing analogy. Say Bruce Springsteen doesn’t compete the whole season on American Idol but appears every few shows and gets others eliminated because of his awesomeness … is that fair? True fans of the show would say no.

Watching the races each week, I want to see the names of Justin Allgaier battling against Cole Whitt and Danica Patrick. (These are just examples of the many talented drivers in the Nationwide Series.) But add in the names of Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, etc., and the aspect of the racing changes because more than likely the experience wins out.

NASCAR has made drivers ineligible for points in multiple series, but what about limiting starts in those secondary series? My vote is no more than five a year. Keep the fans coming to see their favorite Cup drivers but also keep it a Nationwide and Truck Series event - that is what the racing is about, after all.

The best example of someone who just pops up in the NNS series is Tony Stewart, who races Daytona at most and his presence is felt but does not outshine the series regulars. Dale Earnhardt Jr. also runs some races in the Nationwide Series in his JR Motorsports-owned car, but his presence does outshine the regulars – because he is Dale Jr., a plain and simple fact and not his fault. It is a great buzz for the series for those few races to have fans tune in just to see Junior, but stick around and learn about the other drivers.

It just shocks me a bit that some people only watch and cheer on their drivers in these few races, but they don't care about the drivers who make these series their one and only career.

When you watch American Idol, what intrigues you about the people you cheer for beyond their obvious vocal ability? More than likely, it is their back story. The struggle to reach the top tugs at your heartstrings, hearing how Sally or Bobby struggled to work a 9-to-5 job while still pursuing the dream of music at the same time.

In NASCAR it's no different.

Each driver has struggled to reach the top; racing is not a cheap sport. Sacrifices are the name of the game. Learn the stories of the drivers and appreciate their passion for the sport. From drivers racing at the age of 5 to parents lying to get their kid into a race, NASCAR is full of great stories.

When comparing the story of an accomplished Bruce Springsteen to the talent of a rising star like season five’s young gun Kellie Pickler, that is apples and oranges. Sure, Pickler is a household name now, but that would not be the case if she competed against the Boss. Pickler’s compelling story would be overshadowed by Springsteen’s flashy awards and legions of fans.

Again … NASCAR is the same.

For me, following NASCAR is more than the wins; it is about the drivers and their stories. I enjoy telling you the stories of the drivers who you may not hear about as much - to me, those are the best stories. It is not about the Bruce Springsteens of NASCAR, but instead the opening act of the concert tour for Springsteen because one day that opening act will get their day and be just as big of a star. And on that day, I can proudly say that I remember when I interviewed _____ before they won _______. 

6 comments :

Awesome article and a great perspective, Amanda! Nascar could stand to learn a lot from you!

Very good points. I don't always get to watch Nationwide races, as I have 3 boys, 5,3, and 1, and am a blogger, SAHM and many other things. But I do try to catch them when I get time. However, I do have to say I do my best to watch if I know Jr is in it because he is my driver. However that is how I started wanting to watch more regularly as I started hearing about the other names.

Unfortunately in our area a lot of times they don't even televise the Nationwide race.

Love your analogy! I DO root for #20 when he runs NW but I am much more interested in NW declared racers winning. I follow brian scott closely as he is JGR but root for elliot and ricky too. Agree cup drivers take the limelight from upcoming talent but think NASCAR is looking at that and made effort by making drivers choose a series. Does more need done? Yes n u present ideas NASCAR should consider. Intelligent, well thought article.

Never thought I'd hear the words Bruce Sprinsteen, American Idol and awesomeness in an article about NASCAR. It reminds me of something I've been saying for about 15 years now: "There's not a day that goes by I don't thank the Lord for Jeff Gordon, his fans and what they've done to our sport!"

How about limiting drivers to 55 races total. They can run for points in each series, but with 55 starts will really have to focus on one. Guys like Harry Gant and Mark Martin were a joy to watch in the then Busch Series, but they never ran a full or even close to full schedule. The 55 start rule also allows for someone like Trevor Bayne or James Buschler to unexpetedly win a race in the beginning of season in one series and then deciding if he (or she) wants to continue running in that series or whatever one they had planned on. Reality is too, now the Nationwide Series needs some Sprint Cup drivers to keep interest up. Right or wrong the casual fan wants to see the big names, and see if the "little guys" can beat them.

I think Cup drivers should be limited as to how many Nationwide races they can run. I suspect they may bring some fans out, but really the Nationwide race is just as exciting without them! Nationwide drivers are very talented drivers and the more I watch & become familiar with the drivers, the more fun it is! (Yaayy Elliott Sadler!)

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