Thursday, November 6, 2014

Is There Too Much Drama in NASCAR?

The famous Yarborough vs. Allison brothers fight after the Daytona 500, Feb. 18, 1979.
Credit: ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images     
My mother hated drama. She was an elementary school teacher, so she watched countless dramas unfold throughout her workday. There was the girl who pitched a fit because she didn't get invited to the slumber party of the year. There was the straight-A student who howled over the B he received on a pop quiz. There was the athlete who caused a scene in front of his friends when the coach refused to let him play because he’d missed practice. She saw it all. And she spent much of her time trying to curb the drama.

She would hate today's NASCAR. There’s too much drama.

Of course, that’s by design. Someone made the decision that the sport which rose to national acclaim because of an on-track fistfight in 1979 didn't have enough drama. So in recent years, it's been redesigned -- again and again.

A driver won the championship just by being consistent? Change the way the championship is decided.

A driver won the championship in consecutive years? Change the number of drivers gunning for the title.

Still not happy? Force drivers out of the title hunt after a few races and compete in a playoff-style format. Make them desperate for every spot on the track. And watch tempers flare when something doesn't go the way a driver thinks it should.

We've spent nearly a week talking about the post-race melee at the AAA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Anybody remember who won that race? In case you've forgotten, the current champion took home the six-shooters in Victory Lane. Though many are riled at the mere mention of his name, Jimmie Johnson is a champion who’s carried the banner well for this sport for six years. 

Jimmie Johnson after his win at TMS, Nov. 2, 2014.
Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
However, some fans have grown weary of him and the other professional, articulate champions who represent themselves, their sponsors and their sport with dignity and class. They’re the drivers who execute well on and off the track because they've earned the respect of their competitors. They’re skilled drivers who race one another with a cool head. If they have an on-track incident, they discuss it calmly and move on. And for their talents and their class, they’re ridiculed as boring and “vanilla.”

Just like in other sports, there’s room for everyone. If you have a difference of opinion, that’s OK. One of the great things about NASCAR is the community of its fans. Think about it. When a fan attends any other sporting event, he’s generally relegated to one side of the venue or another. At a NASCAR race, fans of all drivers sit together … and get along. Maybe, from time-to-time, some of the drivers could try to do that, too.

Hey, did I tell you that I went to a NASCAR race last week and a hockey match broke out?

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