Today, yet another article appeared in my local rag wondering where, amid declining attendance and TV ratings,* NASCAR is heading.
Some persons blame the younger drivers for not having “star quality” (whatever that is), while those younger drivers charge the tracks with being outmoded and old-fashioned (whatever that means for an asphalt oval). Others argue that NASCAR should reach out to minorities, somehow not grasping that the sea of Confederate flags in a typical NASCAR track’s parking lot renders that notion somewhat beyond ludicrous. This particular article focused on the Commissioner, the grandson of NASCAR’s founder, and his seeming lack of interest in proselytizing for the sport.
No one, of course, mentions that NASCAR race cars long ceased to be “stock cars” in any sense of the word. And no one has mentioned the underlying cause.
Young folks these days are just not into cars. They don’t customize cars or models of cars; they don’t take them apart and repair them; they don’t buy broken down old heaps with a gleam in their eye to make them run and soup them up. I got a dollar to a doughnut that they don’t subscribe to Motor Trend or Sports Car Graphic (which I think is no longer with us), as I did when I was a teen.
The casual shade-tree mechanic has become a thing of the past. Yes, you can still change your own brake pads or replace a hose, but, with all the electronics, you can’t take a car apart to learn how it works on your own and you certainly can’t easily modify an engine. Whenever I stumble over a meet of car enthusiasts displaying their treasures at local shopping centers, I can see that most of them are older than I and the rest are gaining on me.
Plus, cars have become boring. Across the parking lot here, fully half the cars are white bubbles with no more individuality a store-bought chocolate cake. With a few exceptions like a Mustang or Camaro or the like, you can’t tell a Subaru from a Hyundai from a Toyota from a Ford from a Chevy until you get close enough to see the logo. Contrast this to the variety of looks in a typical 1950s Perry Mason episode, just to pick an example.
New tracks, new drivers, even a new commissioner or a return to “stock cars” to the contrary, NASCAR’s audience will continue to shrink because NASCAR is old news.
*I watched part of NASCAR race on television, oh, a couple of decades ago. I was
trapped a guest in the house.
Watching a pack of cars go around in circles quickly loses its fascination.