Commentary

How is it going in NASCAR? Maybe the fans can tell me

Ed Hinton is hearing a lot of complaints about NASCAR. In fact, in the feedback he's gotten in some six weeks on the job, there's been only one positive comment about the sport. So what's next? Well, he'd like to hear more.

Updated: September 4, 2008, 7:17 PM ET
By Ed Hinton | ESPN.com

Editor's note: For feedback on this column and to talk about NASCAR with other fans, see the "ESPN conversation" link at the bottom of this page or click here.

Talk to me, people.

I need to hear from you to help me sort through this, the strangest phenomenon I've seen in 34 years of writing about NASCAR and getting feedback from fans.

Just one e-mail, among the hundreds I've received in six-plus weeks on my new job here, has defended NASCAR as it is today.

Just one person has said that he is happy with NASCAR just the way it is and that I'm too critical.

This is eerie. In the past, when I was critical, I always received more responses from those who disagreed than from those who agreed. That's the nature of commentary.

So if you're out there and you're happy with NASCAR, I want to hear from you. Your silence has been deafening.

If you're unhappy with NASCAR, I want to hear from you -- that is, from more of you. Your outpouring of discontent has been astounding, unsettling.

Tell me how you feel, either way, and why. Please be as brief as possible.

Thus far, there has been a consensus of feeling passed by, left out and ignored, and most of all, that NASCAR just isn't as much fun as it used to be.

Here are excerpts, a sampling from this past week alone. This is reaction to my column about crew chief Chad Knaus' frustration, and the new car (Car of Tomorrow) straitjacketing teams and stifling the innovative spirit of NASCAR.

First, to get the soloist up front:

… My mantra is, when the drivers and crews are griping, I'm happy, because the racing is usually better.

RB

Now to the chorus. I've let the next excerpt run longest because it is the most disconcerting, a broadside volley of warnings, coming from a once-regular ticket buyer and television viewer.

We now have an IROC series car, follow-the-leader racing, cars that do not even remotely resemble the manufacturer they are supposedly from, and cookie-cutter tracks … The racing is so boring that I threw away tickets to a race because it wasn't worth the price of gas and related expenses to go to it. I watched it on TV (part of the time -- the rest of the time I spent doing chores around the house) because honestly, most races are no longer worth spending 3-4 hours watching …

I have been getting a lot of [race ticket] renewal notices in the mail, and I'm taking a hard look at those to see which ones I really want to spend my money on. The racing needs to improve soon or there will be a lot more empty seats, and while ratings may be up right now because people are opting for TV over travel to the track, that won't last forever either.

Regina Spence, Chesterfield, N.J.

Regina, if ever NASCAR should heed a fan, it is you, the very kind of person who has paid its bills all these years.

As for NASCAR changing in the name of expanding its fan base …

I was new to the sport, but I've already stopped watching because of this nonsense … technical innovation, pushing the limits of the rules and the "outlaw" nature of the sport were what drew me to it in the first place …

I turned down an opportunity to go to Fontana this weekend. [Tickets at the] start/finish line, halfway up the grandstand. All I had to do was drive down there. Nope. Sorry …

Patrick Howard, Monterey, Calif.

Another non-traditional, non-Southern fan …

The "new car" is just a cookie cutter … NASCAR has produced a subpar product recently and I feel detached from what was a very fan friendly sport … What can we as fans do to change it?

Tim Giles, Vancouver, Wash.

I don't know, Tim. But talk to me. I'm listening -- concerned and listening.

A compelling movie has been making the rounds on the premium channels lately, starring Don Cheadle as 1960s talk radio pioneer Petey Greene, who did a lot of good by just listening to folks air their feelings. The title is "Talk to Me."

So do it. Here. Now.

Here is more of what I've already been hearing.

NASCAR [would] make Tiger Woods play with a beach ball to keep it fair at the Masters.

Dave Reynolds, New Hope, Pa.

NASCAR does love to "level the playing field," Dave, by pretty much whatever it takes.

I have been a fan for 28 years and I can hardly stand it now … The racing has reflected the lack of personality in the garage … Let's admit we were wrong and turn those guys loose!

Keith Howell, Warner Robins, Ga.

****

I have been a NASCAR fan since the early '90s. I'm only 26, so to me that's a long time … I have almost stopped watching completely … Someone once made fun of me for being a NASCAR fan and told me they would rather watch paint dry. I have reached that point.

Jason Bentley, Braselton, Ga.

****

The sport is in the dying phase … I grew up in the shadows of Bristol Motor Speedway and that once "balls to the wall" race is gone. To hell with the COT [Car of Tomorrow] and a wide, smooth racetrack!

Steve Loyd, Johnson City, Tenn.

****

Had free tickets to last week's night race [at Bristol] and turned them down. Not particularly sorry that I did.

Bill Bardin

And from last week before Fontana:

A friend of mine got some tickets to Fontana this weekend but we're not going … No big deal and not a whole lot of fun. Ten years ago I would've said, 'Let's go!' No more.

Fernando Volonte, Corona, Calif.

****

What happened that NASCAR would lose this fan? The one word I have often used to explain it to friends goes right along with your article. To me, NASCAR has become "sanitized" … They've sanitized the language and behavior of the racers … They've sanitized the cars to such an extent they are all pure cookie-cutter versions of one another.

J.K. Simmons, Shady Spring, W.Va.

****

Make the car with a stock engine (electronics, fuel injectors, the whole bit). Now let Chad and the boys "monkey around" with it. Let them do what they can to get the most horsepower, the best gas mileage, and have the engine last through the race.

Imagine what new things would be in our cars in a few years, and how about 50 or 60 miles per gallon at highway speeds (maybe more).

The NASCAR crew chief is one of the brightest and most innovative mechanics on the planet. So for the crew chiefs:

Let 'em go!

David Lieberman, Pen Argyl, Pa.

****

My love for racing runs deep, and is in my blood. I am 33 now, and after reading your article I realized just how much I don't watch NASCAR that much anymore … What happened to heroes, bad guys, the Intimidator, the Iceman and the King? Now we just have a bunch of Hollywood politicians. The closest thing we have is "Rowdy" [Kyle Busch] and as much as he gets booed, he is the excitement of NASCAR …

I love racing, but NASCAR has turned into a 43-car IROC field.

John Buffum, Muskegon, Mich.

****

I had many fans in my family and practically all of them agree with me that NASCAR has really shot themselves in the foot … I will not be missing any football games this year because of NASCAR.

Tom Hannah, Kingman, Ariz.

****

Great point about the media coming across as breathless and naive [about technical violations]. It's a shame that we are saturated with the same info ad nauseam but with so little insight.

Mike Stoneman, Toronto

****

Thank you for putting into words how many of us feel … I used to be a diehard NASCAR fan, never missing a race each week. My Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons were spent in front of our TV, watching … Some of the tracks they race on, and what NASCAR has done to the sport, have just taken the excitement out of it …

NASCAR claims they are expanding their fan base but in reality they are losing what made them to start with … They have lost sight of where they came from and there's nothing they can do now to regain it.

I'm sure you've heard all this before. Thanks again for being our voice. Just wish it made the Frances think over what they do.

Mike Goedel

Mike, I've heard the discontent so much in the past few years, and by such a consensus in recent weeks, that it's time to publish the feelings of the people. If anything, it's long overdue.

Talk to me.

Ed Hinton is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at edward.t.hinton@espn3.com.

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