After Carl Edwards won a yawner at Texas earlier this season, he took the media to task for daring to suggest that the racing has been a trifle, well, boring this season.
Carl had to speak up — most of his audience had dozed off during the race.
Fast-forward to last Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star race, won unchallenged by Kasey Kahne.
It wasn’t a race, it was a moonlight cruise. There was more dicing for position in the parking lot after the race as fans scrambled for the exits.
When a promotional mad scientist like Humpy Wheeler is unable to fire up an All-Star race — with its wacky four-segment format and $1 million paycheck — something is amiss.
Yet drivers remain defensive about the continued absence of racing in racing.
Mark Martin got his fire-suit in a wad after he won the inaugural race at Vegas and some wise-acre sports writer wrote that it was about as entertaining as a 400-pound Elvis impersonator.
“It was plenty exciting,” snapped Mark, “from where I was sitting.”
That was Carl’s contention — that zinging around a concrete corral at 190 mph will pump your pulse, even if the closest car is five football fields behind.
They’re right, of course. If you or I crawl inside a stock car and blast off, it’ll the most exciting thing since the senior prom. We’ll walk funny for weeks.
But convince 150,000 people to buy a ticket to watch us do it? Forget it.
That’s what drivers need to keep in mind. They aren’t racing for their personal jollies, they’re out there to put on a show for the fans.
It doesn’t matter if the racing is exciting from where the drivers are sitting; what matters is whether it’s exciting from where the fans are sitting.
You can’t have a spectator sport without spectators.
Edwards claims that the media is prejudicing fans with reports of boring races but he gives us way too much credit — and fans way too little.
Fans don’t need the media to tell them if a race is boring. They can see for themselves, and fans I talk to don’t like what they’ve been seeing.
There’s been only one really good flag-to-flag race all season — Talladega. Other races have had some fierce finishes and occasional hot flashes, but overall the paint-peeling action that made NASCAR famous has been missing.
That raises the question: if the All-Star race couldn’t produce some fireworks, what can?
Larry Woody is a veteran sportswriter in Nashville and has covered auto racing for almost four decades.