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Does NASCAR Really Want the Drivers to Display Their Personalities?

Posted by chadmusselman on February 9, 2008

On Monday, January 21st NASCAR CEO Brian France gave a “State of the sport” speech. In it he didn’t announce any radical changes. Instead the theme was that the sport wants to “embrace the past, and the rich heritage”. As part of this, NASCAR has said that they want to see the drivers’ personalities show more on and off the track. This would definitely be a good thing, and probably help bring some viewers back to NASCAR, but will NASCAR actually let the drivers be themselves?

Ever since Dale Earnhardt died NASCAR has been cracking down on “rough” or “aggressive” driving, fining drivers and putting them on probation (no word yet if NASCAR has a double-secret probation). The two drivers that have probably been most affected by this are Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart. They’re the ones most likely to bump other drivers, nudge them out of the way and make a pass. Of course this was Earnhart’s signature move, but now that he’s gone, if anyone else does it they’re called into the hauler and given a lecture by the powers that be. Whatever happened to the term “rubbin’s racin’”? It seems that NASCAR has taken out one of the elements that brought fans; the ability for cars to bump and bang into each other to make a pass and be physical. Now they run the series so tight they act like the car will fall apart if touched.

NASCAR says that they’re going to let the personalities come out in the drivers and back off on the fines and let them drive more. Well, I guess time will tell, but during practice yesterday, we already had an altercation from, you guessed it, Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch. (See video at: ) No fines have been handed out yet, but with the way Kurt Busch acted on pit road, he should be fined for putting a pit crew member in danger. After the incident the drivers were told to keep their distance from each other in the Bud Shootout tonight. Hopefully that’s just the public statement that NASCAR puts out, and we’re able to see the two go side-by-side and battle it out. If you want to see personality, there’s nothing better than two drivers going door to door trying to send a message to each other. I guess we’ll find out tonight.

Obviously some drivers don’t truly believe that NASCAR wants their personalities to show. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is one of them. “I think honestly they’re playing to you guys, not talking to the drivers,” he said to reporters. “Basically, they’re trying to appear to be looser. “Their [intentions] have not been relayed to the driver as to what’s been changed. Just a press release went out to the press, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this. How about that? You guys like that, right?’ So what have they told us? I don’t know what that means.”

Back in November I wrote an entry about how the ratings of NASCAR are dipping, and what can be done to get viewers back. ( That had to deal with season and race length, but obviously another big factor in getting fans back is personalities in the sport, and better racing action. Will NASCAR let the drivers be themselves, and will they let more physical racing take place on the track? Let me know your thoughts.

2 Responses to “Does NASCAR Really Want the Drivers to Display Their Personalities?”

  1. Chad Musselman said

    Well, the Bud Shootout was pretty good, but no fireworks between Stewart and Busch. NASCAR did announce today that both will be on probation for the first 6 races of the season. We’ll see if that will slow them down.I guess NASCAR wants other drivers to display their personalities for the first 6 races while Tony and Kurt work off the probation.

  2. […] them be more colorful off the track. Back then I let you know what I thought about the new stand, (…) but ended with one question. “Will NASCAR let the drivers be themselves, and will they let more […]

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