MONTE DUTTON – WHEN A RACE FAN LOVED RACING AND THAT WAS ALL
I wish the Southern 500 was the last race. The season – even when the Let’s Make a Deal playoffs get underway – seems anticlimactic after The Track Too Tough to Tame has, in fact, been tamed. Most of the remaining tracks – notable exception: Martinsville – seem adolescent after The Granddaddy of Them All presides over the remnants of the France Dynasty.
Que sera, sera.
In South Carolina, the only downer is that Clemson has already played. It was Thursday, so by Sunday, the bold, boisterous Tiger fans should be sufficiently rested to watch a race on Sunday night. By Monday, the office doldrums will seem normal after a post-Thursday Clemson hangover of joy.
This extended weekend of sports will sorely test the resources of the South Carolina Highway Patrol, but they will be flashing their way home in the wee-hours aftermath of the Southern 500. Interstate 20 will look like the opening of Star Trek. Which of those tiny sets of headlights will turn out to be Commander Cody of SCHP, trying to set a speed record of his or her own so that he’s (or she’s) up in time to meet the boys (or girls) for coffee and a Hardee’s biscuit?
Where is the next race? Indianapolis. Oh, bother. The good news is it’s the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard. The Xfinity race is the Indiana 250. One would think it would be sponsored either by orange or grapefruit juice, or some other mixer. This would undoubtedly enliven the tweet-up.
Once upon a time, NASCAR did not have to compete against other sports. I’ve never been much for the business of sports, but I remember reading articles in the 1980s and ’90s about how loyal the fan base was, how they all bought the products that sponsored the cars and how they’d watch the race even if it was on Super Bowl Sunday, and they’d buy Miller Lite even if Bud Light was on special because, by gosh, that would help Rusty.
Nowadays, the modern version of race fans doesn’t even watch the commercials, not if Manchester United is playing Liverpool on the Futbol Network or ESPN+ has a major cornhole tournament on.
By the mid-1990s, young Brian France thought he could run football, not to mention futbol, out of business. Now, the inability of some fans to get the ACC Network has them marching on the Statehouse. They’ll settle down when the scheduled game is Wake Forest vs. Elon instead of Clemson vs. Georgia Tech.
One great failure of NASCAR is that, when it took aim on conquering all the other sports, it didn’t occur to its leaders that the others would fight back.
When Kansas Speedway first opened, it irritated much of the traveling media that people in the press box were actually watching the Chiefs game. The nerve!
Maybe it was the world. Maybe it was the millennials and the alphabetized generations that followed. Maybe it was Patrick Mahomes.