MONTE DUTTON - NOTHING EVER WORKS
One of the late Yogi Berra’s many knuckleheaded witticisms was: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
Three of the past four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races have been rabble rousers. Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson traded metal licks at Chicagoland Speedway, where Busch was the winner, on July 1. Six nights later, Erik Jones survived Daytona International Speedway’s crash-filled Coke Zero Sugar 400 for the first win of his career. After Martin Truex Jr. dominated a snoozer in Kentucky, Kevin Harvick pulled off an invigorating bump-and-run to best Busch in New Hampshire.
Yet the needle define by attendance and TV ratings hasn’t budged. As expected, the arrival of retired fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the NBC Sports broadcasts has been popular. It’s just hard to prove it.
Which brings me back to Yogi, the baseball legend.
At the track, the tickets aren’t tough. Back in days when Cup races were often sold out in advance, the purchase brought a commitment with it. Fans did not make their purchases in vain. Once was a time when a race rained out on Sunday drew a near-capacity crowd on Monday, particularly in Talladega, Ala., Martinsville, Va., and Bristol, Tenn.
It’s common knowledge today that a man can take his family up on race morning and “drive right in.” If that man sees that the forecast is cold and rainy, he just says, “Well, let’s just watch it on TV.”
Not even that is statistically evident because the ratings are falling, too.
As NASCAR officials have answered at least a thousand questions, “It is what it is.” They usually leave off the reverse: “It ain’t what it ain’t.”
But it ain’t, nonetheless.
For the time being, all NASCAR can do is ride out the storm. For the sport to turn things around, first it must bottom out. The gimmicks have failed, perhaps in part because they seem to be unending.
NASCAR has tried phases and stages, ovals and “rovals” (coming soon), addition by subtraction, lame ducks, lucky dogs, younger women and faster horses.
Maybe it’s time NASCAR got back to the basics of love.