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Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s retirement isn’t the end

During her “Dialed In” show on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Wednesday night, host Claire B. Lang mentioned a newspaper article that described NASCAR’s post-Dale Earnhardt Jr. future as grim. She said the article rubbed her the wrong way, and I don’t blame her. While I believe Earnhardt’s departure from the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet driver’s seat will probably leave a temporary void, I think suggestions that the sport will die when he retires from full-time competition as a Monster Energy Cup Series driver are blowing things way, way out of proportion.

Before I get into that, I’d like to mention that, while Earnhardt is retiring from full-time competition as a driver, he’s not exactly leaving the sport. He’s not selling his NASCAR Xfinity team. Besides, did you miss that recent announcement that he’ll be joining the NASCAR on NBC broadcast team?

But, even if Earnhardt did step completely away from NASCAR, I think prognostications of the death of NASCAR would be exaggerations. And, no, I’m not downplaying his popularity or his 14 Most Popular Driver awards, for that matter. Speaking of — the sport didn’t die when Bill Elliott retired.

The article to which Lang referred pointed at the crowd of Earnhardt fans that left the race after Earnhardt fell out of the race. Really?!? I’ve seen all kinds of sporting events involving all kinds of teams during which fans of a particular team head for the doors when their team of choice is being blown out by the competition. Heck, some even leave when their team has such a large lead and there’s no conceivable way they’ll lose. I don’t routinely hear about those sports dying.

Lang made comparisons to her beloved Green Bay Packers. I’ll, instead, make comparisons to my beloved University of Kentucky Wildcat basketball team. At the risk of sounding like I’m bragging, aside from the UK program being the all-time winningest program in NCAA Division I men’s basketball, I’m talking about the program that, year after year, is one of the nation’s leaders in home-game attendance and a fanbase that has a high reputation for traveling long distances for tournament and special-event games.

Even that fanbase has been known to leave games a few minutes early, some to beat traffic, when game outcomes look to be already decided.

Also, as much as I hate to bring it up, UK failed to make the NCAA Tournament in 2009 and 2013. But did the absence of the most prestigious program send the tourney off the rails? Nope, it still went off without of hitch. Granted, the UK program didn’t cease to exist, so it was most certain to return to the tournament, but still.

Okay, let’s get back to NASCAR. The sport’s gone through cycles before, during which big names have retired, making way for the next generation. Did the sport die with the retirements of Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, David Pearson and the like? No, of course it didn’t

Back then, the changing of the guard was signaled, somewhat, at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1992 when Petty made his last start and Jeff Gordon made his first. Of course, then, we didn’t know the star Gordon would become. But, hindsight’s 20/20, and we sure know now. Who’s to say there’s not a future huge star on the track right now who’ll take the reigns as the face of NASCAR and carry it on to the next generation? We don’t; just like we didn’t realize back in 1992 the star and sport ambassador Gordon would become.

NASCAR’s current biggest star may be stepping out of the limelight at season’s end, but I’m sure there’s another driver out there who’ll pick up that banner and run well with it. And many of Earnhardt’s fans will pick a new favorite driver, and over time, will move on, even at least some of those fans who left the Brickyard early.

Trust me folks; the sky’s not falling. Or at least I don’t think it is.

And to those folks who claim the sport’s already dead — did you realize TV ratings for the recent Brickyard 400 beat out viewership for this year’s Indianapolis 500? So, is IndyCar dying, too? I sure haven’t heard anything about it if it is.

And to those harping about the attendance at the Brickyard — you know that photo that’s floating around the Internet, showing a section of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway grandstand where very few fans were sitting? Well, other sections of the grandstand had more people in them, but we’re not seeing those pictures, because they don’t support the doom-and-gloom prognosticators with such dramatics. Sure, I realize the 35,000 attendance estimate doesn’t sound good. But attendance is suffering at sporting events across the board. So, will we be without sports altogether in a few years? I doubt it. But if lower attendance is indicative of NASCAR’s death, those lower attendance numbers in other sports must mean those sports are dying, too.

Give me a break!

While I don’t have a crystal ball, I can see it now — some of those gloom and doomers claiming I’m towing some NASCAR line as someone who, they claim, works for NASCAR. I’ve seen some of my fellow-media members on the receiving end of such accusations, just because they haven’t jumped on that “end is near” bandwagon. There’s a big difference in covering NASCAR and working FOR NASCAR. Covering a sport doesn’t mean you’re working FOR that sport. I don’t work FOR NASCAR. I cover it. Again, there are big differences, the biggest being that NASCAR doesn’t pay me; various motorsport news sites, content providers and magazines do. So, this wasn’t just some blog post to make the powers that be at NASCAR happy and win brownie points. And I wouldn’t be jobless without NASCAR. I’d just cover something else.

And, I refuse to be baited by the social media “tin-foil hat” brigade. I’ve learned over time that trying to converse reasonably with someone who doesn’t have at least one foot planted in reality is a huge waste of time that, ultimately, leads to a big headache.

To those folks on social media who begin their pissy comments with something like, “I stopped watching when fill in the blank” — you sure spend a lot of time and energy commenting on something you don’t care about and no longer follow. Yeah, right.

Rant over.

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Posted by on July 27, 2017. Filed under Blog by Amanda Vincent,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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