With Sunday night’s brawl after the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, there have been two fights in the last four races, and with two races remaining on the season and in the 2014 new-format Chase for the Sprint Cup, the intensity is likely to increase even more in the next two weeks.
But is the new “fight or flight” mentality in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series a good thing? I guess it’s kind of a double-edged sword, if you really think about it. I’ve waited a few days to see how impressions and perceptions have played out in the mainstream and racing media and among callers on the various call-in shows on SiriusXM NASCAR radio and fans’ posts on social media. And here’s what I’ve taken away from it:
There is good and bad to be taken away from the post-race debacle, or whatever you want to call it, from Sunday night. But before I delve any further into this topic, I will say that I have no issue with the on-track incident/contact that led to the post-race, pit road melee. I think it was a matter of two drivers going for the same spot at the same time. Brad Keselowski saw a hole, and he went for it. Pretty much simultaneously, Jeff Gordon went to close that hole. I think it’s that simple.
That being said, with the new Chase format, pressure is higher and, as a result, emotions will boil over; however, I think that what happened on pit road wouldn’t have escalated to the point it did without the crew member involvement, or maybe that push of Keselowski by Kevin Harvick. But that’s beside the point. It happened; we can’t go back in time and change it.
But what impact will this brawl, and go ahead and throw in the post-race activity from Charlotte Motor Speedway last month, have on NASCAR. I guess it depends on how you look at it.
It definitely is bringing more attention to the sport. Good Morning America and Inside Edition’s coverage of the Charlotte melee left a sour taste in my mouth, mostly because of the inaccurate focus on Tony Stewart. But coverage, not only on GMA but also by other mainstream outlets, have left me wondering — is this the kind of coverage that NASCAR really needs or wants? I guess the tipping point for me was seeing/hearing David Muir of ABC World News ask Ricky Craven (at least they got a NASCAR-knowledgable expert this time around) whether or not the recent fights are real or have been orchestrated.
That got me thinking, are outsiders, as in folks not familiar with NASCAR, think of NASCAR in the same way as the WWE? Nothing against the WWE or people who are fans of it. As a matter-of-fact, I’ll sometimes watch RAW and other WWE broadcasts. But, in case you haven’t noticed, the WWE folks, themselves, don’t refer to what they do/promote as sport; instead, they refer to their product as “sports entertainment.” Yes, we want NASCAR to be entertaining. If not, the sport would die a fanless death. But do we want it to enter the realm of “sports entertainment?” But I think you probably know what is meant by “sports entertainment,” and I don’t think that’s what any of us want.
Craven was adamant that the emotions and resulting fights are real, but the fact that Muir thought the question was a legitimate one disturbed me. If NASCAR wants to grow the fan base, and it most certainly does, is this the direction to go in to do so?
On the other hand, it is getting NASCAR attention, and it may bring in some new fans who may tune in Sunday for the Phoenix race to see if there’s a fight. And maybe some of those people will enjoy the actual racing and get hooked. It could happen, I guess. I noticed one of my Facebook friends, who isn’t a NASCAR fan, post on Sunday night, asking if there’s a fight like this every week and suggesting that if it’s always that exciting, maybe she should check it out.
That takes me back to my original statement that the fighting and the attention from it is a double-edged sword. I’m guessing that if nothing like it happens after Phoenix and Homestead-Miami, this will all be forgotten by the mainstream and remembered fondly years down the road, sort of like the Donny and Bobby Allison vs. Cale Yarborough fight at the end of the 1979 Daytona 500. If there is a fight or two the next couple of weeks, well, we’ll just see what happens.
If you’re on a side, which side are you on? Take the poll, here.