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NASCAR support of grass roots racing has potential to help in more ways than one

AVONDALE, AZ – MARCH 11: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Ford, poses with the Winner’s Decal in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway on March 11, 2018 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

“If you don’t have roots on a plant, it doesn’t grow.” Those were sage words from Kevin Harvick during his “Happy Hours” show on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Tuesday night when the 2014 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion expanded on comments he and Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner and former NASCAR driver Tony Stewart made Sunday after Harvick and SHR’s win of the Ticket Guardian 500 at ISM Raceway (formerly Phoenix International Raceway). According to Harvick and Stewart, there’s a disconnect between the higher levels of NASCAR and grass roots racing, even regional and local NASCAR series, and that disconnect is contributing to recent lackluster TV viewership and at-the-track attendance numbers for the top series.

“When I look at our hardcore fans, they’re all sitting at those short tracks and they’re mad,” Harvick said. “They’re absolutely mad because you don’t have a Winston who is supporting these short tracks like they used to.”

Local and regional NASCAR series have title sponsors like Whelen and K&N, but those sponsors aren’t pumping money into their respective series like Winston did back in the days of the Winston Weekly Racing Series. Also, Harvick and Stewart pointed at drivers being too busy making appearances when the sport would be better served by those drivers running grassroot-level races and tracks dumping regional and local support races that used to run as a part of the big-time NASCAR weekend schedule (with Stewart specifically calling out ISM Raceway for dumping a K&N race for financial reasons but spending a lot of money on a reconfiguration that will move the start/finish line, a move for which he claimed to not understand the significance).

I think Harvick and Stewart have a point, as long as they’re not worried about losing the fans griping and complaining about Cup drivers in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series. Because those folks, unless they’re hypocrites, would definitely have a problem with Chase Elliott running a late model at some local track somewhere. I’m using Elliott as an example, because he’s the name Harvick used to explain his point Sunday. To use an analogy, if these folks hate NBA drivers dipping into the college and junior college level, they’re definitely going to hate the prose dipping down into the high school level. Catch my drift? I’m guessing so.

I’ll note here that Kyle Busch does continue to dip his foot into the late model ranks whenever he gets the chance, but its hard to tell whether the critics are really critical of the move or just thirsty for a chance to hate on NASCAR’s public enemy number one.

Harvick plans to run the K&N Pro Series West race at Kern County Raceway on Thursday in his hometown of Bakersfield, Calif. Also, through Kevin Harvick Inc., he has committed to contributing to the contingency award program at a Connecticut short track.

I’ve gotten the impression from Harvick and Stewart’s words that they’re presenting their idea of supporting grassroots racing to put more butts in the stands and in front of their TVs on Sunday, but I think supporting grassroots racing would help the upper levels of NASCAR in at least one other way — improving the talent pool.

I’m definitely not knocking NASCAR’s crop of young stars in its upper levels, but how much longer will quality drivers be climbing the ladder if quality chances at the grassroots level shrink into eventual nonexistence? There are a lot of fans out there who take every opportunity they can to accuse some of today’s NASCAR national-level drivers of buying rides, buying their ways up the racing ladder, either because of “daddy or grandaddy’s money” or an in with a sponsor, with that sponsor’s funds buying them rides beyond their talent.

Without healthy and vibrant grassroots racing, how is that going to change? After all, without a lack of quality rides from car owners who can afford to to put talented potential in their cars through adequate sponsorship and healthy purses, the only seats available will be those bought with “daddy or grandaddy’s money.” Am I right?

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Posted by on March 14, 2018. Filed under Blog by Amanda Vincent,Featured,Monster Energy NASCAR Cup,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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