In NASCAR, road course racing just isn’t what it used to be, and that’s not a bad thing. No, I’m not knocking road course races of the past, but attitudes of both competitors and fans toward turning both left and right in a Sprint Cup car just seem to have improved over the years.
Back years ago, NASCAR fans just never seemed to get excited when the Cup circuit headed to road courses. As a matter-of-fact, road course races seemed to be the least favorite events of the year. And the attitude among several competitors in the sport wasn’t much better. More than a few of them seemed to look at road course racing like one of those job tasks not looked forward to; they just went and ran those races and got them over with.
When it came to fans, maybe the onslaught of “road course ringers” replacing some of the series regulars had something to do with the bad taste road racing seemed to leave in their mouths.
But attitudes have changed in recent years. Could it be the newer fans among the fan base? Maybe it’s the fact that more of the series regulars have gotten better and are, for the most part, showing up those so-called “ringers.” Or maybe there’s another reason.
A lot of it may have to do with driver attitudes. Drivers, overall, don’t seem to look at road course racing as such a negative chore anymore. Many of them actually seem to enjoy it. The improved attitude probably has at least a little to do with improved performance. Then, those improved driver attitudes and performance, together, have probably led to the increased popularity within the fan base.
When it comes to fans, maybe the increased popularity has something to do with the fact that they don’t know ahead of time who’s going to win. Before you jump the gun, no, I’m not suggesting road course racing of old was fixed with a winner predetermined. No, I’m not one of those conspiracy theorists. I mean, more drivers are winning on road courses, Sonoma included.
Gone are the days when the traveling NASCAR circus heads into Sonoma under the assumption that Jeff Gordon or Tony Stewart was going to win that weekend. That’s not to say that neither will win this weekend; they’re both probably among the favorites. But a Gordon or Stewart win just isn’t the given that it used to be — you know, back during that span between 1998 and 2006 when Gordon or Stewart won seven of the nine races at Sonoma.
I admit, road courses used to not be my cup of tea, either. I still watched them, but not with the same enthusiasm as say Bristol or Talladega. Granted, Sonoma and the other road course on the schedule, Watkins Glen International, still aren’t the top-two tracks on my list of favorites, but they’re not in the race track basement, either. I, along with NASCAR fans and NASCAR competitors, are coming around.
That’s a good thing, because both the Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series are road racing this weekend — the Nationwide Series at Road America and the Sprint Cup Series at Sonoma Raceway. Enjoy!
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