I have been around NASCAR fans for a very long time. Sometimes I am even one. But for the life of me, can’t figure out what is going on these days with the followers of the sport.
On Sunday, I didn’t watch the race from Richmond live. I was out doing the things and recorded it, as I am wont to do. I avoided Twitter and all other things internet, because I wanted to catch it unspoiled before watching Game of Thrones. So that’s what I did and was a bit geeked by the finish. I have always been a fan of a good bump-and-run that doesn’t involve a guy completely body slamming the other dude or putting him headfirst into the wall. Sure the race wasn’t all that great, but Carl Edwards and his bold move on teammate Kyle Busch on the race’s last corner kind of made up for it.
I thought, this should make some of the fans happy.
Then I looked at Twitter and the butthurt was strong.
I was a bit incredulous. There were fans whining about Edwards racing dirty and bumping his teammate for the win. There were fans complaining that the same drivers win too much. Those same fans who were complaining about Edwards would have been claiming “team orders” had Edwards caught Busch at the end of the race and not put the bumper to him. As for the other gripe, back in the “good ol’ days” of 1974, four drivers won 29 of the 30 races (Richard Petty, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison). This year, six drivers have won the nine races. (Hat tip to ESPN’s Ryan McGee for that stat.)
So what do fans want? I honestly don’t have a damn clue.
Last year, fans griped about the high-downforce package and that the low-downforce package was used to sparingly. This year NASCAR scrapped the high-downforce package and the racing markedly improved, in my opinion. Drivers can, you know, actually pass other drivers. There have been close finishes – like, don’t-blink-or-you-will-miss-it finishes. Hell, even Dale Jr. is having a good run at it in 2016.
But none of it has mattered to fans. My father-in-law who is a farmer says that farmers are consistent, it’s always too something. The weather is either too hot or too cold or too wet or too dry. NASCAR fans are the same way.
Not that I am heaping all the blame on them. NASCAR has done a pretty good job of jerking fans around for some time. They have some culpability in fans’ discord, but NASCAR has actually done a good job of listening to the fans. They created a fan council for the supporters of the sport to share their opinions.
And…that is the problem. To quote Henry Ford, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” That’s a bit of what we have here. Fans say they want things without really considering the ramifications. Then NASCAR does it and the law of unintended consequences kicks in and bam!, everyone is pissed off.
So fans, be careful what you ask for, you may just get it. And if you keep pushing it, you are going to destroy what may be some of the best racing we have seen in years.
Andy Cagle writes a weekly NASCAR column. Follow him on Twitter @Andy_Cagle.