03/05/10 — Opinion -- NASCAR desperately needs parody

View Archive

Opinion -- NASCAR desperately needs parody

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on March 5, 2010 1:46 PM

Limited, yet intriguing parody is what the NCAA men's basketball tournament, the NFL, Major League Baseball and the NBA all have in common -- and working in their favor.

It's what NASCAR desperately lacks and continues to suffer without just three races into the season. The sport has already landed with a resounding thud.

The season began in mid-February with the Daytona 500 and the annual "great American race" turned into a marathon that lasted over six hours thanks to multiple delays caused by a pothole between turns 1 and 2.

In each of the past two weeks at Fontana and Las Vegas, NASCAR has seen its television ratings drop by a million households compared to the numbers for those same two races a year ago.

Parody is the problem.

Before every race, any fan with moderate interest in the sport can rule out somewhere between 10 to 15 drivers of the 43-car field that have zero-to-little chance of winning that week's race.

Whether it's either inadequate funding, equipment, the sub-par ability of the driver or pit crew, some teams just have very little chance of reaching Victory Lane. The same "any given Sunday" motto used to refer to the chance any team can win every week in the NFL realistically doesn't apply in NASCAR.

That being said, there are also roughly 20 drivers currently in the sport who are very capable of bringing home the checkered flag each week. I would compare this largely to the NCAA tournament, the NFL, Major League Baseball and the NBA in that they each offer roughly the same amount of teams with realistic chances of winning a championship each year.

Where NASCAR differs from college basketball, the NFL, Major League Baseball and the NBA is that rarely do the four afore-mentioned sports have repeat champions.

Imagine a sports world where Kansas, the New England Patriots, the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Lakers won their respective championships each season. That's the current reality NASCAR is facing.

Jimmie Johnson has single-handedly dominated NASCAR for the past four seasons to the point it's becoming a turnoff. Johnson has won the past two races this season and has 49 career wins. And 31 have occurred since the start of the 2006 season.

NASCAR desperately needs a rivalry like Duke-UNC, Magic Johnson-Larry Bird, the Yankees-Red Sox and the Colts-Patriots.

Not since the relatively mild Jeff Gordon-Dale Earnhardt rivalry of the late 1990s has NASCAR had two successful figures driving the sport's popularity. Sixteen different drivers won races in 2009, but yet just two finished within 200 points of Johnson in the final Chase for the Cup standings.

A true rivalry only exists when both sides are competitive.

NASCAR needs someone to step up and challenge Jimmie Johnson for championships and not just races. And it needs to happen now.