What Little We Know So Far

(Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, March 28, 2018, 4:22 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

I suppose it’s time to take a breath.

Six Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races are in the books. One sixth (.167) of the season is done. Six out of 26 (.231) in the regular season. The statistical sample is worthwhile. Sunday is Easter. NASCAR doesn’t race on Easter weekend. A NASCAR official can say “nothing to see here” this weekend, and he will actually be right. Most of the time, when an official says “nothing to see here,” there’s something to see here.

(Photo by Bob Leverone/Getty Images for NASCAR)

The TV ratings are still falling. The crowds are still off. NASCAR officials still think they can do something about this. They can’t. People who drifted away are not going to drift back because, seven months from now, the race at Charlotte is going to be on “a roval.” Right now, all that means is a fruitless search of a dictionary. According to an unofficial dictionary, the Urban one, one definition is “a combination of a rectangle and an oval,” as opposed to a road (course) and an oval, and the other is “a made-up word,” derived from Internet jargon such as “ROFL,” which means “rolling on the floor laughing.”

I didn’t begin this blog intending to write about the “roval” in Charlotte or in general.

Reasons abound for why NASCAR raced off a cliff, but the hard part is applying comparative value to all the various and sundry excuses advanced. People moved on. They’ll move back when they get good and ready. The people who tell me almost every day that they used to love NASCAR, and now don’t care about it, have no idea how many people tell me that. They know I’m a writer, and they all think it’s a scoop.

I still like it. I’m doing what I think is appropriate. I’ve hunkered down. I’m still trying to describe what I see. I’m not a prophet of doom. I’m just resigned to the reality that the sport is not going to come back overnight, and the leaders of the sport need to settle down and act like they know what a long haul is. They hunted that goose that laid golden eggs for years till they finally killed him, and it’s going to take just as many years to find a new one.

Life is not a commercial, and people do not respond to commercials as if they were life.

If a gang of teens is hanging out before school, talking about pressing topics such as the latest hip-hop tunes and Nintendo “cheat codes,” if a kid runs up and says, “Hey, y’all, NASCAR’s racing in stages and handing out bonus points!” they’re not all going to whip themselves into a frenzy and buy tickets to Darlington.

Clint Bowyer (Nick Laham/Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Meanwhile, six races were long enough for things to even out. Kevin Harvick won three straight races, but now he’s gone two weeks without racing away and hiding. The champion, Martin Truex Jr., has served notice that he’s liable to win another. A couple of winners, Austin Dillon and Clint Bowyer, have surprised the would-be experts. Predictability had a run going, but it’s subsided.

Maybe it’s time for NASCAR to say, “It is what it is,” and really mean it.

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About Monte

For 20 seasons, I mostly wrote about NASCAR. I'm still paying attention, but I'm spending more of my time these days writing novels and songs. I try to blog regularly on whatever happens to strike my fancy.
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