- The defunct North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Hero image from YouTube. Text and errors by: Chris Breeden

Opinion: Dear NASCAR,

An open letter, from a life long fan...

My first memory of NASCAR came in 1983 when I witnessed Cale Yarborough back his brand new Hardee's sponsored number 28 Chevy Monte Carlo into the turn 4 wall during qualifying for the Daytona 500 at over 200 MPH. I was four years old. I was hooked.

I loved seeing Darrell Waltrip beat Bill Elliott for the cup championship in 1985.

I missed Tim Richmond all season long in '88 (and still do).

I was mad as hell in 1989 when Ricky Rudd ran into Earnhardt at North Wilkesboro and let crusty Rusty win the championship.

The Hooters 500 at the end of the '92 season was one of the most epic races ever ran in the history of Motorsports, period.

After losing Tim Richmond, the losses of Davey Allison and Alan Kulwicki, in '93, seemed unreal to me. While I wasn't a fan of those drivers, I was sad for their families and for their loss.

When Ernie Irvan wrecked at Michigan, in '94, it felt like Ford needed an exorcism or something like it at least.

I cheered when Dale Earnhardt won his 7th championship and drew a deep breath of relief when he won Daytona in '98.

I loved watching Jeff Gordon, the Labontes, Mark Martin, Dale Jarrett and others flying around a different track every weekend.

I was screaming with joy when Michael Waltrip won the '01 Daytona 500 and my heart sank when I heard Darrell Walltrip's voice crack when he said, "Gee, I hope Dales O.K."

I was mad at Jimmie Johnson when he was winning everything! Until I realized he was able to do it because he, his team, his crew chief and his car were all that good. When Jimmie won 5 championships in a row I knew I was witnessing something truly beautiful and I felt privileged to be a part of it.

I watched the truck races. I watched the Busch series races. I watched Cup practice, Cup qualifying, the pre race shows, the races and the post race shows. I even suffered through "Wind Tunnel" with Dave Despain a time or two.

I loved every minute of it.

Every so often I see a picture or a video of North Wilkesboro Speedway and I'm always shocked by the waste I see in it. To think that such a beautiful, historic race track could be treated in such a way is a racing sin of the highest order. But if it could happen there, it can happen any where. How long will it be before Texas, Michigan, Atlanta or even Daytona are overgrown and forgotten? What will a world look like when the only thing that happens at Bristol is a college football game every now and then?

This isn't the part of the article where I bring up some rule change from 15 years ago and say I haven't watched a race since then. That would be a lie. I still watch the Cup series race almost every weekend. I still follow the points. I still get excited every February. I still love the sound of the engines at Talladega. I still love a good old fashioned short track battle at Bristol and Martinsville. To my surprise, I even love the Roval and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens at Pocono next season.

Those last two things were good changes. They are a good place to start.

New opportunities can be easily found, if you look for them. NBC found something for Kyle Petty to do that is truly entertaining (Coffee with Kyle on YouTube). Dale Earnhardt has one of the best Podcasts out there, (Dale Jr. Download). There are countless other ways to get people interested in NASCAR. How about historic races? Goodwood, seems to be doing an excellent job. I'm sure the same thing would go over great here, you could call it "Daytona Homecoming" or something like that. Vintage racing series are popular right now and I'm sure a NASCAR class would have people lining up to qualify.

You have to see that crowds are waning. You have to see that interest is declining. You have to see the flagman is reaching for the black flag. Do something, different. Do something, bold. Just do something before it's too late.

Keep on Cruisin'!

Art by: Chris Breeden

Art by: Chris Breeden

About the Author:

"Chris Breeden is a Social Media content creator for Custom & Hot Rod Life on DRIVETRIBE, YouTube and Facebook. After spending 5 years in Southern California, a.k.a. Hot Rod Heaven, while serving as a jet engine mechanic in the United States Marine Corps, he moved back home to Tennessee with an even greater love for Hot Rodded Vintage Tin. Since then he has worked in retail sales and the transportation and logistics industry. In 2018, seeing a gap in Hot Rod and Custom Car coverage on DRIVETRIBE, Chris began advocating for their inclusion on the platform. During the summer months, he can be found all over the Tennessee region covering car shows, meets, and cruise-ins. During the winter months, he can be found in the garage working on his custom 1949 Ford two-door sedan and 1954 F100 truck."

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Comments (7)

  • I am afraid that there is too little imagination going on in the car design front and the races are too long to hold folks' shorter attention spans. Half the fun in the 70's, 80's, and early 90's was the differences in the car brands that made a difference on the track. I am worried that GM and Ford will not even have a suitable car to make into a Cup car in the near future, with their reliance on SUVs and trucks in their line-ups. If the cars were more like the Austrailan Supercars or DTM cars, they would be more interesting to me. Alloy wheels, sequential 6 speed trans, real brakes, center locking hubs, etc. There is too much regulation to me. A NA, 358 cu. In. V-8 with a 4 spd. manual is not a relevant drivetrain to any showroom car. And adding hybrid tech to this out of date drivetrain will be meaningless to fans. It will just be another source of rules infractions found post-race. Modernize the cars' engineering and you might get some new fans.

      9 months ago
  • I'm with you on most of that but especially the part about how some great historic Speedways have been abandoned or bulldozed. Especially the loss of Riverside Raceway was a terrific loss! So many really great Races by so many iconic drivers and teams. Just really good No Holds Barred, pedal to the metal raising. I think the single biggest thing they're doing wrong now is the constant changing of rules and the fact that the cars are so far off from what they used to be that is not really stock car racing anymore and hasn't been NASCAR for two decades (probably more)! With modern safety/performance technology they could easily make the actual street cars safe enough to race and get back to the "win on Sunday - sell on Monday" mindset. People want to have a connection and those shapeless blobs on top of custom frames and motors have no connection with the public at Large.

    ☆Wake up NASCAR before your dead☆

      9 months ago
  • Hi Chris,

    I'm with you except that my memory for the historic details of NASCAR is not nearly as good as yours. I've been watching NASCAR for decades. I still have my Winston Cup and commemorative Richard Petty 200 wins hats!

    For several years I have been covering the NASCAR races at Auto Club Speedway (formerly California Speedway) in person, as you can see in my AutoMatters & More tribe:

    drivetribe.com/p/historic-nascar-weekend-at-auto-QKFso4VwShuPBQPTZleZxQ?iid=e8iX5pVgS06JJLKEZFNhsg

    I wish there was a short track here in San Diego County because I find short track NASCAR races especially exciting.

    The only thing that I would like to add to your nostalgic trip down memory lane was the great coverage of motorsports by Bob Jenkins and Larry Nuber on ESPN's "Speedweek." I religiously watched that program and read AutoWeek magazine by subscription to get my motorsports news. "Speedweek" is long gone and "AutoWeek" is no longer available in magazine format (although the online-only version is good too).

    Keep up the great work!

    Jan

    AutoMatters & More tribe

      9 months ago
  • NASCAR is not alone in its struggle for race day attendance. Motorsport in general is suffering from poor ticket sales. Promoters and track owners have resorted to installing multi colored seats in an effort to project a full house for tv coverage. Interest in classic American Motorsport is waning while sideshows like drifting, and all things RedBull are on the rise. Its a slippery slope trying to market NASCAR, INDYCAR and IMSA to anybody under 30. Remember the halcyon days of series like TransAm and CanAm Those days are deep in our rear view mirror and filling a place like COTA for most of the American born and bread race series is a tall order while F1 and MOTOGP continue to pull decent crowds. I don’t know what the answer is, but I hope somebody does because the thought of tinkering with format and installing gimmickry in a desperate effort to sell tickets is sad. Leave the cars alone ... keep the format clean. Work on promotion ... get outside the box and find a way to create interest amongst the younger demographic.

      9 months ago
  • I am with the composer of this article. NASCAR has to do something different, the constant changing of title sponsors rule changes are not helping gain fans. I am with most of you that have commented on this already. The cars that are currently raced are in no way shap or form what you can walk into a dealership and currently purchase. I believe this is where NASCAR HAS FAILED. They gained a huge followership in the 60s and 70s those fans continued to watch into the 80 and 90s but because the cars are no longer relevant to individuals that are thinking about watching. The motorsports industry is doing well and there are grass root events being held across the country that someone can get involved with, but NASCAR has to change and regain a fanbase. This will only be done by change, not the next gen car, different sponsorship deals, but to change back to the old was, and bring back cars that a person can buy, did Junior Johnson spend hundreds of thousands of dollars building his first race car or did he kick the glass out of a car on the beach of Daytona, strap himself in and drive like he was running from the law in North Carolina.

      9 months ago
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