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
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."