NASCAR hits the skid as sport abandons ‘rednecks’

A fan watches from the stands as temperatures climb to the mid 90s with a heat index over 100 during the July 2016 running of the Brickyard 400 NASCAR auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis. Michael Conroy | AP file

While the country was busy considering what to do with the 35 seconds Major League Baseball could save by changing the rules on intentional walks, something weird happened in the world of sports. NASCAR hit the skids, the Wall St. Journal reports.

The first big race of the season is set for Sunday — the Daytona 500 — and there’s a stench of a sport’s death mixing with that of burning rubber.

Many racetracks have adopted the strategy of some Major League Baseball stadiums. They’ve torn out seats to make them look fuller as more fans give up on the sport.

Average TV viewership of NASCAR races has plummeted.

What’s the problem? The Journal says the sport failed to value its rednecks, opting instead to chase fat TV contracts and luxury suites.

Some die-hard fans were turned off by the changes. At Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Sam Cobb, 41, and his wife, Lisa, 48, reminisce about the raucous parties with stripper poles and kegs that used to be held at a campground near the track.

These days, the campground gets quiet at about 10 p.m. on the Saturday nights before big races. “They’re strangling the fun out of Nascar,” says Mr. Cobb, who misses counting on race weekend for the “largest concentration of rednecks in sport.”

The family that runs the NASCAR organization is in disarray. One says she didn’t know it would ban the Confederate flag until it was publicly announced, for example.

In the comments section, NASCAR fans identify the problem with the sport.

“Got too big, too expensive (for teams and fans), too many complicated, nit-pick rules removed all sense of individuality and ‘adventure’, turning it into a pack of homogenzied, boring left-turners,” said one. “Fans come to races to cheer-on and watch their ‘heros’, their favorites, trounce the competition. Unfortunately it’s gone away from that.”

There’s always baseball.