The results of last weekend's brawl/race at Loudon are probably less important than what the event says about the
evolution of NASCAR into an aspiring media star.
A lot of ink and bandwidth has been consumed on the subject, with two excellent pieces here and here (reg. req'd). From our perspective, two comments sum it up: "What did you expect?" and "Where does NASCAR want to go?"
In the ?what did you expect?? category, the chaos in New Hampshire was probably the natural result of the
pressure-cooker situation NASCAR has created with The Chase, and its attendant drive for big sponsorship money.
Sponsors understand The Chase better than NASCAR - they?re moving their money to the big teams with a shot at the exposure that comes with making it to the playoffs, and they?re demanding higher performance from their teams and their drivers. They aren?t content any longer to get their names on a diecast car and the chance to send a few employees to the odd race. They are paying for TV time. Pressure to perform leads to frustration and anger when you think you?ve been put out of contention by someone else, and anger makes for great TV. (It is interesting that nobody was suspended for their actions at Loudon.) So, NASCAR, what did you expect?
Where does NASCAR want to go? This is a question only the France family can answer. Races like last weekend?s will attract a large TV audience - after all, it?s great theater. The new members of the audience may not necessarily be race fans, but people conditioned by the manufactured conflict of ?reality TV.? It?s hard to say how this will play out, but for this year, it looks like we?re stuck with roller derby, NASCAR-style.