Cup Stuff Blog

Ruminating All Things NASCAR

Latest Change For the “Better” – No More Chasing In Atlanta

Posted by Keith Murray on October 20, 2008

This is not going to be my favorite weekend for NASCAR racing. Atlanta Motor Speedway is the closest track to my house, and it was the first track that I ever saw a live race at, so seeing it lose more tradition is somewhat sad for me.

We as NASCAR fans are getting more and more used to the things that we like being taken away from us. I could write a very long list of things that have happened in this sport over the last decade that have been changed – some for the better (like it or not, the Chase format has transformed our sport, mostly in a good way), but mostly for the worst. The one change that I dislike the most has been the way race dates have been shuffled and some of the best tracks on the circuit have lost one or all of their race dates.

Atlanta Motor Speedway is simply the latest victim in a long line of scheduling changes. Not long ago, the last race of the season and the crowning of the Cup champion took place in Hampton, GA at AMS. That tradition was stripped away from the Southern folks and sent to south Florida. As a famous comedian once said, “The further south you go into Florida, the further north you get.” For those of you that don’t understand that. let me put it this way – the further south you go into Florida, the fewer 4×4 pickups with dog-pens in the back and gun racks in the window you will see. Got it? Good. And that’s OK – Homestead makes for some good racing since they reconfigured the track.

However, the biggest disappointment for the fans that gave NASCAR its roots, foundation, and beginning phases of the growth spurt – the ones that brung her to the dance, so to speak – was the loss of the Labor Day weekend race at Darlington. That race was stripped away and sent out to the Left Coast where racing is seemingly like everything else in LA/Hollywood – it is a fad. The racing is boring and the stands have gotten more and more empty with every follow-the-leader lap that has been run there. Nothing against the folks in California – my sister and her boyfriend go to the races there in Fontana – but it is simply the truth. There are some diehard fans out there, but the stands are less and less full every race we see there. All the while, North Wilkesboro, Rockingham – one of the best racing venues in America for pure racing – and Darlington’s Lady in Black sit dejected and quiet at the corner of the dance floor. All we are asking NASCAR to do is to dance with the one that brung you. And bringing the Labor Day race back to the South was not the change Southern fans were looking for. If we are going to lose our races – and we know that is inevitable – at least replace those venues with ones that offer good to exceptional racing in their stead.

Moving Atlanta’s race to Labor Day will in no way fill the void left by the removal of the second Darlington date that for many years occupied that slot in the calendar. Auto Club Speedway still has two dates, and even worse, now has been awarded a spot in the Chase – as though we didn’t already have enough cookie-cutter tracks in the final 10 races. If Atlanta was being moved out of the Chase, I can name at least 4 other tracks that would have been better replacements than another mile-and-a-halfer. Rockingham and North Wilkesboro have none, and Darlington has been demoted to just one race – that being on Mother’s Day weekend.

It wasn’t that we were upset about losing the Labor Day race in general. It was losing the “Darlington” Labor Day race, and the salt in the wound was seeing what seemed to be a lack of appreciation by not seeing that date sell out. After all, that was the whole reason for moving it out there – to get more fans involved and out to the track. Its kind of like buying your 2 year old a nice toy for their birthday and watching them play with the box it came in more than the toy itself. If they aren’t going to buy up all the tickets every year, either build a track somewhere that doesn’t have a race and send the race date there, or bring it back to Darlington or Rockingham where some fans will actually show up for the races.

Listen, I understand how things work in the world. I am not ignorant. NASCAR is in this deal to make money. But the best way to make money is to keep the fans happy and put on the best show possible week in and week out. I understand the expansion of NASCAR out of the South. It was bound to happen and I am not at all bitter about it. What frustrates me the most is that in doing so, we lost some of the most excited racing there was on the circuit. In losing races at Rockingham, North Wilkesboro, and Darlington, we picked up cookie-cutter tracks in Texas, Kansas, and California. Woohoo. How exciting. Jump for joy.

So this is it for Atlanta. No more Chase dates for her. We’ll be going the first weekend of September each year when we are still seeing temperatures in the 90’s and humidity around 130% which makes for a heat index of somewhere around broiling, and we will like it. I hate to be pessimistic, but I don’t expect any more fans to show up that week for racing. That is around the same time that college football starts, and that is a religious situation for a lot of folks around these parts. I hope I am wrong because I would hate to see AMS lose that slot altogether. I love this sport and want to see it excel, but if you keep tinkering with a house of cards long enough, sooner or later it will all come crashing down on you.

As always, please remember to pray for our troops out there fighting for our right to talk and fuss about racing. Also, pray for our country and please go vote on election day. Thanks for reading and God bless each of you!

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3 Responses to “Latest Change For the “Better” – No More Chasing In Atlanta”

  1. Wayne B said

    Very well said, your thoughts are very true. If Bruton Smith had owned Darlington or “The Rock” they would be as popular as Bristol. Brian France is a lightweight and should buy a NFL team and leave Nascar to the people that love it like we do. There was a saying years ago that we knew Evils was dead when Lisa Marie married Michael Jackson. Well I knew Dale Sr was dead and gone when Darlington lost the Labor Day race.

  2. Wayne B said

    Sorry I ment Elvis

  3. Ryano said

    Well said Keith! My sentiments exactly! Keep up the great work bud. I look forward to reading your stuff.

    Ryano aka 3and8fan4ever

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