4.29.2005

Nascar + Sex = Insult

Apparently, in a bid to continue winning over female NASCAR fans (as if racing needs help in that department), Fox has been running a "Who's the Sexiest Driver" poll, with an NCAA-like grid and eliminations week by week.

This is nothing but a pissing contest between fan bases. I know this for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Michael Waltrip is neck and neck with Jimmie Johnson in this week's poll.

Jimmie Johnson? Hot. Michael Waltrip? Not hot.

Nonetheless, I find this whole contest insulting.

Almost 50% of all NASCAR fans are women. The vast majority of us do have a favorite driver, but the vast majority of us also don't select them based on the cuteness factor. Likewise, we don't watch cars go around the track for four hours because the drivers are sexy - we watch for the speed, excitement, competition, drama and victory. We cheer for our favorites and curse the rest, but we watch the sport because it's a SPORT, and not a Miss America pageant.

The fact that Fox feels the need to run this ridiculous contest, I think, is insulting to true (and often female) fans of the sport, and cheapens the whole shebang.

It's weird, but I've spoken to numerous friends and family this season, and, myself included, we find ourselves less "live and die with every turn" this season. Sure, we watch the races, but not with the intensity and attention we did in the past. We still buy tickets and attend, but more for the atmosphere than for the racing. We wear our favorite number on our shirts or our cars, but we don't spend countless hours monitoring their every move on (or off) the track.

Why?

I'm not entirely sure. My suspicion is that NASCAR, in their bid to control all aspects of racing, have taken away much of the drama from the sport. Drivers being penalized for expressing their emotions on, or off, the track. Threats of fines and suspensions for what are often minor transgressions. A lack of true drama and an overload of whitewash and sunshine on race morning. Is NASCAR entirely to blame? Of course not. In an effort to produce the "Jeff Gordon" model of a driver, other drivers are being overlooked, and the rest seem to all blend together.

I realize it's hypocritical of me to say that. Jimmie Johnson is a perfect example of a "Jeff Gordon" model. He's articulate, intelligent, thoughtful, talented, a sponsor's dream, young and cute to boot.

And I want nothing but for Jimmie and the 48 crew to succeed on the track week in and week out.

However, if every driver were a Jimmie Johnson, there would be no fire in the sport anymore.

Love or hate them, drivers like Tony Stewart grab headlines, raise pulses, and entertain fans both on and off the track.

But even Tony's been muzzled this year, it seems.

I hope this trend of disinterest will abate as the season goes on for me, and to be fair, once Fox no longer has control of the broadcast, I'll be much happier. DW, Hammond and Chris Myers anchoring the show are like nails on a chalkboard for me - times a zillion. If it weren't for Larry Mac, Dr. Dick, and Matty Yocum, I would probably mute the entire broadcast.

I don't know what the answer is. I really don't.

But I miss the excitement I would feel on race morning as I settled in to cheer for all the drivers. I miss trolling the headlines with glee for the latest in my favorite sport. I miss living and dying with every Victory Lane.

But that fire just isn't there this year - for lots of us.

Why?

Now, then. Go vote for Jimmie Johnson. ;-)

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