NASCAR and auto racing's beginnings

Well, it attracts the same sort of I-live-through-the-accomplishments-of-others crowd so I guess it qualifies.
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ChrisOH
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NASCAR and auto racing's beginnings

Post by ChrisOH » Wed Mar 30, 2011 11:31 am

Some debate whether auto racing (be it NASCAR or open-wheel, "Indy car" racing) is truly a sport. Auto racing actually has an interesting history, in that in its early days (the first Indianapolis 500 race was run in 1911), the focus was on developing and testing the then-fairly-new technology of the automobile. The driver wasn't so much a winner as the car (and its manufacturer) was a winner.

NASCAR had a little more shady beginning, as moonshine runners in the southern U.S. were constantly looking for ever-more souped-up engines and auto bodies that could outrun the latest police vehicles. These bootleggers began racing one another for sport and testing of their vehicles, and eventually NASCAR was organized as a national body to set rules for such competitions. As the races moved from booze-running to more "socially acceptable" events, auto manufacturers were happy to enter their cars in the races to prove themselves and get publicity. Originally, NASCAR used stock cars -- cars that could be bought and driven on the street. It wasn't uncommon for a racer to drive his car to the track, race, and then drive it back home. (Unless, of course, he had a bad day and the car ended up leaving with some assistance from a wrecker truck.)

Nowadays, the cars used in NASCAR aren't street-legal, so it's not really right to call them "stock cars" anymore. Somewhere along to line as well, the focus went from the car to the driver, and made cult heroes out of the drivers themselves. NASCAR, wanting to compete with "legitimate" sports like football, baseball, etc., began to market itself to a wider audience than just the automotive enthusiasts who used to watch. They branched out from their southern U.S. roots and held races in all parts of the country, even abandoning some of their traditional venues. Drivers were marketed to the saturation point with t-shirts, jackets, caps, bumper stickers, and just about any kind of cheap plastic gizmo you could find. (Some of my in-laws' friends got me a NASCAR coffee-maker -- yes, coffee-maker! -- for a Christmas gift a few years back. I'm waiting for a white-elephant gift exchange to dump this to.... :twisted: ) Hence you see things like "the official processed cheese snack of NASCAR", etc. They also instituted a "playoff system" to be more like "real" sports.

My dad is an automobile lover, and he and my mother used to watch races, both Indy car and stock car, on TV, but in later years, they complained about how it was getting too commercialized and like every other sport (my parents are/were not big sports fans in general), and they lost a great deal of interest in it.

So when we ask if it's really a sports, yeah, unfortunately, NASCAR is fast turning into just another mindless sport. :|

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Re: NASCAR and auto racing's beginnings

Post by i_like_1981 » Wed Mar 30, 2011 4:49 pm

ChrisOH wrote:My dad is an automobile lover, and he and my mother used to watch races, both Indy car and stock car, on TV, but in later years, they complained about how it was getting too commercialized and like every other sport (my parents are/were not big sports fans in general), and they lost a great deal of interest in it.
Everything is too damn commercialised nowadays. This is another thing that I hate about modern sports - all the most popular ones have gotten to the point now where they are practically businesses. Nobody involved in them really cares about the game anymore. All they want is the fat pay check, the merchandising deals, the sheepish screaming fans, the publicity, and the newspapers are reliant on all this now to sell copies. Gone are the days before the business aspect of sports took over the world. Every damn time there is a major sporting competition of any kind on it always manages to make its way onto food packaging, into restaurant deals, all over the internet and just about any other form of advertising they can find. Your parents saw through all this nonsense and did the right thing going off sports before sports became just another excuse for greedy sods to fill their wallets. It's all about money now. The 21st century is a very vain and materialistic time to live. I dread to think where we'll be in 50 years - the whole world will have probably fallen into economic ruin as the sports stars sit in their ivory towers laughing at us. Sports? They're businesses now! Here's the motto that all professional sports players abide by in regard to their bosses and fans - you pay, we'll play!

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Re: NASCAR and auto racing's beginnings

Post by ChrisOH » Thu Mar 31, 2011 12:06 pm

i_like_1981 wrote: Everything is too damn commercialised nowadays. This is another thing that I hate about modern sports - all the most popular ones have gotten to the point now where they are practically businesses. Nobody involved in them really cares about the game anymore. All they want is the fat pay check, the merchandising deals, the sheepish screaming fans, the publicity, and the newspapers are reliant on all this now to sell copies.
Yep, everything is about "branding" now, as they call it in the States -- players/drivers/whoever, along with their agents and entourage, are like individual corporations in themselves. Whatever it takes to promote their "brand", they'll do -- be it switching to a winning team, playing selfishly against the interests of the team they're on, etc. It pretty much makes the concept of cheering for a "team" obsolete now -- teams are nothing more than highly-paid, self-promoting individuals thrown together and given uniforms with a particular city/region's name or logo on them.

In NASCAR interviews I've seen, it's absolutely laughable -- if a car wrecks and is out of the race, the driver will say something like the following:

"Well, we had the XYZ Corp Chevy running real good out there, but unfortunately, we ran into some bad luck and I just want to apologize to the good folks at XYZ Corp, and I promise we'll have the XYZ Corp Chevy out there next week running better than ever."

In the winner's interviews, it's just as comical -- during the course of the interview, they'll be handed caps with every one of the car's sponsors names on it, and they switch them on and off their head as they talk!

It's like they're not racing for a team, or for their fans, but to keep their sponsors happy.

Like my dad, although I like cars and appreciate good driving and mechanical skills, I just can't watch it anymore -- it's nothing but a four-hour set of commercials! :x

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Re: NASCAR and auto racing's beginnings

Post by i_like_1981 » Thu Mar 31, 2011 4:26 pm

ChrisOH wrote:It pretty much makes the concept of cheering for a "team" obsolete now -- teams are nothing more than highly-paid, self-promoting individuals thrown together and given uniforms with a particular city/region's name or logo on them.
Yeah. The players really don't care whether or not they have fans who will stand by them. As long as their sponsors are keeping their wallets topped up with enough money to see them through just about any problem they may ever have, it doesn't make any difference at all to the players as to what their fans think. What is the point of standing and cheering for people who really couldn't have it better anyway? People should be giving their money to support those who really are in need of help instead of sinking all their dough into an industry that really has far too much and could do with being marginalised. These sports team owners and players probably treat life as one massive game of Monopoly. "Kick ball for 90 minutes and take £1,000,000."

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