Almost forgot I wrote this, but I found it at the bottom of a Jim Bowman post that will also be released soon. It was written probably three years ago. Better late than never I guess.
What happened to you NASCAR? You used to so cool. It wasn't that
long ago that we had a NASCAR circuit. We had Antioch, Watsonville,
Merced, San Jose and even Baylands for the dirt track racers.
Okay, it's been over 20 years since we had all of that. Has it really been that long? Where does the time go?
it came to a close, the legacy that Bob Barkhimer started had Antioch,
Watsonville and San Jose remaining. We know the rest of the story. When the
contract was up at Antioch, a new promoter won the bid and elected to
leave NASCAR. San Jose closed within the next couple years and
Watsonville left next.
As the 90's were coming to a
close, NASCAR had 100 tracks and a very nice Regional point system. So,
what happened? Obviously, there was a reason that all of these tracks
It's really very simple. NASCAR no longer cared
enough about these tracks to try and make it work. Oh sure, there are
some tracks left, but it's not anywhere near where it once was.
Times have changed. Let's take a look back.
the 40's, Northern California had BCRA. Why does that matter? You
know that "Hall Of Fame" that BCRA has? Well, Barkhimer, Bert Moreland,
Jerry Piper and John Soares are all in there. They got their start
Before NASCAR was the big deal, it was BCRA.
They sanctioned Midgets, as they still do today, and the legendary
Hardtops. They sanctioned several tracks.
and Piper left, they founded the CSCRA and started sanctioning races
themselves at many tracks. In fact, there were over 20 at one time.
During the early 50's, the CSCRA and BCRA sanctioned just about
everything and you could race about every day of the week and sometimes
twice in a day.
Barkhimer met with Bill France Sr. and
soon brought his tracks into NASCAR. You might say he brought
California into NASCAR. That's not just the tracks for the big tour
that became the Sprint Cup that we know today, but those little short
tracks where racing dreams are born.
Soares and Moreland helped it grow in those early days. There was a
Hardtop circuit and a Super Modified circuit, and drivers competed up
and down the state.
It's my belief that it's these
little Friday and Saturday night tracks that helped make NASCAR who they
are, and Bill France and Bill France Jr. knew that. Not everybody
could attend a Cup race or be a competitor on the circuit, but they
could do the next best thing and go to their local NASCAR track. It
The golden age continued through the 80's, but things would decline from there. Why did it have to happen?
For several reasons, really.
one thing, the sanctioning fees weren't getting any cheaper. After a
while, promoters began to wonder if the cost was really worth it. It's
not as if that many drivers at any track were reaping the benefits.
Plus, the Winston sponsorship was gone by the late 90's, and that sponsorship paid the point funds for the Regional point races.
NASCAR was shifting it's emphasis to running more night races for it's
top two series. This move has not been a good one for short track
It's my opinion that NASCAR has lost touch
with its roots. It's kind of like the man who dated and even married a
supportive woman. She is there for him, helping him achieve his dreams,
and when he does, he leaves her for another woman.
The short tracks deserved better than that.
I'll be the first one to admit I've been a critic of NASCAR through the
years, but you'd be a fool not to realize what that banner flying over
the race track meant.
Just the fact that it was NASCAR
and part of the Weekly Racing Series made it special. It gave it more
meaning to fans and racers. It's hard to explain why. It just did.
Universal rules. A driver knew that the Street Stock or Late Model they had was legal at the other tracks. It was track unity.
promoters these days to agree on anything is next to impossible it
seems. But it happened under NASCAR. Barky made it happen, and those
in charge after him still kept it going for years until it started
falling apart in the 90's.
The Regional points gave top
drivers the opportunity to compete against other top drivers in their
region and across the country for bigger championships.
There's also the insurance. NASCAR had a top notice insurance policy for the racers.
the possibility of appealing official decisions to NASCAR. Sometimes
mistakes are made, and it was nice to have the option to go to the
people at the top for a second look.
All of that is
gone, and I can't help but wonder why it had to happen. I think greed
had something to do with it. I'm not pointing any fingers, but I will
say if NASCAR wanted it to stay together, they could have found a way.
Will we ever get it back?
It's hard to say at this point, but it doesn't look like it.
sure, people will point to other organizations, such as IMCA. I don't
want to offend anybody, but it's not the same. It just isn't, and it
never will be anything close. It's not that they are bad either, so
don't think I'm saying that. There are a lot of things I could say
about IMCA, good and bad, but at least they are there.
But, NASCAR could have it all if they wanted it. They could put it back together.
have the top three touring series on TV. The Regional touring series
are still there, but the weekly short track program is lacking.
does it mater? For the reasons I have laid out here, but it would be
good for NASCAR in the long run too. Short track racing is important to
the health of the sport, plain and simple, and NASCAR should care about
that. Fans of the local tracks become fans of the product on TV too
and loyal supporters.
Not everybody can make it to a
Cup race and not every racer will make it there either. But they can be
a star at the local level and do it under a NASCAR banner. It can be
profitable for both the track and NASCAR if it's done right.
of the opinion NASCAR would need to appoint people to positions for the
Weekly Racing Series and set up offices in several areas to help
oversee the regions. The goal would need to be to lure tracks back into
I'm sure cost of sanctioning would be a
concern, luring sponsorship money, ascertaining what divisions are
viable for sanctioning and that sort of thing. If they wanted to do
this, they could.
But, it's probably a pipe dream.
Most of the leaders who made it happen before are no longer with us, and
I'm just not so sure there is that type of leadership anymore. I
suppose you never know, but it seems like there are too many who are out
for themselves and not enough wanting to play for the team.
a shame. The sport will continue. Though tracks will continue to
close, others will survive, and the show will go on. It could be so
I feel for racing fans today, especially
the newer ones. If they think things are great now, they would
absolutely love the sport 20 or 30 years ago.
But, who knows? Anything is possible. As long as people still have places to go racing, anything is possible.