Stewart details what NASCAR needs to return to the days of popularity
NASCAR was a sport born with stock cars on the short tracks of the South. The cars were somewhat affordable. Richard Childress turned a $20 race car into a NASCAR super team of today.
In those days, it took pure talent to make a career out of racing. That’s all you needed. Today, NASCAR is no longer a sport exclusive to a Southern audience. It’s not even limited to America.
It’s spread nationwide from a schedule standpoint. Those events are broadcast to a global tv audience and the short tracks are unfortunately all but a thing of the past (until 2021).
With that global audience, the money came in. With the money, came the technology. And at a certain point, the incoming sponsorship funds dwindled in comparison to the forever growing expense reports.
Farmers Insurance paid $67.28 million (before bonuses) to Hendrick Motorsports for the deal with Kasey kahne between 2012-2017.
Team owners have turned to drivers who bring sponsorship dollars with their contract signatures. The race winnings aren’t enough to keep things afloat. The sponsorship is far more important.
This lands us in a time where drivers with sponsors or rich fathers are more valuable than a driver with pure talent. That’s not good.
Tony Stewart on young drivers in NASCAR
What does NASCAR need to get back to the point of popularity?
“They’ve got to get drivers that have personality,” Tony Stewart stated via an interview with the Virginian-Pilot.
“It’s great having opportunities to drive cars, but shoot, they’re not even old enough to go to a bar and they’re trying to make these 18-year-old kids heroes.”
“I’m still a race fan, too, and it’s hard for me to embrace somebody who’s just graduating high school and they’re driving a Cup car. What have they done to really, legitimately earn their opportunity?”
“There’s hundreds of thousands of race-car drivers across the country that have clawed and scratched their way at Saturday night short tracks. And worked on their cars all their life to get where they are. Then you get kids with rich fathers and deep pockets that put them in race cars.”
“All the sudden, because they’re 18 years old, they think they deserve to be in a Cup car. I have a hard time with that.”
“I think there are drivers out there with the experience and personality that makes race fans want to follow them. That’s what’s lacking in NASCAR.”
Pending changes to the NASCAR schedule
In 2020, longstanding NASCAR track contracts are set to expire in rapid-fire succession, to the delight of many. Come 2021, the doors will swing wide-open for a swift shakeup in the NASCAR schedule.
A warmer schedule by condensing the active months of the season via mid week races is an idea that’s on the table. It’s also possible the Daytona 500 doesn’t open the season, swapped with a race on the warmer West coast.
The idea of mid-week races opens to the door for even more race weekends despite the possibility of a shorter schedule from a monthly duration standpoint.
The current schedule is jam packed between February-November). A few practice days could be replaced with double-header race weekends as well.
And finally, NASCAR is considering and very open to the idea of more short track races. In recent years, they’ve also taken a leap with a dirt race for the NASCAR Truck Series at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway.
But, the track owner doesn’t see why it should stop there. Despite all the discussions listed above, a NASCAR Cup Series race at Eldora Speedway isn’t talked about too much. Tony Stewart is here to fix that…
Tony Stewart on NASCAR dirt racing
“The best part is that you talk to the crew guys every year and how excited they are to be there,” Stewart says of the NASCAR Truck Series race at his half-mile oval dirt track in Ohio.
“I don’t think they say that about every pavement track they go to. So, I think there’s something unique about having that special event on dirt for those guys each year.”
“I know Richard Petty thought it was a step backward, but in this era of entertainment you’ve got to spice things up, and having a Cup race and Xfinity race on dirt would certainly do that.”
“We need something to give the series a shot in the arm right now and I think definitely a dirt race would do that. You really don’t have to do a lot to the cars to change to run a dirt race, so it’s not like you have to build special cars for it.”
On April 11, 2019 Tony Stewart and the All-Star Circuit of Champions will head to Virginia Motor Speedway. It’s the first time the tour has visited the speedway.