The NASCAR season ended yesterday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Do you care? It was the final day of NASCAR racing for 3 stars: Matt Kenseth, Danica Patrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Does anybody care? Danica Patrick’s retirement announcement 2 days before the Sunday race shocked a lot of people. She’s NASCAR’s only active female racer. Do women care? She will compete in the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500, probably still racing’s two top competitions, in 2018 before ending her career.
Dale Earnhardt crashed and died in 2001 in the final turn of the Daytona 500. His 42-year-old son, according to ESPN, has 26 wins in 603 starts including 2 Daytona 500 victories. Because of a concussion, he missed the final 18 races in 2016. This surely influenced his decision to officially retire.
When we were in Charlotte recently, Ruth and I had the NASCAR Hall of Fame on our list of things to do but made it to the last morning without going there even though it was very close to our accommodations. We had a couple of hours before we had to leave for Columbia, SC. Ruth’s father took her to the Indianapolis 500 when she was very young. She still talks about the noise. I surely enjoyed the NASCAR Hall of Fame better than Ruth even though I’m only a fine-weather fan. I have been to professional races and do enjoy their unpredictability, but 2 hours in this hall of fame was enough. I’m sure that huge fans feel differently about it and love the interactive exhibits, Glory Road, Pit Crew Challenge, etc. It was a rainy weekday.
According to ESPN, NASCAR is in bigger trouble than other sports. Empty seats at major races affect attitudes, and some say that there are fewer and fewer younger fans attracted to the sport. This would certainly seem to be the case if our visit to the NASCAR Hall of Fame was an indicator. It began promisingly with an adrenalin-charged film in the High Octane Theater, an excellent 278-seat venue with a 64-feet-wide screen and surround sound. I especially enjoyed the part of the film dealing with NASCAR’s founding in 1947 with scenes of law officers chasing illegal in-the-woods still workers who enjoyed,”making cars go faster than the speed of law”. Most of the theater’ s seats were empty, and the ones occupied were mostly filled with senior citizens. I went on to browse most of the exhibits alone. The only place I was in a modest crowd was in the circular Hall of Honor which profiled the careers of some familiar names like Richard Petty and Jeff Gordon.
Probably my favorite race car was a Camry. In 2015 Kyle Busch won Camry’s first NASCAR premier series driver’s championship, and the next year Toyota won its 1st NASCAR premier series manufacturer’s championship, assuring me that “tough Camry” is far from an oxymoron.
A temporary “Cars 3: Inspired by NASCAR” exhibit in the Great Hall shows that this organization is trying to appeal to the young. However, it closes on May 31, 2018. Good luck, NASCAR.