In this era of stark, often sad change, when the format is constantly altered with hopes of providing a shot in the arm and chunks of grandstands being ripped out to alleviate the empty atmosphere, we wonder where the magic went.
Not long ago, NASCAR was destined to rival the four major sports — American football, basketball, baseball, and hockey. Now, with adored personalities retiring and staple sponsors backing out, public interest has sagged to an all-time low and left NASCAR hanging on for dear life.
What happened? To me, it’s an easy answer: NASCAR has sawed off its pillars — its origins — abandoning the grassroots that built the sport into an empire. People seem to forget about the avenues to racing’s top level. Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, and so many others forged a legacy on the short-tracks. Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart cut their teeth on small-town dirt circuits.
Swanky stock car racing is just the tip of the iceberg and the feeder system often goes unnoticed. From now on, The Racing Experts will provide grassroots racing coverage, traveling to some of the top short-tracks in the country, reporting on the purest form of motorsports, and telling stories about drivers we seldom hear.
We aren’t the only ones who share the same amount of importance surrounding grassroots racing. Recently, Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick raced in a K&N West Series event held at the Kern County Raceway in his hometown, Bakersfield, California.
“I feel like it’s important for our sport to keep those regional series healthy,” Harvick told ESPN. “In my opinion, all those hard-core NASCAR fans we keep talking about losing, that starts at the grassroots level. The reason we lose a lot of those fans is because a lot of those racetracks disappear.
“I believe the grassroots, hard-core race fans live at those racetracks,” Harvick continued. “In order to keep them enthused we have to build that from the bottom up.”
Harvick is one of many NASCAR drivers wh influence grassroots racing. Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, Kyle Larson, Mark Martin and Tony Stewart all own or fund race teams, too.
What can you expect from our grassroots coverage? A little bit of everything, I’d say. We are going to do our best to cover it all: the K&N Series, ARCA, the World of Outlaws, the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, and other small-town, entry-level racing events.
We’ll check in on budding stars like Todd Gilliland and Harrison Burton. You’ll see fresh stories on retired NASCAR figures Dave Blaney and Tony Stewart, two drivers who have reverted back to the breeding ground. You’ll read about dirt racing legends Scott Bloomquist (597 career victories and three LOLMDS titles) and Donny Schatz (nine-time WoO champion). You’ll read about small-town heroes like Gary Stuhler, who is a school bus mechanic by day and Hall of Fame dirt racer by the weekend, and up-and-comers taking the same path as Jeff Gordon and Kyle Larson.
I believe this is where NASCAR is hurting: A personable, touching experience for fans to create lasting memories and stay active in racing. In a dire time, we ought to go back to our roots. At least, that’s what I plan on doing here at TRE. Have a story idea or want to say “hey”? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s get this thing on the road.