Once upon a time, I believed that NASCAR needed its golden geese like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick to do more to make it a more viable sport. Today I know it does.
NASCAR is not lacking in fan excitement, nor is it a sport starving for super stars, but what the sport is lacking is mega rivalries between its most public figures. As early as five years ago, NASCAR sat comfortably as the hottest growing sport. The sport is in no danger of losing its stake in the sporting world, but could it do better? Yes.
Itís wonderful that Earnhardt is finally in the mix for the championship, but the sport needs others who are recognizable enough to grow the sport.
The NBA in the early 80s made a living off of the rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were world-renowned players who carried the sport into the 90s.† Great competition is wonderful for any sport, but there is nothing better than two of any sports best- known and storied competitors fighting it out to the bitter end. Iím a growing NASCAR fan. The sport has a lot to offer, but the storied past has me missing on drivers of the past.
Hall of Fame drivers, Richard Petty and David Pearson from 1963 to 1977 finished either in first or second. Thatís not a rivalry. Thatís a feud.
Iím not saying that racing necessarily needs to make changes in the sport. The rules are perfectly set up to generate plenty of parity between racers. Unfair or not, itís the high profile racers who need to change. The racers who have become popular because of theyíve won arenít the ones who necessarily need to step up.
The NBAís Lebron James didnít want to have the expectations that came with him entering the league. Like it or not, James inherited that before he ever took his first shot in the NBA.
Patrick and Earnhardt Jr. owe racing more than endorsements. Itís not enough to just be outsiders looking inside the winners circle.† They need to become consistent guests there.