Respectability

The end of an era came today. There is no longer a NASCAR Winston Cup Series. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco company pulled out as the series sponsor earlier this year, to be replaced by Nextel. Today was the final race of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, a sponsorship that has lasted since 1971. Starting with the 2004 season, it’ll be called the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series.

All I can say is, it’s about time. This is a giant step forward for NASCAR, shedding one of the last remaining major TV advertising opportunities for tobacco companies. This can only add respectability to an already growing sport that is quickly losing its backwater stereotype.

5 thoughts on “Respectability”

  1. But Kevin, I don’t think that NASCAR’s backwater stereotype is due to its corporate sponsorship. Personally, I had never realized that the “Winston” was the cigarette brand; I assumed it was named after some important racing guy. I think NASCAR’s backwater stereotype has to do with the fact that it’s fans are perceived to be less than, shall we say, well-bathed? Not that all their fans are like that, and I recognize it’s the fastest growing blah blah blah.

    Not to mention that the goal is to drive in a circle as fast as you can. It’s kind of like the seventh inning entertainment at a minor league baseball game: the fans go stick their head on a baseball bat and spin round and round and round until they’re dizzy and fall over. It’s like that only with fewer laughs and more life-threatening injuries.

  2. No, no, don’t try to defend me, Abby. They’re right. To the uninitiated, NASCAR racing is boring, just like baseball.

    If NASCAR ever wanted to reach out to the uninitiated, I think they’d do well to ditch some of the ovals in favor of road course racing (where, as Abby says, drivers turn right AND left). Currently only two of the 33 or so races on the NASCAR circuit are run on road courses.

    I think NASCAR would also do well to move away from stock cars and explore environmentally friendly race cars. If you can get a green car running at 180 MPH, that would be freakin’ cool.

    As for the safety concerns, I think NASCAR has made leaps and bounds in this department. Since the tragic death of Dale Earnhardt, additional safety devices have become standard. It should be encouraging to note that a lot of the safety innovations that keep NASCAR drivers safe eventually make their way into street cars to keep you safe.

    No, NASCAR isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I know that. But it is moving forward.

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