Long time motorsports writer Ernie Saxton thinks that many of the NASCAR Sprint Cup are partially responsible for lots of those empty seats at NASCAR races. Saxton cites the fact that during the days of Richard Petty, Bobby Allison and Cale
Yarborough that those drivers had a much closer relationship with the fans. Especially Petty who would stay at the race track after the races until everyone in line that wanted his autograph got one.
Saxton claims that the current crop of millionaire NASCAR drivers could care less about interacting with the fans and feel that they are an intrusion. He also cited a story, by now retired Charlotte Observer sports writer Tom Higgins, that some of the new era drivers would like to to have tunnels and walkways to avoid the fans for their privacy at the tracks that host their races.
As a result of all that there's been a big disconnect between those drivers and the fans. Saxton also thinks that Richard Petty needs to school those millionaire drivers about their bad fan relationships. That might help to improve ticket sales by the NASCAR fans.
We have to agree somewhat with Saxton's theory. Because we can remember when the old era NASCAR drivers were always glad to give the press a much more friendly access to them in the garages, press areas and even outside of the race tracks. Bobby Allison told me that during the time of his popularity his associate Waddell Wilson told him that he should never refuse a fan an autograph.
Because when the fan wanted your autograph that was an endorsement of you. Allison has indicated that the attitude by those millionaire drivers, among other things, was responsible for a lot of what's wrong with the new era NASCAR drivers.
Our take on this is during that time, the old era, NASCAR was not considered a main stream sporting entity. It was considered to be just a redneck sport confined just to the southeastern states. But all that changed during the 90's up until the 2008 recession.
We think that all of the new crop of drivers lost sight of where their sport came from and they have a responsibility, among other issues, to make the NASCAR race fans happy. We think that the old NASCAR era friendly attitude by the drivers is what got NASCAR to the top.
We've seen reports that both ESPN and TNT will, after all, provide NASCAR TV airings in 2014 despite the fact that they wanted out. We read reports that they didn't even bid on the new contract. We'll guess on this one that Fox and NBC, NASCAR's suitors, for 2014 and beyond, didn't want to pay ESPN and TNT compensation. That would let them wiggle out of their contractual obligations with NASCAR through 2014. The report also stated that Fox, Fox Sports1, NBC and NBC Sports will also air the Nationwide races when the new contract kicks in 2014.