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Is Winning By Evolving

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Increased Competitiveness And Driver, Crew And Spectator Safety Has Not Only Saved A Few Lives, But Has Reinvigorated Those That May Have Drifted From The Sport


By Joey Hancock
Modern Times Magazine

March 15, 2016 — NASCAR may be the only sport where you will see absolute evolution. The NFL has been talking about making the sport safer for years, but if you watch a game odds are at least one person will get a concussion during that game.

With all of the changes these different sports make, NASCAR has made the most adjustments in the name of safety and competitiveness. And fans aren’t straying from the sport, they are gravitating back to it.

That much was evident through the smell of gasoline and burnt rubber that filled the air last weekend when 70,000 fans filled the stadium at Phoenix International Raceway to watch the Good Sam 500 NASCAR race.

Fans were clearly not disappointed as the closest race in the history of the track went into the record books.

Brandon Ronchetto of Detroit, Michigan said he loves the sport of NASCAR and loves going to the races at Phoenix International Raceway.

“I’m from Detroit, Michigan originally and just moved to Arizona eight months ago,” he said. “This is actually my second time here and the last time I came it got rained out but I used to go to the races at Michigan International Speedway back in in Detroit.”

While Ronchetto may be away from his home track he has found a way to keep connected to the sport at PIR and he said he loves the experience of the new track he gets to go to now.

“The atmosphere, I mean, I get to hang out, drink beer and watch cars go fast,” Ronchetto said. “I mean it is a family atmosphere but I love it.”

The atmosphere of the sport plays a large part with the hard nosed competition of the sport but the access the fans can get is very important to Ronchetto.

“I Think they (NASCAR) are trying to be more accessible to the fans in a sense, more than they have ever been before,” Ronchetto said. “Just with the different things they are doing. A lot of the time the drivers are untouchable but I feel they are trying to open it up a bit more. Especially the last two races I’ve been to they were a lot more accessible personally wise.”

NASCAR prides itself on the accessibility for fans to meet the drivers, crew chiefs and big names of the sport without hinderance from security personnel. This aspect of the sport is very important to fans like Ronchetto because they relate to the drivers because the fans of NASCAR feel they are no different than the guys behind the wheel.

“They are normal people,” Ronchetto said. “They don’t make the salaries football players make. They obviously make more money than the fans, some of us anyways, but they are still real people.”

People don’t need to be big fans of the sport to enjoy it either which makes NASCAR exciting. A fan can arrive at the track and pick their favorite looking car and be a fan for a day. This happens more often than not but it allows everyone to be able to enjoy the sport.

Angela from Iowa and her husband, who represents drivers, have been going to races for as long as she can remember she said, and while not a big fan of the sport she still enjoys going to the races and cheering on her favorite driver, Michael Annett.

“I just want my driver to win,” she said.

Since the beginning of the sport back in the 1940’s fans have never had more to yell or boo for than they do now.

A sense of personal connection to the sport is what drives NASCAR. It isn’t the hundreds of sponsorships or the brand names of Petty, Earnhardt or Gordon. The most important aspect of NASCAR as a sport is the connection the fans feel to the drivers. There is a personal connection in today’s NASCAR that no other sport can understand. This understanding probably hasn’t been felt since the heyday of baseball in the 1960’s and once the engines turn on and the crowd stands it is hard to argue against that feeling.

There is more disparity today in the sport than ever before as NASCAR switches over from the old guard of the stand points of Cale Yarbrough, Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt and most recently the retirement of the last of that old guard style of NASCAR Jeff Gordon.

With Gordon’s departure this feels like a new era of the sport. Tony Stewart is arguably the true last driver of the old guard but due to his recent injury that is keeping him out of the car until at least the summer turn, it has to be difficult for fans of the old school style of racing to figure out this new era.

NASCAR has changed since the days of Earnhardt and Wallace, or Waltrip and Gant but this is a good thing. The sport is evolving as all sports should.

That Kevin Harvick edged out Carl Edwards at the finish line by 0.010 seconds, the length of a headlight, was a testament to how records are made to be broken and especially in NASCAR.

After a late race caution Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were first and second and decided not to pit with a green-white-checkers finish looming.

The green flag dropped and Earnhardt Jr. spun his tires allowing Edwards to pass him and as Edwards and Harvick entered the final; turn Edwards bombed Harvick up the track but Harvick pushed back allowing him to get the win.

The race Sunday at PIR was the definition of “rubbin’ is racing.”
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