Friday, December 17, 2010

What Do I Have To Do To Get You People Like Me?!

Meet Jimmie Johnson, the best NASCAR driver in the world for the past five years. Is he really that good behind the wheel? Oh yeah. Is he a nice guy? He is indeed one of the nicest and most genuine guys in the sport. But when he’s introduced before the race, do fans go crazy over him? No.

To many, it seems odd that Jimmie has not been as successful at capturing fans as he has been at capturing championships. Jimmie may have a lot to offer, but he’s missing something that keeps him from being a driver fans can really latch on to. Perhaps a trip to Oz is in order so that the wizard can give Jimmie what he’s missing: an imperfection.

Think back to the “good ol’ days” of NASCAR and you think about guys like the Intimidator, the Ironman, the Bandit, the Silver Fox, Jaws, and the King. Back then, drivers seemed more genuine and thus fans made connections with them. The drivers were regular people who had imperfections and weren’t afraid to show emotion on and off the track. Nowadays, drivers are “brand ambassadors” that are programmed to thank Chevy, smile, compliment their teammates, smile, and take a drink of Coca Cola (remember to turn the bottle so the logo is showing for those practicing at home). Fans aren’t ignorant, and they see through the charade, and I imagine that it only frustrates them as it does me. Stop talking like robots and tell us how you really feel before I change the channel back to Swamp People!

In the current crop of NASCAR drivers, only a handful of drivers break this mold. Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart, and Kevin Harvick are three that come to mind, although Carl Edwards gets a nod for his creative sponsor plugs and occasional “choke hold”. You can hear signs of emotion from these drivers when they talk, and you see their tempers get the best of them on the track. Fans get this, and it is part of the reason Kyle’s fan base has grown so quickly. When someone cuts me off on the highway, I get mad and want to retaliate, although laws often prohibit this. When you see a driver do that in a race, it excites you because you understand his frustration.

Unfortunately for Jimmie he is just too perfect, and it’s hard for fans to relate. Jimmie is like that overachieving friend…the one who got his PhD and has a weekend house in the mountains before he turned 30. People that are “perfect” only make you feel bad about yourself, so we tend to avoid them. Think about your close friends. Are they ten times better than you at everything, or do you tend to surround yourself with people who have just as many faults as you? Being a fan works the same way. I like Carl because I get his sense of humor, I understand his rage, and he seems genuine.

In order for Jimmie to win over fans, I have decided to start a list of things he can do to prove he isn’t perfect:
  • Arm-wrestle Joey Logano’s dad
  • Start the tradition of doing a cartwheel after a victory
  • Do his victory burnout before the race
  • Thank Home Depot during post-race interview
  • Pay people to vote him as the Most Popular Driver (similar to Dale Jr’s method of winning eight titles in a row)
  • Divorce Chandra and propose to Danica
  • Kidnap Carl Edwards baby

We want to hear from you! Tell us what you think Jimmie should do to win over some fans. We may even pick the best idea and send you a prize…wink, wink!

Jesse Leadbetter

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


The 2010 NASCAR recently ended with Jimmie Johnson winning his unprecedented fifth consecutive championship. This was a little different for Jimmie because on the final race he wasn't in the lead and had to come from behind to win. The Chase for the Cup was created to help give the NASCAR season a bit more excitement towards the of the season but this was the first time it achieved its goal. I like the idea of making a playoffs for NASCAR but personally I'd wish that NASCAR would make it even more of a playoff atmosphere.

NASCAR is having a bit of a ratings slump and it carried over into the Chase as well. The races for the Chase had less ratings that previous year and even less ratings that earlier races in the season. The ratings were down even with three different drivers having a legitimate chance to win the championship on the last race. This is just a weird phenomenon to me, in other sports the playoffs and championship games or tournaments get much higher ratings.

I think the solution lies in the differences between other sports and NASCAR. In other sports it is win or go home in the playoffs. In NASCAR if you qualify then you get to race any of the Chase races, even if you aren't in the Chase. Why not make an actual elimination-style playoffs. You take the top 16 drivers and the last seven races and make it a true playoff tournament. The two lowest finishing drivers get eliminated every week and then the final four race in the last race to see who is crowned champion. Don't worry about points, the best finish takes the trophy. You could even have a wild card type event leading up to the last seven races so you could have ten races in the Chase.

In my opinion this would get more people to watch the Chase and help get NASCAR back some of the its lost ratings. It would also make for some great television.

Trevor McGregor