Running Around In Circles

Posted: Monday, November 17, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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One of the great luxuries in my life is the DVR (digital video recorder) that’s part of my cable TV package. Because of it, I’m able to record programs like NASCAR racing in high definition and zip through all the boring parts of a four hour race in about an hour. Believe me, there are plenty of boring parts..and boring drivers these days including Jimmy Johnson who Sunday became the series champion for the third straight year. Jimmy Johnson wins his 3rd consecutive NASCAR championship.
I’ve been a fan of stock car racing ever since Cale Yarborough and Donny Allison, battling to win the 1979 Daytona 500, slammed and banged into each other at 200 miles an hour on the last lap. Both spun out giving the victory to Richard Petty. Then, with CBS cameras pointed at the two heavily damaged cars, out popped Yarborough and Allison and began throwing punches at each other. Oh, it was great live TV that everybody was talking about the next day.
Before long, ESPN was providing flag to flag coverage of NASCAR races and creating lots of excitement by using more in-car cameras for a new fan perspective. Crowds, both at home and at the track, loved it and before long, NASCAR had grown to become the largest spectator sport (some have a problem calling it a “sport”) in the country.
But now, I’m afraid, NASCAR is in trouble..on several fronts.  First, the races may be more competitive today (nobody wins by several laps anymore) but it’s the big teams with the big money(it costs about 30 million dollars to field a competitive car) that do all the winning. An independent team doesn’t stand a chance. The cars, other than being rolling billboards for corporate sponsors, all look the same. With the possible exception of  hot-head Tony Stewart,  drivers are also pretty much interchangeable.  No real characters among them.
But the biggest threat to NASCAR now seems to be the very real possibility that its sources for American race cars, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, are on the brink of bankruptcy unless congress comes riding in to the rescue with another bail-out plan.
President-elect, Obama doesn’t want to see the auto industry go belly up but doesn’t want to just give the big three automakers a blank check either; there would have to be conditions. Some leading Republicans say shelling out 25 billion dollars, as requested, wouldn’t be enough to save them anyway and just postpone the inevitable.  
I have a hunch that if you were to poll the American people most would say “to hell with them, if I fail in business or get stomped in the stock market, who’s going come in and bail me out?”
Maybe Ford, GM and Chrysler do deserve to go bust if for no other reason than being too stupid to recognize foreign competition for what it was and what the American public wanted in terms of style, quality and fuel efficiency.  People will buy what they like and “Made in the USA” doesn’t stir the loyalty juices it once did.
What do you think? Feel free to comment below.
It’ll sure seem weird, though,  to have 43 Toyotas on the starting grid for Daytona’s “Great American Race” next February.

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