Since the NASCAR Cup Teams are taking a break from racing this weekend, I thought it might be a good time for this fan’s assessment of the Cup Series so far for the 2016 season. I’m not so sure many will agree with my assessment but I am going to express myself, if for no other reason than because I want to. After all, it has been interesting although not always exciting so far.
When the 2016 NASCAR season started back in February, this fan was facing it with mixed emotions. I don’t know the exact reasons but I do remember I just wasn’t all that excited about it. Usually, I am ready for the start of the season well before it arrives but this year was different. Of course it could’ve been because one of my favorite drivers over the last 20 plus years had retired when the 2015 season ended. Just in case you haven’t guessed his name already, that would be Jeff Gordon.
I was definitely a Jeff Gordon fan (and still am) even though I tried very hard when writing about my favorite sport to not be biased in his direction. It was going to be different in 2016 without him competing and I hadn’t found a driver to replace him as what I would call one of my favorites. In fact, I still haven’t. I do have some I like over the others but I still haven’t found a favorite.
What has been easier for me, at least so far, is to have my very short list of drivers that have made my “drivers I don’t want to see win and don’t intend to root for” list and at the same time, try not to be too hard on them. One thing is certain about that list and the drivers on it… they didn’t get on it just because of their actions starting with the 2016 season and I can’t say they are permanent members. For the present, let’s just say they are, and have been, regular fixtures on it for a while now.
There are those that have previously been on that list but they have managed to get off of it simply because they changed or, at least they changed my mind. I suppose some would say they “matured” but I just prefer to say they grew up. Whatever the case, now I watch with interest their weekly exploits in NASCAR along with several others but they just haven’t made that “favorites” list. I guess that makes me like almost every other NASCAR fan in that sense. We all have drivers we love to hate. Maybe hate is a bit strong for the PC crowd these days so let me restate it this way; we all have drivers we love to not like… (But man, that sure loses something of the emotion we feel as fan’s when we try to justify to ourselves the reasons we don’t like them, doesn’t it?)
Perhaps it was because last season was Jeff’s last year in competition and his last chance to win his fifth NASCAR Cup Championship that made the year more interesting than it actually was. He didn’t disappoint as he made the Chase and had a real chance to win that fifth championship. He didn’t win it though but it still made the season interesting right down to the last race at Homestead.
With Tony Stewart announcing 2016 would be his final year, there was a glimmer of hope the season would have much of the same drama as 2015. Unfortunately he was injured in an accident before the season started and it was unknown whether or not he would be able to compete in the 2016 season at all let alone make the Chase or have a chance to win another Championship. Now that he has been able to return to the competition in the Cup series a little of the drama has returned and many hope he at least makes the Chase but it just isn’t the same as it was last season.
I have to admit; the first part of the 2016 NASCAR season just wasn’t getting or holding my attention like season’s past. From my view, the racing was relatively boring until the final laps and I found myself not really caring much who might win even in the close battles in the final few laps. In some ways the racing was almost predictable and it seemed, at least to this fan, the real racing wasn’t going to be until the final ten laps or so. For some reason, the races just weren’t holding my interest and I found myself coming away from them disappointed and a bit disillusioned.
As I sat back and evaluated my seeming struggle with the races I have to admit it seemed NASCAR was changing, I wasn’t and I really wasn’t very fond of the direction it seemed it was going. In fact, I was looking at it as some of my non-NASCAR fans looked at it and that bothered me. I have been a fan for longer than I had been a racer at our local speedways and I couldn’t figure out why this year seemed so lack-luster and I just didn’t want to sit through hours of what seemed to be time killing procedures until the last five or so laps and/or that late race caution or two. I even noticed it bothered me there seemed to be greater divide between the old favorites and the new young startups, at least in my opinion, and I wondered where it was all heading.
Yes, I know it hasn’t been and isn’t as bad as I just made it sound but that is the way it seemed to me in the early part of this season. I even considered looking for another sport to follow but, being an old racer and an avid NASCAR fan, there just wasn’t one there for me that takes its place.
So I’ve stuck it out and I find my interest returning. I know I will probably one day have a new favorite driver and I’m sure it will be someone I’ll want to see take it to all those other drivers on a regular basis. So far, it has been a different year for me and NASCAR along with a year of change in many ways, some for the better and some I guess we will just have to see about. Rest assured of this though; NASCAR is still NASCAR and it is still the best racing around, (well, at least it is to this fan…)
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 18, 2016 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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