Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Martinsville And Popularity Decline

The 2016 Virginia 500 was contested at Martinsville Speedway and Kyle Busch led over 350 laps in an oddly tranquil 500-lapper, this after he won the Truck 250 that saw some twelve yellows. Kyle Busch's win did not produce much in the way of widespread attention paid to the race - the Sports Media Watch site reported the race's ratings declined yet again, a pattern for NASCAR in this season as well as recent seasons past.

Some blame was laid on the fact the race was telecast on FOX Sports' primary cable outlet FS1 - the former Speed TV - but with the proliferation of cable channels the allegation that a substantial percentage of fans did not have access to the race does not strike one as plausible.

The sport's popularity decline has been a long time coming and turning it around will be a long time coming - and it requires greater honesty on the part of NASCAR and its varied participants.  The competition level is not sufficient.   Though the low downforce rule package is promoted every race - Tom Jensen's after-action piece on the FOX Sports website repeats the lobby - the blunt truth remains it is not working and will not work.   For all the praise drivers have for how the cars feel the reality has shown in blown tires, aeropush, a one-lane surface for Martinsville, and no improvement in lead changes - this package is merely a repeat of the same mistakes NASCAR has kept making for nearly twenty years.


For all that the Martinsville race did offer some interesting takes.   Kyle Busch's win was typical and as such eminently forgettable even with a pathetic rumpswab of a puff piece by Nate Ryan on the NBC Sports NASCAR page.    Just behind him, though, we saw some encouraging finishes by A.J. Allmendinger, Austin Dillon, and Kyle Larson.   Whether they can sustain these finishes remains to be seen given the lack of follow-up from them in the past.   Allmendinger has shown from his debut in Richard Petty's car in 2009 that he has the fight - he fights to get to the front, something not that many drivers do.    Dillon and Larson have been much-touted young guns who haven't advanced in the sport to this point; more finishes like this and maybe then the potential seen in them will finally mean wins - and first-time winners is something the sport hasn't seen in nearly two years now.

Dillon's RCR teammate Paul Menard led ten laps, surprising given he's never given reason for expectations to be all that hot, and finished in the top-ten.

It was a typical Kevin Harvick race - he led with some authority and wasn't around to make a win out of it - he didn't even finish in the top ten.   The same was true for another Martinsville race for Matt Kenseth.

It wasn't much to cheer about for Ryan Blaney or Chase Elliott, the two rookies producing a mediocre effort and finishing at the bottom of the second ten. 

Greg Biffle hasn't had anything to cheer about for awhile now, and 12th at Martinsville merely illustrated how poorly the Roush fleet is running right now with no sign of a turnaround.

So it goes with Texas and then a two-week short track surge before the Winston 500 at Talladega coming up.  

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