Why NASCAR is struggling …..

November 23, 2010 |


The Jeff Gordon Dynasty – If you think Jimmie Johnson’s run of success is dominant, trust me, you haven’t really seen HOT or true industry domination …..

In the past five seasons, Johnson has won every single championship. Yet, Jeff Gordon was much more successful during his reign of dominance, from 1996 thru 2001.

He won more races, than Johnson, in the equivalent window. And, he won his four championships under a more daunting format than the “Race For The Chase.” This present-day system is nothing more than a result of Jeff Gordon’s success.

21 Nov 1999:  Jeff Gordon reaches into his car during the NAPA 500, part of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, at the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. Mandatory Credit: David Taylor  /Allsport

Gordon also paved the way for others – he was an “outsider” from the traditional mold of racecar driver, from the South.

Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle and Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards can thank him for their NASCAR careers.

An allegiance of fans HATED Jeff Gordon …. well, because he was Jeff Gordon. But, that HATE sold in the way of “Gordon lovers” and “Gordon haters” tuning in to watch what would happen on any given week.

He was dubbed the real-life Speed Racer …..

The Emergence Of The Next King? – In February of 2000, Dale Earnhardt Jr. arrived on the scene of NASCAR’S premier league, after winning back to back championships in the sport’s Busch Grand National Series; the equivalent of Triple-A baseball.

As far as fresh goes, “Junior” was it. And, to be blunt, he represented everything Jeff Gordon did not embrace. The differences were pretty contrasting …..

Gordon had the slick, movie star hairstyle. Junior dyed his ever changing doo …..

FONTANA, CA - SEPTEMBER 03:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #8 Budweiser Chevrolet, hides from the sun before driver introductions, prior to the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Sony HD 500 on September 3, 2006 at California Speedway in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Gordon preached the Bible. Junior partied at every track …..

Gordon promoted Pepsi. Junior touted and drank Budweiser …..

I’m sure you get the point.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. enjoyed a successful rookie season. He won a few races, caused some skirmishes and suffered some very public scoldings from his old man. But, he easily becoming NASCAR’S biggest star.

Then, on February 18, 2001, his life and blossoming career would change forever …..

Death Of A Legend – In reality, Jeff Gordon was WINNING everything, possible. And, Dale Jr. was the up and coming rock star. But, it was Dale Earnhardt who really ruled the sport of NASCAR.

He had the loudest voice among anyone.

He embraced those who loved and hated him; something Gordon struggled to juggle.

13 Nov 1999: Dale Earnhardt sits ready in his car during the Pennzoil 400, part of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series at the Homestead - Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Mandatory Credit: David Taylor /Allsport

If his son was the next Springsteen, he was Elvis.

A couple days ago, I was asked if Jimmie Johnson is the “Greatest Ever”. Not a freakin’ chance. That’s a distinction belonging to Dale Earnhardt. He did things others couldn’t or wouldn’t do – and he ultimately paid the price for it.

He’s gone and the sport has suffered the consequences. But, his loss is not really the reason why NASCAR is losing some of its popularity. Well, maybe some interest has waned since his death, but it’s not a dramatic turn …..